Friday, February 25, 2011

Author Interview - Shelly Frome

 Author Interview

As I promised here is the interview with Shelly Frome the writer of The Twinning Murders. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Professor Emeritus of dramatic arts at the University of Connecticut, Shelly Frome is a former professional actor and theater director.  Mr. Frome's writing credits include a number of national and international articles on topics such as acting and theater, profiles of artists and notable figures in the arts. In addition, Frome has written books on theater and film and mystery novels, his newest release being The Twinning Murders

-When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
SF: I first discovered I enjoyed writing fiction at an early age in Miami, Florida during a school period called Study Hall. To while away the time, I began writing adventure stories, ending with the phrase “to be continued,” and passed each episode along to some of my classmates who also found they had no homework or anything to study.  Their enthusiasm prompted me to write additional installments which seemed to go on and on.  I don’t recall whether any of the stories ever came to a final conclusion. Later on, I wrote short stories and then I started writing plays during a summer course at Ohio University. Later on, when some of the plays were either produced or published and a noted instructor at The University of Illinois mailed me a critique informing me that I definitely had “writing gifts,” I began to think of myself as a writer as well as an actor, director and college teacher.

-What inspired you to write your first book?
SF: My first literary effort was inspired by a play I wrote entitled Sun Dance for Andy Horn. At the time I was interested in the question of identity as it relates to one’s heritage. By the same token I was reading about the plight of Native American Lakota Sioux Indians who were living a hopeless existence on a reservation in South Dakota and exploited by the powers that be.  Imaginatively, I thought of a contemporary rite of passage, a sun dance taken from the days of old when the Lakota were a thriving, noble people, living on the Great Plains in relative freedom. I subsequently found the play form too limiting, my actors not quite able to embody my vision, the stage inadequate to express the sweep of the storyline and the “inner landscape” of my central character Andy. And so I turned to the somewhat limitless powers of the novel

-Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
SF: What I find particularly challenging in writing fiction is reading a third or final draft  straight through as though I were a reader picking up a book for the first time. Is it going much too fast? Have I left out some important exposition? Have I forgotten something or assumed something that needs to be underscored or repeated? Is there too much to keep track of, too many subplots, too many characters? Or is there a pivotal character that I’ve taken for granted who has to be further developed? Is there too much interior monologue that should be dropped in favor of the proliferating action and so forth?

-What was the hardest part of writing The Twinning Murders?
SF: The hardest part of writing The Twinning Murders centers on the juxtaposition of dualities—e.g., the U.S. and the U.K., trans-Atlantic twin villages, amateurs and professionals, nature and open space vs. the machinations of developers, good weather and bad, working class and the gentry, spontaneous and sincere characters and guarded and duplicitous characters  . . . How can I incorporate this dynamic while not drawing attention to it and making sure the action unfolds and appears to be self-generating leading to an outcome that is surprising yet inevitable?

-Which of your characters is your favourite?
SF: Though it’s hard to say which character was my favorite, there is no doubt that I was always engaged by Emily’s integrity and heartfelt involvement. Unlike the army of female amateur detectives, especially the armchair variety starting with Miss Marple, Emily had no fondness for puzzles nor did she start out to do investigating of any sort.  It all began because a great wrong had been done to her beloved mentor and the powers that be seemed to be turning a blind eye. Through a proliferating set of experiences while, at the same time, trying to carry out her duties as a tour guide, she found herself duped, bound and determined and the only person with enough foresight and hindsight to eventually see to it that things were put right.

-Which of the characters would you most like to invite to dinner. Why?
SF: It would be fun to invite Miranda Shaw to dinner and discover how she carries on her juggling act. To find out how close she’s come to being discovered by her barrister husband in London or her present lover’s wife as she continues to flit back and forth over the pond, keep herself fit and beautiful, remodel property and sell it on both sides of the Atlantic and maintain her languid, blasé facade.  Not only how she does it but why? Is it all an exciting game or does it have something to do with encroaching age or just plain boredom?

- If you had to write the book all over again, would you change anything?
SF: Because this venture has been through the proverbial mill, I’m happy to say that there is no facet of this book I would like to change.

- Is there any message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
SF: Underlying it all, there are the games people play and a point when some of these games  can become deadly and require the services of someone who may be a novice but who cares enough and just won’t quit in order to bring about a bit of truth and justice in this world.

-Do you have any advice for other writers?                                              
SF: I find that a keen sense of place, character and given circumstances all play a vital role in energizing and fueling an entire novel. For instance, given my firsthand experiences in  Dartmoor, my understanding of pixilated Pru’s character and Emily’s integrity and professionalism, it was inevitable that there would be a set piece involving the wild Dartmoor ponies, encroaching fog and a sudden dip in temperature, ancient stone circles and legends of Devon pixies leading travelers astray and Emily’s hunt for Pru before it’s too late.

- Is there anything specific that you want to say to your readers or that you would like them to know?
SF: In fact there was a pristine upland close to my house replete with all manner of wildlife. One day as I was walking my happy-go-lucky golden retriever (who was transformed as Oliver in this tale) members of an urban development corporation located close to New York City came by and decided it would make an ideal site for the construction of 170 townhouses and all that would go with it. That, indeed, the housing market was now ripe “for a killing.” Needless to say, that decision was the perfect catalyst for this mystery.     

Thank you so much to Shelly Frome for taking the time to answer my questions.

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