To promote the release of his first book, 35 Miles From Shore: The Ditching and Rescue of ALM Flight 980, author and professional pilot Emilio Corsetti is touring the blogosphere this month. Corsetti's work has appeared in regional and national publications such as the Chicago Tribune, Multimedia Producer, and Professional Pilot Magazine. In this interview, he talks about the writing process and his future projects. He also offers a cure for writer's block.
How would you describe your creative process while writing this book?
I spent a year-and-a-half researching and interviewing some of the actual participants in the accident. I recorded every interview, whether it was in person, over the phone, or by e-mail. Once an interview was finished, I would go over it and jot down notes. Sometimes I would have to do follow-up interviews. I would then organize the notes into a narrative. When it came time to constructing the book, I pieced together the many narratives until a cohesive story emerged.
Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
I knew going in that this was a story with many perspectives. Take, for example, a rescue by helicopter. First you have the perspective of the person being rescued. Then you have the perspective of the crewman working the hoist. And finally you have the viewpoints of the pilots. That’s three or more perspectives for the same event. My solution was to describe the event from each unique perspective in different chapters. One chapter might describe what was going on in the water while the survivors were waiting for rescue. The next chapter would be about the rescue crews arriving on the scene and starting the rescue. I never switched perspectives within a chapter. I had a rough outline, but I only used it to guide me from one scene to the next.
From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?
I spent a year-and-a-half researching and another year-and-a-half writing the first draft. This was followed by a solid year of rewriting. I then wasted three years looking for a publisher before making the decision to publish independently.
Who are your favorite authors?
I don’t have any favorite authors. I have a number of favorite books: Angela’s Ashes, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Magellan, Congo, Marley and Me, 2001 A Space Odyssey. All of these books have inspired me to reach for the same level of excellence.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I ever got came from a Writer’s Digest book. I don’t remember the title of the book, but it was about the seven stages of a scene. Here they are: goal, conflict, disaster, reaction, reflection, decision, and action.
Every story is a compilation of scenes. One scene leads to the next and so on until you have a completed story. You start by establishing a goal. All good stories must have conflict. The conflict leads to a disaster. There is an immediate reaction to that disaster followed by a point of reflection. Finally a decision is made on what to do next. The action sets up the sequence for the next scene to begin.
Any time I get stuck, I think about where I am in these seven stages. Here is a short example from my book. There is a scene where two very large men get into a rescue basket and their combined weight causes the cable to unravel and jam the hoist system. That’s the disaster. Here is the scene from the book:
Seconds later the crew chief was heard over the ICS. “We’ve got a problem. The hoist is jammed! It won’t go up any further!” The cable had started to unravel and was now binding the hoist system.
Shields, who had had a similar cable failure before, knew that he couldn’t fly back to St. Croix with the two men dangling from the bottom of the helicopter. The cable could snap and send the two men hurtling through the air. They were going to have to shear the cable. He first tried to lower the basket to the water to allow the men to jump out, but the men were confused and wouldn’t leave the basket. He told the crewman in back to prepare to cut the cable.
The pilot, Shields, reacts to the problem internally by remembering a past experience. He contemplates or reflects on his choices then finally makes his decision, which leads to the next action.
Do you have a website or blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
Yes, I have an Official Website site for the book. The site contains a wealth of ancillary material related to the story including images, book trailer, newspaper articles, maps, diagrams, and more. There is also a media room and an upcoming events page.
I also have a blog, Everything Nonfiction. As the title suggests, the blog is dedicated to nonfiction books, films, and documentaries. It is also the blog spot for my book, 35 Miles From Shore. The beauty of this site is that it attracts people with varied interests all dealing with nonfiction. Those people, in turn, are exposed to my book, which hopefully will lead to interest in the book and possible sales.
My personal website is EmilioCorsetti.com. Among the things on this site is a personal story about my daughter Allison, who died at the age of six and a half weeks.
Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
I wrote a screenplay adaptation of my book. The screenplay attracted the attention of an agent that represents screenwriters. That agent asked if I had anything else in the works. It just so happened that I had another idea for a screenplay that was just sitting on my computer. I had spent five years writing a novel that was never published. There were three storylines in the novel. One was very good; one was good, and the third storyline was less than good. I took the very good storyline and turned it into a screenplay.
Thanks for stopping by BC Magazine today. I wish you lots of success with your book!