Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Guest Author: Craig Lancaster

Craig Lancaster, author of 600 Hours of Edward, has been kind enough to stop by Reading with Tequila to give us a little insight into the creation of the novel's main character, Edward Stanton.


When I sat down to write 600 HOURS OF EDWARD in November 2008, I had a vague image of a man in his late-30s, someone very bright but also very misunderstood and idiosyncratic. I fixated on the idea of someone dealing with Asperger syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder (which are commonly grouped) simply because I wanted to build a character who moved in patterns. Into those patterns, I hoped to construct a narrative arc.

The general idea came to me easily enough. But as I plunged into the marathon of the first draft – I wrote the principal story in 25 days, a feat that I don’t recommend you try at home – I had to populate Edward Stanton’s interior life.

Let’s take a look at that:

Edward lives in Billings, Montana. I do, too.

Edward is 39 years old. I was 38 when I wrote the book.

Edward loves the Dallas Cowboys. So do I.

Edward loves the ’60s cop show “Dragnet.” I’ve seen every episode, many times over.

Edward has no use for conjecture, gut feelings, media spin or supposition. Like his beloved Sgt. Joe Friday of “Dragnet,” Edward wants only the facts.

Here – and on many other points -- is where Edward and I diverge.

The write-what-you-know adage about writing is true enough, as far as it goes. At some point, though, Edward had to grow into who he is beyond the influences that I brought to him. That’s one of the biggest rewards of writing fiction – using the characters you create to walk paths that you, here in real life, would never tread, for whatever reason. In the vast pages of literature, we have great villains, virtuous heroes, desperate men and women, people shaped by hardship and circumstance. Each character, no matter the genre, represents a chance for both author and reader to explore worlds that aren’t necessarily outside our own front doors.

When I sat at the computer and moved Edward through the 600-hour slice of his life that the book covers, a period when changes big and small come to rest on his doorstep and demand that he deal with them, I became Edward. I have no other way of explaining it. For those joyful moments, I saw his world through his eyes, and though certain things about him were informed by my experience, his life on the pages is his own – but he’s left the window open for others to peek in.

One of the most difficult but rewarding scenes – for Edward and from me – comes fairly late in the book, as he puts words to the emotions he has spent most of his life not trusting:

I find myself wishing that I had taken pictures of that snowy day in front my house, when Kyle was riding his Blue Blaster and Donna and I were throwing snowballs. Photographs, it seems to me, are both moments in time and bits of memory. I have the memory of that day with Donna and Kyle, but I also know that the camera that created the memory is imprecise. If I’d had a real camera, instead of just a memory, I could have caught the moments so that they would never escape me. If Donna has decided that she no longer wants to be my friend, I’ll have to desperately hold on to those memories so that they never get away, because I won’t have the chance to replace them.

My hope, whether you’re reading 600 HOURS OF EDWARD or any other book, is that you’re discovering characters who are so rich and so compelling that you disappear from your own life, if only for a while, and slide into theirs.

About the Author

Craig Lancaster was born in Lakewood, Washington, and grew up in suburban Fort Worth, Texas. A longtime journalist, he lives in Billings, Montana, with his wife, Angela, and two rambunctious dachshunds, Bodie and Zula.

About the Book

Edward Stanton is a man hurtling headlong toward middle age. His mental illness has led him to be sequestered in a small house in a small city, where he keeps his distance from the outside world and the parents from whom he is largely estranged.

For the most part, Edward sticks to things he can count on … and things he can count. But over the course of 25 days (or 600 hours, as Edward prefers to look at it) several events puncture the walls Edward has built.

In the end, he faces a choice: Open his life to experience and deal with the joy and heartaches that come with it, or remain behind his closed door, a solitary soul.

600 Hours of Edward on Amazon
Craig Lancaster's Web site (including sales of signed copies of the book)
Craig Lancaster's blog
600 Hours of Edward is available in a variety of e-book formats at Smashwords
Reading with Tequila's review of 600 Hours of Edward


  1. Great interview!!! I just picked up this book :)

  2. As always Craig, well said!! Thank you for this great post this morning.

  3. @ Melissa: I hope you enjoy it!

    @ KP: Thank you!

    (Side note: I seemed to use this little bugger -- ! -- a lot more on message boards than I do anywhere else. Weird.)

  4. Just me, gang. I'm dropping in to say hi and I've got this posted at Win a Book.

    Craig, if we can help you promote anything, drop us a line. That's what Win a Book does.

  5. I JUST added this book to my wishlist! It sounds awesome, can't wait to read it....I am #4....hope the PBS line moves quickly! :)

  6. I read this book in one sitting, unable to put it down. I got transfixed by Edward's POV on the world, and chewed my fingernails to the quick as he got into one fix after another. I actually am going back and re-reading the book at a more liesurely pace, savoring it, rather than plunging on ahead trying to rush to Edward's salvation. Can't wait for more Edward!