The Writer's Life Chats with Christopher Cloud author of A Boy Called Duct Tape

Christopher Cloud began writing children’s fiction after a long career in journalism and public relations. He graduated from the University of Missouri in 1967 with a degree in journalism. He has worked as a reporter, editor, and columnist for newspapers in Texas, California, and Missouri. His work has appeared in many national publications, including Time Magazine. Employed by Sun Oil Company as a Public Relations executive, and later operated his own PR agency.
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Christopher, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

A: I was an Army brat growing up and attended high school in Japan. I began my writing career as a 19-year-old sports writer for the El Paso Times. I didn’t begin writing fiction until I was in my 60s. 

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A: A Kid Called Duct Tape tells the story of Pablo Perez, a 12-year-old kid without much going for him. His classmates have dubbed him “Duct Tape” because his tattered, discount-store sneakers are held together with…you guessed it, duct tape. He can’t escape the bullying.
Pablo’s fortunes turn, however, after he finds a $20 gold coin on the river bottom while swimming near his home. Pablo later buys a $1 treasure map at the county fair. The map shows the route to the “lost treasure” of Jesse and Frank James. Pablo can’t help but wonder: Is there a link between the map and the gold coin? He, his sister, and cousin are determined to find out.
          I wrote A Kid Called Duct Tape simply because there are precious few novels for Latino kids. 

What kind of research was involved in writing?

A: I’m glad you asked this question because I probably spend as much time researching A Boy Called Duct Tape as I did writing it. I researched two topics: the geology of caves, and the life and death of the notorious outlaw Jesse James—both are tied to southwest Missouri, which is the setting for the story. The novel’s main characters buy a treasure map, one that shows the subterranean route to the legendary “lost treasure” of Jesse and Frank James. This “lost treasure” legend has existed in southwest Missouri for more than 130 years and serves as the foundation for the story.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

A: Like most creative endeavors, there have been inspirational highs and mind-crushing lows. A Kid Called Duct Tape began life as a screenplay—Andy Sweet and the $20 Gold Piece—and in 2009 that screenplay was optioned by Antibody Films in L.A. My hopes of seeing the story on the big screen were dashed, however, when the option ran out and Antibody did not renew it. I then transitioned the story from screenplay to novel.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

A: I am self-publishing A Kid Called Duct Tape. The transition from screenplay to novel took about two years. I rewrote the story at least 20 times.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is?  If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

A: I had an agent for three years. Her name is Leticia Gomez. Her advice and guidance were invaluable. We parted ways in late 2011 when I made the decision to self-publish A Kid Called Duct Tape. I can’t say enough good things about Leticia. She was a tireless champion of my work.

Do you plan subsequent books?

A: I have a written a draft of a young-adult story called Voices of the Locusts. Set in post-War Japan, it tells the story of a 16-year-old American boy who falls in love with a 17-year-old Japanese girl. Unfortunately, the girl is betrothed to another. 

Can you describe your most favorite place to write?

A: At my desk in my bedroom.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

A: Hmmm…interesting question. A full-page ad in the Sunday Book Review section of The New York Times would be a good place to start.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

A: Honestly, marketing a novel is as important as writing a novel. No promotion, no sales. I imagine that many literary masterpieces have had a short shelf life because the author failed to recognize the value of self-promotion. Shameless self-promotion is essential to the success of a novel.

What’s the most common reason you believe new writers give up their dream of becoming published and did you almost give up?

A: My message to unpublished writers is this: Take as much solace in the telling of your story as you do in the selling your story. I have never thought about giving up because I take great joy in stringing words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into chapters. If writers take no satisfaction in the creative process, then…well, they’re screwed. 

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

A: Find a genre you are comfortable with, and have a go at it. I honestly believe that a good story will always find a home.

Thank you for your interview, Christopher.  I wish you much success!

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