Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Q&A with Jann Eyrich




Jann Eyrich is the author of the new novel The Rotting Whale, the first in a series of eco-mysteries. Eyrich lives in Northern California. 


Q: This is the first in a new series--how did you come up with the idea for this eco-mystery, and for your character Hugo Sandoval?


A: The series begins with Hugo. This character is a composite of several building inspectors I met in San Francisco when I worked on small commercial and residential remodels in the city. Some inspectors I knew I could turn to for their expertise and guidance to complete the projects; others were removed, and unreasonably indifferent to their work. The stories are endless in this city that is constantly reinventing itself. I wanted to write about one of the good ones; that’s when Hugo took hold.


Also, Hugo is a native San Franciscan. His sense of belonging to the City, his pride and ownership are rare in a public servant.


Living in San Francisco was a window, physically and conceptually, on how our built culture pushes on its environment—and currently, how nature pushes back. The mysteries Hugo encounters are entwined with that collision.


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 knew where the story was going but in the writing, there were wonderful moments of discovery in developing the intersecting storylines. The themes continue to evolve in the writing of the series and there is joy in watching characters take on a life of their own.  

Q: How was the novel’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The Rotting Whale is inspired by a true story of when a blue whale became stranded outside of Fort Bragg on the Mendocino Coast. What happened next was extraordinary – the community rallied around a wild idea to save the bones of the whale for a future time when they could reassemble the skeleton. It was messy but over 200 people volunteered to dismantle the whale.


The mysteries woven into the narrative are on a single clock, one that represents the narrow window before the sea would return to reclaim the rotting remains.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: I would like to think they would walk away with a better understanding of the weight of their own footprint. 


One example I can think of—ship strikes. Certainly not every reader is living by a port, but being responsive to the impact of their role as a consumer, well, that would be cool.


I would challenge readers to follow Hugo as he navigates a perilous decade of extreme change in his wondrous San Francisco and in his environment.


Q: What are you working on now? What's next in the series?


A: The second book in the series, The Blind Key, is in the publisher’s hands. Excerpts from the first two books can be read on the website.


I am currently writing the third episode, The Singing Lighthouse, for release in fall of 2024.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: There are five books scheduled for this series. Hugo’s website will keep pace with developing themes and key stories which cross his desk.


Readers can sign up for the quarterly Otis Street News and check in on the latest adventure. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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