Interview with Shelly Frome for AuthorMePro

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1. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer. What eventually inspired you to write your first novel?

At the outset, I enjoyed writing cliffhangers during study hall at Miami’s Shenandoah Junior High. I would write an episode, pass it around and the other kids would ask, What happens next? How is he going to get out of this one? From that point I progressed to a longer form, namely short stories. The inspiration for my first novel took a circuitous route from short stories, to a life in the theater as an actor and playwright, to the eventual realization that plays were limiting. My original cliffhangers could take the reader anywhere and everywhere. By turning one of my plays into a novel I was able to open up the narrative far beyond the confines of the stage set and, in addition, not have to worry about casting at all. Every character was perfect for the part. By the same token, I could sustain the dramatic conflict without the need for extended dialogue and conventional  entrances and exits. .

2. What genre do you write and have you considered other genres?

As a matter of course, my novels just naturally turned out to be variations on mystery and crime. It seems that in order to get involved and spend the time it takes to fully craft a book-length narrative, something has to be at stake. Something worth the candle. Put another way, I find that in their everyday lives, most people are content to go along with their given circumstances. I like to think I’m creating a vicarious experience that will draw readers in and transport them far beyond the safety of the ordinary.

3. Is there a message in your latest novel that you want readers to grasp?

In terms of Twilight of the Drifter, the tale hinges on the vagaries of chance and human nature. At the same time, some underlying force seeks closure and long overdue redemption. If this dynamic can somehow be construed as an underlying message, that’s fine. Actually, and in deference to Shakespeare, I’ve always felt that the value of fiction  lies in the provocative questions it raises and not in the answers it may provide. But that’s just the way I look at it.

4. Would you tell us about your background and what you’ve published to date?

In a nutshell, these are my credits:  I am a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at the University of Connecticut, a former professional actor, a writer of mysteries, books on theater and film, and articles on the performing arts appearing in a number of periodicals in the U.S. and the U.K. I am also a film critic and a contributor to writers blogs. My fiction includes Tinseltown Riff, Lilac Moon, Sun Dance for Andy Horn and the trans-Atlantic cozy The Twinning Murders.  Among my works of non-fiction are the acclaimed The Actors Studio and texts on the art and craft of screenwriting and writing for the stage. As noted, my latest novel is a southern gothic crime-and-blues odyssey entitled Twilight of the Drifter.

5. Give us a reason why we should buy your current work?
You should purchase the Drifter because, like all my works, it’s been lauded by reliable sources and isn’t the result of self-publishing and self-promotion. For instance, this just in from Kirkus Reviews (the world’s toughest book critics): “Author Shelly Frome churns out a laudable crime thriller. A novel with impeccable Southern flair as soothing and cool as the notes from the protagonist’s blues harp.”

6. Now that this crime story has been released, what are you working on now and what was your inspiration?
I guess you’d call it a Hollywood crime caper. Someone once said, Don’t write. Rather, Try not to write. When the time comes when something bothers you, when you find yourself at odds with something in the world, then you’re ready. In this instance, after all the times I visit my sister and nephews in Beverly Hills, the loopy superficiality of it all has finally gotten to me. I want to somehow challenge the cultural mind-set of LaLaLand and give its inhabitants something more meaningful to think about.

7.  What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you cure it?
Interesting enough, it isn’t writer’s block that plagues me. It’s coming to terms with what’s fueling some new-found restlessness.  I do a little marketing to help the publisher out, but promotion and even contributing guest posts on the nature of fiction and creation doesn’t satisfy me unless I at least have the germ of a new project going. Being becomes  deadly. Becoming is the only thing that keeps me going—a promising venture on the horizon.

8.  What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
Responding in the first person is all well and good as far as this interview and my contributions to blogs are concerned. But as far as telling a story goes, there is nothing like writing in the third person to give you the freedom of a great cinematographer and film editor, coupled with the magical ability to tell a tale and, at the same time, slip in and out of each and every character’s consciousness.

9. I see. Where can we find more about you and your work?
I guess you can always type my name on Google and find lots of stuff. Or go to my profile in Facebook and/or peruse my background in Amazon’s Author Central next to my listings.    

10. In the meantime, would you mind offering us an extract of your writing?

Gladly. Here’s the opening scene of the Drifter:
Wolf Creek was silent again, shrouded and hidden away in the fading early

December light. 

Then the cracking sound of wood as the old hunter’s blind gave way somewhere in the near distance, a sudden scream and a muffled thud. The cracking sound was not nearly as sharp as the first gunshot or the second, the scream not at all as piercing as the first cry or as grating as the moans that followed and faded.
The coonhound took off immediately, ignoring the touch of frost in the creek water, the obstacle course of fallen tree limbs and bare forked branches, the muddy slope and the snare and tangle of vines and whip-like saplings. Within seconds, the hound was bounding higher until he came upon a prone scrawny figure totally unlike the one that had just fallen on the opposite bank.     
Sniffing around, barking and howling, the hound snapped at the flimsy jacket and bit into it.  As the scrawny little figure began to stir, he tore into the sleeve, ripping it to shreds and barked and howled again, turning back for instructions. The sight of the skinny flailing arms sent the coonhound back on its haunches—half guarding, half confused as it turned around yet again, looking down the slope to the creek bed, still waiting for a signal. 
Presently, a tall, rangy man made his way across the same obstacle course, long-handled shovel in hand. But he was only in time to catch sight of a girl clutching her head, staggering away from the scene through the tangles and deepening shadows. Then again, it could’ve been a boy for all he knew, but he settled on a girl, a flat-chested tomboy, more like. Casting his gaze up to the snapped rungs of the tree-ladder, he spotted the broken edge of the rotting hunters blind some eight feet above where she could’ve seen everything. 
The coonhound began circling around him, displaying the shards of material dangling from his jaw.  Instinctively, the man rushed forward. Then he thought better of it as his overalls got snagged in the brambles. From the look of things, the girl was probably dazed and confused and wouldn’t get as far as the dirt drive, if that.
Wrong guess. The slam of a hood as the flat-bed’s worn V-8 motor fired-up, the grinding of gears and the familiar whine and squeal of tires signaled the tomboy was away and well out of reach.

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Shelly Frome can be reached on Twitter @shellyFrome, Facebook, and through his publisher at info@sunburypress.com