Happy Friday my friends! I hope you have had a good week and are looking forward to your weekend.
I don't have much in the odds and ends bag for this week so I want to go straight to my special, special guest this week for Five on Friday. I'm thrilled and honored that Orest Stelmach graciously agreed to take the hot seat.
Orest published his debut, The Boy from Reactor 4, in 2013 and this Tuesday his follow-up, The Boy Who Stole From the Dead, is being released. Is that title not great?! You will, of course, hear more about this fabulously-titled book here soon, but I wanted to tell you about something special Orest has done with both books. He's adopted a charity, Chernobyl Children International, to help with profits from his books. You can read all about the charity and his generous contributions to them on his website.
To get a feel for Orest's writing, you can check out some of his essays here. But I especially want to point my animal-loving friends to "Ten-Foot Tall Kitty." When I first read this, I knew Orest Stelmach was a special person. So, I am over the moon excited that he's here today. In addition, with the current unrest in the Ukraine going on, I think you'll especially appreciate Orest's contribution the series!
Now let me quit my yammering and let him take the reigns:
1. When I was a kid, my favorite thing to get in my trick-or-treat bag was: A Milky Way bar. I medicated with sugar (and fats and other carbs) as a child. I was also eager to move to some other part of the solar system where I could be a kid instead of a vessel for my parents’ dreams. “At work, rest, or play, Milky Way. Milky Way.”
2. If I could only listen to one music artist/band for the rest of time, I would choose: Vivaldi. I listen to rock’n roll fifty percent of the time and classical musical the other fifty percent of the time. I would rather listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in a continuous loop than any rock artist’s repertoire. It is the aural equivalent of a year in my native New England and stirs an infinite number of memories, many of them imaginary.
3. My five favorite movies of all time are:
4. The most beautiful place I’ve ever visited is: Florence. I was captain of my high school basketball team, but when I made the team as a junior my coach couldn’t pronounce my name. Instead of Orest, he called me Orence. I wish I’d known back then that I was only two consonants short of heaven all that time.
- Sideways. Yes, I write suspense and this is a comedy, but I love spending time with these characters. We are very close friends, these characters and I – they just don’t know it. Sure, they keep saying the same things over and over again, but the wine in my glass changes frequently.
- Vertigo. Hitchcock remains one of my primary inspirations. This is my “go-to” film when I make pancakes on Sunday morning. I like to do my mise en place to the sound of Bernard Herrmann’s haunting prelude. When I hear the cop on the roof shout “Give me your hand,” I know the prelude is over. I run from the kitchen to the family room, hit the previous scene button, and start the introductory scene all over again. I do that until I grow tired of it – the running back and forth, that is.
- The Fugitive. My wife and I bought a small cottage on Cape Cod several years ago. The former owner’s name? Richard Kimball. That coincidence played no role in my insistence that the house was good value. None whatsoever.
- The French Connection. There’s a scene early in the first act where Gene Hackman walks into the Copacabana nightclub. He’s just a cop surrounded by the city’s finest players, but the way he smiles, lifts his eyebrows, and presses the flesh, you’d think he’s the prince of Gotham City. I watch that scene at least nine times in a row the night before every public speaking appearance. Then, as I rise to the podium to speak the next day, I tell myself I’m at the Copacabana, and my name is Popeye Doyle.
- The Talented Mr. Ripley. When Ms. Blanchett meets Ms. Paltrow at the piazza and implores her to marry Dickie, and tells her that that nothing, absolutely nothing untoward happened that would prevent her from doing so, her subsequent exit is my single favorite moment of acting ever. Ms. Blanchett smiles, blushes, extends her hand, pulls it back, and twists and turns with such excruciating unease, it’s hard to believe she wasn’t trying to resolve a real conflict with Ms. Paltrow. Awkwardness never looked so good.
5. The #1 item on my bucket list right now is: To wake up in Kyiv, Ukraine tomorrow morning in the middle of the current protests against the government. The books that I’m working on now – the Nadia Tesla thriller series – concern a Ukrainian-American woman and a boy from Ukraine (Chornobyl to be exact). I chose such ethnic backgrounds because they mirror my own, which has been a source of increased fascination for me. My deceased father was a Ukrainian immigrant, as is my mother, and they raised my brother and me in an insular Ukrainian-American community in Hartford. Ukraine was a repressed satellite of the Soviet Union when we were growing up. Back then, a free Ukraine was unimaginable. To see that freedom gradually erode because of corruption and deference to Russia has been a painful process. My books deal with the historical relationship between Ukraine and Russia that are at the core of the current conflict. I wish I were there right now.
What a great combination of humor and heart. That's why I enjoy this series so much. I love this little glimpse of Orest and I hope it will encourage all of you to know him a bit better as well. If you have the chance to meet up with him in person, I encourage you to do so. And of course, I encourage you to check out his books as well! You can catch up with Orest virtually on Twitter as well as his website. And I also want to mention his Tumblr blog because he posts some amazing pictures of the Ukraine and other things related to his books.
Many, many thanks to Orest and to everyone for stopping by today. Have a most wonderful weekend and happy reading!