DEBORAH CROMBIE: We have such a treat today--Peter Swanson, author of the debut novel
THE GIRL WITH A CLOCK FOR A HEART.
It's an atmospheric tale of romantic noir with shades of Hitchcock about a man who is swept into a vortex of irresistible passion and murder when an old love mysteriously reappears
George Foss, a forty-year-old employee of a Boston literary magazine, has passed the age when he thinks he might fall madly in love or take the world by storm, or have anything truly remarkable happen to him. He spends most of his evenings at his local tavern talking about the Red Sox and the minutiae of everyday life, and obsessing over a lost love from his college days who vanished twenty years earlier. Until she reappears.
George has both dreamed of and dreaded seeing Liana Decter again. She isn't just an ex-girlfriend or the first love George could never forget. She's also an enigma and quite possibly someone who was involved in a murder years ago, a woman whose transgressions are more in line with Greek tragedy than youthful indiscretion. But suddenly, she's back-and she needs his help. She says that some men are after her and that they believe she's stolen money from them. And now they will do whatever it takes to get it back.
George knows Liana is trouble. But he can't say no-he never could-and soon his quiet life is gone as he is pulled into a terrifying whirlpool of lies, betrayal, and murder from which there is no sure escape.
Bold and masterful, full of malevolent foreboding and subtle surprises, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is an addictive, nonstop reading experience-an ever-tightening coil of suspense that will hold you in its grip right up to its electrifying end.
Whew! I was hooked with that! And here's some of the praise the book is getting:
"In The Girl with a Clock for a Heart a long-lost lover resurfaces, with chaos in her wake. A must read!"
- Harper's Bazaar
parallel stories unwind relentlessly with audacious and spectacular
twists . . . An intense mix of noir, pulp fiction, and fun . . . The
most unsurprising aspect of this book? It's already been optioned for a
- Boston Globe
"Who are literature's most lethal women?
. . . Here's a new contender: Liana Decter, who causes endless
heartbreak and occasional death in Peter Swanson's compulsively readable
[The Girl with a Clock for a Heart] . . . should be a contender for
crime fiction's best first novel of 2014."
- Washington Post
Not to mention the cover quote is from Dennis Lehane, who says--"A twisty, sexy, electric thrill ride."
But that doesn't mean Peter isn't dealing with the problems most of us writers struggle with every day, including--
Well, I'll let Peter tell you.
PETER SWANSON: How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Internet?
I know that there are some writers out there who still use pen and paper, but for people like me—people who can’t actually read their own handwriting—I do all my writing on my laptop. This means that the tool I use for writing also happens to be a tool for surfing on the Internet. In other words, when I write, I am always just a few key strokes away from an endless array of kitten videos, or from last night’s Portlandia episode, or from Tumblrs devoted to pulp fiction cover art. And these days, now that my first novel—The Girl With a Clock for a Heart—was published in early February, I can practice such self-affirming activities as reading my Good Reads reviews, or obsessively checking my Amazon rank. How does any writing (mine or anybody else’s) get done at all?
The way I see it, there are two solutions to the problem of the Internet. One is to allow absolutely zero access during your writing time. This seems like a reasonable method—write for a few hours, then reward yourself by finally logging onto the Internet and spending the rest of the day on Pinterest—but it’s only reasonable if you don’t cheat. I have heard that there are Internet blocking devices available for those who need a little help in this regard, or you can simply take a sledgehammer to your modem.
The other solution is the one that I employ. I’m a natural procrastinator, but I’m also one of those procrastinators that always gets my work done. In college, if I had a five page paper due for my three P.M. class I would start the paper at ten A.M., knowing I could write one page an hour. (This guest blog post, for example, is being written a few hours before its due date).
So, my solution is to allow myself Internet time before I write each morning. I just get it out of the way. Because if I don’t, the temptation’s going to be lurking in the back of my mind, distracting me from thinking about what happens next in whatever story or book I’m working on.
Of course, going on the Internet before writing only works if you have enough writing time in your day. I’m lucky. I have a job, but it starts in the afternoon, and I devote the morning to writing. I give myself the goal of writing five hundred words a day, every day. What this means is that I get up, brew some coffee, and make my way to the laptop. I tell myself that I’ll just check a few things online before I get to work. I read my emails, then catch up on the news, then it’s kind of downhill from there. Sports scores. TV recaps. The Internet Movie Database to see what celebrities are having birthdays today. Jungle Red Writers, naturally, to see if any new posts are up. You get the picture.
By the time I’m looking at the Facebook vacation pictures of some elementary school acquaintance I barely remember, I know that it’s time to start writing. I put on my headphones, crank up some sort of movie soundtrack (anything by Michael Nyman usually works), and start to write.
Pretty soon, if I’m lucky, I’m entirely involved in writing. And since I’ve already surfed the Internet I’m not distracted by wondering what the American League East standings are, or whether Netflix has added any new films for streaming. Because I already know the answers to these questions, and my characters, and the often morally questionable deeds that they are up to, are foremost in my mind.
So that’s my method. It’s mostly worked for me, even though I’d probably get more writing done if the Internet had never been invented. And my method is a lot cheaper than taking a sledgehammer to my modem every morning, and then having to buy a new one in the afternoon to find out the sports scores.
DEBS: This is a dilemma that is a constant subject of discussion among us here at JRW, as well as most writers we know. Some of us are in Peter's camp--check in first, then write--while some of us belong to the Write First club. But all of us who work on computers and have access to the Internet try to find some way to juggle the constant temptation.
So weigh in, readers, and tell us how you deal--I have to admit sometimes I'm torn between breaking the modem and running away to a monastery...
Peter will be giving away five--FIVE!!! copies of THE GIRL WITH A CLOCK FOR A HEART to today's commenters, so do drop in and say "hi!"
Peter Swanson has degrees in creative writing, education, and literature
from Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and
Emerson College. His stories and poems have appeared in the Atlantic,
Mysterical-E, Vocabula Review, and Yankee Magazine. He lives with his
wife in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is at work on his second
novel. You can learn more at http://www.peter-swanson.com/, or https://twitter.com/PeterSwanson3, or https://www.facebook.com/petermswanson