Please welcome back Bronzeville Books Submission Editor Sandra Ruttan back to the blog today. Her interview subject
this time is author R. G. Belsky whose new novel is BELOW THE FOLD…
R.G. Belsky says, "I was part of the newsroom team at the New York Post that
created the most famous tabloid headline of all time: HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS
BAR. I spent many years working on a lot of big stories as a journalist, but if
you google me you’ll find that’s what I’m most famous
for. Go figure!"
SR: What’s your new book/work in progress about?
RGB: BELOW THE FOLD is about the seemingly meaningless
murder of a homeless woman on the streets of New York City (“below the fold” is
a journalist term for a story not worthy of big play)
- until TV newswoman Clare Carlson links the woman’s death to long buried
secrets involving powerful public and political figures.
SR: Was there a specific issue or incident that really
motivated you to write this particular story? What
was the prompt?
RGB: Murder is not treated equally in the media, only the
most sensational murders make it to the front page or onto the TV news
headlines. I know that from personal experience in newsrooms over my career. So
I decided to write a mystery novel about what might
happen if a totally insignificant murder suddenly turned into a huge news
story. That’s what happens in BELOW THE FOLD.
SR: How do you think your protagonist would respond if
aliens landed in the center of town on page 57?
RGB: She’d make sure she got a video crew there! She’s a TV
news editor and aliens landing in the center of town is a pretty damn big
SR: What conspiracy theory is your protagonist most
likely to believe in? Roswell? JFK? Princess Diana?
What about you? Any conspiracy theories that you think might have some truth to
RGB: Oh, definitely JFK for me. I don’t believe a word of
the Warren Commission Report. In fact, I wrote a whole mystery novel a few
years ago called The Kennedy Connection on this very
topic. As for my protagonist, she believes whatever conspiracy theory I
believe. Hey, I’m the one that writes her, right?
SR: Is your protagonist more likely to go insane or
end up in prison?
RGB: Neither. She’s more likely
to drive someone else insane or put them in prison.
SR: Is there something you hope the reader carries away
with them after they’re done reading? An insight or philosophy that you wanted
to come through in your work?
RGB: Integrity. That may sound corny, but integrity is the
most important thing my TV newswoman character Clare Carlson brings in my
books. Journalistic integrity is very important to me, and Clare has built her
life and career on that. She makes a lot of bad
decisions and breaks a lot of rules along the way, but she’s basically a good
SR: What’s the first book you remember reading that had a
huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped
your desire to be a writer?
RGB: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. I picked it up by
chance as a young man out of college, was fascinated by Chandler’s writing and
the Philip Marlowe character. I read all the rest of Chandler’s books, then
Agatha Christie, then Robert B. Parker’s
Spenser....and on and on. I knew then that I wanted to try to write mystery
SR: What’s the best thing about writing?
RGB: Me, I’m one of those who actually loves the writing
process. Sitting down every morning in front of a blank
piece of paper (or a blank screen) and just seeing what comes out. It’s fun and
rewarding to see how creative I can be on any given day.
SR: What’s the worst thing about writing?
RGB: Editing. Especially the line editing at the end of the
process. Making sure every fact/every spelling is
right. That’s not so much fun. I spent much of my life as a journalist where my
job is checking and working with facts all day. One of the great things about
being a mystery novelist is I get to make facts up. Most of the time anyway, until that damn final edit....
SR: What detail in your writing do you obsess over the
most? Character names? Locations? Description? Dialogue? Research?
RGB: All of them! Seriously though, getting the characters
and their dialogue right is the most important thing.
To me, that’s what makes a book come alive. I’ll read a book with terrific
characters and dialogue and not much of a story before I’ll read a meticulously
plotted one without them.
SR: Are you drawn to things that are really popular or wary of them? Do you find it helps you to
market your work if you’re familiar with what’s currently selling or do you
ignore all of that and focus on what you’re interested in?
RGB: It’s easy to say I’m not interested in what’s selling
in the market, but most of us are. Look, I may not
write a book just like Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train - but I certainly am
aware of their popularity. And I suppose that can play a role in some of the
writing decisions I make about my own book. In the end though, an author has to write what is important to them, not anyone
else. And just hope the market agrees!
SR: Do you relate more to Sherlock Holmes or Professor
RGB: Sherlock Holmes. I always root for the good guy.
SR: If you have to live in
a potential natural disaster zone, would you pick blizzards, hurricanes,
tornadoes, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions? Why? If you had to describe your
protagonist as a weather system, what would they be?
RGB: Hurricanes. I’ve survived a few of them (one on a remote island) so I know what they’re all
about. Of course, I know about blizzards too but I hate them. My biggest fear
would be an earthquake (they sound really scary) and I really tend to stay away
from areas where there are volcanic eruptions.
SR: What movie or TV world do you wish you could live in?
RGB: Seinfeld’s apartment. You get to make jokes for a
living and cool people like Kramer, Elaine and George keep coming into your
SR: You strike it rich. What charity are you going to
create or support?
RGB: Any charity (probably several of them) that benefits
SR: What factors influence you when you’re choosing a book
RGB: First page. And the voice of the author on that first
page. I can usually pick up a book on a store shelf, read that opening page and
know whether or not its a book I want to read.
SR: Do you have any special events coming up? Where can
people catch up with you in person or on a podcast?
RGB: I will be making a number of appearances over the next
several months to promote BELOW THE FOLD, including a book launch party at
Mysterious Bookshop in New York City on May 9. I also will be at all the major
mystery conferences - Bouchercon, ThrillerFest,
Killer Nashville, Deadly Ink and Malice Domestic. See the events section on my
website at www.rgbelsky.com for more details about where I’ll be.
R.G. Belsky is an
award-winning mystery author and journalist. His new novel is BELOW THE FOLD,
the second in a series about TV newswoman Clare Carlson. He is also the author
of 11 other mystery novels. As a journalist, he has worked as a top editor at
the New York Post, New York Daily News, Star magazine
and NBC News.
Hardcover Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon (HarperCollins, 1992) is the first in the police procedural mystery series with Guido Brun...
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In my wife's memory and honoring a promise I made to Sandi, the blog continues...at least for now. If you would like to make a donation of support, you can do so at the links below. Most of the donated funds go to the purchase of various short story anthologies and collections which eventually are read and reviewed here.