Sunday, December 10, 2006
S.J. Rozan: So this is it? I'm here?
Gerald So: Yes.
S.J. Rozan: I feel very William Gibson. Hi, Beeg!
B.G. Ritts: Hi SJ and Gerald
Gerald So: Any questions for SJ, Beeg?
S.J. Rozan: Hey, I'll talk to you two any time!
B.G. Ritts: I'll think of some soon...
Gerald So: How did Bill Smith and Lydia Chin come about? What were some of your influences as a reader and a writer?
S.J. Rozan: Oh boy.
Gerald So: Relax. It's just us. :)
S.J. Rozan: Okay, the first: Bill Smith was that ironic, world-weary voice-over of the American PI. It's a voice I like because it can tell stories of power and its corrupting influence. Lydia came about as a foil to Bill. She needed to be everything he wasn't. And you want to know how come she's Chinese, huh? Because I've always been interested in Chinese culture, and especially Chinese American culture. So I thought, since I wanted her to be from a different ethnic group from BIll, that that might be one I could handle.
B.G. Ritts: Has your writing haiku helped you with your writing?
S.J. Rozan: Now: Influences. Hmm. I read everything I got my hands on as a kid. Hard to say about the haiku. I'm not sure it's helped my writing but it's helped focus my thinking, and that's no doubt helped my writing.
Gerald So: What's your process like? Do you outline your books?
S.J. Rozan: I never outline. I have no idea what my characters are capable of or likely to do until they start doing things. So I can't outline or my characters would all be cardboard. What I start with is a "theme" -- unconditional love, absolution, some large emotion and an idea about setting: the fashion trade, Hong Kong. Then I just go.
Gerald So: Ah, I see. They seem really well structured. I would have guessed outline.
S.J. Rozan: Thanks! I'm not so sure they're as much structured as, well, complicated. But I do go back and change earlier things as I'm going along and later things come to me which demand those changes. It's a nerve-wracking way to work, but I can't do it any other way.
B.G. Ritts: Do you collect themes and settings or just create a set when a new book is to start?
S.J. Rozan: As I'm about half-way through whatever I'm working on, I expect the new book to begin to take shape in my head. Only to the extent that I'll find myself thinking, "A Bill Smith book about the difference between religion and faith." That one came to me the other day now that I'm 1/2 way through THE SHANGHAI MOON which is the Lydia book to follow IN THIS RAIN, out in 2 weeks. This doesn't mean I'll necessarily write that Bill Smith book, nor do I have a setting yet, but I expect one will come before I'm done with this one.
Gerald So: Describe the premise of IN THIS RAIN.
S.J. Rozan: IN THIS RAIN is a standalone. It's my love letter to NYC, but it's the kind of letter you write when you're way past "my beloved is perfect" and also past "if you snore anymore I'll shoot you." It's the letter you write when you know all your beloved's faults and you're in love beyond reason anyway. That's my relationship to NYC.
Paul Guyot entered the room.
Paul Guyot: Paul Guyot here.
Gerald So: Welcome, Paul. :)
S.J. Rozan: Hi, Paul!!
B.G. Ritts: Hi, Paul
Paul Guyot: What'd I miss?
S.J. Rozan: I'm running on at the mouth -- or, the fingers -- about IN THIS RAIN.
Paul Guyot: I have a question.
S.J. Rozan: Please!
Paul Guyot: if it hasn't been asked...
Gerald So: go ahead, Paul.
Paul Guyot: Do, you, SJ, find yourself thinking about Bill and Lydia when you're writing something else?
S.J. Rozan: Good question. No, and that was sort of a problem after I'd finished IN THIS RAIN and was ready to start the next Lydia book. I usually have the next book in my mind starting about 1/2way through the one before but that didn't happen. I had to get back into Lydia&Bill head. Somehow it's different. I think maybe it's the 1st person/3rd person thing, but I'm not sure.
Paul Guyot: are you now writing the new B&L book?
Paul Guyot: or is it done?
S.J. Rozan: I'm in the middle of it. It's a Lydia book called THE SHANGHAI MOON. Having done 2 multi-voiced standalones, I thought, "Oh, goody, back to a straight-ahead 1st person linear narrative! Only it didn't work out like that. This one goes back to a situation in Shanghai during WWII. And all of a sudden I find myself writing old letters, diaries, naval intelligence reports...
Gerald So: wow.
S.J. Rozan: it's REALLY HARD.
Paul Guyot: that's very cool.
Paul Guyot: You're in deep!
S.J. Rozan: I just wonder whose bright idea it was.
Paul Guyot: do you outline?
S.J. Rozan: You betcha I'm in deep.
S.J. Rozan: Just did the outline Q before you came. No, but in this case I've had to work out the, I guess you'd call it outline of the WWII story so I have a clue what the hell is going on in the present. But it's changing as I write it.
Gerald So: Ah.
S.J. Rozan: It always changes, no matter how little I do in advance.
Paul Guyot: when you actually started writing the book, did you have a "welcome home" feeling - being back with Lydia?
S.J. Rozan: Oh boy, did I!! I fell right into the voice again.
Paul Guyot: let me guess - you already have a Bill book idea in mind.
S.J. Rozan: I didn't have to spend any time getting to know her or Bill, or her mom.
S.J. Rozan: I do have a Bill book in mind, but it would be about religion. Since this one is heavy on the Jews, I'm not so sure a Bill book about evangelical Xtianity is maybe the best thing to follow it.
Paul Guyot: that makes me wonder - do you get a theme going in your head, then try and find a story to fit, or does the story come first, and the theme sort of appears?
S.J. Rozan: On the other hand, you have to write the book that presents itself or another one doesn't come. The theme always comes first, and I try to see what kind of a story would grow naturally out of that theme.
Gerald So: How long have you been part of a writing group?
S.J. Rozan: Lemme see. I joined this group when I was working on CONCOURSE...15 years. But the group's makeup has changed once or twice.
S.J. Rozan: We meet every two weeks -- was that your next Q? And we read stuff out loud.
Paul Guyot: a good writing group is such a great thing... but a bad group can be absolutely horrible. I wish I had a writing group.
S.J. Rozan: A bad one is WAY worse than no group at all. Paul, there are so many writers out where you live. You can't find 5 who want to make a group?
Paul Guyot: it's tough to find 5 who "get it" and want to commit the time, you know?
S.J. Rozan: That time thing is a big problem, yes. It's a real commitment, but...
Paul Guyot: maybe I'll move to NY.
S.J. Rozan: it's been worth it to me, and to my group as it's now constituted.
Paul Guyot: :)
S.J. Rozan: Oh, move to NY!
S.J. Rozan: We have good food, too.
Paul Guyot: ha!
Gerald So: aside from the current taco bell situation.
Paul Guyot: Taco Hell
S.J. Rozan: Gerald, I'm talking about FOOD.
Gerald So: Yes, my mistake. :)
S.J. Rozan: Although I thought twice about the scallion pancakes in Chinatown yesterday.
Gerald So: They're a favorite of mine, too. Uh-oh.
Paul Guyot: SJ, will you paneling it at Left Coast Crime?
S.J. Rozan: Yes, I'll be on something, but I haven't heard what.
Gerald So: Play GM. How can the Knicks begin to rebound from the Isiah years?
S.J. Rozan: Oh, brother. The Knicks are beyond me. I actually was sucker enough to think Isiah might be the answer. All I can think is, bring back John Starks...
Paul Guyot: bring back Willis Reed
B.G. Ritts: ...bring back the old basketball?
S.J. Rozan: Even better!!
Paul Guyot: yes!
Gerald So: the old ball is coming back, I hear.
S.J. Rozan: Yay!
S.J. Rozan: This ball thing, to me is such a blatant attempt to corner the market.
Paul Guyot: yep
S.J. Rozan: This is where I do my rant on money and sports. But...
B.G. Ritts: But can we blame Spalding for trying?
S.J. Rozan: Can we blame Willie Sutton for holding up banks? No, but...
Paul Guyot: ha!!
Gerald So: :)
B.G. Ritts: :-)
S.J. Rozan: we can blame David Stern for, well, just about everything.
Paul Guyot: SJ, what's the word on Jay-Z and this stadium in Brooklyn?
Gerald So: Stern seems to be listening to reason on this score.
S.J. Rozan: I don't know about Jay-Z. Is he involved?
Paul Guyot: He is one of the big investors. He owns part of the Nets. Wants to move them, doesn't he?
S.J. Rozan: The stadium's a nice piece of work and welcome. but the rest of the development's a land-grab and a hideous disaster. Moving the Nets seemed to be what it was all about, but now that seems to be just an excuse to put up these horrific massive skyscrapers.
Gerald So: Yes, I hear the Nets are a step closer to Brooklyn. I saw something on Yahoo! Sports about it.
Gerald So: Which of your books is your favorite, if any?
S.J. Rozan: Always, the one I've just finished. It's closest to me except for the one I'm working on, which I always HATE until it's finished and becomes my new favorite.
Paul Guyot: have you ever thought of doing a sports book? I loved the football stuff in Winter, and wondered if you'd ever tackle a pro sports story with B&L.
Paul Guyot: get your money rants on paper!
Gerald So: Brilliant.
S.J. Rozan: I have thought about it. I'd love to spend a year doing some sort of inside-basketball research thing (research, she calls it) and I have a lot to say about sports, money, fitness, the Ubermensch...I just don't know what the story would be. But I'd love to do it.
Paul Guyot: the story will come - keep working on the theme! I'd love to read that!
B.G. Ritts: Perhaps for your next standalone?
S.J. Rozan: It's one of the themes on the back burner. The back burner is very crowded.
Paul Guyot: I can't even see my back burner anymore
Gerald So: that's always good.
S.J. Rozan: Paul -- in that case how do you know if something boils over?
Paul Guyot: I hear a big crash
S.J. Rozan: LOL!
Gerald So: How much of Bill's past did you have worked out before Winter and Night? Did a bunch of it come to you while writing the book?
S.J. Rozan: Good Q! Actually I knew most of it. Not that I'd consciously worked it out while building the character, but over the years I'd had to explain to myself why he had no family, why he'd lived with his uncle (how did I know that, you ask? I don't remember) and such, so I knew it. I just didn't know I'd ever tell it in a book, and I didn't know it would be THIS book until when the cop called to say there was a kid who'd given them Bill's name, it hit me that this was his nephew.
Paul Guyot: wow
Gerald So: Ah!
Paul Guyot: great
Paul Guyot: God, I love that opening scene where Bill lights the cigarette
Paul Guyot: So perfectly written
S.J. Rozan: Thanks!! I love to hear stuff like that, because I work SO hard sentence by sentence!
Gerald So: Any other questions, anyone?
Paul Guyot: Will SJ teach me to write?
Paul Guyot: I have one last question...
S.J. Rozan: Who are you and what have you done with Paul Guyot? He knows how to write.
Gerald So: go ahead, paul (?)
Paul Guyot: Do your deadlines guide how long it takes you to write a book - meaning, would you spend more time on each book if you had the time, or do you finish quickly, or what?
S.J. Rozan: I'd like more time. I've never turned in a book I didn't like because of a deadline, but I do think if I had more time I might conceive a book differently. I'd like to spend 2 years on each book. Or at least, I'd like to have 2 years available to me to spend on each book, and maybe sometimes use it and sometimes not.
Gerald So: How much time are you usually allotted?
S.J. Rozan: A year to 18 months. And that includes the editing process.
S.J. Rozan: And speaking of time -- what a segue!
Gerald So: I see. Thanks, SJ. This has been great.
B.G. Ritts: Thanks, SJ!
Paul Guyot: THANK YOU
S.J. Rozan: You guys were great! Thank you!
Gerald So: See you at Partners next month.
Paul Guyot: See ya in Seattle
Gerald So: Most welcome.
S.J. Rozan: And drop around my blog any time! Gerald, see you in NY. Paul, in Seattle. B.G., around. Bye guys!