Friday, November 26, 2010
A Vist with Alan Orloff
Alan, how did your Diamonds for the Dead concept come about?
I wish I could point to a specific event as the impetus for this story, but, like most of my ideas, it just popped into my head. I will say that, out of the eight or nine manuscripts I’ve written, this one has the most “autobiographical” elements. When I was about ten or twelve, my father found out that we had a cousin in Russia who was being persecuted—in and out of jail for being an outspoken professor. So I incorporated some of that background into Diamonds.
Tell us about the book.
Talk to anyone in Reston, Virginia, and they’ll say Josh Handleman’s dad, “Honest Abe,” was a real mensch. But when Josh returns home to bury his estranged father, he gets the shock of his life: his thrifty dad was filthy rich. Oy!
Who was this man who donated millions to charity, invested in the dreams of Josh’s friends, and shared his home with a strange vodka-swilling Russian? Apparently, Abe collected diamonds too. But when Josh can’t find the gems, he begins to wonder if his dad’s death was truly an accident.
Hounded by grief and remorse, Josh resolves to find his dad’s diamond stash—which could be his inheritance and proof of his father’s love. What he doesn't realize is that this emotionally charged treasure hunt is taking him closer to his dad’s killer.
My next book, Killer Routine, is the first in a series, and it features Channing Hayes, a stand-up comic with a tragic past. It will be out in April 2011.
Not many engineers write mystery novels. When did you start writing and why mysteries?
I didn’t start writing fiction until about six years ago. I never liked my English classes in school and I certainly didn’t like writing papers (maybe that’s why I became an engineer). But I’ve always been a voracious reader and I guess my latent desire to write a book finally blossomed. As for writing mystery and suspense novels, those are the kinds of books I like to read so it seemed only natural to write them.
You were born in Washington D.C. and still live in the area. Have you ever written about politicians? If not, why?
Frankly, I read about politics every day in the newspaper (yes, I still read the daily paper), and I hear about them nightly on the news. Boring! Having said that, it figures that my [work in progress] (the sequel to Killer Routine) is about a politician.
You’ve had a varied career, including working on nuclear submarines. What else have you done besides writing?
You probably don’t have enough space on your blog for me to list all of my careers. Some of my “jobs” have included supervising assembly workers in a factory, consulting at a newspaper (on the business side), managing a group of product planners for a TV/radio ratings company, and helping to commercialize spin-off technology from the Star Wars program.
For whom do you write?
Interesting question. Mostly, I think I write for my readers. I want my stories to be entertaining page-turners, full of suspense with threads of humor. Is it a coincidence that those are the same kinds of books I like to read? No. So I guess I write for myself, too.
What’s the hardest part of writing for you and the part you enjoy most?
The hardest part of writing is finding enough time to flesh out all my ideas. If you’re talking more about craft, then I’d say I usually have a tougher time with description. The parts of writing I enjoy most are those rare times when I’m in a zone and the words come flowing out too fast for me to type. That’s a very cool feeling.
How do you schedule your writing?
I’m a stay-at-home dad (I have an incredibly supportive wife, in every sense of the word). When the kids are at school, I can usually hear myself think. Otherwise…not so much.
Advice for fledgling writers?
I’ve got a five-pronged strategy I’ll pass along. Take classes and workshops. Get yourself into a critique group. Network with other writers, at conferences and in professional organizations. Read, read, read. And, of course, write, write, write. If you want to get published, perseverance is key.
Thanks, Alan, for stopping by.
Alan's website: http://www.alanorloff.com/
His blog site: http://www.alanorloff.blogspot.com/