Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Sherban Young, author of Double Talk: A Warren Kingsley Mystery
FQ: You have such memorable characters in all your books, especially among the cast of the Warren Kingsley series and Enescu Fleet series. Can you tell readers if you have a personal favorite? Is there one character, perhaps, that speaks to you more than the others that you would like to write about constantly?
YOUNG: I definitely put the most effort into my Enescu Fleet series, which has five books compared with Warren Kingsley’s three. You might even call Fleet my “flagship” series (it’s funny because fleets have ships in them). With that said, I feel like Warren speaks to me more than any other single character—especially how he has developed in the most recent book, Double Talk. Warren and I understand each other. I’d love to say it’s because we are both incredibly handsome, but it’s actually Warren’s foibles and his inability to completely “click” with those around him that I enjoy. He can never quite fit in. He’s selfish but in such an abstract way that you can almost overlook it. He’s never malicious. He just sees the world differently. He’s askew. It’s almost as if he’s in another dimension from everyone else. I can relate to that sometimes.
FQ: Is the mystery genre the prime selection for the future of your writing or the only selection? Such as, is there a part of you that would like to dive into another genre at some point?
YOUNG: Mystery is my genre—but so is humor. Mystery just has a more recognizable category. Also, humor is more of a tag than a genre unto itself. I truly believe that everything, from action/adventure to romance to stark drama, needs humor in it. I can’t abide humorless storytelling or people. I could see moving outside the genre of mystery someday. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at soft sci-fi— Groundhog Day, Twilight Zone type of stuff. I think I could incorporate my style into that genre.
FQ: You keep your political affiliations to yourself. (Bravo, I say!) But, as a type of media, I must ask for your fans: Can you give your opinion on the current speeches you are hearing on the news? Are you finding humor in this current election year?
YOUNG: It would be hard to conceive of an election season more chock-full of the ludicrous. Politicians have always been generous about providing fodder for satirists—sometimes I think that’s what politicians are there for—but this year they have kicked it up several notches. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole thing turned out to be an elaborate Saturday Night Live sketch.
FQ: Many authors have a list of “musts” when they write. Whereas some need music playing in the background, others must have the family dog sitting next to their desk in order to write. What is the “perfect setup” for Sherban Young to start writing a new book?
YOUNG: I am a creature of habit and do like things a certain way. Mostly, it’s the routine. I tend to write in the mornings: breakfast, light reading, then work. I like mornings because my head is clear, and the outside world hasn’t crept in on my consciousness. Music is very important. When I’m brainstorming, I listen to rock from the 60s and 70s (sometimes something more modern, as long as it sounds like it came from the 60s or 70s). When I write, it’s only classical. I suppose it would be apropos if I listened to George Enescu while I wrote the Enescu Fleet series, and Alexander Borodin for the Warren Kingsley/Borodin Mahrute books. Actually, I prefer Haydn and Bach, but I couldn’t bring myself to call my detectives Franz Joseph or Johann Sebastian.
FQ: Would there happen to be an author you are particularly fond of that causes you to rush to the bookstore when his/her new title hits the market?
YOUNG: I wish I had a better answer for this. The fact is I really don’t read any modern authors. I’m sort of an irritating snob that way. I like the approach and discipline of long-past writers, especially British writers. I just don’t click with modern authors (especially those snobbish kinds who can’t appreciate their contemporaries). I suppose the last author, sort of modern, was George MacDonald Fraser, best known for the “mock-memoir” Flashman adventure novels. Those were exciting because you were always wondering what famous historical event he would throw his character into next. Sadly, Fraser died almost a decade ago, so I guess that doesn’t answer your question.
FQ: There are many writers who need advice when it comes to a point where they simply can’t find the next path to walk down in their own books. Have you ever reached a point during a story when writer’s block occurs? And if so, how do you get through it in order to gain back that momentum to write?
YOUNG: I don’t tend to get stuck once I’ve started. If anything, my characters have a habit of pulling me in too many directions, not too few. That’s when I have to put my foot down and show them who’s boss. Of course, that never works, and I end up with fifteen things happening at once. It all seems to work out in the end, though. I think the only time I have gotten stuck is when I’ve become overly rigid about the plot—when I have some point I’m trying to make. I’ve learned that I have to go about it more organically than that. I quit having a point a long time ago.
FQ: In your background, did you have a specific teacher or person that brought about the will and excitement to write? When did you first begin?
YOUNG: I started writing when I was seven years old and started getting encouragement from teachers very soon after that, when I was in college—a short twelve years later. I would always approach papers from a standpoint of “how can I make this entertaining?” That usually included writing nothing at all on the topic I was assigned, but somehow, amazingly, most of the professors liked my style so much that they didn’t care.
Outside of school, I’ve been fortunate to have very supportive parents, who have never let me give up on myself.
FQ: I end with a question reader’s love to hear the answer to: If you could have lunch with one writer, alive or dead (they would be alive for lunch, of course), who would it be and why?
YOUNG: I love this question—and I’m glad they would be alive for the lunch; otherwise, it might be awkward. I’ve actually thought about this a lot. It would be a toss-up between P. G. Wodehouse and Agatha Christie. In my opinion, Wodehouse’s writing skill was second to no one. Christie, on the other hand, had magnificent mysteries and an insight into the mind of her characters that rivaled any genre. My concern with Wodehouse would be that he would be too withdrawn. Like myself, he put everything he had to say into his work. I think Christie enjoyed talking about the craft. She seemed like a good adviser. And I bet she’d pick up the bill. Having sold several trillion books, she could certainly afford it.
FQ: As a fan, I want to thank you for your time and the hysterical, smart books you continue to write! I am extremely grateful for them.
YOUNG: Thank you so much! It’s been such a pleasure doing this interview.