Saturday, December 5, 2020

S.J. Rozan

Photo credit: Charles Kreloff
S. J. Rozan has won multiple awards for her fiction, including the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Nero, and Macavity, the Japanese Maltese Falcon, and the Private Eye Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award. She was born and raised in the Bronx and now lives in lower Manhattan.

Rozan's new novel is The Art of Violence.

My Q&A with the author:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

A lot. Right away you know that art and violence are tangled together in this book. On page 1 you see the threat of violence. The art follows very quickly. (Side note: When we signed the contract the book had no title yet, so the contract refers to it as "UNTITLED #2." Any painter would use that for a canvas so I thought it would be a great title for the book. My publisher threw cold water all over that idea.)

What's in a name?

As opposed to a book title, not much. I like certain names, either the way they sound or people they remind me of, and I tend to give those to characters I like. The same is true of names I don't like and characters I don't like. Of course I'm not going to tell you any of those here because then you'd know who's who, but in a general sort of way I'd advise you not to trust anyone in my books whose name is George.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

Some of my books my teenage reader self would be scratching her head at and wondering what she got up to in her later years, but with this one she'd be pumping her fist and saying, "Yeah! What took you so long?"

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Beginnings are easier in the sense that I don't start a book until I have a beginning -- about a page, in my head -- that seems to work to open out the story and give it a choice of directions in which to go. My beginnings don't change much, except in technical terms: sentence structure, word choice, etc. Endings, though, are always a surprise to me. I generally know the direction of the story, which becomes clearer as I write, but the actual shape of the ending is something I never know until I'm there. I always fear, by the way, that I won't ever get there. 17 novels in and that still happens.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

Oh, they're all me. One of the joys of writing is to take a small, sometimes wonderful, sometimes regrettable part of yourself and blow it up, create a character for whom it's the dominant trait. We all can be jealous, grandiose, insecure, generous, forgetful, inspired... whatever it is, you can make it the motivating force for a character. You can take parts of yourself you're ashamed of -- or proud of but ashamed to admit it -- and explore them deeply and deliberately.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

My actual writing -- the sounds of sentences, how I reveal character, how I create action, that sort of thing -- is influenced by reading other writers. But my thinking, which gives me subject matter and especially my slant on that subject matter, is influenced by art, classical and world music, sports, and the sights, sounds, and smells of New York and of every other place I've ever walked, watched, and eaten street food in.
Visit S.J. Rozan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Paper Son.

The Page 69 Test: The Art of Violence.

--Marshal Zeringue