Today one of my favorite authors, Lou Berney, is here to answer questions. And if you comment below, you could win a signed advanced reader copy of Lou's latest book, which comes out February 10th.
The Long Faraway Gone is a big departure from your other two novels. What inspired you to write this novel? We’re the cases inspired by real life incidents?
Yes, the two cases in the novel were inspired by real life events. In 1978 three people robbed a family steakhouse in Oklahoma City and murdered six employees, four of them teenagers. I was 13 at the time and working across town at an ice cream/burger joint and those murders really scared the hell out of me. I could imagine what those kids who worked at the steakhouse must have been feeling.
A few years later, when I was working at a movie theater, two teenage girls disappeared without a trace from the Oklahoma State Fair. The mother of one girl worked at the same movie theater. She kept coming to work afterward -- life goes on -- and I remember looking at her, her blank face, and wondering how she could deal with that much grief and uncertainty.
The characters in this book jump off the page. What kind of research did you do for this novel? Where did you go? Who did you talk to?
I didn't do a ton of research for this novel. For both Wyatt and Julianna I tapped into the notion that the memories you make and friendships you have in your teenage years are some of the most powerful and vivid of your life. What if all that's abruptly cut off, arrested, and you're left sort of hanging in that moment...for the rest of your life? I think it would be extraordinarily hard to move on.
Because I worked in a movie theater when I was a kid, I didn't have to do any research for that. All those memories just came flooding back when I wrote the novel. I could smell that popcorn grease again, and the perfume of the girls I had crushes on.
What’s the best thing that has happened to you as a result of your novels?
One, it's the amazingly supportive and generous community of crime/mystery writers and readers I've been lucky to become a part of. Amazing, just let me say it again. The word "community" gets thrown around a lot, but what we have really IS that. And I'm a better writer and happier person because of it.
Two, there's absolutely no feeling like a stranger coming up to you -- at Bouchercon, for example -- and talking to you about one of your characters they like. When I write, when it's going well, the characters come alive for me. And to know that happens to somebody who reads the book is just awesome.
The tone of this book differs from Whiplash River and Gunshot Straight, why did you decide to leave those characters and move onto a stand-alone?
I loved writing my first two novels, and Faraway Gone does have some humor in it, but with this book I really wanted to paint with more colors, and on a bigger canvas. Different stories call for different kinds of telling, and I think as a writer I have to honor that.
That said, I haven't left behind the characters in Whiplash River and Gunshot Straight forever. I'm just about to finish up a third novel in that series.
What was the hardest thing about writing this book?
The hardest think about writing this novel, I think, was probably balancing the two main characters and the two main mysteries -- making sure one didn't crowd the other off the page. I wanted the dual narrative structure to make each narrative richer, and I worked hard to (I hope!) make sure the reader was equally invested in both Wyatt and Julianna.
We're giving away a signed advance reader copy (ARC) of The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney. To enter, just make a comment below. US residents only.
You can see the drink we paired with Berney's first book, Whiplash River here on Drinks with Reads.