Last month, Lisa Nowak – fellow author and Portlander – graciously allowed me to promote my book on her blog. Her idea was for a character interview with the protagonist, so Rachel Sullivan – heroine of No Time For Kings – dished about what’s been happening in her life after the events in my story. I thought this was an excellent idea, and served as a clever bridge to my follow-up novel (in progress). If you’re interested, you can read Rachel’s interview here.
I’m returning the favor now and letting Lisa plug her new novel, Dead Heat. This is a fascinating read: a ghost story at heart, but more complex, dealing with social issues like child abuse. I urge you to support Lisa and pick up a copy (there are several links below). And now, without further ado, here is Lisa’s interview with her protagonist, Cole Carter.
Character interview with Cole Carter
Cole, a man in his early thirties, befriended Alex, a fifteen-year-old machine whisperer, at the speedway. Cole was the first person ever to offer Alex hope for his future. Two years late, Cole died in a racing accident and risked his chance at a peaceful afterlife by staying on earth in spirit form to protect Alex from the abuse of his meth-addict father. That’s where Dead Heat begins.
So Cole, tell me a little about yourself. What are your talents and skills?
Cole: I used to grill up a mean burger. :) I could drive the wheels off a race car. I was a finish carpenter, and I did good work—paid attention to detail. I was good with rock, too. I built a killer waterfall in the back yard.
What is your biggest fear?
Cole: Seeing someone I love hurt. Seeing Alex mess up his life. That kid’s got such a good heart and so much potential, but he doesn’t believe in himself and I can’t make him.
They say scent is the most powerful sense. What’s your favorite smell?
Cole: I have several. Fresh-cut cedar, a burger on the grill, and racing fuel.
What is your goal or motivation in life?
Cole: Don’t you mean was?
Oh right. Sorry. So, did you have a vice?
Cole: Probably those damn hamburgers.
Well, as bad as they’re supposed to be for you, at least they didn’t kill you.
Cole: Yeah, I guess I played that right.
This interviewing-a-ghost thing isn’t so easy. I have to revise all my stock questions. Here’s one that should work: describe your most embarrassing moment.
Cole: That would be the night I met Torey. My buddy Doug had been fooling around at work, as usual (I’m surprised that guy’s managed to keep his job so long) and he accidentally whacked me in the back of the head with a two-by-four. If the boss hadn’t seen it, it wouldn’t have been any big deal. But then I wouldn’t have met Torey, either. He told Doug to take me to the emergency room. It seemed like an overreaction, but I guess he was covering his ass. So I got to the ER, and this hot little nurse, barely out of school, took my vitals. The doctor checked me out and left the nurse to tell me what I needed to do when I got home. She said that since I had a mild concussion, someone should stay with me that night. Doug, smartass Casanova that he is, said, “So, are you volunteering?” I wanted to strangle him. He knew how bashful I was with girls, and I’m sure he was well aware of how attracted I was to this one. Fortunately, she had a sense of humor about it.
Nice. So on a less jovial note, tell me about the last time you cried.
Cole: It was after I died, when I first saw how Alex was living. I guess I wanted to believe things weren’t that bad for him because otherwise I would’ve had to do something about it. And I knew if I had, he’d have never forgiven me for betraying his trust. But it was incredibly selfish of me. When I saw the conditions he was living in and witnessed firsthand how violent his father was, I knew I’d really screwed up. I should’ve got him out of there, even if it would’ve meant never seeing him again. It broke my heart to realize he’d suffered two years longer than he needed to because of my selfishness.
How has your experience with the abuse Alex has suffered affected how you feel about discipline?
Cole: Discipline should be about helping a kid become a good person, not about punishing him. I’m all for rules—I think you’re not doing your job as a parent if you don’t enforce them. But if you’re using discipline as a way of getting even, you shouldn’t have kids. And abuse is in no way discipline.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Cole: This is going to sound sappy, but I’d have to say Alex. That kid has lived a hellish life. I’ll bet he hasn’t had a single day when some part of him wasn’t hurting, and yet he doesn’t walk away, because he loves his mother and wants to take care of her. And then there’s the thing with me. He saw who I was, how I get stupid and fly off the handle when I see things like child abuse. He figured I’d get myself killed, going after his dad, so he refused to tell me where he lived, or even his last name. That’s one tough, brave, honorable kid. It breaks my heart that he can’t see himself the way I see him
If you knew you had exactly one month to live, what would you do?
Cole: It’s a little late for that one, don’t you think?
Oh, right, sorry. It’s those damn stock questions. Okay, so now that you’re dead, if you were allowed to come back as any person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Cole: I’d want to come back as myself. I wasn’t done yet.
A man who longs for a son, and a boy who can’t escape his father’s violence. Even death can’t break the bond they share.
Alex is a machine whisperer. He can tell what’s wrong with a broken-down car with a touch. But his gift can’t save him from the brutality of his meth-addict father. For two years, Alex experienced kindness through Cole, his mentor. Now Cole’s dead, and the violence in Alex’s life is escalating.
When Cole reappears as a ghost, Alex clings to the tenuous link. Then he learns Cole might’ve sacrificed his chance to cross over. Jade, the first girl to look beyond Alex’s past, assures him Cole can reach the Other Side—if Alex escapes from his dad. But a previous terrifying attempt has convinced Alex it’s impossible. Unless he can find the courage to try, his friend may be earthbound forever.
“Dead Heat blew me away. It’s a gritty ghost story interwoven with all-too-real subject matter that will make you cry for Alex, ache for Cole, and thank God for Jade. I was invested in these characters’ lives and you will be too.”
~ Stacey Wallace Benefiel, author of the Zellie Wells trilogy
About the author:
In addition to being a YA author, Lisa is a retired amateur stock car racer, an accomplished cat whisperer, and a professional smartass. She writes coming-of-age books about kids in hard luck situations who learn to appreciate their own value after finding mentors who love them for who they are.