Monday, September 19, 2011

Author Interview - Joseph Wallace

Ruby Thomas had never seen anything as beautiful as Ebbets Field, with its brick exterior and half-moon windows that reminded her of slices of jelly candy.
This is the first line of Joesph Wallace's Diamond Ruby.

Earlier this year I was introduced to this book by way of Ron Kaplan's Baseball Bookshelf.  I picked up the sample chapters for my Kindle, devoured them quickly and then ordered a copy of the book from amazon.  I contacted the author, Joseph Wallace, and he gladly sent a Diamond Ruby baseball card my way.  I read the book, had more interaction with Joe (he lets me call him Joe).  I asked for an interview, which he agreed to.

First, my review.

Prohibition is enforced.  The Spanish Influenza epidemic is rampant.  Babe Ruth is king.  Ruby Thomas can throw a baseball.  In the pages of Diamond Ruby Joseph Wallace transported me to Brooklyn in the late 1910s and early 1920s.  His writing style is engaging and colorful.  I got sucked in early and didn't know how the title character would overcome the hardships that were placed before her.  If you're looking for a book about sugar and spice and everything nice, this isn't for you.  If you want a book that can speak to you on several levels, let me suggest this one.

I have seen reviews that say that Diamond Ruby is an essential take-to-the-beach-on-summer-vacation book.  One to laze around with.  I'm going to one up that.  Diamond Ruby is an essential book for fans of baseball, period pieces, good literature, and books in general.  Read it.  Buy a copy.  Give it to your friends.  Then buy another copy for yourself.

Joseph Wallace

Q: Diamond Ruby is set in Brooklyn. You obviously did a lot of research to be able to paint such wonderful word pictures. What sources did you use? How long did your research take before writing? Did you start writing the story line and then flesh out the details?

A: I couldn't write Diamond Ruby until I felt like I was living inside the 1920s Brooklyn world where it was set. To do this, I haunted the New York Public Library's Microfilm Room and read through at least half a dozen newspapers, day by day, one after another. By the time I was done, I'd learned so much about how people lived, what they worried about, what they did for fun. Their world did feel real to me, sometimes even more vivid than the one I was actually living in.

Q: Is your writing style more like "lock myself in a room every morning until I produce 1,000 words" or "writing at the dining room table with kids and pets running amok"? Maybe somewhere in the middle?

A: I need quiet to be able to write well. When I was writing Ruby, I'd go away for three days at a time every few weeks and stay in a motel. It was a kind of sensory deprivation, just me in that room with no distractions, and the words would come pouring out. Sometimes I'd write for fourteen hours a day. My reward would be one good meal in a local hotel.

Q: One of the characters, Helen, is blind. Were you consciously more descriptive in your writing because of that?

A: Helen, like Ruby, was modeled on a real person: a stunt diver who went blind after a tragic accident. I thought of my Helen as the kind of person--strong-willed, brave, plain-spoken--who could get past Ruby's reserve, her solitary nature. She was the kind of friend Ruby would need, so it was easy to write vividly, visually, around her.

Q: Since you weave real people (Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Judge Landis) into the book, did you have to overcome any fears of putting the right words into their mouths?

A: I was definitely nervous about making Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey into important characters! I'm usually suspicious of writers who put words into the mouths of real historical figures. My solution was to have readers see them only through Ruby's eyes. You're never inside their heads, listening to their thoughts. You see them as Ruby does, smart and funny, but never being too wild in front of this tough young girl.

Q: As a writer, does it bring you pain or grief when one of the characters you create dies?

A: Yes, sometimes it's difficult to kill off a character, especially ones who don't deserve it. In Diamond Ruby, Ruby faces some significant tragedies; those were very hard to write because they hurt Ruby (a character I was very fond of).

Q: You've mentioned that you are working on a follow-up book with Diamond Ruby. How's that going? Do you have a publication date?

A: I hope to be done with my sequel to Diamond Ruby, to be set in Hollywood in 1927, sometime next year. Before I get back to it, though, I'm finishing a big thriller, featuring dozens of characters and locations as far-flung as Australia, Panama, Senegal...and Brooklyn!

Q: What's your favorite flavor of frozen custard?

A: I love vanilla frozen custard, but I definitely won't say no to other flavors.

I'd like to thank the author for his time and permission to use his photograph.  Yes, I asked.  For more information about Joseph Wallace, visit his official website.  To purchase a copy of Diamond Ruby go here.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Musician Interview - The Yellow Kites

Time for another of drive-by interview.  These are intended to be an introduction to an artist, not their whole life story.

Today we get to talk with The Yellow Kites, a husband and wife team composed of Kendall and Erina Ludwig.

Erina was gracious enough to answer my questions for the both of them.

Because some music fans are gearheads...
Q: What guitar/dulcimer/harmonium/harmonica/instruments are you playing the most these days? Maker and model preferred.

Our instruments are:
We play a Larrivee L03R. Good ol' Canadian piece that didn't like the heat down in Florida. Seriously so.

We play a traditional hour glass mountain dulcimer with maple top mahogany sides. It's handmade so there aren't any model numbers. It's made by Bill Berg with Mountain Made Music in Nashville, IN.

I play Hohner harmonicas. My G key is the Silver Star (I'm still at the beginning side of things) model no: M50403. My C key is the Golden Melody one (ditto) model no. has faded but I think it's M542016.

The harmonium I play is from Calcutta, India (much more affordable to order it and have it shipped to the States) made by a company called Pakrashi. The model I have is: Pakrashi 3.5 octave portable harmonium and it stunk horribly when we first got it. And it still does sometimes. Something about the wood.

Because inquiring minds want to know...
Q: What are you actively listening to? What music is inspiring you? Yes, this is your typical, what's in the CD player, ipod, etc question. But, it isn't a "If you could be a tree, what tree would you be?" question.

Hard one this as we're on the road so are literally making our way through everything on our iPods. Let's start with Kendall:

Bon Iver, Jonsi (from Sigur Ros- Iceland's major music exporter)- who he's currently listening to.

Jakob Dylan, Shawn Mullins, David Gray, Dispatch, The Swell Season, The Decembrists and Damien Rice give inspiration.

As for me:

Brooke Fraser, Lisa Hannigan, Marketa Irglova, The Frames, Damien Rice, Cat Power, The Swell Season, Jakob Dylan are some of whom I'm listening to.

Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Fleet Foxes, The Swell Season, Lisa Hannigan and Brooke Fraser inspire me.

Trust me there are tons more but we'll never stop otherwise.

Future Plans...
Q: What are you currently working on? Recording/shows/tour/writing/etc.

Ahhh future plans. We're on tour until near the end of Sept when we'll be back in Indianapolis. Got a huge gig in Indy on the 10th Sept at the Irving Theater so getting ready for that :) feel free to invite everyone you know.

We just finished recording what I'm calling a mini- EP (title to be decided) of a few tunes of sacred music. Being on tour and playing in churches has been such a privilege and we tried to capture some of it in Jamestown, NY just this Labor Day. It's like a taster of more things to come so keep a keen ear out!

We're also crafting some new songs with quite a different feel to our debut album. Some more jazzy, others more bluesy. Very electric and exciting. Early days yet so can't report much about it.

What's my connection to The Yellow Kites?  A few weeks ago they did a small show at our church.  It was Saturday night, a back to school kick off event for our youth group.  Kendall and Nick, our youth pastor, are very good friends.  Nick had invited them for the concert and to be part of our worship services the next morning.  They had a gig at the Preservation Pub in Knoxville on Monday.

I took Angie and Caroline to the Saturday night show.  Edison was already there.  It was a casual setting and for an hour and a half they played, sang, talked, and shared themselves with the small audience.  I was taken by their joy.  Their music is simple on the surface, but has a depth to it.  On Saturday I purchased their self titled album.  I was going to say "CD", but it is a "high-quality, wild-flower embedded download card".  Sunday morning I purchased Erina's book, Unnoticed Neighbors: A Pilgrimage into the Social Justice Story.  Musicians, author, beautiful people.

Want to know more about The Yellow Kites?  You can find them on Facebook, MySpace, their official site, and Twitter.

Want to know more about Erina's book?  You can view the Unnoticed Neighbors' video trailer, read a sample chapter, or purchase it.

I suggest you do all of them.