Jun 19, 2016

INTERVIEW: Author Jonathan Stone

Welcome Jonathan Stone, author of the new book TWO FOR THE SHOW! Thanks for stopping by for this Q&A!

1. What made you decide to have a magic show as the focus of your novel?
I always begin a novel with only a premise.  In this case, it was simply, “hey, what if a famous mentalist had a detective/right hand man so invisible and off the grid that nobody can figure out how the mentalist does it – people figure maybe he really IS a mentalist . . .  and of course, the mentalist and his invisible right hand man are totally reliant on each other…” and I went from there.  That’s all I knew when I started Two for the Show.    
2. In your novel, the masses are enthralled at the prospect of Wallace the Amazing being a real “mentalist.” Why do you think people are so intrigued?
I think most reasonable people know that “mind-reading” is some kind of trick.  But I thought readers WOULD be intrigued by how someone could really make it look and seem real.
3. What kind of research did you do for the “magic show in Vegas” elements of your novel?
As the book’s dedication acknowledges, my brothers took me to Vegas for a birthday.  I’d never seen a mentalism show, I still haven’t, but the whole Vegas thing, its whole clean weird artificial feel, its timelessness and placelessness, inspired me.
4. There are so many twists and turns in your novel--how did you decide the order in which to reveal each piece of information?
As I say, I begin a novel with only a premise, and go from there.  I have no outline, I have no idea where the story is going.  The good part about that is, I make discoveries and learn things as I go – just as my eventual reader will.  Not having an outline or plan leaves me open to happy accidents. The bad part is, it involves a lot of “backfilling” – adjusting the manuscript to foreshadow events, to leave clues, etc.
5.  What made you want to question and explore the role of identity, or what does the role of identity play in your novel?
Yes, the theme of identity is a major one in this book.  I think it’s interesting that the “identities” of the audience members, of the “marks”, are based on the inescapable little facts of their lives, and their identities are instantaneous and simple and clear – until of course, there’s suddenly an audience couple whose identity is anything but clear!
But the identities of the two main characters – Chas and Wallace the Amazing – prove quite fluid and elusive.  Chas’s identity is fluid and elusive because in a certain way, living in the shadows and at the margins, he’s never really existed.  Wallace’s identity is fluid and elusive because he’s made a careful life choice to have it that way, for professional/criminal reasons.
6. Chas has multiple identity crises, and at times his values are shaken. Have you ever had a similar experience, and how did you overcome it?
My own outward identity is completely, laughably conventional.  Commuter father happily married to same woman for twenty five years, one son, one daughter, modest home on modest plot, even white picket fencing, for God’s sake.  But fiction writers get to try on and inhabit multiple identities when we write.  We get to temporarily wear the identities of our main characters – even our secondary characters.  So each project offers  a new identity.  And maybe best, we get to emerge back into our conventional identities whenever we choose.
7. Chas is more of an antihero than a hero. Do you prefer writing an antihero to a hero?
To me, conventional/traditional heroes, in literature and real life – are impressive and admirable– but not interesting.  Antiheroes are interesting.
8. Why did you choose Las Vegas as the setting for the novel?

As the book’s dedication acknowledges, my brothers took me to Vegas for a birthday.  I’d never seen a mentalism show, I still haven’t, but the whole Vegas thing, its whole clean, weird, artificial feel, its timelessness and placelessness, inspired me.
9. You have a successful career in advertising—what made you want to write novels?

I’ve always wanted to write novels.  To a degree embarrassing to admit, that’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do.  So advertising has always been for me a way of paying the rent – and then the mortgage – while I wrote.  When you’re a cub copywriter, it’s great, cause you have so little responsibility.  You grind out newspaper ads and radio spots, and then head home after work and sit down to your laptop, and your time – and your fictional world – is your own.  As you climb the ladder in Adland, you’re much more beholden to your clients, and your company, and your colleagues, so the “day job” becomes more of a balancing act.  

About TWO FOR THE SHOW:
Chas is a detective who doesn’t stake out cheating husbands, track down missing persons, or match wits with femmes fatales. Instead of pounding the pavement, he taps a computer keyboard. He can get the goods on anyone, and it’s all to make sure superstar Las Vegas mind reader Wallace the Amazing staysamazing. Thanks to Chas’s steady stream of stealthy intel, Wallace’s mental “magic” packs houses every night.

But when someone threatens to call the psychic showman’s bluff, the sweet gig takes a sour—and sinister—turn. Who’s the clean-cut couple gunning for Wallace with an arsenal of dirty tricks? Why does Wallace keep upping the ante instead of backing down? And just how much does Chas really know about his mysterious boss’s life…or his own? The tangled truth—of blackmail, kidnapping, and false identities—quickly becomes the biggest case of his strange, secret career.

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