Heather is not in the best mood, but it improves as we talk. She hates Zoom. There’s always something invasive about it, a disengaging self-consciousness created by the camera. She makes me promise not to put any video stills from our session into the article. She complains her laptop camera makes her head look huge.
I’m actually surprised at her distrust of technology and I tell her so.
I did! Jesus. Did I ever. I wrote Sweet Demon Love Baby in five months. That has to be a record for me.
Very. Super proud of it. I do worry, of course, about what people are going to think of it. This is the first book I’ve ever written that I published before letting anyone read it besides my editor, and whoever he gives it to. Usually I pass the final draft around to my friends and a bunch of beta-readers to get every possible input. This time I didn’t.
Sometimes you just have to teach your baby to swim by tossing them into the deep end.
Something like that. This novel is pretty crazy. There’s some things that happen in there that I can’t even believe how outrageous they are. I just…I went there. I’m prejudiced naturally, but I love the book. These characters are still talking to me, even now. The way the book ended left me shaken for a few days, but I enjoyed the ride.
What are you worried about? As long as you’re pleased with it…
If someone reads this book and despises it, and thinks I should be disallowed from writing books anymore, I would almost understand.
What? Come on.
Seriously. It’s effed up. Some of the stuff that happens in this novel is soooo violent. I never imagined I’d ever write something with such a high body count. I mean, look at me. I’m barely here. And the sex scenes! Oh my God. I cringe from them sometimes, but it’s just impossible to accurately capture the South Beach culture without sex. It’s a steamy place where people don’t wear a lot of clothes! (Laughs.)
Okay, obligatory, writer question then: what inspired the book?I just wasn’t done with the character of Trace. He’s so hapless, except when he’s on top of it all. He reminds me a lot of myself. Always falling on his face but still can’t imagine doing anything else with his life. He’s also a love addict, which I can definitely identify with.
Trace is the homicide detective in the story, the same from Book One?
Yeah, this is Book Two, but it completely stands alone. I promise. So, yeah, Trace gets into a lot of trouble because he loves the wrong person. He falls in love with a stripper who turns out to be part of a sex trafficking operation her boss is running. She gets killed and for a while it looks like Trace might actually be the culprit because of some circumstantial stuff that happens. He gets put on leave, so he has to investigate her death with his hands tied behind his back. He finds out all these secrets about her and he gets involved with these other characters, all of which are based on people I knew from South Miami Beach when I lived there.
The character of Reymond. I knew someone exactly like him. This larger-than-life person who was adorable and deranged. He either loved you unconditionally or could shoot you in the head without skipping a meal. I also knew waaaaay too many people like the Jason Shaw character. People with so much money and so much influence, they could practically get away with murdering someone, even if it was filmed in broad daylight by a hundred people. They’re legally untouchable. It’s insane.
If you were stranded on a deserted island and could choose only three books to be stranded with you, what would they be?
That’s an odd scenario. How the hell would that even happen? (Laughs.)
Okay, better: Before your ship goes under, you only have time to grab three books from your magic suitcase, which contains every book ever printed.
Got it. Easy then. Dark Lords of the Trailer Park by Lee Anderson, Ulysses by James Joyce, and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
That’s funny. I get it. An utterly useless book for a deserted island.
I’m here all week.