That's such a great title, I'm stealing it for this blog post too.
And who's great title is it you ask? Why, author Jodi Compton! But she's not going to be upset I stole her title, because this blog is all about her.
Yes, yes, I have been wine tasting for two weeks now, but I'm home. And while I sober up (and prepare to give you all sorts of wine and travel recommendations!), I thought I'd share some reading recommendations. I sent Jodi these interview questions while I was on the road, which, um, might be apparent from the questions themselves, but Jodi was a good sport and got right back to me. By way of author photo, we have this:
This is Jodi's dog, Lady Bird...Jodi tells me Lady Bird is hard at work on her own novel "The Curious Incident of the Human in the Nighttime." When she finishes, you can bet I'll interview her too! (I'm betting the answer to the first question will be "toilet water.")
And here's JODI COMPTON (in pic and in words):
TDL: When a reader first sits down with Thieves Get Rich, Saints Get Shot what wine or other beverage (assuming there are other beverages) should they be sipping and why? When they finish the book, what will they want to be drinking?
JC: As Thieves begins, Hailey is in L.A.’s gangland, acting as lieutenant to Serena “Warchild” Delgadillo. So readers should drink something a bit downmarket. If possible, go to an urban liquor store and get whatever appeals to you: Corona, vodka and Red Bull, a mini of Jagermeister from behind the cash register. Later, as the book closes, Hailey’s fortunes have taken a turn for the better, but she’s also mourning some significant lost relationships. So something more expensive and a little valedictory would be good here, probably a fine Scotch.
TDL: Does Thieves Get Rich, Saints Get Shot feature a beagle and if not, why not? (Seamus demands to know.)
JC: No, no beagles, sorry. Corgis are mentioned, as are Borzois, but they don’t appear in the book. Dogs appear infrequently in my fiction because the main characters always have such unsettled lives. I told Sara Henry that while I almost never put moral or ethical messages in my fiction -- I like to write from a vicarious-living, no-rules standpoint -- I didn’t want to have a character own a dog that she obviously isn’t able to spend any time with. I didn’t want to rubber-stamp the message that getting a dog is like buying an appliance. It’s a commitment.
TDL: What was your inspiration for your protagonist? Is this a case of writing what you know? (If so, I'd be a little nervous to meet you in person...)
JC:Hailey is a character who grew out of a geographical place. I was living in San Luis Obispo at the time, a very youth-dominated town (there’s a big state university there). I lived downtown, right uphill from the shopping-and-bars district, and young people and their music and their fashion and their slang were everywhere. Basically, I projected a lot of San Luis Obispo onto my version of Los Angeles -- they’re both towns with a bright, colorful youth culture. No one in HAILEY’S WAR, the first book, is over 24, and in THIEVES, there’s only one character who is (Magnus Ford, a cop in his late 40s). Underneath the crime storylines, these are books about California and her children.
TDL: My S.O. Chris, an avid movie fan, says that sequels can be better than the original (see Godfather II, Empire Strikes Back, Lord of the Rings..) but frequently not (see Iron Man 2, Batman Forever, Saw 2 through 645...). But I say "this is about books, what the heck do movies have to do with anything?" Still, it's a nice lead in to asking you about writing a sequel. Were you nervous about the Empire Striking back?
JC: Sequels and all the other books that come after in a series are usually harder than an original because you’re no longer making up a world from scratch. There are lines you laid out in the first book that you have to stay within. Also, if you’re not writing about a cop or a PI, there’s always the question of how lightning has struck twice (or more) for your character, landing her in the middle of a crime again. THIEVES is no exception. Having said that, I’m pleased with the way the storyline followed naturally from the events of the first book. It took me a while to see the big opening I’d left myself in HAILEY’S WAR to create a plot for THIEVES. It involves low-tech identity theft; the sale of ID documents on the black market. I’ll stop there, at risk of creating spoilers.
TDL: While we're on movies (I mentioned we were in a car on a long drive between wine tastings when these questions were derived, yes?), cast the movie for Thieves Get Rich, Saints Get Shot.
JC: That's a tough one. Actresses young enough to play Hailey are all so dewy: it’s like a career prerequisite for them. Nothing against these young women, but I can’t see Amanda Seyfried or Taylor Swift playing Hailey. Nor Selena Gomez as Serena. I think my advice to the casting director would be, “Find some gifted unknowns.”
People often want to talk about ‘who’d play her in the movie?’ and it’s funny -- men in particular always pick their favorite actress regardless of how the character is described. Guy friends of mine suggested Gwyneth Paltrow or Kate Winslet should play Sarah Pribek, my Minneapolis cop in 37th HOUR and SYMPATHY BETWEEN HUMANS. Nothing against them, but they’re both extremely refined actresses, made for Jane Austen adaptations, whereas I’ve described Sarah as more working-class and athletic. I was thinking more along the lines of Neve Campbell for Sarah, or the Australian actress Claudia Black.
TDL: Any advice for struggling writers (which is pretty much any writer other than Stephen King, John Grisham and James Patterson)?
JC: Don’t solely “write what you know.” Write from your imagination, then research what you don’t fully understand. Stretch your limits.
Obviously, if you’re Iranian-American in Beverly Hills, you’re probably not the person to write a story from the point of view of an African-American child in Harlem. But somehow that got twisted into “only write what you’ve personally experienced” which, if you think about it, wipes whole sub-genres off the board: historical fiction, sci-fi, futuristic and dystopian, single writers writing married characters, women writing men or vice-versa ... you get the point.
TDL: You and author Sara J. Henry have the same agent, the same publisher, both love dogs and bikes and now have both been interviewed on this blog. How do we know you are not, in fact, the same person?
JC: Well, first off, there’s another parallel: we also both opened our debut novels with water rescues (mine in the Mississippi River, hers in Lake Champlain). But the conspiracy runs much deeper than that. Consider the following:
Sara Henry is also often mistaken for Sarah Weinman, the mystery critic. I too have parallels to Weinman. I named my first protagonist Sarah. Weinman writes for the L.A. Times; my writing is L.A.-centric. (My last name is Compton, for God’s sake). Weinman gave Hailey’s War, a then little-known novel, a suspiciously good review, and later picked it as one of her favorite crime novels of 2010. Coincidence? I think not. When you add up the evidence, what becomes clear is that Sara J. Henry, Sarah Weinman and I are ALL the same person.
TDL: Can you give us a favorite passage from Thieves Get Rich, Saints Get Shot?
JC: It seems like Sara Henry already sent you one, and since we’re the same person, who am I to overrule that?
TDL: Seems like this is a good place to insert the link for the excerpt from THIEVES GET RICH, SAINTS GET SHOT.
(the link takes you to "Read it Forward" which is, by the way, a really cool site!).
Thanks, Jodi, for stopping by The Dog Lived (and he reads and writes too!).
Wags & Wine to you!
And to you, my faithful, friendly, wine & dog lovin' and cancer hatin' followers, we have a little somethin' somethin' as well! Seamus really enjoys the opportunity to search for toast and pick a winner (remember this winning pick?), so we are once again having a contest! Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win a signed copy of Thieves Get Rich, Saints Get Shot! How fun is that? Seamus says, lots of fun and would like to point out to you that the more comments you leave, the more toast he gets...so please comment. You have until August 15th!! Perhaps even ask Jodi a question yourself. You never know when she'll be popping over to TDL and just might answer you!