Books and Reading

George du Maurier’s Trilby: A Victorian Phenomenon

Interesting Literature today has a nice feature on George du Maurier’s Trilby, a novel that figures prominently in Oscar’s Ghost. The popularity of Trilby was such that the idea of mind control, and a person surrendering his will to someone who seduces him or her through art, was an undercurrent in Oscar Wilde’s trials. In writing De Profundis, Wilde was reacting to a narrative that he, like Svengali, was able to influence impressionable young minds. In his attempts to posthumously rehabilitate Wilde, Robert Ross would also focus on the question of influence. By strategically leaking concealed parts of De Profundis, he tried to demonstrate that Wilde was no Svengali and that it was Lord Alfred Douglas, not Oscar Wilde who had all of the influence. Trilby was arguably the first modern best seller. It was far more popular than Oscar Wilde’s works were. Yet today Trilby usually comes up in trivia related to the origin of hat names, whereas Wilde’s work is endlessly studied. This article explores some of the reasons why.

Interesting Literature

In this week’s Dispatches from the Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle doffs his hat to a half-forgotten Victorian sensation

Here’s a question for you: what was the biggest-selling novel of the Victorian era? And who wrote it – Dickens perhaps? George Eliot? Robert Louis Stevenson? It was none of these, though they all enjoyed huge sales. Instead, the accolade arguably goes to a man who was principally known, not as a novelist at all, but as a cartoonist. (I say ‘arguably’ because reliable sales figures for nineteenth-century books are not always easy to find.)

The cartoonist’s name was George du Maurier and the novel is Trilby (1894). Du Maurier had made his name as an illustrator: in 1895 he was responsible for the famous curate’s egg’ cartoon (with its complaisant curate assuring the vicar, concerning the bad egg he’d been served up, that ‘parts of it are excellent’)…

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Personal Memories and Historical Memory

CoverHaving been immersed in Oscar’s Ghost for some time, I finally had a chance to do my first pleasure reading in more than a year. I found, on my shelf, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. (It seems they made a movie of this book. It is one of those novels that is so internal, it is hard for me to imagine its translation to film.)

I was looking for something refreshingly Oscar Wilde free. My forthcoming book, Oscar’s Ghost, if you were not already aware deals with a long and bitter feud between Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas and the man who would become his literary executor Robert Ross in the years following Wilde’s death.

Inevitably, it seems, I was not permitted to exorcise myself entirely from Oscar’s Ghost. The Sense of an Ending deals with memory, how we create narratives to explain ourselves to others and our lives to ourselves. We remember episodes that confirm our stories, forget episodes that do not. We make assumptions to fill in missing information, and these assumptions in turn color and shape our memories of events.

This led me back to Lord Alfred Douglas and Robert Ross. Their feud had many complex causes, but at its heart, it had to do with the past and who would win the right to interpret those events. Who, or what, had been responsible for Oscar Wilde’s downfall? By the time their feud broke out, the two friends had largely gone their separate ways. They had entirely different views on politics and ran in different social circles. Each had a different interpretation of what had happened all those years ago. Those interpretations had consequences for who they believed themselves to be.

One of the pitfalls of writing a biography is that there is a compression of time. We read about the actions of Ross and Douglas in their 20s and a few pages later they are in their 40s. We see the continuity, whereas the men themselves experienced many shifts in perception and developed new ways of understanding themselves and their pasts. In twenty years, there were episodes and attitudes that had been put aside or forgotten. Each man had constantly rewritten his story emphasizing certain moments, contextualizing others and forgetting others still in order to remain true to his story of himself.

Old letters played a huge role in Ross and Douglas’s conflict. It began with the revelation of Wilde’s prison letter, De Profundis, a letter full of recriminations against Douglas. Douglas did not read the full text, which was in Ross’s possession, until years after Wilde’s death and it challenged his memories of his relationship with Wilde in a way that was traumatic for him. In the legal battles which ensued, Ross produced old letters that Douglas had written to him in his youth. The letters had the tone of a wounded adolescent, rebellious, fascinated with sex, and melodramatic about love. By now, he was a middle aged man, a new and zealous convert to Catholicism who disapproved of the excesses of his youth.

I was drawn back to the conflict when I read Barnes describing his protagonist reading a nasty letter he had written to an old girlfriend after a break up decades before.

I reread this letter several times. I could scarcely deny its authorship or its ugliness. All I could plead was that I had been its author then, but was not its author now. Indeed, I didn’t recognise that part of myself from which the letter came. But perhaps this was simply further self-deception… My younger self had come back to shock my older  self with what that self had been, or was, or was sometimes capable of being.

If you have ever found an old diary or letter you wrote decades ago, you will relate to this passage. What a strange experience it can be reading words that were written by someone with a biographical connection to you who is still, somehow, not quite you– the person you believe yourself to be today.

Our memories are not always historically accurate, although we believe them to be. This is important when considering the story of Douglas and Ross. Wilde’s imprisonment and early death was a traumatic event for each, and each did a lot of internal work to understand his own role in it. Neither man’s account can be taken entirely at face value. When Ross’s accounts in the context of the legal battles fail to conform to what can be documented, or when Douglas’s views of his friendship with Wilde are more rosy than the De Profundis account or his memories of his own attitudes and emotions shift, we are inclined to view them as liars. In fact, they were something else. They were human beings with the same fallible and changeable memories as the rest of us.

10 Great Literary Impostors

Cross-eyed Nerd ManIn honor of the release of the novel “Identity Theft,” which tells the story of a young employee who plays the role of his rock star boss in order to seduce a fan, I have compiled a list of some of the great impostors in literature. Impostors and mistaken identity have captured the imaginations of writers, readers and theater-goers for generations.

1. The Comedy of Errors- William Shakespeare (ca. 1590)

Mistaken identity drove the action in two of Shakespeare’s comedies. In The Comedy of Errors a pair of identical twins are separated at birth and by great coincidence the estranged twins each hire the second pair of twins to be their servants. Both sets of mismatched twins arrive in Ephesus on the same day causing all manner of confusion and rollicking farce. Shakespeare was not the first to write on this theme. His plot was borrowed and embellished from from the play The Menaechmi, written by the Roman dramatist, Plautus. In The Menaechmi only the masters were confused with one another, but Shakespeare one-upped his source by giving the identical twins identical servants who could also be confused with one another.

Shakespeare returned to the theme of separated twins in Twelfth Night. In this play the twins are male and female. They are separated in a shipwreck. The female twin, Viola, believes her brother is dead. So she disguises herself as a man, the obvious thing to do, and becomes employed as a servant to a duke. She falls for the Duke, but can’t tell him. The Duke is in love with a woman named Olivia, and he sends his man to court her. Olivia, instead falls in love with the messenger. It becomes even more confusing when Viola’s lost brother, Sebastian arrives and is confused for her male alter ego. All of this would have had an extra layer of humor for contemporary audiences because in Shakespeare’s day all roles were played by males. So Viola would have been a boy, pretending to be a girl, dressed as a boy.

Shakespeare also used mistaken identity to much more dramatic effect in Henry V. Before leading the men into a battle in which they are vastly outnumbered, the King goes out among the men in disguise and has the opportunity to hear what they really feel about the campaign and their king.

2. Tartuffe- Moliere (1664)

300px-Tartuffe1739EnglishEditionTartuffe is actually subtitled “the impostor.” It is the story of a vagrant who poses as a pious man in order to gain entrance into the home of a prominent man and to break up his family and gain the estate.  Thanks to Moliere’s play, the word “tartuffe” is used in France to denote a hypocrite who fakes religious piety. (It is reputed to be used this way in English as well, but I’ve never heard anyone actually use this word, have you?)

Tis a mighty stroke at any vice to make it the laughing stock of everybody; for men will easily suffer reproof; but they can by no means endure mockery. They will consent to be wicked but not ridiculous,” Moliere once said.

If you like foreign language films, by the way, I would recommend a creative modern telling of the story, the 2007 film Moliere. The film imagines the playwright living a fictional scenario that resembles his famous play. He poses as a priest named Tartuffe and the events that follow inspire him to write a new kind of comedy.

3. The Government Inspector-Nikolai Gogol (1836)

41DA13ELubL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_In this play, corrupt officials in a provincial Russian town start to panic when they hear a government inspector is to arrive and report on their behavior. As they rush to cover up their mis-deeds, they learn that a stranger has recently arrived in town and assume that this is the dreaded inspector. The supposed inspector is actually a civil servant named Khlestakov. Initially he does not know why he is being invited to important people’s homes, being offered food, drinks and bribes and even the daughter of the mayor’s hand in marriage. The play ends when Khlestakov’s real identity is exposed and a letter arrives from the real inspector general, who wants a meeting with the mayor.

4. A Tale of Two Cities- Charles Dickens (1859)

brucetale-1r0q6v2If you know nothing else about Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, you probably know two lines, its opening “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” and “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” Rarely has mistaken identity been so noble. Charles Daray is a good-natured aristocrat. He bears a striking physical resemblance to a barrister named Sydney Carton whose life has not amounted to much. Carton suffers from un-requited love for Darnay’s wife Lucie. It is the time of the French revolution, and as an aristocrat, Darnay is in danger. Lucie’s devoted pursuit of him puts her and her father at risk as well. Carton decides that the only way to save Lucie is to sacrifice himself and allow Darnay to marry her with a new identity. Carton visits Darnay in prison, drugs him and has an accomplice carry him out of prison so Carton can take his place at the guillotine.  The words spoken by Carton as he goes to his death (quoted above) are some of the most famous in literature.

5. The Prince and the Pauper- Mark Twain (1881)

220px-PrinceAndThePauperTom Canty lives as a beggar in one of London’s poorest neighborhoods. He is beaten by his father if he does not come back with enough money. He escapes from this hard life by daydreams about the aristocracy. One day Tom wanders over to Westminster and spots Edward Tudor playing on the other side of the fence. When a soldier roughly pulls Tom away, Edward sees it and rebukes the soldier. He invites Tom into the palace. Each envies the life of the other. Tom would like to live a life of comfort and luxury, Edward would like to live a life unconstrained by upper-class social convention. They play dress up in each other’s clothes. A guard, mistaking Edward for the beggar, throws him out and the prince and the pauper change position. After a series of adventures with Tom learning to behave as someone of royal birth and Edward trying to convince the outside world that he is a prince and not a pauper, the tale ends happily. Just as Tom is about to be crowned king, Edward steps forward and Tom, feeling guilty for his charade, confirms his identity. Tom is made the “King’s Ward” and Edward, because he has had the experience of poverty, grows into a just ruler.

6. Cyrano De Bergerac-Edmond Rostand (1897)

Cyrano-De-Bergerac-09-12Rostand’s 1897 play was written in verse. It was loosely based on a real person, but the love story it recounts is fiction. Cyrano is a gifted soldier with a keen wit an great charisma. He also has a huge nose. He worships the lovely Roxanne from afar certain she would reject someone with such a face. Roxanne is in love with the handsome Christian. Christian has a beautiful face, but he is lacking in verbal wit. Cyrano agrees to write letters to Roxanne on his behalf. The beautiful letters express Cyrano’s own love and they work. Roxanne falls in love– with Christian. When Steve Martin adapted this as a film comedy, he gave it a happy ending. Roxanne discovers the secret and realizes she was in love with Cyrano, not Christian all along. In the original, Roxanne only discovers the truth about the letters when Cyrano has been mortally wounded, and he denies having written them to his death.

7. The Importance of Being Earnest- Oscar Wilde (1895)

theimportanceofbeingearnestThe Importance of Being Earnest, subtitled “A trivial comedy for serious people,” contains a rare double dip of mistaken identity when Jack, who has been posing as someone named Earnest for years discovers his real name actually was Earnest and therefore his pose has been a pose. Jack (or is it Ernest?) apologizes for this turn of events by saying, “it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth.”

8. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz-L.Frank Baum (1900)

Dorothy and her friends, the cowardly lion, the scarecrow and tin man, go on a long adventure to find a magical wizard who they are told has the power to grant all of their wishes. After getting on the wrong side of a wicked witch, battling wolves, crows sent to peck their eyes out and winged monkeys, they finally get an audience with the man himself only to discover that he is not a wizard at all but a guy from Nebraska who was blown off course in a hot air balloon. The ersatz wizard’s real name, incidentally, is Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs. He doesn’t want to play the role of the Great and Powerful Oz any more. He just wants to go home to Nebraska and work in a circus. The moral of the story is not to put faith in powerful authority figures, but to trust that you have the power to make your own dreams come true. It is a thoroughly American tale. 

9. Pygmalion-George Barnard Shaw (1913)

Cover-play1913Professor Henry Higgins makes a bet that he can take a poor London flower girl, Eliza Doolitte, and pass her off as a society lady by teaching her proper diction and manners. Eliza successfully pulls off the act, passing as a swell at a garden party. But she is left wondering what is to become of her now that she does not entirely fit in with either class. The play was a commentary on the rigid British class system of the time. It was adapted into the musical play and film My Fair Lady.

10. Superman-Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (1938)

action_comics_222_by_superman8193-d4gcfhzThere are many more traditionally literary examples I could have included. In the 1930s no one yet thought to call a comic book a graphic novel. But the popular masked characters of the era represent, I believe, a cultural transition in our depiction of the hero from someone whose good deeds remain unrewarded and unknown (as in A Tale of Two Cities and Cyrano De Bergerac) to the modern hero who saves the world and is celebrated for it. In between we had, in the early 20th Century, the emergence of the masked hero who preformed good deeds using a secret identity. This allowed him to be both celebrated and anonymous. There was no greater example of this than Clark Kent/Superman.

Do you have a favorite literary example of mistaken identity? Feel free to join the discussion in the comments.

Reading the World: Afghanistan

Screen-Shot-2014-01-30-at-4.11.38-PMI got it in my head recently that I wanted to read a book from every country progressing in alphabetical order.

It remains to be seen if this is something on which I actually follow through. In any case, Afghanistan is the first country in the alphabet and I settled upon The Gifts of the State and Other Stories edited by Adam Klein.

It is a short story collection culled from a series of writing workshops Klein gave in Kabul. The stories were written by “young people.” I was not sure whether this meant teenagers or people in their 20s. The first essay in the book defines “young” as under 30. Some of the stories struck me as being the work of teenagers and some of polished adults. For most of the authors English was a second or third language so this may account for some of the variation in the quality and impact of the stories.

The stories provide a fascinating glimpse into a world where history is constantly intervening in life, where nothing is certain and every day life goes in the pauses between crises. The stories that I found most memorable were The Hasher by Abdul Shakoor Jawad, which is a wistful but matter-of-fact tale of the day a village tradition was lost, Ice Cream by Hosai Wardak which describes the reactions elicited by a woman in more Western-style attire, The Sea Floor by Khalid Ahmad Atif, a harrowing story of violence told from the perspective of a translator working for a U.S. military unit, and Exiles in the Land of Faith by Hamid Azizi which describes a university student’s inner conflict and guilt when the community turns against his half-Jewish roommate and then there is Hardboiled by Ali Shah Hasanzada a murder plot hatched by a man who sells illicit Western books and who fancies himself a character out of a Mickey Spillane novel.

In the United States, we tend to compare our current lives to an ideal and to focus on closing the gap between our current situation and our dream of how great life could be. We believe in self-improvement, growth and progress with an almost religious faith.  We expect life to be predictable and that we can, through our own efforts, bend the future to our will.

Klein describes his student writers as living in “a country measuring out what to forget and what must not be forgotten… The students have exile minds— by which I mean that they can’t conceive of a world where destiny won’t encroach.”

If a U.S. writer were to describe some of the tragedies that appear as the background of these stories, there would likely be a different tone, and underlying sense that this is an aberration and not how life is supposed to work. For the most part, the Afghan stories are not looking for someone to blame for misfortune. The various invading forces and factions, the Russians, the Taliban, the Americans, are described almost like natural disasters– storms of history that blow through and interrupt the normal course of life, leaving the people who remain to clean up in their wake and to try to figure out which way the wind is now blowing.

Self-Publishing and “Economically Privileged Authors”

I read an article on a blog called “it’s all one thing” (lowercase title in the original) with the title “I Challenge You To Stop Reading Economically Privileged Authors for One Year.”

I agree wholeheartedly with the basic premise of the article, that it is important to read outside of the echo chamber of one’s own social category and that upper middle class readers need to experience the voices of working class writers. When thinking about diversity it is important to include social class. We, far too often, ignore it completely.

But the expression “economically privileged authors” tripped me up a bit. Writing is hardly a lucrative profession.

Yes, I am lucky. I have resources that I would not have had I been born into poverty. I was raised in a home with “middle class values” and the confidence (and the pressure) that comes with that. “Take risks! Follow your dream! Your career should be a source of personal fulfillment!”  I am college-educated and have the vocabulary and accent of a professional. I can go into fairly upscale establishments and not look out of place. People give me the benefit of the doubt that I have credit cards to buy things and I am not there to rob the store. Thanks to my background I can hide my poverty, and as much as possible I do, because people make a lot of assumptions about those with no money. They are lazy, untrustworthy, incapable, unprofessional and selfish. I am none of those things, but as a working artist I am frequently poor. (My irregular income makes me at times very poor and at times almost among the middle class economically. So far, it has never made me rich.)

Writing the book “Broke is Beautiful” was therapeutic for me because it gave me the courage to admit this publicly, but one thing I hadn’t expected was the common criticism I would receive that I was a poverty poseur.  Coming from a background of privilege and being (currently) economically privileged are two different things. It’s not always as easy to know who the “poor” are as you think.

Will Shetterly,  the author of the “it’s all one thing” blog, was not talking about poverty though. He was talking about social class.

Reading stories from the point of view of working class characters, by writers from working class backgrounds, can help to solve one of the problems in our conversation about poverty and social class– the problem of “othering” and speaking about members of different social classes in distant abstractions.

There are two main ways that people talk about “the poor” one associated with the political right and the other with the political left. The first is to talk about poverty as though it were solely a matter of morality and personal choice. “Anyone can pull himself up by his bootstraps if he has enough gumption. Therefore if you are poor it is because you are not working hard enough.” If you have experienced poverty for any length of time you know how much harder it is to accomplish things than when you are rich. You understand how one problem can set you back on multiple fronts. You know about the exhaustion of it and the personal strain. (People who are relatively comfortable often wonder why poor people go to payday lenders instead of borrowing money from friends or relatives. This assumes, first of all, that the friends and relatives have money to lend. It also entirely discounts the importance of social capital in a community with scant financial resources. A person who is already relying on friends and relatives– maybe a neighbor is watching her kids after school because she can’t afford day care or a friend is giving her rides to work– tries to preserve those relationships by not overly taxing them. It seems to the well-off person to be short-sighted, but in full context, it is actually a long-term view. Money problems may come and go, but your sister is going to be your sister for life, and she has a good memory.) The bootstrap theory is overly simplistic.

On the other hand, I sometimes cringe when I read defenses of the poor written by sympathetic college-educated, middle class people, who are aware of privilege but who have no personal experience of poverty. It is far too easy for empathy for the difficulties of the poor to morph into something like fatalism and pity. “There are all kinds of systemic obstacles. A black inner city kid can’t be expected to….” Birth is not destiny. A person from a marginalized group, with no money, has a much harder time of it. But it is as big a mistake to speak of those obstacles as defining, and to assume the person has no chance for positive change as it is to write the obstacles off as minor inconveniences.

Therefore we need more narratives written by and about competent, strong people who can paint vivid portraits of the drama of these obstacles.

“This is one of the rarely spoken truths of publishing: Most writers come from backgrounds of economic privilege,” Shetterly wrote.

The discussion about publishing and privilege tends to focus on traditional publishers. Self-publishing is supposed to be the great democratic force in publishing, allowing writers from groups that have been traditionally under-represented by the big houses to have their voices heard.

I wonder, though, if independent publishing can live up to this promise or if it will actually exacerbate the problem. I thought about this the other day when I was looking at some of the marketing options on Createspace. (I used Createspace for my current novel.)

These days publishing a book can be as easy as uploading a pdf  or Word file. Publishing is no longer the hard part. What is a challenge is bringing your book to the attention of readers and getting it to stand out among the glut of independently produced books. In other words, it is much easier to get a book into print than it is to get anyone to read it.

Reviewers have a lot on their plates and they are not interested in reading garbage. The few major reviewers who consider independent books look for ways to separate the wheat from the chaff. Kirkus, I discovered via Createspace, will review your book for a fee of $425, or in my terms, two car payments.

The idea behind this, if there is one besides a desire to make some money from the self-publishing boom, is that if someone is serious enough to invest in marketing the book, they were probably serious in its production as well.

I read quite a few blog posts written by authors trying to decide if the fee was worth it. It is probably “worth it” in that it grants a certain respectability to an independent title, especially if the review is positive. If you were to buy advertising in a publication with such status you would expect to pay this or more. It gives the indie writer a foot in the door. But if you do not have the economic means, the question is moot. There is no way a person living in poverty can come up with that much money– no matter what the benefits.

Of course a writer can, with a lot of effort, find a few bloggers he can personally persuade to champion his book. Book bloggers are absolutely inundated, and many try to reduce their load by limiting their selections to traditionally published books or those that are part of a blog tour.  Virtual blog tours are a great way to guarantee a few reviews without having to do the legwork yourself– but they are not cheap either. A typical price for a blog tour with a half dozen stops is $75-$100. A highly motivated author can substitute labor for money and can achieve similar results. It is just much, much harder.

Traditional publishers may favor books by authors from similar backgrounds to their own, but when they do publish a book they put in the money to make sure it is professionally edited, designed and marketed. In self-publishing all of those costs come out of the writer’s pocket.

The great democratic future of publishing runs the risk of becoming a playground for those who have some money to spare.

Michigan Author Monday: D.E. Johnson

D.E. JohnsonD.E. (Dan) Johnson’s literary debut, a historical mystery entitled The Detroit Electric Scheme, was published by St. Martin ‘s Minotaur in September 2010. The sequel, Motor City Shakedown, was published by Minotaur in September 2011. Dan is a history buff with a special interest in early twentieth century Detroit. As he writes on his web page, “Dan comes by his interest in automotive history honestly. His grandfather was the Vice President of Checker Motors, beginning work with Checker in 1924 and continuing until 1980. Fortunately, Dan doesn’t come by his interest in murder the same way.”

Tell me about “Detroit Shuffle.”

Detroit Shuffle is a mystery set in 1912 Detroit, in the middle of the era’s biggest (real life) political scandals: in the summer, all but one of the city council members were arrested for accepting bribes, and in the fall, women’s suffrage was on the ballot, and a group of conspirators tried to rig the election. Will Anderson, the protagonist, weaves through these situations while trying to discover who is attempting to kill his girlfriend, who is a militant suffragist. It’s a challenge, especially because no one else believes someone is trying to assassinate her.
Your books all have Detroit themes. What is it about Detroit that piques your imagination?

Detroit was once known as the “Paris of the West.” It was an amazing city of parks and boulevards, culture, and success. During my lifetime, the city has been in decline–until recently. I thought people should see what the city was like in its heyday and what it might be again.
How do you go about researching your novels?

I do a lot of research at the Detroit Public Library. They have the archives of all the major newspapers of the day, which are the best source of information about what people were thinking and talking about during this time. Most of the information on these scandals has never been put in a book, so that “on the ground” researching is necessary. I have a lot of early electric car information in my books, and I’ve gotten most of that from the Henry Ford Museum. They have a great research facility.
Which comes first– Does historical research inspire ideas for your plots or do you start with a plot and then research the period?

That’s a good question. I look at the historical events as the backdrop of the story. In my books I have told the stories of the rise and fall of the early electric car, Detroit’s first mob war, Wayne County’s massive asylum, Eloise Hospital, and early political scandals. Those are really the major subplot in each book. The real plot is the story of trying to catch a killer.
What do you like to read? Are mysteries your favorite genre as a reader?

I read a wide variety of novels: literary, historical, thrillers, but most of my favorite authors write mysteries. When I started writing, my goal was to marry E.L. Doctorow and Elmore Leonard, a Herculean task. I’m not really sure it’s possible for anyone to do that, but we have to have goals, right?
What is your process as a writer?

My process is to sit my butt down in my chair and write. I have a full-time job, so I don’t have the luxury of waiting for my muse to come calling. I get up very early in the morning and write, and I spend most of my weekends writing too. Of course, there is a lot of mental work being done in my downtime as well. I need to be able to visualize at least the beginning of a scene to be able to write it. Once I get going, my brain hijacks my consciousness and continues.
Do you have any literary pet peeves?

I wouldn’t say I have any particular pet peeves other than bad writing.
Do you have any new books in the pipeline?

I am just finishing my first book set in Chicago. It’s a mystery that takes place in 1874 in the middle of the country’s first major depression. The dual protagonists are a fifteen-year-old orphan and her uncle, who she didn’t know existed until her father died. He believes that her father was poisoned, which is contrary to the doctor’s opinion–that he died from simple heart failure. The uncle enlists the girl to help him investigate. Oh, and he’s a resurrectionist–one of those guys who digs up bodies to sell to medical schools. He became a resurrectionist to investigate deaths similar to his mother’s, who he is certain was murdered with the same poison that killed his brother.
I’m not certain at this point when this one will be published.

You can learn more about D.E. Johnson and his mysteries on his web page.

Quote of the Day: “The Less People Read, The More Books They Buy.”

As the leading publisher in France, Jonas’s father was of the opinion that books, because of the very slump in culture, represented the future. “History shows,” he would say, “the less people read, the more books they buy.” Consequently, he but rarely read the manuscripts submitted to him and decided to publish them solely on the basis of the author’s personality or the subject’s topical interest (from this point of view, sex being the only subject always topical, the publisher had eventually gone in for specialization) and spent his time looking for novel formats and free publicity.”-Albert Camus, Exile and the Kingdom