Richard Cass is our guest today on Author Expressions. He has a most impressive background. Richard began writing as a poet but slowly became enamored of the possibilities of prose: first short stories, then novels. He graduated from Colby College in Maine and earned an MA in Writing from the University of New Hampshire. His short fiction has won prizes from magazines like Redbook, Writers' Digest, and Playboy. His first collection of stories is called Gleam of Bone. His first novel is published by Five Star/Cengage.
Richard is a native of
and a Mainer by choice and holds an MA in Writing from the , where he studied
with Thomas Williams and Joseph Monninger. He's also studied with Molly Gloss,
Ursula LeGuin, and Ernest Hebert. University
of New Hampshire
Question: What is the title and genre of your novel? Why did you select them?
Answer: The first entry in my Elder Darrow series is called Solo Act. When I started planning the series, I envisioned a series of titles with the word “Solo” in each, as a way to tie the series together.
Solo Act is what I’d call an amateur sleuth. Elder Darrow is a bartender, not a cop or any other kind of law enforcement officer and the initial mystery he solves is very personal. I’ve always been attracted to the amateur protagonist, at least partly because I was very impressed at a young age with Travis McGee, John D. McDonald’s creation, who solved crimes and helped victims without having any sort of legal or official standing.
Question: What inspired this novel? How did it come about?
Answer: As part of my checkered past, I spent a lot of time tending bar in both classy and seedy places. You can’t be a bartender for long without realizing that behind all those faces are stories you can’t even imagine. And being a bartender allows you to be a sort of voyeur of those stories. I also spent a lot of time bouncing around jazz clubs in my youth and wanted to capture some of the flavor of that music for readers. And as a native of Boston, I wanted to catch some of my love for the city, its institutions, and its inhabitants.
Question: Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?
Answer: Elder Darrow is the son of a Boston Brahmin whose family has been in the banking business in Boston since just after the Revolutionary War. He attended prep school at Exeter and college at Harvard but he became an alcoholic before he worked out any professional path for himself. His father would have liked him to go into the banking business but until Elder can prove he can stay sober, that’s not going to be possible. And Elder himself isn’t sure that’s what he wants.
He’s bought the Esposito, a bucket of blood bar in
South End, with the idea that he will gentrify it, turn it into a jazz
nightclub. His working assumption is that by being around alcohol and drinkers
all the time, he’ll inoculate himself against his addiction.
Question: Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?
Answer: Solo Act is my first published novel. I’ve published a book of short stories called Gleam of Bone and any number of essays and articles. Other than fiction, I write mainly about the outdoors: environmental topics, fishing, oceans and rivers, and so on.
Question: What are you working on now?
Answer: My agent is currently shopping a thriller about a man who, in trying to avenge his girlfriend’s death, kills the wrong person. I’m also finishing up the first draft of a political mystery, set in Portland, Maine, where the protagonist is hired to kill a sitting governor’s best friend.
Question: What made you start writing?
Answer: I wrote my first short story in the sixth grade, a labored-over tale of a valuable stamp hidden in the handle of a magnifying glass. I’ve always read and I always loved mysteries and thrillers, from Rod Serling and Alfred Hitchcock all the way down the decades to Robert Crais and Ian Rankin. Essentially, I started writing because I wanted to do what all those writers I admired do.
Question: What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?
Answer: Pay no attention to what you think is going well or not going well in the short term. You will finish your book by accretion, not in great leaps. Understand that you are playing a long game, that how your day’s writing went is almost immaterial with respect to whether you’ll finish and/or how well you’ve done. It’s about momentum and finishing, not about making each day’s work be perfect, or even good. Almost all of the goodness is going to be in the revising.
If you are lucky enough to be published, understand that the publishing business operates at the speed of a shucked snail. And everyone will have plenty of advice for you. Develop a thick skin if you don’t already have one.
Question: Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?
Answer: You can order the Solo Act hardcover from any independent bookstore that buys books from major national distributors like Ingram or Baker and Taylor. Solo Act is also available in e-book and hardcover formats from Amazon.com and in hardcover from BarnesandNoble.com. For five or more copies for readings, book signings, or reading groups, the publisher provides a discount code for direct ordering.
Richard, thanks so much for being our guest today. Your novel sounds like a fine book.
Readers, do you have any questions or comments for Richard? They are welcome here.