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.