Monday, September 5, 2011

Steven Drachman Interview and Book Giveaway

Hello everyone, I hope you have enjoyed a great holiday 
weekend so far. I'm pleased to introduce Steven Drachman, 
author of The Ghosts of Watt O'Hugh. He has graciously 
donated one e-copy of his book to one lucky commenter. 
Thanks for stopping by and come back again.

What inspired you to become a writer??

From an early age, I just believed that I was meant to be a writer, because various teachers told me so, from kindergarten all the way through college. I’m also terrible at everything else.

What character(s) of your book(s) do you most relate to??

Watt himself is a guy who for just a very brief moment 
is at the very pinnacle of the world. He’s a Wild West 
dime novel hero, the star of his own show in New York 
city, and then his fall couldn’t be more steep or sudden. 
He’s just shell-shocked. That’s a feeling I can certainly 
relate to in today’s economy! But I’ve tried to make most of the characters sympathetic. Darryl Fawley, one of the primary villains of the piece, is just trying to live up to his new life, married to a beautiful, brilliant woman he thinks he doesn’t deserve. Even Monroe, the Sidonian enforcer, really wants to do his job in a humane way – he’s happy with the rewards of his work but feels guilty about what he has to do to get those rewards. Only Allen Jerome, the other primary villain, is completely unsympathetic – he’s like your worst nightmare boss, an incomprehensible jerk.

How do you visualize your stories? By dreams? Inner monologue with your characters, dreams, etc.?

I wrote half of Watt O’Hugh more than 15 years ago, and the rest I wrote in 2011. So for years, I would periodically take it out, read it, and be surprised by something that I hadn’t remembered, as though another man had written it. When I sat down to finish it, it just wrote itself. A lot of research went into the book, but the story had been brewing inside me for nearly two decades, so it was really just sitting there waiting to come out.

What is your writing ritual? Music?? Silence? Meditation?

I used to wear a fuzzy red Scottish cap when I wrote. That was kind of stupid. Though I still have the hat, now I go for a run first, then I listen to music. There are various songs that I associate very strongly with different scenes in the book. When Watt and Emelina fly up into the skies of Wyoming, it ‘s Mess and Don’t Change Your Plans, by Ben Folds. I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie is an important song on the book’s soundtrack. The dozens of Johnny Cash records I own and listened to while I wrote this book also inspired a lot of Watt’s personality.

What inspired you to write The Ghosts of Watt O'Hugh?

I was working with a Hollywood producer on a sci-fi fantasy Western set at the turn of the 20th century, and I came up with this character of Watt O’Hugh, who would be the sidekick to the hero of the story. Watt was a crusty, leathery old sharpshooter, a civil war veteran, who had a strange explanation for his skill with a 45: he thought that he was protected by ghosts. True or not, he believed it, and he couldn’t be brave without his ghosts. When that project fell apart, my agent suggested I tell Watt O’Hugh’s back-story in a series of novels. So I set the book thirty to forty years earlier, in the 1860s and ‘70s, and I made the young Watt O’Hugh into the hero of the piece.

If you could be a book genre? Which one would you choose and why??

Jewish philosophy, published by Jewish Lights, because I’d like to understand things that I don’t understand.

What knowledge do you want to share with aspiring authors like myself??

Look at Orson Welles – the greatest writer/director/actor of the 20th century, and he couldn’t get a movie made, because no one could stand to be in the same room with him. So my main advice is to be nice to everybody! (I think you already do that.) Also, don’t go to law school. Do you have any advice for me?

if you were stranded on a deserted island, what 5 things would you bring and why??

My wife, Lan, and my two daughters, Liana and Julianne, a copy of the Tanach and a prayer book. Of course, I’d skip the prayer book if I could also bring a helicopter to get off the island. But if I were on an island with a couple of kids who had to go without the Disney channel, I’d need to do a lot of praying.

What other books do you have to write or be written in the horizon?

If The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh is commercially successful in any way, I’m going to write two sequels. I’m also working on the idea for a horror novel set in 19th century New York.

If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead? Who would it be and why?

My grandfather, Julian Drachman, just because I miss him, and I’d like to tell him all the things that have happened to me in the 30 years since he left us.

If you could time travel, what time period would you go to and why??.

New York in the 1870s or 1920s – just two really wild, interesting decades. China during the Southern Song Dynasty – the Manchurians were about to attack, the Chinese government had fled all the way to the bottom of the country, but it was a period of really interesting art, music, poetry, and a floating restaurant in the middle of a lake, where I would like to eat. Then I’d like to visit the Israelite tribes after their escape from Egypt, on the night they received the Torah.

How do you write your books?? By the seat of your pants? Or is it plotted out in advance??

Plotted out in advance. I outline what’s going to happen in each chapter of the whole book, and then I write almost randomly. I might write one sentence in chapter 11, then a sentence in chapter 21, then a sentence in chapter 15. Of course, the book takes on a life of its own and looks somewhat different from the outline by the time I am done. This style of writing would have been impossible before the advent of the word processor, and years ago I didn’t write this way at all. I wouldn’t recommend that everyone try this, but it seems to work for me.

Here is a twist...10 words or less, what comes to your mind first??

Rainbow –

That Harry Chapin song.

Moon –

My daughter, Liana, chose Levana (“moon”) as her Hebrew name

Fantasy –

Quitting my day job to write full-time.

Sanity –

I don’t know very much about sanity!

Panther –

Peter Sellers. I wish he was alive, still making movies.

Are there any questions that I haven't asked that you would like to answer?

Your questions are great. Really thoughtful and inspiring. I’ve been reading your interviews, and I think your questions have really elicited interesting responses from people.

Feel free to add any other interesting tidbits about yourself.

My ancestors came over on the Mayflower, and two brothers fought on opposite sides of the Revolutionary War, which I think made for awkward family dinners.

STEVEN S. DRACHMAN has written on film for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Phoenix, Entertainment Weekly, The Village Voice and The Chicago Sun-Times. The Ghosts of Watt O'Hugh is his first novel.


  1. I would go back and try to save my grandparents on my Dad's side. They died 30 days apart when my Dad was 9.

  2. If I could go back in time, I'd try to stop my best friend from committing suicide. Sad but true, and nearly every day I wonder what I could have done or should have done or should have said or not said that would have made any difference. It's something I wrestle with. Sorry for the downer :(

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com

  3. If I could travel in time I have a few big old mistakes I've made that I would fix! Give me a time machine, STAT!!
    jwitt33 at live dot com

  4. I'd want to tell my younger self that it's okay not to be perfect. I know that sounds so mundane, but I certainly could have used that advise in college.

  5. I would go back to ancient Egypt to see how they moved those huge stone slabs!

  6. Great post !!! If I could go back in time Id stop an accident that has caused a lifetime of misery and heartache.
    Thanks for the givewawy !!! sounds like a great book.

    ( sss ))


Thanks for commenting:)