Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hodie EGO sum Centum (Today I am 100)

Okay, so I'm not 100, but this IS the 100th post here at Out in Writefield. (trumpets sound) And to kick things off, I'd like to announce the winner of Ken Bruen's latest book, Once Were Cops, that I offered to one lucky commenter on my post Cracking the Block. And the winner is....(opens envelope). Jake Nantz. Congratulations, Jake. Could you please e-mail me at with your snail mail so I can get your book off to you? And by the way folks, check out Jake's blog, The Pen-Ferno. Cool name, huh?

So let's move this party. You're probably wondering, "What's with the Latin in the post title?" Well, it goes along with my guest here today at Out in WriteField: Kelli Stanley. She is the author of
Nox Dormienda, a historical mystery set in Rome but with a noir feel. So please join me in welcoming Kelli Stanley to Out in WriteField.


RJ: NOX DORMIENDA. Can you give us the pitch?

KS: Well, first let me thank you, RJ, for the invite! It’s great to be here to help celebrate your 100th.

As for NOX … it’s a mystery-thriller and the first Roman Noir. A combination of ancient historical setting (first century Roman Britain) and the style of hardboiled fiction made famous by Hammett, Chandler, Woolrich and Cain. Arcturus—the governor’s doctor—has only one week to figure out who murdered a Syrian spy—and why … or civil war will erupt between the Roman Empire, and the small, wet province known as Britannia.

And of course there’s a woman involved. Isn’t there always? ;)

RJ: I've read that you're both a Classicist and a huge fan of noir. What made you decide to combine the two?

KS: An epiphany while attending Eddie Muller’s Noir City film festival in San Francisco. I’ve been a noir fan all my life. I wanted a lens for the book, something people could look through and say, “OK, I get it, Roman culture wasn’t all marble and togas, and it really does have relevance to the here and now.” For me, noir is that lens … it gives me a chance to prove that history can be just as tough, just as visceral, as a contemporary novel.

RJ: NOX DORMIENDA has been described by you and others such as author James Rollins, The Library Journal and Becky Lejeune, of, as "Roman Noir." What exactly is Roman Noir?

KS: Well, Roman Noir is a pun on “roman noir”, the French literary term for a detective novel. I thought it would be a good way to distinguish NOX from other historical mysteries on the market, and let people know that it’s something completely new. I’m very proud of the fact that the city and county of San Francisco—my homebase—awarded me a Certificate of Honor for my creation of a new subgenre.

Thanks to Jim Rollins, Becky Lejeune, and other reviewers, I’ve been able to get the word out about Roman Noir. Thanks to the support of readers, I have a good chance at expanding the series to the second, third and fourth novels. We’re trying to move to a larger publisher, so we’ll see.

RJ: I understand that you're also working on another series set in
San Francisco in 1940.

KS: I just finished it, actually. Right before Bouchercon (a large annual mystery convention). Not Roman, but definitely noir … and a much darker version than Roman.

RJ: Any possibility for a little insight into the series?

KS: Without giving too much away, the protagonist is a female PI, who gets involved in a case dealing with racial tensions between the Chinese-American and Japanese-American communities in the wake of Nanking. Sweeping book, very dark and very big.

RJ: Just for fun, what are some of your favorite noir films and books?

KS: My favorite noir films include Nightmare Alley, Gilda, Out of the Past, Double Indemnity and Touch of Evil … and of course the minute I say that, I think of Night and the City, In a Lonely Place, Sudden Fear, Woman on the Run, Thieves’ Highway … it’s virtually impossible to rank them!

As for books, I consider Chandler a noir writer. He’s my favorite author. I also hold Hammett, Woolrich, Elizabeth Sanxay-Holding, Patricia Highsmith, Dorothy B. Hughes, David Goodis in high esteem. James Cain. Jim Thompson was brilliant, hard as hell to read sometimes because he was so damn disturbing. I like a combination of aesthetic lyricism with a brutal subject.

RJ: Who were some of the biggest influences on you as a writer?

KS: All of the above, plus Hemingway, Steinbeck, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, the Brontes, Poe and a whole lot of other people. Lots of poetry. Shakespeare. Virgil, Catullus, Euripides in terms of classical literature.

RJ: You say that you're also a comic book buff. Name some of your favorites.

KS: I used to own a comic book store with my family, and have collected since I was a kid. Batman and Detective are my two main titles … I have every issue of Detective from about 1959 to 1989. Batman is, for me, the ultimate noir super-hero. I’ve always been a DC fan (and am one of those unfortunate souls who can name all the members of the Legion of Super-Pets).

My collection has ground to a halt since publication, but I collect Silver and Golden Age DC, Fawcett and Quality. I’ve always loved Plastic Man (Jack Cole), Will Eisner’s The Spirit (what a wonderful man Eisner was!) … and I’m partial to a few other heroes in the DC pantheon, including Green Arrow, Dr. Fate and the Specter. I adore Catwoman. I was never much of a Wonder Woman fan, though as an academic I published an article on how she reflects American cultural trends toward women.

RJ: Did any of them influence your writing as well?

KS: Great question! I’m sure comic books have influenced me … they’re like reading storyboards, and before I turned to novels, I wrote screenplays … gave it up because unless you’re in LA and are willing to knock on doors it’s too frustrating a business. Batman certainly influenced me … made me understand (and from a young age) the pain of loss and the anger at not being able to prevent it. And the desire for revenge … psychologically he’s a very complex figure.

RJ: What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

KS: Movies—I’m looking forward to Quantum of Solace. Usually I’m catching up on something from 1948 on DVD. J I love visiting historic places, watching ships come in under the Golden Gate Bridge, walking in parks, playing with the dog. I also like vintage radio shows—some great writing on shows like Suspense … full entertainment in a half hour. But the thing about being a writer is that you never *not write.* Even when you’re doing other things, you’re still writing in your head. Deep down, I never stop.

RJ: So, what's next for Arcturus and company?

KS: The sequel is called MALEDICTUS (Cursed). Set a few months after NOX, in the town of Aquae Sulis (modern day Bath). It deals with the health spa/snake oil atmosphere of the town, and the murder of a curse-writer … someone whose curses seemed to come true. I’m hoping to see the series picked up by a larger publisher.

RJ: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat today.

KS: My pleasure, RJ, thanks for asking me!! And here’s to the 200th post!


There you have it fols, your intro to Roman Noir and a great writer. So be sure to get your copy of Nox Dormienda. And in honor of Kelli Stanley stopping by, you can check out the first three chapters of Nox Dormienda in the chap book that I'll be giving away to a randomly selected commenter.


Kelli Stanley likes fog, which is a good thing because she lives in San Francisco. In addition to writing Roman noir, she holds a Master’s Degree in Classics. As a scholar, she writes and lectures internationally on a variety of subjects from Sallust to Superman, and her published work can be found in academic books and journals.

Her favorite film is Casablanca—she always gets choked up over the “Marseillaise” scenes.

She is currently working on her third Arcturus novel, and is researching a second series set in San Francisco in 1939.


Anonymous said...

That is terrific
And even better, you are interviewing the amazing Kelli
How great a duo
Bobby and Kelli, pitch perfect
Great great interview

Kelli Stanley said...

Hey, RJ, thanks for asking me over to help celebrate a wonderful achievement! :)

John's Grill in San Francisco (a favorite Hammett restaurant and home of the Maltese Falcon) just celebrated its 100th birthday, so centennials all around. :)

Here's to the next 100!!



davethemysteryguy said...

Happy 100th R.J. Hope it's another great 100 hundred. And by the way, NOX is an outstanding book. I've recommended it to several friends.

R.J. Mangahas said...

Ken --- Thank you as always for stopping in. It's always good to have you come by.

R.J. Mangahas said...

Kelli ---

Thanks again for taking the time to do the interview. It was really gracious of you. And I'm looking forward to the next book. If I'm out west, perhaps I should try that steak house.

R.J. Mangahas said...

Dave ---

Thanks for your support. I know that you've been here since the beginning of this blog and I really appreciate that.

Stephen D. Rogers said...

Hey R.J.,

Great to see you at the Bake.


R.J. Mangahas said...

Stephen ---

Great to see you too. Looking forward to next year. (or perhaps sooner if I can make a meeting)

jnantz said...

Thanks for the win, and the plug about my blog. Glad you like the title (I don't even teach Dante, how 'bout that?).

Also - CONGRATULATIONS on your 100th! Very cool, and what a courteous interviewer you are. Hopefully for my 100th you'll have a new novel coming out, and I can do the same for you!

R.J. Mangahas said...

Jake ---

Provided I have a book by your 100th, it'd be my pleasure to do an interview with you. If you can, try to make Bouchercon in Indianapolis next year. I'll be there.