Q&A with Charlie Newton, 2009 Edgar nominee
Published: April 22, 2009
|Nominated for Best First Novel by an American Author for: |
What's your book about? Charlie Newton
I subscribe to Chris Vogler's concept of a twenty-five-word pitch, distilled to one sentence, then one word. Calumet City is about self. To quote protagonist Patti Black, "Building a patchwork person out of the wreckage." The action or thriller construction is violently in your face for 400 pages, but I see it as background.
How long did it take you to write it?
Eleven months total, 8.5 to write; 2.5 to edit(s). One year to sell; two years to publish.
|What was the most challenging part? |
I lean heavily toward character and believe the maxim: "that plot destroys character." Consequently, I struggle with plot. Worse, I get bored going from A to B, so my plots are always over-complicated. And when written in first person/present, full of street-world duplicity, the plots are extremely difficult to keep clear and easily in the reader's RAM memory. Some have suggested I might benefit from therapy.
|How did you create the main character in your book? |
Police officer Patti Black's ex-boss TAC lieutenant Denny Banahan introduced us. Denny is street legend in Chicago and said Patti Black was the best cop ever to work for him—man, woman, top to bottom. His comments were beyond odd as Denny's not a big fan of the female police. At my first meeting with Patti I was stunned by her lack of damage, seventeen years of ghetto poison and she had none of the marks all ghetto cops have. While we talked, she never stopped working, but she wasn't angry. She was dead cynical, but believed she could still win one now and then for the people in her district. She had these brilliant blue eyes and that movie-star kind of light, but in a tough, Southside girl kind of way. Something I'd never seen before. Her "true" story scares you to death and makes you believe in angels.
What's your advice for beginning writers?
Don't know that I'm qualified to give advice when I'm sober, but here goes: It's not b***s*** when they tell you, "Don't do this unless you have to." Writing full time I've published one book in ten years. One book. My road has been the typical disaster—ridiculous expectations, twenty thousand hours of typing, psychiatric sessions with friends, industry rejection on the odd day you got anyone's attention, credit card companies that don't understand the Mamas and Papas did it this way. Learn? Worst—that I'd been a villain with great powers of rationalization. Quite a shock. Best—that God does in fact occasionally protect the bridge jumpers.
So, my advice is: Unless you're deranged or can love the process as opposed to the outcome, author-dom is best left to those on the Peter Pan Scholarship, or those buried in karma-debt. As I told an interviewer once, I want to live long enough to publish the third book in this trilogy. Hopefully by then the devil will be dead and I'll have nothing left to worry about.
Must-read mysteries? Depends on whether it's for textbooks or entertainment. The authors who hooked me were: Raymond Chandler (shock), P.J. O'Rourke, and Hunter Thompson: Chandler for his language; O'Rourke for his construction, and Thompson for his freedom. To date I think I've given away fifty copies of Fear And Loathing. Years later I stumbled across Thomas Harris and his stunning simplicity, then Pete Dexter and his stunning everything.
For more information about Charlie Newton, visit www.charlienewton.com.
For more information about the Edgar® Awards, see www.theedgars.com.