Author Interview with Harry SteinmanWhat inspired your story? Thirty years ago, I suffered from a medical condition: hangovers.
Every bloodshot morning, I wished for a filter to remove the toxins from my system. I came to realize that a device like that would have broader medical applications. But what if a criminal enterprise controlled the technology? This led to a story, complete with hero and villains.
I got as far as the first sentence. “Emery Miller’s sixth fatal overdose killed him, an untimely death, and quite surprising.” I did no more than fantasize about writing a book for the next 25 years.
When I finally began writing Little Deadly Things, the characters took me in a different direction. Instead of a criminal, I had a madwoman controlling the technology. My wife’s story of spending her twelfth summer with her grandmother led to the hero—a woman, not the rough-and-tumble man I’d imagined—and to one of the mentor characters.
What is unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story? Some of the beginning and the end of the story is set in El Yunque, Puerto Rico’s rainforest, a place few people have seen. The story is set about thirty years from now and the slight futurism is interesting to most readers, especially because nanotechnology is so new. The story is very much a character study, and the futuristic environment is a provocative contrast.
What specific themes did you emphasize throughout the novel? What are you trying to get across to the reader?
The main theme I wanted to explore is how adults manage the angry residue of childhood trauma. Since we cannot change or escape the past, how do we succeed in managing our reactions? How can we avoid having the voices from our past control the present?
One of the characters suffers from what is personified as the, “Table of Clamorous Voices”. The psychological term is, “introjects”—the incorporation of another person into our psyche. The book spends a lot of time examining how these introjects sabotage the character, Eva Rozen.
Do the characters seem real and believable?
Good question! The characters are the foundation of the book. Many of the reviewers really connected with the characters, although the people who didn’t like LDT objected to them.
I believe in my characters. Childhood anger, my sense of loyalty to friends—these animate the antagonist, Eva Rozen.
I struggled for four years to get Eva’s back story right. It is an unpleasant story. But how else does she become a killer? One of my mentors explained to me that the act of killing is an incredibly difficult task that requires the killer to reach deep into a core of rage. So, the question became, What can cause this rage? Dealing with it was uncomfortable.
It sounds like there’s a lot of your own experience in Little Deadly Things. Was your early life a horror story?
Oh, no. But I grew up in the 1950s and parental violence and spousal abuse was commonplace then. There are some scenes taken from my past, both good and bad.
Do characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story?
The biggest change is in the heroine’s husband, Jim Ecco. He’s forced to reckon with the reactions of others to his behavior, particularly his wife’s reactions. Impending fatherhood forces him to take stock of himself. So he deals with external forces. Eva Rozen’s character changes come from within her.
Tell us about your world view? Will we find it in Little Deadly Things?
Yes. I’m an optimist and I believe in the future. I also believe that our world, the environment, suffers from the residue of humanity’s childhood, just as the characters suffer the residue of their own childhood. One story arc centers on a drought that affects much of the book’s slightly future world. My research suggests that there’s a helluva drought coming, something that’ll make the Dust Bowl era look like a sauna. We are responsible for that coming drought and it will be interesting to see how we respond to that and other consequences of past behavior.
By the way, I hope to explore the drought story further in All Dead Generations, the sequel to Little Deadly Things.
What research did you have to perform to back up your story? Any research which really opened your eyes or gave you new respect for a topic or profession?
My research was on nanotechnology, neurobiology, and child abuse. Several scientists vetted the technology in Little Deadly Things and I am in awe of what these brilliant people are doing. I’m also beholden to the excellent journalists who made this emerging science comprehensible.
Funny thing—a lot of the futuristic tech I used in the book is in existence now, or on the drawing boards, everything from clothing to turn the wearer invisible to medical technology that seems out of this world. My beta readers complained that it was too far out for a mere 30 years in the future. That gave me fits!
What is your method for writing a book? Do you work from an outline?
I like to get up early, 4:30 AM or 5:00 AM and write for a few hours. I have a metaphor that I borrowed from Stephen King, from his wonderful, On Writing. My muse waits for me every morning. If I don’t meet her to write, she’s gone. I don’t work from an outline.
How do you get past writers block or distractions like the internet?
Write or don’t write. There’s no in-between.
Favorite book from childhood?
Alice in Wonderland. First book I remember reading.
What’s on your desk? Can you see your desk? Describe what you see when you look around.
I try not to look. Therein lies the road to madness.
On Amazon: Deadly Little Things