By: Tobin Bennison
Article Category: 20 Questions 1 Comment
In it, recently divorced treasure hunter Marshall Cross finds himself down on his luck. His foundering archaeology-themed amusement park, Treasure Island, is being threatened by ruthless real estate tycoon Denton Barrett, and Cross is hoping for a big find to stave off selling his dream. Finding Pizarro’s golden sword, an intricately carved, razor-sharp rapier lost in a hurricane in 1715 off the coast of Brevard County, would do just that. Cross’ problems mount when news breaks that a meteor is forecast to strike the Atlantic, threatening to send a mammoth tsunami barreling into the Florida peninsula. From undersea shipwrecks, to gator-infested swampland, to Kennedy Space Center — Cross’ adventures find him going toe-to-toe with Barrett’s paramilitary army, a seductive zookeeper, and a surly bull shark named Marge. Can Cross unearth Pizarro’s sword, save Treasure Island, uncover an astronomical conspiracy, and find love — all before the meteor crashes into the ocean and his new-found adversaries turn him into shark bait? You won’t know till you read it.
The folks at Lost Treasure Magazine call A Sword for Pizarro a combination of “the maritime adventure of Clive Cussler, the breezy escapism of Jimmy Buffet, and the witty mystery of Robert B. Parker,” while others attest to its great serial potential. Either way, Ryan’s entertaining novel, the culmination of a year and a half of what he calls “planned spontaneity,” puts Brevard County indelibly on the literary map.
We asked him a few questions at rusty rapierpoint…
What do love most about living beachside?
Ahh, beachside… Where the only thing hotter than the July mid-day sun is the venomous sting of the fire ant. Brevard County is a beautiful and wild paradise. It’s the only place on the planet where you can witness the future, with multi-million dollar NASA rockets blasting-off for the dark recesses of space, and at the same time see the world at its most primeval, in the untamed swampland where the gator rules supreme. I only spend a few months of the year in Brevard, and the rest of the year in the Northeast U.S. I often refer to myself as a dyslexic snowbird, since it’s usually the summer months I’m in Florida.
I initially wanted to create a sort-of anti-Indiana Jones adventure hero. A character maybe not quite as noble, not as smooth, but a bit more relatable and endearing than the fedora-wearing treasure hunter. I don’t recall when or where I came up with the plot; it had always sort of been in my mind. I began writing the story in St. Thomas, V.I. in the summer of 2005.
How does Brevard figure into the plot?
All of the action takes place North of Sebastian Inlet and South of the Cape. The hero, Marshall Cross, owns an archaeology-themed amusement park in Cocoa. He docks his boat at Port Canaveral and his girlfriend lives in Melbourne. The entire story is set among the sandy dunes and ABC liquor stores of the Space Coast.
What kinds of places are local readers likely to recognize?
A number of local landmarks figure prominently in the story, including Kennedy Space Center, the Cocoa Beach Pier, the Zoo, and even Disney World.
Are some of the characters based distinctly on locals you’ve met, or are they amalgams of different people from your travels?
You might meet our hero Marshall Cross sipping a rum and Coke at Grills Tiki Bar at Port Canaveral. Or you might find his sidekick Diego Espinoza eating a Bistec de Palomilla at Mr. Cubano’s Cuban sandwich shop. Fact? Fiction? I’d say a little of both.
I knew by the time I was in my teens that I wanted to be a writer. I was reading Kerouac and Bukowski and writing short stories and submitting off-beat poetry to small press journals when I was 18. During my college years, I worked as an editor on a number of philosophy textbooks. After school, I began freelance writing, which I continue to do today.
What are some of your influences?
I don’t usually read the same authors over and over enough to be influenced by one particular writer, but I greatly enjoy the conversational banter in mystery author Robert B. Parker’s books, and that has certainly rubbed off on me.
What is your writing schedule like?
I have a hectic schedule, and as much as I’d like to have a daily writing routine, I don’t. So my desk is often littered with scraps of paper scribbled with ideas and my computer is filled with first-draft files. I do try to write something every day, though.
What question do you most often get regarding the writing craft?
I get asked by aspiring authors, “How do you start writing a novel?” and I always say the same thing: “You don’t have to start at the beginning.” Just start writing — it could be in the middle, or somewhere in Act 3. What was originally going to be the very first paragraph of A Sword for Pizarro ended up in the last chapter. When you write, just let it flow, and worry about putting it in some kind of order later.
What other advice do you have for any budding writers out there?
Write for the right reasons. Write because you want to be read, because you have a story to tell. For every Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, there are a thousand underpaid unknown authors who still enjoy their craft regardless of never seeing their name on a bestseller list.
What does the future hold for you? Do you have another book in the works?
I’m currently working on the sequel to A Sword for Pizarro. It’s set in Brevard and the Abacos Islands and concerns a research vessel missing in the Bermuda Triangle and the appearance of a mysterious submarine.
What’s the last book you read?
Galleon Alley, by my friend Bob Weller.
What is your fondest memory?
It’s said that the sense of smell is the one most tied to memory; that you can smell a scent you hadn’t experienced in 30 years and recall feelings and emotions and the precise location of where you were the last time the odor touched your olfactory system. With that being said, every time I return to Brevard, I’m greeted with the smell of the sea air and the oleander flower that instantly transports me to childhood vacations in the Sunshine State.
What is your bitterest regret?
I’d like to travel back to the American Revolutionary War, with layovers in the Jurassic period, and Honolulu, January 14, 1973 (Elvis’ “Aloha from Hawaii” concert).
If you won the lottery, what would you do with the winnings?
Travel more. Maybe buy a stateroom on the cruise ship The World. Maybe book a compartment on the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Hot, crispy tacos with an ice-cold Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
Favorite film? “Jaws,” and not for the reason you’d think. This movie always spoke to me in different ways throughout my life. When I was young, I identified with the salty, roguish Quint. During my college years, it was the geeky Hopper. And now that I’m a husband and father, it’s the patriarchal Chief Brody I identify with. In the 1970s, most kids were into “Star Wars.” I loved my “Jaws.” Always have, always will.
Favorite music? I enjoy everything from classical to disco to salsa y merengue. And if you live in Florida, you have to love Jimmy Buffett. I think it’s a State law.
What would you choose to come back as in your next life?
“Jaws,” and not for the reason you’d think.
Any parting words of wisdom?
Please visit www.HoldFastBooks.com and order a signed copy of A Sword for Pizarro! Throughout November, the book is discounted 20% off the newsstand price, making it a great holiday gift for yourself or a loved one. Filled with high-seas excitement, breezy humor, and tropical romance, A Sword for Pizarro has it all!