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A Conversation with Bill Loehfelm on Fresh Kills
When did you realize you wanted to be a novelist?
I never made a conscious decision to be a novelist. It's just something I always thought I would do. I wrote my first "novel" when I was eleven, a thirty-page handwritten manuscript that I sent to Random House. I picked them because they published Walter Farleys "Black Stallion" series, which I was really into at that age. At least as far as writing a novel, it was never a question of if, it was a matter of when. Naiveté can get you a long way sometimes.
Did you begin by writing mystery, or have you experimented with other genres?
Fresh Kills is my second novel and my first, if you don't count that giant octopus novel, is a mystery as well. I really enjoy reading the genre, and it seems to match my writing style. I've written a number of short stories, but they're all relationship stories, no mysteries. When I was in high school, I wrote Westerns. They were awful rip-offs of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
What about writing mystery appeals to you?
I love the idea of a character pursuing something, especially something that seems to be a lost cause or just out of reach. It's something we all go through, though maybe on a smaller, less dramatic scale. And having that drive inherent in a character makes it easier to come up with a plot. Mystery can deal with some weighty topics: death, loss, justice, revenge, betrayal, sin, redemption. There are endless opportunities for exploring a character. People can get into trouble for complex and sometimes noble reasons. There's no rule that says serious emotional and psychological subject matter is reserved for massive literary tomes. Look at No Country for Old Men or Gone Baby Gone. When you think about it, most every book is a mystery: What's gonna happen next?
Do you have favorite authors who've influenced your writing style?
When I write, I want the efficiency of Hemingway, the lyricism of Fitzgerald, and the humor of Twain. I'll never get there, but that's what I shoot for. Frank Miller, the graphic novelist who wrote Sin City and the Dark Knight Batman series has been a real influence on me. He really knows how to deliver a line, and to write with punch and grace at the same time. Great dark humor. Batman is probably my favorite character in American story-telling. I've been fascinated by the complexities of that character my whole life. I really like Dennis Lehane, James Lee Burke, and John Banville's "Benjamin Black" novels--they're proof-positive of what I said about mysteries above. The Lovely Bones is another great example. I love Alice Sebold's work. She can't write fast enough for me. Roddy Doyle's got serious game, as well. A lot of musicians have influenced me: U2, Springsteen, Warren Zevon, and the Tragically Hip to name a few. The Gin Blossoms' album New Miserable Experience is a hell of a short story collection.
What made you leave New York for New Orleans?
February. Here we get Mardi Gras, there you get slush and sleet. Seriously though, I'd fallen in love with New Orleans while visiting as a tourist. It was like meeting someone you instantly know is on your wavelength. And I wanted an adventure. I didn't want to spend my whole life within ten miles of where I grew up. Something just told me New Orleans was where I needed to be. It was right.
Is there something about New Orleans that's helped you find and develop your voice?
Time. In New Orleans, taking your time with everything, from a career to a relationship to a cup of coffee is a way of life. And no one thinks you're weird for pursuing the arts. It's a very supportive environment. This place encourages you to take chances and do things differently. Most of the people I know are accomplished musicians, writers, painters, photographers, etc. The attitude here gave me time to write and write a lot, plus the cost of living is pretty low. You don't have to live your whole life at work.
Why did you choose to return home (imaginatively speaking) to write Fresh Kills?
For the longest time, I had Junior returning home after moving away, but the story suffered. He had too few relationships, there wasn't enough interaction with other people. Eventually I realized that his not going anywhere geographically paralleled well with his not getting anywhere emotionally. Staten Island is where this story belongs.Continue reading our Q&A with Bill Loehfelm
This book also arrived in excellent condition. I had read a review on this book and kept the newspaper clipping for awhile. Read morePublished 6 months ago by kathy christman
An unusual, but refreshing, take on the story of someone out for revenge on the person who killed their father. An original conclusion makes the story well worth the read.Published 12 months ago by Tracey Tolbert
Fresh Kills is marketed as a crime mystery, but don't be fooled, it's really a story about John Sanders, Jr, a man trying to deal with his internal turmoil after the sudden death... Read morePublished 23 months ago by D. K. Gaston
Bought this book at the recommendation of a friend, the author was one of his teachers in High school. I am loving the book so far!Published on January 1, 2011 by C. Jones
I said it all in the title. This book doesn't know what it is. It starts off as a whodunit pageturner and then dies a 250 page death as an interminable interior monologue. Read morePublished on October 27, 2010 by Someone Like You
I had read several mediocre reviews of this book but it sounded interesting so I purchased it, anyhow. It's more of a self examination than anything else. Read morePublished on October 18, 2010 by Amazon Customer
Extremely repetitious first person novel about a character who's narcissistic beyond belief. He whines and moans and rages, whines and moans and rages, whines and moans and rages... Read morePublished on July 11, 2010 by Frank Blank
Considering the fact that this book won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, I expected so much more! Read morePublished on May 17, 2010 by She Writes
If you live long enough, or read enough books, you will experience the poorly understood and extraordinarily complicated interpersonal relationships that define most families. Read morePublished on January 12, 2010 by Igor Dumbadze