Folks, it’s my joy to have Ross Klavan on the blog today. We chat about first reading experiences, the importance of page numbers, being a news editor in NYC, and plenty more! Also, don’t miss the GIVEAWAY at the end of the post.
What’s the most interesting gross fact you know?
I like this question about a “gross fact.” This sort of qualifies—did you know, and I’ve read this somewhere, that it took 50 years after the invention of the printing press before people figured out that they should number pages? So for a half century, anything that was printed didn’t have numbered pages. I think this says something interesting about humanity, although I’m not sure what, and it also makes me think that many ancient books may have come down to us out of order.
How does modern pop culture influence your work? Do modern cultural references date a piece or add touchstones for the reader?
Modern pop references can either date a piece or, when read years later, make it seem like a very accurate historical novel. So it depends. The real problem with modern pop culture is that it makes certain things too easy…what would have been an interesting problem for your main character is now solved by the Internet or the smart phone. And characters who drink or smoke or fight—a staple in classic noir—are now read through the gauze of a therapeutic lens, as people who need help. That can make things difficult.
Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?
If you’re talking about lengthy travel, “cussing” as you say, or bathroom breaks, then reality is a touchstone in fiction. You need it to help create the fictional world that you and the reader are going to drop into and get lost in. It has to serve the story. And most fiction that’s worth reading gets into a kind of emotional or psychic reality…and you can do that without too much slogging through what’s laughingly called “the real world.”
What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?
I’m glad you asked about “difficult jobs” because I was just thinking about them. When I was 17, I took one of those jobs that really came from reading too much Hemingway and Kerouac and Robert Stone, among others. I worked full time in a rock yard, loading and unloading freight cars. Driving a forklift. Throwing around sandbags and hunks of stone. It was a very tough way to earn very little money. A few years later and under the same nefarious influences, I drove a cab for a while in NYC which in those days was a good way to get badly hurt. But weirdly, just as bad? I was a news reporter for a long time in NYC in newspapers and radio and at one point they made me a news editor. This was for a big, 24-hour, all-news station. I went to sleep, went to work and woke up obsessively worrying that there’d be a plane crash because that was one of the worst stories to cover and organize. Some editors cracked up. Honestly. Eventually, I threatened to quit and made them send me back out on the street to cover stories. Even hanging around murder scenes at 3 a.m. was better.
Who are your non-writer influences?
Non-writing influences are very important. My wife, Mary Jones, is an abstract painter and also teaches painting at the Rhode Island School of Design and School of Visual Arts in New York. She’s taught me a lot about composition that works for writing as well as drawing. Other painters like Mark Tansey and Philip Guston. Lots of film influences, maybe too many to name—but I think film and film structure are some of the most important influences on writing and have been for a while, the way that theater was an influence in the 19th Century. I’ve been involved in some theater—strange guys like Jerzy Grotowski and Philippe Gaulier, a great teacher of classic clowning, can help keep writing from being too much in the head. The way the mind works in psychoanalysis or meditation. And I like to talk to people in bars and get their story. I think if you’re smart, you let everything be an influence, you can’t help it.
My writer’s den is a complete mess. Papers and books everywhere, unpaid bills, notes about things I’m working on, business cards, places to make sudden notes, strange souvenirs like a pen from Umberto’s Clam House where Crazy Joe Gallo was gunned down to photos of clowns, the Little Rascals, binoculars to stare into other apartments, CD’s of music and copies of my own stuff like “Triple Shot,” my novel “Schmuck” and my films, like Tigerland. I keep my own stuff nearby for those times when I sit down to work and all I can think of is, “Oh, yeah, how do you do this again?” But also, I can write just about anywhere. I think that’s one of the few gifts from coming off the world of the news desk and not graduate school.
What do you do when you are not writing?
When not writing? I obsessively read and see movies and go to see art or hang with friends. But writing takes way too much sitting (or standing) so I also obsessively do a very intense form of yoga every day and some Tai Chi. I used to do a little of the harder martial arts but after being continually beaten up in sparring, to the point where my ribs hurt when I sat down at the keyboard, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor.
What is the first book you remember reading on your own?
The first adult book I read on my own was “Guadalcanal Diary,” by Richard Tregaskis, which had just been republished. I was probably around 10. It’s about a major battle in the Pacific Theater during World War Two and when I grew up, all of our father’s had been in the war, everyone, it was sort of in the air, second nature, not quite like war is today. But I remember thinking…Wow, if they write about this, what else might they write about? And not long after that, I found my parents’ copy of “Lady Chatterly’s Lover.” Read the good parts and thought the same thing.
You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?
When I was in the Army we ran obstacle courses until we thought we’d drop and as our place in line came up front and our turn to run came around, guys would sneak to the back of the line so they didn’t have go another time. So I’d choose someone who could carry me. Maybe someone who can fly. Like Superwoman. Or that woman with the dragons from Game of Thrones. And you bet we’d hit the bar afterwards, if she’d be seen with me.
Where to Find Ross Klavan
ROSS KLAVAN’s novel, Schmuck, was published by Greenpoint Press in 2014. He recently finished the screenplay for The Colony based on the book by John Bowers. Nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, his original screenplay, Tigerland, was directed by Joel Schumacher and starred Colin Farrell. He has written screenplays for InterMedia, Walden Media, Miramax, Paramount, A&E and TNT. As a performer, Klavan’s voice has been heard in dozens of feature films including Revolutionary Road, Sometimes in April, Casino, In and Out, and You Can Count On Me as well as in numerous TV and radio commercials. In other lives, he was a member of the NYC alternative art group Four Walls and was a reporter covering New York City and London, England.
Payback leads to an unmarked grave in Ross Klavan’s Thump Gun Hitched. A freak accident forces two L.A. cops to play out a deadly obsession that takes them from back alley payoffs to hard time in prison, then deep into the tunnel networks south of the border to a murderous town that’s only rumored to exist. Before the last shot is fired, everything they thought was certain proves to be a shadow and everything they trusted opens into a trap.
Life was so much simpler for Tim O’Mara’s marijuana-selling narrator in Smoked when all he had to worry about was keeping his customers, ex-wife, and daughter satisfied. When he forges a reluctant alliance with his ex-wife’s new lover, he realizes there’s lots of money to be made from the world’s number one smuggled legal product—cigarettes. Unfortunately, his latest shipment contained some illegal automatic weapons. Now he’s playing with the big boys and finds the price of the game way over his head. Murder was never part of his business model.
And finally in Twist of Fate, Charles Salzberg follows Trish Sullivan, an ambitious TV reporter working in a small, upstate New York market. She receives a note from Meg Montgomery, a beautiful young woman convicted of murdering her husband and two children. Montgomery claims she’s innocent and Sullivan, smelling a big story that may garner some national attention, investigates and turns up evidence that the woman has, indeed, been framed. What happens next changes the life of both women in unexpected ways.
Get your copy today!
The publisher, Down & Out Books, and JKS Communications are offering up 1 paperbook copy of Triple Shot to one USA winner. To enter, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) Do you have a USA mailing address? 2) What’s has been your most difficult job? Giveaway ends September 22, 2016, midnight.