Today I am putting on the spotlight a writer whose debut novel was released quite recently. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to have Jack Comeau in my blog today. Though Jack Comeau has made his living as an Emmy Award-winning Lighting Designer for TV and Film, he has stayed close to his seagoing roots. His grandfather was a Grand Banks fisherman from Nova Scotia. Jack has spent years crewing old New England schooners much like the one that appears in his first novel, DISTRESS SIGNAL.
Jack is currently putting the final touches on his second novel, the first in a series of seven detective style novels with the same character, as well as trying to find a home for his screenplay about topical singer/songwriter Phil Ochs titled WHILE I’M HERE.
1. Describe yourself.
I have that Irish skin that was designed for spending the best part of a sunny day inside a pub. For that reason, Southern California weather is not agreeing with me. I long for the Northeast seacoast where sunshine is a valued treat that shoots silver rays through the holes in purple clouds.
Making my living as an Emmy-winning lighting designer demands certain concessions to where I live, hence S. Cal. But my heart isn’t in the place.
2. What is your favorite fruit flavor?
Blueberries! I could eat them by the handful, picked myself from ground-hugging bushes on Cape Cod or Maine. Since I’m in S. Cal., though, if there’s tequila around, scratch the blueberries, give me limes.
3. What is your favorite day of the week?
Though it’s been a while since I’ve chained myself to the standard workweek, I suppose I’d still have to say Friday. There is a communal thing about the mass celebration of work’s end, a contact high, so to speak, that I love about Fridays. To every Friday reveler, I hoist one in your honor.
4. Which is your favorite time of the day?
Hard to nail down. I suppose that every moment has its nuances. That said, the transitions hold the most potential for inspiration: sunset, sunrise, the speckling of stars in the late night sky. These are times that make me feel one with the world, part of its natural process. Those thoughts bring on the best that my writing can be.
5. Are you a morning person or a night person?
And here’s the rub. I’m both, which means I shall die very early. As I said above, I’m a transitions guy—sunrises, sunsets, tornadoes, thermonuclear war—I’m there for the change. Life is a ride that we are gifted to experience, whatever it might hold. So many sperms fail to meet so many eggs. Just being here is like winning the lottery. Take what comes.
6. What is your favorite breakfast meal?
This REALLY depends. Growing up Boston Irish Catholic, food was something akin to sex that you were condemned for if you drew pleasure from it. The French in me battled against that. Thankfully, I had the help of—being in Boston TV production—working closely with Julia Child who told me to completely ignore anything that said “add water.” Her favorite substitute for water was white wine, and right she was.
In my years working for WGBH in Boston, I also got to know Vincent Price while doing intros with him for MYSTERY. He was a great cook, and we shared many recipes. Breakfast is a favorite time for me to cook.
My wife declares me a “sauce-aholic” because I’ll spend hours ditzing around with them, getting the nuances of the flavor complexities just right.
7. What is your favorite color and why?
As a kid, my favorite color was always green. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know. As I became a lighting director/designer in my adult years, I learned to appreciate the contribution that all colors and combinations thereof make towards the complex texture of the world. In that sense, I now love them all.
8. Which is your most favorite book ever?
This is another hard one. In my teen years, I tended to embrace certain things to the exclusion of all others. At this point in my aging life, I love and have been inspired by so many works, both fiction and non-fiction, that to choose any single piece would be to insult all others. I would encourage everyone to be eclectic in their reading. Take in many sources in which to formulate your own value system and worldview.
9. What kind of music do you like?
Again, diversity is the key to appreciating the experiences that this world has to offer, but I’ve always gravitated to the organic feel of acoustic music. I love modern and traditional folk music, especially that which has a real, political, social, or human message to impart.
10. Which is your favorite genre of films?
Eclectic once again! I love the old film noir of the 1940s, the socially minded films of the 1970s, subtle, human comedies, broad comedies. The one common denominator would be a film’s success at accessing the human soul.
11. Which is your most favorite place on Earth?
An easier question, though I haven’t been enough places on Earth to really say. Right now that place would be Nantucket, where my first novel, Distress Signal, is set.
12. Which animal would you want to be and why?
A dog because I could lick all kinds of places I can’t get to now.
13. If you could have a luncheon with any 3 people (real or fictitious), who would you choose and why?
I must say I’ve been blessed in this life to have had this experience with most people I’d put on this list:
1. Phil Ochs, a true hero and inspiration in my life with whom I was lucky enough to spend time.
2. Bill Clinton, who I got to do several TV shoots with and spend one-on-one time with.
3. Great Historian, Howard Zinn, who became a big fan of my screenplay about the 1932 Bonus Marches in Washington, DC.
There are many others of today’s world who I worshiped as a fan and then got to know.
14. If you were granted 3 wishes, what would you ask for?
Ten or twenty more wishes.
15. If you were stranded on a lonely beach, what are the 5 things that you would want to survive?
My wife, Terry. The ability to still write, maybe a laptop with solar panels to power it?
16. If you could be anyone, who would you be?
In my teen years, there were varying numbers of people I could answer this with, but in my advancing years, I really don’t want to be anyone but me, for all the good and the bad.
17. What is the one thing you wish you could change in yourself?
I wish I could be more organized and pro-active about getting my writing work out. My failings here are a combo of ADD and the feeling that I don’t deserve success. Ah, the ravages of being a recovering Catholic.
18. What is the one thing you wish you could do if given the chance?
“One thing” is a bit limiting but I’d love to captain a square-rigged sailing ship around The Horn.
19. What would you do if you won the lottery?
Produce and direct films from my own screenplays.
20. If you knew that this was your last day on Earth, how would you spend it?
Eat a lot of high-sugar and high-cholesterol crap.
21. Were you a naughty kid or a nice kid?
I was much too guilt-ridden to be a naughty child. I need to make up for lost time.
22. What was the happiest moment in your life?
I’ve had many happy ones, but not being all that close to death, I’m hoping that the happiest one is still to come.
23. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Six feet under? NO! NO! NO! I’m not that old. I hope that by then my novels and screenplays are making a positive mark in other people’s lives. I hope to be reaching people with the sometimes elusive tugs of my heart and that it helps them.
24. What is the weirdest/craziest thing you have ever done?
If I did one, I can’t remember. You might have to check the police files.
25. What is your definition of an incredible weekend?
This is a boring one. For me, an incredible weekend is uninterrupted time to watch the sea and delve into my inner thoughts, inspiring myself to further writing.
26. Which is the best holiday you have ever had?
Holidays are so often things that live large in glossed-over memories and photographs. I’m not immune to this—Thanksgivings around the table, Christmas around the tree. However, the reality is so often a laser focus of family dysfunction and power struggle that is a comic/tragic counterpoint to the occasion.
27. Have you got a phobia you want to share?
Heights and general confrontations with people. I’m working on both.
28. What makes you angry?
Injustice and abuse to others, I’d say, is the primary thing. On a grander scale, I see that same injustice in our political/social world and am quick to rail against it.
29. What do you do when you feel sad?
Stare at the ocean from my deck and try to understand my sadness. Sometimes sadness isn’t a bad thing to be avoided. Sometimes that’s where pearls of wisdom come from. I don’t try and crush my sadness so much as try and nurture it, understand it.
30. Who or what inspires you?
Great music. Great writing. Great sunsets over the ocean. Sitting in a train station observing snippets of life like a fly on the wall.
31. Congratulations! Now you can freely rant about your book(s) and/or projects.
Yahhh! Rant time: My novel, Distress Signal, is a paranormal, romantic adventure novel set on theisland of Nantucket, thirty miles off the Cape Cod coast in Massachusetts. It is a place frozen in time like nowhere else I’ve seen. Your average, quaint, New England seacoast town was never any more than that, and being land-based, grew easily to accommodate changing times.
Nantucket was a world-class city in the early 1800s, on a par with New York and Boston. In those days, as with now, the oil industry drove the modern economy. In those days, oil meant whaling. Whaling meant Nantucket. Nantucket was the Dubai of 1820. The quick demise of whaling in the mid-1800s when it was discovered that oil could be pumped from New Jersey flatlands much more cheaply and safely, and the California gold rush lured many a Nantucket whaler to jump ship in San Francisco in search of great wealth, left Nantucket a near ghost town, frozen in time.
Walking her empty, gas lamp-lit, cobblestoned streets in the off-season, it’s easy to lose sight of the century you’re in.
The first time I came to Nantucket, during a Columbus Day hurricane in the early 1980s, I felt surrounded by ghosts there. I felt that the long-ago past was but a thin membrane of time away—a membrane that could easily be shattered.
Distress Signal is my attempt to make sense of the elusive thoughts that swirled around then. It took a long time for it to gestate but I hope that it reaches your hearts as much as it has released mine.
Thank you, Jack, for choosing my blog to let the readers know more about you both as a writer and as an individual person. And if you have enjoyed this interview, please leave a comment, show your love sharing, or visit Jack Comeau’s website (http://jackcomeau.com) to know more about his projects.