Putkowski sets the stage for a compelling read with the opening line of An Island Away, "Charlie lived in a place where some people’s fantasies were other people’s realities." As the story unfolds in the heart of San Nicolas, Putkowski makes one thing clear -- he is a keen observer of the human condition. Before deciding to live in Aruba, he was a frequent visitor. It was during those visits that he gathered material which became An Island Away. The novel is set mostly in the shadow of Aruba's refinery, with some real-life characters like the late Charlie Brouns, Jr. of Charlie’s Bar. Readers will recognize other locations including the California Lighthouse, Palm Beach, and the fishing village of Savaneta.
Here the author answers some commonly asked questions:
When did you first come to Aruba and why? I was invited to Aruba in 1994 by friends who lived here. I investigated the possibility of building artificial reefs for sport divers along the northwest coast. At the time, I owned a business in the States that was building reefs in New Jersey and Delaware by sinking ships and concrete pipe.
Why did you choose San Nicolas as the setting for your book? During that first visit in 1994, I went to San Nicolas with the people who invited me to the island. The oil refinery looming in the background reminded me of my own pier in Philadelphia. We stopped at Charlie’s Bar for a drink, met Charlie, Jr., himself, and I thought, “This is my kind of place.”
Your novel is very realistic. How did you conduct research? I had the good fortune to become fast friends with people who were born and raised in the Seroe Colorado Colony at the height of the Esso days. These guys not only told me their stories, but also took me to the places where they happened. My visits to Aruba became more and more frequent and each one was like another episode in a sort of grand soap opera. In some ways, these adventures were like reconstructions of the good old days. Soon I was a friend of their friends, people who ran the gamut of jobs, nationalities, and backgrounds.
Charlie Brouns, Jr. is a featured character in the book. Why? Charlie was a good friend, may he rest in peace. In many ways he was like the ringmaster of a circus. Whether at his bar or his pavilion in Savaneta, he kept the good times going, encouraging everyone to enjoy themselves. At the same time, Charlie had a wit and wisdom that taught life’s lessons to anyone with the patience to listen. I only wish I had spent more time with him before his untimely passing in 2004.
When did you start writing stories? My earliest writing efforts began when I was about ten or eleven. During college, I started a few novels but never finished them. After a long break, I took up the pen again and completed a novel in 2000. That gave me the courage to work seriously and by 2003, I’d finished another one.
Were they published? No, those first two books were practice. They helped me hone my skills and prepared me to take on a story as big as An Island Away.
How long did it take you to write An Island Away? About two years. There was another year of rewriting and editing.
What would you like your readers to take from the book? The characters in my story discover that, for better or worse, life is full of detours. My own life has been the same way. I started out in film school, ended up working in the marine industry for 17 years, and then returned to the creative arts. However, without that detour I might never have written An Island Away. As Charlie always said, “You have to improvise.”
To learn more about the author and view upcoming tour dates in Aruba and the U.S., visit www.danielputkowski.com. In addition to hotel gift shops and bookstores in Aruba, An Island Away is available online at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.