inkpopper of the Week: El Rustito
Posted by cat eyes & skinny jeans on July 19, 2010
“I’m a 25-year-old Arizonan and I live among the scorching sands of Tucson, where we watch for snakes and scorpions everywhere we step, drink water out of cacti, and wonder what people in other states are talking about when they say it’s ‘raining.’ Luckily, the heat only makes some of us crazy. For others, it turns us into very hot writers. Haha. See what I did there? I made that up all by myself.
“I have four cats, all of which are, in fact, cats. I’m studying criminal justice in school after a painful fling with computer science and even worse excursions into anthropology and business. Sturgeon General’s Warning: anthropology is only cool if you wear a neat hat and leather jacket and end up in a thrilling race against the Third Reich for lost biblical relics.
“Some random info: I enjoy the finer things in life, which to me include numbered cars speeding around in a circle, grown men hitting a ball with a stick and running around a diamond-shaped lot, cowboys squinting at people they don’t like and saying something really cool (‘Dyin’ ain’t much of a livin’, boy,’ for example; only applicable in the right context), super-old video games (the kind archaeologists dig up and speculate what kind of dinosaur bones they are), and the law. Yes, the law. I know. On paper, the law is bland and boring and will put anyone to sleep. In practice, it is very hardcore and American, especially if your job involves wearing a shiny little badge and fighting for justice. More about that later.
“Oh, and writing’s alright too… I guess. If you’re into that sort of thing. (Seriously, it’s awesome.)”
From introduction alone, Rusty (aka El Rustito) may come across as being a quirky, humorous individual – and he is; but he is every bit the serious soul when the time warrants, as evident in his science fiction/fantasy/adventure novel Enforcement, which takes readers out of the year 2010, and plunks them down in the future – 2101, to be exact – where they are swept into a world where the law doesn’t stand a chance.
★ Your inkpop project Enforcement takes place in the year 2101. Why did you decide to set your novel in the future? Do you find that writing about the future is more challenging than writing in present day, or less challenging?
El Rustito: I needed there to be conditions in which some of the injustices portrayed in the story could happen. The Marshals Service as depicted in the story is an unsympathetically merciless organization that enforces the law by any means necessary – and if they were doing that today, society wouldn’t tolerate a second of it. In a futuristic setting, in a society that’s become about as law-abiding as the Wild West, they can get away with a lot more, leading to the ethical dilemmas I want to present.
That isn’t making it easy. While I’ve basically been given free reign over how the world has been shaped, the future still needs to feel plausible and real – if not, then it won’t have enough depth to draw in the reader and make it believable. They do say fiction needs to be more believable than reality.
★ In your profile you mention that you are majoring in criminal justice and have hopes to be a cop; staying in tune with that line of thinking, Enforcement is about law enforcement agencies. What is it about this particular subject that makes you not only want to devote your life to it career-wise; but feature it within your work, as well?
El Rustito: This is a subject that always gets people riled up for some reason, so I’ll try to be relatively concise. I had a lot of respect for the cops when I was a kid since I was taught that the law needed to be followed. I generally stayed out of trouble and our school resource officers seemed pretty cool and nice. That mindset continued into adulthood, and after getting myself more exposed to criminal justice (and getting burned out with paper-pusher jobs), I have to say, it’s really a great field. People tend to focus on the negative aspects of law enforcement, but in reality it can be a lot of fun too. Ask any cop to tell you his funniest war story and he’ll split your side open. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wearing blinders – I’ve heard true stories that would cause even the strongest person’s stomach to flip-flop and make them wonder if there’s any hope for the world. This is a field that encompasses courage, exhilaration, humor, happiness, sadness, loss, everything.
That in mind, it’s the people who make it an amazing field. You’ll meet all kinds of characters in it, and I love the idea of writing about them and about a career I have a ton of interest in. Doing so helps me explore it more, and why not? Write about what you like.
★ Do you feel that having a background in criminal justice brings a more genuine sense of reality to Enforcement due to your knowledge of the subject? If you didn’t have a background in criminal justice do you feel that Enforcement would be as realistic to readers?
El Rustito: If you’re going to write a story like this, you need exposure to the field. Watching a few episodes of COPS won’t do the trick. I’m sure the CJ field won’t be the same in ninety years as it is today, but that doesn’t mean I’m allowed to skimp out on research. Luckily the criminal justice field can be very entertaining, which makes it a pleasure to dive into – you hear stories in this field that (one would think) can’t possibly be true but alas – and getting into it is probably the best decision I ever made.
More importantly, many stories have a certain target audience. Mine? Probably people interested in the CJ system and law enforcement in general. I can just see cops reading it, seeing something that strikes them as outlandish or incorrect, and they shoot me off an e-mail going “this is wrong, that doesn’t happen, your story is bad and you should feel bad” or something. I’d just as soon prefer to avoid that, so whenever I get around to finishing the first draft, one of the primary goals of the second draft will be to make sure that certain components of the CJ system are up to snuff. That may be kind of a moot point in a story about future cops who go around doing their jobs like Wyatt Earp, but if it’s too far-out, it could lose the sense of realism.
★ John Grisham started out as a lawyer and moved on to become one of the bestselling authors in the world. Do you hope to follow his lead by moving from criminal justice/law enforcement to the New York Times Bestseller List?
El Rustito: I won’t begin to put myself on a level anywhere near John Grisham, but if I had to follow anyone’s lead, it would be his. He has said before that he’s simply trying to tell a good story and that while his books are not literature he hopes that the reader comes away from them with a new appreciation for a certain issue. One of his purposes in writing is to invoke anger in the reader at the injustices portrayed. If an author is capable of making the reader feel some level of emotion at the story’s content, that’s a victory in itself. If I can finish Enforcement and it’s capable of evoking anger, sadness, happiness, anything in its readers, then I’ll probably be satisfied with the end result.
That said, I don’t think I’d give up my focus on criminal justice if I were to write a book and it sold like wildfire. The CJ system is too fun.
El Rustito: Most fiction writers enjoy the satisfaction of being able to tell a good story and entertain people, and I’m one of them. I credit my brother’s adoration of reading for getting me into it when I was a kid. Books are a medium that can convey a lot of information you sometimes can’t get from movies or video games – it makes me wonder why people today shut books out in favor of those other two forms of entertainment. Look at the Books section under anybody’s Facebook page and there’s a strong chance it says nothing but “LOL READING.” Yeah, improving your vocabulary, encouraging yourself to think and developing your imagination, and enriching your mind with knowledge is just a hilarious concept, right?
Pop, Pop, Pop! Rapid Fire Questions:
★ Chocolate chip cookies or cupcakes? My mother makes mean chocolate chip cookies. I don’t eat cupcakes. They always have icing that gives me heartburn. Curse you, cupcakes! You’re always trying to foil my plans!
★ What’s on your iPod? This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but video game soundtracks take up more than 50% of my iPod. The rest is mostly Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Paul McCartney.
★ Batman or Superman? Captain America. Why? Because America is the world’s strongest superpower. See what I did there? Herp dee derp.
★ Favorite book? A Time to Kill by John Grisham. I could go on about it longer than Al Gore can go on about global warming, but I’ll spare you the long version and give the shorty: good plot, good characters, good writing, good stuff. I can only hope my first novel equals such quality.
★ Dream destination/vacation? Anything that involves getting to go to the MLB Home Run Derby and the subsequent All-Star Game. I’d be out there with those ten-year-old kids in the outfield trying to catch all the fly balls the players hit in the Derby. Have you seen those kids? They couldn’t catch a rash at a poison ivy convention. I’d show ‘em how it’s done! Me and my twenty-three-year-old mitt that’s never been oiled and couldn’t possibly fit me if I dunked my hand in grease.
Over to you…who do you think should be the next inkpopper of the Week?
Erika (aka inkpoperika)