Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Charlie Suisman, author of Hot Air (Arnold Falls Book 2).
FQ: Did you grow up in a place like Arnold Falls?
SUISMAN: No, I grew up in West Hartford, Connecticut, which, for its many charms, is not long on idiosyncratic, non-conforming characters.
FQ: If not, what brought the inspiration to create this bucolic setting, especially since you have written previously and copiously about Manhattan/New York City?
SUISMAN: I lived in, loved, and wrote about NYC for many years but in 2011, I needed to make a change in my life. That brought me to Hudson, NY, two hours north of the city. Like Arnold Falls, it's a small town with a red-light past, and I was very lucky to spend five years there. While it is a small town, it's also a complicated one. There are, let's say, competing interests in what the future should be for the town (which I suppose is not a unique circumstance) but it makes for a sometimes fraught atmosphere. What I learned, though, is that places like Hudson offer a sense of community that big cities can not replicate. I have long sensed that yearning for community in myself and friends and, in retrospect, it's what spurred me on to create the little world of Arnold Falls.
FQ: Is Hot Air the second in an even longer Arnold Falls series, or do you have other, different, works in mind?
SUISMAN: From the start, I thought of Arnold Falls as a four-part series, each book set in a different season. I don't know yet if book three will follow immediately or if there might be an off-series book in-between.
FQ: What influences in your life or reading gave you the gift of irony, punning and the other deft humorous touches seen so consistently in this book?
SUISMAN: Some of my favorite authors include P. G. Wodehouse, E. F. Benson, and Armistead Maupin, so that might tell you something - not that I'm comparing myself to them, only that it felt natural to me to steal from my favorites. I don't think of myself as a particularly funny person, though I'm invariably drawn to people who make me laugh.
FQ: Who are your favorite characters in the Arnold Falls series?
SUISMAN: I guess I'm closest to Jeebie in personality, but I do love Judge Harschly. He manages to be appropriately exasperated by life and yet retain kindness and decency. And Bridget is, to me, extremely annoying and yet reliably funny. She would like to be in every scene and makes that clear when I'm writing. One has to take a firm stand with her.
FQ: Do you envision a TV series about your fictional town, like the one depicted in this book?
SUISMAN: I suppose the question is does anyone else envision a series? Of course I'd love to see these characters have an additional life. The two books in the series are largely written in dialogue, which to my ear is more fertile ground for humor. They're already heightened characters, as you might find on the stage or a television series.
FQ: Did the diligence and investigative skills needed to write in detail about a big city give you the “nose” for looking at all the nooks and grannies in Arnold Falls?
SUISMAN: I don't know if you did this on purpose, but you asked about looking at all the nooks and grannies in Arnold Falls, which is brilliant and, one way or another, I am going to steal. But to answer your question, whenever I'm around people I'm always making up stories in my head about them, even if they're just passing by on the sidewalk. I'm not sure investigative skills play into this as much as curiosity about people. Identity is the key theme of Hot Air - people are rarely exactly who you first think they are. That's interesting to me in a big city or a small town.
FQ: Would you describe Arnold Falls as a dystopia – or a utopia?
SUISMAN: The people of Arnold Falls are sometimes bumbling, or foolish, easily distracted, occasionally deluded. But that doesn't mean the town is a dystopia, it just means they're human. By the same token, they're sometimes kind and generous and tolerant and loving, not in a utopian way, just in the way that sometimes, at our best, we rise to the occasion.