I was recently interviewed by P.C. Zick for her "Author Wednesday" feature series. Check out the Q&A below!
Hello, John. I’m glad you stopped by today. Your latest novel sounds very exciting, but before we talk about that why don’t you tell readers a little bit about your writing life. What are your writing rituals?
Other than a need for copious amounts of coffee, I can’t say I have many writing rituals. In fact, I’m quite undisciplined as a writer, which can be both a blessing and a curse. I’m not an outliner; the story creates itself as I progress. I have a general theme, an overall concept, and an ultimate outcome, but the details work themselves out along the way. I like to believe that as a result my writing doesn’t come out formulaic or predictable.
I work a bit like you do. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who writes that way. Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Describe a time when a subject chose you.
In real life, my professional career has been in environmental protection, so Rachel Carson holds a special place in my heart. But more germane to the question, I believe she’s correct: the subjects have chosen me for each of the four novels I’ve written. Two of my books emerged from unanswerable questions that swirled around in my head for years. Fava (Black Rose Writing, 2014): “What would happen if a “Pillar of Islam” were to be removed?” and, Aceldama (as yet unpublished): “What if a person were to stumble upon one of Judas’s thirty pieces of silver?” The subject presented itself in a different way for my novel Journey of an American Son, (to be released by Black Rose Writing in November 2014). I found a diary my grandfather kept on a 1920 business trip he took going from Boston to Calcutta, India. At that time, travel was somewhat arduous; he traveled by train, boat, car, and even rickshaw. Along the way he encountered lepers, geishas, and silent film starlets. It struck me as a great starting point for a novel.
I’m impressed by so much of what you said in that answer! We have a lot in common, since all my novels tend to have an environmental theme, and Rachel Carson is one of my heroes. I love the idea of your grandfather’s diary. What an experience. I can’t wait to read it. Do you have a favorite character that you created?
All my characters are like my children and what type of parent would I be if I favored one over another? Seriously though, one of my favorite things is when I introduce a minor character simply to advance the plot but, as I continue writing, that character grows before my eyes. Soon he or she becomes a major figure, integral to the book itself. In Fava, Special Agent Will Allen was introduced as a roadblock for the protagonist, Francine Vega, to overcome but eventually he teams with her to help save the world. In Journey of an American Son, Walter Jones was Ben Albert’s sergeant during the First World War, but I bring him back to help Ben’s wife in her attempts to free her husband from jail in Calcutta after he is framed for murder. These characters tend to be my richest because I’m developing them for myself as well as for the reader. I also like to take famous historical figures and peel away the myths that surround them to show them as real human beings. The three characters I’ve dealt with thus far are Ulysses S. Grant, Mahatma Gandhi, and Judas Iscariot!
You pulled in the big guns. What’s your one sentence pitch for Fava?
Can a beautiful, talented New York TV reporter thwart a maniacal plot to exact the ultimate revenge for 9-11 before it plunges the world into war?
That’s a great hook. What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?
A review of Fava by Midwest Book Reviews contained all the things an author likes to hear: “terrific premise,” “holds the reader’s entertained attention from beginning to end,” “very highly recommended,” but the part the got me the most was when they noted it was “deftly written.” High praise indeed. On a local level, I did a book signing at a bookstore, and they posted the event on Twitter. A man I’d never met retweeted it saying I was one of his favorite writers, and he was glad they were supporting me. Made my day, I must say.
That’s a great thing, for sure. How did you choose the title?
The title Fava didn’t become apparent to me until about half way through the book. In fact, the reader won’t become aware of what the title means until exactly the same time, which I think is kind of neat.
I like that. I can’t wait to figure it out. If you could invite two other authors over to your house for dinner, who would you choose?
My favorite all-time book is To Kill a Mockingbird so I’d love to meet Harper Lee, but I know how much she cherishes her privacy, and I would be reluctant to invade on that privacy. So, the two I would pick are J.K. Rowling and Doris Kearns Goodwin. I am in such awe of the Harry Potter series. It would be such a thrill just being able to converse with the person who could create such a world. I’ve loved a number of Kearns Goodwin’s books. No Ordinary Time is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Also, I’ve seen her on news programs. She’s so interesting and knowledgeable on so many subjects that I’d imagined she be a wonderful dinner companion.
Excellent choices. I’d like to know why Harper Lee never wrote another book! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, John. I hope you’ll come back when your next book is published. And I promise to move Fava up high on my TBR list.
Have any questions for me? Send a message by clicking the "Contact Me" link at the very top of this page. For more interviews like this one or to learn more about P.C. Zick, please visit her website: http://pczick.com.