by Peter Carlaftes, Co-Director, Three Rooms Press
November is the month of thanks, and Three Rooms Press is most thankful to have multiple award-winning mystery writer S.J. Rozan with us as our Spotlight Author this month! 3RP Co-director Peter Carlaftes, who has worked together with S.J. on two anthologies and shares a birthplace with the author—the Bronx!—sat down with her to talk crime fiction and her latest book. Check it out below!
PC: Bronx to Bronx—How y’doin’? Ok?
S.J. Rozan: Ok but not Ok. Busy!
PC: The last two years have been almost as tough as where we’re from.
SJ: True. And I mean it was good to be forced to get a lot of work done but I’m ready to accept life with people again.
PC: Well, whenever I see your social media posts, you’re all over the city.
SJ: I never post photos of me writing.
PC: That’s understandable. And speaking of your writing, you have a new Lydia Chin/Bill Smith mystery Family Business on sale this month.
PC: I just finished reading THE ART OF VIOLENCE (the previous Chin/Smith) and loved it!!! I’m in awe of how you continue to raise the bar you created with this dual PI series that began in 1994.
SJ: Was it that long ago?
PC: Were Lydia and Bill an item at first?
SJ: They were in Bill’s mind.
PC: But you created Bill Smith first?
SJ: Yes. I wanted to create an iconic, world-weary character of moral ambiguity but I felt that he needed a partner. Not a sidekick, but an equal and also someone very different than himself.
PC: What led you to Lydia Chin?
SJ: I had always been interested in Chinese customs and culture so her development came about quite naturally.
PC: And a great idea for a series was born.
SJ: I began without realizing the two-protagonist crime series had never been done before.
PC: One of the most engaging aspects I’ve found in your prose is its ability to convey place. Do you consider your background in architecture attributable to this strength?
SJ: Of course. A building gives the viewer an experience. A story must do the same. If you look at a structure, you can tell why certain things happen and that is similar to a book. There is an emotional charge in a building and an emotional charge in a book.
PC: Then your understanding of structure is key to inventing clean, accessible prose?
SJ: Structure is meaningless unless you present things that have to happen to make other things happen like an earlier crime that the present crime is trying to hide. There must be a reason behind what you’re seeing. You can’t lie. The blueprint needs to be seen.
PC: Aha. One last thing I wanted to mention which I thought was so cool is—as an architect, your firm oversaw the design of many NYPD precinct houses, and in your last book, THE ART OF VIOLENCE, which I lovingly subtitle DOA meets OCD, part of the action takes place in the19th Precinct on E. 67th St.—one that your firm built.
SJ: Indeed. And in an earlier book in the series, CONCOURSE, I used the 41st precinct in the Bronx as a setting, and that was another house the firm had built.
PC: Well, S.J. thanks for taking the time to join me as our November Spotlight author.
S.J. It was my pleasure. Anything is better than writing.
PC: Haha. What an honor to have the winner of an Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Nero, and Macavity, S.J. Rozan.
If you can’t wait until then—and I totally get how you feel—you can order the last Chin/Smith THE ART OF VIOLENCE (a great read!), or check out her stories in 3RP anthologies DARK CITY LIGHTS and THE FAKING OF THE PRESIDENT.
Join us in December for our next Spotlight Feature Author!