10 Questions with Barbara Rogan
1. Ms. Rogan, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. Your new thriller, A DANGEROUS FICTION, came out today. Tell us a bit more about this book.
The protagonist of the story is Jo Donovan, who has forged a hard path from the hills of Appalachia to life among the literati in New York City. At thirty-five, she’s the widow of a renowned author and the owner of one of the best literary agencies in town. When a would-be client turns stalker, Jo is more angry than shaken until her clients come under attack. Meanwhile, a biography of her famous husband is in the works, and the biographer’s digging threatens to destroy the foundations of Jo’s carefully constructed life. As the web of suspicion grows wider and her stalker violently ups the ante, the police are called in, including detective Tommy Cullen, whom Jo had dated—and dumped—years before. With little evidence to work with, everyone is a suspect, including Jo herself.
2. Who are Jo and Tommy, and how did you go about creating them?
Jo is someone who grew up unwanted and unloved, but with the brains, ambition and gumption to rise above her circumstances and create the life she dreamed of living. She’s got scars, but most of them aren’t visible. I can’t really say how I created her; she presented herself to me. But I did draw on a lot of my own experience as a former literary agent to create the world she lives in.
Tommy came into being as a character who might be Jo’s protector or her enemy; he’s got cause for resentment, but may also be carrying an old torch. He was who he needed to be for the story, until he took on a heft and autonomy all his own.
3. What kind of research did you do for A DANGEROUS FICTION?
Unlike most of my other novels, A DANGEROUS FICTION takes place in a world I already knew well, and my protagonist’s job was one I’d held for many years, so I had less research than usual to do. For any questions I did have, my agent, Gail Hochman, and my editor at Viking were wonderful resources. The novel’s set in NYC, and I’m a New Yorker, so that was easy, too. Most of the research I did was into peripheral subjects, like how protection dogs are trained and handled, police procedures, and lots of other small details.
4. How does it feel to come back to writing after a few years of absence?
I never left. In addition to A DANGEROUS FICTION, I’ve been working on two other books, a spy novel and a book on writing. Five of my earlier novels were reissued this year, to my great delight, in ebook and print formats. I’ve also been teaching fiction writing through my online school, www.nextlevelworkshop.com, and I write a blog called In Cold Ink on the business and craft of writing. But A DANGEROUS FICTION is my first new book to come out in several years, and I’m loving every single minute of it.
5. A word of advice for new writers?
Read a lot, and when you read something that makes you laugh or cry or gasp, go back and figure out how the writer did it. Write regularly, not just when the fancy strikes you. And don’t be in so much of a hurry to send out your book that you skimp on the essential step of revising. When I was an agent, most of the “near miss” submissions I received were novels that were just a revision or two shy of being publishable.
6. Why do your write?
I love doing it and they pay me: what could be better?
7. What are your favorite pastimes?
I read a lot, of course. I frequently sneak out of my office to go to movie matinees. I don’t love long walks, but my German shepherd makes me take them. And I like playing in the dirt, aka gardening.
8. What do you like to read and what are you reading at the moment?
I read mostly fiction, any genre as long as it’s really well written, and I usually have a few books going at any given time. Right now I’m reading George Saunders TENTH OF DECEMBER, Elizabeth Strout’s THE BURGESS BOYS, and Lawrence Wright’s book on Scientology, GOING CLEAR, which isn’t fiction but reads like it.
9. What other book(s) are you working on?
A DANGEROUS FICTION is the first of a series. Jo Donovan’s a very appealing character to me—flawed, scarred, a bit arrogant, perhaps, but also smart, courageous, loyal and capable of growth—and I hope she will be to readers, too. Her profession gives her access to people with all sorts of expertise, which is useful in a mystery series; and her special skills come into play in the solution of the mysteries. We still have a road to walk together. I’m writing the next Jo Donovan story now and anticipate at least two more.
10. What can readers expect to find in A DANGEROUS FICTION?
I don’t like to toot my own horn, so will just say that early reviewers have been generous with praise, including this from Library Journal: “This literary mystery veers back and forth between insider-gossip tone … and genuine terror at warp speed, fulfilling many of the requirements for a perfect beach read.” Booklist compared it favorably to P.D. James’ ORIGINAL SIN, which was pretty heady.
By setting the book in the publishing world, I had to come up with characters who are as clever and witty as I could make them, which was great fun for me and I hope will be for readers as well. As a bonus, I think the book provides a realistic look at publishing from the inside.
Barbara Rogan is the author of eight novels and coauthor of several nonfiction books. Her latest novel, A DANGEROUS FICTION, is a literary thriller set in the publishing world, the first of a series featuring literary agent Jo Donovan. Her books have been translated into half a dozen languages, featured by the major book clubs, optioned for movie and television and issued as audio books and ebooks. Earlier in her career she worked as an editor at a large New York publishing house and a literary agent. She has taught fiction writing at Hofstra University and SUNY Farmingdale. Currently she teaches in her own online school, Next Level Workshops, and blogs about the craft and business of writing at In Cold Ink. Find her online at www.barbararogan.com or on twitter as @RoganBarbara.