Quick Take Tuesday, a blog of tasteful, yet shameless, self-promotion involving an author or someone of equal social standing. I ask two questions, and then my guest turns the table and asks me two questions, as long as they don’t involve pounds or pant size.
Q) There are a gazillion accolades out there for you from The New York Times to Publishers Weekly. You wow people in classrooms. You woo people on book tours. You are called a “powerful new voice in fiction” because you write about thugs, druggies, smugglers and sultry red heads. Yet you also write so lovingly about the people, and pets, in your life! Break it down for me.
A) Not sure I’m a “new voice” anymore, since I’ve been around since 2002, but I’m still relatively unknown – a charter member of the Highly Respected and Widely Unread. Being compared to Graham Greene and Robert Stone only helps if people know who they are. I write about the stuff that interests me and about which I can make some small claim to authority. I was a PI – or a dick, as you so delicately put it – for about 15 years, and I saw a slice of life that a lot of people don’t see. Given that background, there’s little point me writing about nouveau cuisine chefs or origami aficionados – unless they’ve been indicted.
Q) I’ve heard it said that your readers get grit in their eyes from your stories. But that’s must be better than a glazed look, non? How do you keep it live, fresh and cutting edge? And how do you get so many single women to come to your book readings?
A) Well, you’re never more attractive than when you’re unavailable. My current Brainy-Babe-of-Interest is a filmmaker who does documentaries, and I’m smitten. (You'll have to ask her if it's mutual.) She’s been all over the world filming everything from lesbian macaques to the widows of Russian submariners to artificial walrus vaginas (did you know that male walruses get aroused by the sound of power tools?).
As for keeping it real, you develop an intuition as a writer, a sense of when you’re close to the bone as opposed to just flogging the keyboard. I think every writer relies on that instinct, bred from the key moments in his or her own life when the expected vanished and suddenly it was: What-the-Hell-is-Going-On? I’m no different than any other writer in that regard. It just happens that some of my key moments involved people trying to run me over, lie to me, extort my client, or otherwise make my life miserable. Or over.
But to be totally honest, I don’t think my PI experiences have any more to do with my artisitic vision than the premature deaths of my brother and wife or my rebellion against the role of doting/complicit son to my sweet, fiery, alcoholic mother. And playing in a bar band in my late teens had no small part in wising me up. I’ll be tapping into all of that until death puts me out of everyone else’s misery.
//BUZZER NOISE AND SOUND OF TABLE BEING TURNED//
Q) Okay, your turn, Laura. You and I have both been out there on the mean streets, with the job of getting the goods, and getting them right – making stuff up was a cardinal sin. How have you adjusted to the freedom – and the terror – of working without a net, i.e., writing fiction?
A) I pride myself on the fact that I never, not once, missed a deadline in my decades in the news business. And I never made any terrible factual errors. So, it’s a huge sigh of relief for me to not live like that now, all that double, triple, quadruple cross checking and confirming. Yet at the same time, you can’t always say what you learn in the news biz. It’s often on background or off the record. Or it’s delicious but not newsworthy: the anchorman with the restraining order against him, the news director with his pants down around his ankles and his wife’s friend on the hood of the car. Juicy stuff like that (and yes, I know names!) Now, with fiction, I am free. I can report or say things I have never been able to. In fact, I have sentences and dialogue in Finding Clarity that really came out of people’s mouths that gets safely stirred up into a composite in my fiction. My beta readers have said to me: No one would ever say that! Oh yes, they do and yes they have! And I relish this new freedom to be able to type it out and put it on the record.
Q) Another point of similarity between us – we’ve both endured some reasonably heavy personal adversity in our lives. And yet we’re also both pretty cheerful people. Where does that resilience come from, and how has it worked its way into your writing? Has it saved you from bathos? Has it sharpened your eye, quickened your wit, or hardened your heart?
A) We have, haven’t we? I always say the worst things that have happened to me, are also the best things that have happened to me. That’s because I always grow and come out on the other side a wiser and better person. It must be hard wired into us because other wise we buckle and fold, and that’s never been an option for me. The struggle can be horrendous, but I don’t think we learn without getting kicked in the teeth. And since I am such a resilient person, I still find beauty and joy in what I have here and now. I mean, what else am I going to do? Give up and stop breathing? And so I think, or at least I hope, that I have taken the pain, the resolve, the fury and the fun and given them over to Clari Drake, my protagonist. Sure she’s shallow at times, which I believe keeps her from drowning in a tub of bathos. But she’s also insecure, feisty, funny and out to get some people. And that makes her a highly loveable but unlikable, and deeply flawed woman. Sounds like someone I know, as a matter of fact!
//BUZZER NOISE AND SOUND OF AMAZINGLY LOUD APPLAUSE//
Thank you for joining me on Quick Take Tuesday David Corbett, phenomenal and prolific writer, teacher, dog lover, walrus admirer, and private investigator, which means I can truthfully say he used to be a real dick! Please come back and fill me up, so to speak, with some of your work for my Friday Feature!