Wednesday, January 26, 2011

San Diego Noir: Interview with Lisa Brackmann

I’ve mentioned before I’m part of a large writing group and we have quite a few published authors covering multiple genres from literary to horror. We have some outstanding writers. I’m very proud of our group and the hard work our authors and editors do. We’ve been together about five years now and I talk to most of them on a daily basis. I’ve learned so much from them because we tend to share current publishing trends, news, and a plethora of information on writing.

Available for pre order
It’s also fun to keep track of some of their projects and how they get them. Lisa Brackmann recently participated in an anthology for a New York publisher, Akashic Books. Who, you ask? I hadn’t heard about them either. However, if you’re a mystery writer/reader you probably know of them. If you enjoy Noir stories you may have read some of their books. They have quite an impressive line up of authors.

They publish an award winning Book Noir Series centered in various cities around the world. I had heard of Brooklyn Noir but didn’t know the publisher—which is not unusual for me, as I tend to remember book titles or authors better than I do their publishers.

Akashic says of the series, “Following the stunning success of the summer '04 award-winning bestseller Brooklyn Noir, Akashic Books launches a groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies. Each book is comprised of all-new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book. ”

To date, they’ve published 42 books in the Book Noir Series and there are 12 more planned with 4 being released in 2011.

Being the curious type, I asked Lisa about her participation in the Book Noir Series.

Lisa, you debuted with Rock Paper Tiger in 2010. ROCK PAPER TIGER made Amazon’s Top 100 Books of 2010 (that’s fiction and non-fiction) and is one of Amazon’s Top 10 Mysteries & Thrillers. Still, you’re a debut author and it has to feel somewhat surreal to be involved with an anthology like this. How did it happen?

It happened thanks to editor Maryelizabeth Hart.  In addition to her own writing and reviewing, she’s the co-owner of Mysterious Galaxy, a truly wonderful independent bookstore in San Diego.

I did an event there for the release of my debut novel, ROCK PAPER TIGER and had a fantastic time. Maryelizabeth knew that I had a San Diego connection — I’m actually a San Diego native and was born and raised there — and wanted to know if I’d be interested in contributing. She’s really assembled an excellent, eclectic lineup, including such luminaries as T. Jefferson Parker and Don Winslow, and I was honored to be asked. And a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to deliver — I hadn’t written a short story since college!

Were you assigned a theme to write to?

In addition to putting together a diverse slate of authors, Maryelizabeth also wanted a collection of stories that do justice to the diversity and complexity that is the city of San Diego — it’s not all surfers and beaches. So though I wasn’t assigned any sort of topic or location, I wanted to make sure I didn’t just do another day at the beach.

Of course, what ended up happening is that the bulk of my story is set in Ocean Beach! But I also go to the World Famous San Diego Zoo.

What kind of research did you have to do?

I was getting pretty close to the deadline and quite honestly didn’t have a clue what I was going to write about. I really didn’t know if I’d be able to come up with a story or not. I decided to give it my best shot and proceed with the research and hope that it inspired something.

Now that would add some pressure to a writer. But still, you grew up in San Diego so couldn’t you just create a story from your memories?

Though I’m from San Diego, I’ve lived up in Venice CA for a number of years. So my first order of business was to visit the locations I wanted to use. I went first to the San Diego Zoo. I’d worked there for a number of years – it was my summer and weekend job that basically put me through college — but it had changed so much that I knew I needed to go there if I wanted to do it right. I’m very much a writer who works off of a place—I’m inspired by settings and I like to bring them to life with little, visceral details.

I had a fantastic trip there. I was particularly fascinated by the new elephant mesa, which also features many local animals as well as a natural history lesson on extinct species and environmental challenges.

So now you had a clear vision of the setting?

But I still didn’t know what I wanted to use the setting for.

Yikes. How did you get your story?

I’d read an article about the same time about a sticker that was for sale in Ocean Beach, reflecting tensions between the local residents and a population of transients that many saw as a more dangerous element than the long-time hippies in VW vans that the area is known for. The sticker is a parody of signs at the San Diego Zoo. It says, “Please Don’t Feed Our Bums.” For whatever reason, that inspired me. And since the theme of this series is “noir,” that suggested a few other things. “Noir” to me means “A woman does a man wrong,” or conversely, “A man does a woman wrong.” So I put all those elements together, and voila, a story emerged!

When will it be out?

SAN DIEGO NOIR from Akashic Books will be out June 1st – just in time for beach reading!

Meanwhile you had also been finishing up your latest full-length novel. When will your new book out and can you tell us a little about it?

I’ve completed my second novel and hope to have more news about that soon. It’s another “existential thriller,” as I like to call ‘em, set in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, featuring another woman who accidentally gets in way over her head. Michelle is a different sort of woman from Ellie (the protagonist of ROCK PAPER TIGER). She’s fortyish, a recent widow, and somewhat of a social chameleon; she’s pretty confident and savvy. But she’s nowhere near equipped to deal with the trouble she gets into.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this one. As soon as you have a release date I want to have you visit again. Thank you for sharing the information on your upcoming anthology, San Diego Noir to be released in June. I’m looking forward to that one too.


Lisa Brackmann has worked as an executive at a major motion picture studio, an issues researcher in a presidential campaign, and the singer/songwriter/bassist in an LA rock band. She still takes pride in her karaoke-ready repertoire of bad pop hits and an embarrassing number of show tunes. A southern California native, she lives in Venice CA and spends a lot of time in Beijing, China. Her three cats wish she’d stay put.

Blog: Papertigertail


Judi Fennell said...

morning! Can't wait to read all the new Brackmann "stuff." :)

Elizabeth Loupas said...

The story of how you came up with the San Diego Noir story is fascinating. Only someone who'd lived there would know those things! I can't wait to read the story.

Ken Coffman said...

Quite interesting and very informative...well done, ladies.

Helen Ginger said...

Both her next book and her story in San Diego Noir sound great. I love hearing a bit of back story about a book. It makes me want to get the book!

readwriteandedit said...

I'm with you, Helen, in that knowing something about the history of a book makes me want to read it.

Both the anthology and the new book sound intriguing, Lisa. Can't wait to get both.


Dana Fredsti said...

I can't wait to read this book, although I confess I have read Lisa's story... I had a sneak preview! I say no more other than as someone who spent most of my youth in San Diego, she captures the location dead on.

Other Lisa said...

Howdy, all! Sorry for my late arrival, and thanks for stopping by.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Helen, it's fun to know about the author behind the books and yes, how Lisa's section of the anthology came about made me really want to read the story.

aries18 said...

Hi Lady Guys,

This anthology sounds terrific! I had no idea there had been so many of them published. Hearing how you put together your story, Lisa, was impressive and inspiring.

Great interview on a great blog!

VA said...

Okay, having lived in La Jolla and Del Mar and hung with a group down in PB, I've gotta read this one. I'm sure Lisa's put an awesome spin on the SD scene.

Bambic said...

Loved the first Brackmann book, and I'm certainly looking forward to the next.
And the one after that, too.

Other Lisa said...

Ocean Beach is a fascinating place, IMO. Unlike just about any other Southern California beach town you can think of, it's hardly changed at all in 30 years! I was so surprised when I visited at how little it had changed.

Jill Lynn said...

While I'm sure Californians will comrpise the lions share of your audience, I bet a whole book of regional short stories woild give non-locals a real taste of a region--more than a dull old geography book would. Cool concept, really.

Much luck to all the contributors to the Noir, and best luck with your next solo, Lisa.

Other Lisa said...

Jill, you are in PA, right? I'm pretty sure Akashic has done a "Noir" in your state!

And...yep! Philly has already been released, Pittsburgh is coming this summer.

Kat Sheridan said...

Oh, I did so love Rock Paper Tiger, and I'm excited about both of these new ones! So, Lisa, when you worked at the zoo, what was your job?

Other Lisa said...

Well, I did a bunch of stuff, but I was first in Food Service (not a lot of fun) and then Merchandising (slightly more fun, depending on the location). My best gig was the Golden Monkey Booth. This was before the Zoo got pandas, so as a consolation prize, the zoo received a couple of very rare Golden Monkeys from China. They came with a Chinese keeper and Chinese vet. I'd come back from China for the first time just a year or so ago, so I was able to chat with them a little.

Then there was the day George Takai showed up in a Star Trek uniform to do a promo spot for the Zoo. I felt like my worlds had truly collided!

Jan O'Hara (Tartitude) said...

Can't wait to read this one, Lisa, especially now I know you pantsed it so thoroughly. ;)

Olivia Cunning said...

What a cool idea for an anthology! As well as you do setting, Lisa, I'm sure I'll feel like a San Diego native just reading it. Now to make that move a reality... Someday.

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Hey Sia!

Awesome interview...I enjoyed it and learned a lot about you and Lisa.


Regina said...

That was a great interview. Thank you.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sia and Lisa .. I love the way you talked us through how you eventually! found your story via the setting and poster .. it sounds as though you have many experiences to draw on and honing them down for your particular story must be quite challenging at times. China, Mexico, SD Zoo .. Venice CA .. - I look forward to reading your books - sound fun .. cheers Hilary