Welcome to BK Walker Books Etc. I'm so happy you could join me today in Litchfield, Connecticut.
BK: Please tell us a little about yourself...
If you don’t mind, perhaps the blurb on the back cover of a recent novel might do as an intro. In any case, it was written by someone else and will spare me any self-promotion which, frankly, I’m just not good at:
Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at the University of Connecticut, a former professional actor, a writer of mysteries, books on theater and film, and articles on the performing arts appearing in a number of periodicals in the U.S. and the U.K. He is also a film critic and a contributor to writers’ blogs. His fiction includes Lilac Moon, Sun Dance for Andy Horn, Tinseltown Riff and the trans-Atlantic cozy The Twinning Murders. Among his works of non-fiction are The Actors Studio and texts on the art and craft of screenwriting and writing for the stage. Twilight of the Drifter, his latest novel, is a southern gothic crime-and-blues odyssey.
BK: Please tell us a little about your book....
Twilight of the Drifter centers on Josh Devlin, a thirty-something drifter. He finds himself down-and-out in a homeless shelter in Paducah, Kentucky where he comes across a troubled 13-year-old girl shivering in an abandoned box car. This moment signifies one last chance to make amends for his squandered life. It also sets him on a collision course with a backwoods tracker and, by extension, the governor-elect of Mississippi. All of this eventually involves him in deep dark secrets dating back to the Civil Rights Movement.
BK: What inspired you to pen this particular novel?
It all started when a friend of ours invited us down to the hill country of Mississippi. It seems he’d inherited a cabin and was in the process of fixing it up. At one point, he suggested that he and I explore the grounds and take a long walk. Following a narrow overgrown path, soon we became entangled in briars, edged past some barbed wire as the terrain sloped down and eventually came across waterlogged limbs sticking out like menacing pitchforks. At that moment, I turned to him and said, “Bob, do you have any idea where we are?”
He gave me a half-wary half-mischievous look and said, “Shelly, I believe this here is Wolf Creek.”
Then and there something began to percolate. A feeling there were buried secrets here that would never see the light of day.
When we did manage to make it back, something about the cabin in the deep woods evoked a vague image of a Confederate outpost, and then a retreat during the Civil Rights Movement, and then an equally vague notion of a caretaker for whom time was telescoped. That is, for him almost simultaneously it was the memory of skirmishes with Yankee troops, Federal marshals at Ole Miss during the 1960s, and anxiety over the government inflicting more mandates threatening his way of life. By this point, I simply had to explore where in the world all of this was leading.
BK: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I suppose I’ve always been an incurable story teller. I remember some time ago
creating a series of cliffhangers for my friends in study hall back in the eighth grade in Miami. But I really didn’t consider myself a bona fide author till both my book on playwriting and my novel about an embattled young man in the Black Hills of South Dakota were published at about the same time.
BK: How do you keep your story flowing?
I get so involved I truly want to know what this is all about and what’s going to happen next. Also, as a film buff, I tend to see the story unfolding as a movie or, literally, as motion pictures. If I get too wrapped up in a character’s thoughts, everything seems to stop and just hang there. Like a Henry James novel.
BK: Do you ever run into writer's block, and if so, what do you do to get past it?
I do get stuck sometimes. For instance, at present I’m trying to work out what the victim had been doing for the past three months. She couldn’t have just been in limbo, knowing she was a material witness, fearful of being discovered by a certain criminal element. After all, up to this point she was a responsible professional choreographer. And so I’m consciously trying to solve the problem while relying on my subconscious as well. Sometimes I even wake up thinking perhaps she was working on a new piece while hiding out and doing research over the Internet in the hopes the police at the Manhattan precinct received her letters and would intercede. And/or, perhaps she slipped out from time and drove to a studio in the nearby foothills and tried out certain movement ideas with a dancer she knew. At the same time, what would the perpetrator be up to? And how would all this interplay effect what happens next?
BK: What is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks, or must-haves to write?
This question reminds me of something a noted playwright once told me.
Colleagues were always inquiring how his latest work was going. Months later he would finally tell them, “It’s finished. Now all I have to do is write it down.” So my chief quirk is, I give myself permission to count the time I’m daydreaming, working through a stubborn scene till it “catches fire” in Tennessee Williams’ words. Like the example of the lady in hiding. Only then can I type it on the computer, polish it a bit and move on. For some reason, I can’t leave anything alone until it rings true
BK: Where do you hope your books/writing will be in the future?
As long as I keep getting inspired, I see my work reaching a wider readership through Kindle etc. as well as traditional print media.
BK: What do you hope readers will take away from your books?
I hope readers sense there is something worthwhile here that’s worth the candle. That each and every tale was doubtless not only inspired but backed up by research, imagination and experience. That, in effect, they’ve vicariously lived through the spirit of the moment and are sorry to see it end.
BK: What is one piece of advice you received that you carry with you in your writing?
An instructor at NYU’s School of the Arts once told me you have to love the process, the doing of it above all else. It’s simply something you have to do and should do as long as you receive some encouragement from worthwhile sources along the way.
BK: That's great advice. What is one piece of advice you would give to new and aspiring writers?
By the same token, there are so many so-called author websites that seem to be fixated on hawking a product. No energy at all is spent on appreciating the works of great writers or even talented writers who have gone before and are writing now. Instead of joining the multitudes who seem to think anybody can crank out a novel and self-publish in e-book form or what have you, it might be much more satisfying to read the best in any chosen genre. Write and rewrite according to some literary standards, seek out professional editing or at least feedback from a writer who has earned his or her stripes and take it from there. Develop your craft and hone your gifts first. Then submit to agents and publishers if you want to go that route or any route you decide to take. And, of course, seek out the company of kindred spirits so you can back each other all the way. Needless to say, writing fiction can be a pretty lonely pursuit.
BK: Are you currently working on any new projects? What can we expect from you in the future?
I’ve just received a contract from my publisher for a Hollywood escapade that will be released some time next year.
BK: Where can readers find you?
Facebook, Twitter @shellyfrome, Amazon and Author Central, and linkedin
Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me today. It's been a pleasure having you and I wish you much success in the future.
Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at the University of Connecticut, a former professional actor, a writer of mysteries, books on theater and film, and articles on the performing arts appearing in a number of periodicals in the U.S. and the U.K. He is also a film critic and a contributor to writers’ blogs. His fiction includes Lilac Moon, Sun Dance for Andy Horn, Tinseltown Riff and the trans-Atlantic cozy The Twinning Murders. Among his works of non-fiction are the acclaimed The Actors Studio and texts on the art and craft of screenwriting and writing for the stage. Twilight of the Drifter, his latest novel, is a southern gothic crime-and-blues odyssey.
Genre: “A laudable crime thriller with a Southern setting”—Kirkus Reviews
Publisher: Sunbury Press; released in January 2012
"Twilight of the Drifter" is a crime story with southern gothic overtones. It centers on thirty-something Josh Devlin, a failed journalist who, after a year of wandering, winds up in a Kentucky homeless shelter on a wintry December. Soon after the opening setup, the crosscurrents go into motion as Josh comes upon a runaway named Alice holed up in an abandoned boxcar. Taken with her plight and dejected over his own squandered life, he spirits her back to Memphis and his uncle's Blues Hall Cafe. From there he tries to get back on his feet while seeking a solution to Alice's troubles. As the story unfolds, a Delta bluesman's checkered past comes into play and, inevitably, Josh finds himself on a collision course with a backwoods tracker fixated on the Civil War and, by extension, the machinations of the governor-elect of Mississippi. In a sense, this tale hinges on the vagaries of chance and human nature. At the same time, an underlying force appears to be driving the action as though seeking the truth and long awaited redemption. Or, to put it another way, past sins have finally come due in the present..
Wolf Creek was silent again, shrouded and hidden away in the fading early December light.
Then the cracking sound of wood as the old hunter’s blind gave way somewhere in the near distance, a sudden scream and a muffled thud. The cracking sound was not nearly as sharp as the first gunshot or the second, the scream not at all as piercing as the first cry or as grating as the moans that followed and faded.
The coonhound took off immediately, ignoring the touch of frost in the creek water, the obstacle course of fallen tree limbs and bare forked branches, the muddy slope and the snare and tangle of vines and whip-like saplings. Within seconds, the hound was bounding higher until he came upon a prone scrawny figure totally unlike the one that had just fallen on the opposite bank.
Sniffing around, barking and howling, the hound snapped at the flimsy jacket and bit into it. As the scrawny little figure began to stir, he tore into the sleeve, ripping it to shreds and barked and howled again, turning back for instructions. The sight of the skinny flailing arms sent the coonhound back on its haunches—half guarding, half confused as it turned around yet again, looking down the slope to the creek bed, still waiting for a signal.
Presently, a tall, rangy man made his way across the same obstacle course, long-handled shovel in hand. But he was only in time to catch sight of a girl clutching her head, staggering away from the scene through the tangles and deepening shadows. Then again, it could’ve been a boy for all he knew, but he settled on a girl, a flat-chested tomboy, more like. Casting his gaze up to the snapped rungs of the tree-ladder, he spotted the broken edge of the rotting hunters blind some eight feet above where she could’ve seen everything.
The coonhound began circling around him, displaying the shards of material dangling from his jaw. Instinctively, the man rushed forward. Then he thought better of it as his overalls got snagged in the brambles. From the look of things, the girl was probably dazed and confused and wouldn’t get as far as the dirt drive, if that.
Wrong guess. The slam of a hood as the flat-bed’s worn V-8 motor fired-up, the grinding of gears and the familiar whine and squeal of tires signaled the tomboy was away and well out of reach.