Interview with Rick Blechta

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Interview with Rick Blechta

Posted on December 17 by Rick Blechta
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Rick Blechta, author of numerous mystery books talks to us today about this latest novel Roses for a Diva.

Tell us about your book.

The basis of the plot for my latest novel, Roses for a Diva is somewhat out of the ordinary for me: it’s a sequel (The Fallen One being the first book). The only other time I’ve done a sequel (Cemetery of the Nameless) was more a case of a plot looking for an appropriate character, after starting the novel with what turned out to be a very inappropriate character!

So, the plot… Two years after the end of The Fallen One, operatic soprano Marta Hendrik’s career is ticking along quite well. During this time, she’s picked up an anonymous fan who leaves beautiful rose bouquets in her dressing rooms wherever she performs, each accompanied only by a simple note: “Roses for a Diva”.

Then inexplicable things begin happening in her life. With little to go on other than “a feeling”, she comes to the conclusion her fan is the cause of these events. Bringing in a private investigator (Shannon O’Brien, last seen in A Case of You), Marta discovers that this mysterious person has invaded nearly every corner of her private as well as public life.

How did you come up with the idea for this work?

The origin of the plot is a story told to me many years ago by crime novelist Gregory Ward. He was in Germany on an author junket and somebody who was there to assist him began assisting him more than he desired and it began to get really creepy. At the same time, a friend who is a performing artist (and about whom I won’t say any more) told me about a fan whose adulation turned into outright stalking of a much more sinister nature, as the person came to believe that there was a “special bond” between them. When the police were eventually called in, it turned out there was much more to this person’s attachment, including a room filled with memorabilia, clippings, photos, etc. concerning the performer.

I was still working on The Fallen One when the plot of Roses began forming in my mind. As soon as I wrote the last word of the former, I switched over to the latter, working on experimental scenes, notes on possible plot points for the storyline and trying to decide if the whole idea was “right” for Marta. Turns out it was. I feel Roses is my best work yet.

How did you research your book?

It was clear from the beginning that Roses needed to reflect the fact that its protagonist basically “lives out of a suitcase” most of the time. Since the plot involves a very clever (and seemingly omnipresent) stalker, living for weeks in places other than home ratcheted up the danger factor to Marta. Now, where’s the epicenter of the operatic world? Italy, of course. So it was decided early on to “send” Marta to perform in Italy. My wife and I went there for three weeks, traveling to Rome, Florence and Venice to do detailed research. By that time, I had a pretty good idea what I needed from these locations and research proceeded easily, if not as quickly as I would have liked. I used a lot of the first-hand knowledge I gained in the novel. For the operatic details, I relied on my own knowledge of opera (as well as my wife’s) and tenor Robert Kuenzli also helped out once again. Since he sings all over Europe and has sung at the Canadian Opera, as well, his help was invaluable.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

With each book, writing seems to get more difficult — and slower. This stems from the fact that as I learn more about the craft (and we’re always learning), I realize I need to be much more reflective and picky about what’s being put down in the first draft rather than spewing out the story and worrying about fixing things in subsequent rewrites. With two other pretty well full-time jobs (music and graphic design), I have to beg, borrow and steal time to work on writing. The period of time in which I wrote Roses was particularly busy in that regard, and there were far too many days where I’d finally get to bed and realize that yet another day had gone by where I hadn’t written down a single thing. I say the previous sentence that way because thinking about what I’m working on is a constant part of my daily life — even if I don’t get around to copying it down. It’s frustrating. If I took all the time I devote to design, music and writing and could put them all into three spaces in the year, each to themselves, I could probably handle it all quite well. It’s the jumping back and forth between everything in my life that slows the whole process to a crawl at times.

Describe the most memorable response you've received from a reader.

In 2006, I received an email from a couple who had read and enjoyed Cemetery of the Nameless very much. Having read an interview with me and finding out that every location in the story — including the cemetery — actually exists, they decided to visit Vienna and visit each one. They asked me if I could help out to pinpoint key locations described in the story, something which I was only too pleased to do. I wound up giving them one of the city maps I’d picked up there, circled locations and then annotated things on a separate piece of paper, based on my “production notes” taken on the two trips I made to Vienna to complete my research — along with suggestions on where to eat and what coffee houses had the best pastries. I believe they visited every one of the locations I provided and enjoyed the entire trip very much.

It’s sort of an odd thing in which to get involved, but it shows the power the printed word can have on people’s lives.

Rick Blechta

Posted by Kendra on October 30, 2014
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Rick Blechta

Rick Blechta brings his musician's viewpoint to the thriller genre in such novels as Shooting Straight in the Dark, When Hell Freezes Over, and The Fallen One. Cemetery of the Nameless was shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel. Rick is an active musician in Toronto.