An Interview With Robert Eversz
Author of the Nina Zero Series

By Denise Baton


Robert Eversz, author of SHOOTING ELVIS, KILLING PAPARAZZI, BURNING GARBO and DIGGING UP JAMES DEAN, wanted to create a character that was more than just an action heroine kicking ass. It was his intention to have Nina Zero go through deep emotional transformation. Growing up in a community not unlike Newhall, California, his female protagonist, Nina Zero, has fabricated an incredibly false front. Her expertise at leading a false life has undone her intuition and chance for self-knowledge. If only she could become the person she is, the person she wants to be. In SHOOTING ELVIS, a bomb explodes at LAX and Nina Zero seizes an opportunity for reinvention. Hers is a journey of identity.

In creating the extremely original Nina Zero series it was the author’s intention to tear apart the template of the mystery while still remaining true in some sense to the California mystery. Eversz is especially fond of Chandler and McDonald and he loves the contradiction of the antihero. More than anything he wanted to bring in an outrageous element to his series. Read the series yourself to see if he has succeeded. My vote is an overwhelming “yes!” and I’ve enjoyed the journey of Nina Zero. She’s not your every day protagonist. Because of her character and the expert plotting of her stories it’s no wonder that the character of Nina Zero has caught the eye of Hollywood. Keep an eye out for the film version of SHOOTING ELVIS starring Thora Birch of the academy award-winning film, AMERICAN BEAUTY. Alan Ladd’s son, David Ladd, is executive producer of this film based on SHOOTING ELVIS. If you think you’d like to see a steamy action film with heart and soul, don’t miss it. Robert Eversz can be credited with single-handedly creating the most authentic, outrageous and unique female mystery character of all time.

How can I convey the sensitivity and electrical aura emitted by this author at our first meeting at a little coffee shop in Santa Monica? Perhaps if I explain that Robert Eversz grew up surrounded by women. In fact, he’s been listening to the female voice of several generations. As an author, he claims to have written the Nina Zero series because he started to hear a female voice speaking to him. The man is a messenger, channeling the sweetest, most vulnerable kick-ass woman you’ve ever seen. As you can imagine, I had a lot of questions for him.

DENISE: Nina Zero seems to have some awareness of numerology. How did she become acquainted with numerology? Who introduced it to her? Also, do you believe in numerology? How did you learn of it?

EVERSZ: What little Nina knows about numerology is intuitive rather than learned. She might play the ponies based on a hunch about a hot number, but she doesn't divine her future by numbers.

DENISE: In your series, Nina has sex with another woman. Yet later, when queried by a young woman about her sexual preference Nina says she prefers men. It's impressive to me that you have managed to create a character that is very sexual, to be sure, but not so sure about her sexuality. Did Nina have sex with women when she was in prison?

EVERSZ: Nina very consciously hedges her answer to this question in BURNING GARBO because she does not want people to confuse isolated acts of sexuality with a concrete statement of sexual identity. In US culture, to admit to sleeping with a member of the same sex is to confess to homosexuality, and so Nina wisely remains silent. So will I.

DENISE: Where did you grow up?

EVERSZ: When people ask where I'm from - a common question given that I live in Europe - I always answer that I'm from the American West. I was born in Great Falls, Montana, and spent part of every summer on my Grandparents' ranch near Bozeman, about 60 miles from Yellowstone National Park. My family moved around the west quite a bit, and so the burden of my upbringing was shared by cities such as Reno, San Jose, and Newhall, a small town north of Los Angeles.

DENISE:Tell us more about your mum.

EVERSZ: In many ways, my mother was my hero. She was born the second of three daughters. Her father, a cattle rancher and wheat farmer, wanted a son. It's always awkward being the middle child, particularly when all three children are of the same sex, so my mother volunteered to be the "boy" in the family. She learned to shoot and ride just a few steps from the cradle, but she mastered these manly arts while retaining her essential femininity. I have a photograph of her at the age of sixteen, standing on the back of a horse like a circus rider. She's stunningly beautiful. I have another photograph of her a year or so older, holding the reins of her horse, cowboy hat tipped up to show the youthful beauty of her face, a Winchester rifle slung over her shoulder. I dedicated the second book in the Nina Zero saga to her. The dedication is my favorite part of the book. It reads, "This book is dedicated in memorium to my mother, who as a young woman could out-ride, out-shoot and out-fight most men in their prime." She was a natural feminist, as most ranching women are.

DENISE: In SHOOTING ELVIS Nina goes through an amazing transformation. It's evident that her tough childhood has prepared her for all these lifeadventures. Did you mean to create this particular series character? And what writing did you do before SHOOTING ELVIS?

EVERSZ: I had no intention to create a series character when I sat down to write SHOOTING ELVIS. Instead, I heard her voice very clearly speaking to me, and I did my best to record it. I didn't know where she'd take me once the bomb in LAX exploded, but I realized at the end of that particular book that I'd have to write another one because she continued to talk to me, and events had taken her to a place that would considerably change her at the beginning of the next book. Change is the one constant in all the books; rather than creating a series of Starsky & Hutch-like adventures that bear little connection to each other, I'm using the form of crime fiction to write the fictional autobiography of a troubled but righteous woman. Nina changes in the course each book, as she learns more about who she is and who she is not, what she wants and how to get it, and how what she wants sometimes can also destroy her.

DENISE: Why are you so damn funny?

EVERSZ: Because the only alternative to laughter is tears, and like Nina, I refuse to cry.

DENISE: Did you have to shop around with the SHOOTING ELVIS manuscript or did the publishers gobble it up right away?

EVERSZ: Several publishers passed on SHOOTING ELVIS before Grove Atlantic picked it up. Within a month of acquiring the manuscript, Grove sold translation rights to a dozen publishers in foreign countries and optioned the film rights to Diondra Douglas, then married to Michael Douglas. Because the Nina Zero novels look at an unconventional city - Los Angeles - in an unconventional way they're particularly popular in Europe. In the event you haven't yet noticed, Europeans don't see Americans or Southern Californians in the same way we normally see ourselves.

DENISE: Have you always wanted to be a mystery author?

EVERSZ: Absolutely not. I always wanted to be a cowboy, at least I did until my cousin Anne, a ranch girl, kicked my butt one morning and I decided I should aim for something more cerebral. Those ranchers' daughters, they're tough.

DENISE: Do you know anything about the demographics of your readers? Who loves Nina Zero and the series? I know I do.

EVERSZ: Anyone who enjoys a non-traditional take on the traditional California mystery will like my books. Because Nina Zero is such a kick-ass action heroine my most ardent fans are women and those who like hard-boiled fiction. Women like her toughness and relate to her vulnerabilities. Oddly enough, many men have also come up to me to confess that they want to sleep with her. Poor fools, they don't know what they'd be getting into.

DENISE: So, here you are in LA, and you're doing research for your next book DIGGING UP JAMES DEAN while fire is raging through the southland. I wonder, is there going to be a fire in your next book, too?

EVERSZ: No fires, no, but lots of dead celebrities.

DENISE: Do you have personal experience in the Hollywood movie scene?

EVERSZ: I'm a UCLA film school dropout and so I have many friends (secret moles, really) in the entertainment business. I also have many personal experiences working in Hollywood, almost all of them bad.

DENISE: What about the art scene?

EVERSZ: If I could paint worth a damn, I'd be a painter. I love painting and have a special admiration for painters. To stand before a blank canvas is not all that different from sitting before the blank page. In the past twenty years painting has fallen out of fashion, replaced by so-called conceptual art, which replaces beauty with politics, and the beautiful object with the sight-gag. Compare Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa or Van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear to Damien Hirst's Cow in Formaldehyde (a work that is just that, a full cow floating in a clear tank of formaldehyde) or Andres Serrano's Piss Christ, which depicts a crucifix suspended in a beaker of urine. Hirst's and Serrano's works are meant to be outrageous, to offend contemporary sensibilities, but if such things don't particularly outrage you, they have the staying power of a one-liner. You see them, get them and go on. The works are little more than attention-getting devices, blatant plays for bad-boy art fame. Success in the art world today is all about shameless careerism. Of course, even the old masters were careerists but at least they created works of enduring value. The L.A. art scene provides the backdrop for SHOOTING ELVIS, the first Nina Zero novel, because I wanted to write about how even fine art has been infected by the virus of celebrity, of valuing fame over substance.

DENISE: Is Nina going to fall for another lousy guy?

EVERSZ: I can't tell you, because I only learn what happens to Nina when she tells me. I can't peer into her future any more accurately that I can my own.

DENISE: I absolutely believe that Nina is the best amateur sleuth ever. Is she going to stick with her paparazzi gig or might she become a private investigator?

EVERSZ: Nina Zero is to the paparazzi what Phillip Marlowe is to real detectives. Most private detectives are not glamorous or even all that seedy. Most of their cases involve low-level employee theft, missing persons and divorce cases. The private detective in fiction is more myth than reality, created by Chandler and other writers as a way to write about certain people and societies that more polite forms of literature couldn't handle. Ross McDonald once stated that the detective novel was like a welder's mask interposed between the reader and white-hot material. Nina is as much a "real" paparazza as Marlowe or Spencer are "real" detectives. Her gig as a paparazza provides a fresh and original perspective on the culture of celebrity that defines modern Southern California.

DENISE: Why Spain and Prague?

EVERSZ: I moved to Europe to pursue the dream of writing more original and enduring crime fiction than I seemed capable of in California. Hollywood, Los Angeles, all of Southern California generate tremendous cultural white noise, and the farther away I am from it the clearer my thoughts become.

DENISE:What do you think of Arnold as the Governor of California?

EVERSZ: Each time I return to California its resemblance to a banana republic grows more uncanny: strikes, transportation problems, natural catastrophes easily avoided with a little public planning, and a new government every two years. Arnold is a conciliatory figure, willing and able to work both sides of the political spectrum, and he very ably demonstrates that the one unifying principle of California culture is celebrity.

Check out the Nina Zero series by Robert Eversz. You won’t be disappointed at this wide lens shot of Hollywood through lens of the finest female paparazzi God, oops!, I mean Robert, ever created.