Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Interview and Giveaway A Reign Supreme by Richard Crystal


When a copper deposit is discovered on the land of the Makenda tribe in eastern Kenya, a young king, Ule Samanga, is told to relocate his people to a refugee camp in Nairobi or risk imprisonment. When all appears lost, the young king discovers the existence of Curtis Jackson, a mysterious half-brother presently living in New York. Believing this unexpected news is an omen from the spirit of his ancestors, he eagerly seeks his help to save their sacred tribal homeland. A struggling mortgage broker and former jazz prodigy, Curtis initially has no interest in developing a relationship with his newly found African family. But when he’s presented with an intriguing business offer, he embarks on a journey to Africa that becomes a spiritual odyssey, changing him in ways he never imagined. 

In this assured debut, Richard Crystal weaves a complex story of contemporary moral imperatives conceived during Obama’s victorious election as America’s first black President. Themes of corporate malfeasance and exploitation will resonate with readers of The Constant Gardener and Blood Diamond. But beyond the various political machinations, readers will find a heartwarming story infused with the strains of Coltrane, the history of jazz and the enduring power of family.

Thank you, Mr. Richard Crystal

From television shows, screenplays to novel. How different is to write them and which was the biggest challenge of writing A Reign Supreme?
Compared to writing for television shows and screenplays, writing a novel is like running a marathon. Writing for television is like running a sprint – it needs to be done quickly to meet production deadlines. I penned a lot of reality and variety based shows that would be either thirteen or twenty-six episode commitments and would need to be finished within three to six months. Most of the screenplays I wrote would take about six months in order to complete a solid first draft. And because film is such a collaborative medium, there would be countless notes from producers, studio execs and the director which ultimately would lead to the writer diluting his vision in the hope of getting the project made. That was the driving force that impelled me to write a novel. It allowed me to tell my story in the way that I wanted to tell it and kept my vision completely mine. The biggest challenge for me was having the discipline to stay with it for such a long period of time. “A Reign Supreme” was an idea I had in 1987. I thought about it for almost twenty-five years before I decided the time had come to go for it. The actual writing of the novel took me a little over three years. Of all my creative endeavors, “A Reign Supreme” is by far my greatest achievement and the one I am most proud of.

You sang and produced four pop/jazz albums, music of which history is found in A Reign Supreme. What music in general and the jazz in particular represent to you and what is the role of jazz in your story?
Jazz has always been an integral part of my life. My father produced jazz concerts in the New York area and managed a legendary music store “The Commodore Music Shop” in Manhattan with my maternal grandfather and his three sons. The store reached it’s height of popularity in the late thirties, forties and early fifties and was featured in numerous magazine articles. When the store closed in 1958, it was on the front page of the New York Times. In its heyday, the store was so successful that they created their own music label and produced classic jazz recordings including “Strange Fruit” with Billie Holiday - considered by music aficionados as one of the most important popular recordings ever made. My Uncle Milt Gabler, produced all of the albums at Commodore and then went on to become the Vice President of Decca Records for over thirty years. Among his countless hits, he produced “Rock Around the Clock” with Bill Haley and the Comets which changed the face of American popular music in the early nineteen fifties. He is in the Grammy Hall of Fame and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because of his amazing accomplishments. So jazz was the world I grew up in. I knew some of the great musicians of that era from childhood and delighted in their infectious personalities and way of life. Because of this environment, I picked up the clarinet in elementary school, played tenor saxophone in the middle school swing band and eventually played baritone saxophone because my musical idol was an amazing musician named Gerry Mulligan. The music is in my blood.

As I began thinking about the protagonist in my novel, Curtis Jackson, I came upon the idea that he was a tenor saxophone prodigy who had given up on his promising musical career because of a traumatic event in his young life. And thus a major story line became how can Curtis overcome his demons of the past, make music again and rediscover his soul. The opening scene in the novel is Curtis at the age of sixteen playing “Amazing Grace” a capella at his high school music recital. I specifically chose the Christian hymn because ironically, it represents the spiritual journey that Curtis will undertake in the story although he has no inkling at that particular time in his young life. The final scene of the novel is Curtis playing his tenor saxophone at dawn in his new home in Africa with a chorus of birds accompanying him. Additionally, the title of the novel is a homage to John Coltrane’s masterpiece “A Love Supreme” which is considered one of the greatest and most spiritual jazz recordings ever made. He created the iconic composition to thank his supreme being for giving him his instinctive talent - the gift to create music. The masterpiece is divided like a symphony into four sections - Acknowledgement, Resolution, Pursuance and Psalm. I divide the novel into four sections and use the same titles to symbolize the spiritual journey that Curtis Jackson is making. In that sense, it is a literal interpretation of the heart of  “A Love Supreme.”

Your Goodreads author presentation says that A Reign Supreme was inspired by a trip in South Africa. How different is the real African life from the one seen by a tourist and how is your characters’ life?
My trip to Africa inspired me in a number of ways. My wife and I spent time in Johannesburg, Soweto, Capetown and the prison at Robben Island which held Mandela. These locations gave us a glimpse as to how people lived in the cities there. It had an enormous impact but far and away it was the time spent in the bush – a little over three weeks – that absolutely changed my life. To experience the animals in their natural environment is beyond thrilling and filled me with gratitude to live in such an amazing world. We traveled to the wetlands of the Okavango Delta and spent time with people in Botswana who were warm and gracious. The wonderful experiences I shared with those villagers inspired the characters in my fictional village of the Makenda tribe in eastern Kenya. Additionally, the confrontation in the animal sanctuary with a herd of elephants and the land rover when Curtis arrives, actually happened to me on my trip.

There are any changes in cultural, social area determined by Obama’s election?
Two reasons compelled me to set the story when Obama is elected President for the first time. First of all, the economic crisis of 2008 is an integral part of the story. It led me to make Curtis a mortgage broker whose business is sinking because of the financial meltdown and gives him the business experience to understand what is happening to his people in Africa. Secondly, it gave some magic to the scenes in Kenya because the country was bursting with pride because Obama’s father was a countryman. It was a magical time for the African nation and so is the discovery of Curtis Jackson as a member of the Makenda people. It helped me in the writing to have a specific time to set the story and gave me guidelines to work with. By doing so, it has made the story timeless.

What is most important moral imperative we must protect and why?
There are a number of moral imperatives in the story but for me the one that resonates deepest within me is uttered from the mouth of Ule Samanga, the young king of the Makenda tribe in eastern Kenya when he learns the government plans to move his people from it’s sacred homeland because a mining company has discovered a vein of copper in the adjoining hills. He tells the District Commissioner “to insure the future, we must preserve the past.” I think that’s a crucial idea to the future of mankind. The world is changing so quickly and technological advances are occurring with such alarming speed that I feel we are in danger of losing those things that ground us. Our past serves as an anchor and gives comfort as we face the future. Without it, we are lost. We move on without a compass like a tree without its roots.

About the author:
Richard Crystal Mr. Crystal has produced and written countless television shows and penned numerous screenplays for theatrical feature films in Hollywood. He has sung and produced four pop/jazz albums performing the classic standards he first heard as a young boy growing up in a house filled with music. 

A Reign Supreme is his first novel, inspired by a trip to South Africa and Botswana on his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with his wife Fran.

Author's Giveaway
Ends 3/14/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

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