30 October, 2015

#Interview with Richard Risemberg, #Author The Dust Will Answer

About the Author:

Richard Risemberg was dragged to Los Angeles as a child, and has been working there in a number of vernacular occupations since his teens while writing poetry, articles, essays, and fiction, editing online 'zines, sneaking around with a camera trying to steal people's souls, and making a general nuisance of himself, which is his forte. He's survived long enough to become either a respected elder or a tedious old fart, depending on your point of view, and is still at it. It hasn't been easy for any of us.

Interview with Author:

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
It was in my last year of high school. I had been concentrating on science—my father was an engineer, and that was what I had grown up with. I was also an avid reader of anything, from encyclopedias to fiction, but I never considered writing till my twelfth grade English class. The original teacher was a drunk, who fell down her steps at home and broke her leg; the substitute was a young, pretty woman with waist-length red hair—I remember her name was Alice Nye. She once rather casually gave us an assignment to write a descriptive paragraph, something no previous teacher had done. Mine was a bit overwritten but good enough to elicit Miss Nye's praises. I reread it critically, and realized that I could write as well as read. I'd never even considered it before.
I was seventeen. By the second term of college I'd changed my major to English.

What inspires you to write?
In general, a love of words, story, and character. For each story specifically, I really can't say. Sometimes it's nothing more than a snippet that comes to mind of someone reacting to a situation—real or imagined—and a desire to see what happens. I follow them around through my mind and just write down what they do and say.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
I had in mind a scene by the Los Angeles River at night, in the abandoned warehouse district. I wondered what would lead who otherwise had no business there to end up in a rough and dangerous place in the middle of the night. Eventually I realized that the character would be tracking down an ex-girlfriend who was not too careful about the men she chose and where they might take her. I was very familiar with the river and its homeless camps, whose denizens I used to interview and photograph for a local paper, and whose lives were much rougher even than most people imagined. Those people inspired some of the characters in my current book, "The Dust Will Answer."

Are there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?
Yes, but they have never seen the light of day for very good reasons, and I hope they never do!

Tell us about your writing process.
I start with a scene, usually a tranquil one, in which the character is comfortable. Then something happens to take him out of that place and into a realm where he must confront not only other people's selfishness but his own, and reconcile himself to it while still trying to bring about a resolution that is fair to all. Of course this is impossible—especially when others are actively working against you.
What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
That changes day by day, but at present my favorite scene in "The Dust Will Answer" is the one in the hospital, when the protagonist, Lenny Strasser, finally realizes that Kate, his ex, is passionately attached to a worldview that is incompatible with his. He accepts that this means emotional freedom for him, but that it also means abandoning Kate to the dismal future she has chosen.
There is also an intense scene, a flashback, in which Lenny finds his way to the dingy apartment where Kate is entertaining her current lover, a manipulative small-time drug dealer. It is a bit painful to read sometimes….

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
Lenny, of course, though not too many. He does things I would never do, and he avoids doing things I would do (and have done). There's a secondary character, Dave Larrabee, to whom I have given my more annoying traits.

What is your most interesting writing quirk?
I refuse to read anything at all before working on my fiction in the morning. This is a holdover from the days when, if I did so, whatever I wrote would sound like whatever I had just read. That doesn't happen anymore (I occasionally have worked in the afternoon, though I don’t prefer to), but I still hold to the practice. If nothing else, it removes one distraction. I like to finish the hard work of fiction early, before the house and the city become noisy. Journalism I write at any hour.

Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?
I read constantly and widely. Among my current favorites are Walter Mosley and Ross McDonald (both of whom have influenced "The Dust Will Answer"), Susan Straight, Haruki Murakami, Georges Simenon and Camus (in French), Hemingway, Chekhov, and many, many others. Each one has, of course, influenced a different aspect of my own work. MacDonald, though not a top-line writer, focuses on character, complexity, and each persons' inevitable internal conflicts in a highly-compassionate way that makes the often-violent resolutions of his stories emotionally affecting as well as stirring. It's more than just tying up loose ends—there's a bit of existential angst in everything he writes.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, till date?
Treat it like a job. Show up everyday and work, and the story will get done.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
The same as above, with this detail: choose a specific time of day when you will write, and write five to six days a week, without fail. (Okay, you can take a vacation now and then.)
Take it seriously. I am paid to write for two local blogs, once a week each. Three years ago I had a small stroke—and I never missed a deadline.

What would be the Dream Cast for you book if it was to be turned into a movie?
There is no one currently working in Hollywood who could play my characters the way I see them. Maybe Nicholas Cage for the protagonist, but he's too old now. The attractive women are both short brunettes, and one is a bit plump—not Hollywood types.
Then again, if someone offered to buy the movie rights, I'd sell in an instant—but I wouldn't watch the film.

If you were to be stranded on the famous deserted island, what three things would you carry?
A cast-iron cookpot and a long-handled spoon. I'm half Italian; I gotta eat! That and a big hunting knife. With a good knife you can get most of everything else you need. I know how to make my own paper and ink, so I could carve a quill pen from a feather and keep writing stories for someone to find by my bones years thence.

How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?
Either walking around the neighborhood or bicycling around the vast city of Los Angeles. The Pacific Ocean is twelve miles away, and I often go there. Eating with friends in cheap bistros. Listening to free concerts at the museum nearby. And, of course, reading.

Can you share with us something off your bucket list?
Return to Paris, where I lived briefly in the Eighties. I used to say "Live in San Francisco," but the techno-yuppies have made it into rather a bog of overpriced self-regard in recent years.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.
For nearly a decade, I practically lived on a big black motorcycle. (Yes, it shows up in the story.)
I went through the Seventies without even once trying marijuana. No one believes me.
I was once asked to be…well, sorry, I promised not to tell, and organization has a long memory.

What do you have in store next for your readers?
I have nearly finished the first draft of a sequel to "The Dust Will Answer," this one set mostly in a semi-rural area filled with hippies, old desert rats, and trailer-trash outlaw types. Not to mention a gay motorcycle gang. The usual stuff…. No spoilers here, so I'll leave it at that. Working title is "Dreaming of the Fight."

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
The truth is, I don't know where most of my characters come from. The best ones have no reference to people I've actually known. They just appear, and I follow them around. They constantly surprise the hell out of me, yet everything they do is natural and coherent, for them if not for me. At least, I hope not for me!

About the Book:
1978: The wave of gentrification has yet to break over downtown Los Angeles, and vast swathes of the warehouse district lie nearly abandoned next to the sterile trench of the city's concrete-clad river.
Lenny Strasser, a straight-arrow type with a taste for shady places, plunges into that world to discover that sometimes the only distance between two points is a very crooked line. When Lenny's friend Dave Larrabee nags him into helping him track down a missing girlfriend, Lenny suspects that the girl doesn't want to be found. He knows her all too well: she was his before she was Dave's, and she'd gone gleefully missing from his life one time too many. Worse, he's not entirely sure he's over his feelings for the theatrical and self-centered Kate.
But this time it wasn't one of her ordinary infidelities--she may have fallen, again, into the hands of the charismatic Nighthawk, who could lead her into territories where the danger is real and role-playing no protection from harm.
The quest takes them into hobo jungles and punk squats by the LA River--and into an after-midnight darkness of moral ambiguity that changes Lenny's life in ways he'd never dreamed of. 

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