Friday, April 2, 2010

Welcome, Pulp Duo Kohl and Beetner

We met Eric Beetner at Left Coast Crime recently and like most of our noir-writing guy friends, he is delightful, a gentleman of the old school. We haven't met JB Kohl yet but we like her already - how can you not like a chick who's into both boxing and belly-dancing?

One of the things that makes this pair really intriguing is that they have written a well-received novel together while living on opposite coasts - and they have never met in person or even spoken on the phone!

In fact, they have grown quite superstitious about it - they are now in the middle of a second novel and have no plans to meet.

Eric: So nice to invited to the Pens Fatales to talk about a subject we know well.

Publishing a book opens the door to a whole new world of mortification. For One Too Many Blows To The Head, which was my first published work, my most mortifying moment came during my launch party.

The Mystery Bookstore in LA was kind enough to host a signing for me and I felt awfully darn cool to be sitting where so many crime and mystery luminaries had read before me. Adding my name to their famed jail registry sign-in book was a real honor.

As the date approached it became clear that due to a shipping error I would be having a signing event with no books to sign. I held my chin up, read out of my proof copy and took pre-orders. We made it work but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t crushingly embarrassing. Serves me right for thinking I was cool for even a second.

Although we’ve never met in person I will say I was slightly mortified to hear that my co-author, JB Kohl, is an amateur belly dancer. No more mortified than her kids I’m sure...

JB: MORTIFIED?? I'm shocked. Actually, the type of dance I do is tribal, which is very gypsy-like and done in a group. Also, belly dancers wear more clothing than the average cheerleader. I could go on and on about the health benefits, the core strengthening, etc. but I won't. Ahem. What I will say is that I do things like dancing lessons – either ballroom or belly – or guitar lessons, or anything else I can think of to get me out of my comfort zone. Things that make me do things I wouldn't normally be comfortable doing prepare me for "mortifying" situations--such as getting caught in the midst of a dispute between a publisher and a bookstore owner, which happened to me a couple of years ago. Talk about mortifying . . .

So VIVA la BELLY DANCE baby. Oh, and as for my kids? They think it's pretty cool. They're used to having an eccentric mother.

Eric: I also recently saw some first hand mortification when Pens Fatale’s own Sophie Littlefield spoke at Left Coast Crime on a panel about mystery writers who write with a dose of humor. I entered the room to see the entire panel donning rainbow clown wigs. One glance and it was obvious this was not Sophie’s idea.

It is a feeling we all know. It is something visceral and deep down and very relatable. To be clear there is a difference between mortifying and embarrassing. To me it is that gut feeling. Embarrassment will flush your face but mortification will turn your stomach. It’s deeper.

Writing a character in a mortifying situation makes them human and sympathetic. Even in the extraordinary circumstances of a crime novel everyone can relate to that feeling of fear and nausea.

JB: I think you and I handle mortifying situations for our characters in different ways. I noticed that Ray Ward is a very proactive character. When in a mortifying situation, his actions move the scene and the reader can feel his dismay and disgust and bewilderment. That's tough stuff to write and you do it very well. Fokoli is different. The proactive movements of his past as well as the current case he's on lead him to be a reactive character throughout One Too Many Blows To The Head. In a mortifying situation – whether it's the shambles of his home life caused by his past behavior, or the crime scene caused by Ray Ward, his actions are reactive rather than proactive like Ray's.

And I think that's one thing that makes their stories so engaging for readers.

Eric: One glance through this week’s posts and it is clear that everyone experiences it. What I’m really looking forward to? Seeing the first signs of mortification in my daughter’s eyes when I do something she sees as hideous. I know it’s coming. It’s my job as a Dad.

JB Kohl and Eric Beetner are the co-authors of the novel One Too Many Blows To The Head which Megan Abbott called, "like a long lost pulp you find in a favorite bookstore. A delicious mix of classic hardboiled grit and the heart-heavy world of film noir, it's a one-sitting read that sends you back to a lost time of fight halls, Chicago boys and last chances."

Read more about JB - including her debut novel, The Deputy's Widow - here. Find out more about Eric's short fiction here


Rachael Herron said...

I think the fact that you've never met is fascinating. That and the clown wigs... And you're right, Eric, your most important job as father is to be mortifying. At 37, I'm finding that my dad can still get the job done. :)

Sophie Littlefield said...

I'm puzzling over how you mortify your kids, Eric. You're such a dignified guy. :) You'll have to take lessons from me - I'm a master, having had 17 years to hone my craft! And JB, my [few] belly dance lessons were tribal. Loved it - but I looked completely ridiculous. This is not me being coy, I am rhythm-deaf in the same way that others are tone-deaf. Talk about mortifying!!

Eric Beetner said...

My wife is already training the girls to give the exasperated, "OH, Dad!" and they're only 3 and 2!
They have no idea what they're in for when they get older...

J.B. Kohl said...

It's funny to be the parent of teenagers now . . . I've been trying to pin down when, exactly, it was that I ceased to be cool and began to be "mortifying." Oh, who are we kidding? We're all still cool. Right? Right?

And Sophie, I'm sure you didn't look ridiculous. The point is to have fun. :)

Unknown said...

Eric and JB--
Welcome to the Pens! :)

Eric it is totally our job to embarrass them. It's why we had kids right? That and to help clean the house. :)

JB-they got rid of our tribal belly dance class which I *loved* but wasn't very good at--however I didn't give a damn. I had a blast.

And Sophie did NOT look ridiculous.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Hi Eric and JB,

But, Eric, you ARE cool. You were in a band. And that's the best way to mortify your kids. Remind them of their father on stage, in front of PEOPLE, playing punk rock.

JB, your kids sounds very cool!

Sophie, I too am rhythm challenged. To compound matters, I married a man who loves to dance and is really good at it. When we went out dancing in Hawaii on our honeymoon, Japanese tourists kept asking him if he worked for MTV. For the record, no asked ME that. Did the belly dancing help make you more rhythm-aware or is that just an impossible dreamm of mine?

Juliet Blackwell said...

HI to Eric and JB! Thanks so much for visiting the Pens. Loved the mortification of children -- that's one of the true pleasures of parenthood ;-)
I also love that you two work collaboratively -- I wrote my first series with my sister Carolyn, who lives in Norfolk VA (I'm in Oakland CA) -- from one coast to the other. People always ask me how we made it work , but as you two show, it can be done!

Adrienne Bell said...

Thanks, JB & Eric for coming to visit. I can't get over that you two have never met. Never even talked on the phone. Hell, I can't through I day writing all by lonesome without calling one of these other ladies up.

Eric Beetner said...

Juliet - Nice to know other people can make it work. This partnership has gone so smoothly I almost think not meeting makes for a much better relationship. Why else has online social networking taken off so much. We all just want to live in our caves.

Rebecca - one day I will play my cds for the girls. Then you will see some truly horrified children. "Daddy, is that you screaming? Why are you so angry? Can you turn it down?"