Innocent Monster (Tyrus Books, Oct. 5, 2010) delves into the art world and the life of a young artist “wunderkind” – what took you down this path and what type of research did you do?
I think child prodigies are a fascinating subject. As crazy and dysfunctional as my childhood was, at least I had one. What if you were never allowed to have a childhood? Worse, what if you were your family’s sole source of income? Talk about the child being father to the man. I also saw a documentary on a childhood prodigy artist. It was very well done and Innocent Monster deals, in a fictional way, with many of the questions raised during the documentary. Lastly, my son is an artist and, when he gets out of college, this is the world he’ll be stepping into.
With this book, you came up with the title first, and built the book around it. Has that happened before, or do you usually come up with your titles later?
I always have a title for my novels before I write them, but I have never had a title so completely influence the book itself. I was just playing with words one day and the two words innocent and monster appeared in my head in juxtaposition. Wow! I was like, now there’s a title I can do something with. I didn’t know then that the title would do something with me.
Why is your main character, Moe Prager, such a terrible swimmer?
Because I’m a terrible swimmer. Moe and I have that in common. I didn’t swim at all until I had kids. Then I learned enough to swim if I had to.
Your five other Moe Prager novels are now available in reprint paperback editions, eBooks, and recorded books through Audible.com. How important are these publication options?
I wish they weren’t important, but they are, especially to younger readers and people who travel a lot. To deny their increasing relevance is to deny the obvious truth of things. I do, however, believe that paper books aren’t going anywhere just yet and that they shall always be a part of the market.
Some of the characters in Innocent Monster – including a dog – are named after friends of yours. How do they react to this?
The dogs or my friends? :-) My friends think it’s a great honor. It’s also a way for me to pay back some folks in the industry who have been kind to me along the way.
All your Moe books now have been recorded – tell us what that experience has been like.
Luckily, I’ve become pretty friendly with Andy Caploe, the gentleman who performs the Moe books for Audible.com. We spoke early on and he asked me to do something for him I had always previously resisted. He asked me to cast the books. I never tell people who would play Moe in a movie or who would play Mr. Roth or Katy. I want readers to see who they see, not who I see. But Andy explained that it makes it easier for him if he has a particular actor in mind when he voice books. So I gave Andy a cast for each book. The funny thing was his asking me to cast characters I’d forgotten about. Andy would send me an email asking about so and so and there I’d be, sitting at my desk, looking feverishly through my books for that character.
Describe Moe’s perfect meal – what and where. And maybe with whom.
That’s a funny question because I don’t think of Moe in terms of food. I know kosher deli would be his comfort food. But his perfect meal … Thai crispy duck in tamarind sauce comes to mind. A mixed green salad with peanut dressing. Mango ice cream. A nice Santa Barbara Pinot Noir to start. A French cabernet with the duck. Perrier Jouet Champagne with dessert. He would choose to have his meal with Katy, the Katy he fell in love with just after they met.
You shocked some of your fellow writers recently when you signed onto Twitter – why were they so surprised, and why did you finally take the plunge?
Because I’m a Luddite at heart and I have always felt that my energies should be put into the writing and not the marketing.
When and where will we see Moe again?
Hopefully next year in Moe #7, Hurt Machine
Have you ever considered spinning off some of your characters into their own books, as Michael Robotham has done?
Yes, actually I have. I have toyed with spinning off Carmella Melendez, but I’m not sure there’s any demand for it. I already have a million books in my head to write.
What other projects are on the horizon?
I’m considering doing a few collaborations. I have a short story anthology project about the Holocaust that’s been in the works for years with Busted Flush.And there are several stand-alones I want to write. And I think maybe I’ve got an eighth Moe book in me.
To close, a Reed Farrel Coleman poem:
The Dying Man
His chest heaves.
There’s a red dot,
a dime-sized hole in
the belly of
the dying man.
The dying man has a name
but I don’t know it.
No one helps the dying man.
We want him to ask for help.
We wait for permission.
Simon says help the dying man.
The ambulance comes.
Men poke at the dying man.
The dying man’s chest
does not heave.
His fat body does not shudder.
The dying man stops dying.
He’s the dead man now.
He’s the murdered man now, forever.
The murdered man had a name.
I will never know it.
Reed Farrel Coleman
(originally published in The Lineup, Issue 2)
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Interviewer Sara J. Henry’s first novel, Learning to Swim, will be available from Crown in February 2011. Visit her at www.sarajhenry.com.