I am pleased to have Christopher Meeks, author of Blood Drama here at Celticladysreviews.....
How did you get the idea for the novel?
This is my third novel, and the first two were loosely based on events in my life, specifically, a time I moved from California to start a mini-mart in a trailer park in Alabama (The Brightest Moon of the Century) and four years before that, I’d moved to Denmark to live with my girlfriend, whom I had met in Minnesota (Love at Absolute Zero.) I could laugh about both later.
I had never been to either the South or Denmark before those trips, so my novels were partly fish-out-of-water stories, which, in hindsight, had even sometimes been the focus of my short stories. I’m drawn to stories of relationships, too, so romance is an element in my novels. That’s because in general, I believe men are often clueless, and it’s lucky women in their lives help them.
Without consciously thinking about these elements, these things fell into Blood Drama. The idea of the book came from my habit of correcting my college students’ English papers at a local Starbucks, which was inside the lobby of a bank. I loved the atmosphere—the fireplace, the marble, the wainscoting. Then one day it occurred to me that banks get robbed, and why was I always hanging out in one? That led to the idea of what would happen if I had a hapless grad student taken hostage in a bank robbery gone awry? He’d be forced into a new reality.
My stories on the surface appear “easy,” which is to say visceral and fun, but, like Flannery O’Conner short stories, there’s more there. I believe in the power of stories; they can reveal small truths of the human condition that add up to something. My goal is to make stories that pull the reader along, and after they’re over, there are things that stick.
What kind of research did you have to do to bring this story to life on the page?
As a former journalist, I love research. Before I started this, I didn’t know anything about banks or bank robbery. Because my bank was in South Pasadena, California, I emailed a detective in the South Pasadena police department, who, after he heard who I was and what I was doing, told me that bank robbery was a federal crime and the FBI would be instantly involved. He introduced me to an FBI agent, who I met with and learned a lot. I later found a recently retired FBI agent who had specialized in bank robbery, and he, too, answered my questions and even read the first draft of the novel to make sure it was accurate as far as the FBI was concerned. I read many books and articles to get the facts right.
Which came first, the title or the novel?
This question isn’t as easy to answer as it may seem. I created the title first, but in the end, it wasn’t the title I used.
This book started after I’d finished the fifth and final draft of Love at Absolute Zero, after five years and trips to Madison, Wisconsin and to Denmark to do research.
When it came to the new novel, I decided it would be in Los Angeles. I looked out my window and could see Mt. Washington. There, I thought. I then came up with the title Falling Down Mt. Washington. In the end, thanks to marketing people more brilliant than me, the book became Blood Drama, which is much more appropriate for a thriller than my working title. Yet it was my working title that fuelled me through the writing of the book.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
I enjoy writing, but I’m most anxious in the first draft. That’s because even with an outline, I’m not sure it’ll all work. There are days where the writing is so interesting that I’m convinced I can do this forever. Then there are days where it goes more slowly, and I feel tentative.
My favorite part is rewriting because I know in general that things are working, and I’m just making it all better. I’ll come up with things I didn’t think about in the first draft and really feel it’s going well. As I write this, I’m eager to get back to rewriting my next novel, a mystery.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
Absolutely. In fact, I’m always on the lookout for new favorite authors and books. That’s because I also teach English, and one of the challenges I’ve given myself is that each semester, I want to teach two interesting, can’t-put-‘em-down novels that I’ve never taught before, one by a man, the other by a woman. My hope is that I can fire up my students to like reading novels. New books keeps me on my toes.
I love it when students get so excited that they read faster than my assignments call for. Some of them hadn’t realized that stories could grab them so much. I’ve had a handful of students over the years come up to me after class admitting they’d never read a whole novel before. One told me, “It’s like a movie, but it’s in my head.”
I use a novel from each gender for two reasons. One is early on I realized that most of my favorite novels were by men, and that I’d been taught only male authors. I needed to find the great female authors. Second, I have the notion that there are simply intangible and powerful forces at work in terms of gender and point of view. Those things might be clearer when we have two contrasting books.
To get to your question, some of my favorite books, ones that have influenced me as a writer, include Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and her MaddAdam books, now a trilogy. One of my touchstones is Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried because the military draft had been real for me, and my class was the last in the Vietnam draft. His book shows possibilities of where I could have been if I’d gone to Vietnam. I love Kurt Vonnegut’s books because he sees the world much as I do, in an absurdist light. Humor can carry us through pain. His Cat’s Cradle is one I’ve taught.
In fact, a lot of my favorite books I’ve taught, including Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, and Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. In terms of genre, I like Michael Connelly and Raymond Chandler’s mysteries. I’m a huge fan of Flannery O’Connor and Raymond Carver’s short stories. I’m caught sailing somewhere between realism and dark social commentary. For a list of the books I’ve used in my classes that had positive and even eager student response, I made a list on Amazon. To see it, click here.
This fall, I won’t be using novels but memoirs: Just Kids by Patti Smith and Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.
Thank you Christopher!!!
About Blood Drama
Publisher: White Wiskers Press (June 15, 2013)
Category: Mystery/Thriller/Suspense, Crime Thriller
Tour Date: Mid May- Mid June, 2013
Available in: Print & eBook, 242 pages
Everyone has a bad day. Graduate student Ian Nash has lost his girlfriend in addition to being dropped from a Ph.D. program in theatre at a Southern California university. When he stops at a local coffee shop in the lobby of a bank to apply for a job, the proverbial organic matter hits the fan. A gang of four robs the bank, and things get bloody. Ian is taken hostage by the robbers when the police show up. Now he has to save his life.
FBI Special Agent Aleece Medina's analysis of the bloody bank heist drives her into the pursuit of a robbery gang headed by two women. She doesn't anticipate how this robbery will pit her against both the bandits and the male higher-ups in the FBI while the media heats up during a giant manhunt.
The robbers are about to kill Ian, and all he has at hand is his knowledge of the stage.