Interview with Alan Asnen, Author of When I At Last Awake

27 Apr 2021

What can you tell us about your new release, When I At Last Awake?

When I At Last Awake is the fifth book in The Frank Gould Mystery Series and the first standalone volume where Frank, the titular “author” who has been telling the story of how he accidentally became a detective, is now fully “on the job.” Here, and once again, he has been given a small task that leads him into a larger world of trouble. The son of a friend kills someone while attempting to kill someone else and Frank is asked to find a way to get him off the hook. It turns out the real object of this murder plot is involved in a scheme of mammoth proportions. Naturally!

What or who inspired you to become an author?

Like so many others who write, I’ve been doing it since I was a small child and published professionally when I was fourteen. In fact, that was the foundation for what was supposed to be a great memoir. However, it never materialized. So I wrote it into these comic mystery/thrillers instead. Frank had a much more exciting life than I, trust me.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

We share many experiences and tastes, however. Favorite foods, wines, places to go, movies. Books like Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles (14 times!), Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and Lawrence Ritter’s, The Glory of Their Times. That scratches the surface without offending any fellow mystery/thriller writers.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

Since I’m forced to, if I had a broadcast show, I’d invite my friend, Ovidia Yu, not only first but as a regular guest. She isn’t an underrated mystery writer, but she is, in my opinion, far too neglected relative to her talents and abilities. And “why?” That’s the great question we all ask. I wouldn’t do it as a transactional matter but because we’ve always had fun ever since, as old-time writers, we took a “refresher course” together, among a slew of rookies, with a very well-known thriller writer.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

When I was a kid I used to struggle with new ideas. Until I learned there aren’t any. Most “writing” comes about from “reading.” And for me the most fun part comes from forcing “2+2=5.” In other words, reading different materials and having them pull together through thought into a slightly altered fashion. You often have to spend time “meditating”—but not in any way you’ll find described in the Sutras! You will get to 5. Just keep reading.

What is a typical day like for you?

My typical writing day begins outdoors, cleaning up from the previous day and then feeding the animals. I don’t live on a farm, but I pretend to. Then indoors to feed the humans and animals there. I’m the better cook, after all. Then I feed myself and start reading, everything I can online: news, social media, literary magazines. Then books. Then writing for at least two hours before a break. Then back to writing before I cook again, then back to writing. At night, movies, some new, some old. Then books.

What scene in When I At Last Awake was your favorite to write?

Who is my favorite child you ask? Oh, no, what was my favorite scene to write? How fresh… I’ll confess: Normally, I don’t like writing action scenes. I prefer comic human interaction. I suppose most when Frank comes up against someone who is his match, which happens often enough. So writing the scene where we first meet Jimmy Chan was a delight.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

I have picked up, in pieces, a generalized philosophy of life over time. Although I live in the Midsouth these days, I grew up near New York City’s Chinatown as a tadpole and lived near San Francisco’s Chinatown for a long time. During those years I often heard the phrase women zai shou ba. It’s Mandarin without a literal English translation. Something close would be “We’ll talk about it later.” It’s often said as a means of tamping down small, passing disputes until they dissipate on their own. As they should, since they don’t matter anyway.

 

Alan Asnen is the author of the new book When I At Last Awake

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