John Ramaine is the author of the novel, “A long Time Ago”; here is a link to the Amazon page:
Q: What is A Long Time Ago about?
A: The essential premise is plainly expressed in this axiom, ‘What if the mistakes you’ve made could be erased creating a path for you to fulfill your destiny’? This question crosses many lines and is capped with a ‘what if I’ or ‘if only’. Many books and stories have been penned using this idea. The way I went about making it my own was through the influence of films and the iconic images they leave in the human psyche. I used the paradigm of time travel to convey a personal story, using the film industry as a backdrop.
Q: What made you want to write about time travel?
A: Time travel allows us to fulfill our deepest desire in having personal involvement with a particular period, setting or era long since gone. It’s also an interesting way of correcting your mistakes while retaining the memory of why you made the mistakes and how you never want to repeat them. But as in any time travel story, just because you correct a mistake doesn’t mean that the alteration doesn’t have its own set of problems. Probabilities and dimensions come into play. It’s discovered in A LONG TIME AGO that mistakes are a part of who we are and how we’ve become who we’ve become. It allows the reader to travel with the writer and experience the unexpected that comes about in trying to work out what happens in fixing the very thing that led you to the time machine in the first place. And if you try to fix the mistake, do you still find the time machine and try to correct the mistake that essentially never happened? It can play with your mind a little.
Q: What would you say the theme of the book is?
A: When you open the cover of the book, there is a caption written at the bottom of the first page; ‘Dreams never die, they just sometimes get put on hold.’ Every dream and desire we have as individuals is plainly attainable through our imagination. But just because you get a dream or a vision to create something or be someone, it doesn’t automatically fall onto your lap. It may take time…years even, to reach a glimmer of what you see inside of yourself. You face delays and setbacks that are constantly screaming at you to give up and that it’s never going to happen. But the impediments along your path are maturing you in ways that nothing ever can. Time permits the lesson of patience and experience. Nick Webb, the main character in A LONG TIME AGO goes through this on a constant level. Numerous setbacks and personal problems are the theme of life for every character ever written. It’s how they come out of it that’s worth the price of admission. And also, after the dedication, I added a page long quote that icon, James Dean said during his struggling days as an actor. It is a very satisfying passage and lends largely to the theme of the novel.
Q: Who inspired the character of Nick Webb?
A: This being my first novel was originally birthed from a screenplay. And like anything that’s first, it’s born from you. Every experience the character feels and goes through is in some way my own. Broken dreams and disappointments that cascade on Nick are merely a reflection of myself, save for the heightened sense of his environment. Nick has a strong moral background and impression of what’s good and what’s evil. He is also a movie guy who has an appreciation for the cinematic arts and hates to see it succumb to the banal influence of social media and the demographic pie chart. Nick is a man who knows he has a destiny to fulfill. He is a man of principle and like myself, a dreamer with purpose. When I read the book and the description of Nick, I see myself. Anyone who knows me wouldn’t be able to separate the two.
Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your writing?
A: In addition to writing, I am also an actor. I was just hired to play Banquo in Frog and Peach’s Main Stage production of Macbeth here in New York City. It’s wonderful but doesn’t pay squat. Like any creative person trying to break through, I have had numerous jobs in my journey to help make ends meet. Anything from census taker, theater usher, dog walker, furniture mover, vacuum cleaner salesman, flower shop delivery boy, ice cream scooper, envelope stuffer and pen salesman to name a few. I’ve also done film industry jobs working as a production assistant, first AD, casting assistant, hand model and photo double to name some. As of last week, I worked as a greeter. All of these jobs keep me hungry in pursuit of success in my field. They don’t require a heavy mental strain, which allows me to concentrate on more important matters. The experience of meeting new people in these positions adds a myriad of characters and circumstances that feed the writer in me. It’s all cataloged quite well. But mostly, and I would be remiss in not mentioning that it is my wife Julie who is the main breadwinner. Her indissoluble spirit of faith in me, as an actor and writer keeps her doing what she does in helping me get to where I need to go…for now.
Q: What sort of educational background do you have?
A: I never took a novel writing class but I did take various seminars along the way on screenwriting. I attended the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU for a year before dropping out but that was for film productions mostly. A LONG TIME AGO was born from a screenplay I wrote. In a way I was very pleased that it didn’t get produced. Despite a wonderful stage presentation and some interest from film producers, it just didn’t get off the ground. But I could not, for the life of me, let the story go. It was too personal and important to just die on the shelf. The story needed to be expanded but I had no idea how to do that. One day, while taking a walk, I was presented with a choice. My heart spoke very clearly, ‘Write the novel.’ I had an epiphany. This was the answer in taking the story to places that a screenplay could not go, while at the same time reaching deep into the character’s motives and intentions. I knew a screenplay could only skim the surface. It made all the sense in the world but the problem was that I’ve never written anything like this. I had no idea how to start. Through Julie’s encouragement I simply jumped into the process, mistakes and all. I began writing A LONG TIME AGO, using the screenplay as a template.
Q: What are some of the writing influences and how is this evidenced in your book?
A: The voice in the book is my own. During the process of writing, I would read out sections to Julie to get her reaction. She noticed a gist of Mickey Spillane in the narrative, the way things were being set up and resolved. I really appreciated that since I read a few of Spillane’s books, which obviously seeped into my subconscious. I also thoroughly enjoyed reading Vonnegut, so he may have gotten in there as well. I would say that my main influence is the movies. Filmmakers tell the story through pictures. As writers, we tell our story through words. When people read our stuff, they have to see it. It has to be visual. This is the link to the imagination, taking the reader where the writer wants them to go. I do believe that this is my gift as a writer, in that I describe everything to a visual term. I take you there, making the story all the more enjoyable.
Q: What are some of the things you have done to promote your book?
A: First of all, the book is a self-published work on Amazon. I never ran it through an editor nor did I take it to publishers. I never really saw it beyond my ability to self-publish and just put it out there. A LONG TIME AGO is a near diary of my life, not to the events that surround the main character but his emotions and the sacred oaths he takes in pursuing the high road. My intention was to get this novel on the record. It was a challenge I’m glad I reached. There are also particular intricacies that I wanted secured in my name, which includes a high level of science acumen regarding the time traveling device. Should the book ever get optioned, I will have secured the actual idea. In the meanwhile, like everyone else, I created A LONG TIME AGO Facebook page that is accessible for view. Every once in a while I will promote my book on my regular Facebook wall. The first couple of years I did receive residual checks, although that’s kind of dried up now. I also read the favorable reviews on the Amazon site, which are amazing. In the years since its availability, I have had many friends who expressed interest in reading it. In return I simply asked for an honest review. Good or bad. Yet, I have not received any reviews from the people who said they bought it. The book does run a tad over six hundred pages, so there is a commitment to it, but because it involves films, science, romance and action, I was counting on reaching the better nature of my colleagues. I’m still waiting. I do have grander plans for the book; I’m just not able to articulate them now.
Q: Why do you think old Hollywood fascinates people?
A: The movies of our past and I include anything before 1980, left indelible impressions that have found their place in our vernacular. Images of Bogie, Marilyn, Wayne, Liz, Brando and Cagney, et al, exist in our subconscious. They live and breathe in our movements. We quote them, enact them and watch them repeatedly. Books rarely do this and television never. Movies built our myths. They are the foundation of our dreams. They are handed down generation after generation because they still speak to us. We don’t judge or ever get weary of them. Also, the movies exhibited a tone of class and elegance. This is surely lacking in today’s cinematic culture, which distributes soon forgotten and rarely quoted content. Actors don’t carry the same impact that the old actors emanated. This is an ongoing mention in A LONG TIME AGO, a sort of personal frustration on my end. Also, old Hollywood appears remote and otherworldly, as seen through the prism of its current state. It’s unattainable. The character of Nick Webb goes back there and finds a spirit of renewal. This is the reader’s opportunity to go with him and feel refreshed.
Q: If you had a time machine what would you change in the history of film?
A: Great question and it is answered in the book. The character of Nick Webb is rebuffed in going back through a documentary to change history. I hope this doesn’t give away too much. I will share that the most recognized film in history is the Zapruder film, which documented the assassination of JFK. Like Nick Webb, I would eagerly figure out the most accessible way to stop the assassination. And I would do it over and over again until I got it right. But part of the problem comes back to alternate dimensions and outcomes. Are things meant to be? Can we really correct the past? In A LONG TIME AGO, the movies play a big role in answering that question. But this very dilemma is presented in the book and for anyone interested in the assassination; it is a fascinating approach to an event that we, in our imagination, still try to solve.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.