Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Minus One:  The Drew Smith Series by Norwood Holland: Interview and Excerpt: Write Now Tour Stop


Welcome! Thanks so much for being here and allowing me to ask you a few questions. How did you start your writing career?


It was the summer between 7th and 8th grade.  I was 12 years old. My mother read a lot of pulp fiction and romance novels.  Trade paperbacks were always lying around.  One in particular caught my attention, Never Love A Stranger by Harold Robbins.  It was also made into a popular novel and film noir starring Steve McQueen.   I was really swept up and away with the read.  When I finished the book I remember thinking how one day I would like to write a book like that.  It’s so funny because I actually wrote a rave review on the inside of the cover.  I think then the seed was planted and I knew I wanted to write.


My aspiration to be a writer was a long difficult journey.  I wanted to be a journalist but couldn’t get into journalism school, so with a degree in English I opted for law school.  I said I would never call myself a writer until I was paid for a written piece.  I wrote in college and thereafter but it was always non-paid volunteer type assignments.  I was trying to gather clips. I tried for jobs as Editorial Assistants and in Radio and TV stations without much luck.  I was never given an opportunity, so in the true nature of self reliance I realized I had to make my own opportunities.  Even when I started a blog I didn’t consider myself to be a writer.  Finally, I pitched a story to The Writer magazine in 2008 for a piece on local writer George Pelacanos.  I was paid $300.  After that I published my first novel and the rest is history.    Still I more often than not my article pitches are rejected, but I can with all honesty claim the title of writer.


Tell us about a favorite character from a book.


My favorite character is the protagonist Drew Smith.  He’s an urban criminal law attorney and though he is my favorite he is not the most popular among my readers.  Most prefer his sidekick Julio.  I like Drew because he so complex.  Sometimes even though I created him I can’t even explain him.  In my latest release Minus One, readers or often frustrated and confused at why Drew let’s himself be manipulated by his new buddies Medhat and Julio, but Drew wants to accepted.  And Medhat is by nature a manipulator.  Readers expect Drew an alpha male to be in complete control but the book starts out with Julio and Medhat playing him for a fool.  But the situation evolves and reader has to move on and accept Drew’s behavior.  In the end, we see Drew is no fool and allowing himself to being manipulated is all part of his continuing education. 


Drew is by far the smartest and as suave and charismatic as his two wingmen, Julio and Medhat.  Truthfully I love them all like a father I can’t favor one son over another. 


Where do you dream of traveling to and why?


I dream of traveling and exploring North Africa.  I have a fascination with region particularly Egypt.  In fact the character Medhat is of high born Egyptian descent and there are flashbacks to his childhood visiting his grandfather in Cairo.  I’m interested in  family life and the influences of ancient customs.  And in light of the recent Arab Spring up rising I’m curious how those customs will hold up in the millennium particularly the role of women. 


Where do you research for your books?


Living in Washington, D.C. I have access to the largest library in the world, the Library of Congress.  I can’t tell you how many days and hours I have spent there.  There you will find reference materials on every subject under the sun.  I hope one day to write a historical novel and there I will make it my home with the wealth of historical documents, books, manuscripts, newspapers and periodical.  I enjoy historical research.  Like an archeological dig discovering old little known facts like ancient relics opens a window into the past.  I also use my local neighborhood library and of course the internet.  


Tell us about your current release.


Minus One’s inception and inspiration was biographical.  Right out of law school I worked as a Concierge at the Washington Marriott.  I befriended two Bellman, a Latino and an Egyptian.  That summer we hung out.  DC is an international is both a small southern town and international.  Most think of it as just a political seat of government, but it’s so much more.  It’s also the city of my birth and I love the diversity.  I thought the setting and eclectic friendships would make great elements in a story.  I wrote the first draft in the 90s and it has gone through many changes.  While the story has a biographical inspiration it is entirely fictional. 

Minus One is a modern day tale of the three Musketeers--all for one and one for all--without the happy ending.  I generally followed the mystery formula where the book opens with a body.  It’s the method by which I tell the story that distinguishes it.  I got the idea from the movie Mildred Pierce to make a first person narrative and that start the story in media res, that is, in the midst of things.  It’s a pretty effective method and so sublime very few realize there on a journey back to the beginning. 

What inspired the story was a fierce argument I witnessed between the real life Medhat and Julio.  Even back then I knew their relationship had the makings of good story.  So I would say the characters of Julio and Medhat were inspired by a real life buddies Medhat and Julio, but that’s as far as the comparison goes.  I can’t emphasize enough that this is a work of fiction.  The novel has some unrestrained and indulgent sexual scenes all of which are a figment of my imagination.  I don’t want readers to get the wrong idea.

 All the romantic relationships are mixed, racially and culturally, but the only one, Drew’s relationship with Nina is affected by racism.  The Latina’s father objects to her dating a black man.  The multicultural setting provides the book’s background yet at the dawn of 21st century race remains a major obstacle only for the Black man.  In addition to the suspense of solving the murder I think the reader will find interest in Drew’s reaction to and coping with the situation.

Tell us about your next release.


Snakehead is a story that deals with human trafficking and a corrupt F.B.I. agent.  The story was inspired by the headlines of two actual events (1) the sinking of Golden Venture, a ship loaded with human cargo that ran aground near New York City in 1993. Passengers had paid at least $30,000 each to be brought to the U.S. from China's Fujian Province, expecting to arrive indebted but unnoticed.  The second event was the murder of Eric Robert Wone.  A young American attorney of Chinese descent who was mysterious murdered in DC.  The two real life events are unrelated but both involve the Chinese immigrant community.  I got creative in linking the two with a corrupt F.B.I. agent who has his own agenda.  When Drew Smith’s law school pal the Chinese-American is mysteriously kill his efforts to track down the killer are thwarted by the F.B.I. agent manipulating the legal system.  


Who is your favorite author?


Probably Langston Hughes; he was a journalist, a playwright, and a novelist.  He traveled and experienced life to its fullest.  If I could work on a project was Langston Hughes I could learn so much. Although that will never be, I had the next best experience being a student of Arna Bontemps.  There were best buddies and I was lucky to be student of Professor Bontemps my senior year in college in a seminar on the Harlem Renaissance.  I never missed a class and at the time I wrote my term paper the subject of which was Arna Bontemps I had no idea of the depth of their friendship.  It wasn’t until 10 years later I read their Letters by edited Charles Nichols.   Bontemps died just after graduation and gave me an A on my term paper.  I like to believe when the professor was reading my paper I was somehow mediating between two old friends. 


What was your first sale as an author?


As I stated my first sale as an author was an article based on an interview with local best selling author George Pelacanos.  It appeared in the October,  2008 edition of The Writer magazine.  With a byline in an international 125 year old publication I knew I had arrived.  It was my first creditable clip.  It was the first step to building a platform.  I then turned my attention to writing fiction and unfortunately don’t pitch as much as I should.  Nevertheless, I’m writing and selling books and for that I’m thankful. 

About the Book

Minus One:  The Drew Smith Series

Minus One the Drew Smith Series prequel takes us back when the attorney launches his legal career.  Before the ink is dry on his license to practice law Drew Smith finds himself at the center of a murder mystery.  The recent law school graduate works as a hotel concierge and befriends two bellmen an Arab and a Latino, Medhat and Julio.  Like the three musketeers they bond in a fraternal friendship put to the test when Medhat is kidnapped after running up a drug tab he can't pay.  Rescued by Drew and Julio, Medhat then becomes the prime suspect in a string of murders.  Driven by their romantic entanglements the attorney is captivated with a pretty Latina whose father objects to her dating a Black man. Julio and his Filipina love find themselves expecting, and Medhat’s passion for blondes gets him snared in a femme fatale's net. Minus One captures Drew Smith's evolution from youthful indiscretion to a professional burdened with seriousness of purpose.

Chapter 1
Caught Red-Handed

HE OFFICERS WERE dispatched on a possible domestic dispute. They didn’t know what to expect when Mrs. Oliphant met the two at the elevator, one Latino the other African- American, both towering over the blue haired dowager. Nervous and animated, she spoke as rapidly as she stepped, guiding them to the apartment door.

“Are you related?” asked the stocky dark haired Latino. “No. I'm Carol's next door neighbor. There was a fight and I heard the disturbance,” Mrs. Oliphant sighed and shook her head as though shaking off a secret annoyance. “Mind you, I don't eavesdrop but I couldn't help hearing—you know thin walls and vents carry conversations. This is her apartment.”

They stopped in front of the corner apartment at the end of the hall. “I have the key,” she said. Mrs. Oliphant's tiny trembling liver spotted hand offered it up between the thumb and forefinger. With a nod the Latino urged her to open the door. “Hard to make sense of it all,” she continued her prattle fumbling to get the key in the keyhole, “I could only piece things together. She's so distraught almost hysterical—it had to be something traumatic. I gave her a sedative.” She relaxed with the key finally in.

“Did you go in?” the Latino asked. He reached over her shoulder, turned the knob and pushed the door open. “No, she told me to call the police.” Mrs. Oliphant followed the two in.

Norwood Holland is a freelance writer, lawyer, and author of the Drew Smith legal thriller series based on the capers of an urban trial attorney.  He is a graduate of Howard University School of Law with a bachelor’s degree in English from Fisk University where he studied under the renowned Harlem Renaissance author Arna Bontemps.  Holland favors D.C.'s local color in his fiction and currently writes the blog editorialindependence.com devoted to promoting independent authors among other things. 

He has served in several government agencies including the National Labor Relations Board and a number of Washington’s top national law firms.  In the mid 90s Holland began freelancing for the local media.  Some of his credits include The Writer Magazine, the Examiner, and Black Literature Magazine.  Minus One follows up on the success of Sleepless Nights, the first in the Drew Smith Series.

Connect with the Author: 

Email  |  Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook

Next Few Stops
May 28 Laurie Thoughts and Reviews  Http://lauries-interviews.blogspot.com
May 28 Ms. Minolta White http://whiteminolta.blogspot.com
May 29 Dee Writes  http://deatrikingbey.com/contact/
May 29 You Gotta Read Reviews  www.yougottaread.com  
May 30 Manic Readers   http://manicreaders.com/blog/
May 31 Shelia Goss Blog http://sheliagoss.com/blog/




Paulette Harper Johnson said...

WOW Laurie what a fantastic post for Norwood. Thank you so much for taking part in his book tour. Appreciate the support

Norwood Holland's Editorial Independence said...

Thanks for the opportunity to connect with your followers. I enjoyed the interview. I think you ask just the right questions readers have on their mind. It was fun as is reading Minus One. Readers will enjoy it.