Interview with John Baird Rogers, Author of Skins and Bone

30 Jun 2021

What can you tell us about your new release, Skins and Bone?

Skins and Bone is the second book in the Mayfield – Napolitani series. (The first, Fatal Score, was published in November 2018.) 

Pitch: In the world of finance, if you can foresee the worst-case scenario, you can protect against it. If you can then make the worst case happen, you can profit enormously. That is the proposition behind Skins and Bone.

Skins and Bone draws Joe Mayfield and Louise (Weezy) Napolitani into a world of high finance, European elegance, and murder. Joe lands his dream job: Move from Florida to New York, join the respected investment bank ZCG, fly with the finance eagles—and be a train ride away from Weezy, his brilliant lover. It’s a few years from now, shortly after CyberWar I,. Weezy is chief tracker for the national data base, as well as a member of a group of dark-web hackers. ZCG uses complex financial derivatives called ‘Skins’ to craft protection for firms working in politically unstable regions. Strangely, disaster seems to follow creation of Skins, and someone is raking in millions. Joe, curious, begins to dig. Weezy enlists a hacker friend to help dig. He dies in an “accident.” Then Joe is almost killed in a “random” mugging. Undaunted, Joe and Weezy dig further. A financial conference in Vienna and a sumptuous cruise down the Danube to Budapest provide the opportunity for the man making the millions to eliminate his Joe and Weezy problem.

The expanded blurb, above, is used as part of the Amazon and Ingram promotional material. By design, it leaves reader hanging. To finish the synopsis, Joe is implicated in a carefully constructed scheme that appears to show him trading Skins illegally. Weezy is drugged and pushed overboard by a debonair Corsican assassin called Le Pic, rescued, attacked again in the hospital in a small town, saved by an Austrian constable named Prohoffer. She, Joe and her hacker friends complete the study of what’s going on, involve the FBI, and the story wraps up with the financier behind the scam being fed to the fishes. Joe and Weezy, already smitten with each other, grow closer.

From the Kirkus review: “Joe’s intriguing struggles prove just how violent, controlling, and downright dangerous even an advanced world can be. … The high-tech atmosphere never overshadows the timeless quality that fuels the action: human greed. And the main motivation of avarice and those willing to do anything for their own benefit produce some engaging friction.” 

What or who inspired you to become an author?

As a kid, I lived with books. Not reclusive; ordinary, really, but I read a lot and was awed that someone, an author, could tell stories that captivated other people. Lost in Sherlock Holmes, Robinson Crusoe, Edgar Allen Poe, Tolkein. Also, I idolized my slightly older cousin, Gamble Rogers, who played the flat top guitar (as do I) and could spin out a yarn brim full of humor and deep-south philosophy. That probably drove me to an English major in college and writing courses with a marvelous, precise, curmudgeonly creative writing professor. But I loved the sciences, too (minor in math and chemistry), and my life took me away from writing. I always had a project going, mind you, but never finished in the rush of work life, kids, travel. But I knew when I quit my day job (please, not “retire”) I would write. So, I did. Novel 4 is in rewrite, and #5 is pestering me to get my manure together and write. 

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

For plot: Homer – The Odyssey, Shutter Island (Lehane)

For character: Chaucer (Canterbury tales), Trainspotting and Filth (Welsh), John Updike’s Rabbit series.

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

Hard one again. Let’s limit it to living people, so Agatha Christie is out. Shakespeare, too. Jonathan Lethem, maybe, and I’d ask him about how he develops a character’s voice and the inspiration for making private eye Lionel Essrog have Tourette syndrome. 

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Seeing a character blossom, then asking the character what he or she would do when confronted with a problem. Also, revisiting in my mind the places I’ve been, the friends and enemies I’ve made, and the characters I can make them into. 

What is a typical day like for you?

I wish I had a typical day. Realistically, I spend 4 to 6 hours on writing, these days more on process—reading critique group works, (last two months) judging works submitted to a contest, rewriting novel number 4, wrestling with the technology of self-publishing—than on original writing. Ideally, I’d spend half time on that original writing, half time on all the other stuff. 

What scene from Skins and Bone was your favorite to write?

The scene in which Weezy confronts Joe about his (supposed) illegal options trading. Favorite because it allows Weezy to show deep emotion and Joe to blurt “I  love you,” all in an elegant formal garden in Vienna where my wife and I spent a romantic afternoon. 

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

So many. How about “Vita brevis, ars longa.” We usually see it as Ars longa, vita brevis, but the original Greek form from Hippocrates means more to a writer. It means life is short, and craft (Latin translates the Greek techne as ‘ars’) is long in the learning. So true of writing. But long, after all, is good. 

John Baird Rogers is the author of the new book Skins and Bone (Mayfield-Napolitani)

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rebecca