Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Author Interview: Barbara Rogan and A DANGEROUS FICTION

Barbara Rogan is another great writer I’ve met at the Book and Writer’s Forum. She regularly facilitates the monthly exercises in the Writers Exercise folder. Her exercises always make me stretch as a writer which shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who know her Next Level Workshops and her work with the Writers Digest Online University. Her blog In Cold Ink is chock full of advice and information on writing. Barbara’s extensive experience as an editor and an agent shows and she is generous in sharing her expertise. All eight of her novels have gained great acclaim. Check them all out--HERE--and A DANGEROUS FICTION is getting well-deserved reviews. Literary agent Janet Reid enjoyed A DANGEROUS FICTION so much she's hosting a contest in its honor. Check it out HERE.

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A romp of a publishing mystery that introduces Jo Donovan, literary agent-cum-detective, that will delight fans of Janet Evanovich, Lisa Lutz, Alan Bradley, and ABC's Castle

Jo Donovan always manages to come out on top. From the backwoods of Appalachia, she forged a hard path to life among the literati in New York City. At thirty-five, she’s the widow of the renowned author Hugo Donovan and the owner of one of the best literary agencies in town. Jo is living the life she dreamed of but it’s all about to fall apart.

When a would-be client turns stalker, Jo is more angry than shaken until her clients come under attack. Meanwhile, a biography of Hugo Donovan is in the works and the author’s digging threatens to destroy the foundations of Jo’s carefully constructed life. As the web of suspicion grows wider and her stalker ups the ante, she’s persuaded by her client and friend—FBI profiler-turned-bestselling-thriller writer—to go to the police. There Jo finds herself face-to-face with an old flame: the handsome Tommy Cullen, now NYPD detective.

A Dangerous Fiction marks the welcome return of Barbara Rogan and the start of a terrific new series.

Zan Marie: If Goodreads had six stars, I’d give A DANGEROUS FICTION six and a half. It’s that good. It’s a compulsive read full of high tension and suspense—just what a reader wants. You can’t stop turning the pages.

 Like ROWING IN EDEN and CAFÉ NEVO, A DANGEROUS FICTION is an in depth tour of character. ROWING IN EDEN and CAFÉ NEVO are literary while A DANGEROUS FICTION is a mystery. Do you prefer one genre over the other or just write what the story you want to tell requires?

 Barbara: I’m hard on genres. I bend them and smush them together, or write with total disregard of them. “Genre” began as publishing shorthand intended for the convenience of booksellers and reviewers, and I don’t know that its usefulness extends much beyond that. My bestselling book to date was SUSPICION, which combined mystery with a ghost story with a modern gothic…Not exactly coloring within the lines, but you’ve got to have fun, or what’s the point of writing?

ZM: I totally agree. ;-)

Barbara: That said, I do enjoy the structural challenges of writing mystery, which takes nothing away from the range of things you can write about,  but imposes its own formal requirements. My last three books have been mysteries, and I plan to keep on going with at least two more books about Jo Donovan, the protagonist of A DANGEROUS FICTION.

 ZM: The title is so apt because Jo Donovan edits her memories like she edits books and becomes an unreliable narrator for herself as well as for readers. I kept being surprised every time a new nugget of her past popped up. How did this trait of Jo’s figure into your planning of the plot?

 Barbara: It was absolutely central to plot, part of the original concept. This book could only have been written from Jo’s POV. I needed to misdirect readers’ attention from the real clues scattered through the story. Filtering all the events through Jo’s perspective, blind spots and all, allowed me to do that.  And of course those blind spots are themselves a big part of the story.

 ZM: It works so well and partly because your characters are always so wonderful, but Jo Donovan is particularly fully realized and totally opposite of a “Mary Sue” character. How do you work to flesh out your characters?

Barbara: Thank you! Jo is indeed a complicated character. I like her—she has courage, humor, resilience and loyalty, all traits I particularly admire—but she is definitely flawed, more so than any other protagonist I’ve ever created. She’s tough, she can be arrogant, and she has a very selective memory. As I wrote I had to stifle the impulse to soften her. She needed those flaws for this story; they  play into what happens to her.

 The way I build character is scene by scene. You can’t do it all at once. It’s a process of layering in little bits of characterization throughout the story. Remember old science textbooks that used transparent plastic sheets for each separate system in the human body, so that when you lay one on top of the other, you get the whole complicated three-dimensional body? I do the same things with characterization.

 ZM: It’s been a banner year for you with five books rereleased in e-book form and now A DANGEROUS FICTION. What’s next?

Barbara: I’m working on the next Jo Donovan mystery now. I’m also teaching online fiction workshops through my teaching website, www.nextlevelworkshop.com. I also plan to write a non-fiction book for writers based on my course, REVISING FICTION. But there are only so many hours in the day, and that’s taken a bit of a backseat to the fiction.

 ZM: Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?

Barbara: There is no single favorite, not even a top ten; there are just too many writers I admire, and I’ve learned from all of them. In mysteries my favorites include Dennis Lehane, Walter Mosely, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Peter Dickinson, Dorothy Sayers…I could go on and on. I don’t have a favorite genre, either. I read a lot of mystery and literary fiction, but some of my favorite books of recent years have been fantasies and historical fiction. The one thing they all have in common is that they’re terrifically well-written. If the writing isn’t first-rate, I can’t enjoy the story.

 ZM: Finally, what question do you wish interviewers would ask, but they never do?

 Barbara: You stumped me there! I can’t think of a thing.

ZM: Thank you, Barbara, for a wonderful interview and a fabulous book!

Barbara Rogan is the author of eight novels and coauthor of two nonfiction books. Her fiction has been translated into six languages. She has taught fiction writing at Hofstra University and currently teaches for Writers Digest University and in her own online school, Next Level Workshops.  She lives on Long Island.