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The following is an excerpt from an interview
published in the Spring Newsletter/2001
of the New England chapter of Sisters In Crime.

Written by Kate Flora
President of Sisters In Crime (The national organization of female mystery authors) and author of the Thea Kozak mystery series.
Jan Brogan, formerly a reporter for The Providence Journal, is a freelance writer living in Westwood, MA.

Q: Your first mystery will be published by The Larcom Press in June. What is it called? Can you tell us a little bit about the story?

A: The novel, Final Copy, is about a newspaper reporter, Addy McNeil, who gets a chance to resurrect her journalism career when it turns out that an old boyfriend is the only suspect in the hottest murder story in Boston. She must overcome a number of personal problems, including an addiction to sleeping pills, to pull together this front-page profile. But the most difficult challenge of all is her continued attraction to Kit Korbanics, a venture capitalist determined to prove his innocence.

Q: Where did the idea for the story come from?

A: As a journalist, I've written a number of personality profiles. These kinds of stories require the reporter to spend a lot of time with the subject and try to get to the "essence" of the character in a very short amount of time. By their very nature,these stores are highly subjective. The reporter has a lot of license, and could easily paint a very flattering or very negative story, while using the same set of facts. Joe McGinnis, the author of Fatal Vision, sparked a journalistic controversy a few years back for his tendency to get close to his subjects and then turn on them. I thought this would be a great dynamic for a murder mystery.

Q. Why did you set the story in Boston? And is the newspaper Addy works for suppose to be The Boston Globe?

A: I set the story in Boston because Kit Korbanics' venture capital fund finances biotechnology startups and Boston/Cambridge is a hub for biotechnology. The politics and characters of the newspaper in Final Copy, while fictional, are drawn largely from my experiences at The Providence Journal, The Worcester-Telegram and The News-Tribune (Waltham). Still, I think much of what's written probably applies to a lot of newspapers and reporters.

Q: So is Addy McNeil supposed to be typical of newspaper reporters?

A: No. My newspaper friends will be appalled at the things Addy does. But she's at a very vulnerable stage in her life. She tries to do the right thing, but she crosses ethical lines. People don't think reporters have ethics, but they do. My writers' group would laugh at me when I'd get upset about some of the things Addy was doing, but there are rules and she definitely violates them.

Q: Your background is in journalism, could you talk a little about that experience, and also about how being a non-fiction writer contributed to your experience as a fiction writer, and what were some of the challenges you had to overcome to make the transition to fiction.

A: Initially, I was resistant to using my journalism experience as a setting. I didn't want to write about the newspaper industry because it seemed mundane to me. My own world seemed less interesting than other people's worlds. But my writers' group kept after me to use my journalism experience so eventually, I decided to give it a try. On a technical level, I had to learn to use detail for mood in fiction, instead of for accuracy. There also was really no place for objectivity in a fiction piece. Everything had to be from the character's perspective and mood and when I fell into a journalist's voice, the story became distant. I also had to learn that fiction involves a completely different kind of truth telling. But there were also some techniques that crossed lines. I think being a journalist gave me a good ear for dialogue and an instinct for developing conflict. And I later learned to apply goal progression, a building block of fiction writing, to narrative journalism.

Q: Having gone through the experience of crafting a novel and the frustrating and discouraging days of rejection, what advice would you give other prepublished writers to help them through those times?

A: Get a writers' group. Without the support of my writers' group, I would have thrown in the towel a long time ago. Be prepared to travel a long road and to stay flexible. And try, as best you can, not to be destroyed by rejection. It wastes valuable time.

 

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