INTERVIEW: Christopher Pilie' about his book Sugar

5 months ago | posted: 12-14-2023 12:00 AM

Crimson Rada: “Hello Christopher. Tell us where you are from and a little about your upbringing.”


Christopher: “Thank you. Where should we start? Guess we can start from the beginning. I was born in Gulfport Mississippi in 1974. My father was an officer in the Navy at the time and was stationed there. Shortly after, we moved to New Orleans where my mother and father were from. I was brought up Catholic in a traditional family home. My father was an engineer that worked for a local construction company and my mother stayed home with my sister and I.”


“When I was ten years old, we moved to Destrehan which is about a twenty-minute drive from downtown New Orleans. I attended St. Charles Borromeo Catholic school and eventually to Jesuit High School in New Orleans. After struggling with the long days travelling back and forth from New Orleans, my parents moved me to Destrehan High School where I ended up graduating. I attended college at Nichols State, Louisiana State University and eventually to University of New Orleans.”


Crimson Rada: “Tell us about your parents.”


Christopher: “My father was an engineer who worked very hard for our family to have everything we needed to live a comfortable life. We didn’t grow up with a silver spoon but we didn’t have to struggle due to his hard work and sacrifice.”


Crimson Rada: “And your mother?”


Christopher: “Ah my mother. She was an incredibly charismatic woman who kept the house in order for our family. When she wasn’t taking care of things around the house, she made a career as a professional watercolorist. As we got older, she was able to refine her craft and became well known in the south as a very talented artist. Sadly, she passed away in the winter of 2007 after a long fight with cancer.”


Crimson Rada: “If there is anything I have learned reading about you and our conversations on the phone, it is how special your mother was to you.”


Christopher: “My father taught me to be a man and my mother taught me to be a good one. Our relationship was contentious at times. We were a lot alike. Both her and I were creative and outspoken so we often got cross with one another.”


Crimson Rada: “You are an artist as well as a writer. Tell us a little about your journey of being an artist.”


Christopher: “Its funny. I don’t really consider myself an artist. It’s funny when people introduce me as that. It seems so official. For people that have known me for a while, I am just an average guy that grew up in Southern Louisiana and worked in the industrial complexes along the Mississippi River within engineering disciplines.”


“Art was really a way to deal with some personal issues. It wasn’t something different than most people that struggle trying to find their way at a young age. Art was really a way to figure things out. It was also a way to connect with my mother. As I mentioned before, we often had a contentious relationship and art brought us closer together. It helped us communicate.”


Crimson Rada: “Sitting in your home, it is amazing to see all of the art that you have created. You built this home to showcase your work?”


Christopher: “We didn’t build it to showcase it necessarily. We were going to build regardless and designed the home in a way to showcase my work as well as my mother’s.”


Crimson Rada: “I read a blog post you uploaded that explains that you really don’t sell your art work.”


Christopher: “Yeah. I never looked at my art work as an income generating endeavor so I never pursued the art career per se. It was far too personal and was really only something for me to work things out in my life. Showcasing my work really became something I considered later in my painting experiences. My early work was dark and much grittier than my later work and not something I would want hanging in a dining room somewhere. That is what hangs in the staircase and near my studio.”


Crimson Rada: “So what got you into writing? I don’t recall you telling me that there was any family influence.”


Christopher: “I really began writing before painting. As an angst-ridden teenager, I would write to get my confusing thoughts out of my head. I didn’t get much encouragement in my writing except from my High School teacher Mr. Bruce. He encouraged me to explore and document all that I was feeling. It was a life saver for me.”


Crimson Rada: “Was it stories?”


Christopher: “It was mostly poetry or prose. I was not mature enough or focused enough to formulate it in anything other than short form writing. That work is actually funny now that I read it.”


Crimson Rada: “Did you every publish any of it?”


Christopher: “Not really it was far too personal at the time.”


Crimson Rada: “Would you ever consider publishing any of your older writings?”


Christopher: “Ha. No. It would probably be too embarrassing. It wasn’t very good. Maybe a couple poems were worth sharing.”


Crimson Rada: “You are extremely busy. Where do you find the time to paint, write, programming, a full time career, and do all the other things you do?”


Christopher: “Well Honestly, I don’t sleep a lot. Ha”


Crimson Rada: “By the work you produce, it appears that you couldn’t sleep much. You are creatively prolific.”


Christopher: “Yeah. I don’t watch reality TV. Ha. Seriously. I struggle to sleep past 3 AM. I often lay there in bed trying to sleep and this is where a lot of stories or creative ideas come to me. I work out a lot of my creative efforts early in the morning. By the time I get frustrated with my insomnia, I get up and go to my studio. I hate being unproductive. Over the years, I have been able to focus my time in the early mornings and the late evenings to paint and write. Lately it has been writing.”  


Crimson Rada: “Tell us a little bit about your latest book ‘Sugar’.”


Christopher: “Well this was the first fiction novel that I have written. In 2018, I was digging into my family’s genealogy and stumbled across some shocking information about how my family escaped the bloodshed of the Haitian Revolution in the 1790s. Being fascinated and fairly well read on the history of the Enlightenment period, I realized I didn’t know much about the Haitian Revolution so I began to dig. What I found was one of the most fascinating stories of modern western history.”


Crimson Rada: “What did you find?”


Christopher: “Well it is encompassed in the book. Ha.”


Crimson Rada: “Well what was the most fascinating find that you can give without spoiling the book?”


Christopher: “I can say the most fascinating thing I learned was that slavery was a very complicated injustice at that time. In Saint-Domingue, which is modern day Haiti, it was extremely complicated. Here is an example. The mixed-race people of color on the island were categorized in more than a hundred categories based their ancestry. The caste system was derived from that. Some of these people were slaves and some were free. Some of these people of color owned their own slaves.”


“My biggest take away was that the economic component of slavery generated what we call racism today. It wasn’t simply that the white people hated black people. That is an ignorant and uneducated way of looking at it. With an economy dependent on slavery to remain viable, the resentment of those wishing to protect the rights of people of color created the hatred we now call racism. It didn’t start simply in Saint-Domingue or other European colonial outposts but throughout the western world.”


Crimson Rada: “Do you fear that this book could be controversial?”


Christopher: “I’d say that I have thought about it but I’d just point to history. While the characters in the book are fictitious, the events that take place in the book as well as the social struggles are historical. So, I don’t worry too much about how people don’t like what happened in history. Slavery was unjust but it happened and we should explore why so it doesn’t happen again. Slavery has existed for thousands of years and not just with the enslavement of Africans. Slavery exists today. Too many people are working hard to point out the wrongs of yesterday while doing nothing to correct the wrongs of today.”


Crimson Rada: “What do you hope to accomplish with the book?”


Christopher: “I’d hope to show a part of history in a light that reflects the complex nature of that time as well as entertain the people reading it. It is a fascinating story that took me four years to research and develop. I’ve had a few people read the book to give me their opinions. The feedback was much more than I expected.”


Crimson Rada: “Well I can tell you it is a fascinating book and it is going to do well. Will there be more books about this topic?”


Christopher: “The plan is to broaden the scope of the series to all of the revolutionary activity going on around the Western world. To me, there is not a more exciting time in history than the late 18th century.”


Crimson Rada: “I can’t wait for the sequel. Thank you for the interview.”


Christopher: “Thank you.”



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