When I asked him about his experiences writing this book and bringing it to the marketplace, here's what he had to say ...
KC: "Death in Eden" is a far cry from your first novel "No Regrets" in terms of genre and content. What made you decide to move from pure literary fiction to murder mystery? Which do you enjoy writing more?
PH: For me, the only difference between literary fiction and mystery genre fiction is the constraint on form that one must observe when writing a mystery. But within that form, a writer can address any of the complex issues one encounters in so-called literary fiction. As long as a writer stays within the basic arc demanded by the genre, he or she can explore every human emotion and confront every human problem. And within the structure, a writer can find a great deal of freedom (even the freedom to subvert the genre). What is difficult to do is write mystery like a poet, but it can be done! See http://www.amazon.com/Infatuations-Javier-Mar%C3%ADas-ebook/dp/B00BH0VSGW/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416498802&sr=1-2.
KC: How do you balance your life as a law professor with your work as a writer? What are the key challenges for you in finding the balance?
PH: Writing fiction is super intense and I can only do it about 90 minutes a day. Except for really unfortunate people who have to work two minimum wage jobs just to survive, most people can find 90 minutes a day to devote to something that they love! Admittedly, I have an advantage as a professor, in that I can schedule those 90 minutes more freely than those in traditional jobs.
KC: What made you decide to set "Death in Eden" in the porn industry? Did you have to do a lot of research on the industry, and how did you go about it?
PH: The mainstreaming of pornography is one major theme in the book, and the idea to place a story smack in the middle of the upscale side of the porn industry came to me while watching various interviews with porn stars cropping up on regular television. What struck me was their matter-of-fact description of the work, as if it were just some normal job, and their insistence that they had felt no less degraded in the common sort of jobs we’ve all had at one time or another. Follow these encounters with obnoxious “Girls Gone Wild” video ads on regular cable channels and QVC’s addition of a sex toys segment hosted by very demure and proper porn stars describing buzzy devices as if they were a set of Ginzu knives and you’re off to the races!
To prepare, I read all the academic work on porn stars and porn star biographies that I could find. I also watched a series of interviews and became pretty good at reading between the lines of the contradictory statements that you inevitably hear. And yes, I did subscribe to the Playboy channel and surf the internet! But I did so as an anthropologist, you understand . . .
KC: A sociology professor is an unlikely detective. I don't think it's been done before (at least not that I know of). What was the inspiration for the character? Will we be seeing Stanley in more books?
PH: The second adventure of Stanley Hopkins is already in its fourth draft and should be out next year. He has a law degree, but chose to get a Ph.D. in Sociology and teach in order to escape law firm life. I certainly identify with that choice. Sociology is a nice discipline for him and for readers since we are all amateur sociologists if we pay close enough attention to the world around us. Plus, good interviewing is part of his sociologist’s skill set and that eases his transition in to the world of sleuthing.
KC: Are you a mystery fan yourself? Who are some of your favorite authors and fictional detectives? What are you reading now?
PH: I’m a huge mystery fan: Elizabeth George, Julie Spencer-Fleming, Laura Lippman, Gillian Flynn, and Johnathan Kellerman are favorites. What they all have in common is the willingness to put their characters first and the plot second. Right now I’m reading War and Peace (not kidding!) and a series of zombie books that takes place in Anchorage, Alaska by Sean Schubert entitled, “The Alaska Undead Apocalypse.” Brains . . . tasty brains . . .
KC: What advice would you give to new writers seeking to break into the murder mystery genre, or fiction writing generally?
PH: Join a writer’s group where you can read your work aloud chapter by chapter. Don’t argue with the group critique—just sit your butt down and rewrite. Then, give your work out to other readers you trust—then sit down and redraft again. Unless you’re a natural star, it’s probably worth paying a professional reader to provide input before the final step, paying a professional editor to copy edit the book down to the word level. At that point in time, one can self-publish or look for an agent. It took me 6 years and several hundred rejection to find a wonderful agent. Even big publishers do almost no editing anymore, so your draft must be perfect. Oh, and the first five pages better be great, because that’s all major book distributors will read before they decide to carry your book. And if they say no, no major publisher will touch you. Loins girded! Ego left behind! Prepare to be whacked by the big 2 x 4 of life!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Paul. And now on to the contest ...
In order to win, simply comment on this blog post (in the comments section below) and answer the following question:
If you wrote or directed an adult film, what title would you give it?
The winner will be chosen by the following highly scientific method.
I will print out all the comments and toss them into a hat. I will then randomly pick a winner. The contest will be open until midnight Eastern Time on December 7, 2014. So make sure you comment by then to be in the draw. Please ensure that you include an email address when you post your comment so I can contact you to arrange shipping details. Email addresses will NOT be made public. (They are an optional field when you post a comment.)
Thanks for the interview and for the contest, Paul. Let the comments roll ...
THE CONTEST IS NOW OVER AND I'D LIKE TO OFFER CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNERS, DENISE AND KATELYN, EACH OF WHOM WILL RECEIVE AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF "DEATH IN EDEN". ENJOY!