Saturday, April 20, 2013

L.A. Times Festival of Books - Crime Fiction: What We Can't Tell You

I don't know who comes up with the titles of the "conversations", but they need to give it up.  Just call it what it is: Conversations with authors.  About their latest books.  I'm not sure what it what things they couldn't tell us that the FOB had in mind, but luckily for me and the rest of the audience, these authors told plenty.

Moderator Tom Nolan (Ross McDonald: An Autobiography and Artie Shaw: King of the Clarinet), Ariel S. Winter (The Twenty-Year Death), Attica Locke (The Cutting Season, Black Water Rising), Fuminori Nakamura (The Thief), Chris Pavone (The Ex-Pats)

On how they came to write their current novels:
Nakamura: Fascinated by pick-pocketers and prostitution.  The Thief combines both.

Locke: She is from the south, where some old plantations live on as venues for tourism and events.  In addition, in the south "plantation" can mean pretty much any venue.  She was invited to a wedding that was held at an old plantation that really was a former plantation and as an African-American wasn't sure how to feel about it.  She became interested in exploring the location's past and present and the book was written "to explore that...with a dead body."

Pavone: After a couple decades as an office drone, he was startled when his wife came home one night and asked, "How would you like to live in Luxemborg?" She worked for Amazon and had been offered a job overseas.  One big move across the globe later, he found himself a stay-at-home dad in a strange land.  He often made small talk with mothers he met at the park with his kids to and was fascinated by one woman who would chat but would never really reveal anything about herself.  It made him wonder if she was hiding some sort of terrible secret that she had to keep from everyone and that launched the protagonist of The Ex-Pats.

Winter: The Twenty-Year Death follows a Fitzgerald/Hemingway type character in the last twenty years of his life (1931-1941-1951) from the heights to depths of success.  His agent wanted him to write a character that could recur in future books, but Winter decided to have his character recur at different points in his life in one story.

On becoming a writer:
Pavone: Was a voracious reader as a kid.  In college he majored in government, then ended up working in the book publishing world and loved it, mainly because most people involved were in it for the love of book and writers, rather than the money.  But after twenty years in the biz, he tired of it and decided to write himself.

Nakamura: He suffered from depression as a teen and coped by writing out his thoughts.  When he went to college he couldn't figure out what he wanted to do and decided to write out his diary as a novel and loved it.

Winter: Always wrote, had decided to become a writer by the 6th grade.  In college he he decided he wanted to be a playwright, but grew dissatisfied with the collaborative process and turned to back to prose.

Locke: Always wrote as a kid, but grew up wanting to be a filmmaker.  By twenty-four she was working as a location scout and sold a script only to be told that it wasn't going to be made.  Her husband was in law school and they were broke, so she became a "writer for hire".  While she made enough money to buy a home, nothing she wrote was being produced and she tired of writing for people who didn't read in what she described as a "fear-based industry".

The genre:
Nakamura: Despite writing about crime, he is regarded as a writer of serious literature in his native Japan, but doesn't mind people categorizing his novels as either genre or pure fiction.  The film Diary of a Pickpocket is a favorite of his and he referred to it while writing The Thief.  He actually practiced picking pockets of friends and claimed to have had a pretty good success rate.

Pavone: Interested in unreliable narrator/narratives.  On the topic of success: Only one-tenth of 1% of the American reading public needs to purchase your book in order to be successful, so he's okay with 99% of the public not buying his book.

Locke: She feels caught between literature and mystery, and doesn't like to be pigeon-holed as a mystery writer because she's worried she will miss out on potential readers.  Feels that crime fiction is inherently political because it involves distribution of power.

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