Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Our Author Speaks

Questions Answered

Before we arrive at John Lescroart's Launch Party for his new book The Ophelia Cut, which will be held in Davis at the Odd Fellows Hall on 2nd Street, Tuesday, May 7, at 6:30pm, I thought it would be fun to have him answer a few questions about his writing and about the new book.  While going over the questions and answers this week, I realized that sometimes, art imitates life, and sometimes it's the other way around.  With the news dominated by the bombings in Boston and the subsequent death and capture of the suspects, we are also seeing reactions from the alleged bomber's family.  I think we are all questioning, to what extent family will go to help one of their own? Can their public reactions be trusted to be the truth? Without giving you any spoilers, please enjoy the next part of my Q&A with John Lescroart and don't forget to SIGN UP HERE  to come to this fantastic party.

V.L.: This novel, The Ophelia Cut, talks a lot about the difficult decisions families have to make to protect one another.  How did you come up with this idea andwas it difficult to write about your characters, knowing they would face difficult times?

J.L.: Basically, I'm always on the lookout for the next story, and the next story can't really just be adequate; it has to be great. I, at least, have to think that I'm starting to grapple with important issues and interesting people who are going to matter to my readers.

So when I started in on the book that became The Ophelia Cut, I didn't have much in the way of story. I liked the idea of having a kind of "wild card" guy in the person of a protected witness, and so the first scene I actually wrote was when Tony Solaia, the protected witness, says hi to Dismas Hardy at the Dolphin Club -- now this is around page 30 of the finished book, so you can see how things turned around somewhat. Then I liked the idea of Hardy spending more time with his daughter, who'd been away at college for the past few books. I missed Rebecca, and I thought my readers would like to see her on the page, too. Finally, I had to have some conflict in Hardy's life, and the history of The Dockside Massacre which I wrote about in The First Law seemed to provide a nice opening into something in Hardy's here-and-now that could cause grief to him and his pals Moses, Abe, and Gina.

I knew I wanted to have Hardy and Tony Solaia become friends (I still didn't know why he was a protected witness -- was he essentially a good guy or a bad guy?), and that led to Tony being busted for serving drinks to minors -- hardly more than an administrative hiccup if the guy was not in the Federal Witness Protection program. Still, nothing was happening in terms of real plot. I just had some pieces moving around the chessboard. Then, purely fortuitously, I thought it would be nice to bring Moses McGuire's daughter Brittany back from college as well, and to have her be friends/confidants with Rebecca. And what would they be confidants about, as cousins, if not boyfriends/dating/etc.? And of course things on that level would need to be complicated and . . .

BAM! Rick Jessup enters the picture as a very bad force in Brittany's life.

And suddenly, probably close to a hundred pages into the actual writing, I found that I was at critical mass, and the celestial bodies started moving on their own. Really, it was a dramatic moment in the creation of this book. Suddenly, against my inclinations (and since they are so hard to get right), I realized that it was going to be a trial book, that the man on trial was going to be the unreliable alcoholic Moses McGuire, and that he was going to be charged with killing his daughter's rapist. This was a plot that would bring all of the elements I'd introduced into their point of greatest pressure, and both the balance and the heft of the actual story was more than going to compensate for what I was going to put my characters through. I didn't know how bad it would get for any of them, although I knew that by the end, it wasn't going to be pretty.

There comes a point in the best stories where the author isn't really directing events, and that's what happened in The Ophelia Cut. Your characters start to live and do what they're going to do, and all we poor scriveners can do is try to capture the moments as they unfold in front of us. I hope I caught most of 'em.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Parties and Prizes

Tickets Are Going Fast

Do you have your tickets for the big party in Davis? CapRadio Reads presents John Lescroart's The Ophelia Cut launch party is close to being sold out.  I'm sure you don't want to be left out of this fun event.  SIGN UP HERE for your tickets to the launch party.  Your reservation is the only way you will be able to have preferred seating for this bash on May 7, at 6:30 in the evening at the Odd Fellow's Hall in Davis, located at 415 2nd Street, Davis, CA. 95616, as well as scrumptious appetizers, wonderful wine from C.G. Di Arie and an evening with John Lescroart himself.  Don't delay.  Do it today!
Before we get to the second installment of my interview with Mr. Lescroart, I wanted to make sure you knew about the latest prize for literature.  This year, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction goes to Adam Johnson for The Orphan Master's Son.  It is an extremely timely novel of North Korea that "carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart", according to the Pulitzer judges.  The author is a professor of creative writing at Stanford.  Especially wonderful for him, since the judges did not give an award at all last year, stating that there wasn't a book worthy of the award.  Not sure I agree, but nonetheless, it is a great honor for Mr. Johnson. 
And now, to the second question I asked John Lescroart....I hope you enjoy his response.

V.L.:  John, you write about San Francisco in all your books.  If you could design the perfect day in S.F. what would you do and would you bring any of your characters along?
J.L.:  It's interesting that in the many interviews I have given about my writing, no one ever asked this question before. And it's a great one. My perfect day in San Francisco?

Well, first thing, it would have to be in the Fall. I've had enough bone-chilling spring and summer days in the City that I never want to spend another one. Now, that said, and before I get to this particular day that you're asking me about, let me tell you a true story about just such a real day that I spent in San Francisco about thirty years ago with my former college roommate and (still) great friend Frank Seidl.

The occasion was a vacation Frank, up from Los Angeles, was taking in the City. I was unencumbered by relationships or by work, and we decided to take the whole day to just hang out. We met at about 9:00 a.m. in North Beach, at the current location of Firenze By Night, on Stockton near Columbus. Back then, this place housed a terrific Italian deli called Frank's Extra Espresso Bar (no relation to Frank, my companion). We sat outside in a recessed area, just off the sidewalk. We had perfect weather, and started with a couple of espressos and some sweet rolls. After a half hour catching up on our lives, we decided "what the heck," and each of us ordered a Peroni beer. By 11:00, we'd each had two beers, and it was getting near lunchtime. So we walked up a few blocks to the Washington Square Bar & Grill, where we had sand dabs and pasta and a bottle or two of good wine. Solving all the problems of the world over a six-pack of Coors Talls, we passed the warm and gorgeous afternoon in Golden Gate Park. Next, after a little doze on the warm grass, we moved on out to The Avenues for dinner at Yet Wah, a favorite Chinese spot. I believe we rounded out the evening (events at this remove are still a bit vague) with a cocktail or two over some darts at the Little Shamrock, and finally, though I can hardly believe it, I have some small memory of getting back to my apartment and making sardine sandwiches with, of course, another really unnecessary beer or two. Yikes.

So . . . this is precisely what I would not do this time around. Although I would probably start again in North Beach, my wife Lisa and I walking there from wherever we were staying (let's say at the St. Francis on Union Square). After an espresso and croissant, just taking in the sights and scents and feel, we'd walk back on Columbus through downtown and then, since we're in the Fall, the Giants would be in the playoffs, and I would have good tickets at AT&T Park. We'd meet some pals, including Dismas and Frannie Hardy, at MoMo's for a quick beer before the game. After the win, we'd walk up to Chaya Brasserie for a bite, then cab it over to the Great American Music Hall where Boz Scaggs would be performing. The show would get out at around 10:30. We'd be back at the hotel by 11:00, an early night so that we'd be ready tomorrow morning for our ferry ride to Alcatraz for the tour, then lunch in Sausalito, then back to the City for the current exhibit at the De Young and a swing through the Aquarium before hitting the Little Shamrock for a cocktail, and then dinner at . . . well, it never really has to end. The City lives and breathes forever.
Thank you John Lescroart and thanks to CapRadio Readers for reading. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

John Lescroart's The Ophelia Cut

Launch Party in Davis

CapRadio Reads presents John Lescroart's The Ophelia Cut.  You are invited to attend the Launch Party of the year.  Our May selection for CapRadio Reads is the soon to be published book by local New York Times bestselling author John Lescroart, The Ophelia Cut. As a special treat for our loyal CapRadio Readers, 100 of you may sign up to join us for a reserved seat at this very special occasion. John will be in conversation with our Morning Edition host Donna Apidone. There will be great food and wine and fun live music.  You surely don't want to miss this evening so SIGN UP HERE .
Because this book will not be released until the day of the party, I thought you might want to hear from the author himself. In the next few weeks I will be publishing pieces of my interview with Mr. Lescroart. He will also be taking questions at his party, so think of some things you've always wanted to ask him.  I hope you enjoy the Q&A here, and hope to see you at the party.

V.L.: John, this is the first book with a brand new publisher.  After I read it I really felt you had a new liveliness to your writing. What about this book feels "new" to you?

J.L.:I had been publishing with Dutton Books for a long time and all of the twelve books I'd written for them, beginning with The Oath, had been NY Times bestsellers.

And for every book over those dozen years, Dutton and I labored to increase my visibility and grow sales, etc. After the first six or seven of these books, my trajectory (gotta love these publishing terms) remained fairly flat -- the latest book would get great reviews and come out somewhere around the middle of the NY Times list, would hang around for two to five weeks, and then disappear.

So, in an effort to "freshen" (another great word) the product, Dutton suggested that I write a little bit different kind of book, one with perhaps a younger protagonist, and not so lawyerly as Dismas Hardy. In response, I wrote The Hunt Club, introducing Wyatt Hunt as a private investigator. The book did fine (after all, hitting the Times list shouldn't in theory be considered failing), but about the same as all the rest.

Then, since I'd broken the Dismas Hardy stranglehold and "proven" that I could write a different kind of book, maybe I could get a bump in my female audience if I wrote a female protagonist, so I wrote The Suspect, featuring Gina Roake as my main character. That book, named the 2007 Book of the Year by the American Authors Association, had about the same sales as The Hunt Club. So, then, how about a military thriller? Maybe that . . . etc. And so came Betrayal.

Then, seeking to find the magic formula (a key word here, by the way), I went back to a Hardy book with A Plague of Secrets, another Hunt book with Treasure Hunt, then a Glitsky/Farrell book with Damage. The sales profile on all of these books remained constant -- not much down, not much up. Then, with last year's The Hunter -- a book that I personally loved, the bottom fell out. Though it, too, made the Times list (albeit for only one week), distribution was pretty much non-existent and sales, therefore, were dismal.

The general rule in publishing is that if your book is a hit, it's because of the publisher, and if not, it's the author's fault. So my agent and I, not accepting this worldview, decided to leave Dutton and get a new publisher. In a short while, we got a very nice three-book deal from Atria, and suddenly I was contractually free to write any kind of book I wanted. And then, suddenly, no longer did I feel that I was going to have to write "to the market."

As detailed above, I'd tried several different approaches over the past several years, and I'd come to realize that the main thing I had to do was just have fun and write what I wanted -- it would probably urn out to be a quality product, readable and interesting. So, as I started the actual writing of The Ophelia Cut, I rather consciously did not worry too much about the plot -- I knew I had the bones of a very good story, and so I didn't worry about who the "protagonist" was, or if the plot was linear enough. I came into work every day and threw in every cool idea that struck me, and before too long, the book had taken on a life of its own, coming in at about 200 pages longer than my last several Dutton books. What was "new" here was this new-found sense of freedom and confidence, and I think it shines through on every page. And I'm glad it struck you that way, too.



A Tempest in a Teapot

 Rumpus in the Community Room
While the rest of Sacramento was having a quiet dinner, CapRadio Readers were having quite a conversation about The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  A more than packed house debated whether all or some of the characters were real, or imagined in this fanciful story of a circus which only operates at night.  If they were only imagined, who in the story might be real? Which characters were the most "fleshed" out? Was it the circus itself?  Are we, a room full of intelligent, well read, real people, able to suspend our own reality long enough to enjoy a fantasy? What of Ms. Morgenstern's references to Shakespearean characters?
Well, the consensus we came to was, good, bad or unbelievable, another evening of conversation, lovely wine from C. G. Diarie and goodies came to an end, and all agreed it was time very well spent.
As has been the case for all our Face to Face meetings and our bigger author events, this was standing room only.  Don't be left out. Click on the following link to become a member of CapRadio Reads and be first in line to attend all these wonderful gatherings. JOIN THE CLUB !
Thanks, as always, for joining us anytime, anywhere.  Watch this space later today for an announcement of our May title and information on how you can attend the party.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

More Questions Than Answers

Imagination makes us ask...

We are very close to the end of our reading of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and if you are like me, you have more questions than ever.  We know this is fiction, we know it's just a story, but we still ask.  It's the mark of a very good book, that regardless of our like or dislike of the book, we still want to know more about the characters, the setting, and the ideas behind the book.  One New York Times reviewer asks "Can children love, who were never loved?".  How much of this story, although glorious and beautiful on some levels is really quite disturbing.  Is it magic or is it indentured servitude? 
I look forward to discussing this, as well as the overall mystery of "The Game", the colors, the clock and each of the characters with you next week. If you read it in book form, did the design of the actual book influence your reading?   We are sold out for our meeting, but if you would like to be among the first to know about our upcoming meetings and special events...the next one on May 7th in a location to be announced, please Join The Club.  You will receive emails with  information about all our upcoming events.
Thanks for joining me here and I look forward to seeing you at our next meeting and at our Face to Face and Special events in the future.
Thanks for reading.