Q. Charlie Miner struggles throughout this story to keep his body and soul together until his deed is done. I love that his character is not another vampire, ghost, or fantasy character, but he comes across credible in the need to be responsible to those he loves, and the fear of completely letting go.
Can you tell us how you came up with your protagonist and his motives?
I once read a dark and brilliant novel by Brian Moore called Cold Heaven. The main character’s husband dies in a boating accident but seems to continue existing as if not dead—no supernatural, paranormal, Steven-King sort of thing; suspension of disbelief did not require heavy lifting. I was (dare I say it?) haunted by this. Years later, the opening lines for Down Solo occurred to me—“They say once a junkie, always a junkie, but this is ridiculous. I haven’t been dead more than a few hours and I already need a fix”—and I realized that I could borrow the device from Moore’s literary novel and employ it in a noir/hard-boiled setting.
As for motives, if you wake up with a bullet in your head, you probably want to know how it got there. Of course, if you’re a drug addict, you might have a more-immediate motivation.
Q. Drug use is a major theme. Addiction, itself, creates a division of reality vs. non-reality. Is this also the reasoning for Charlie’s body/soul struggle?
Charlie thinks he’s different from the average junkie because he’s an accidental addict. He got there as a consequence of physical pain, where traditionally addiction has been the end result of so-called recreational experimentation. Once you’re in the trap, though, the similarities outweigh the differences—you are exiled from your natural self, and the way back may require a radical realignment.
Q. Could a reader then parallel a Freudian linkage? The Id and the Ego?
Addiction can be explicated in Freudian terms: the ego is torn between the id’s pleasure-seeking and the superego’s condemnation; the resulting friction causes anxiety, requiring sedation by drugs and/or alcohol; the continuing sedation causes life problems that exacerbate the cycle, etc. Charlie seeks help from a Mexican detox that uses an ibogaine ceremony, which leads to his first experience of decoupling his mind and body. The theory behind the treatment is that the hallucinogen can reshuffle the psyche’s deck, so to speak, with all the cards somehow landing in an optimized order.
Q. Serious subject, theme-driven character, intriguing plot—dark, adventurous yet also full of humor—how do you go about making sure these all held in a good balance in the storytelling?
I have loved books since I was a child, and I believe that if you read enough good material, you will internalize the basics of good storytelling—character, plot, structure, dialogue, setting, etc. Combine that with an active interest in writing—practice and a willingness to study it as a craft—and you have a foundation. Now, as to the odd mix you give me credit for, I have to guess at something else that probably comes into play. As a member of what I’ll generically refer to as “the recovery community,” I have heard thousands of stories, many of them deeply moving. Their common elements are honesty, tragedy, determination, failure, hopelessness, and then renewal and redemption. And humor is essential—we call laughter the music of the heart—and we find it in the most cringe-worthy moments, even though they were awful and pathetic when they occurred.
Q. What do you see as your major goal when creating a novel—other than just entertainment, of course?
It’s not a conscious intent in the moment of creating, but the goal is to immerse a reader in my made-up world—to involve you in my character’s plight, thoughts, and emotions to the point where you have a stake in the outcome. That’s what gets me to the last page when I’m reading good work.
Q. Will you disclose your writing process? Outline first? Start with character and idea and begin writing? How do you get your magic accomplished?
As I mentioned, the first two lines popped into my head out of the Great Nowhere, and motive was built in (who killed Charlie Miner?—he has to find out!). From there, I bumbled along until I had a narrative arc in mind that was supposed to unspool backwards along the lines of the film Memento: Charlie’s memory is impaired by the damage from the bullet, so he has to find clues to recreate the events leading up to his death. He picks up just enough clues to get himself in a brand new set of problems. Unfortunately, I got to my original ending at around page 100; that stumped me for about a year until I realized that I could go deeper, add levels to the plot, and get to novel-length without simply adding fat. I wrote an article on my process, which is here: http://www.authorsfirst.com/storyboarding-for-depth-and-clarity/.
Q. What are you working on now, and when can readers expect to find it on Amazon?
After Down Solo, my publisher (The Story Plant) put out Trust Me, which is a more-conventional psychological thriller involving a predator in the Los Angeles recovery community. Now I’m looking over the final draft—post-proofreading—of the sequel to Down Solo. Charlie Miner is called upon by his friend Detective Dave Putnam to look into the claims of a self-professed clairvoyant who has seemingly helped solve several murder cases for the LAPD. Down to No Good was a lot of fun to write and will be available in October.
I hope people will visit me at www.earljavorsky.com.
I read a lot of mysteries, naturally, because friends write books and there are always new and exciting mysteries to dive into. But sometimes I take a break from these and read other books: non-mystery novels, biographies, and nonfiction in general. I also belong to a book club, and the choices of the members are often different from the books I read on my own. Since I’ve become a writer, I’ve become much more aware when I’m reading a book of the skill of the author in taking me into a place or time so fully that I feel as if I am actually there.
I recently read a book by Sigrid Nunez called THE LAST OF HER KIND, which takes place in New York at the end of the sixties and into the seventies. This was a book that plunged me back to that time. It was a time of civil unrest: the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, riots and takeovers of buildings by university students, the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King, among other events. There is an evocation of an LSD trip by the woman experiencing it that made me remember how assiduously I had avoided trying the drug. The book made me uncomfortable in the same way that I remember being uncomfortable then, as though I had been dropped back almost fifty years and somehow entered a strange planet full of people who were entirely different from those I thought I knew.
Some books bring me such a sense of actually being in the setting among the characters that a return to the mundanity of life is almost painful, returning to earth from a fantasy trip and being forced to pick up my bookmark to mark my place and go back to work or to whatever task faces me. I was like that as a child, always lost in the world of a book, reluctant to face the monotony of long division or algebra.
James Lee Burke’s Louisiana mysteries bring me into the oppressive heat of New Orleans; Tony Hillerman’s description of the Navajo world makes it come alive; I don’t remember the settings of Agatha Christies’ book because I was always too immersed in the puzzle; but Ellis Peters’ medieval tales evoked the monastic setting and the period; and Elizabeth George created a fascinating English world including an entire Oxford college in one of her mysteries.
Recently I visited my friend in Florida where I have set my two mysteries: A REASON TO KILL and SO MANY REASONS TO DIE. We made a trip to Vero Beach, a city north of where my friend lives and where I had never been. It’s quite a well-to-do area, and I immediately began to set some scenes from the book I’m currently working on in that town: more expensive than Burgess Beach where Andi and Greg, my two detectives live and work, with houses set both on the Indian River and on an island facing the Atlantic Ocean. I find myself absorbing details of new places, trying to remember my feelings when I’m there, in an attempt to recreate new settings in my writing.
Do you enjoy new settings in your reading or writing? I’d love to hear about books that evoked memories from you or made you want to travel there.