Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Authorsday: Douglas Corleone

1. Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?

Both. When I set out to write a novel, the idea is to create a full-length outline that covers every scene, beginning to end. But it never quite works out that way. Usually I’ll have a beginning and end in mind, but the middle always turns out to be an adventure. Outlining is a fine strategy, so long as the outline isn’t too rigid. But I do love the process of discovery. Events occur to me while writing that I never would have thought of had I worked from a stepsheet. Writing by the seat of your pants can be anxiety-inducing, but ultimately, so long as the writer remains in control of his work, it can produce an amazing story.

2. What drew you to the subject of NIGHT OF FIRE?

Ever since seeing Backdraft, I’ve been fascinated with arson investigation, and I wanted to learn more about the process of determining point of origin, discovering what accelerants were used, how investigators go about identifying a suspect. Research for a novel is a great joy for me. Writing is one of the few professions in which you get the chance to learn about and become expert in such a wide variety of subjects. In the past few years, I’ve researched everything from George Mallory’s attempted ascents of Everest to the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, and I feel richer for the experiences.

3. What do you know now that you are published that you didn’t know pre-published that you wish you knew?

I wish I knew that publication was just the beginning of the struggle. Many aspiring novelists believe that publication is the ultimate objective and are shocked to learn that the largest challenges are faced after your book hits store shelves. The novelist today is expected to do the lion’s share of promoting, which includes setting up virtual tours and book signings, making radio and library appearances, investing in bookmarks, postcards, and print ads. Promotion is expensive and time-consuming. Just when the writer expects to be working on his next book, he finds himself doing everything but.

4. What do you consider your strengths in terms of your writing?

I consider dialogue to be my greatest strength. I attribute that to devouring the novels of Elmore Leonard. I love to read quick, snappy dialogue, and I feel most confident when I’m writing it. Another of my strengths, I think, is creating exciting courtroom scenes. To be honest, I don’t know whether I can attribute that to my experience as a criminal defense attorney, or to my reading the legal thrillers of John Grisham, Scott Turow, and Steve Martini. Probably the latter.

5. What authors do you admire?

Of course, I admire the legal thriller writers mentioned above. But the writers who really inspired me to take up novel writing were a much different breed. I count among my greatest influences authors such as Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson. I think it shows in my work. I try to inject a good deal of humor, some of it rather edgy, and my characters are typically very flawed. My protagonist Kevin Corvelli and others suffer real-world problems such as addictions and alcoholism, deep-seated commitment issues, and a maelstrom of internal conflict concerning what’s right and wrong. I think that’s what most sets my novels apart from typical legal thrillers.

6. What place that you haven’t visited would you like to go?
Living in Hawaii, I’m exposed to a good deal of Japanese culture, and I’d love to visit Japan someday soon. One of my favorite movies is Lost in Translation with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Although the film leaves me a bit melancholy, it doesn’t seem like a terrible way to experience Tokyo for the first time.

7. What other time period besides your own would you like to experience?
I’d have to say the ‘60s. The Civil Rights movement, the moon landing, Woodstock and everything that came with it. I think I would have fit right in.

8. What do you do when you are not writing?
I spend as much time as possible in the ocean. When I’m on dry land, I’m usually reading or having a drink with friends. I enjoy movies, of course. And my toddler son Jack keeps me busy, and I love every second I spend with him. It’s one of the tremendous benefits of working from home, being able to watch your children grow up every hour of every day.

9. Who is your favorite character in your book?
My favorite character is the protagonist Kevin Corvelli, a hotshot criminal defense attorney who moved from New York City to Honolulu to evade the spotlight, only to find himself right back in it with every big case he takes on. Kevin’s the narrator of the stories, and he’s truthful, almost to a fault. Hero or anti-hero, love him or hate him, most readers will form a definite opinion of Kevin Corvelli, and I think they’ll be richer for having been introduced to him.

10. What was your favorite scene to write?
My favorite scene to write in NIGHT ON FIRE was the scene in which Kevin Corvelli wakes to find himself trapped in a hotel room while a deadly fire rages outside his door. The tension in that scene, I hope, will grab readers as it did me. Even now when I read that chapter, it fills me with a sense of dread.

Author Bio
DOUGLAS CORLEONE is the author of the Kevin Corvelli mystery series published by St. Martin’s Minotaur. His debut novel ONE MAN’S PARADISE won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. A former New York City criminal defense attorney, Douglas Corleone now resides in the Hawaiian Islands where he writes full time. His second novel NIGHT ON FIRE will be released on April 26, 2011.

Book Blurb 
Kevin Corvelli---a hotshot New York defense attorney who packed up his bags and hung his shingle in Hawaii to dodge the spotlight---is deep in his mai tais at a resort when an argument erupts down at the other end of the bar. It’s a pair of newlyweds, married that very day on the beach. And since Corvelli doesn’t do divorces, he all but dismisses the argument.

That’s at least until the fire breaks out later that night, and he barely escapes his hotel room. Most weren’t so lucky, including the new husband. His wife, Erin, becomes not only the police’s prime suspect for arson and murder but also Corvelli’s newest client, and she has a lot working against her, like motive and opportunity, not to mention a history of starting fires.

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