MysteryPeople Q&A with Liv Hadden

Liv Hadden’s book The Adventures of Juice Box and Shame has the style and propulsion of a single issue comic book. Juice Box is a crazy kid whose only friend, the brooding mysterious Shane, has a past that runs them afoul of the Baltimore mob with only Juice Box’s gangster cousin, a female posing as a male, to ask for help. To say any more might ruin some wild surprises.

Liv will be at BookPeople tomorrow, August 8th, at 7 PM, along with Juice Box and Shames’ illustrator (and local tattoo artist) Mo Malone. Hadden was kind enough to answer some questions from us ahead of her event.

MysteryPeople Scott: How did the idea for Juice Box and Shame come about?

Liv Hadden: I was reading a Deadpool comic before bed one night. When I woke up the next morning, I had this vision of Juice Box and Shame (characters from my first novel, In the Mind of Revenge) on the cover of a comic book called The Adventures of Juice Box and Shame. The title is actually a sarcastic thought Shame has in the first book. I was so excited about the idea, I knew I had to make it real.

MPS: Was there any approach to Juice Box’s voice?

LH: I wanted him to contrast Shame in a lot of ways: optimistic, naive, wants to fit in versus cynical, broody, rebels against societal norms. Juice Box also lives a very sheltered life, so he has a level of immaturity I needed to capture. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Thurman Merman from Bad Santa – kind of cute, definitely blind to the main character’s dark side, a bit annoying, but has a heart of gold. Given his interest in becoming a rap musician, I tried to use some of the vernacular we hear in music today. To be completely transparent, I pulled a lot from how I remember my fraternity friends speaking in college. You know, suburban kids throwing around YOLO like a personal mantra – that kind of thing.

MPS: How did Mo Malone get involved as an illustrator?

LH: Mo also happens to be a fantastic tattoo artist. I met her four years ago when I wanted to do a cover up of a piece on my ribs. I loved her and her work so much, I had her cover my entire back. As you can imagine, we spent a lot of time together, so she learned about my writing and I about her art. She mentioned a couple times how she would love to start illustrating books. When I got this idea, I immediately called her. Lucky for me, she said yes!

MPS: While the story is prose it seems to draw from music, movies, and comic books. Where there any specific influences you had while working on it?

LH: I’m influenced by so many different kinds of creativity, it was easy for me to channel some of the things I enjoy into Juice Box’s character. Since a Deadpool comic is what inspired the idea, both the movie and comics played a huge part in the style of the artwork and the informal narrative voice. I’m also a huge J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar fan; even though Juice Box is a poser himself, he would idolize musicians worth their weight; so in my mind, if he were living today, those would be two of his favorites as well. I also referenced Jeff Chang and his dynamic with his father from the movie 21 & Over. When I picture Juice Box, he looks just like Justin Chon, the actor who plays Jeff Chang.

MPS: What appealed to you about using crime fiction to move the story?

LH: Some of my all-time favorite childhood memories were binge watching episodes of Law & Order with my mom. There were so many moments I can remember feeling so absorbed in the storylines, I was experiencing real emotions about all these fake people. To me, that’s what storytelling is all about. I’ve found that crime, mysteries, thrillers, and adventure stories always appeal to me. I love wondering what’s going to happen next, and I especially love a compelling villain. Even better, a story where I’m not so sure who the villain actually is – something that questions the validity of the good versus evil concept. Crime fiction provides so many opportunities to show it’s really all about perspective.

Liv Hadden comes to BookPeople to speak and sign her second novel to feature the character Juicebox, The Adventures of Juicebox and Shame, on Tuesday, August 8th, at 7 PM. You can find copies on our shelves or via bookpeople.com

 

MysteryPeople Q&A with Danya Kukafka

Danya Kukafka’s Girl In Snow is an impressive debut, especially when you consider she was only 19 when she began the novel while at NYU and 24 when she finished it.The thriller, set in a small suburb of Broomsville, Colorado, begins with the discovery of the dead body of Lucinda Hayes, a popular high school freshman.

Suspicion immediately falls on Cameron, a boy known to be fascinated by her and to follow her around. Cameron also has erratic behavior and sometimes can’t remember important details. We all know Cameron can’t have done it because it’d just be too predictable…. But who did?

The book shifts from the perspective of Cameron to Jade, who went to school with Cameron and Lucinda and may know secrets about both folks, and Russ, a police officer who had a close relationship with his former partner, Cameron’s father. Cameron’s dad left the police, his family and the town during some suspicious circumstances, which may tie in to the town’s recent murder…

  • Interview by MysteryPeople Contributor Scott Butki

Scott Butki: How did you come up with this story?

Danya Kukafka: This book began with the idea for Cameron’s character. I had just read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and also The Virgin Suicides, and I took so much from these books about tone and perspective. I started to wonder—what happens if you have a young boy who truly does not know if he has killed someone? Can you find it in yourself to love him anyway?

SB: Why did you want to, to quote the back of your book, “investigate the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory”?

DK: This is such an interesting topic for me—love vs. obsession. Especially in adolescent lives, the line between the two can become blurry, even dangerous. At that age, we feel so much, and in some sense we’re unable to distinguish what is true and what is not when it comes to our feelings, romantic and otherwise. It’s so volatile!

SB: What do you say to those marveling at such a mature novel written by a 24-year-old? And that you began it while just 19?

DK: Oh, people have been very kind about this. Some assume that I got lucky on my first try—which isn’t quite true. I wrote a young adult novel before Girl in Snow that was rejected by dozens of literary agents. So I am always very grateful. 

SB: How did you go about researching this book?

DK: At first I didn’t research it, which was a terrible idea. My editor’s initial notes sort of said, “I don’t think this is how police systems work. Have you talked to any officers?” And I hadn’t! So I did the research far too late— I spoke with police officers from my hometown in Colorado about procedure and ways to get around it—then I had to go back in and rewrite all those details. I did do some research on childhood psychopathy, though, and mental disorders that people can mistake for psychopathy.

SB: What character do you most identify with and how? 

DK: I probably identify most honestly with Jade, and her specific brand of teenage angst. I went through a phase in middle school where I wore fishnet sleeves and begged my parents for a skateboard and listened to a lot of Green Day. It was really fun to pull some of Jade’s character traits from this time in my life.

SB: In this book are you trying to say something about perceptions?

DK: I am— what we see is not necessarily true, especially now that social media exists. I set the book specifically in 2005, when perceptions in a small community were still based on what you physically saw about other people, in your world, every day. And even then, there is so much we can never know about the inner lives of the people around us. 

SB: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

DK: There are varying levels of good and of evil, and nothing is black and white. None of us are “normal.” And— even once we understand that we’ll never know how it feels to be someone else—  human connections still matter.

SB: To readers hearing about this book the topics may sound dark, deterring some. What would you say to readers wondering just how dark this may get?

DK: It gets pretty dark, yes, but not devastatingly so. It’s not gratuitous. I like to think I’ve been kind to all of my characters!

SB: What do you wish interviewers would ask you? Here’s your chance to ask and answer it.

DK: No one has asked yet about my immigrant characters, Ivan and Ines— I wanted to talk frankly about power, about race and social status, especially from what I observed growing up as part of a small majority-white community in the suburban Mid-west. It certainly was not easy to write about, but I tried to do so carefully because I wanted to recognize that privilege can make you blind to a certain type of domestic atrocity (as seen in the imbalanced relationship Russ and Ines have). I wanted to give Ivan and Ines power, and also to acknowledge how much harder it is for them to gain it. 

SB: What’s next for you?

DK: Another novel! Eventually.

Check out Scott Butki’s bloghttp://thinkingandtalkingandacting.blogspot.com/2015/11/an-index-of-my-interviews-with-authors.html  for more interviews with great mystery writers. 

You can find copies of Girl in Snow on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

MysteryPeople Double Feature: LA CONFIDENTIAL

All summer long, MysteryPeople has been partnering with the Authors and Auteurs book club for ‘Return to Normal,’ a film series highlighting 50s noir in fiction and cinema. Come by the store Sunday, August 6th, at 2 PM for a free screening of L.A. Confidential, followed by discussion of this essential work. 

  • Review by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

MysteryPeople’s summer collaboration with the Authors and Auteurs book club ends with a screening and discussion of one of the most ambitious crime film adaptations. L.A. Confidential, James Ellroy’s sprawling, dark, hyper-violent novel presents a challenge for any filmmaker to adapt – the work is over 500 pages long with three main protagonists, and several intricate plots. The result is more about capturing tone and theme than plot.

The novel concerns itself with three cops, milquetoast political climber Ed Exley, brutish Bud White, and celebrity hanger-on Jack Vincennes, in Fifties Los Angeles, chasing leads in their individual investigations (each tied to a mass shooting at a coffee shop) as well as their own demons, and serves as the third book in Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet. The heroin providing the McGuffin first appeared in the previous novel, The Big Nowhere.

L.A. Confidential uses the booming Los Angeles of the fifties, organized crime, and the picture business to look at America’s ‘bread and circuses’ culture; a triumvirate of distractions serving the powers that be as diversions from their own corruption. Ellroy also uses his setting to explore the dark side of male identity as each man is led through hell before he has a chance for his own dark redemption. All themes are portrayed vividly as Exley closes in on a serial murderer.

The story of the killer and many other parts of the novel did not make it on screen in the cinematic adaptation. Ed’s father, who figures prominently in the book, is dead in the film version (although one could argue he plays an important role in the film). Hanson and Hengeland quickly came to the decision that to get the story into a workable script, any plot that doesn’t concern all three main characters needed to be excised. The result is a much more streamlined tale that still remains intricate, creating more of a bond between the three cops, even though, as in the book, they don’t initially care for one another.

Hanson uses both cast and crew to bring out the book’s tone. All three actors, Guy Pearce (Ed Exley), Kevin Spacey (Jack Vincennes), and Russell Crowe in his star making turn as Bud White all convey different forms of male swagger and posturing, with the self-loathing it hides peeking out. Cinematographer Dante Spinotti balances both the Hollywood glitz and the mundane sleaze it covers.

L.A. Confidential shows you don’t have to be true to every plot point of a book to truly capture it. The film may not be able to delve as deep as the novel, yet it manages to hold onto the book’s dark themes. Both have found a way to be the first great epic noirs of their medium.

You can find copies of LA Confidential on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Come by this Sunday, August 6th, at 2 PM for a screening and discussion of LA Confidential, presented by MysteryPeople and the Authors and Auteurs Book Club. The screening is free and open to the public and takes place on BookPeople’s third floor. 

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: THE SORBONNE AFFAIR by Mark Pryor

Mark Pryor’s latest Hugo Marston novel is our Pick of the Month for August! The Sorbonne Affair comes out Tuesday, August 22nd. Mark Pryor joins us to speak and sign his latest on Saturday, August 26th at 6 PM – he’ll be joined by fellow crime writers James W. Ziskin and Traci Lambrecht (of the writing duo PJ Tracy).

  • Review by MysteryPeople Blogger Meike Alana

9781633882614Mark Pryor is a perennial favorite here at MysteryPeople.  His Hugo Marston series has just enough danger and grit for noir-lover Scott, a sufficient level of international intrigue for world traveler Molly, and a cast of well-developed realistic characters for Meike (the dominatrix who gets Hugo into a pair of leather chaps is a personal fave– but I digress).  The BookPeople marketing staff witnessed quite the wrestling match when an advance reader copy of Pryor’s latest, The Sorbonne Affair, landed in the office; through sheer will Meike came up the victor (and you’re welcome for that visual).

Pryor’s Paris-based novels feature Hugo Marston, head of security for the US Embassy in Paris; the former FBI profiler’s best friend Tom is his partner in crime and the solving thereof.  In The Sorbonne Affair Hugo comes to the aid of well-known American romance author Helen Hancock, who has discovered a hidden camera in her room at Paris’ Sorbonne Hotel.  What begins as a surveillance affair almost immediately explodes into a murder investigation when the hotel employee believed to have been responsible for hiding the camera is found brutally murdered.  Soon a racy video featuring the author in a state of undress, clasping the equally unclothed body of one of her students, spreads like wildfire across the internet.  Hugo teams up with Lieutenant Camille Lerens to unmask the killer before he can strike again, but secrets run deep at the hotel and Hugo seems to hit one dead end after another.  At the same time Hugo must deal with a shadow from his past that could threaten his contented life in Paris.

Pryor is a fantastic storyteller and there is much to love about The Sorbonne Affair.  The complex plot is deftly woven and unspools at a perfectly measured pace; the unique characters are well-drawn and satisfyingly complex.  While this is not a light-hearted cozy romp through Paris, Pryor does weave bits of humor throughout his novels; bibliophiles will particularly enjoy Hugo’s incredulity at the width and breadth of romance author Hancock’s following–it seems even Hugo’s boss is a fan!  (Side note: The hardcore mystery fan looking for some great recommendations should pay attention to mentions of Hugo’s night-time reading.)    Finally, Pryor’s deep and abiding love for Paris shines through in his descriptions of the city and its denizens, and a croissant with café au lait (or perhaps a wedge of brie and red wine) would be the ideal accompaniment to this latest installment in the series.

Mark Pryor is a British-American prosecutor who works as an Assistant District Attorney in BookPeople’s hometown of Austin, Texas.  In addition to his six previous Hugo Marston novels, he is the author of the thriller The Hollow Man, the first in a new series. (The novel’s protagonist is a British Assistant District Attorney in Austin who is also a psychopath and goes on a killing spree.  Pryor assures us repeatedly that the character is “completely fictional.”) Keep an eye out in January for the sequel, Dominic: A Hollow Man Novel, which promises to be just as creepy as the first! 

The Sorbonne Affair comes out Tuesday, August 22nd – pre-order now! Mark Pryor joins us to speak and sign his latest on Saturday, August 26th at 6 PM – he’ll be joined by fellow crime writers James W. Ziskin and Traci Lambrecht (of the writing duo PJ Tracy).

MysteryPeople Q&A with Reavis Z. Wortham

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

For the last last several years, Reavis Wortham has been delivering tales of the men and women who uphold the law in 1960’s Central Springs Texas. Hawke’s Prey, his first thriller to feature contemporary Texas Ranger Sonny Hawke, reads like a cross between The Last Picture Show and Die Hard. Reavis will be joining us this Tuesday, August 1st at 7 PM here at BookPeople. We caught up ahead of time to talk about the new book and the different tract he took in writing.

MysteryPeople Scott: You said with Hawke’s Prey you were asked to write a thriller, something you hadn’t done before. How did you take on the challenge?

Reavis Wortham: It was my agent’s idea, along with a strong suggestion from my friend and mentor, John Gilstrap. My next step after getting the first book published, getting a series, gaining positive reviews, traveling with writers, and winning an award or two, is to now hit the bestseller lists. It’s harder than you think, and both Ann and John said the best way was through thrillers. John says the Red River books are borderline thrillers anyway. Historical mystery thrillers. Thought the Red River books are well-received, and Unraveled, the newest RR novel, is up for an award this summer, the publisher simply isn’t big enough to put me in the running with the big dogs.

I like thrillers, too. Writing mysteries was an accident, and though I love them, I want action, but writing them is dramatically different from the RR books. My historical mystery thrillers move much slower than a thriller, and the setup is paced much differently than today’s thrillers. When I wrote the first draft of Hawke’s Prey and sent it to John as my Beta Reader, he came back with one dramatic suggestion.

“Cut the first four chapters. Your thriller begins in Chapter 5.”

He was right. Chapter 5 is now Chapter 1, and all that setup and information is now scattered throughout Hawke’s Prey. Then there’s the pacing. Thrillers have to maintain a fast pace, all the time building up pressure toward the end. It took a couple of months to get that idea into my head, but after it locked in this first novel in the Sonny Hawke thriller series is a rollercoaster ride to the end.

MPS: Since Hawke’s Prey moves at a faster pace than most of the books in your Red River series, did the tempo effect the story telling at all?

RW: The tempo of this thriller didn’t change things at all in terms of the story arc, but it didn’t lend itself to those lazy curves where the Red River books slow down. In those you see the slower pace of life in small town northeast Texas, and the humor comes in the form of stories or anecdotes. In Hawke’s Prey, the humor is there, but in a completely different form one of frustration, fear, and in the way we think.

We’ve all been involved in situations where we either couldn’t think of what to say at that critical moment, but after the event is over and we turn it over in our minds, the perfect sentence, comeback or word pops up. Sonny Hawke doesn’t have a lot of time for has a lot of time for conversation, so we see his actions and are privy to the thoughts that go through his mind. That’s where you see who he is and what this Texas Ranger is made of.

MPS: One thing of your previous work that carried over into this and made it fresher was the ensemble feeling and your cast of characters. Sonny is the hero, but others do heroic things and we see them from their point of view. How does having these other strong characters help you tell the story you want?

RW: You’ll be glad to know there’s an ensemble cast in these thrillers as well. Of course my fictional Texas Ranger is Sonny Hawke, but he’s married to Kelly, a school teacher who shows her strength when her class is taken hostage by terrorists in the county courthouse. Herman’s dad, a retired Texas Ranger is the family touchstone who, along with his hired ranch hand Gabe Nakai, help coordinate Sheriff Ethan Hawke’s plan to rescue the hostages. Then you have Sonny’s high school twins, Mary and Jerry, the half-cocked ranching Mayo Brothers, and a dozen of the town’s quirky characters.

This series contains the same DNA as the Red River books, only on steroids.

MPS: Was there a particular reason you chose a Texas Ranger as your series character?

RW: That was nothing but a thought that popped into my head in the heat of desperation. I was on the phone to my agent, pitching a series idea that I loved, and so did Craig Johnson, John Gilstrap, and half a dozen other authors who heard it one snowy night in a Colorado Springs Hotel. They pronounced it brilliant, but my agent had reservations about the subject matter at the time. So I pitched her a second idea, which she shot down like a clay pigeon. My third suggestion didn’t far any better, and I was out of time on that conference call.

Grabbing at straws by then, because I sure didn’t have a third idea in mind, I glanced down to the cover of a book I was reading titled, One Ranger. “How about a contemporary series featuring a Texas Ranger?”

“What part of the state? We don’t need another series set in east Texas.”

I was in my office and we’d been planning a trip to the Big Bend region. The map was open on my desk. “How about west Texas…in Marfa.”

Though Ann is in New York City, she’s spent time in Texas. “I love it! That’s your series! Keep going. What happens there?”

“Well, it sure won’t be about the Marfa lights. How about the snowstorm of the century shutting the town completely down? I’ll rename it, and have terrorists take over the county courthouse at the same time.”

And a series was born.

MPS: Like Larry McMurtry and Elmer Kelton, I think we would know we were in Texas even if you never stated it. What does the state provide for your writing?

RW: For a fourth-generation Texan, it’s everything I need. This first Sonny Hawke, and the next, are set in the Big Bend region of Texas, the last frontier in the Lone Star State. It’s still pretty western out there, but after Hawke’s War (2018), my Texas Ranger will move across the state dispensing the old-fashioned justice that people are longing for. The bad guys go down so they can no longer hurt or kill any longer.

I hope this new contemporary series shows the true spirit of Texas and Texans. We live in a state with sweeping landscapes, five geographical regions, mountains, prairies, deep canyons, beautiful rolling hills, and 367 miles of coastline. It’s rich in history and opportunities for my Texas Ranger to range, as Mr. McMurtry said in his Lonesome Dove saga.

You can find copies of Hawke’s Prey on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Reavis Z. Wortham joins us to speak and sign his latest this upcoming Tuesday, August 1st, at 7 PM. 

 

MysteryPeople Recommends: Sizzling Summer Reads

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

Summer never ends here in Austin, TX, so as the temperatures refuse to cool down, and tempers heat up, consider the following reads to purge yourself of all those summer irritations. We’ve reviewed a host of thrillers already this summer, so if you enjoy the following recommendations, check out our reviews for Meg Gardiner’s UNSUB and Jeff Abbott’s Blame for more poolside gems. 

97812501136961He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

In the lead-up to the August 21st eclipse, eclipse-chasers can get their fix from He Said/She Said, set during a series of eclipses, with truths obscured, then slowly revealed, in perfect keeping with the setting.  This tale of unreliable narrators will keep you guessing till the very end. Kelly has created complex characters, brought together by their mutual presence in the face of a horrific, yet too-common crime, and then pushed apart by their all-too-human reactions to what they have experienced. You can find copies of He Said/She Said on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

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Man on the Run: MysteryPeople Q&A with Rob Hart

 

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

The Woman From PragueRob Hart’s latest novel to feature series character Ash Mckenna, has the unlicensed PI in the middle of a Eastern European spy tale when he is coerced by a mystery man (claiming to be a government agent) into intercepting the hand-off of a thumb drive. When the plan backfires, Ash finds himself on the run with Sam, his target, and the eponymous woman from Prague. The book is a slam bang action store with the same hard boiled heart we’ve come to expect from the series.

We’re happy to bring you this Q&A with Rob the day before he joins Bill Loehfelm and Jordan Harper at BookPeople for our New Voices In Noir discussion. Join us for one of the year’s most intriguing panels, this Wednesday, July 26th at 7 PM

MysteryPeople Scott: What made Prague your choice of setting for Ash’s latest?

Rob Hart: I visited Prague a few years ago and was just completely infatuated. I knew right off I wanted to set a book there. And by the fourth book in the series I was feeling like it was time to put Ash in a situation where he was thousands of miles from home, completely unfamiliar with everything around him, and totally outmatched. Ash thinks he’s pretty tough, and it was time to dissuade him of that notion.

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