Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews David! Before we get to the interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
I am a screenwriter and former investigative journalist for The Los Angeles Times where I served as the paper's lead police reporter. I was an individual finalist for the Pulitzer Prize's Gold Medal for Public Service, the highest award in American journalism, and later shared in a Pulitzer Prize for The Times' coverage of the 1992 Rodney King riots. I also reported from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.
After leaving The Times, I worked as an investigator for the Los Angeles bureau of CBS News, helping cover the OJ Simpson murder case. That same year, I sold my first feature-length screenplay, the action-thriller Stealth, to 20th Century Fox.
In addition to my work in the entertainment industry, I'm a contributor to a handful of magazines, including The Atlantic, the Smithsonian's Air & Space, and Pacific Standard. I've also worked with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, the Army's Battle Command Battle Lab, and other entities within the federal intelligence community.
I am the author of a humor book, Dear Ernest and Julio: The Ordinary Guy's Search for the Extraordinary Job (St. Martin's Press, 1977). My first novel, the mystery-thriller, Flat Spin (The Permanent Press) was published this month.
I'm an instrument-rated private pilot and aircraft owner. I live in Santa Barbara, California, with my wife, Elizabeth, a clinical psychologist. We have two adult children.
How long have you been a writer?
I've earned a living scribbling words for more than three decades. I started out as a newspaper journalist, morphed into a Hollywood screenwriter, became a magazine contributor, and, with the release of Flat Spin, I guess you could say I'm now a published novelist.
Do you have a "day job," or being an author your career?
I spend about half my time these days being an author (geez, I hope that doesn't sound too pretentious), and the remainder doing journalism work. There's a part of me that wishes I could afford to devote myself full-time to writing novels, but there's another part of me that truly enjoys the nuts and bolts of news reporting. The latter actually benefits the former in that much of what I learn on nonfiction writing assignments finds its way into my fiction projects.
What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer.
I started out with ambitions of becoming a heart surgeon. That goal was shelved fairly early on in college when I realized that my paltry GPA would never get me into medical school. A high school teacher, Aurelia Valley, had taken me aside one day after class and encouraged me to think about being a writer. She was convinced, for whatever reason, that I had an aptitude when it came to the written word. When I was debating changing majors, it was Miss Valley's voice that resonated with clarity in my head and helped persuade me to study journalism.
Please give a brief description/storyline about Flat Spin.
A former fighter pilot-turned-government assassin-turned down-on-his-luck flight instructor is asked by his ex-wife to help investigate the murder of of the man she dumped him for.
What was the inspiration for this story?
I guess you could say I found my greatest inspiration in that cliche, "Write what you know." The protagonist of Flat Spin, Cordell Logan, is a flight instructor. I'm an instrument-rated pilot and aircraft owner. Logan's got a military background; I spent many years writing about the military as a journalist. Logan gets sucked into murder investigations; I covered more than my share of homicides as an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Logan worked in the intelligence community; so have I. Don't get me wrong. I am hardly my own hero. But I can say with some degree of comfort that I'm somewhat familiar with his world.
How did it feel to have your first book published?
Fantastic and more than a little surreal. A few days ago, the UPS guy dropped off a boxful of copies - the first time I'd seen the hardback version of the book or held it in my hands. It's beautiful and humbling given the odds these days of any publisher agreeing to take on a new novelist. I feel very fortunate to be published by The Permanent Press, a small, highly selective house that promotes the heck out of those few books it does accept.
Do you write books for a specific genre?
Flat Spin is billed as a "Cordell Logan mystery," so I suppose my genre is just that - mysteries. That being said, I'm not sure whether Flat Spin falls squarely in any defined sub-genre of crime fiction. If anything, I'd say it's a funny whodunit. Author Bruce DeSilva, whose terrific Rogue Island won an Edgar Award for best first novel in 2011, describes Flat Spin as a "literary thriller." That's high praise coming from a scribe like him.
What genres are your favorites? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?
I'm very eclectic in my reading tastes. I like a lot of nonfiction, especially biographies, political exposes, military history, and modern adventure, in particular the work of John Krakhauer and Sebastian Junger. I love reading about historic places, then visiting them, whether it be Omaha Beach (Cornelius Ryan's The Longest Day), the site of the Chicago World's Fair (Erik Larson's Devil in the White City), or Gettysburg (Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels, which may be fiction, but it read real!). As for classic American fiction, East of Eden may be the best novel I've ever read. Among more modern authors, James Salter has to be among the most brilliant American wordsmiths alive today for my money. I read City of Thieves not long ago by David Benioff and thought it exceptional. I just finished Matterhorn, a very ambitious novel about Marines fighting in Vietnam written by Karl Marlantes, himself a former grunt. It took Marlantes more than 30 years before he got the book published. I tend not to read many mystery-thrillers these days because I don't want to subconsciously imprint their work on mine. But there are certainly more a few great ones out there - the aforementioned Bruce DeSilva, Lee Child, and Michael Connelly, who I used to work with at the LA Times. First-time novelist Len Rosen wrote a phenomenally good thriller called All Cry Chaos, as did Beth Terrell with her Jaden McKean series.
Do you have a special "spot/area" where you like to do your writing?
At my desk in Santa Barbara, with my two Australian shepherds snoozing on or near my feet. I have a nice view of the Pacific for inspiration (and, ugg, my neighbors' newly constructed chimney).
How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?
I don't really come up with them. They just sort of come to me. Sometimes, I'll get really terrific ideas in the shower. Don't ask me why.
When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes?
Writing in my opinion must be the very embodiment of discipline. You have to adhere to a schedule and try to produce a certain amount of words on any given day if you expect to ever see a project to fruition. So yes, absolutely, I have a schedule. Typically, I get up early, have breakfast while reading the newspaper, then work out, go walking or hiking with the dogs, and try to be at my computer by 9am. I'll write until lunch, break for half an hour or so, then return to work until about 5:30pm when it's time for a glass of red wine.
What aspects of storytelling do you like best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?
I absolutely love writing action stuff. I seriously hate writing love scenes.
What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?
Flying my airplane, throwing the Frisbee for my dogs, working on my house (I'm a pretty decent carpenter and tile-setter, but I suck at plumbing), and trying to keep my wife and kids happy.
What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?
Writing is rewriting. Never be satisfied with your prose. It can always stand improvement.
What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?
The notion that I'm creating something which will bring a smile to readers' faces and allow them to escape, at least for a few hours, the stresses of daily life that we all endure.
How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?
I'm online a lot and welcome emails via my website: http://david-freed.com/.
Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences, or are they purely all from your imagination?
Good fiction resonates with authenticity. That is not to say that a novel must be wholly true-to-life. But for a reader to suspend disbelief, the author must infuse credible reality in a novel to a sufficient degree that the story and characters feel real. Many of the critical elements in Flat Spin are based on things I've done and seen; some are not. The author's task is to keep the reader guessing as to which is which, which is half the fun for all of us.
What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer?
Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Shelby Foote, Bruce Catton, James Jones, and Clive Cussler. I could go on ...
What is your definition of success as a writer?
Simply to be able to write. So many talented aspiring writers never get the chance. They're so busy holding down day jobs, paying the bills and feeding their families, that there's precious little time and mental energy left to do what I get to do all day. I am grateful to have the opportunity.
Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit with us?
I'm currently working on the next Cordell Logan mystery, a sequel to Flat Spin. If all goes well, it should be available in 2013.
Thank you David for allowing me the opportunity to interview you on Jersey Girl Book Reviews, and for taking the time to share some things about you and your writing career with us!
About The Author:
David Freed is a screenwriter, author and former award-winning investigative journalist for The Los Angeles Times. He served as The Times' lead police reporter, was an individual finalist for the Pulitzer Prize's Gold Medal for Public Service, the highest award in American journalism, and later shared in a Pulitzer Prize for the newspaper's coverage of the 1992 Rodney King riots. He reported from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. He has an extensive knowledge of law enforcement, aviation and military affairs.
After leaving The Times, Freed worked as an investigator and associate field producer for the Los Angeles bureau of CBS News, helping cover the OJ Simpson murder case. That same year, he sold his first feature-length screenplay, the action-thriller Stealth, to 20th Century Fox.
Other script sales and/or screenwriting assignments have included: City Held Hostage (NBC Productions); Down Range (Nu-Image); Behind Enemy Lines (CBS Productions); Road Rage (Fox Television Studios); A Glimpse of Hell (F/X Networks); Breaking the Code (F/X Networks); The Shiva Club (William Shatner's Melis Productions); Syncopation, the Davey Yarborough Story (Showtime); Crescent Moon (MGM/United Artists and Trilogy Entertainment); and Rules of War (Court TV). His last film project was The Devil Came on Horseback, a feature film for the independent production company, 72 Productions.
In addition to his work in Hollywood, Freed writes for national publications. his 8,600-word expose in The Atlantic, detailing how the FBI pursued the wrong suspect in a string of anthrax murders following 9/11, was named one of 10 best stories of 2010 by longform.com and givemesomethingtoread.com, among other websites, and short-listed as a 2011 finalist in Feature Writing by the American Society of Magazine Editors. (please see http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/05/the-wrong-man/8019/).
Freed has also scripted interactive training simulations for the defense Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Army's Battle Command Battle Lab, and other entities within the federal intelligence community. He holds an active security clearance from the US Department of Defense.
He is the author of a humor book, Dear Ernest and Julio: the Ordinary Guy's Search for the Extraordinary Job (St. Martin's Press, 1997). His first novel, the mystery-thriller, Flat Spin (The Permanent Press) was published in May 2012.
The son of a Denver police officer and a graduate of Colorado State University, Freed began his journalism career at the Colorado Springs Sun and later worked as a staff writer for the Rocky Mountain News.
An instrument-rated private pilot and aircraft owner, he lives today in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife. Elizabeth, a psychologist. They have two adult children.
BUY THE BOOK: Flat Spin
BARNES & NOBLE
Book Description: Flat Spin
Based in sunny Rancho Bonita - "California's Monaco" as the city's moneyed minions like to call it - Cordell Logan is a literate, sardonic flight instructor and aspiring Buddhist with dwindling savings and a shadowy past. When his beautiful ex-wife, Savannah, shows up out of the blue to tell him that her husband has been murdered in Los Angeles, Logan is quietly pleased. Savannah's late husband is, after all, Arlo Echevarria, the man she left Logan for.
Logan and Echevarria were once comrades-in-arms assigned to a top-secret military assassination team known simply as "Alpha." Though Savannah was never privy to the gritty details of their assignment, she suspects that Echevarria's death must be related to the work he did for the government. The only problem is, the LAPD can find no record of Echevarria ever having toiled for Uncle Sam. Savannah wants Logan to tell the police what he knows. At first he refuses, but then, relying on his small, aging airplane, the Ruptured Duck, and on the skills he honed working for the government, Logan doggedly hunts Echevarria's killer.
His trail takes him from the glitzy Las Vegas Strip to the most dangerous ghettos of inner-city Oakland, from darkened, Russian mafia haunts in West Los Angeles to the deserts of Arizona. Along the way, Logan is stalked by a mysterious motorist who repeatedly tried to kill him. But that's the least of his problems. It is his love-hate relationship with Savannah, a woman Logan continues to pine for in spite of himself, that threatens to consume him.
Transcending the worlds of murder, aviation and international counterterrorism, Flat Spin resonates with a veracity that only an author who knows his subject firsthand can deliver.