Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Meet: Attica Locke, author of BLACK WATER RISING

I'm delighted to announce that my new "White Readers Meet...." feature begins with Attica Locke.

About the author
Attica Locke is a writer who has worked in both film and television for over ten years. A graduate of Northwestern University, she has written movie scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros., Disney, Twentieth Century Fox and Jerry Bruckheimer films, as well as television pilots for HBO, Dreamworks and Silver Pictures. She was a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmaker’s Lab and most recently completed an adaptation of Stephen Carter’s The Emperor of Ocean Park. She is member of the Writers Guild of America, west, and is currently at work on an HBO miniseries about the civil rights movement, based on the writings of historian Taylor Branch. A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter.

About the book
Black Water Rising was Booklist's Best Debut Crime Novel 2009 and a July Indie Next Great Read. Just some of the smashing reviews it has received:

"...[Locke] is able to write with a serious, stirring moral urgency akin to that of George Pelecanos or Dennis Lehane."– New York Times
"...a strong and whip-smart debut..." – Seattle Times
"Black Water Rising is a near-perfect balance of trenchant social commentary, rich characterizations and an action-oriented plot..." – Los Angeles Times
Following is my conversation with Locke. After you read it, please go to your favorite bookstore or online site and buy it!

White Readers Meet Black Authors: Describe your work for someone unfamiliar with it. What's your writing style like? What subjects/themes do you explore?

Attica Locke: I once described my work as a cross between John Grisham and the filmmaker John Sayles. I appreciate the forward moving engine of a good plot (and am drawn to stories about lawyers), but I also like telling stories set against the backdrop of larger socio-political themes.

WRMBA: What's your goal(s) as a writer? Do you set out to educate? entertain? illuminate?

AL: My first goal is to entertain, always. It’s the gateway to everything else. My ultimate hope is that people come to love the characters they read about, especially characters they may have the least in common with. That feeling of love and fellowship – for a stranger, no less – is one of the ways we are able to survive as a species on this planet. I am deeply interested in love.

WRMBA: You're a screenwriter too. How is writing a book different or similar to writing a script for a movie?

AL: I have pointedly made the two experiences different. As a paid screenwriter, I am often asked to stick closely to an approved outline. But I wrote Black Water Rising without a clear outline at all. I had a very strong sense of the opening and only a vague sense of the ending. I would plot just enough to get me through the next few chapters, knowing that I could always circle back and rewrite if I hit a wall (which I did, many times). Staying open about the story and its structure left room for many surprises. It made the writing experience feel almost like reading.

WRMBA: What's next for you? Would you consider a series based on Jay Porter?

AL: I definitely think about writing about Jay again. I, like a lot of readers, want to know how he’s doing, or if he’s managed to get himself in any more trouble. Right now, though, I am writing a mystery that takes place in Louisiana. There’s a woman at the center.

WRMBA: What's the best book (or who is the best writer) that not enough people know about?

AL: Fay by Larry Brown – a hauntingly beautiful book with a character at its center who is from a world most of us know nothing about.

Thanks Attica!


Doret said...

Black Water Rising is very good. I really liked Jay Porter.

For some reason I don't think race comes into play has much when it comes to mysteries. Fans of this genre just want a good story.

So I've found Black Water Rising easy to hand sell, especially with a blurb from James Ellroy. And the comparison to Pelecanos and Lehane, two authors I love.

Carleen Brice said...

I'm really curious why that it's easier to sell this genre with regard to race? Why do you think?

Beverly said...

I really enjoyed Black Water Rising and I am so looking forward to your next book.

Doret said...

I think part of the reason is there are a few White authors with Black characters as the main character or a strong secondary character like Pelecanos, Lehane, P.J. Parrish, and John Connolly

So I think a Black protagonist doesn't seem so foreign to non Black readers.

With fiction its implied that the author will delve into the experiences of the main character. Some non Black readers avoid Black author because they think our experiences are different.

I don't think this comes into play with mysteries so much because its about solving the case. Plus most main characters in mysteries have similiar backgrounds. Based on the chosen path.

I hope that makes some sense.

Carleen Brice said...

Beverly, Thanks!

Doret, Your take on it makes great sense. It's part of what I'm trying to prove here: we're not so different. Experience-wise, anybody can relate to more of our stories.

Shauna Roberts said...

Great interview questions! Thanks for introducing me to Attica Locke.

Tyhitia Green said...

Sounds wonderful. You're adding to my TBR pile, Carleen. Oh, and I need to add the link to this blog. I thought I did already.