Monday, 14 April 2014

Guest Author Interview - Jonathan Geffner

Jonathan Geffner, author of the intriguing 'Dummy Noir' mystery 'While the Village Sleeps' joins me for today's guest author interview, find out more below:

Click on image to purchase from Amazon


Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I have been a (mostly full-time) professional ventriloquist for the past twenty eight years. I'm also a pianist, screenwriter, martial artist, Yiddish teacher/translater and single dad to two teenage daughters whose myriad talents dwarf mine. 

What first inspired you to start writing?
I've always written all of my material for my ventriloquist act. I've had to write material for all ages and kinds of audiences and venues, so it has amounted to a vast amount of writing. About fifteen years ago, my passions for both film noir and ventriloquism led me to the idea of wedding the two in the form of a noir-ish ventriloquist/detective who solves crimes with the help of his wooden partner. Over the ensuing decade or so I wrote a few feature film screenplays featuring the ventriloquist/dummy detective duo of Van Trillo & Sam Suede.

While the Village Sleeps started life as a screenplay, why did you turn it into a novel?
I tried for a dozen years to find funding to produce my several Trillo & Suede screenplays as independent films. Several times the funding seemed to be nearly in my grasp, only to see it disappear each time into the Indie Film Makers' Twilight Zone. So I decided to turn one of my screenplays into a novel. I chose the most recently written screenplay, While the Village Sleeps, which I felt lent itself most easily to adaptation as a novel. It has a good measure of Agatha Christie influence - being set mainly in an old, creepy inn deep in the English countryside - blended with noir sensibilities. It is the first of what I intend to be a series of Trillo & Suede novels.
Dummy noir has to be one of the more original genres I've come across, what led you in this direction?
As a ventriloquist I developed a reputation primarily as a kids and family entertainer. Although I enjoy performing for those types of audiences, after many years of doing so I yearned to explore a very different avenue for my ventriloquial talents. Something dark, intense, gripping, suspenseful...as well as funny...and aimed at an adult audience. 

If you could spend a day with anyone from history, who would it be and why?
Harpo Marx. Ever since I discovered The Marx Brothers when I was a teenager, Harpo in particular has been my hero. Ironically, his character was mute whereas I talk for my entire cast of characters. But Harpo's whimsical, playful, endearing nature was and remains a great inspiration to me as a comedic role model. Moreover, from all that I've read about Harpo Marx, in addition to being a comedic genius he was also an extraordinary human being. He was universally loved and admired and had a wonderful, optimistic attitude toward life. I wish I could say that I am similar. I do share some of his whimsy and playful comedic spirit, but I have a decidedly cynical and pessimistic bent to my nature. I only wish that I were more like Harpo.

What was the last book you read? Was it any good?
Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly. I've read several of Connelly's novels and I enjoyed all of them, but Nine Dragons was a bit disappointing. The plot was a bit too far-fetched for my taste. And having lived in Hong Kong from 2008-2010 I felt that his descriptions of Hong Kong characters and street scenes were not convincing. Still, I plan to read more of his novels, because he is an excellent writer and a couple of his other novels that I read were great, especially Lincoln Lawyer.

What is the best writing tip you have learnt?
Be concise. I think that is the most important lesson that I've had to learn and of which I still have to continually remind myself. I received valuable feedback from a British director/producer, Ian Lewis of Farnham Films, on each of the screenplays that I wrote. One of the notes that he kept repeating was to be brutally tough with myself in editing my own work. Most writers by nature hate to cut anything they've written, which is why most of us need an editor when all is said and done to make our work better. But it is important to go through our own first draft (and subsequent ones) and constantly ask ourselves, "Is that word truly necessary? Or that phrase/sentence/paragraph/chapter?" If the answer is no then delete it, no matter the pain. 

What are you working on at the moment?
I've been too busy with performing ventriloquist shows - and raising two daughters - to write another novel yet. But I plan to make time for it soon. 

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
The next novel that I plan to write is set in Shanghai, China. It will be based on another one of my Trillo & Suede screenplays, and I'm excited about how the exciting, romantic, foreboding locale will serve as a backdrop for the novel version of the narrative.

While the Village Sleeps is available here

You can keep up to date about all my ventures - ventriloquial and otherwise - at...

facebook.com/ventriloquist.

There you will also find video clips from my various ventriloquist performances, including this brief Intro Video to the Trillo & Suede characters...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkVlkIEewcI

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