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Peter Spiegelman

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


: David White
g_so: Gerald So
macavityabc: Bill Crider
peter_sp_05: Peter Spiegelman

g_so: Hi, Peter.

peter_sp_05: Hey, Gerald. I'm a little early.

macavityabc: I'm here, but I might have to drop off in a few minutes. I'll stay logged in and return, though.

g_so: Bill Crider joined the conference as well. That's macavity.

peter_sp_05: Cool -- Hi, Bill.

macavityabc: Hi, Peter. Glad to be here.

peter_sp_05: Gerald / Bill -- were you guys at Bcon?

g_so: I almost made it to Bouchercon this year. Maybe next year in Madison. Baltimore in 2008 is probably my best shot (closest to home).

macavityabc: B'con is a great experience. I've been going since 1980, and I've missed only about three in that time. So, yeah, I was there in Chicago.

peter_sp_05: This was my 4th, but the best so far.

macavityabc: They're all fun as far as I'm concerned. The first one I attended had under 200 people.

g_so: I've wanted to go...In past years, I was always teaching when B'con was on.

macavityabc: Me, too, but I've always been able to get the time off. Well, actually, not for the last three years. I left teaching in 2003.

peter_sp_05: what do/did you guys teach?

g_so: I taught English comp.

macavityabc: I taught English for many years. Now I just sit around.

g_so: I'm looking to teach creative writing.

macavityabc: I taught creative writing a few semesters, but I decided I knew nothing about it, so I turned that over to someone else.

g_so: I'd like to try my hand at it, if only to inspire someone as my teachers did me. (Corny, but true.)

peter_sp_05: that's a tough job, i think -- the few writing classes I've been in have had people at all different levels...must be tough on the teacher I think.

g_so: That's true.

macavityabc: What's tough is knowing when you find something good, or something you just think is good. My greatest fear was that I might discourage someone who had talent, and I've heard several horror stories about that happening.

g_so: I think it's partly on the student to want to improve.

macavityabc: I agree.

peter_sp_05: It's a big responsibility...and then there's the unfortunate desire of some students to want to turn it into group therapy or something.

macavityabc: Geez, that's a painful reminder. I'm glad I stopped teaching that course!

peter_sp_05: the only writing classes I ever took were poetry classes, and that sort of group therapy thing happened all too often.

macavityabc: Ah, another poet. I published some poems before I wrote fiction. Haven't written any in a while, though.

g_so: A lot of teachers can fall into the trap of playing favorites, leaving out the rest of the class. I'm currently writing both poetry and stories. One feeds the other and reduces writer's block.

peter_sp_05: Yes, the only serious writing I did before Black Maps was poetry. I still write -- just "finished" one today. I agree -- I get a real creative jump-start from reading poetry.

g_so: Did you publish any books of poetry, Peter?

macavityabc: I wrote poetry for years but didn't try to publish. Then I decided to give it a whirl. My biggest sale was to a magazine called The Runner. Got 25 bucks and a phone call from the editor. I thought I was on the way to fame and fortune.

g_so: That is pretty great, Bill.

macavityabc: Well, most of my other publications were in "little" magazines that paid in copies. Got to drop off now, but I'll be back.

g_so: ok.

peter_sp_05: No books, just individual pieces in now-defunct pubs. And I still send stuff to the New Yorker now and then (and they send it back) -- so much easier now that they've gone to email submission!

g_so: Ah, yes. :)

peter_sp_05: bye, bill

g_so: I've mostly placed poems with the small mags Bill was taking about, but as long as someone can read them, I'm happy.

peter_sp_05: At bcon I did a panel with Reed Coleman & Ken Bruen on poetry & crime fiction -- we all started as poets and all feel there's a real conjunction between poetry and crime fiction. Many, many crime writer poets out there.

g_so: I've met Reed. Great guy.

peter_sp_05: He sure is. Ken too. Next time Ken is in NYC we may do a poetry reading together (in some forgiving venue).

g_so: So I've heard. I just missed his event at Black Orchid signing Magdalen Martyrs.

peter_sp_05: He'll be back in the not too distant future.

g_so: I'll have to see if I can meet him then.

peter_sp_05: Anything I can tell you about my books, Gerald? Or anything else?

g_so: Hmm. What went into planning Black Maps, and do you have any plans in advance for the series? Like a master plan, that is? (I'd also like to ask about your favorite poets.)

peter_sp_05: I do have a braod sort of arc I'd like to see March traverse -- a place I'd like to get him to vis a vis his own mental health & emotional baggage, and that's something that will play out over several books. I also have several ideas I'm working with -- one of which will become March #4 (I'm finishing 3 now). But I don't have 4 or 5 books outlined already.

g_so: I see.

peter_sp_05: As far as Black Maps went -- I thought a lot about the character of March, and as he developed, the backstory and the plot developed too. The bank in the book -- MWB -- was inspired heavily by BCCI.

g_so: March reminded me a little of Jim Fusilli's Terry Orr, but less brooding, more able to laugh at himself.

peter_sp_05: favorite poets -- a long, long list English lang: Shakespeare, Milton, Eliot, Pound, Williams, Stevens, Whitman, Strand, Simic, Edward Hirsch.

g_so: Ah, some of my favorites in there as well.

peter_sp_05: In translation: Rilke, Baudelaire, Akhmatova, Borges.

g_so: always looking for more to read.

peter_sp_05: but that's like the favorite crime writer's always just a partial list.

g_so: Yes, it's a huge field.

peter_sp_05: Just saw your Terry Orr comment -- Jim is a good buddy of mine, though I'd not read his books until fairly recently. I really like his stuff alot (and his short stories are beautiful). I agree -- there are some similarities. Terry's wounds are a little more raw, I think.

g_so: Right.

peter_sp_05: ...but then he lost a child as well.

g_so: I wasn't sure how long it had been since March lost Anne.

peter_sp_05: At the start of Black Maps, it's been about 3 yrs since Anne was killed.

g_so: From your description of how Black Maps came about, I take it you don't outline as part of your writing process.

peter_sp_05: I actually do outline -- about 6-10 bullet points per chapter, which I expand when I sit down to write that chap. But I am not a slave to the outline at all. I follow where the characters & story lead, and change my outline accordingly. It's as much a security blanket as anything else.

g_so: ah, I see. It's always best when the reader can't see an outline.

peter_sp_05: Yes, I hope no strings are showing.

g_so: I wouldn't have guessed.

peter_sp_05: glad to hear it.

g_so: You mentioned putting a lot of thinking into creating March. What sort of character did you want to create at first, and how did that change along the way? Oh, and Jim Winter says hello.

peter_sp_05: I've always been a huge fan of the hardboiled PI, and I definitely wanted to work in that tradition. But I didn't want to create a cartoonish, bulletproof superman type. I wanted someone who could get hurt. And I wanted someone who was unabashedly, unapologetically smart.

peter_sp_05: hi to Jim.

g_so: I think you pulled that off. I saw some of Spenser in March, but thankfully not too much.

peter_sp_05: Thanks much. I like Parker and the early Spenser, and the guy can write beautiful sentences, which for me goes a LONG way

peter_sp_05: Along the way, March has become maybe a little less likeable -- a little more prone to petulance (especially with his family).

g_so: Ah. I liked how the family sort of put him in relief.

peter_sp_05: Yes, the family dynamic figures greatly in book #3.

g_so: Parker's early work was a big influence on me. His recent stuff all seems repetitive.

peter_sp_05: I'm a big one for tone and atmosphere -- emotional weather -- and well constructed sentences, and if a writer can deliver those things, I can forgive alot (maybe I'm not as discriminating as I should be!)

g_so: I think I'm only discriminating because I have to moderate lists. :)

macavityabc: OK, I'm back. I skimmed through what I missed, and I meant to say earlier, Peter, that I attended the panel you did with Ken and Reed. I was surprised at the size of the crowd. Either there were a lot of poetry fans or you guys are very popular.

peter_sp_05: Hi, Bill -- the crowds surprised the heck out of us. they were there for Reed and Ken, I'm sure -- but I think there were a lot of poetry fans & poets too.

macavityabc: I'm also a huge fan of Robert B. Parker, and I don't even care if he's repetitive. I'll read whatever he writes.

peter_sp_05: After about a zillion people telling me to read him, I read my 1st Alan Furst book this year, and promptly read all the rest. He delivers that stuff in spades.

g_so: I'll read almost everything by Parker, but again, because I moderate a Parker list.

macavityabc: A zillion people have been telling me about Alan Furst, too. So far I haven't read his books.

peter_sp_05: Furst is great -- very atmospheric, really beautiful writing.

macavityabc: I saw the mention of Ed Hirsch, too. I live in Alvin, Texas, not far from Houston, so I met him once at a reading.

g_so: What are some of Furst's titles?

peter_sp_05: kingdom of shadows; blood of victory; dark star; the world at night; red gold..I'm sure I'm forgetting something.

g_so: Thanks. Bill, any questions for Peter?

macavityabc: I do have a question for Peter. Your work experience has been a lot different from ours. How did it prepare you for writing, if at all?

peter_sp_05: My stuff takes place on and around Wall St., and that's where I worked for about 20 yrs. A trading floor turns out to be a great place for an aspiring crime writer -- plenty of greed, cutthroat competition, sweaty paranoia, lots and lots of dysfunctional personalities -- very noirish & lots of fun.

macavityabc: So when you were working, did you write just poetry, or did you dabble in fiction along the way?

peter_sp_05: No fiction, but poetry - though quite sporadically. What became the prologue to Black Maps started out as a poem fragment...same with some of the last chapter.

macavityabc: I saw what you said above about outlining. What about ideas? Do you mull them over for along time, or do they just hit you all at once? Do you keep a notebook, or do you just try to remember the things that occur to you? (I ask because I'm so disorganzied, myself.)

peter_sp_05: I do keep a notebook that I read over and chew on (not literally). The papers are always full on inspiration.

macavityabc: You seem to have a good idea before you begin about what's going to happen, since you do bullet points for the chapters. What about endings? Do you always know those in advance?

peter_sp_05: I have a notion of an ending in advance, but by the time I get to the acutal ending, it may be different (I say this with all of 3 novels under my belt). With Black Maps & Death's Little Helpers, the ending was pretty much the ending I outlined. Not so with #3

peter_sp_05: I've also written a few short stories recently, a couple of which could become books (maybe)

macavityabc: Do you find short stories easier or more difficult than novels? I know they're shorter, but that's not what I mean.

peter_sp_05: I love writing short stories -- I feel like I'm a better writer after each one. I don't know that they're harder, but they're different -- different challenges and limitations. But they also provide liberties that novels don't.

macavityabc: Also I have to ask the standard question about routine. Do you have one? Set time for writing, etc?

peter_sp_05: I write pretty much every day. I start with editing what I've done the prior day, to get back in the groove of where I was. I'm writing full time, so I write throughout the day. Of course, with small children at home, a lot of that time is broken up. A good day for me is about 3 pages, a great day is 4-5 (wish I had more of those)

g_so: :)

macavityabc: If you're writing every day, you can get a lot of pages in a year of work at 3 pages a day. That's why I asked about short stories, sort of. It takes me longer, relatively speaking, to write short story than it does to write a novel.

g_so: Hmm, personally I'd like to be able to distinguish ideas for novels from ideas for shorts a little better. I'm not sure I've had a novel idea yet.

peter_sp_05: Yes -- short stories do come more slowly. And I should say -- I write every day that I'm not on tour, planning a tour, at conferences, etc, etc... all the non-writing writer stuff no one tells you about until you're a writer.

macavityabc: I know writers who take their computers with them on tour, to conventions, and so on, and they actually write in their hotel rooms. I'm not sure I could do that.

peter_sp_05: Novel vs. short story -- for me it's just that a couple of the stories I've written have characters I'd like to spend more time with / on -- situations I'd like to explore.

g_so: I see.

peter_sp_05: I took my laptop on tour this summer, with every intention of writing. I got some editing done, but I was so fried at the end of every day, it was hard to get anything new done.

macavityabc: That would be me. I need at least a semblance of normality to write.

peter_sp_05: Same here. The other thing I've been working on, btw, is editing a short story collection for Akashic -- Wall Street Noir. It's a fun project.

g_so: I've heard of the Noir series. A great idea.

macavityabc: I've heard about that one. Sounds like fun. I think Akashic is onto something with that series.

peter_sp_05: I do too, and I'm glad Johnny Temple saw the noir potential of Wall Street

g_so: Official chat time is over, but we can stay as long as Peter is willing.

peter_sp_05: I can hang out for a few minutes more.

dpwhite237: Hey folks.

peter_sp_05: is that Dave White, who I met very briefly in chicago?

g_so: Hi, Dave.

dpwhite237: That is Dave White whom you met very briefly in Chicago.

peter_sp_05: Hi Dave -- you're late.

dpwhite237: I know. I have company. Vaguely. How's it going Peter?

peter_sp_05: Going well -- Gerald, Bill and I have been talking poetry and many other things.

dpwhite237: The poetry panel was the highlight of B'Con, along with the noir panel.

peter_sp_05: Glad you liked it, Dave We got good feedback

g_so: Official chat is over, Dave. But go ahead and ask some questions.

dpwhite237: I thought it was an 8 o'clock chat... whoops.

macavityabc: Hi, Dave. One more quick question for Peter. Are you sole editor of the noir book, or do you have a screener?

peter_sp_05: I am the editor of the Wall Street Noir book.

dpwhite237: When is that going on, Peter? The Wall Street Noir that is. When is it due out? And can you talk about who is in it?

peter_sp_05: No pub date yet for Wall Street Noir. Tentatively late '06. I don't want to say too much about who's in it yet until I've got my slots filled. But it should be an interesting mix of crime writers, a few business writers and maybe something a little different for the Noir series.

dpwhite237: Cool. One more question, Peter, and then I'll let you go if you need to. Can you talk about your writing process? Do you outline? Follow a character or two? Piece it together? How do you write?

g_so: Peter talked about process earlier. It will be in the transcript.

dpwhite237: Oh... well excuuuuuse me for being late... I mean... um... I'll read the transcript.

g_so: :)

peter_sp_05: Suffice it to say, Dave, my magic Eight-Ball figures greatly in the process.

dpwhite237: Nice. I stick to fortune cookies for my writing.

peter_sp_05: Too fattening.

g_so: And hard to write on those little slips.

dpwhite237: Haha, good point. Well Peter, I just wanted to stop in and say hi. I'll email you after I get through Black Maps.

peter_sp_05: I hope you enjoy it, Dave.

macavityabc: This has been fun, guys. I gotta take off now. Thanks, Peter.

peter_sp_05: Bye, Bill -- thanks.

g_so: Bye, Bill. Thanks for coming.

macavityabc: Enjoyed it.

g_so: Thanks very much, Peter.

dpwhite237: For some reason I decided to try and read Catch 22 and I'm all sorts of backed up. Thanks, Peter.

peter_sp_05: Thanks for having me, guys -- it was fun.


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