Thursday, 9 December 2010

Dancing With Myself: ERIC STONE interviews ERIC STONE

Do you hate your readers? Why’d you kill off your hero, Ray Sharp?

You know how us writers are fond of saying our characters take on a life of their own? Well, they do. At a certain point you just plain lose control of them and they get themselves into situations that they seem to expect you, as their creator, to get them out of. It isn’t enough that we gave them life to begin with, no, they want us to take care of them from then on out. They’re ingrates. It’s the reason I don’t have children in the real world. At a certain point they have to learn to fend for themselves.

So what I’m saying is that Ray got himself into a fix that he couldn’t get himself out of and I wasn’t about to step in and come up with some unlikely, out of character means for him to get out of it. If what happened to Ray, really happened to Ray or to any of the rest of us, there’s one and only one thing that he and we would do –DIE! And that’s what he did because who am I to tweak reality to accommodate the misadventures of my characters. I’m not Ian Fleming. Ray wasn’t James Bond.

Okay, fine, but then you left us with Lei Yue –a Chinese, Mexican, dwarf, lesbian junkie –I don’t know if I like her or not. What’s with that?

Good, I don’t know if I like her or not either but I like writing her character. I love flawed characters. Ray was pretty flawed himself –a drunken, girl-crazy, confused sort of guy. Lei Yue is even more screwed up and that makes her even more interesting to me. I like challenging my imagination as a writer. Even though Lei Yue is very roughly based on a couple of old friends of mine, she mostly sprang from my own twisted brain. I also like challenging my readers. Whether she’s all that likeable or not is somewhat irrelevant to me so long as she’s interesting and I can give the reader some insights into what makes her tick.

Why is there so much sex in your books?

No one ever seemed to bother asking why there was so much food in Robert Parker’s Spenser novels. Every time Spenser and Susan Silverman sat down to a meal you practically got a recipe. Well, for most people I know, or at least plenty of them, sex has a bigger impact on their lives than pasta primavera does. Sex is probably the most thought about, talked about, lied about and pursued thing in the world and yet most writers get way too coy about it. Who a character has sex with, when, how, why and what they do tells you a whole lot about that character. It can tell you a lot about their motivations and attitudes and all sorts of other stuff. Plus, hey, I like sex so I like writing about it. Then again, I like food, too, although pasta primavera not so much.

How much of what’s in your books is true and how much is bullshit?

I could split philosophical hairs and say that it’s all true and it’s all bullshit, but I won’t. I could go down the list ticking off what really happened and what places really exist, etc., but I won’t do that either. Suffice it to say that most of it is true. Almost every single place described in all of the books is a real place that I have either seen with my own eyes or been told about in detail by more than one generally reliable source. I spent too many years working as a journalist to not reflexively try and get my facts straight, even in my fiction. Many of the events in the books are based on real events –at least the bigger picture ones. Was one of the bad guys in the real life Bre-X gold scandal that Flight of the Hornbill is based on, really killed by a snakebite near the (fake) minesite? Not that I know of, but plenty of other people have been killed by snakebites in similar circumstances in similar places. Was the chief geologist for the mining company (Bre-X) really pushed (or did he jump?) to his death from a helicopter over the jungle? Yes he was. Are there really “pleasure islands” in the South China Sea that are either run by, or with the sufferance of the Chinese Navy as figure into the story in The Living Room of the Dead? Yep. Is there one on which patrons are allowed to torture women? Probably. It’s long been rumored but I have no absolute verifiable knowledge of it.

What do you want from your readers?

• To have fun reading the books.
• To be interested in the characters.
• To be moved by the moving scenes.
• To be frightened by the scary scenes.
• To be on the edge of their seat reading the suspenseful scenes.
• To be turned on reading the sex scenes – except for the sex scenes where I don’t want them to be turned on. The difference should be obvious –if it isn’t, I’m worried about you.
• To be saddened by the sad scenes.
• To be surprised by some of the turns of events.
• To be prompted to thought, and maybe even action, by the depiction of some of the political, social and economic issues that provide real world context to the books.
• To buy the books not steal them.
• To tell their friends to buy the books, not steal them.
• To write me and let me know what they think, whether good or bad. Although if it’s bad, I want it to be thoughtfully bad.
• To show up at my book events and say hello in person and buy me a drink from time to time or let me buy a round when it’s my turn. Maybe the occasional groupie.
• To buy my next book and all my books and to buy some as gifts.
• I want everything from my readers.

What do you have against Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama?

Don’t get me started.

Is Moby Dick really your favorite book? You’re kidding, right?

Yes it is. The book’s got everything. Well, no sex to speak of, but everything else. It’s about the great questions and issues and the little ones, too. It’s laugh out loud funny in places and suspenseful and exciting in others. It’s full of information and things that make you think. The characters are as fully developed and complex as any ever written. The language is beautiful and timeless. It works on pretty much every level from the highest, most esoteric allegorical to the down and dirty gutter of brutal reality. And it is very rhythmic. It takes a while to catch on to the rhythm, but you can tap your foot to it once you do.

What do you like to do when you aren’t writing, and how important is it to your writing?

I love urban exploration – even in my own hometown of Los Angeles. I like just getting in my car and driving to new places or old ones and poking around and seeing what I can see and hear and smell and taste and feel and all of that finds its way into my books in one way or another. I love doing that anywhere. New and foreign places are great, but I can’t experience them to the same depth that I can experience the old, familiar places.

I love cooking. It’s physical and creative and I’m reasonably good at it and I will often cook the way I write –start off with an idea of some basic ingredients, throw them together on the counter and see where it all leads. I seldom follow recipes.

I love photography. I’ve worked as a photographer as well as a writer over the years and I love the selective nature of it –go somewhere and select some specific scenes and make something of them that transcends the mere visual aspect. When I’m researching a book I usually take my camera one day and shoot pictures of places I want to write about. Then I go back another day without my camera and simply take notes about what I feel and smell and hear and taste – without any visual references.

There’s other stuff, too, but that’s most of the really important ones.

Again, what’s with all the sex? You’re books are full of it.

I’m not any kind of an …ist. I don’t believe in any particular …ism. But I do think that sex (once survival is ensured), whether people want to own up to it or not, is the major motivating factor in almost all human behavior. We’re animals, and we haven’t evolved far enough away from our basic, animalistic cave dwelling roots that we aren’t pushed around constantly by our need to get laid. Sure, we’ve put some pretty high gloss on it, covered it over with a gigantic mound of bullshit and philosophy, but boil nearly all human interactions down to their ugliest, most primal state and they’re about sex. So it comes up a lot.

What are you working on now and is there a lot of sex in it?

I’m writing a trilogy of thematically linked novellas. They’re coming of age stories set during three different periods – 1947, 1969 and about 2000 – in Los Angeles. They deal with issues of race and economics and politics and sexuality in the context of the characters’ interactions. The characters themselves are mostly what they deal with. At least in the first two there’s no overt sex. I haven’t started the third yet, so I’m not sure what’s going to happen.

My website:

1 comment:

  1. Man, get out of my head. Sex and Moby Dick. No it;s not bullshit and no I haven't shot anyone in the face and no, I haven't dumped anybody or any body in the ocean or harbor, but yes, I do know pretty much how that feels from: events I've been in, places I been in, jackpots I been in and a few people I know who've done some things. It's fiction, Jack. Urban observation works. Oh hell, everything you said makes sense and creates great technique, bro. And the "things I want from my reader" list is coolio. Exceptional interview.