by Keith Rosson
Published by: Meerkat Press
Publication date: January 23rd, 2018
Genres: Adult, Magical Realism
Marvin Deitz has some serious problems. His mob-connected landlord is strong-arming him out of his storefront. His therapist has concerns about his stability. He’s compelled to volunteer at the local Children’s Hospital even though it breaks his heart every week.
Oh, and he’s also the guilt-ridden reincarnation of Geoffroy Thérage, the French executioner who lit Joan of Arc’s pyre in 1431. He’s just seen a woman on a Los Angeles talk show claiming to be Joan, and absolution seems closer than it’s ever been... but how will he find her?
When Marvin heads to Los Angeles to locate the woman who may or may not be Joan, he’s picked up hitchhiking by Mike Vale, a self-destructive alcoholic painter traveling to his ex-wife’s funeral. As they move through a California landscape populated with “smokes” (ghostly apparitions that’ve inexplicably begun appearing throughout the southwestern US), each seeks absolution in his own way.
~AUTHOR INTERVIEW with Keith Rosson~
What gave you the inspiration for the storyline?
I’ve written a few pieces recently about my writing process and just how non-linear and jumbled it often is, and writing Smoke City was no different. I wrote the bulk of a first draft focusing on Mike Vale, the down-on-his-luck alcoholic painter, before Marvin Dietz, the remorseful reincarnation of Joan or Arc’s executioner, made an appearance in early versions of the book. I know that reading Regine Pernoud and Marie-Veronique Clin’s excellent biography of Joan, Joan of Arc: Her Story, was the impetus for the Marvin character, and previous to that, the book was kind of treading water, following Mike around. It wasn’t until the idea of the Marvin character came around that the book really took off.
Are there any hidden themes in the book that you hope readers will discover?
I guess they’re the same themes that are tackled in the majority of my stuff: kindness, regret, forgiveness, this sense of being indebted to someone – be it through blood or obligation or a shared history – and just what we do with that sense of debt.
Are any of the characters based on real people you know?
Well, Jean Michel Basquiat makes a cameo, as does Joan of Arc and Geoffroy Thérage, Joan’s executioner. I don’t actually know any of these people, but it was a blast immersing myself in their respective histories. Generally though, characters start becoming their own people after the first draft. By that time, you know more about them and you can go back to the beginning of the second draft and reinforce their skeletons a bit more, if that makes sense.
Who has influenced you most as a writer?
I grew up on Stephen King novels and comic books, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that guy as formative and super important. But for the most part, writing regularly and reading a lot are my biggest influences these days.
If you could have any three literary characters over to your place for game night, who would you invite, what would you play, what would you serve, and why?
This question has waaaay too many moving parts for my feeble brain at this hour. I guess I’d get Sara Gran’s awesome PI, Claire DeWitt, and have her hang out with the two incredible protagonists in Kayla Rae Whitaker’s The Animators, and they’d probably all hang out and do drugs and drink booze until the girl from Emil Ferris’s graphic novel, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, came over, and then they’d try to get their act together since she’s just a kid. (All great, recommended reads, by the way.)
Do you feel that you can ever have too many books?
Mmm, probably. I’m actually pretty chill when it comes to buying books. I’m a voracious reader, but this is why, in part, I think libraries are so vitally important. I’m pretty selective with my book purchases, but I’m straight up like one of those kids on a “shove as much as you can in your cart in one minute” shopping spree when it comes to visiting the library. Meanwhile, thanks so much for the interview, I really appreciate it!
Keith Rosson is the author of the novels The Mercy of the Tide (2017, Meerkat Press) and Smoke City (2018, Meerkat Press). His short fiction has appeared in Cream City Review, PANK, Redivider, December, and more. An advocate of both public libraries and non-ironic adulation of the cassette tape, he can be found at keithrosson.com.
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