(Yes, Eunice! I said 'inquisitive minds!' Not 'inconsequential minds . . .!' We're not talking about ME!! Get the hair remover gel out of your ears and try to listen!)
Today's interview is with the brilliant Richard Godwin. Author, playwright, blogger, reviewer. And damn good at all of'em. I'll betcha he'll even wash windows if you asking nicely. Anyway . . . . Richard was kind enough to let me ask him the six-questions motif I try to mold for each of the writers who will allow me to question them. And . . . as expected . . . his answers create an interesting little treatise on The Art of Writing.
I should tell you Richard has a damn fine book out called Apostle Rising. A dark novel filled with raw emotion and dark noir. A novel about crimes not solved; about monsters not brought to justice. About the raw emotions of doubt, shame, and regret that play upon the minds of those who prey upon in the night.
We share space in an anthology called Laughing At The Death Grin. And he's been kind enough to say a few supporting words about some of my stuff. If you're looking for an excellent writer who writes a tight story filled with those little strings that, when plucked, activate an emotional response in you--you have to discover Richard.
Okay. Enough of the talk-talk. Here's Richard answering the six questions I slapped him with. Enjoy.
1. The art of writing dark, grim tales of violent loss and luckless souls. Where does
this talent come from in which you possess such large quantities?
I am best known for my crime and horror writing it is true, but I also write literary pieces and have been shortlisted for them. I write poetry too.
I'm interested in motivations and digging deep into the psyche. Crime is a great vehicle for that because with pathological crime there is an archaeology, if you like, of a person's soul. I have spent a good deal of time thinking about the darker aspects of humanity and that has translated into my fiction. These characters make for a good story, no one wants to read about a bland neutral character.
2. There has been an on-going debate over what is the difference between noir and
hard boiled writing. Share some of your thoughts on this debate if you don't mind.
It's a hard one and truthfully no one agrees. I think Noir differentiates itself from hard boiled in its emphasis on losers, people who fuck it up because they have to, because it's etched in acid into the walls of their bleeding apartments. It's almost as if the Chorus of a Greek tragedy is telling the story. Also, the figure of the femme fatale is a key Noir one not necessary to hard boiled. There is an atmosphere to Noir that is like the translation of the lighting of Noir films into prose. It gives an undercurrent of redundant morality being eroded or raped by circumstance while the inherent flaws of the characters warp their lives. It also leaves things less resolved, it is more morally ambiguous.
3. When you write, what is your process? Do you plan extensively? Create a 'bio'
of your characters? Outline?
I only plan my novels and that process can be extensive with accompanying research. My stories I just sit down and write.
4. You've been hopping back and fourth from Europe and the US, along with the
rest of the world, for a long time. You've therefore have sampled hard boiled/
noir writing from all over the world. Are their similarities? Differences?
There are differences. The UK and US are similar apart from the class issues inherent in British thinking and certain idiosyncrasies of style. If you read the Italian writers there is more of an engagement with the unwritten rules of social engagement, of the habits of families, as is inherent in Italian culture. I think Gianfrico Carofiglio's The Past Is A Foreign Country is a fine novel that delves deep into temptation and transgression. The Italian style is arguably more descriptive than the US. This is also evident in film making, with directors like Pasolini using longer camera shots than the US film makers. Take a Cuban writer like Leonardo Padura, Havana Black is infused with at times Marquez like descriptions but honed to crime writing, the Latin style resists some of the more edited narratives of US crime writing, it engages in a romantic sense of danger. One of the great Noir novels in my opinion is the German author Alfred Doblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz, which although a great Expressionist novel, and part of the heady flowering of the Weimar Republic, bears many of the characteristics of Noir writing. Expressionism and Noir are similar, historians have argued Noir grew out of Expressionism. The films use similar lighting techniques and both genres emphasise certain themes. The central character of Berlin Alexanderplatz is a hopeless criminal who has got out of prison for murdering his girlfriend, slips into a debauched alcoholic existence and falls prey to Nazi forces who corrupt him further. You know from the beginning he doesn't stand a chance. Dostoyevsky's Crime And Punishment, one of the greatest novels ever written, has a lot of Noir in it although it is impossible to pigeon hole it. Raskolnikov messes up the killing of his landlady and we know he is going to fall apart. The genius of Dostoyesvsky is in getting inside his head.
5. 'Apostle Rising' is your current effort. How's it going, sales wise, and what
compelled you to write it?
Apostle Rising is selling really well considering it's a tough market in the middle of a recession. It is receiving great reviews and reviewers are saying that it straddles crime and horror. It also has a killer surprise. I wrote it because I was interested in the idea of a character who has shall we say, disowned his fractured identity, I am being careful not to give away the plot here. Who we think we are, the roles we engage in, the parts we play for the people who inhabit our lives, are all based on the idea of identity, which literature has always shown to be tenuous. Strip that down and take it apart and look at what lies underneath it. If you don't face the darker parts of yourself someone is going to use them for their own advantage. How do you catch a killer who has no identity? That's the puzzle the novel solves. That aspect of the central character of Apostle Rising opened up a lot of avenues for exploring the criminal mind. I also wanted to explore the effect of evil on the police since I think that is a huge part of a homicide officer's life.
Here are two brief quotes from a couple of reviews:
Mike Stafford writes in the magazine BookGeeks:
‘Apostle Rising is a fine contribution to the genre. Rare for a crime novel, it has a lyrical, almost poetic style, beautifully written and well constructed. On the strength of this offering, Godwin is a welcome addition to the world of the full-length novel.’
Leslie Wright writes in Seattle PI:
‘The suspense and mystery are superb; you never understand the emotional depravity until the end. It is an end you never see coming. Castle is a charismatic and likable character. Jacki is tough and yet she too is a figure that draws your sympathy. I would recommend this novel for those who love thrillers. The tension keeps the read going, and leads you in an unexpected direction. Godwin has created a great whodunit. This book stays with you long after the final page.’
All the reviews can be accessed from the Media Page on my website http://www.richardgodwin.net/media .
6. What are the qualities, traits, nuances you look for when you decide you like
a certain writer and his work. Or to put it another way--what is it in a writer you look for when you decide to become a fan?
That's an interesting question. I read such a huge range of things that it is hard to put into a few sentences what I look for. I think if I had to pick a few out they would be style, depth, dialogue, and structure. There are many writers who are popular but I find their style falls flat. I always like an author who digs deep. Dialogue is key to good fiction. And the best novels are edited so you don't feel any scenes are padding, they need to serve the purpose of advancing the story.
Like I said. One cool dude. You should find him. He's worth the trouble.