By Denise Baton
FINAL CUT tells the story of an insiderís experience in the film business with characters from every stratosphere of the film industry universe plus all the other little moons, comets, stars and galaxy trash that goes with it.
My first question is where, exactly, did you learn so much about Hollywood?
Ahh, the film industry. My best friend is Edie Sei Bleiman. She was Walter Murch's assistant film editor on THE ENGLISH PATIENT and then she did TOY STORY II and now is sheís in England with Nick Parks and the WALLACE AND GROMIT group. She's a very shy and self-effacing person and truly hilarious. That's the editing information and that research was a blast because it just came natural, out of our friendship. All the rest is from listening to son-in-law and his production buddies, oh, and I was on the set when daughter Annie was art director for a couple of music videos. That was great material!
I adore WALLACE AND GROMIT. So funny. Hey, that one animated story with the evil penguin, now that was crime fiction, right? Speaking of characters I adore, back to FINAL CUT, that character, Jonathan Keller, like so many of them, was so bang on. I was in stitches every time he showed up.
Iím so happy you liked him and the other characters. Characters are what drive my stories. Yeah, the assistant Jonathan Keller is a compilation of lots of acquaintances (male) I've met. Not a totally nice person, is he?!
Well, you have a collection of not so nice people in FINAL CUT. Thereís not a huge body count but still the suspense is created so seamlessly. It required a certain artistic style to pull that off.
And you can imagine why the story was publisher-problematic with the tight-ass editors who kept yelping, but there's no body!! Whereís the body??? Give me a body!
Well, there is a body, but we wonít let on where because I donít want to spoil it for the readers. Youíve done a fine job of promoting yourself and Margo Powers, your publisher at Deadly Alibi Press has done you well.
Yes, Margo has been wonderful. G.Miki Hayden, specifically, and Patti Nunn, generally, work as our publicity people. They've put together a really nice press kit for me.
Margot O'Banion survives an incredible action scene in FINAL CUT, where did you get the idea for this scene?
I read a newspaper story about a van that erupted into total flames while being driven along a Los Angeles freeway. The visual horror of that story really stuck with me.
Max, the director, is the quintessential egomaniac but still Margot loves him. Why?
Oh, well, she's shy and introspective and he encourages her to get out into the world. She appreciates that. He's also terribly talented and she appreciates that, being so talented herself. And he is utterly faithful to her. That's always attractive in a man. Plus, there's the fact that she's known him since college and they have a son whom they both love. Oh, and, of course, Max loves her! They achieve a nice, quirky balance of natures, I think.
Margot OíBanion is arguably one of the best editors in the business. What are her qualities that make for that reality?
Sheís a great watcher. She's quiet, but an excellent listener and observer of details. And, since she loves Max and loves his talent, these qualities add to her desire to be excellent in her work for him. Artistically, they're on the same wavelength and this enables her to produce the kind of editing that works best for him.
Have you ever had any personal experience of being spied upon or having been under the scrutiny of unwanted surveillance?
No, thank heavens. Well, I was a bit suspect in some circles during the seventies for protesting the war, but all I got were some dirty looks.
What is a moviola?
A Moviola (or Movieola, take your pick), is a largish projection machine with a viewer that allows the editor or director to control the motion and speed of film being fed through it. It's an old technology that non-linear digital editing still has not made obsolete. The dilemma of Moviola versus computer reminds me of the controversy vis-a-vis electronic publishing and traditional books. The beauty of both situations is that they are not exclusive. Both are useful, depending on what you're trying to achieve and how you feel about accomplishing it.
You read a lot of fiction during your stint as an editor, do you think that made you a better writer?
Absolutely. I've been an avid reader forever. The library was on my way home from grammar /middle/ high school. It became my second home. I really believe that reading absolutely everything is the way to achieve critical thinking about writing, and particularly reading great writing.
You helped countless writers improve their work, did you enjoy that process?
It was time consuming, but it really was nice to see something work that hadn't been working before. Both writer and editor and, I assume, the eventual reader enjoys that!
Would you ever do it again?
No. There aren't enough hours in the day.
You and your husband do extensive work with the handicapped, teaching them horseback riding on your ranch. Is this lifestyle conducive to being a writer?
The peace and quiet is wonderful. Also the physical activities (read mucking out the stables) that go with ranch life are actually pleasant after hours spent in front of a computer. The work is very gratifying. Watching the process of someone who appears helpless to become self-actualized, empowered, is a lesson that I learn from every time I experience it. It teaches me things that I can apply directly to my own life goals.
Are you happy with Deadly Alibi Press?
I truly am. Margo Power is a joy. She's responsive and fair and a genuine professional. She knows what needs to be done and does it. As I mentioned, she has hired a wonderful PR person, Patti Nunn, who handles everything business-wise and leads us all through the maze of marketing.
What was the exact process you went through to take your work through the steps of being published?
As weíve alluded to, FINAL CUTíS plot does not follow traditional mystery story lines. Fortunately Margo Power likes offbeat stories. After the contract was signed, she made some suggestions to clarify a couple of places in the story. I added those bits and that was that. I received the galleys in April, I think, and I changed a few words here and there and found a couple of typos that I'd never seen before, which is always the way it is with typos. In fact, I found another after I'd sent the galleys back and Margo graciously fixed it! My author copies arrived and now the book is out and available. I just followed directions. Margo and Patti did all the hard work.
Are you going to go to the bookstores and promote yourself?
Sure. I'm mostly going to do drop-ins and talk to the store people. This time around, I'm mostly striving for a bit of name recognition. I have a local signing coming up and then we'll tour the environs of the largest city close to us, Santa Rosa. My un-local signing will be in Los Angeles in October.
Now, about this signing in Los Angeles. Tell me more.
It's at a great bookstore, Skylight Books at it's at 1818 N. Vermont Ave. in the Silverlake district on October 14th at 2PM so be there!
Kit: Following the signing, my daughter and son-in-law are having a High Tea celebration at their nearby house. My son-in-law is a great chef and he is creating something called "Scone-henge" for the event!
I canít wait. Your daughter did your artwork. What was that like?
That was hilarious and exhilarating. We live 500 miles apart, but she and her husband were here right after I'd signed the contract last fall and we brainstormed and she made preliminary sketches, sent one off to Margo Power and Margo loved it. After that, I let Margo and Annie work out the details. As I told Margo, I was so thrilled to see my name on a cover, all critical sense had abandoned me. They did a great job. It's a great cover, as different from other mystery book covers as my story is from other stories. A good combination!
Yes, it has a rich sensuality to it and those giant scissors cutting the film! I love it. What book is next?
The next one is titled GRAPE NOIR due out in 2001. In this one, I plonk my heroine down in the middle of the food and wine groupies that frequent the tourist destinations around where I live. It's pretty hilarious. I loved writing it. My blurb for it would be that the hapless victim might dispute the scientific evidence that red wine is good for your health. GRAPE NOIR is more traditional in form than FINAL CUT, but I think it's equally distinctive.
Yes, I read the first four chapters and I canít wait to find out how the story will reveal itself.
Thatís it folks, Kitís first interview. Itís a pleasure to see her blossom after nurturing so many other writers. Kit Sloane is the author of FINAL CUT, a Margot OíBanion mystery, with many more books to follow. She is a woman in touch with herself, engaged in her life. For her, giving is a gift. We look forward to reading more of her work. Go ahead and give it to us, Kit.