[RKB Writes Interviews – A. Keith Carreiro]
Keith Carreiro is a multi-award-winning author, as well as a poet and classical guitarist with a lifelong addiction to storytelling. Mountain ranges and coastlines fascinate him, yet he still remains stymied in suburbia. Faith, music, family, friends, and two fur babies help sustain him.
He earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His academic focus, including his ongoing research agenda, centers upon philosophically examining how creativity and critical thinking are gained, learned, used, and practiced in the literary, visual, and performing arts. He has taken his findings and applied them to the professional development of educational practitioners and other creative artists.
He is writing a planned nine‒book series titled The Immortality Wars. It is a sci‒fi, fantasy, and spiritual thriller based on Christian themes. The second trilogy, the Pilgrim, is currently being written. The first trilogy, the Penitent, was published by Stillwater River Publications in August 2019.
Keith is passionate about creating worlds infused with science fiction and fantasy. Throw in a little bit of Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and Lee Child along with J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, and he is happy to say that these writers are his heroes who inspire him to write stories that enchant, terrify, and hopefully entertain his readers.
You can follow Keith through his social channels:
Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to write?
At a very young age, I fell in love with storytelling. The first stories I heard were told by family members who all had the riveting ability to tell me the events of their lives and our family history. I learned about what life was like for them in the Azores and here in America from the time my grandfather first immigrated to the United States in 1900. These stories took me back in time to the first half of the 20th century. They were also steeped in the music of the islands and Portugal. My grandmother was a well‒known singer of a style of music called cantigas ao desafio, or song duels. Philosophical, sublime, insulting, and cutting straight to the heart or personality of those being singled out for ridicule, these desafios revealed the soul and spirit of the Azorean worldview.
Often, cantodores (singers) would visit my grandparent’s home, stay for hours at a time and music would spill over into our lives with much laughter and delight shared between the musicians, singers and listeners. A musical style called Fado (fate, destiny) would pour forth and the fadistas (Fado singers) present were some of the finest in our area, some even coming from the Azores and the mainland as well to visit with us.
When I was seven, some of the musicians let me join them. I played my American, classical guitar with their Portuguese instruments, consisting of a guitarra Portuguesa, a couple of steel string acoustic guitars, and one to three mandolins. I played this music until I was sixteen.
In the meantime, I became an avid reader and fell in love with the cinema.
These experiences instilled in me a deep love of telling stories. I began to write short stories and then turned to poetry when I entered high school. Years later, I did academic research and wrote about my inquiry into creativity and critical thinking. In 2014, after wanting to write fiction novels, I began writing The Immortality Wars, which is a sci‒fi, fantasy, spiritual thriller based on Christian themes. These glimpses into life inspired me. I wanted to participate in unleashing the same kind of lightning in a spellbinding tale.
Describe your desk / writing space.
I have turned my living room into a writer’s retreat and office. I am surrounded by books, manuscripts, papers, and art work, as well as outlines of my story ideas that are placed on the two walls next to my desk computer.
Do you have a writing routine, or do you write when inspired?
After my teaching is over for the academic year, I usually begin writing in mid‒May throughout the summer and into October. My daily goal is to write a minimum of 500 words.
How do you come up with the title to your books?
Creating titles for my books usually involves inspiration: researching an idea that leads to a working title, a memory of a dream providing a suggestion for a title, something said in a random conversation, or something read that sparks key phrases. Listening to music or watching a movie sometimes unleashes word impressions that lead to options for book titles also. Sometimes, they seem to drop into my awareness fully dressed as if they are all ready to go out partying at the nearest library or book store.
What was the hardest scene for you to write? What types of scenes are your favorite to write?
One of the most challenging scenes for me to write in the Pilgrim – Part I was the one involving a character named Chén Liú. He is one of the greatest beings of his time. His levels of observation, intelligence, memory, physical stamina, fierceness, and combat skills brought him to the pinnacle of his race. He was the first out of one hundred of the most powerful and influential cyborgs to sign the Armistice between humans and machines in 2455 Old Earth Time. I wanted to have the reader see him in his adopted home setting, which is on an exoplanet called Aion that is located between the first and fourth quadrant on the Carina–Sagittarius Arm in the Milky Way. The machines settled on this spiral arm of the Galaxy, which is directly on the other side of the Galaxy from human settlement.
The types of scenes that I love to write are created as if I were a cinematographer. I see them as if they are being filmed. Sometimes I hear a musical score or piece of one that allows me to get a literary signature of a scene.
What inspired your book/series?
When I was a boy my parents let me go to the movie theater to see Ben‒Hur (1959). I was completely in awe of this film. I was completely immersed in watching a powerful human drama set within the time of Christ. I never experienced anything like it. From that moment on, I wanted to see if I could ever write something similar. When I was older I read J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954 – 1955). The same powerful response to Tolkien’s work that I had to Lew Wallace’s (1880) work of Ben‒Hur, as translated by director William Wallace onto the “big screen,” occurred.
In 2014, I felt I was ready to write, even attempt, such a story. I recalled the quote by Arthur C. Clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It is Clarke’s third law about the future.
I wondered what it would be like if I could somehow bring people from the 18th century, like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John and Abigail Adams, into the 21st century. These folks are people from a fire and horse culture. What would they think of our present day world if they were taken to New York City, Paris, London, Tokyo, Abu Dhabi, Beijing, and Shanghai? Would they think of me as a mighty conjuror or wizard?
Then I thought, What would I think and believe if someone from the 26th century brought me into their world? What would such a world look like? What would civilization become? What would happen to faith? To science? To people?
That scenario became the basis for the beginning idea of the series.
What are you working on next?
I am researching and story boarding the fifth novel, the Pilgrim – Part II.
What authors or books have influenced you to start writing?
J. R. Tolkien, Lew Wallace, C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, T. S. White, Stephen R. Donaldson, Terry Goodkind, Frank Herbert, The Brothers Grimm, Lee Child, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and The Bible
If you had to compare your writing to another author which one would that be?
It would be an honor to be compared to any of the writers listed above, but Tolkien seems the best for the worlds he created as well as the story and beings he placed in his tales of Middle Earth.
Is there genre you’d like to write but never have?
There are at least two, one being a crime/thriller story, and the other being historical fiction.
Do you enjoy writing short stories or long form i.e., manuscripts? And why?
I enjoy writing both, but I am passionate about writing and concluding this series. For now, I enjoy writing manuscripts.
What advice would you give to unpublished writers?
I don’t believe I am at the point in my fictional writing life to give advice to other authors or even unpublished writers. However, I do believe it is important that we communicate with one another about our writing journeys, and that we consider advocating for those of our contemporaries who are also scribbling away in like manner.
In 1974, I wrote Thornton Wilder (1897–1975) a heartfelt letter about the impact his book, Theophilus North (1973) had upon me. Much to my delight and surprise, he wrote a handwritten letter to me. He advised that I surround myself with three kinds of people if I hoped to lead a fulfilling life. He believed it is important to be able to teach those who seek your advice and knowledge. At the same time, it is important to be with your peers in order to share the knowledge you have accrued with them. Likewise, it is important to be with individuals who have attained mastery of their art and work. We have much to learn from them.
I would like to apply Wilder’s concept of human flourishing to be the basis for sound advice to other authors and writers. It is one of the reasons I am glad that I am a member of the Association of Rhode Island Authors.
Do you have a new book coming out? If so, what’s the title and when?
Yes, I have a new book coming out called, the Pilgrim – Part I. It is the fourth book in a planned nine‒book series called The Immortality Wars. This series will consist of a trilogy of trilogies. The first is called the Penitent and the third trilogy will be called the Prophet. I will be releasing it on Saturday, September 16, 2023, in Dublin, Ireland where I am scheduled to be a key presenter at The International Dublin Writers’ Festival (15-17 September).
This novel is currently available in eBook and paperback versions on Amazon and Ingram.