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Publishing Pearl

by Andrew Elias

CHARLES DIEMER GRW UP in Minneapolis, studied at the University of Minnesota and the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, and worked as Chief Deputy in the Dakota County, Minnesota, where he successfully prosecuted corrupt politicians and murderers. He also introduced Courtrooms to Classrooms to the schools, bringing middle-schoolers into a real courtroom to conduct a trial. He moved to Florida several years ago and is a member of the Gulf Coast Writers Association.

Charlie recently published his first novel, Pearl of Tao. I asked him a few questions about the book and self-publishing?

Can you briefly describe the story of the book?

CHARLIE DIEMER: While on Lovers Key, Frank Johnson, a burned out prosecutor finds himself on top of the suspect list for murder. He and his friend, detective Anderson Granderson, try to clear Frank’s name — while attempting to uncover the true murderers and recover the world‘s largest pearl — worth $60 million — which disappears, inciting a murderous battle between Muslims and Taoists . Both embrace the pearl as a religious artifact of their religion. Meanwhile, Fank ‘s romantic conflicts on Lovers Key accentuate the tension in his life.

What originally interested you in the subject?

I was reading The Denver Post and came upon an article about The Pearl, its history and ownership. I was immediately fascinated and started to create the novel.

What can we learn from the Pearl of Tao about why there is so much animosity between religions and how we might overcome that distrust?

My novel, Pearl of Tao shows the violence that can erupt between religious zealots. Every religion with its promise of eternal life can make some people believe that their religion is the only true way to reach eternity. The high stakes of eternal salvation can drive some people to extremes. The founders of our country understood this and guaranteed freedom of religion to minimize confrontations. Tragically, world history is replete with religious wars. I wonder if more wars erupt over religious issues than political issues.

The book combines history with mystery. Have you always been a fan of both?

I am a Christian and I enjoyed doing research to learn more about Taoism and Islam. I have always loved mysteries and I was honored that a reader wrote me that I created the same type of suspense as John Grisham. Even at a young age I wanted to be a lawyer rather than a writer. I dreamed of being dramatic in the courtroom and I have been told I accomplished my goal. My desire to write developed later.

How did your legal career help you, influence you or inspire you?

My legal career as a prosecutor helped me add in some accurate information about search warrants and confessions. The book has one tension filled courtroom scene. I have gotten compliments about the integration of these legal elements into the flow of the novel. People have enjoyed it and said they learned from it.

Are any of the characters in the book based in part on you know personally?

None. People close to me say that the main character, Frank, has a lot of my traits, so I believe it. I didn‘t do that consciously.

The story is set on Lovers Key. Why?

It is a beautiful island with a tremendous white sand beach, stunning sunsets and wildlife galore. It was ranked one of the top ten beaches in Florida. The real life setting naturally creates a feeling of romance and I used that in the book.

The book is somewhat controversial. Has there been any feedback?

It is controversial because it deals with Muslims being murdered. After almost 20 years people still remember the turmoil over Salman Rushdie ‘s book Satanic Verses. More recently, the publisher, Random House, pulled the book The Jewel of Medina. Apparently, there were concerns about violence by Muslims because the book dealt with one of Muhammad’s wives. My book has already generated reaction by readers and for a number of reasons, has motivated book clubs to purchase the book. It is still early in the life of this book and as more people read it, I expect that something will happen.

Why did you decide to publish the book yourself?

I had an offer from a publishing house, but my wife, Judy and I decided to go out on our own. Typically, there is a long delay between the publisher ‘s offer and the actual publication and that distressed me. Publishers have admitted their editing of the story line doesn ‘t always result in a better novel. The editorial freedom of self-publication is a plus. My personality is that I am very outgoing. Being a salesman for what I wrote is required whether I publish the book or someone else does.

Is there any advice you can offer to first-time novelists?

Get with experienced writers in a critique group and demand tough analysis. Then be willing to accept their criticism. Immediately join Gulf Coast Writers.

Do you have another novel in you?

I plan to write a number of novels. There will be a sequel to Pearl of Tao and all my novels will have the word ‘pearl ‘in the title. — but they will not all be about this pearl. I have started a novel set in the mountains of Colorado and the working title is Snowy Pearl, the name of a fictional ranch. •

from the March-April 2009 issue

"The high stakes of eternal salvation can drive some people to extremes."