08 August 2007

Author Answers with Ed Lynskey

This week's author is Ed Lynskey, who's second novel, "The Blue Cheer" is out currently. He's also been a book reviewer, having reviews appear in The Washington Post and The New York Times Book Review.

WN: Your new book, The Blue Cheer, is out. What's the story about?
LYNSKEY: Frank Johnson, needing a break, retires to the West Virginia mountains, an impulse almost everybody experiences once in their life. Only Frank acts on his impulse. Of course he plows into big trouble, or there’d be no yarn to spin. A few critics have reacted to the local populace, characterizing them as rough-hewed and provincial. Not really. Frank gets a big boost from several locals and most are just regular people. The bad guys are actually only a core few in the hate cult. But Frank adheres to Chandler’s P.I. code of ethics in that he’s seeing things through to the end, no matter how much things heat up..

WN: What kind of a character is Frank Johnson? You've got him in West Virginia in the new book...how does that change a detective story when the PI's not in Chicago, New York or another big city?
LYNSKEY: Setting becomes important, surely. If you make your detective “a fish out of water”, then he has to react to and keenly feel his surroundings. A stranger to a place sees and feels things more intensely than a resident does. It’s like going on vacation to a different locale. While there, you relax but maybe not so much. You drink in the local color, but you also pick up the vibes, good and bad. Since a detective is an observant soul, a foreign setting will dictate how he behaves. Frank in The Blue Cheer doesn’t go down the mean streets but into the mean boonies. In the fourth title, Troglodytes Frank flies off to Ankara in Turkey on a caper. So, he’s no stranger to large cities.

WN: What's your writing process like?
LYNSKEY: You know, I’ve found lately that it varies. The output and goals -- creating and editing words -- are the same. But the actual act of writing changes. The laptop enables me to unplug and go to different spots. Wireless Internet is a bane. I hate it. It’s too tempting to keep piddling on the web. Time is too finite.

WN: Having tried your hand at writing non-fiction and fiction, what's different in how you approach writing each?
LYNSKEY: Fiction (novels) certainly has a longer gestation period involving multiple edits and patient waits. I haven’t written that many long pieces of non-fiction. I’ve written paid reviews (for many years now) which I approach as any serious job. I offer my opinions and observations, trying to stay judicious and balanced in my remarks. My review editors often come back to me asking questions. The reading is enjoyable, but it’s tough to be an honest critic at times. Having written and published my own novels, I now understand and sympathize over what sweat and blood goes into their creation.

WN: Were you a reader as a kid... what turned you on to reading/writing books?
LYNSKEY: Great question. I liked to read as a kid, oh yeah. Some slow day, I’m going to drive out to the small town where I grew up and take a stroll down the aisles of fiction in the local library. That way, I can recall a list of the books I checked out back then. I’m certain all of those titles haven’t been weeded out. I flagged a few titles that I do remember on my book reading lists on Amazon. One I liked was Rifles for Watie, a historical Civil War novel by Harold Keith. It's Like This, Cat by Emily Cheney Neville has stuck with me. I have nothing respect and awe for authors who write YA titles. In the mystery realm, I guess I was first turned on by reading the Happy Hollisters, Alfred Hitchcock’s Three Investigators, and the Hardy boys.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
LYNSKEY: I’m not certain I can fix on any one book and say it influenced me more than any other title has. Over time your tastes as a reader can change, too. Books I enjoyed as an undergraduate on rereads have fallen short. One of my bugaboos is the labels slapped on different types of fiction that lead to adversarial comparisons. You know, “literary” v. “genre”, or “hardboiled” v. “cozy”. I believe any restless, intelligent reader will sample from a wide array of fields. Why restrict yourself?

WN: What's the best part of being a writer to you? What's the most challenging part of writing for you?
LYNSKEY: For me, writing the first draft to a novel is euphoria. It’s so cool to do the initial plot. The days fly by. But the time comes to do editing and revising, the most challenging phase. A close second to editing novel manuscripts is trying to promote and market the published titles. Or thus far, that’s been my experience. I also enjoyed the opportunity to talk about writing.

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