A Quick One, While He's Away (Lies, Truths, and Silence) (Author Interview)



Can you talk about the significance of the title "A Quick One, While He's Away" and how it relates to the overall themes of the book?
The title is actually a reference to the Netflix show BoJack Horseman. It’s the title of an episode that stuck with me, being centered around characters trying to crack a mystery and uncover a hidden truth. I think that’s what my characters are going through in this book, and it felt like a fitting title for their struggles. It also may hint at something that could be revealed in the sequel.

What inspired you to create the character of Dario, and how did you develop his backstory and motivations?
Dario was my attempt at deconstructing the typical noir style detective/action hero. He’s a character with a major chip on his shoulder and something to prove, having lived in someone else’s shadow for the entirety of his adult life. He jumps headfirst into this mystery and is almost immediately outclassed by his adversaries. He’s what I imagine would happen to most people who love to fantasize about what they’d do in dangerous scenarios.

Chloe's journey in the book is one of transformation from grief to action. How did you approach writing a character going through such an intense emotional arc?
Writing in the female perspective was something I got some practice doing in my last book, They Laugh Like Jackals, but I never felt like I quite nailed it. I needed some advice, so I turned to my dear friend Rebeca Reyes, a woman who’s endured a lot of emotional trauma and loss in her life but has turned into something positive by becoming a doctoral candidate and educator. I asked her what her grief was like, how long she was in it, how it affected her mindset, and how she emerged from it. Her in-depth answers were instrumental in shaping Chloe’s journey, which is not yet finished. Readers will have to wait for the sequel to see how it plays out, but we definitely see the beginnings of who she can become.

Snitch is a complex character with a moral dilemma that propels his actions. What challenges did you face in writing a character who is both a killer and sympathetic?
Having Snitch be a character who’s head the reader lives in for a lot of this book definitely helped to establish the range of emotions he goes through. From the outside, he is a stone-cold killer, emotionless, efficient, brutal. If we were just looking at him from the outside and had none of his internal monologue, we’d never understand his struggles and how much pain what he’s ordered to do causes him. I had to tap into my own emotional state and how I think I would feel if I were ordered to commit the brutal actions he is made to do, even from the first page of the story, and I concluded that I would completely fall apart under the weight of my conscience. I wanted to use that, but with the hopeless reality that Snitch lives in: he’s never known any other life and he doesn’t know what he’d do without others’ influence on him. He needs someone to hitch his wagon to and, unfortunately, he was influenced by the wrong people. Snitch is someone who could’ve been a powerful force for good, if only someone else had given him guidance. He’s a tragic figure.

The city of Chicago serves as the backdrop for your story. How does the city's history and atmosphere influence the narrative and the characters' experiences?
Choosing Chicago was a choice I made because of the people who live there. They are strong, they are resilient, they see a lot of pain and they persevere through it. I wanted the atmosphere of people like that in my story because I’m putting these characters through a lot of difficulties. If they were raised in a city that values strength as much as Chicago does, they have a better chance of making it out alive. The city’s history with the Italian mafia also played a role in developing exactly where this story was going and the antagonist that would reveal themselves. Eventually.

Each of your main characters has a distinct voice and perspective. How did you go about weaving their individual stories into a cohesive narrative?
It started with the inciting incident at the beginning of the book. All three of these characters are deeply affected by the death of a certain character and are all sent into their own personal missions because of it, do varying degrees of success and failure. Because all of them are navigating paths that lead to the same place, their stories naturally interweave on the way there.

The theme of justice is central to the story. How do you define justice, and what role does it play in the lives of Dario, Chloe, and Snitch?
To me, justice means that those who harm people come to understand the consequences of their actions. I don’t personally subscribe to the ideals of vengeance or karmic retribution. I feel that true justice is understanding that what we do and say has an effect on others and learning from our mistakes. These characters, however, are not me, and they see it entirely differently. I think I want them to understand that I hold, but they are a long way off and it’s a difficult journey to put them through when they all believe justice has to come with bloodshed.

What research did you do to accurately portray the legal aspects of the story and Dario's investigation?
I took a bit of inspiration from the portrayal of legal proceedings in entertainment more so than real legal procedures. It plays a role in establishing Dario’s character and his competence as an attorney, showing that his strengths do not lie in the mission he’s undertaking, but elsewhere, but I knew from the outset that it would be limited in scope. With that in mind, I tried to focus on something small that wouldn’t leave me feeling exactly like Dario: out of my depth.

The relationship between victims and perpetrators is explored in depth throughout the book. How did you approach writing about this complex and often sensitive dynamic?
I think I tried to keep in mind that the dynamic isn’t always black and white, there is a lot of gray in between those two. Victims can become perpetrators and vice versa through the course of a journey. I think, in life, we all go through peaks and valleys of hurting people and being hurt by people. It’s a cycle that we oftentimes perpetuate without knowing it and without meaning to. It’s a human flaw. While there is true evil in the world, people who commit heinous acts for no reason other than to inflict harm, the characters here are deeper than that, we just have to look beyond the action and into the intent/motivation. Why do we hurt people? Why do we allow people to hurt us? How does being hurt affect us? I tried to think about those questions.

What do you hope readers take away from "A Quick One, While He's Away"?
I hope readers understand the effects that grief, loss, anger, and revenge can have on who we are. It’s not so unbelievable that we can fall from ourselves in the face of trauma, and that is the central theme of this book, I think. Readers get to watch those effects happen on three different people and maybe, in the process, can understand their own journeys a little more and forgive themselves for mistakes they may have made during difficult times. We all fall down every now and then. It’s how we pick ourselves up that matters.

No comments:

Post a Comment