Author and artist Charles Soto is here to talk about his book Heartache and Sin and share his writing tips and the unusual item on his desk right now.

The coffee was ready, various creamers on the table, and a fresh batch of pumpkin bars warming in the oven.

Charles, so nice to have you here. Settle in while I get the pumpkin bars. They are a modified recipe from author Cleo Coyle’s coffeehouse books. 

C: I see someone told you about my fetish for cookies and yummy bars? That’s it, we’re friends for life!

You bet! Here you go. Help yourself – freshly baked! What’s that? A gift? For me? Why Charles…

C: Of course I couldn’t show up empty-handed. I brought you two front-row tickets to the hottest show on television. The season finale of, The Vocalist at Madison Square Garden in, New York City! Arleta Rose made the finals and there’s talk of a Vocalist Showdown were the audience members might actually get to decide the winner.

Love it! I can’t wait to attend the show. And front row too. Thank you! So, Charles. Many genres (such as cozy mysteries) have clear rules of story structure and outcome. Tell me about the writing rules of Heartache’s genre. How did you assemble and organize your story to fit the genre, or was it the other way around? Did you story just fall into this genre?

C: That’s a great question and I’ll tell you, I put a tremendous amount of thought into the story process when I’m writing a book. I have an outline of course and a basic story, but the real work goes into the plot and character development. I think Heartache & Sin just fell into the suspense genre. But, make no mistake, this is an unconventional love story. Good verses evil. Heaven and Hell and this story promises to take you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions.  

I see from your website that you are an artistAre there certain words and imagery that you find helpful to tell your story? What imagery did you use throughout the story to help set tone and style?

C: Imagery is everything to me when I’m writing a story, and it all plays in my head. My thoughts are like a movie to me, playing in slow motion. I can see the characters, hear their voices, even smell my surrounding or feel a breeze in the air. It’s surreal and my imagination takes me on ride I can’t get off of. The characters develop their own demeanor, and many times I don’t even know what they’re going to say until they say it. My story takes on a tone for itself and I just write down what’s happening.

If you could pick one of Aristotle’s six elements that are strongest in your story, would it be Plot, Character, Theme, Language, Melody, or Spectacle?

C: That’s another great question, thank you so much for asking. To me character development remains to be the most important aspect in my writing. Although the plot is important and carries a great load throughout the story, the characters are what brings the entire story together. Do you believe them? Like them or hate them? To develop a memorable, fictional charters such as Rocky, Hannibal Lectur, and Heath ledger’s, the Joker you have to make the characters come to life. It’s a great challenge and remains to be the strongest element in my writing.

Are you ready for a coffee refresher? More pumpkin bars?

C: Thank You. Pumpkin Bars go so much better when I get to dunk them in coffee. I’ll take some of that vanilla caramel creamer too.

What was the most difficult part about writing this story?

C: Sitting down to write it. Sounds funny, I know. But, that’s the truth, as is every single time I sit down in front of my lap top to write a story. It’s a long process and takes a tremendous amount of time and dedication to write a novel. I love the challenge, but at times I fear it as well. Thoughts of, can I do it again. The—how to and can too always floating in the back of my mind keeps my creative thoughts circling until a solution becomes apparent. I love it, but I’m not sure if it’s out of fear or satisfaction that keeps me going. Perhaps it’s both…fear is good for any relationship, isn’t it?

What editing grammar or punctuation item sends you into a tizzy?

C: Hey, that’s what editors are for! Just kidding, of course. I love my editors, they make me look good. I learn with every manuscript, constructive critique or opinion my work receives. No body’s perfect and when it comes to grammar and punctuation, the more eyes on my work before it goes to publication the better.

Do you have any words of wisdom for other writers who are venturing into the suspense genre?

C: Try to write a story as if you were telling it to someone sitting in front of you and you don’t want them to leave until you’re finished. You want to make every thought and word count, to give merit for its existence. Most important, enlist the help of an editor you’re comfortable with and put any feedback they have to good use.

Can you give us a peek into your next work in progress?

C: That’s what the gift was for. I wanted to surprise you with two tickets into my next novel, Into the Fire. It’s a story about Arleta Rose, a young, bullied girl who is discovered on a popular television singing contest called The Vocalist and makes it big in the music industry. She soon discovers fame comes at a cost as she struggles with trust, addiction and a controlling manager who will stop at nothing to keep her in his control.

I’ll be right there in the front row cheering her on! I see you were born in Las Vegas! I went to UNLV for my master’s in writing.  How long were you in LV?

C: How wonderful for you! I love the Runnin’ Rebels! Your bringing up UNLV brings back tons of great memories. I was born in Las Vegas and although I spent my school years in the Bay Area of California, Vegas was still a big part of my life and I lived there off and on for decades. I lived there during the Runnin’ Rebels reign in college basketball and their famous coach, Jerry (Tark the Shark) Tarkanian took them to several NCAA Tournament runs. I was even on the painting crew that painted the Thomas and Mac center during its construction where the Rebels play. My wife and I were married in March of ’87 and of course the Rebels played in the Final Four on the same day.  Even though they lost, it made it a whole lot easier to remember our anniversary. Every time March Madness is on TV I know we’re close, (small chuckle). Seriously though, Vegas holds a lot of great memories. I met my wife there. My two daughters were born there and I still have a lot of family there. I also painted a lot of the Casino and hotels that exist there today.  I don’t know if you or your audience is aware, but I supervised the painting and decorating on the original construction of The MGM Grand Casino and Hotel, as well as many other casinos that exist there today. I worked on that project for two years and to this day, find it to be one of the most remarkable projects I have ever been a part of.

That is amazing. I wish I had known earlier while I was there to take a good look. And now you live in Minnesota. I have UNLV theatre pals there. How are you enjoying the winters?

C: Soooo Cold. As far as weather goes I went from one extreme to the other. Unbearably hot to excruciating cold. I never even knew what a chainsaw was until I moved to Minnesota and I had to cut, chop and split more wood then I care to remember. My kids are now Minni-Sotos. But it’s been a good life and the beauty here is spectacular. I must say though, I’m looking forward to moving to Hawaii.

A bit different in climate, I’d say. So tell us, what is the strangest item sitting on your writing desk at the moment?

C: My dog Lucy, believe it or not. I have a crazy Jack Russel Terrier that insists on being my helper whenever I sit down to write.

I think you may have won the bonus prize for coolest item on your desk! Thank you, Charles, for stopping by! Best of luck on sales and writing your next novel!

Leave a comment for Charles below or on his website. We hope you enjoy the story!