Photo ' Vincent Laforet
chat Transcript with Walter Mosley - Thursday, November 13, 1997
BEFORE THE LIVE
BN CHAT, WALTER MOSLEY AGREED TO ANSWER SOME OF OUR QUESTIONS:
barnesandnoble.com: What writing method do you use?
Walter Mosley: Just start writing.
of your books did you enjoy writing the most, and why?
WM: Wow! Well, the answer is this: I just finished a novel -- a very difficult novel -- two months ago, and it is in the genre of my first love in fiction, science fiction writing. This book freed up my use of language and my imagination so much that it made me very happy and at the same time a little scared.
you ever thought about a female sleuth?
WM: I think about them all the time. But I think that the mysteries of contemporary women are as a rule best handled by contemporary female writers.
contemporary mystery writers of either gender do you enjoy reading, and why?
WM: I don't read a lot of mystery nowadays because mysteries are mainly plot, and when I get caught up in writing my own plot, I find myself easily confused by other people's plots. That being said, a contemporary writer, recently deceased -- Charles Willeford -- is a wonderful, hard-boiled writer. I'll also say that Valerie Wilson Wesley is a wonderful writer, too.
BN: I know
you are pretty outspoken about racism in the publishing industry. What do you think can be
done to alleviate that?
WM: It's going to take a lot of work. One of the things that I've done is given the seed money and some legwork to start a publishing institute at the City College of New York in Harlem. I think that we all need to do whatever we can to make sure that our cultural backbone -- the publishing industry -- represents the full spectrum of our cultural experience.
BN: Why do
you think there is such a lack of black male mainstream writers of your generation?
WM: That's a very difficult question. There are quite a few black male writers, but I agree there could be more. Part of the problem comes from the publishing industry, which has historically had some problem believing in black male novelists as a viable commodity. But also it has been the job of black writers throughout the '20s, '30s, '40s, and even the '50s to use the novel as a political tool to defend and explain the race. Today the entertainment value of novels is very much a new phenomenon in the black male writing community.
Moderator: Welcome to the barnesandnoble.com author Auditorium. We are excited to welcome Walter Mosley, who is here to talk about his new book, ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED, ALWAYS OUTGUNNED. Welcome, Walter Mosley! Thank you for taking the time to join us online to discuss your latest book.
Walter Mosley: Thanks for having me. I am glad to be here.
Monique Charles from Metaire, LA: Why do you think in the past detective novels have always been limited to white audiences? And why do you think this recent resurgence of film noir has happened ("Devil in a Blue Dress" and "L.A. Confidential")?
WM: Most cultures in America have been limited to white
audiences, and that is changing. As far as your second question goes, there is always a
resurgence of film noir. Until people realize that noir is low-budget, it will always have
Paul from Morris Plains, NJ: How autobiographical would you say the character of Socrates Fortlow is?
WM: It is not at all autobiographical. I didn't go to
prison for 27 years.
Jae Markham from Visalia,CA: I am a student at College of the Sequoias, and I am taking an African American literature class this semester. I was wondering if you were inspired to become a writer by any of the more famous black authors, and what type of books do you enjoyed reading, since you stated you don't read many mystery novels?
WM: I started writing not because of other writers but
because of storytellers, the most important one being my father. I love existentialism and
novels like THE STRANGER, but also I am crazy for sci-fi and different kinds of literary
works. I like to read.
Melinda from North Wales, PA: Have you met President Clinton? What did you two talk about and what were your impressions of his reading habits? I ask this because of his declaration that you are his favorite mystery writer.
WM: I had dinner with him once at the White House, and I
went once just to say hello. He seems to read an awful lot. He reads early in the morning,
like 1 to 3am. He is a very smart man.
Kendra Lewis from Statesboro, GA: What type of research did you do for this novel?
WM: I didn't do that much research. It is a novel about inner-city life juxtaposed with the Socratic method. I had already read Plato, and inner-city life I have had a pretty good knowledge of also.
Tonya from Detroit, Michigan: Do you read your book reviews?
WM: Not always.
Peony from Las Vegas: The jacket cover of ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED is quite striking, but I'm not really sure what I am looking at. Could you tell me the evolution of this jacket cover -- what is it supposed to evoke?
WM: Socrates. His most outstanding feature are his hands, which are called the rock breakers. It is the attempt of the designer to show hands of great character and great strength.
AnnaMaria Hardin from Atlanta, GA: Are we going to see more in the Easy Rawlins series? If so, will Mouse's character appear in that book? I must tell you that BLACK BETTY is my favorite of all of your books (although I liked them all).
WM: Thank you very much for the compliment. My next book will be a sci-fi book, but BAD BOT BRAWLY BROWN is my next Easy book, and we will have to see about Mouse.
Jessie from New Jersey: I understand that this book is coming out as an HBO original move. Did you write the screenplay for this movie? How much say did you get in the production of the movie?
WM: Yes, I did write the screenplay for the movie, and I was the co-executive producer with Laurence Fishburne.
Lawrence from Hilton Head, SC: I read somewhere that you are diversifying the publishing industry. Is that true? How are you doing this?
WM: I have started a publishing institute at the City College of New York. That publishing institute is running, and they have 58 students of color. We are trying and are very successful in having them support this institute.
Sarah from Birmingham, AL: What type of childhood did you have? How did you realize that you wanted to write for a living? Thanks -- I am a big fan of your books!
WM: My childhood was kind of poor and then ended up being middle-class. I didn't realize that I wanted to be a writer until my early 30s.
SJennifer from Austin, TX: Where you happy with the movie version of "Devil in a Blue Dress"?
WM: I thought it was a very good movie, and I think that Carl Franklin was very successful, because it was a movie about black people, but it could be identified with by anyone.
Loise from Baltimore: Who are your favorite mystery writers?
WM: Stout, McDonald, etc. -- the regular guys.
Earl from San Diego, CA: Why did you write this book? Any more Easy Rawlins books coming?
WM: I wrote this book because this was a way to address the deep thought coming out of the black community. Also it was a story that older and younger people could read. Easy will be back along with all the other things I write.
Paul from New York City: How much of ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED, ALWAYS OUTGUNNED is based on SIMPLE TALES?
WM: SIMPLE is a starting point for me. I wouldn't say they are based on the tales, but the idea of having a black man commenting on the times in Black Africa is one of the reasons why I decided I could write the Socrates stories.
Frederick from Montreal: Do you have any plans on writing nonfiction?
WM: I am coming out with a series of essays from Norton. One is by me, and there are other writers. I am the editor of the book, which is my excursion into the realm of nonfiction. But fiction is really my love.
Michael Wilson from Atlanta: Mr. Mosley, I'm a big fan of your Easy Rawlins mysteries. Are real people inspirations for the characters?
WM: Not really. Real people inform my stories, but the characters soon gain their own lives and go their own way.
Andy from New York City: Are you going on a tour for this book? Will you be doing a reading anywhere close to NYC? I can't wait to read your new book!
WM: I will be reading at the Barnes & Noble at Union Square in New York sometime in December.
Daniel from Studio City, CA: I am curious to get your opinion of the whole film industry.
WM: It is a hard question. The thing that is least mentioned in the film industry is that it is really a collaborative process. It takes a lot of people to make a movie, and any successful movie knows how to use all the people. The other thing about film is that it all starts with a pencil and a piece of paper.
Ollie from Albany, NY: Do you write original screenplays? If so, how would you compare writing screenplays to writing books?
WM: Very different process: A novel is creating a world in language and words, whereas a screenplay strives to create a world of images.
Danielle from Lexington, KY: Of all your numerous literary accomplishments, is there one single feat that you are most proud of?
WM: I am happiest about being a writer. More important than any award or recognition is the joy I get from writing books and getting them published.
David from Statesboro, GA: Do you have any words of wisdom for an aspiring novelist?
WM: Two things: If you keep writing and adhere to writing, sooner or later you will be published. And in order to write and be most productive, you must write every day.
Brian from Cleveland: How did you get your first book published?
WM: I had been at college and started writing. The teacher at the head of the program asked to see my book, which he did; then he came back the next week and had secretly given it to his agent. Within six weeks I had sold my book.
Miller from Philadelphia: How was writing this book different than writing your Easy Rawlins books? Do you relate better to Socrates or Easy?
WM: I don't really relate better to anyone. This book and the way of writing it is more of creating 14 individual spheres and putting them in relationship to each other, while writing a novel is like writing one large globe that contains a larger story.
Michael from Oakland: What did you learn from writing RL'S DREAM?
WM: I don't know what I learned, but I had a great time reveling in the blues as one of the central forms of life in America.
Ed from Seattle: What do you think you'd do for a living if you couldn't write?
WM: If I wasn't making money being published, I would probably be teaching literature or writing, and if I couldn't do that, I would go back to my old standard, computer programming.
James from Los Angeles: I have been a fan of all the books you have written. Any plans for more movie adaptations of the Easy Rawlins series?
WM: No plans yet, but it could happen in the next few years.
Bryan from Riverview, Michigan: How difficult a process is getting a book published, from start to finish?
WM: Well, writing starts at the first sentence and ends with the last version of the last sentence. It takes a lot of work and it might be difficult, but it might be a labor of love.
John from Ann Arbor, MI: How long did it take from when you began to write until you first saw your name in print? Was it -- is it -- a struggle for you to write well, or are you just blessed with this talent?
WM: Two and a half years. Writing is difficult -- it takes many drafts to make it work. It doesn't come that easy to anyone.
Tim from Louisville, Kentucky: What is next for Walter Mosley?
WM: BLUE LIGHT, which should be in bookstores in about ten months.
Rory from Florida: Walter, two questions: What is your novel BLUE LIGHT going to be about? Are there any characters in this book that relate to you?
WM: Yeah, I relate to all my characters. BLUE LIGHT is
about if the chromosomal base life is only half the equation of true life.
Moderator: Thank you very much for joining barnesandnoble.com, Mr. Mosley. Any closing comments?
WM: Well, I appreciate the interview, and I hope all the people out there enjoy the new book.