Today I'm taking a break from romance to focus on something completely different. Bernard LoPinto is a new author over at The Wild Rose Press. We met recently online in one of TWRP's weekly chats. His new release, CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED, a political thriller, sounds like it was ripped from the headlines. Please welcome Bernard LoPinto!
Where did you get the idea for CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED?
The American political scene of the past two years got me asking, “What if?” I always start with that question. This time, it was “What if a president came into power and greed and incompetence, suspended the Constitution?” The rest was riffing off that idea, trying to answer that question.
Was there anything unusual, any anecdote about this book you’d like to share?
In the early 1970s, I was teaching in a high school. I overheard a conversation in which a sixteen-year-old-student told her teacher about the sexual abuse her parents subjected her to. In those days, there were no hotlines to call, though the teacher told me he later notified the guidance counselor who was supposed to know what to do. Months later, I had some minor contact with the girl’s mother who proved to be pretty much crazy. That incident became my character Annie’s backstory.
What was the most difficult thing about writing this book?
The most difficult part of writing this book was not letting real events take over. I was writing fiction, not reporting the news.
What do you want readers to come away with after they read CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED?
I hope that readers come away with the understanding that we are responsible for the type of nation we live in, the type of world we live in. Our government can do nothing without the consent of us, the people; hence, the title, Consent of the Governed. If we consent to give up freedom for the sake of security—real or imagined—we “deserve neither and will likely lose both.”
Do you have any words of advice to beginning writers?
As a teacher of composition, I tell my students that writing is learned first, by reading. Everything, anything. I would advise beginning writers to read books in and out of their chosen genre. Next, don’t wait for the muse to give you the perfect idea. Grab her by the throat and force her to give you something, anything, on the page, or screen. Even if it’s drivel, it can be fixed later. Even if it’s all about not being able to write, it’ll work later on. Read. Write. Repeat.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I stink at planning. I start with a “what if” question and hang it on a theme, my philosophical statement. Then I describe some characters. Finally, I outline until I get too antsy. Then I jump in and let the characters take me where they want to go. I’d have to look back, but I don’t think I outlined Consent of the Governed at all.
How many books do you have under the proverbial bed? Will they ever see the light of day?
I have four stories in my head. I will write at least three of them.
Tell us a bit about you. Where do you live, and how long have you been writing?
I live in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The window behind my computer looks out over hills that are now green, but in a few months will be orange, yellow, and red. And I can’t see a neighbor’s house, just a thin strip of road.
I think I’ve always been a writer at heart. When I was thirteen, I wrote a poem to help advertise my uncle’s supermarket. Somewhere, there’s a play I wrote in elementary school. I didn’t stick with it because I didn’t know how to continue. I had an idea that I wasn’t any good at writing. I didn’t get the idea that I could write until I started learning how to teach writing to high school students. Even then, I didn’t get serious until the late nineties.
Do you have another occupation, other than writer? If so, what is it? Does it help you with your writing?
I work as an adjunct, teaching writing, critical reading, and literature at Lackawanna College. The work is great for my writing for two reasons. First, it gets me to look as deeply as I can into the craft of writing. Second, my constant harping on my students to take care with their writing forces me to do the same. Taking care with our writing—word choice and sentence craft—are the difference between “writing” and “typing,” to paraphrase Truman Capote.
How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing?
My seven years as a Pentecostal minister inform my writing about the absurdity, greed, and power lust of present-day American Christianity. My eighteen years in correctional education have given me a wonderful cast of evil characters to weave into my stories.
Name two authors we might find you reading when taking a break from your own writing.
Jonathan Kellerman showed me how slow down and give description a chance. He uses description of a character’s movements, expressions, to draw psychological profiles that clue in the reader.
Charles Dickens’s anger at selfish, self-serving Victorian society gives me inspiration to attack many of the same institutions he railed against: the phony social welfare system and the greedy, sanctimonious church.
What do you like best about your hero from CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED?
Ans: A recurring character in my work is the old warrior, past his prime but still strong and vibrant. My protagonist Stan Winthrop is one such character. He is many years retired, but—without giving too much away—runs up an impressive body count.
What do you like best about your heroine?
Annie Winthrop, Sid’s wife, remade herself at a young age after leaving her abusive parents. For an old lady, she is strong, sexual, and the driving force behind Sid.
How do you choose the names and physical characteristics of your characters? Do you base them on real people?
None of the characters in Consent of the Governed resemble anyone I’ve ever met. This is a departure for me because usually, my characters are composites of people I have come in contact with or have read about. The names usually come from my imagination or something I’ve read. I’m not above pulling out the Scranton, PA, phone book.
How can readers reach you or find you online?
Readers can find my book at https://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/all-titles/5220-consent-of-the-governed.html It will be available September 1, 2017. You can pre-order at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Consent-Governed-Bernard-LoPinto-ebook/dp/B073XZ8QRF
Tell us a little about your current work in progress.
I’m about 55,000 words into a new novel I’m calling No Such Thing as Enough. It’s about a young minister who gets everything he wants: pastor of a mega-church, money, position, power. Then he realizes what it has cost him. When young people in his ministry die because of the local drug trade, he realizes how isolated he is and how unimportant his accomplishments really are. He finds he has to make serious choices to redeem himself and win back the woman he loves. This is the second in my independently-published mystery/thriller series featuring Rev. Timothy Rathbone.
What’s your tagline for CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED? Why did you choose it?
“Sworn enemies until the truth brought them together.” I chose this tagline because it shows how two couples, one old, sworn to avenge the murder of their son, the other, young, sworn to support the oppressive government, find a common bond as they learn the truth about each other.
If I was a first time reader of your books, which one would you recommend I start with and why?
I would recommend starting with Power in the Blood, the first in the Timothy Rathbone series. Besides introducing Tim; his girlfriend, Freddi Pringle; and her hitman father, Jimmy, the book also presents the village of Dayton Crossing, NY, itself a character in the series.
Tell us about your current release.
Consent of the Governed presents an America ruled by a president whose blundering has thrown the nation into economic depression, where citizens are threatened by international terrorists and Red Shirts—government thugs—who keep the populace in line. In the state of emergency, the president has declared martial law and suspended the Constitution and free elections. Sid and Annie Winthrop are an elderly couple who have sworn to take revenge on the Red Shirts for murdering their son. Victor and Brooklynn are Red Shirts, true believers who are confronted with the dark underside of governmental control. When these couples are thrown together, they both come to understand what is real.
Thanks for being my guest today, Bernard!
Blurb for CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED:
It’s 2026 and the United States has fallen under the sway of an oppressive government where all citizens’ rights have been stripped, Red Shirts platoons patrol the streets, and people die for voicing opinions. Into this chaos step Sid and Annie Winthrop. The elderly couple set out on a murderous journey of revenge against the Red Shirts who murdered their son.
Red Shirt members Victor and Brooklyn have devoted their young lives to the cause of the president in protecting the nation. When attacks on their home town leave dozens of Red Shirts dead, Victor must help his superiors find the vigilante.
At their darkest moment, each couple finds a common bond in their suffering and must decide where their loyalties lie.
Author Bio, Bernard LoPinto:
In writing Consent of the Governed, as in my other work, I draw heavily upon my years in Pentecostal ministry and my background in correctional education. It may seem strange that religion and prison are closely linked in my psyche, but both experiences have taught me to value freedom of thought and expression. Both prison and religion set about stunting one’s individuality and personal growth.
Besides prisons, the bulk of my career has been in education, teaching in the inner-city and Job Corps, the suburbs, and a few rural areas. In between, I’ve spent time in retail, professional photography, and any other side hustle I could pick up. Along the way, I’ve earned a Master’s in Education and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Education Administration to go along with my BA in English.
I write from a place where the “good” people aren’t so good, and one’s best friends can be the “worst” people in town. I don’t trust the ones who put their spirituality up front; those people make for some of my best comedy. I look for the ones who live the spirituality they don’t flaunt around town; they aren’t many, but they’re the real people. Between a two-bit saint and a stand-up sinner, I’ll take the sinner every time.
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