Friday, October 18, 2013

A Conversation with Author Jonathan Santlofer

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Jonathan Santlofer
with Jonathan Santlofer

We are delighted to welcome author Jonathan Santlofer to Omnimystery News today.

Jonathan is the author of several crime novels, but he most recently created, edited and contributed a chapter — the first chapter — of Inherit the Dead (Touchstone; October hardcover, audiobook and ebook formats), a collaborative serial novel written by 20 different well known crime fiction writers in a mystery that combines vengeance, unrelenting greed, and most importantly, a breathtaking twist. (More about the book, below.)

We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Jonathan and talk about his work.

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Omnimystery News: Tell us a little more about your novels and anthologies.

Jonathan Santlofer
Photo provided courtesy of
Jonathan Santlofer

Jonathan Santlofer: I have written two series, one with ex-cop Kate McKinnon, the second with police forensic sketch artist Nate Rodriguez. I love the idea of a recurring character and I intend to write more books in each of these series though I am currently writing a stand-alone because I wanted to stretch. I don't see any reason why an author can't do both. The challenge in a series is to keep it fresh but I always want my character to develop and grow. I love seeing them change, which is necessary if the character's life changes.

I have also edited several anthologies, The Dark End of the Street, LA Noire, the Collected Stories, The Marijuana Chronicles, and the current serial novel Inherit the Dead for Touchstone/Simon& Schuster, which was a complex though totally rewarding experience, getting 20 writers, including Charlaine Harris, James Grady, Lawrence Block, Alafair Burke, Mary Higgins Clark, to each write a chapter in a continuing story. It was a challenge but not insurmountable and I think the end result is terrific.

OMN: How do you categorize your novels? That is, into what genre would you place them?

JS: Most people categorize my books as thrillers and fairly hardboiled, which is fine with me though I'm not a fan of labels because they are confining. I think my novels often combine elements from many different genres within the genre, i.e. Anatomy of Fear and The Murder Notebook have elements of the paranormal inside hardboiled thrillers. The serial novel, Inherit the Dead, combines disparate writers, so people like Heather Graham added a note of romance while Mary Higgins Clark gave it an almost sweet, homey touch. In many ways Inherit the Dead touches on many different crime fictions sub-genres.

OMN: Give us a summary of Inherit the Dead in a tweet.

JS: Inherit the Dead is a composite, 20 authors writing in their own voice to create 1 great novel.

OMN: Have you included any of your own personal or professional experience into your work?

JS: I think I'm in all my novels in some way but it's mainly my voice or the way I see the world. I have based characters on people I know and they're usually flattered, even when the character isn't very nice!

OMN: What is the best advice — and harshest criticism — you've received as an author?

JS: Best advice: To read all the time. Harshest criticism: That I can be sentimental.

Reading always teaching me something, how to structure or see it in a new way, or sometimes it just sparks an idea for me.

I don't think I am sentimental. I just think I'm emotional and tend to empathize with my characters, even the bad ones.

OMN: Complete this sentence for us: "If you are a crime novelist, you are also …".

JS: If you are a crime novelist, you are also ... a masochist because you spend your days with criminals and lowlifes in your head. But I enjoy it!

OMN: Describe your writing process. And where do you normally work?

JS: I never outline. To do so would kill the excitement for me. I just know the idea of the book and where I think it's going but I let the characters and the situation lead me. Often it takes me places I had never imagined. It's a more difficult way to write but the only way I can do it. I love the unexpected and surprises.

I work in the back half of a midtown Manhattan loft that was formerly a fur vault. It big but very noisy — that's my only complaint.

OMN: Have you ever written under a pen name?

JS: I have not. But I still may. I've been thinking about the freedom it would give me to not be me.

OMN: How do you go about researching your books? Do you use the Internet, consult with experts, or rely on first-hand-experience?

JS: All of the above. For Inherit the Dead it was easy. For my Nate Rodriguez books it was all about facial recognition and forensics. Plus, I spoke to lots of police sketch artists and learned a lot.

OMN: How true are you to the settings in your books?

JS: I try and remain true to the locale. I don't want people saying, "That's not possible because it's a one-way street," but only because it would throw them out of the story.

OMN: What do you know about the cover design of Inherit the Dead?

JS: It was designed by David Falk. He found the photo of a storm over Manhattan and I loved it.

OMN: If you had to select an actor to portray your key characters, who would it be?

JS: For Nate Rodriguez I could see Bobby Cannavale or …? For Kate McKinnon I have lots of ideas: Charlize Theron, Julia Roberts, ….

OMN: Speaking of actors, have any of your books been optioned for film or television?

JS: The Death Artist is being adapted now and I am consulting on the script, which is great.

OMN: What kinds of books or movies do you enjoy for pleasure?

JS: When I was younger, I loved The Hardy Boys and Poe, and comic books. Nowadays I read just about anything from crime fiction to literary and I don't think there's any difference.

I'm a total movie fanatic and always have been. I watch my favorite movies over and over, any Hitchcock, Chinatown, and many others.

OMN: Do you have any favorite mystery or crime series characters?

JS: Harry Bosch and Jack Reacher.

OMN: What kind of feedback do you get from readers?

JS: I like it when readers are intrigued enough to get in touch about anything. Most people are kind. A few are not and I wonder why they bothered to take the time to tell you something bad. But the good ones way outnumber the bad.

OMN: How do you balance your time as an author and artist?

JS: I was trained as an artist, a painter, and I still paint. Art often gets into my books. In the Kate McKinnon series, Kate often has to decipher visual clues, which I put in the books. And I created Nate Rodriguez, the police sketch artist so I'd have an excuse to make sketches in my novels.

OMN: Give us a Top 5 list on any subject.

JS: Top 5 films:

Chinatown
Vertigo
Some Like It Hot
Pyscho
The Godfather

OMN: What's next for you?

JS: I am working on several books at once, a stand alone thriller, a historical thriller that goes back and forth between the past and the present and an illustrated YA book.

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Jonathan Santlofer is currently the director of New York City's Crime Fiction Academy, the only program devoted exclusively to crime writing in all of its forms. He also teaches Crime Fiction Writing in Pratt Institute's Creative Writing program, and has taught at Columbia University and The New School. He has given numerous workshops at writing conventions and festivals and has been a sought after lecturer at colleges and universities and museums across the country, among them the Whitney Museum of American Art, MOMA, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and LA MOCA.

A well-known artist, Santlofer's work is in such collections as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and Tokyo's Institute of Contemporary Art.

He lives in New York City where he writes and paints. For more information about the author/artist, visit his website at JonathanSantlofer.com or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Inherit the Dead by Jonathan Santlofer

Inherit the Dead
Jonathan Santlofer

Pericles "Perry" Christo is a PI with a past — a former cop, who lost his badge and his family when a corruption scandal left him broke and disgraced. When wealthy Upper East Side matron Julia Drusilla summons him one cold February night, he grabs what seems to be a straightforward (and lucrative) case.

The socialite is looking for her beautiful, aimless daughter, Angelina, who is about to become a very wealthy young woman. But as Christo digs deeper, he discovers there's much more to the lovely "Angel" than meets the eye. Her father, her best friend, her boyfriends all have agendas of their own. Angel, he soon realizes, may be in grave danger … and if Christo gets too close, he just might get caught in the crossfire.

This classic noir tale twists and turns down New York's mean streets and along Hamptons' beaches and back roads during a bitterly cold and gray winter where nothing is as it seems and everyone has something to hide. In an inventive storytelling approach, each writer brings his or her distinctive voice to a chapter of Inherit the Dead, building the tension to a shocking, explosive finale.

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)  BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)  iTunes iBook Format  Kobo eBook Format

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