When you sit down to write do you have a direction in mind? I guess I’m asking: what does your writing process look like?
For any of my work longer than about five pages I use an outline.That way I not only know where I’m going, but I feel it’s easier for the reader to follow my storyline.
As a point of information, writing the outline is always much harder than writing the actual material. Which is why so many writers do not want to deal with outlines, or such plans in any way. Don’t get me wrong, it is possible to be an excellent writer without an outline or some other guide. It is just not possible for me.
Interview With Black Lotus Author, Lita Lepie
If you could cast your characters in a Hollywood adaptation, who do you think would play your main characters?
Since I’ve written about ten novels [one loses count], numerous short stories, and other fictional works, it’s not possible for me to actually answer this unfocused question. However, for matters of convenience, I will address my present novel, .
Unfortunately I cannot cast a young African American actress in the co-lead roll. Nor can I cast the lesbian co-lead. These are both young women in their early-mid thirties, or younger. I am not familiar enough with the actresses available. I also suspect these might be portrayed by previously unknown actresses.
According to one author bio we found, you’ve written a number of unpublished novels aside from Black Lotus. That sounds like a lot of writing. What’s one book you wish you would/could have written?
I don’t really understand this question. I have always written the kind of books I wanted to, and the kind of books I wanted to read. If you are asking if I could be any writer in history, that would be Proust. BTW he had to publish his own books. And he was well known around Paris as just a dilettante. Gide gave his masterpiece[s]a horrible review. Then, on rereading the book[s], apologized and called them a work[s] of genius.
On a whole, Black Lotus seems almost defined by dichotomies.We have “good and bad,” “black and white,” “straight and gay,” “butch and fem,” as well as the overarching issue of drugs and their use (or lacktherof) – “clean (sober) and dirty (user).” These, at a glance, seem to suggest a cut and dry portrayal of reality within the “world” of your book - and yet such an interpretation is largely contradicted by the way that our perception of supposedly known facts shifts by the end of the book.I mean, in short, – what is the reader supposed to walk away with from this reversal of dichotomies?
Ah. Very good question. And the truthful answer is, I don’t know. Each reader is an individual, and each reader has her or his own truth.
Personally I feel conclusively that nothing is as it seems, and one must listen to one’s own gut. Is “the bad” bad, is “the good” good? I never know. Over time one determines whom one can rely upon. Over time. However, so-called authority figures or those with titles, should be highly scrutinized.
Having lived more than half a century, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to trust no one. And that’s my message. You are just as likely to be screwed over by a person in authority, as by a common criminal in the street. And maybe more so.
Why does it seem that the only “decent” -“good” - male characters in are the dead ones? [Here I’m thinking primarily of the “sainted” Frank Corelli, who always “fought for what was right,” and Rogers, the community activist.]
This isn’t intentional on my part. Also I question what exactly constitutesa “good, decent” male character. A case can be made that Snow Black is an honest business man, is a good man. Certainly the majority of the male members of the police force, while mostly not individually identified are what the majority would refer to as good, decent men.
As a general social comment I feel it is far more difficult in our society to be a “good” man. Commercial forces, the constant striving to advance in one’s business and make more money, the inherent competition amongst men to be “the Best Man” mitigate, IMO, against goodness and decency by men. I do believe the potential for goodness and decency is equally possible for any of the sexes.
When it comes to mysteries, you have almost unilaterally written hardboiled, crime, and/or noir fiction, sometimes with romance. What do you have against cozies, or comedy? Is it just not your style, or do you have specific reasons against “lighter” genres?
First of all I hate cozies.Victors and churches and older women in garden clubs bore me to death.
Secondly I do indeed write light mysteries. My next mystery, Who’s Got The Jock is no heavier than a wisp of wind. It’s a mystery in the manner of Arsenic and Old Lace. The dialogue is very peppy and funny, and the lead male could easily be played by a young Cary Grant.
Who is YOUR favorite author? Your favorite mystery author?
Marcel Proust – it’s not even close. As Virginia Woolf said, After you’ve read Proust, what is there left to write?
Many – as long as they write dark, gritty, so-called “noir”fiction.
How do you choose the races, genders, and classes of your characters?
Life is a party. I’m friendly with doormen and multimillionaires. The characters reflect my group of friends. It does take a village, and that village is populated by every race, creed, color and sexual orientation. I felt strongly that I wanted to reflect that.
Is Manhattan a factor in your imagination of scenery and setting? Do you have a secret nostalgia for the golden age of mob violence?
Do you really think there is no longer mob violence? Don’t be naïve. Further, I feel the mobs you’re referring to are constantly romanticized by films and books, rather than revealed or correctly portrayed. Fiction is fiction.
Who is your favorite narrator in Black Lotus and why? With whom do you identify the strongest, if any?
Zazzinsky. As a lesbian with a strong sports background and experience writing nonfiction journalism, I definitely see myself in her.
A reader should understand that every single character is a reflection of the writer. You naturally dig deeply into your experiences and your soul and play god. It’s fun. You make an entire world. Everyone, everything, every action is really you.
Which is why it always amuses me because great writing entirely uncloaks the author. And there are so many jerks without a clue that they are showing their true, repulsive selves.
At one point in the issue of “fem” and “butch” comes up as it relates to lesbianism. Can you speak to this standard as it relates to the apparently heterosexual relationship between Police Chief Fran Corelli and her male lover, Butch?
I named Fran’s paramour Butch without really thinking about it, except perhaps subconsciously. He’s a straight meat-head, muscle head, stupid. Her toy stud.
Fran is everything. To her it doesn’t matter if one is male or female. If she finds you attractive, she wants you. Polymorphous perverse. That’s what they used to call it. I don’t know. I know many, many bisexual women, and they really go either way depending on the person not the sex of the person.
Is there some reason that the Boston Celtics pop up more than once in?
Girls of my time grew up with dolls. Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics was my idol. Smarter than anyone one. But not arrogant. During Russell’s thirteen playing years, the team won eleven championships. including four in a row.
When the coach, “Red” Auerbach, retired from coaching, he said no one else could coach Russell – he was that great. So he named Russell player/coach. In the three years he served as player/coach Russell won two championships.
Along with many others, I consider him the greatest athlete of all time.
To me the Celtics embodied teamwork and elegance and precision. And as a sports fanatic and personal trainer it’s natural that they’d turn up in my work.
Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Action? Intrigue? Dialogue? Sex?
No. I'm very comfortable with all aspects of writing a novel. The only problem I have is with sadistic characters. They upset me greatly, and I really have to work very hard to draw them.
One reviewer asked about the possibility of a sequel to – is this something that’s in the works, or something you would ever consider?
Black Lotus was written as a stand-alone novel. However, never say never. If there develops enough interest in these the leads and their adventures, certainly I would contemplate a second book.
What makes you, a white author, believe that you can possibly write from a black person's point of view without embodying a type of intellectual colonization/imperialism?
This is really a stupid, racist question. Of the approximately hundred people who have read this novel, not one has even commented on my choice of an African American protagonist.
The implications of this question are truly frightening. Because I am not heterosexual, I can’t write heterosexual characters? Because I don’t have a penis, I can’t write male characters? Because I don’t have a daughter, I can’t write about children? Because I’ve never been shot, I can’t write about being shot? Because I am not a cat, I can’t write about a cat? I’ve never been a table, or the wind, or the rain. Get it?
When I write an African American character, so I am sure I won’t offend African Americans, I have at least two African Americans read the book. I have repeatedly been told I do a good job.
It’s really white peoples’ prejudices and assumptions that can often ruin the depiction of African American characters by a white writer.
For example, in one of my novels with African Americans characters I use the word ‘’nigger’’ repeatedly. My African American readers tell me that’s the way certain African Americans speak to each other. And my usage is totally accurate.
White readers flip out when I included the “so-called” N word. However, as anyone who hangs out with those of color, one hears their voices and the vocabulary they use such amongst themselves.
A writer is a human; or, at least we make that assumption. Given the wider implications of this question I, as a writer, could never write about anyone who was not very much like I. That’s not the way writing works. And something only young writers are prone to do. They seem to think their lives are cataclysmically interesting to everyone. Actually, except for few exceptions, they are only interesting to themselves and exceedingly boring to the rest of us.
I believe the greatest living Americans are George Forman and Aretha Franklin. I believe most of the best United States literature is penned by African American writers. I am highly influenced by their writing, and dismayed that more of this literature is not given its due, or taught in our schools.
Black Lotus by Lita Lepie
"Possibly one of the most artful colloquial narratives of the past decade."
- E. Cohen
"My only criticism is that it wasn’t long enough..."
"...film noir in a book..."
"Awareness of race, gender and sexual orientation shades [Black Lotus] with great depth..."