WELCOME HUGHES KEENAN
Hughes Keenan began his writing career at The Kansas City Star and was a member of the staff awarded the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for reporting. He has been a correspondent for United Press International, The Associated Press, Reuters and Bloomberg News, covering war, politics, sports and finance. His first novel, The Harvest Is Past, was a finalist for the Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence.
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Q&A with Hughes Keenan
Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
A combination of the two, as well as historic events. And, of course, my imagination.
Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
Generally, I have a good idea how the story will end and what the main elements are that progress the plot. What I don’t always know, and what is part of the excitement of the process, is how I get there. That said, I’ve also been surprised by some of my endings. The really fun part is character development–it’s like meeting new people and slowly getting to know their history, experiences, motivations, fears and joys. I don’t do complete character development before writing. I let them evolve.
Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I try to be as structured as I can be and use a combination of index cards that I pin to a cork board for chapter reference, and Moleskin notebooks with my research results are always close at hand. At times, while I’m in a particular section of a book, I’ll surf the Web for additional research. When I was living and writing in Ireland, I didn’t have my cork board and found a plank of pine. Then I had to hike into the nearest village to buy brass tacks for the index cards. It was an absurd looking artifact, but it worked. Internet service was sketchy, too.
I’m a morning writer. Early until noon, or as late as three o’clock. A lot of coffee until noon. I also talk to myself when I write, so privacy is generally a good thing. Still, I began my career as a sports writer so I’m accustomed to cranking out copy amid large and loud crowds. After I’m done writing I’ll go for a run. It helps me sort through the day’s work, and what needs to be done the next day.
Is writing your full time job? If not, may I ask what you do by day?
Writing is my full-time job. I’m also a journalist and do freelance pieces to keep the wolves from the door as well as keep my finger in that industry.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Too many to list. I re-read, every year, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Faulkner’s The Unvanquished, and Maclean’s A River Runs Through It. My favorite, least known author, is Les Galloway. His Forty Fathom Bank is a gem.
What are you reading now?
Right now I’m researching my next novel so I’m devouring everything I can about 1870s Paris and Spain that focuses on the birth of Impressionism, advances in science and medicine, bull fighting, early aeronautics (balloons), and politics. At the same time, I’m researching the current day system that determines the provenance of artwork.
Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
Same answer as above. The novel is a short break from the Jack Muerce trilogy, and is a parallel story of love and mystery (current day and the 1870s) that revolves around a previously unknown study by Monet of his Boulevard des Capucines (of which he painted two versions).
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
Everyone asks that. It’s hard to believe but I never think of my characters that way, mostly because I don’t feel my work translates well to the screen. If Hollywood were ever to be interested in my stories there are people who specialize in casting.
Manuscript/Notes: hand written or keyboard?
Notes/research are hand written. The manuscript itself is done on computer. I currently use a MacBook Pro with an old Apple keyboard that is worn and dirty. I have a 1938 manual Royal typewriter that I once tried writing on. After an hour my fingers hurt. It looks really pretty on the antique roll-top desk I have, which is not where I write. I’ve spent my entire writing career working on computers. So, you dance with the girl that done brought you to the ball.
Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
My favorite leisure activity/hobby depends completely upon how much money I have in my checking account. So, for the moment, I have a lot of fun writing, drinking coffee, and sleeping. I do have a bonsai tree that has spent the last three years traveling with me (except to Ireland). I even had to sneak it across the Arizona/California border when I was in Los Angeles for a few months. Recently, I adopted two orchid plants that were past blossoms. My three plants teach me patience.
I’m a foodie so it depends on what mood I’m in. Food has been an important element in my writing, and plays a significant role in Saigon Laundry. I’d love anything Benny Trung would create in the Saigon Laundry kitchen on Canary Street–with the exception of shellfish (I’m allergic to it). But if I had to pick just one last meal it would probably be barbecue–brisket and ribs, cole slaw and beans, and lots of really cold beer out of a bottle on a really hot day.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Born to wealth and nobility, Jack Muerce is obligated to bestow a favor that draws him into a string of grisly murders that stain the Lenten calendar as his own season for atonement and absolution unfolds. The grotesque condition of the victims’ bodies mimic a series of six famous Medieval tapestries on display at the city’s elegant fine arts museum, and earn the killer the name – The Death Weaver. As the dismembered and elaborately embroidered corpses turn up across the city, Muerce comes face-to-face with a genocidal war criminal known as the Dragon, a psychopathic plastic surgeon, a flamboyant mob boss named Titty Boy, and his own shameful demons from the past. Like the tapestries, Muerce struggles to balance the five senses of earthly desire with his chivalric duty – A mon seul desir! Saigon Laundry is the first book of the Atonement Trilogy.
READ AN EXCERPT
Published by: L’etranger Books
Publication Date: 2/1/2014
Number of Pages: 512
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