By Amber Bell
How do you answer the question, “Oh, you’re an author? What do you write?”
I’m hard to pigeonhole as a novelist, since each of my works is a combination of genres –genre-stretchers I call them. All my novels, historical drama and contemporary thriller, contain elements of mystery, humor, twists, and even tragedy.
How would you describe your writing to someone not familiar with your work?
While my stories are written to be entertaining experiences, with lots of plot twists and surprises, they are at the same time meant to give the reader an emotional experience that reveals deeper themes. Stylistically, I’d define my narration as a form of “impressionistic realism,” meaning I use imagery in a concise, economical fashion—making the story progress faster.
Which of your characters would you like to have as a best friend and why?
Oh that’s a tough one. I’d have to pick Big Josh from my DarkHorse Trilogy. On the surface, we’re complete opposites. Josh is black. Josh is big. While he is overlooked in a slave society—one of the themes in The Lies That Bind—Josh is uncommonly wise, focused, and highly competent. And Josh has a huge heart—the most important quality for a true friend!
If you had to switch places with one of your characters for a week, who would you
choose and why?
I believe I’d like to be David Greenberg, the main character in my mystery/thriller, The Antiquities Dealer. David leads an interesting life, associating with low-life gamblers on occasion, playing chess, but primarily dealing with archeologists, historians and other antiquities traders in Europe and the Middle East. He follows his interests, from modern to ancient religions and questions everything. Of course, he has his share of angst, including having been divorced twice and being troubled by his solitary bachelorhood. Who doesn’t have personal burdens to suffer through!
Which character has been the most difficult to write and why?
Frankly, I’ve never had a problem writing any character. More than feeling great empathy for each of them, I submerge myself into them in each dramatic situation in which they find themselves. This includes characters that are not sympathetic, like Mrs. French, the reclusive (slightly mad) unethical widow in The Lies That Bind. When it comes to my female characters, I depend on a lot of feedback from my wife and others to give me a complete perspective on the female point of view.
Would you say your writing style is more character driven or plot driven?
Can I say both? I try to develop well-rounded characters, as well as clever, labyrinthine plot twists. If I had to weigh them, I think I’d lean more toward the characters; but the surprising twists and turns make for fun reading.
Which of your books did you have to do the most research for? What does your research process look like?
I already had pretty extensive knowledge of American history, the South and the Civil War for The Lies That Bind (book 1 of the DarkHorse Trilogy). Plus, I’ve read a great deal of Southern literature, including a lot of Faulkner. But when it came to the war in western Missouri for book 2, Honor Among Outcasts, and Reconstruction for book 3, Something in Madness, I had to do extensive digging. I also got a lot of detail from history books and biographies, and visited several parts of the South and mid-Missouri for background and to absorb the atmosphere and landscape. The Internet, of course, is convenient; but I rely on it very little.
The Antiquities Dealer (A David Greenberg Mystery) was a whole other experience. Since the novel is part futuristic/sci-fi, part thriller, part love story, part mystery, I was again able to draw on my personal background and experience to varying degrees. By that I mean my mixed heritage as a secular Jewish man, my knowledge of strategy games, ancient history, mythology, religion, Israel and current events. I also got input from rabbis and other experts. And I infused the story with my belief/philosophy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for themes that develop. A visit to Israel aided in my understanding of this amazing land and its people.
Do you have any set rules for yourself about how or when to write?
Few rules, but just try to get me away from my keyboard when I’m on a roll! Having strong momentum, where lots of new ideas are popping, produces the best writing, too.
What helps spark your imagination when writer’s block hits or you’re just looking for a new idea?
I can honestly say I do not suffer from writer’s block. If anything, I can get distracted with too many ideas invading my head. When that happens, it’s important that I put them aside for future possibilities.
What have you learned about yourself from your writing?
For better or worse, I have come to see that all my characters—men, women, black, white, historical or contemporary—are in some form a part of me, even the most flawed among them.
What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
Not to give up. Which sounds cavalier from where I sit. But if you love writing, write. But learning the craft matters as much as the art.
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer and how different is the reality from what you had expected?
I knew I wanted to write seriously while still in college. Becoming published took a bit of a wait to say the least!
With self publishing being an option, what made you choose to publish with TouchPoint Press?
I take my writing seriously, and have always felt that as a professional, I wanted to go with a traditional agent and publisher. Besides, I am not obsessed with the business side, so I wanted and needed the guidance of a publisher. Sheri at TPP saw what I was saying with the first book (The Lies That Bind) and appreciated the story enough to contract for the trilogy. I’m so grateful!
What are you currently working on?
Besides polishing Something in Madness (DarkHorse Trilogy, Book 3), I’ve been toying with the idea of another David Greenberg mystery. So I’m a bit up in the air. I started converting my sci-fi screenplay, Earth Excursions, into a novel a while back, but had to put it aside. So that’s a possibility.
When can we expect your next release?
That will be Something in Madness next year. It will be hard to say goodbye to characters I’ve lived with for so many years. I expect there will no doubt be a period of mourning.
You obviously love history, so, if you could have a dinner party with five historical figures who would you choose?
Easy. I’d like to meet Albert Einstein, Leonardo de Vinci, Bob Dylan, Dr. King, and Gandhi, with Bobby Fischer stopping by for a game of chess after the meal.
In one of your blog posts you bring up Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth. Do you have a favorite myth?
If you read The Antiquities Dealer, you’ll notice that I feel the Greek mythological character Tantalus reflects our existence. Plus, I am greatly influenced by Oedipus.
What amazes you the most about your life?
That I’m enjoying it so much now that I’ve reached “senior status.” My younger dreams of glory may not have materialized completely, but this stage in my life is pretty sweet.
Tell me a random fact about yourself.
That my parents divorced when I was seven, and I was plunked into an orphans home for about a year. That had a major impact on my life.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I am amazed by the human race, for good or for ill. Each person has such an interesting story and so many interesting qualities that I’ll never get enough of hearing about them.
Books by Ed Protzel