by John Dwaine McKenna
Hello and welcome to Joe Abramo, whose family saga, American History is reviewed in Mysterious Book Report No. 347. Thanks for taking time out to speak with us today and giving our readers your insights and observations. We know you’re busy . . . so let’s dig right in.
Why do you write?
To release what would otherwise be trapped inside. To stay sane. And, to quote Van Morrison, I can’t not write.
Are any of your characters autobiographical?
To some extent, many are. We write what we know. In my Jake Diamond series, Diamond is a Brooklyn born actor turned private investigator. His father was a Russian Jew, his mother an Italian-American. I am a Brooklyn boy, with a background in theatre, my father born in Naro, Sicily—where the novel American History begins—and my mother born in Kiev. Many of my other characters, for better or worse, borrow from personal experiences.
Do you plot-outline or wing it?
I don’t plot-outline. If winging it means letting the characters and the events take me where they will, I’m guilty. In other words, I don’t know where the book will end when I begin. At some point, I finally learn where the journey needs to finally arrive—and often, when I do, I realize I can’t get there from here. I need to do some rewriting, backtrack to a different fork in the road. It works for me because I am constantly surprised, and I believe art should surprise the artist as well as the audience.
How did your book get published?
The first book, Catching Water in a Net, captured the St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America Award for Best First Private Eye Novel and was published by Minotaur. After that, St. Martin’s published two more in the series before deciding I wasn’t a cash cow. Years later, Eric Campbell began Down & Out Books and tracked me down because he was a big Jake Diamond fan. D&O reissued those first three books, and have since published six more of my titles. The latest, American History, just released.
Are you more comfortable writing in the first, or third person POV?
I feel comfortable with both. In some of my work, Counting to Infinity and American History, I use first and third person. And Gravesend is written in present tense—he says and he goes as opposed to he said and he went. It gave that particular novel a different feeling, an immediacy—everything happening in the exact moment.
Do you use long, detailed and in-depth descriptions of your characters and their environs?
I don’t do much in the way of physical descriptions of individuals. I personally, as a reader, prefer to use my imagination. Besides, I don’t want to limit who can play the character in the movie. I don’t spend a lot of time describing trees or sunsets or butterflies—I figure readers have very good ideas about those. The setting is important in my work, so I am more specific when it comes to non-fictional locations—such as restaurants, landmarks, street intersections.
What do you write about?
A lot of my work involves family—family loyalty, honor, and survival. American History is a saga of two immigrant families and their ninety-year conflict in their new world. Another theme I’ve visited more than once is the different ways people deal with adversity—whether positively or negatively—and how those decisions ultimately define them.
J.L. ABRAMO was born and raised in the seaside paradise of Brooklyn, New York on Raymond Chandler’s fifty-ninth birthday.
Abramo is the author of Catching Water in a Net, winner of the St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America prize for Best First Private Eye Novel; the subsequent Jake Diamond Novels Clutching at Straws, Counting to Infinity and Circling the Runway (Shamus Award Winner); Chasing Charlie Chan, a prequel to the Jake Diamond series; and the stand-alone thrillers Gravesend, Brooklyn Justice and Coney Island Avenue, a follow-up to Gravesend. His latest novel is American History.
Abramo is the current president of Private Eye Writers of America.
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