Interview with author James Cusumano

Give us a brief summary of your life till now and how it led you to write.

I grew up in New Jersey, the oldest of 10 children—six girls and four boys—one born about every 2 years. My mother was essentially pregnant for 20 years, and my father was a postman. So you might imagine, we were far from well off, financially. As youngsters, all of us worked to help the family cause. Shining shoes and delivering newspapers during the frigid Jersey winters got old fast. It wasn’t for me.

After a couple of years of piano lessons, at age 15, I became the keyboard player and then the lead singer for a group that played for dances, parties, and weddings. Growing up close to New York City, during the birth of rock and roll music, it was not much of a leap to move into recording. Entertaining with some of the early pioneers of rock music such as Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, and Buddy Holly & The Crickets was not only a blast—it taught me a lot about leadership and understanding all kinds of people, especially prima donnas!

I enjoyed entertaining, but another love tugged heavily at me — science — especially mathematics, chemistry, and physics. After seven years at Rutgers University, a B.A. in chemistry, and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry, I found myself working in corporate America as a research scientist and eventually a research director, meshing the principles of science and business.

An entrepreneur at heart, I subsequently moved to Silicon Valley where I co-founded two public companies, Catalytica Energy Systems and Catalytica Pharmaceuticals. The latter company grew in less than five years, from several people to more than 2,000 and had a value on the stock exchange of more than $1 billion before being sold.

I next returned to entertainment as an executive producer when I founded Chateau Wally Films and produced the feature film, “What Matters Most,” written by my now-deceased wife, Jane, who directed the film on location in the Texas Panhandle, while fighting stage 4 breast cancer. It starred our actress daughter, Polly, now Polly Cole, wife of Joe Robert Cole, screenplay writer of Black Panther. “What Matters Most” was released in 2002 on Lifetime Television and in more than 50 countries. 

I then moved to Prague where my wife, Inez, and I bought, renovated, and opened in Chateau Mcely in 2006 as an award-winning 17th-century, castle, spa hotel and forest retreat, chosen by the World Travel Awards as The World’s Leading Green Hotel.

I have brought international change-makers to Chateau Mcely who discussed the power and potential of accessing higher levels of consciousness as a means to create long-term happiness and fulfillment. I am particularly interested in Conscious Leadership and Life Purpose.

I’m the author of nine fiction and nonfiction books, the most recent, I Can See Clearly: Rise of A Supernatural Hero, released as an e-book and audiobook on December 15, 2020 and in hardcover on March 16, 2021.

Having worked successfully at several business endeavors, I became passionate about giving something back to the greater, common-good. All of my successes were the result of working with talented, motivated, people. People who wanted to make a difference in the world. People who helped me make good decisions. People who implemented challenging work, sometimes against all odds. I wanted to share with others what I had learned along my personal and professional journey. Starting about 2010, this I did through seminars at Chateau Mcely, presentations at corporations and universities, and a commitment to becoming a published author, as a more effective means to spread my messages.

I first became intrigued with writing fiction at age 9, when I used my mother’s ancient typewriter to create my first essay — Trip To Titan. However, I started my writing career decades later with nonfiction books and eventually moved to what I call Wisdom Fiction — simultaneously entertaining the reader with the fundamentals of what I had learned along the way while integrating information and concepts throughout the narrative that could have a positive influence in creating a more successful and fulfilling life — elements like inspired leadership, values, life purpose, elevated consciousness, and passion.

What prompted you to write a book about a teenager suddenly gifted with mystical powers and those who guide him?

I believe that the more people who find their Life Purpose, the better our challenged world will be. To this end, I have written a number of “How To Do It” non-fiction books, and they have been well-received. However, I now believe that I will make greater progress towards my objectives if I write an entertaining novel and weave throughout the narrative, the concepts I wish to share. I also wanted to address demographics that encompass a broad range of ages. I believe it’s important to bring these messages to teenagers—they are our future—and above, which is why the book is targeted at 13+.

Why did you set this story in the middle of Silicon Valley? Did you intend to set up a comparison of psychic versus artificial intelligence?

I like to write about places I know and understand. I previously lived in Palo Alto for 25 years. It saves time and effort on research. Plus, Silicon Valley had many of the elements I needed to bring the story together, and knowing them intimately enabled me to create authentic venues and events.

Having Luc curse in Italian was genius. Is that a habit of yours?

Yup! My mom and dad were 2nd generation Sicilians, both with family roots in Cammarata, a small mountain village in central Sicily—ironically, not far from Corleone!

Tell us about your next project.

I just finished my first draft of book 2 of the Luc Ponti Series —The Seagull’s Revenge. It was a lot of fun writing, but as with all of my first drafts, it’s quite a distance from publication—probably this fall.

Whats your research process like?

I try to pick things I either know something about, or I’m excited to learn about. I like mixing science, technology, metaphysics (paranormal), politics, and history. The first three, I’m well-versed in, the second two, I enjoy learning those aspects that mesh with the first three. I use the internet extensively, but I‘m careful to get multiple lateral sources, so that I can be sure of the veracity of what I write.

Whats your writing routine? Do you have a dedicated office, or do you write at the kitchen table? Do you write longhand or type everything?

I like to write solo in dead quiet. Great scenery is a plus. My wife designed the top floor of our home for me. It has an office with a large picture window that looks out at a large forest behind our home. I have my own bathroom and a great library — I’m obsessive about buying hardcopy books. I have a hobby, which in recent years has become too expensive to pursue as much as I did in the past, especially during my travels. I collect 16th,17th, and 18th century rare books in the sciences and mathematics. I  love to page through them and think, who before me was turning these pages — Wow! That may be a great idea for a novel!

Do you outline your stories or let the characters take you where they want to go? Do your characters speak to you?

I do a rough Mind Map on paper in the beginning. I keep my precious notebook for jotting down ideas with a fountain pen filled with turquoise ink. For some crazy reason, I’ve loved that color since I was in grammar school. But by and large I picture the personalities of my main characters in the beginning and then they usually write most of the novel—at least they do after I’m about 5-10 percent into the novel.

What writers do you admire, past or present?

Paulo Coelho, Dan Brown, Ken Follett, Mark Twain, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Joseph Campbell, Eckhart Tolle, Neville Goddard

What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like least?

Creating people, events, and things that didn’t exist before and seeing where it leads. Sometimes, I even learn things from the characters. Least—>the details of the publication process.

What little personal quirk would you like to reveal to your readers?

A mild obsessive compulsion about even rough drafts looking right and with no obvious grammar or spelling errors.

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