So, I’m ready to pack it in for the day. I’ve done a bit of Uber driving and am ready to spend a couple hours burning new audio books onto my rewritable CDs, play with the cat and go to bed.
Hark! The phone rings and it’s an author who wants to conduct the interview we didn’t get a chance to do some weeks ago.
“It’s Friday night, dude,” I say. “Wait until next time around.”
“But if you get here in time,” he says, “we can enjoy the sunset on the French Quarter.”
“I’m there,” I say without hesitation.
I mean, New Orleans at night. What could be cooler? Well, staying home in my AC, but that’s not the kind of cool I mean. On a balcony, the first hints of some jazz in the air. People reveling in the fact they’re in New Orleans, baby!
1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?
When you speak with folks long enough to really find out about them, you discover that everyone has a fascinating story or life, which makes them fascinating people. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had many careers. Novel writing is an avocation. I’m currently a full-time trial and appellate attorney and help manage a law firm with offices from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast to the East Coast. I’ve been a professional jazz pianist and have played in the New Orleans French Quarter. I’ve also been a radio and television announcer and a law professor. So, I’ve had a variety of experiences that I’m able to incorporate into my writing.
2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?
One of the things I really enjoy doing in my spare time is gardening. Louisiana’s climate is semi-tropical, and all types of vegetation grow profusely, from purple wisteria that snakes up trellises, to blood orange trees that yield the sweetest fruit, to crimson-fire loropetalum that forms thick high hedges, to towering palm trees with their broad leaves. Working in the yard gives me the opportunity to be outdoors and get away from the phone and computer.
3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as rock star?
As I said earlier, I’ve been fortunate to have tried and been successful in many different types of jobs. My wife, Ayan, who spent many years in television production, and I write our thrillers together, although we publish them under the name “Michael H. Rubin.” What interests us in writing is being able to deal with universal issues explored through the the form of page-turning thrillers.
4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?
Ray Bradbury. My wife and I were lucky enough to have spent an afternoon with Ray at his home a few years before he died. He not only was a great writer, he was also a fascinating raconteur. He regaled us with stories about how he came to write many of this books, including the time he snuck into a circus and met the tattooed performer who inspired his short story collection, “The Illustrated Man.” He told us he was so poor when he first started out that he didn’t even have a telephone, so he gave potential publishers and employers the number of the phone in the booth on the corner and left his apartment window open all the time so that he could hear the phone ring and dash down to answer it. He also talked about working on new projects. It would be a treat to have dinner with him and hear even more about his life as an author, scriptwriter (he wrote the script for the John Huston version of Moby Dick, starring Gregory Peck), and father.
5. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book(s) be great company?
Our historical thriller, THE COTTONCREST CURSE, and our latest book, the legal thriller CASHED OUT, immerse readers in compelling stories and fascinating characters. When we write our novels, my wife and I want our readers to get to the end of a chapter and say to themselves, “All right, I’ll just read a few more pages to find out what happens next.” And, given the reviews our thrillers have received, we’ve been successful in that.
6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.
My wife and I write our novels together though they are published under my name, “Michael H. Rubin.” We work out the key plot points and characters on our daily early morning power walks at 4:30 a.m. We have never had any problem coming up with either storylines or characters. We talk through possibilities until we feel we have the basics for a novel in place. Once we have the key characters and the arc of the story (beginning, middle, and end) in mind, we do not commit this to an outline; rather, once we establish the general structure, we start writing. We write wherever and whenever we can. Early in the morning. Late at night. On airplanes. Waiting at an airport to catch a flight. In hotel rooms while on business trips.
We don’t stop until we have completed the first draft of the entire book. In working on the first draft of our latest thriller, CASHED OUT, for example, as in the case of our other manuscripts, we began by writing down anything and everything that we thought might be relevant or interesting, just as foliage in the Deep South springs up profusely after a rain, with tendrils of weeds sprouting everywhere. Then, we get out the editorial shears and cut everything down to size. We edit out passages that slow down the story. We prune away excess adjectives. We slice through complex sentences in an effort to make the prose flow.
What we’re left with is a “fast read,” a novel we hope that our readers will find hard to put down.
7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”
Everyone has the capacity to write a novel, but not everyone takes the time to sit down and do it. We all find time to do those things we enjoy the most. If you love to watch sports, you’ll find time to do so. If you love to fish or travel, you’ll find time to do so. And, if you love to write, you’ll find time to do so. If you want to write a novel, just start writing and don’t stop until you get to the end of the first draft. Only when you have an entire manuscript in hand can you then see the full arc of the story and make changes, tightening things up and fixing any continuity errors that may have crept in. It is only after you finish the first draft that you can start to polish it into the gem of a book that it can become.
8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?
Every day, find time to do something you enjoy. There are some things that must be done that are not as pleasurable as other things might be, and there are some things that are downright tedious. Life is short, however, and we all need to find a way to spend at least a few minutes a day doing something that brings us joy. Luckily for my wife and me, writing is the thing we do every day that we enjoy.
9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?
We have completed two manuscripts for our third and fourth books. Our next novel, ENFLAMED, revolves around a small-town deputy sheriff deep in South Louisiana who must race against the clock in an attempt to piece together clues arising from seemingly disparate events in time to thwart a major terrorist attack. After ENFLAMED, we have SANCTION, a cat-and-mouse game thriller between a female detective and a disbarred lawyer played out in the seedy side of New Orleans.
10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?
My web page has information about my wife and me, excerpts from our novels, and information about my upcoming appearances. You can find it atwww.mrubinbooks.com.