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A Conversation With Rob Costelloe, Author Of Coinage Of Commitment, A Romance About Higher Love From A Man's Perspective

Oct 13, 2007
Today, Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor of http://Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest, Rob Costelloe, author of Coinage of Commitment.

Good day Rob and thanks for participating in our interview.

Norm: When did your passion for writing begin? What keeps you going?

Rob: I wrote earlier in life, including a teeth-cutting first novel, then I abandoned writing altogether. But I continued to study romantic love as a potential source of fulfillment in people's lives, and I enjoyed studying love stories in books and films. In 2005 I read an otherwise well written novel whose denouement was so suddenly despairing that I felt outrage on behalf of all the women readers who were disappointed by this disjointed outcome. Within twenty-four hours, I started writing Coinage of Commitment.

Norm: Will you share a little bit about Coinage of Commitment with us?

Rob: Sure. Coinage of Commitment offers a different kind of love story, a drama of characters who love at a higher level than what we see all around us. But this is not portrayed as just a case of spontaneous feelings conquering all. Rather, our lovers develop a hunger and capacity for higher love by reflections and experiences they have before and after meeting. The story gives a glimpse into the unique challenges such a pair would face in striving to reach the zenith they seek. The plot does feature a love triangle, so the novel is actually two love stories that culminate dramatically in a surprise ending.

Norm: How did you get the inspiration for this book? Did you have a hard time fleshing out characters initially?

Rob: The inspiration, or at least the creative energy for the project, was driven by this concept of love at a higher level, one requiring a thinking basis as well as an emotional one. Some nonfiction books that offer advice for improving relationships deal with this issue extensively, but fiction has not risen to exploring love that's anything higher than merely spontaneous emotions.

You asked about character development and, yes, it was difficult. These are not characters who would ever be mistaken for plain vanilla. The male protagonist had to be recast from the first draft to realistically portray the conflict he experiences before the lovers find union.

Norm: How much real-life did you put into your book? Is there much "you" in there?

Rob: My contribution was that I've experienced love at a higher level and for a long enough time that I could define its elements from experience and inject them into a story of lovers who have class, financial, and religious differences to overcome, as well as opposition from both families, before they can reach the destination they seek.

Norm: It is said that if you want to write a good story or novel you need to create struggles of powerful descriptive individuals and not just issues. Through their accomplishments and travail, we very much comprehend the issues. How is this applicable to your book?

Rob: I agree with your premise and that's why I put a lot of effort into refining and, in some cases, redefining the main characters so that the story would center around them more than the plot elements. At the same time, they need to be believable and appealing to readers who want and deserve to be immersed in characters they can relate to. But as you've indicated, it is really the setbacks and challenges the characters must resolve that make them all they can be in a story. Watching them struggle onward, never losing that certain air that we ourselves admire, is what makes them memorable to readers.

Norm: What kind of research did you do to write this book? What are your hopes for this book?

Rob: I had to get acquainted with the Penn and Drexel campuses, where the story is set. In a way, the research was more difficult because the story takes place in the late 1960s, and many of the settings I used no longer exist, or have changed. Cavanaugh's Restaurant, realistically set in the first chapter near 31st and Market in Philly has since moved. The movie theater used in the Chapter seven date scenes was real, and I used it because it was very popular at the time. But it has since been torn down. Recovering its address was quite an adventure. Little things can be challenging: like researching the legal driving age in California in the early sixties.

You asked about my hopes for the book. In a way, Coinage for me was a labor of love, an attempt to give something back for the life I've been blessed with. My hope for the book is that it will sell well, that readers will enjoy it, feel enriched and uplifted by it. So far, reader feedback has exceeded my expectations.

Norm: What motivated you to write a book pertaining to romantic love, and what is your definition of romantic love? How does it differ from other kinds of love?

Rob: Believe it or not, one thing that got me started on this journey was a case of bad science. Sometime during the sixties, a widespread notion got established that romantic love did not exist except as a trivial permutation of the sexual impulse. Instead of being viewed as a unique emotional capability that is obviously separate from the sexual impulse, romantic love was derided as this maudlin quirk of the sexual impulse itself that teenagers experience and then grow out of as they mature and grow up.

I kept reading these articles, by Ph.D.s who should have known better, claiming that romantic love was an illusion, produced as an unfortunate byproduct of sexual chemistry, and that the sooner one got over it the sooner one could settle into an "adult" relationship based on calculated mutual benefit and, of course, sex. Yes, this was a kind of underside of the sexual revolution. I grew alarmed that people were lowering their expectations about what romantic love could provide in their lives because of crackpot science. I also watched it affect our literature, as stories featured more sex and a more watered down, primitive sort of love, one based mainly on impulse and sexual attraction. I started writing, partly to contribute what I could in the way of damage control. It was painful to watch the needless harm that was done to millions of emotional lives. And it took another whole generation for science to finally condescend to legitimizing the same romantic love that flourished in the Middle Ages.

You asked about a definition of romantic love. Well, let's see. Romantic love is that affection between the sexes that augments and usually stimulates the sexual urge. Often an initial sexual upwelling serves as an emotional attractant, and the couple falls in love. It is more volatile than others kinds of love--such as maternal love--and it has been known to change from adoring affection to murderous hate in a matter of minutes (given the right kind of adulterous news). It can burn brighter than any other kind of love, and often does, but it is hard to maintain. The higher love I write about is an attempt to examine how that brighter state might be enhanced and sustained by intellectual and behavioral means, while also giving readers a good story to enjoy.

Norm: I read where Dr. Helen Fisher, author of Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love believes that romantic love is a universal human feeling that produces specific chemicals and networks in the brain. Do you agree with Dr. Fisher?

Rob: I agree, but really...how could romantic love not be a universal human feeling? From literature, we've known about it since ancient times. The Bible even has a book of poetry dedicated expressly to it. And on top of that, from the Middle Ages through the nineteenth century, a well developed and very feminine-flavored form of romantic love was a feature of Western culture that distinguished it from all others. The Russians ridiculed it during the cold war; the Japanese adopted it as one of the first things they copied from us after World War II. As far as chemicals and networks in the brain are concerned, I am happy to see this kind of quantitative progress. I am especially happy to see the scientific community catching up to reality and verifying a feature of our basic humanity that many of us have long viewed as indisputable.

Norm: Can you tell us how you found representation for your book? Did you pitch it to an agent, or query publishers who would most likely publish this type of book? Any rejections? Did you self-publish?

Rob: I never did come close to landing an agent. The agencies tend to be hidebound conservative, and I was peddling a love story unlike any other. And it is written in a more emotionally vivid style than is currently fashionable. The sales figures tell me that that works well for readers, but the agencies wouldn't touch it. I went through five hundred rejections in three months until I came across a group of small royalty publishers who have sprung up in the last five years. They do not accept returns, they provide little in the way of promotional help, and they sell mainly through Internet outlets--although their books are carried by the major distributors. Among this group, I ended up with three contract offers. I went with Saga Books because they offered the best contract, and they thought the book good enough to publish it in three months on a fast track basis.

Norm: How have you used the Internet to boost your writing career?

Rob: Without the Internet, the publisher who produced my book would not exist. Many of the watchdog groups that have sprung up to protect writers from shadier elements of the publishing universe are Internet-based. They helped me greatly, and I offer them my thanks, especially Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware. The Internet has helped create an environment closer to a truly free market festival of ideas and expression than we have ever had.

Norm: Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered and what is next for Rob Costelloe?

Rob: I will be writing fulltime starting next month. My next project, another love story, is about one-third drafted and should be ready before mid next year.

Thank you for this opportunity to reach out to my readers. This was my first interview as an author, and you made it fun as well as educational.

Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.
About the Author
Coinage of Commitment is a love story about the challenges of characters who love at a higher level than the world all around them, a level requiring mental preparation as well as emotional commitment. To learn more, visit Coinage of Commitment
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