We’re talking today to David Rocklin, author of the literary historical fiction novel, The Luminist (Hawthorne Books).
Thank you for this interview, David. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
I was born and raised in Chicago, and now live in LA with my wife and two daughters. I’m an attorney by trade, so I guess I’m living proof that attorneys all yearn to be writers! I’ve been writing all my life. Writing is how I’ve always made sense of the world and my place in it. I’ve been through many phases over the years – if you knew me as a kid, you’d recall my Bruce Lee phase, my rock bassist phase, and my hockey phase – and the one thread running through them all is my having written about them.
Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
The Luministis set in nineteenth century Ceylon. The novel tells the story of Eligius Shourie, an Indian boy whose father is killed by English soldiers after a melee at the East India Company. He becomes a servant in the house of Catherine Colebrook. Independent and driven, married to a fading Court Director, Catherine is chasing an obsession: the nascent art and science of photography. Eligius becomes her apprentice in the quest, and a bond neither of them expected is formed while around them, unrest between the native populace and the colonials occupying their country threatens to break open.
Who is your intended audience? Have you been able to crossover into other audiences as well?
That’s a very interesting question! I don’t really think I intended to appeal to any particular sort of reader; in fact, I’m hopeful to appeal to as many as possible.
Why did you choose your particular genre?
Honestly, it chose me! The novel was loosely inspired by a period in the life of Julia Margaret Cameron, an English woman who became involved with photography in its infancy. She was a remarkable woman, unique for her time in that she tenaciously pursued this little-known art against all societal pressures and expectations. I saw an installation of her photographs at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. I’m not a photographer, and I had no previous experience with India, but something about those images really captured me. I read a quote attributed to her – “I longed to arrest all beauty that came before me” – and she had me. This obsession of hers, to take a moment out of the world and hold it still, became the novel’s heart. I didn’t set out to write a historical piece of fiction, but I quickly found the setting and time period to be as indelible for me as Catherine and Eligius were.
Do you ever experience self-doubts with your work?
All the time! I can’t imagine writing without questioning whether I’m any good at it.
Where do you write? Do you have a favorite place?
I do – Starbucks! I honestly love it there. The ambient noise, the warmth of the atmosphere, the chai tea (I’m a hopeless addict) – it’s more conducive for me than anywhere else.
What kind of research did you have to do during the writing process?
I researched the story for a year and a half before I put pen to paper. The events of the age I was dealing with, the complexities of the relationship between the Indian people and the Britiosh colonizers, the East India Company, early age photographic techniques – and so much more. Although the majority of the material didn’t make it into the narrative in an expository way, it’s all in there from an atmospheric point of view.
Who is your publisher and how did you get accepted by them? Did you pitch your book yourself or go through an agent?
My publisher is Hawthorne, and they are truly amazing to work with. They take the long view of a novel. They edit it like artists and market it like business people. My agent sent it to them after it had been purchased in two other countries, and they responded very quickly to it. I’m very fortunate to be working with these amazing professionals on the publishing and agenting side.
How are you promoting your book thus far?
Social media has been vital to the novel’s success thus far; I credit Facebook (where I have 5,000 wonderful folks and counting) and Twitter for the first print run selling out before the novel was released. I’m also on a book tour that will take me through the end of December. I was interviewed on NBC for the novel as well. The entire thing has been a terrific experience. Meeting people and talking about the book, about reading and writing in general – I’m very lucky to have the opportunity! My publisher also maintains a press release that contains the latest tour news, reviews and contact information. You can obtain a copy by emailing Liz Crain at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
You have to embrace the role of promotion as relentlessly and professionally as you do the act of writing.
What’s next for you?
A new novel, which was inspired by a photograph I discovered while researching The Luminist.
Thank you for this interview, David. Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?
You can find me (and I hope you do) on Facebook and Twitter, and at my website. Look forward to hearing from you!
Links: Website; Facebook, Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/drocklin