Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Q&A with Michael Kaufman




Michael Kaufman is the author of the new novel The Last Resort. It's the second in his Jen Lu mystery series, following The Last Exit. He is the co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign, which focuses on ending violence against women. He lives in Toronto.


Q: What inspired you to write The Last Resort, and how did you create your character Jen Lu?


A: Page-turning fun! Characters you love and others you’d avoid like the plague! Serious engagement with the social, political, and economic issues of our lives! I wanted to have it all.


Unlike my nonfiction books, I write mysteries to entertain. At the same time, I believe that readers and bookstore managers tend to be smart people who think about the world. Sure, we all have our favorite genres and sub-genres, but discovering that new way of telling a story and looking at the world can be dazzling.


I created Jen Lu to embody all the above. A strong woman who definitely is not a cardboard, tough-guy/gal cutout. A person grappling with the challenges of work, love, and the existential crises facing humanity.


Q: The novel is set in Washington, D.C., in 2034. How did you imagine this future version of D.C.?


A: The climate crisis is smacking the nation hard, and present-day economic inequalities have gotten worse. Yet, this is not another grim dystopian novel. There’s a sense of possibility and hope.

The real-world challenges help shape the page-turning drama; but the characters negotiating this near-future world is what creates the fun and raise the stakes so that the reader is cheering Jen Lu right up to the final page.


Q: Without giving anything away, did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I thought I had it nailed. Turns out that one of the characters kept nudging his way into the mix.  Writing can be like lucid dreaming, that is, when you can apparently direct the course of your dreams. And yet, even then, your unconscious overpowers your conscious thoughts every time.


As you write — or at least, as I write — I get ever-more immersed in the story. My characters come to life before my eyes and do things I hadn’t planned. It’s pure magic, and yet it’s magic born from a lot of hard, careful work.


Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Jen Lu and her SIM implant partner, Chandler?


A: One enthusiastic reviewer called it “a partnership for the ages.” I’ll go with that.


On second thought, let me get in the last word. Chandler narrates about half the book. He’s a wannabe tough guy but, given that he isn’t yet 3 years old, has a tough time pulling it off.


The third last word: There is an interesting (and developing) dynamic between the two on what it means to be alive, what we do with our limited time on earth, as well as the very real question of the ever-increasing human-computer interface.


And the last, last word: One of the amazing things that happened when I was writing the first book of the series, The Last Exit, was that Chandler started developing and growing as a character in the course of the book. I knew he’d be fun, but I didn’t know he’d be so, well, alive.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Four projects at various stages. I’ve co-authored a real-world YA novel with one (very cool) fantasy element and themes around the environment and young women’s empowerment. My agent doesn’t do YA so I don’t know where to go with it.


I’m on a (hopefully) final edit of a traditional thriller, which my agent loves. This winter, I’m returning to work on a big literary novel — my first fiction was a literary novel published by Penguin/Viking. Plus, of course, I’ll soon begin the next Jen Lu.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment