Charlie Johnson is the author of the novel Superstition; here is a link to his website:
Q: What is Superstition about?
A: The story of Superstition starts with a search for the Lost Dutchman gold at Superstition Mountain in Arizona in 1942 during which a man is murdered. Carlos, a psychic detective in New York City, is called on by a rich woman in Arizona to search for her lost parents. Carlos’ search for her parents leads him back in time to the search for the lost gold, a series of photographs taken during the search, and the murder. Carlos’ investigation puts him in danger from a mysterious sniper. He is shot, and the shooting is the key to the solution of the mystery of both the murder and the rich woman’s lost parents. The story interweaves legend, mystery, danger, the return of the dead, spiritual possession, and facts.
Q: What inspired you to start your series?
A: The character of the psychic detective Carlos was created in the first book in the series about him, entitled Duplicity, and it is his interests and cases that are the heart of the series. Carlos specializes in solving mysteries and disappearances from the past. In Duplicity he sought to solve the mystery of Judge Joseph Crater, who disappeared in New York City in 1930. In Superstition, Carlos’ investigation takes him to Arizona and the search for the Lost Dutchman Gold. As a practicing historian, the mysteries of the disappearance of Judge Crater and the search for the Lost Dutchman Gold have always been of interest to me, and writing these two books about investigations into these mysteries gave me a chance to learn more about them and to express my ideas about the truth behind the mysteries.
Q: What makes Carlos worth reading about?
A: Carlos is the central character of these mysteries and a very unique psychic detective. He is a quirky man in his 40s whose life is full of eccentricities. He is an interesting and sometimes inexplicable character who often turns the expectation for normal behavior on its head. There’s a lot of me in Carlos, but also he often surprises me by his reactions and what he does. Sometime he is funny; sometimes he is crazy. He is not predictable. He’s a unique character who, after I created him, took on a life of his own. He is worth reading about because his adventures and the danger that he puts himself into are full of surprises and unexpected, dangerous situations.
Q: Why are psychics so interesting?
A: Psychics are interesting because we all have an uncertainty and ambivalence as to what happens before and after death. Life is unpredictable, but we experience it directly. Death and the non-physical world are unknown, but it is in the nature of human beings to wonder about them and seek answers. Religion is one way in which answers to the unknown are sought. Psychics are another way to seek information about the unknown worlds of the past and future. They are interesting to us because they appear to provide us with a window into the the world beyond physical life. They know of the unknown. They can raise and speak with the dead. They have ways of knowing that common people don’t have. They hold the promise of telling us what we want to know. However, psychics are also mysteries. We want to learn more about them in the hopes that we can discover their powers and if they can, in fact, communicate with the dead. We want to believe that they can see into the world beyond, so we are interested in what they do and how they do it.
Q: Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
A: I have always been interested in reading about the search for the unknown, the lost, and the conundrum of the missing. Books such as The Empty Robe: The Story of the Disappearance of Judge Crater by Stella Crater and Oscar Fraley; My Search for B. Traven by Jonah Raskin (B. Traven was the author of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a book–which was made into the famous movie–about a search for treasure); In Search of Butch Cassidy by Larry Pointer; The Search for Bridey Murphy by Morey Bernstein. I have been fascinated by magical realism authors, Carlos Fuentes, Luis Borges, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I enjoy reading Charles Bukowski, James Baldwin, and Evelyn Waugh (Brideshead Revisited). I like reading about men alone in their cultures, like Colin Wilson’s The Outsider and The Stranger by Albert Camus. As an historian, I have been interested in reading about men who sought to make revolutions and their fates, like Resistance, Rebellion, and Death by Albert Camus, the historical development of socialism in To the Finland Station by Edmund Wilson, English and French history and French intellectuals. Those are a few of my reading interests
Q: You worked as a financial officer for a county food bank. What was the most challenging thing about that job?
A: The challenges of the job were to seek to assure the validity and responsibility of the organization in fulfilling its human service purpose of feeding hungry people and to accurately report the financial activities of the organization in doing so. The great reward was in helping to convert the appalling waste of food in this country to the service of the hungry and needy.
Q: What makes you what to go back to teaching?
A: I have always enjoyed teaching, but due to the folly of youth, I threw away my first opportunities to become a lifetime teacher. I sought to redeem my purpose to be a teacher in many ways informally afterwards in my life, and I have recently embarked on a second career in the world of formal education to fulfill my mission of teaching.
Q: What is your weirdest teaching story?
A: My weirdest teaching experience was in being dismissed from teaching at Ashford University for focusing too much on the direct education of students rather than on the bureaucratic expectations of the organization. I was continually hounded on the dominating importance of fulfilling the expectations of organizational bureaucrats intended to stop my efforts in teaching and focus on satisfying their demands.
Q: What are some valuable things you can teach your students about writing?
A: The most important and effective way to learn to write is to read a lot, write a lot, and learn the essentials of grammar, punctuation, diction, and written expression. If one wants to be a writer, it is necessary not only to read the words of whatever it is that you are reading to follow the story, but also to be aware of the word use, punctuation, and sentence construction.
Q: If you could ask Carlos one question about your future, what would it be?
A: If I could ask Carlos one question about my future, it would be, “Will I write another mystery in the series about him.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.