When AudioFile magazine awarded the Late Rain audiobook with its Earphones award, they remarked that “listeners feel like eavesdroppers.” This is high praise for authors. For audiobook people, it’s the kind of compliment that might train them to walk on air. And in the case of Late Rain, it’s very well-earned. Here’s narrator Kenneth Campbell with author Lynn Kostoff.
Kenneth Campbell: First I want to let you know how much I enjoyed narrating Late Rain. It was great fun and pleasantly challenging to attach voices to the personalities you developed in the multitude of very interesting characters. Never a dull moment! What inspired you to you come up with the story line and such unique characters?
Lynn Kostoff: I like to start working from something that is both concrete and mysterious, so Late Rain, like the other novels, started from a cluster of disconnected images. I keep a notebook where I jot down random images that strike me, and while most don’t make it into the novel, the images are the perfect jump-start for the dynamics of exploration and discovery that fuel the plotting process for me. For example, in the notebook for Late Rain, I had jotted down images like these: a man sitting in a darkened church; a young girl connecting with a piñata and it exploding in a rainbow of candy pieces; a twilight beach littered with dead jellyfish; a dark-haired woman in a yellow sundress; three people at a dining room table eating a Sunday afternoon meal. At the time, I had no clear idea how they might fit together.
I also keep a notebook in which I simply write a collection of sentences that may or may not relate to each other. I see them as trial runs for the style that feels “right” for each novel. Sooner or later, I write a sentence that feels like and becomes the first line of the novel, and then I’m ready to start writing. I felt I’d discovered the core of Corrine’s character and the impetus for what she sets in motion when I wrote, “Patience is always a sucker’s game.”
When it comes to the plot and conflict, I like to start with the characters and then let them find their crime and hopefully a crime that resonates with the culture and that has something to say about our lives.
KC: Were there particular characters that were your favorite to develop? Were there specific characters you connected with above others?
LK: I did not set out to write an ensemble novel, but over the course of five drafts, I discovered the characters’ lives started to connect and complicate each other in unexpected ways, so while Ben Decovic and Corrine Tedros tended to dominate, I wanted to structure the final draft so that there was room for the others as well. In the end, I wanted the central mystery of the book to be the characters themselves and to make them as human and complex as I could.
I honestly don’t think I can play “favorites” here; I enjoyed the chance to inhabit each character and personality , everything from a contemporary Lady MacBeth in Corrine or a child-like psychopath like Croy Wendall, to a man like Ben Decovic turned inside out by his grief.
KC: Sometimes while narrating I had to stop and just burst out in laughter when the subtle humor hit me. One such time was when Officer Decovic was dispatched to a bar where a patron was trying to burn himself. I don’t want to reveal too much of the scene for the benefit of those who have not read the book, but basically you “off the cuff” weaved clues into why the person was trying to harm himself. As a reader, when the “light came on,” it was so funny and unexpected! Would you please comment on your thoughts to your adding humor?
LK: I think there’s a fundamental reason why drama is symbolized by two masks: one crying and one laughing. Comedy and tragedy are intimately connected, and I believe one enhances the other and that they are never too far apart.
KC: Considering Late Rain as a whole, what was your biggest challenge?
LK: I think the biggest challenge was trying to capture how each character ultimately saw the world, self, and others. For example, I didn’t want the character of Jack Carson to be a billboard for Alzheimer’s; I wanted readers to directly experience his sense of the world and self slipping away. With Ben Decovic, I hoped to give the feel of a good man barely able to keep himself together. With Corrine, I didn’t expect readers to condone her actions, but I did want them to come to complicitly understand and recognize them. And in each case, I wanted the style to reflect the character and his or her situation.
KC: This book seems to set up a possible sequel. I know I – for one – am chomping at the bit to learn where the main character Ben Decovic’s path will lead. Are you either planning on or developing a sequel and if so, when do you believe it may be available?
LK: I would like to return to the fictional world of Magnolia Beach again and plan to after I finish the novel I’m currently working on, The Work of Hands, which is set in 1986 in the Midwest. Its protagonist is a Public Relations man who cleans up scandals and fixes things. He believes he can always find a way to escape the consequences of his actions, but that belief is sorely tested when he has to clean up the aftermath of a large food poisoning outbreak. When this one is completed, I’d like to see what Ben Decovic and the others are up to.
KC: You’re a professor at Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina. What special joy do you find in teaching and in what way do you believe that being a published and successful author has helped you teach and guide your students?
LK: I feel very fortunate to be able to earn a living as a teacher. It’s a profession that’s all too often sentimentalized or unfairly criticized. There’s a very real satisfaction in helping someone to become a better reader and writer. Along the way, I feel I learn as much as my students.
Miette Elm: We’re so pleased to see your works getting some recognition lately. Mulholland Books listed The Long Fall on a recent top-10 list, and of course, the audiobook of Late Rain has received an Audiofile Earphones Award. On top of that, reviewer Elizabeth White says “The man does not appear capable of producing anything less than greatness.”
So, how are you affected by the recognition? Does it drive you? Do you try to ignore it? Does it… well… get to your head?
LK: I am very grateful for the recognition. Believe me, after twenty-plus years of silence from critics and reviewers, the reviews of Ms White and others mean a lot. More than a lot. I had pretty much given up hope of getting noticed by reviewers and was just determined to keep on writing despite that.
ME: Have you listened to the Late Rain audiobook? What did you think? What were your biggest concerns about handing over the text for audio interpretation?
LK: Yes, I’ve had the chance to listen to the audiobook, and I couldn’t be more pleased than to have someone of Ken Campbell’s talent reading it. Ben Leroy, my publisher, sent me a link when Ken auditioned for the job of reading it and asked what I thought, and I knew immediately that Ken’s was the “voice” of the novel. He did a superlative job.
ME: What titles would you most love to see turned into audio? Who else is writing smart, lyrical crime or mystery these days?
LK: I would love the chance for Ken to do the audiobook of my novel, THE LONG FALL. I think he would “get” the protagonist Jimmy Coates and his highly unorthodox view of the world and approach to crimes.
Charlie Stella, a friend and author from the Carroll and Graf days, is doing some of the best mob fiction around; he has an amazing ear for dialogue, and I think listeners would enjoy his work and the energy he brings to it.
Late Rain is available from Iambik as an audiobook for only $6.99. Audiofile says “Not only does the story keep listeners guessing until the end but there are moments of deep emotion and the characters are so good one hopes to meet them again.” We think that’s just about right. Check it out.