IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY!!
How to Write A Mystery With Rebecca Cantrell And J.F.Penn
1. What led you into writing from your other fields of interest?
Writing is one of those things that, if you want to do it, I suggest don’t hesitate and delay. I did both for a long time and regret it. Even a few pages here and there will keep one from abandoning it. In my case, other, very important things in life crowded it out, but it was always there. So a few years ago I decided I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t take the risks and jump in.
As for KNOLL, I’m with the majority of Americans that still believe JFK was murdered as the result of a conspiracy. Some things nag at you, itch until you have to scratch and open them so they can be treated and healed. For me, the itch was the assassination of JFK. It got worse as I pondered over the years how something that momentous, that public a spectacle, could remain obscure and unresolved. Growing up in Louisiana with friends whose fathers were “made men” in the Mob, my brother playing in the band at the club secretly owned by Mafia Kingpin Carlos Marcello, my father as night manager at the downtown Shreveport hotel where vice was part of the room service, all went into the soup. Teaching inmates at Rikers Island helped me understand how little ever gets known about murder. My career as practicing lawyer (including as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.) helped me understand how things “off the record”, hidden from public view, can determine so much of what we call history. The healing balm was writing a story based in very substantial part on true facts, including references to Dalton Trumbo, the Academy Award-winning, blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter who first had the nerve to write a movie (Executive Action) about the assassination conspiracy. I wanted to explore how the mystery might (or might not) still be resolved in this twilight era of the last active JFK conspiracy activists. So all my other fields of interest contributed to this story.
2. How does writing compare to your previous work experience?
I confess, I treat writing much like a fascinating legal case or business project, with the same level of passion and discipline and attention to research that I would apply to an entrepreneurial investment or a legal case. I get “into” of all those and want to see each of them through. Inspiration and a creative muse are the fun part.
3. Who is Bus McIntyre?
Bus is me in an alternative universe. He has doubts, he struggles to get his bearings in a universe of errant stars and uncertain tides. He is driven to know that which is probably unknowable — in this case the truth behind the murders of his father and JFK. Yes, like Bus, I ride a Harley.
4. The plot for Knoll is very intriguing. Why did you choose this particular one?
Depending on your source, KNOLL is somewhere between the 4,000th and 40,000th book on JFK. It is, however, one of a relative short list of fictional treatments (including movies, comics, and songs) of those events. It is the only one set self-consciously in this moment where the “last of the JFK conspiracists” are fading away, perhaps sealing the fate of the matter as one of the great cold cases of history. It also recognizes that the case just might still be solved. If intelligence resources at the level that were applied to find Osama Bin Laden were applied to this case, plus a lucky break or two of new facts, the unravelling thread might well be pulled from the tapestry of mystery. That is the world into which the two key characters, Banner McCoy, the Millenial NSA fugitive, and Bus McIntyre, the Bilbo Baggins of the JFK Mystery, find themselves. Of course, there are forces out there, living and dead, that will fiercely protect those secrets.
5. Tell us about your experience in researching this book.
What great fun! Of course, the book is a work of fiction, and I have taken liberties in names, places and events. Behind those, I read much of the JFK literature, researched all the historical characters and places — Carlos Marcello, Elvis, Dalton Trumbo, Bossier City — and revisited all of the sites in the story.
6. What was the most enjoyable part in writing Knoll?
My favorites were writing the too-brief character of Banner McCoy, along with Bus’ journey on his bike to find the truth about himself and these murders, plus the final stalk in the canyon lands near Grand Junction, Colorado.
7. What was the most challenging?
Writing the too-brief character of young Banner McCoy. My kids helped me a lot with that. More important, Banner will be a key character in a sequel that takes all the events in KNOLL for a speed ride into a higher political dimension.
Have they changed their minds? Or have their minds been changed?
Death is no longer the end. Those who prepare, and can afford it, may have their memories and personalities digitally preserved. The digitally stored population can interact with the world of the living, remaining part of their loved ones’ lives. They can even vote.
But digital information has its vulnerabilities.
After the young and vital Thea dies and is stored, her devoted husband Max starts to wonder about changes in her preoccupations and politics. Are they simply the result of the new company she keeps? Or has she been altered without her knowledge and against her will?
And if Thea is no longer herself, what can they do?
*How did the concept of this book develop?
I’ve been aware of the concept of digital survival after corporeal death since reading Frederick Pohl’s Heechee Saga, if not before. Following all the public discussion of hacking computer files, I eventually thought of the possibility that digital personalities and memories could be hacked.
This is definitely a scary thought! I’ve read some of Ray Kurzweil’s writings along this line. Cool, but scary.
*Tell us about the main character, Thea.
Thea is a tough and assertive young woman. She’s very creative but also analytical. In the latter respect, she takes after her mother, though the two of them disagree on politics. (Thea leans libertarian.) I wouldn’t call her a romantic, though she is deeply in love with her husband Max. She has a big appetite for experience and sensation.
She sounds like someone I’d like to meet! Thea is also a nice name 🙂
*What is the setting like in WHO?
There are two basic settings: the “real” or corporeal world, and the digital environment LiveAfter provides its clients. The latter lacks variety and interest, though this may be corrected eventually. I tried to create a contrast between the vivid sensory detail of our world and the digital alternative.
I believe settings matter a lot in stories to cement the reader and deepen the storyline. This one sounds marvelous!
*Tell us about the technology employed in your book.
Clients are given a liquid filled with nanoparticles that travel throughout the nervous system. They are then put through very detailed scans that rely on the nanoparticles to map neural pathways and connections. That data is used to create virtual files of the client’s personality and memories. After the initial baseline data collection, clients can come in for subsequent scans to update their files.
It’s amazing what they’re able to do with nanoparticles. What will they come up next!
*Can you tell us something about WHO that we wouldn’t know by reading the book?
You wouldn’t know about a disgusting slob of a hacker who figured in the story until fairly late in the revision process.
You might not realize how much I didn’t already know, and had to learn, about federal court procedure in general and class actions in particular.
You might not know how much of the plot I made up as I went along. I’m what some writers call a “pantser,” meaning I fly by the seat of my pants – at the rough draft stage at least — rather than planning ahead in detail.
Learning is always a good thing, eh? That’s one thing I like about reading and being a writer—You get to learn all manner of things.
*What did you learn from researching the technology?
One of my beta readers, who’s an expert on software and related technologies, educated me about what machine-generated code would look like and how it would differ from code a human would write. He also shared with me a few basics about subroutines.
Wow. I didn’t know machine generate codes at all. That’s amazing.
*Do you think there’s a futuristic possibility of digitizing memories and personalities?
Assuming no catastrophic descent into a pre-technological era, I’d call it (pun intended) a virtual certainty.
Yikes! Digitizing memories or personalities definitely hard to fathom at this point, but I wouldn’t be surprised when we get there!
Musings through the journey of writing my first novel
Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins
Review Of Thriller Book Series From A Scientific Viewpoint
Just a redheaded woman who is obsessed with books
Literary Analysis derived from an Analytical Chemist
Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams Mystery Writer
Confessions of a writing addict
From first draft to publication: My novel adventure
Feather Stone, Author of Suspense & Romance
A Killer Conversation
Join me as I edit my first novel and aim for publication
The life of a waitress…in all its glory.
Independent Authors Unite!
Now available: "Three Things Serial, a Little 1920s Story"