Thursday, July 29, 2010

Carl Deuker Interview

 Where are you from? I was born in San Francisco, raised in Redwood City, CA, but have lived for more than 30 years in Seattle. I consider Seattle my home.

Tell us your latest news? Payback Time, my most recent book, comes out in September. I'm hard at work on a new story now as well.

When and why did you begin writing? I started writing in high school. A friend of mine wrote "songs" and shared them. I've been hooked ever since. I have no other creative talents whatsoever. Can't sing, can't play music, can't draw--so writing is my only possible outlet.

When did you first consider yourself a writer? That feeling comes and goes. Sometimes, when I'm struggling with a story, I wonder if I am one. At other times, when things are going well, I think "I know how to do this."

What inspired you to write your first book? I had started many books and had failed to finish them. I got the (for me) great idea of stealing the plot of Dr. Faustus and changing the setting to a high school basketball team. Sounds strange, but that's what Damn Yankees did as well.

Do you have a specific writing style? I try to be invisible. I'd like the reader never to think of the author as he/she reads. I use first person narratives and hope that it sounds like a real person recounting real events.

How did you come up with the title? The title was definitely a joint effort among Houghton Mifflin editors, publicity people, and me. Now that it's set, I like it, but I'd be hard pressed to tell you where it came from.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Oh, I suppose the message is that life is very complicated and that it's important not to be too quick to judge or too certain of first impressions.

How much of the book is realistic? The "mystery" part is based on events that did take place. I read about some gang problems in Philly, and that's what got the plot going. Nothing is beyond the realm . . . I hope!

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? Payback Time is definitely based on gang events that took place in Philadelphia in the early 2000's.

What books have most influenced your life most? A book called Jason's Women gave me the idea to try Young Adult fiction, a field I hadn't considered. I don't think I'd have ever published anything if I hadn't made the switch. I love to read Moby Dick every few years. Basically, though, I'm a classic English major. I read all the time and admire many, many writers.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? John Tunis moves his stories along, and I try to do the same. He also makes sure his "sports" novels do indeed have sports action in them.

What book are you reading now? I am just finishing Vanity Fair. I've been on a long book run--Les Miserables, Hunchback of Notre Dame. I'm planning on Bleak House next.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Arthur Phillips is new to me. He writes involved mysteries from multiple perspectives for adults. I'm in awe of his talent.

What are your current projects? I'm working on a basketball book with a charismatic coach who also has dubious morals as the focal point.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members. Definitely Ann Rider, who has edited all my books. She has been wonderful.

Do you see writing as a career? For me, making writing a full-time career has always seemed beyond my ability. I don't write quickly; I don't have thousands of ideas; I don't like to travel and do school visits very often. So, I've been very content to write an hour or so a day, publish a book every 2-3 years, and continue to teach as I write.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? I'm sure there is something I'd like to change on every single page, but as for the overall structure -- I'm pleased with that.

Carl Deuker

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