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I can tell you (but I won’t) the day and the book I was reading when I plopped it down on my lap and said, “This is the best I can find?” I started writing that week.

Interview: Robert Lane, Author of ‘Cooler Than Blood’

WinterSpring 2008 399Robert Lane’s literary crime noir novels mix humor, action, and ageless moral themes set against the backdrop of the west coast of Florida. Cooler Than Blood is his second stand-alone Jake Travis novel after The Second Letter. His third book, The Cardinal’s Sin, will be released in October 2015.

Greetings, Robert! Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Cooler Than Blood. When did you start writing and what got you into mysteries?

I started writing in college, took a reprieve to make a living, and about five years ago I returned to writing. I dove in headfirst. It was the shallow end. The process is hard and tough and a long process. Mysteries? They are the perfect vehicle to both entertain and to inform; to allow ourselves to understand a little more about our world, ourselves, and to sneak in themes while we rapidly and blissfully turn the page.

Also, a mystery is a mystery to write as well as read. I don’t know how my book is going to end so I write to find out.

What is your book about?

Jake Travis is asked by an old acquaintance, Mandy Blake, to find her missing young niece, Jenny Spencer. Simple enough, but the road to Jenny endangers Jake’s girlfriend, Kathleen. Jake and Mandy, while they only spent one evening together, both felt and continue to feel that timeless tug. Jake closes in on Jenny, but faces a moral dilemma: does the action required to free Jenny create in Jake a man that Kathleen could never love? Does Jake really have freedom of choice? As for Jenny, her father died when she was young and she knows she needs to grow up “warp-speed” to endure her captivity. She relies on the lessons her father taught her while boating to persevere.

Who is your target audience?

I, and about everyone I know, read a wide range of literature and non-fiction. I think that “target” is more of a book industry marketing term. I try to write a good story and to write it well. If I insert a private investigator into my book, does that exclude it from the “literary” crowd? If my book has some humor and entertainment value, does that knock it off someone’s reading list? I don’t know. Okay, I’ll answer the question; my target is a reader who enjoys a good story.

Cover ArtWhat do you hope readers will get from your book?

Fun. Entertainment. A glimpse, perhaps, of their own moral dilemmas that have shaped their lives. I like reading mysteries, but especially mysteries that stay with me, linger in my mind and hold a mirror in front of my face. I strive to write those. If I fail, at least I go down believing in my cause. Also, I wish for readers to get the burning desire to read all my books and chant my name in revered circles.

How do you keep your narrative exciting?

Couple things I fall back on: I like dialogue that is either witty or confrontational. Anything else is a real snoozer. Also, think of musical productions, Superstar, Evita, et al. Andrew Lloyd Webber knows how to write a scene (and a score). He mixes humor and meaning and saves the poignancy for the end. When we read, we envision the scenes and characters in our head. I try to keep the narrative exciting by not being bored by what I see or what I hear.

Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to write. Can you relate to this?

You bet. The key is to squash that bug. Quickly. I open my laptop, fast, and get into it. I take a page from Hemingway and wrap up each day at a point where I know where the writing’s going the next morning. Otherwise that dark cloud settles in real fast and my mind will cry out, “Why are you wasting your time?” You’ve got to be ready for that. Gotta have an answer in your pocket.

Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined?

In The Hotel New Hampshire, John Irving has a character say that you must get obsessed and stay obsessed. I haven’t read it in 30 years, so don’t quote me on that. A schedule? Disciplined? They can set Greenwich Mean Time off my life. Get obsessed. Stay obsessed. Everything else follows.

How do you celebrate the completion of a book?

I have never celebrated a book. Somewhere around the end of the first draft, a light flickers on. It’s a sentence, an injustice I read about, a feeling; it is the birth of the next book. After dozens of reads and drafts, I grow bone tired of the current book and then, like a battle cruiser, I feel my mind and passion turning slowly and irrevocably into the direction of the next story. There is no time to celebrate, as I am fully engaged in the new book.

What do you love most about the writer’s life?

I get to write. Every day.

Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?

Yes, Robertlanebooks.com.

George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” 

I don’t want to understand my compulsions, so on one level I fully embrace his comment. But, hey, let’s lighten it up some. Billy Joel said he started to write songs because he didn’t like anything he heard on the radio. I can tell you (but I won’t) the day and the book I was reading when I plopped it down on my lap and said, “This is the best I can find?” I started writing that week.

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.

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