Interview with Michael Carlon, author of Motel California
06 Feb 2018
What can you tell us about your new release, Motel California?
Motel California is the third book in my Farrah Graham series, the first being Uncorking a Murder and second being The Last Homily. Motel California is something I would call a comedic mystery in that it is part mystery and part comedy. It takes place in and around Los Angeles, a city where I lived for approximately six months in 2014 and filled with memories of the colorful characters I met during my sabbatical on the West Coast. The primary characters are two podcasters, Farrah Graham and Jimmy Doubts, who somehow wind up being in the wrong place at the wrong time yet always prove themselves invaluable in solving murders. This one is unique from the other two as Jimmy is the primary suspect in a murder that takes place at a seedy hotel on the Sunset Strip — unlike the song of a similar title, the Motel California is not a lovely place and Jimmy finds that out the hard way. If its possible, this book has a soundtrack; twin detectives who are former glam rockers are constantly arguing about 80s heavy metal music and each song is named after a song or artist of that era. If you have a fondness for hair rock, you’ll find something to love about Motel California.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
This is going to sound cliche, but I had two teachers in high school who encouraged me to write; Tom Kriz and Bill O’Connell. Both had a profound impact on my life and I owe them a debt of gratitude for helping shape me as a writer. They not only taught me the mechanics of writing, but encouraged me to write from the heart. They are fantastic educators who I keep in touch with to this day.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
This is like picking my favorite children; I am an avid reader and had a very difficult time coming up with his list but here goes:
Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. I simply couldn’t put it down.
Tourist Season by Carl Hiaasen. I LOVE all of his books and this was the first one I read as it was referenced in Jimmy Buffet’s song Ballad of Skip Wiley. If it’s good enough for Jimmy Buffett, it’s good enough for me!
Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You. As with Hiaasen’s Tourist Season, this was the first Tropper book I ever read and it got me hooked on him as a writer.
Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin is the non-fiction entry on this list. I love stand-up comedy and look up to Steve Martin as an artist. It was a great read and I’d encourage anyone looking for a career making people laugh to read it.
Stephen Kin’s The Stand – I could read that book one hundred times and never get tired of it.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
Writing is really the only activity I do on a regular basis that is 100% solitary. I’m the father of triplets, a husband, and run my own consulting business. Writing is the only real time I get to myself and I consider it sacred time. Time when I can enter another world of my own creation for a few hours at a time. I know other authors who get so lost in their work that they lose track of time and that absolutely happens to me on a regular basis. I’ll also be honest about something, when someone comes up to me or tracks me down on social media to tell me that they really enjoyed something I have written, I do enjoy that.
If you had an extra hour each day, how would you spend it?
I’d like to spend that time reconnecting with people I haven’t spoken to in a while, though I would reach out to them over the phone or, hopefully, in person. It seems that I manage all my relationships by text messaging or superficial social media comments and, given an extra hour in the day, I’d like to engage with people more interpersonally.
What fictional literary world would you most like to visit?
The South Florida universe that Carl Hiaasen writes in would be my first pick. It’s a world filled with colorful characters and unbelievable situations that are largely ripped from the sunshine state’s headlines. Perhaps being from South Florida has something to do with this, I was born in a small town called Plantation and whenever I get off an airplane in Ft. Lauderdale, I always feel at home.
What scene in Motel California was your favorite to write?
One of the minor characters in the story is a gangster named Anthony Carbona and, at the beginning, the reader isn’t sure whether or not he is an antagonist or a protagonist as his motives are a bit complicated. He’s a New Yorker through and through but has escaped to South Florida as he just can’t take New York winters anymore. Anyway, there’s a scene where we learn he’s got a bit of a secret, he loves HGTV—can’t get enough of it. It’s revealed in a pretty funny way that also includes a reference to Vanilla Ice and VH1’s Behind the Music.
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