RARA-AVIS: Questions for Domenic Stansberry

From: Domenic ( mystery.robot@pacbell.net)
Date: 16 Nov 2005

> Message: 12
> Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2005 11:55:47 -0500
> From: "Chris M" < cptpipes@hotmail.com>
> Subject: Questions for Domenic Stansberry
> I'm curious about your having two books published in such short succession.
> For those of us who read hardboiled and noir fiction all the time, they're
> drastically different, but I would suspect most readers would classify them
> under the generic Mystery or Crime Fiction label. If you don't mind
> answering, how did this whole scenario come about?
How both books came out a the same time was largely a matter of accident. I wrote "The Confession" a number of years ago, but my agent couldn't place it. The mss. had been sitting in my drawer for quite a while, unpublished, and then Charles Ardai at Hardcase called me out of the blue and asked if I would consider submitting something for his new line. So I gave him "The Confession..."

Meantime, I was under contract with St. Martins to write the first two books in a series set in North Beach. I finished Chasing the Dragon for them, and they happened to release it at the same time as "The Confession."

> I'm not a writer like many on this list, but I'm still curious about your
> approach to the two books. I've often heard writers say they consider short
> stories or poetry more difficult than novels because they must worry more
> about every last word in order to make the payoff at the end work. The
> Confession strikes me as a novel that would fit this same classification,
> whereas with Chasing the Dragon I wonder if you had to balance the plot and
> characterization of the current book while also building a foundation for
> future books in the series. It will be a series, right?

What people say about short stories is true, in that there is a lot of compression, but I don't necessarily find them harder to write. There's a lot of complex architecture in a novel--and just as much pressure on the language--and it's also a long project, that requires a great deal of endurance, and a lot of hours.

But yes, you are definitely right, in that Chasing the Dragon involved laying foundation for the series, while still trying to have the book work on its own. My primary consideration was the latter--as you never know how long a series is going to last, and the most important thing is to make the book work on its own.

> And how does Chasing The Dragon fit against your Noir Manifesto (if at all)?

This is an interesting question, and I suppose it's something that people who have read Noir Manifesto will sometimes raise in regards to my fiction--as to whether or not it lives up to what that essay seems to call for.

At its core, The Noir Manifesto is a statement of aesthetic sensibility that has informed my work for quite a while, long before I actually put it down into words, and likely that aesthetic will continue to do so, particularly in regards to the underlying vision. As to technical matters, regarding the crossing of genre lines and the use of genre conventions, I think there are a lot of ways to operate, and some of the writers I mentioned in there have done things I admire, some in a classic noir mode, others in a more experimental way.

In the North Beach Series, the main character's name is Dante, and as soon as you have a name like that--well, you are off in a certain allegorical mode, like it or not, and I see it as part of my task to deal with those implications in those books, now that I have got myself into those waters.

There was a medieval cleric, name of Boccaccio, author of the Decameron, who who was put to trial for his writing--and defended his baudy and very secular tales through the argument that they were meant as negative examples, the close examination of which showed the audience the temptation of evil and and how not to behave. In Boccaccio's view, it was all but impossible to tell a story--even with the devil as the primary speaker--that did not manifest the presence of the divine.

Much of literary criticism is built upon this premise, and the notion that there is innate morality in every well-constructed tale (and even some of the poorly constructed ones)..

At present, I have been thinking a lot about this, wondering if it's true, and that question is kind of in the background while I am working on these North Beach books...

But my primary concern is to tell a good story, with interesting characters... And my feeling is that if I do that well enough, all the other things will work themselves out...

I try not to let statements of critical aesthetic dictate my creative work...even if I was the one who made the statements...

> Thanks again.

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