Monday, March 3, 2014

Robert Lane

Novelist Robert Lane resides on the west coast of Florida. The Second Letter is his debut novel.

A brief Q & A with the author:

How would you complete this line: "You might well enjoy my book if you like..."?

…the TV series Castle and Suits. Like Castle, there is an element of danger and suspense, but that is the plot, not the story. Do not confuse plot with story. In Castle there is a continuing story that the characters are experiencing while pursuing criminals and brandishing badges and guns. (They also brandish heavy coats in the middle of the summer, but we’ll let that slide.) The underlying story ties one episode to another. The story, propelled by witty lines and engaging characters, creates continuity and cements the interest between the viewer and the show. The story maintains just enough element of suspense that a happy ending is not a forgone conclusion.

And Suits? Snappy, fast paced dialogue. An absolute joy to listen to. We hear words as we read. Why not make them fun? Why not a pace that threatens to leave you behind? I like dialogue that crackles and is slightly ahead of my general knowledge. Want realism? Read the manual on programming your garage door opener. You don’t take that to the beach.

If they make your book into a movie, who should direct it?

Lawrence Kasdan—Body Heat, Grand Canyon, The Big Chill—with a little help from Woody Allen (I know, but bear with me).

In Kasdan’s movies, there is a desperate pining and desire that binds the characters. Kasdan’s characters need each other. They shape their world and lives through interaction with other characters. In Grand Canyon, Steve Martin’s calloused Hollywood producer character sets the boundaries of what the others do not want to become. You think that Body Heat is just about the sex—you may be right—but I don’t think so. And The Big Chill? Let’s unite a bunch of former college pals together for a funeral and throw them in a house together. Even the dead character holds sway over the others. Plot arises from characters and that is never clearer than in Kasdan’s films.

Casting? I don’t go there. I’m afraid. Afraid that if I put some tabloid picture next to my character’s name, the mental image I hold of that person will drive my character. (Also, my character would forever be overweight, in a bathing suit, and emerging from the waters off the coast of Marseille.) I would let Woody Allen do my casting. Not that he has anything to do with my genre, but that man is a casting god. His movies also, are totally character driven.

What is your second favorite art form?


Everything is about feeling and nothing provides an emotional jolt like music.

Music cheats—it has numerous elements at its disposal and varied tools that can be utilized to tug at your heartstrings. It can make you cry, laugh, and swell up past emotions. Those emotions can possess you—will possess you—if only for moment. Read This is Your Brain on Music (Daniel Levitin). Your brain literally has a chemical reaction to songs. That is why when you hear a particular song, you know for certain that your eighth-grade romance was one for the ages, and somewhere, right now, in the still of the universe, she is thinking of you. No wonder we’re such a mess. As writers, we’re supposed to compete with that?

Good luck.

But we can transition from musical notes to written notes. What does the character feel? What emotions am I, as the writer, eliciting from my reader. From myself? If I feel nothing, how can I expect the reader to feel anything? And if you don’t feel anything; no anger, joy, sadness, fear, hesitancy, heat, lust, for God’s sake, man, something….why read? Why waste your time?

And my third favorite art form?

Stick figures. Hemingway said to boil it all down. There you have it.
Learn more about the book and author at Robert Lane's website.

--Marshal Zeringue