Q&A with Justin Peacock, 2009 Edgar nominee
Published: April 22, 2009
|Nominated for Best First Novel by an American Author for: |
A Cure for Night
What's your book about? Justin Peacock
A Cure for Night is about a young lawyer from a working class background whose promising white shoe legal career is destroyed when a paralegal he is involved with overdoses in a firm bathroom. He winds up a public defender in Brooklyn, where he must acclimate to a very different legal world while second-chairing the defense of an African-American pot dealer accused of killing a white college student.
How long did it take you to write it?
About three years. I was working full time throughout, and there was also a lot of trial and error in terms of teaching myself the craft of putting a novel together, so it was a long process.
|What was the most challenging part? |
I was a practicing lawyer while writing the book, which is not a line of work that lends itself to having outside interests. It was very difficult to establish a writing routine while meeting the obligations of my job. I wrote the novel mostly at night and on weekends, and it ate up most of my time not spent working or sleeping. I had a massive amount of self-doubt about the wisdom of spending what little free time I had writing a novel, with no idea whether it would ever see the light of day.
How did you create the main character in your book?
The novel started with the idea of a lawyer who had fallen from grace due to drugs and who then ended up as a public defender working on a drug-related case. So the fundamental arc of the character was there from the beginning. I'm a believer that character is best expressed through action, so most of the details that rounded out the protagonist came about through the process of writing out the book's plot.
What's your advice for beginning writers?
Don't do it unless you absolutely have to. If you are going to do it, don't be in a hurry. Read as much as you can and as wide as you can. Then the same for writing. Once you do feel ready to get your work out there, it is essential to learn to take rejection in stride. It's human nature to want immediate success, but that's rarely the reality in any creative pursuit. If you're aspiring to write professionally, a big part of the test is the ability to just keep at it in the face of no real encouragement to do so. Have I mentioned that you shouldn't do it unless you absolutely have to?
• Benito Cereno by Herman Melville—while Edgar Allan Poe gets all the credit for inventing the mystery, Melville was a master of suspense, ambiguity, and the plot twist that shines a new light on all that has come before.
• The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett—still the essential private detective novel. Nobody's ever done a better McGuffin, and even Humphrey Bogart couldn't do full justice to Sam Spade.
• Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver—the gender politics of this story haven't aged well, but it is arguably the most realistic yet suspenseful delineation of a criminal trial ever written.
• Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow—Turow brought a full arsenal of literary technique to a fantastically compelling story, and essentially invented the legal thriller as we know it while doing so.
• Clockers by Richard Price—when literary naturalism met the crime novel. While many novelists talk about presenting a mirror to society in their fiction, nobody walks the walk better than Price.
For more information about Justin Peacock, visit http://acurefornight.typepad.com.
For more information about the Edgar® Awards, see www.theedgars.com.
--Posted April 22, 2009