Interview with Stephan Silva, author of “Heaven Cries”

What do you enjoy about writing?

I like to tell stories that have an underlying theme. All good writing is two stories being told together. The plot is told in words, while a second story uses the subconscious to promote an idea.
The joy I get out of writing is to convey a theme that an astute reader can find. I like to develop an exciting plot to maintain a reader’s interest, but it is what is below the text that will be enduring.

A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are all introverts and socially inept, how true is that?

Being introverted or socially inept are conditions that can be moderated or altered. Actors can change from an introvert to an extrovert for a particular role. I believe most writers have introverted tendencies. It is the introvert who examines life, while the extravert simply lives it. Authors such as myself need to develop rich characters with flawed personalities to make a novel authentic. The ability to study people is best done by introverts.

What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?

An author must have a passion for his or her genre. My book Heaven Cries is historical fiction. I have an intense interest in all things military, martial arts, and human conflict. It is my passion for these subjects that I instill into my novel. If a writer can transfer that excitement into their work, then the reader will also enjoy the experience.

How important is research to you when writing a book?

In the genre of historical fiction, you must totally immerse the reader into your world. The historical fiction reader is usually already well versed about the time period. They expect accuracy. If the work is poorly researched or has inconsistencies, it will be criticized harshly.

Heaven Cries has elements of world war II aviation. Every detail was researched such as, calibers of German, Italian, and English aircraft machine guns, what altitude a pilot needs oxygen, how to land a single engine propeller plane onto soft sand. I had multiple fact checkers go through the manuscript looking for irregularities.

Personally I enjoy doing the research because I am a very detail oriented person. Being a surgeon I try to achieve perfection in my work.

When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

That is easy. I can tell you the day, month, and year I wanted to write. I was visiting my cousins in Piacenza, Italy and I asked them, ‘did anything interesting ever happen here?’ The room went quite for a moment, then they all started to talk at once. I was told of the Italian holocaust which happened in northern Italy. How innocent civilians were placed in train cars and sent to Auschwitz death camp.

As an Italian- American who is very knowledgeable about world war II, I was shocked by this information. Forty thousand Italians, both Jews and Gentiles, from this area were exterminated. My great uncle was an injured fighter pilot who was forced into a box car and sent to what he thought would be his demise. My book chronicles his escape and joining the partisans to fight the Nazis. This one story is so powerful I was compelled to write this book.

Do you think writers have a normal life like others?

Defining normal is difficult. To get to the heart of the question, I think is: “What sets us apart from non- writers?” On the surface a writer’s life looks like everyone else’s. We all must get our kids to school, plan dinner, and make the mortgage payment. Deeper than those superficial everyday chores, is how a writer sees and feels the world. I am not happy just looking at the patina that most people observe. I want to scratch the surface and see what is underneath. What makes me a fiction writer is that I want to tell everyone what I found. I hope what makes me a good fiction writer is that I can make all those “normal people” be as fascinated by my discovery as I am.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an Idea takes you?

I use a hybrid of both. First I outline an idea simply. I know the beginning, the middle, the knot, and the ending. Then I build the characters in the story. If you can construct strong characters they can take you along for the ride.

Have you ever experienced ‘writer’s block’?

No, but I am new to writing so it may affect me later. I have a theory about writer’s block. I believe it is the creative mind not wanting to work. It is not a worker’s strike though. It is fear. The fear of failure. There are two therapies for this that I know of. One is rest, give yourself time off from writing. This does not mean lay in bed like resting the gout. Travel, see and learn new things. This will stimulate the mind. A second therapy is to read. For me, nothing inspires me to write more than reading works of other authors. When I read something great, it inspires me to write something great.

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?

Readers must like the book. If people enjoy reading a book they will talk/ blog about it, then more people will read it. Everyone is so busy in today’s society, for them to spend time with your book they need a reason. That reason is not that the book is well written, has robust characters, or a beautiful setting; it must be evocative. The genre does not matter, all good stories either conjure up good memories or produce new feelings.

Does your novel carry a message?

All enduring stories have an underlying message, from Greek mythology to fables and fairy tales. I enjoy inserting a theme into my work. Heaven Cries has multiple messages for the modern reader.

Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?

It would be a challenge to make a living on writing alone. However, I think it is the dream of every writer to do just that. My full time day job is being a practicing physician in Boca Raton, Florida. Yes, I like it. There is a quote by Anton Chekhov who was a physician and a writer that fits me as well, it goes: ‘Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other.’
The knowledge of the human body does find its way into my writing, especially in the scenes of action and violence. Also I find physicians themselves to make for interesting characters that fit well into my books.

How do you see writing? As a hobby or a passion?

I have seen writing used as a therapy in the arena of mental health. I know a woman who has written a 21 volume children’s book series never planning to publish it, she says it’s her hobby to write. I do understand all of that, but it does not apply to me. I write because I have a passion for a particular story. If the subject is important enough for me to spend one to two years on it, I am going to put a lot of myself in it.

Do you like traveling or do you prefer staying indoors?

Traveling is one of my inspirations to write. I have a strong sense of place. If I can feel a place, it becomes easy to write about it. In the genre of historical fiction, time is also as important as place. In Heaven Cries, I was physically at every location in the book except the Sahara Desert. This includes meeting the local population and engaging in conversation, not being a tourist just looking out a bus window. I do this to help with character development, especially for traits and mannerisms.

Do you believe it is more challenging to write about beliefs that conflict with the ones you hold yourself?

Writers can use many contrasting personalities in their stories. When you create a character that is at odds with yourself, you grow as an author. The protagonist in Heaven Cries, Artemio held beliefs much the same as I do. I placed him in situations where he had to interact with people completely different form himself. I found it challenging to create characters that had the main traits I wanted such as a psychopathic killer Nazi, or a hard charging communist partisan leader, but still imbue in them a hint of humanity. If not done skillfully the manufactured personality will appear like a cardboard cutout. The effort is demanding, but when it comes together I find it gratifying.

What is your motivation for writing more?

For me it is always the story. When I find a little known tragedy or an injustice; I see a book. It is said the sculptor Michelangelo could see the statue in the marble trying to get out. I think that describes me as a writer.

Would your book adapt easily to the silver screen?

Heaven Cries would make a great movie. It has all the action, adventure, and romance that movie goers crave. The book is fast paced with changing locations every few scenes.

Do any of your family members make occasional cameos in your book?

The protagonist Artemio is my grandfather’s brother as I stated in the book. There is also a cameo appearance of my grandmother’s father in the book. The character Fermo who is the leader of the partisan band on Quaraglio Mountain.

What weather inspires you the most, in terms of bringing out your literary best?

I like to write when the weather is inclement outside, and I am warm and dry inside. I don’t consider myself a moody or brooding author, but rain works best for me. Even in the book title Heaven Cries, the crying is rain; tears from Heaven. In fact, weather is a major theme in the story. The American bomber pilots were always vexed by the bad weather over their targets; the city of Piacenza.

Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or can you sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?

I have a specific room in my house for writing. Being an insomniac I do my best writing from midnight to 3 am. My family is asleep and I have no interruptions from my patients. Inspiration for me can come at any time. I could be driving in my car, or in a spin class at the gym, and get an idea for the next chapter.

Did you have a lot of difference with your editors in the beginning while you were still becoming used to getting your work edited?

My publisher Penmore Press has great editors. I worked closely with Chris Wozney who was amazingly helpful with the text and was instrumental in moving the project forward.

Do you have a specific culture you like to write about?

I do like to immerse myself in a specific culture for my books. Heaven Cries was about Italians in world war II. My current project is also centered on one culture; not Italian, not world war II.

Subscribe to our book recommendations