We’ll Always Have Paris

Paris

“We’ll always have Paris…Texas.”

Just got to Greenville SC after a drive from Tucson (and a cruise to Alaska.) Observations:
1) There are no bears or whales to be seen in Alaska from a cruise ship, although the staff frequently sighted many from the bridge and excitedly told everyone to look either to port or starboard. (Favorite awe shucks: “Must have gone under the ship to mate with Nessie.”)
2) The only calving of glaciers to be seen from a cruise ship are on the videos they attempt to sell you (along with photos of you taken by them every chance they get…plus liquor.) The ship (Holland America) turned around some four miles from the glacier, and didn’t approach another for safety reasons “because of icebergs” (although in the publicity shots you see the ship surrounded by icebergs.) I think this is to sell more shore excursions. Indeed, I took a shore excursion to one of the glaciers, but had to run part way to it due to “time constraints.” (The driver joked, “You know what the bears call tourists five minutes late for the bus? Lunch.”)  Again, and alas, no calving or bears. Or bald eagles. (“Look, there’s one! See it?” Everyone in unison: “Nope.”)
3) Cruise ships burn the equivalent of two swimming pools of fuel every week (yes, with a deep end suitable for the Olympics), and there are hundreds of such ships, along with dozens of tankers transporting the oil from the Persian gulf. Not to mention thousands of jets and millions of cars in operation at any one time. In fact, we’ve gone through millions of years of fossil fuels in one century, and this last year was the hottest on record. So why can’t I see one sheet of ice fall from a glacier while being asked to buy videos and tee shirts featuring whales and bears and eagles…and rum drinks?
4) Alaska is wild and cold and huge. Driving across Texas is wild and hot and (according to Sarah Palin) “a cute little place.” That cute little place took the better part of two days to traverse nonetheless, with drivers who imagine themselves NASCAR racers (complete with tee shirts.) I heard on the news that Texas needs so many new prisons they’re thinking of letting reckless drivers and drug dealers out early to save on bed costs.  Why not let loose the serial killers too? Sure, just take away their driver’s licenses and put them to work in road construction. Then the DUIs and NASCAR wannabes will take them out, two jailbirds with one stone(d). Better yet, we should charge admission to prisons for tourists, like at theme parks. Bring the kids, make a picnic of it. A year in fees of $20 a head would pay to keep Gitmo open for one more week.
5) I never made it to Paris, and who knows, maybe I never will. Never got married either. (Nor did my sister, with whom I traveled to Alaska and across the country…she’s nine years older than I, legally blind, and can’t drive OR spot wildlife.) A girlfriend once told me that she couldn’t wait until I became rich and famous as a writer. The next day I learned that she meant it, literally. She couldn’t wait, and didn’t. Me? I’m still waiting. Next up, my memoirs. Fiction, I think, mostly. My real life is just too boring. In my fictional life, I married Kim Kardashian (IQ 175), went to Paris, bought a big house with a tall white picket fence for the bald eagles to land on…and to keep out the bears. We have a yacht bigger than James Patterson’s, and as it roars past the glacier, engines burning its $20 per gallon fuel, huge blue slabs of ice fall into the aquamarine waters. And then, inexplicably, a charming and friendly whale, rising from beneath us, (fresh from his tryst with Nessie), smiles on us and breaks one of the floes into fragments small enough for our rum drinks.

Sitka

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A Poem by RAY BRADBURY

Saddened to hear of the death of Ray Bradbury. He was a child at heart, a genius, an inspiration. Here is the poem he sent me once, besides answering every letter I wrote him as a young beginning writer in awe of his stories. He was the real deal. Fantastic, universal, with an unerring sense of what matters most in the human heart.

Ray Bradbury

Jonathan Lowe

(Please support animal rescue and vets by purchasing from links at TowerReview.com. It costs no more than shopping direct. Thank you.)

David Baldacci Interview

David Baldacci

David Baldacci has sold many millions of copies of his novels in 35 languages. A former lawyer, he lives in his native Virginia with his wife and children.  This interview dates from several years ago.  I’m migrating my author interviews away from Tower Review, which will be primarily satire and humor audiobooks.  For other interviews, go here.

JONATHAN LOWE: To get right into it, mystery writer Dennis LeHane said that he starts with characters, sets them in conflict, and lets them work out the plot. Do you start with an outline, yourself, and if so, which comes first–the characters or the action?

DAVID BALDACCI: I’ve done it both ways. Had some novels where I’ve started with characters, and built the plot around them. Other times I’ve come up with an interesting plot, and constructed characters to inhabit that story. That said, you can have a great plot, but if the characters are cardboard, and the reader doesn’t care what happens to them, even the greatest plot in the world won’t hold their attention.

JL: How much of the writing is discovery for you, then, and do you know the ending when you begin?

DB: I hardly ever know the ending when I begin. I’m not smart enough to know everything that’s going to happen. Some writers have very elaborate outlines, and they don’t deviate from that. It’s an evolutionary process for me. As I research a subject, new subplots and ideas occur to me. I may not know what characters are capable of in the first hundred pages, and so this dictates future action.

JL: I know what you mean, although I also know some writers who start with the ending and work backward, not knowing how they’re going to get there. It’s more fun not knowing, in any case, isn’t it?

DB: Oh, it is. I mean, I don’t want to sit down and say, ‘okay, today I’m going to be writing section two, subparagraph nine…’ (Laughs)

JL: I’ve read that you like trains, and you wrote “The Christmas Train.” What trips have you taken on trains, and what inspired that book, specifically?

DB: Well, I took a trip across the country which was documented in that book in a fictional sense. The Capitol Limited, Washington to Chicago, then to L.A. on the Southwest Chief. You know, I grew up reading the Sherlock Holmes, the Hercule Poirots, the Jane Marples of the world, and they used trains and seemed mysterious and also enlightening. It’s a great place to people watch. I’ve also taken trains in Europe, across Italy, France, Germany. . . Most of the time I have to fly just because of the demands of time, but love taking trains, and I’ve written so much on trains, just sitting in your compartment, the lights flashing by, the darkness outside. It’s the perfect atmosphere to write.

JL: I wonder if you’ve read “Strangers on a Train” by Patricia Highsmith, and what other writers have influenced you.

DB: I actually enjoy Patricia Highsmith’s work. She is quite dark and compelling, and also unpredictable. That type of genre appeals to me. I like mysteries that break outside the normal rules. Other writers, John Irving, Anne Tyler, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, John Updike. Updike deals with many generations of people, as does Irving. Any writer can be influential, depending on what you’re reading them for.

JL: How are the movie and TV projects coming along?

DB: “Absolute Power” as a movie did very well. I’ve got a couple other books in development. “The Winner” for a feature film, and “Saving Faith” for television. They’re looking at “The Christmas Train” and “Wish You Well” for TV as well. But it’s tough, you’ve got seventy different factors out there competing.

JL: Screenwriting is very different from novel writing, isn’t it?

DB: It is. Different questions are asked, and there’s a different discipline involved. I’ve sold a number of screenplays, none produced yet, but I worked with producers at studios, where everybody has input, you know, depending on what day it is, and what angle they want you to take. And so you have to know your marks. I’ve sat in offices with six people on the other side, just firing questions. And it helped me, in a way, because it made me think out things a little better. In a script, if you don’t think things out, at some point they start asking questions, and it becomes a long afternoon.

JL: Here’s a question a movie producer might ask. Can you describe your new novel “Split Second” in one sentence?

DB: (Laughs) Boy, did I get that one a lot! I’ve had so many pitches where they say, ‘now if you can say it in one sentence…’

JL: Exactly.

DB: Split Second is a novel of redemption and second chances for two different agents. That’s it, essentially. Most of us don’t get that second chance to rectify something, and instead we brood about it, and wonder what we would do if we had a second chance.

JL: Do you listen to your audiobooks, and what do you think of the medium?

DB: I do, and it’s an exploding medium. It’s amazing, the number of audiobooks that are sold now. More and more people these days are popping them in their cars while commuting. People don’t want to carry books around, and would rather listen to them while they’re doing something else.

JL: Plus they don’t have time.

DB: Right, they really don’t have time to sit down with a book, but if they can do something else too, that’s a great thing. Just looking at the numbers of my books, it’s extraordinary the increases over the years. I enjoy them. I remember listening to Ron McLarty reading “Last Man Standing,” actually while on a train, and he’s like this diminutive Irish character actor you see all the time, but when he did the voice of this big villain, I couldn’t believe it. It was like the guy was right in the train with me! I wrote him a letter, and said, “my God, you just nailed that character!” He did that voice so effectively.

JL: Some of his female characters are just uncanny, too. You start to wonder. . . there’s gotta be somebody else in the studio. . . some woman there doing this!

DB: (Laughs) I know, it’s talent. I certainly can’t do it.

JL: Literacy is one of your charities. I’m wondering how much TV you let your kids watch, and how parents can get their kids to read more.

DB: Our kids don’t watch much TV. We’re very strict about that. No video games in our house, just a computer where we let them go to specific sites while we’re there. We read to each other instead, and make it a family affair, even making up stories sometimes. Often we’ll read a story, come to the end, and I’ll close the book and say, ‘what did you think of that ending?’ Then we’ll discuss alternative endings, and why an author did it the way he or she did. Kids want to be creative, use their imaginations.

JL: And if you’re just watching TV, everything is given to you, so you can’t picture things in your own mind.

DB: Right, it’s totally passive. I gave my daughter a journal, and told her she could write anything she wanted in there, drawings included. And if she wants to show me anything, we’ll discuss it. Our kids are outside playing, too, coming up with things on their own, as opposed to just clicking on a Game Boy. And what we’re doing is paying off. Our kids are bright, imaginative, they play well, and come up with interesting stuff. I’m convinced it’s because they don’t sit in front of the television.

 

(Please support animal rescue and vets by purchasing from links at TowerReview.com. It costs no more than shopping direct. Thank you.)