Cico by Luke Mauldin

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I have an exciting announcement to make!

A good friend of mine, Luke Mauldin, has just released his debut novel, Cico, and I know our readers are going to love it.

As you’ll see, Luke has an amazing talent for storytelling. His writing focuses on moral dilemmas and the question, “How far would you go to protect the ones you love?”

Here’s a brief synopsis of the story…

Jake Karlson learned at an early age how to live a double life. But when he moved away from his hometown, he hoped to leave his violent habits there.

After getting involved with drugs in his new town, there’s no turning back, as old habits increase in frequency and severity. Jake struggles with his faith and morality as he continues sinning and searching for his life’s true purpose.

During this search, he reluctantly forms new relationships, only to lose one after another.

After discovering the truth and enduring as much heartbreak as he can handle, Jake decides who he will be and embarks on one final mission fraught with danger. This mission will either protect the people he loves or get him killed. Either way, he’ll be done.

I’m thrilled to be able to share Luke’s brand-new novel with our Hooked to Books community.

If you love a gripping tale of human struggle, then Cico really is a must-read.

Recently, Luke and I sat down for a HTB exclusive Q&A. After reading and loving Cico, I wanted to find out more about this journey he’s been on and explore some of the themes and morals within the book.

Here’s a summary of our conversation…

Q: You hold degrees in seemingly unrelated fields and currently work in banking. What made you decide to write a book?

[Luke Mauldin]: Most people read fiction to:-

  1. Entertain themselves or
  2. Escape reality for a little while.

I write somewhat for the same reasons.

Also, my OCD can be overpowering some days; once an idea worms its way into my mind, the only way for me to get it out is to put it on paper (or a screen).

In grade school, I hated English class, and I especially hated writing. But, after working at it and showing improvement, I began to delight in the results. I’ve always enjoyed telling stories and, now that I can string words together in ways that effectively convey these stories on paper, I’m proud of it and embrace the challenge that will come with each book I write.

As writers, we also have more options than most people. If football players aren’t good enough to compete at a higher level, their options are limited. For writers, however, it never has to end. Those of us who aren’t fortunate enough to make a living as an author can still write (and self-publish) as much as we please.

Most importantly, literature is refreshingly unfiltered, and I believe the world needs that. Authorship gives me the ability to create any kind of story I want and, even if it takes me sixteen months to complete the story, I enjoy that freedom throughout the entire process. Plus, it allows me to utilize my flair for the dramatic.

Q: What (or who) inspired the characters in the book? Specifically, the main character?

[Luke Mauldin]: The best source of inspiration is reality. It’s what we see every day, and it conveys countless details to our subconscious.

Most of the characters are based on friends and family because that’s the easiest way to write. It also helps me to know my characters, understand their thought processes, and know what they would do in certain situations.

While I didn’t necessarily base the protagonist on one person, I did pull various experiences from my own life—particularly my childhood.

I was taught at a young age that emotion equates to weakness and that relationships can only hinder one’s life. A couple of decades later, I learned the inaccuracy of that opinion and formed relationships that completely changed me for the better.

I wanted to convey the effects that a person’s upbringing has on the rest of that person’s life. I’ve always heard that the overwhelming majority of an individual’s personality is determined by age five, and I wholeheartedly believe that. The earlier in life something happens, the greater its effect on the remainder of that life.

Without giving away too much, the protagonist does share my fatal flaw. He wants to “play God” and control everything and, when a situation can’t be controlled, he loses control of himself. That’s probably true for a lot of us, and I want the reader to relate to that character.

Q: Your author bio on Amazon mentions “every person’s unique double life.”  What do you mean by that?

[Luke Mauldin]: Every person has secrets, and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s often necessary for protection. There is a part of each of us that we simply can’t share with the entire world. Granted, we aren’t all super-spies or underground criminals, but the weight of a secret is different for each person.

Maybe it’s caused by embarrassment? Guilt from making a bad choice? An affair? It could be anything. The most important thing I’ve learned from my own secrets is that, once I found people who I could trust and with whom I could share those secrets, I’d found friends for life and formed the closest relationships I’ll ever have.

Q: Your bio also mentions your fondness for “morally questionable main characters.”  Why is that?

[Luke Mauldin]: In my opinion, those are the most realistic and relatable characters. Aren’t we all constantly questioning our morality?

  1. “Did I make the right choice?”
  2. “Should I have said what I said?”
  3. “Does that make me a bad person?”
  4. “How can I make up for it?”

For some of us, those questions repeat themselves 24/7, and we rarely come across black-and-white situations in which the answers are clear.

Also, these undignified characters are the most entertaining for me to see and to write. My favorite Netflix shows (so far) are Breaking Bad, Dexter, Narcos, Ozark…see a trend? None of these protagonists are what we would call “good” people. In fact, some of them are downright awful, by the world’s standards.

But despite this fact, I find myself rooting for the high school chemistry teacher who turns into a meth cook. I find myself rooting for the serial killer who also works at the police department. I even find myself rooting for Pablo Escobar to escape from law enforcement when I already know how the story ends. Those characters are flat-out entertaining to me.

Q: What do you want the reader to learn or take away from reading Cico?

[Luke Mauldin]: While the main goal is obviously to entertain the reader with a story, I would also like the reader to step into the protagonist’s shoes and pose the following questions:

“If I were in that situation, which decision would I make?”

“Would I be in that situation in the first place?”

“Why is this character in that position?”

“What could he have done differently?”

It’s all about choices. We come to decisional crossroads almost every single day and, while we’re supposed to weigh the pros and cons of each option and make the “right” choice, we often don’t.

One choice might not be make-or-break by itself but, if it leads to numerous subsequent bad choices, we could eventually find ourselves in similar situations to the protagonist in this book.

I also want everyone to think about their loved ones. This book focuses on relationships, and one of the main themes is how much they can affect a person. Whether good or bad, relationships hold so much power in our lives.

My advice: When you find people you love, don’t let them forget it. Share feelings often, leave nothing unsaid, and you won’t regret it.

Q: How far would you go to protect the ones you love?

[Luke Mauldin]: Great question. I guess you’ll have to read the book! You can find Luke Mauldin over at (social media/website), and you can buy a copy of his debut novel, Cico, over here on Amazon.

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