Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Ups And Downs Of Being Dead by M.R. Cornelius (Author Interview / Book Review)

Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes M.R. Cornelius, author of The Ups And Downs Of Being Dead!

Author Interview

Welcome back to Jersey Girl Book Reviews M.R.!

Before we get to the interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

I live in a rural county north of Atlanta with my husband. Our oldest son finally found a ‘real’ job after college, so he should be moving out soon, and I’ll get a chance to enjoy the empty nest. (I hope that means less cleaning-especially bathrooms!) My other son is still in college, so hubby and I have not yet experienced the phenomenon of having money to spare. 

How long have you been a writer?

I guess I’ve been a writer since my college days when I wrote for the campus newspaper. But I wanted to be a writer before then. Probably in the fourth grade when my teacher liked a poem I wrote. (She was a pretty mean teacher, so I took her praise as a sign.) 

Do you have a day job, or is being an author your career?

I had a day job until last year. I was a cafeteria manager for an elementary school. People always told me I should write a book about all my experiences with children, (and their parents) but so far I haven’t been inspired. After 15 years I quit. It’s a lot of hard work with very little reward. (Hey, that sounds like being a writer!)

What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer. 

I worked on a campus newspaper during the Vietnam War protests. That was such a chaotic time in America’s history and I was right there in it. That’s a very exhilarating feeling. But it was difficult to keep that momentum going years later when the news was boring, everyday stuff. It was sort of, ‘Where do I go from here?’ I lost interest in news journalism, but I still wanted to express myself, so I got into writing short stories. Then when the short stories weren’t enough, I kicked it up to books. 

Please give a brief description/storyline about The Ups and Downs of Being Dead.

Robert is 57 when he finds out he’s dying of cancer. He can’t believe it. And he won’t accept it. He decides to have his body cryonically-preserved – frozen – so he can come back in the future and live a fuller life. When he dies from the cancer, he thinks he’ll go to sleep, like during surgery, and some day he’ll just wake up in the future. But that’s not what happens. He’s very much awake and able to move about freely. Just like the people who were frozen before him. Only now that he’s a ghost, he doesn’t eat, or work, or sleep. He discovers that he can sit up in the cockpit with the pilot, but he can’t turn the pages of a magazine. He can hang out with the president in the oval office, but he can’t stop a child from running in front of a car. And because he can’t touch or feel, it’s difficult to have a relationship, and virtually impossible to reconcile with the living. He’s got about 100 years until technology figures out how to bring him back. Plenty of time to figure out The Ups and Downs of Being Dead

What was the inspiration for this story?

I read about Ted Williams being frozen and I was intrigued by the idea. Then I started thinking about these people who are already frozen, and it just sort of snowballed from there. 

How did it feel to have your first book published?

Oh, it’s a fabulous feeling. Seeing it on Amazon is such a rush. Even getting that first copy of the book in the mail is so re-affirming. After spending so many years telling myself I was an author, I finally felt justified in calling myself that. And I finally had something to show for all that work.

Do you write books for a specific genre? 

Not really. My first book, H10N1, was an action/thriller although it was post-apocalyptic. My mother considered it science fiction. My second novel, The Ups and Downs of Being Dead, has been referred to as speculative fiction, but since I’ve never seen that category on a Barnes and Noble shelf, let’s just call it drama. 

What genres are your favorites? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?

I’m definitely into the thriller/suspense genre. John Sandford, Karin Slaughter, Lee Child. And now and then I like to bury myself in a good ole’ smutty romance. I’d like to do a shout-out to some authors who deserve more recognition than they are getting. I just finished a book called Falling Under, by Danielle Younge-Ullman. A fantastic read, and soooooo much better than 50 Shades. Also Craig Stone, who wrote The Squirrel that Dreamt of Madness. He has a new book called Life Knocks. Some other favorites include: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society The Glass Castle Middlesex The Story of Edgar Sawtelle The Tattooed Girl (not to be confused with Girl with the Dragon Tattoo!!) 

Do you have a special spot/area where you like to do your writing?

I actually have a special area where I like to get inspired to write. I live out in the country, so a long walk in my neighborhood helps get the juices flowing, and I come up with some of my best ideas while I’m outside. My neighbors have gotten used to seeing me talk to myself, or furiously jot down note in my little spiral notebook. (So far, no one has called the authorities.) 

How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?

I usually ask myself ‘what if?’ Like, what if one year the flu season got totally out of control, and millions of people died. What would the survivors do? What if someone was cryonically-frozen, and had to wait 100 years to come back? How would they spend their time?

When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes? 

I’m afraid I’m not very organized. Although I do write every day, and it is usually in the morning, when my mind is fresh. Authors these days have to do their own marketing, so I’m also promoting my books, answering e-mails and Facebook posts, soliciting reviews. It all keeps me pretty busy. 

What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?

The toughest part of the process for me is creating the outline. Getting the story somewhat straight in my head. Once I have that, it’s easier to start filling in the gaps. And once I have that first rough draft, it’s so much more fun to fine-tune. Someone once compared a rough draft to a plain old hamburger. Sure, it’s a meal, but it isn’t much until you add the cheese, and lettuce, and tomatoes, and pickles, and special sauce that it really gets tasty. 

What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?

Now that I don’t have a day job, my weekends are actually free! (I used to start writing at 6am on Saturday and Sunday, and put in as much time as I could before I had to go to a soccer game or the grocery store.) So hubby and I have started vegetable gardening. We haven’t gotten too carried away yet, because the deer and rabbits eat most anything we plant. But we grow tomatoes, green beans. I always have a basil plant. And this spring we grew our own lettuce. (It’s frustrating, though. First you get the lettuce in the spring, and then when it’s all gone to seed, here come the tomatoes!) I’ve also become a bit of a fitness geek. I joined a gym where I do pilates and weight lifting. A little kick boxing. 

What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?

Get a good editor. And this isn’t your mother or your best friend. It isn’t someone in your critique group or another author. It’s a professional editor. There seem to be a lot of indie authors right now who don’t think they need an editor. Or they can’t afford one. But it’s definitely money well spent. ALL authors use editors. (Stephen King, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, James Patterson.) If you don’t believe me, pick up any book on your shelf. Flip to the acknowledgments and see where they thanked their editor. 

What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?

That’s easy. When someone tells you they read your book and loved it. Writers are as insecure as they come. So to have someone validate what you do is what it’s all about. 

How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?

Through Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and occasionally LinkedIn. Oh, and I call my mother every week.

Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination?

I think it’s impossible not to put little bits of yourself into a book. Things a character says, the way they dress. But as far as actual experiences, no. My characters live much more exciting lives than I do. If I ever write a book about pulling weeds, or the right way to fold a bath towel, then you’ll know that’s about me. 

What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer?

I’ll have to generalize a bit on this one, because I can’t really point a finger at any one author. But women authors have been my biggest inspiration. When I see that they’ve made it, it gives me hope. 

What is your definition of success as a writer?

Well, it used to be: making enough money to live comfortably. Now, it’s: getting enough from Amazon to pay for my gas. 

Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit of it with us?

My next book is about a homeless man who befriends a woman who has just been evicted. He helps get her and her two small children back off the streets.

Thank you M.R. for visiting Jersey Girl Book Reviews and sharing a bit about yourself and your writing career with us!

About The Author

M.R. Cornelius lives in the suburbs north of Atlanta with her husband and two spoiled cats who refuse to wear socks and dust the furniture. Her two college-aged sons visit regularly for clean clothes, food and money.


Book Review

The Ups and Downs of Being Dead by M.R. Cornelius
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Publication Date: May 27, 2012
Format: Paperback - 390 pages / Kindle - 528 KB
ISBN: 1477471634
Genre: Drama / Science Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: The Ups and Downs of Being Dead

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and for hosting a virtual book event on my blog site.

Book Description: 

Fifty-seven year old Robert Malone is the CEO of a successful clothing store chain and married to a former model. When his doctor tells him he is dying of cancer, he refuses to go quietly. Instead of death, Robert choses cryonics. He knows it’s a long shot. His frozen body will be stored in liquid nitrogen for the next seventy-five years, and then he’ll wake up in the future. Maybe. If technology figures out a way to bring him back.

He’s willing to take that gamble.

What he doesn’t realize is that he won’t lie in some dreamless state all that time. His soul is very much awake, just like the others who were frozen before him.

He discovers that he can ride in the cockpit with the pilots, but he can’t turn the page of a magazine. He can sit in the oval office with the president, but he can’t prevent a child from dashing in front of a car. He doesn’t work, or eat, or sleep. These obstacles make it difficult to fall in love, and virtually impossible to reconcile with the living.

Over the next several decades, Robert Malone will have plenty of time to learn The Ups and Downs of Being Dead.

Book Excerpt:

At first, he’d done what any intelligent man would do when the doctor folded his hands on his desk and quietly said, ‘You have cancer.’ Robert got a second opinion. That noted oncologist laid it out in a way Robert could not deny. Like an advertising campaign, the doctor presented images from an MRI and pointed out the large mass in Robert’s liver. Then he produced colorful brochures on the finest cancer treatment centers, pamphlets touting the latest pharmaceuticals, and of course, the bar graphs and pie charts that estimated how long Robert had to live.

For the first time in almost thirty years, Robert took the rest of the day off. He struggled to get through the telephone conversation with his secretary canceling appointments, rearranging meetings. By the time he ended the call, Robert felt so weak he’d braced his arm on the roof of his car and rested his forehead on the sleeve of his hand-tailored suit. Struggling for breath, he was unable to even stop the drool that oozed out of his gaping mouth and dribbled down the window of his Mercedes. Stale exhaust fumes in the parking garage choked Robert, the low clearance closed in on him. He was practically running when he came out onto the open top level. The heat of the day washed over Robert, and his body sagged. He lurched to the edge of the roof, and looked out over Atlanta, the classic query drumming in his head. ‘Why me?’

When Amanda heard he was dying, she rushed home from her shopping trip in New York. Robert was in his office, on the phone, when she burst in, her cheeks flushed, her eyes aglow. If he had to describe her expression in one word, it would have been exuberant.

Almost overnight, she transformed into a loving, sacrificing wife who put everything on hold for him. She drove him to his chemo appointments. She waited patiently outside the bathroom while he puked his guts out, then helped him back to bed, tucking brand-new sheets under his chin. Death sheets, he’d called them. He was certain she’d agonized over just the right shade and design to go with cancer.

She volunteered for the American Cancer Society, masquerading as a pillar of strength in front of other spouses of dying partners. She even participated in one of those walks – Amanda, who probably hadn’t worn a pair of sneakers since she was ten. And she never went anywhere without that goofy pink ribbon pinned to her clothing. Robert was sure the only reason she got so involved with the cancer organization was to get first-hand information on how soon he could be expected to croak. She couldn’t wait to get her hands on his millions.

Wouldn’t she be surprised?

My Book Review:

If you had a chance to come back to life some time in the future, would you choose cryonics?

When fifty-seven year old Robert Malone is diagnosed with terminal cancer, instead of accepting death he chooses cryonics in the hope that technological advances will be made so that he could be brought back to life sometime in the future. When Robert dies and his body is frozen, he discovers that his soul is very much still alive and he embarks on a journey where he starts a new life outside of his physical body and soon discovers The Ups and Downs of Being Dead.

The Ups and Downs of Being Dead is a fascinating sci-fi drama that will make you sit up and ponder the possibility if this technique could become a reality sometime in the future. Written in the third person narrative, author M.R. Cornelius weaves an intriguing tale that engages the reader to follow Robert's journey on a new realm of "living" and the challenging ups and downs of out of body experiences that he encounters. Rich in detail and vivid descriptions, the reader easily gets caught up in the twists and turns of Robert's adventures. This futuristic tale is fast-paced with a very creative and imaginative plot, the characters are realistic with engaging dialogue and interactions, and most of all this story will engage you in thinking outside the box and consider the what ifs of the potential possibilities of cryonic technology.

The Ups and Downs of Being Dead is a story that will appeal to readers with a penchant for the sci-fi and drama genres. It's futuristic storyline will open your mind to ponder the thought provoking and imaginative possibilities that author M.R. Cornelius has masterfully brought before her readers in true fashion like the timeless classics of "1984" and "Brave New World."


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