Sunday, September 16, 2012

Blogoversary: Angela Gerst Interview & Giveaway

Once again I am not entirely sure how I cam across Angela's debut novel A Crack in Everything, I think I picked up from the library stacks, but I was very happy that I did find it. It has all the mystery and thrills without the need of a serial killer. Please welcome to Blood Rose Books today:
Angela Gerst
You began a career in politics when you moved to a small town outside of Boston, what was your favorite part of covering politics for a small town?

Meeting so many people who got personally involved in the issues that affected them and their towns was an eye-opener for me who had never been politically active.  My reporting for the Newton Times and later the Boston Globe took me to several towns just outside Boston, and while the issues might have differed from town to town the willingness of the residents to go out and speak at public hearings, to involve themselves in local campaigns, to be active citizens, impressed me greatly.  From citizen activism to running for local office is a logical progression.   So I’d say getting involved with people and learning how local government works were my favorite parts of covering small-town politics.

Did you always want to be an author or it was something that you found you enjoyed doing while writing the local politics for the newspaper?

In high school and college I wrote short stories but made no effort to publish.  It was after my son (now 27) was born that I began writing novels—2 unpublished mysteries before A Crack in Everything and a non-mystery work-in-progress that I turn to when I find myself stuck as I write the second in the Susan Callisto series.  Writing for newspapers occupied the part of my brain that attempts to gather facts and write logically.  Novel writing for me is mostly intuitive—story first, and characters who follow a logic of their own.  So for me there was no apparent connection between journalism and fiction writing (there’s a joke in here, but I won’t make it.) 

What was the appeal to you for writing a crime fiction mystery novel? 
I read and enjoy mysteries—that was the first pull toward my wanting to write in the genre.  Then, there are certain “rules”, ways of structuring the book, that appeal to me because they keep me from running off in too many directions, following too many characters who may be interesting but not crucial to the plot.  My novels are meant first of all to entertain.  I try to capture the small world of folks who think they want to run for office and the trials and insights of a young woman who wants to help them reach their goals.  Often NOT reaching their goals is part of what makes the stories interesting (I hope).  In any case, in the Susan Callisto mysteries politics is a springboard only.  Susan considers herself a non-partisan technician.  This is really only possible and plausible at the local level which is where I hope to keep the series.  Jane Austen said it best when she advised her niece to stick to a few local people for her stories.  “Three or four families in a country village is the very best thing to work on.”  For Susan, local politics is a kind of country village.

What do you think would be the hardest or most challenging genre to write a novel in and why? 
Every writer must have a different view of this.  For me, science fiction, speculative fiction, would be virtually impossible to write.   

Most mystery and/or thriller books these days have their premise based around a serial killer and you book distinctly does not have one, was this on purpose or did the story and plot just unfold that way? 
No serial killer will appear in the Susan Callisto series—though serial politicians might.  When I finished A Crack in Everything I decided it was a kind of hybrid mystery, a “cozy-noir”.  Susan’s world is small, her slightly ironic voice carries the story, and there’s love, always just around the corner.  Also, I prefer to suggest violence, with just enough description to keep it real. 

You have experience running more than a few successful political campaigns, was it easy to transfer your experiences into a fiction novel?
Yes, because when I was involved I was truly passionate about wanting my candidates to win and learned fast how large a commitment this was going to be.  Every detail mattered, from studying voting patterns to making sure that the few houses at the ends of long dirt roads with no town services were included in the door-to-door part of the campaigns. 

I personally do not have any experience with politics (well other than voting) and I am sure that most of the public do not as well. Are politics really as cut throat and deadly as they are in A Crack in Everything? 
Much more so.  In A Crack in Everything there are dirty tricks, ulterior motives, a little shady manipulation of the system.  In the larger world of national politics it seem that just about anything goes, and of course, money flows. 

Was there any person or persons that you met along the campaign trail that help inspire and create your Susan Callisto character or is Susan more based upon you and some of your experiences?
Susan grew out of my own voice, but heavily qualified for the world of fiction and for her relative youth.  There was no one I based her character on, and no one modeled for the other characters either.  But I drew on my experiences—for example, a big issue in my town about twelve years ago was whether to allow a biotech research firm to set up shop.  A local college lab experienced a spill similar to the one I describe in the book and I used that.  Lawn signs always get stolen, bumper stickers ripped down.  My Italian grandfather loved to cook, though he wasn’t a chef and was nothing like Nino.  Details like these are fact based.  The story itself comes completely out of my imagination. 

Do you have any information on upcoming works or events that you are able to share?
I’m hard at work on the second in the Callisto series.  Also, Mystery Writers of America recently selected my short story, “The Secret Life of Books” for inclusion in their spring 2013 anthology. The story is set in Paris, two years after the end of WWII.  I mention it on my webpage,  Having this story chosen from several hundred blind submissions thrilled me almost as much as the publication of A Crack in Everything.  The story features a literary woman, Colette, whose character I try to translate into fiction.  In real life, Colette was probably the most famous writer in France during much of the 20th century, and even now.  Her writing gifts were early acknowledged.  Her love affairs were notorious.  She married three times, once to a baron and the last to a man 17 years her junior.  She performed on stage.  She wrote music criticism and theater reviews.  As a journalist she covered famous murder trials.  Her novels and short stories are lyrical, and insightful and completely non-political. She’s about as different from Susan Callisto as it is possible to be while still springing from the mind of this write.

What is one book on your shelf that you cannot wait to read (can either be a new or old favorite). 
This is a hard question for me to answer. Currently I am reading Turgenev for the very first time, and loving him--On The Eve is the book I look forward to every night, and ration myself to no more than 2 chapters to make it last.  I re-read Jane Austen, Tolstoy, and a few of Kingsley Amis’s novels like Lucky Jim and The Green Man.  I re-read Graham Green.  Ian McEwan is a favorite, especially his earlier novels.  If I think about what these writers have in common, it’s the ability to keep the story moving, the pages turning, while writing insightfully about the human condition—what the best mysteries also do. I look forward to mystery/suspense writers like James Lee Burke, Lee Child, Michael Palmer, Daniel Silva, Sue Grafton, Lisa Scottoline, Stephen King, among many others.

I want to say Thank You once again to Angela for being part of my Blogversary. Angela has very nicely donated two separate giveaways as part of her interview. Once open to USA/CAN and another one open internationally. So make sure you enter, it is a debut read that you will like. I cannot wait for the second novel in her Callisto series.

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  1. I don't know. I really don't pick favorites. There you go.

  2. Nice interview. I like the facts about your Italian grandfather.

  3. I love reading Erica Spindler and Wendy Corsi Staub mysteries.