Author Interview with C. S. Poe
Interview by Sherry Perkins
FIVE QUESTIONS WITH C. S. POE:
1. Has being an alumna of the School of Visual Arts been helpful in your writing career? In other words, are the visual arts and writing complementary disciplines?
Absolutely! I have a degree in filmmaking and joke that I’ve reverse-engineered the traditional adaptation process. Instead of the word becoming a visual, I turn the visual into words. When I write, I construct a mental storyboard complete with camera angles and a shot list—that’s just the way breaking down those beats makes sense to me. So the product I end up with is prose that has a cinematic vibe and dialogue that’s punchy and very back-and-forth. It feels a bit like you’re reading a movie.
2. What is it about Gilded Age New York you find appealing? Does it help to guide your Steampunk novels?
I can’t say there’s any one thing about the time period that fascinates me more than others—it’s really a little of everything. The architecture, gangs, social hierarchy and political drama, fashion, now defunct etiquette, technology and the explosion of human curiosity… I can go on and on.
And living New York City, this history is literally on every street and becomes a rabbit hole of research. For example, my neighborhood park is named for Carl Schurz, a German immigrant who was a member of the United States Senate after the Civil War. He sat for a portrait taken by famous Civil War photographer, Mathew Brady, who also took what is arguably the most well-known photo of President Abraham Lincoln. Carl Schurz was also portrayed as a political caricature by Thomas Nast, the man who created the cartoon elephant and donkey still used by our two major governing parties today. And Nast was famous for his critical cartoons of New York City’s corrupt Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed.
See what I mean? You can just keep going and going and going….
I actually use this historical obsession in most of my books. Magic & Steam, certainly, as it’s set in the 1880s in New York City, but the Gilded Age has also been relevant to the plots of my contemporary mysteries: Snow & Winter, Memento Mori, and Southernmost Murder.
3. There’s been a perception that to produce art, one must know suffering. This is a subject that comes up often when discussing poets, songwriters, and novelists—that perhaps they do their best work during break-ups or when melancholic. Think Adele, Edgar Allan Poe, Virginia Woolf. Do you agree?
I think there’s something to be said about suffering and art going hand-in-hand—not that I’m here to romanticize anguish. As an author, it’s our job to write a compelling story, and I think when we’re willing to tap the gamut of human experience, and aren’t afraid to put words to the more negative aspects of what it means to be alive, it takes a book from readable to believable.
4. How did you break-in to publishing? Would you have done anything differently?
I was originally with a publishing house, which I think was a great introduction in terms of learning the nuances of the industry and establishing professional relationships. I’ve since left that house and am entirely self-published under my own company. If given the opportunity to do it all again, I don’t think I’d have necessarily broken into publishing differently, but I would have explored the benefits of being my own boss much sooner than I did.
5. What’s next from you—upcoming releases, story ideas in development?
I’m currently working on the third book of my police procedural mystery series, Memento Mori. It’s been a tough story to get right, so it’s been taking a lot longer than I originally anticipated. But once that’s finished, I hope to release a few short stories I’ve got laying around, and begin research for the fourth Magic & Steam book.
EXCERPT FROM “MADISON SQUARE MURDERS”:
“Do you have the Hello Phone?” Ulmer demanded.
“Does it look like I have the Hello Phone,” Larkin answered in a subdued tone.
“What it looks like,” Ulmer began, puffing out his chest, “is that you went to a Scholastic fucking Book Fair and forgot to pick yourself up a Lisa Frank pencil on the way out.”
Larkin placed a bookmark on the page, calmly shut the library book, sifted through the cup of pens on his desk, then removed a pink pencil with hologram leopard prints stamped all over it. He tapped it absently against the desktop while staring up at Ulmer. “That’s because I already have one.”
“What the fuck. Those are for little girls.”
“I don’t believe there’s a particular age or gender demographic when it comes to a pencil.”
“It’s Lisa Frank,” Ulmer stressed, like maybe if he said it a few more times, he’d make his point understood.
“Yes. My husband is a schoolteacher and children like bright colors.”
Porter was returning to his desk with a mug of coffee in the midst of the back-and-forth. He took a seat, the chair groaning under his weight, before saying, “We can hear your pissing all the way to the breakroom, Ulmer.”
“I need the fucking Hello Phone,” Ulmer snapped, glancing sideways at Porter. “And Grim is trying to lecture me on the fucking societal consequences of a grown man using a kitty-cat-themed pencil or whatever the fuck he’s on about.”
“They’re leopard prints,” Larkin corrected, raising the pencil up for Ulmer to see. “And I said there was no associated age or demographic for pencil utilization. At most, we’re obligated to transition to blue or black ink pens due to the permanency and legality of adult careers, but otherwise, society hasn’t frowned upon me using my gay pencil—I believe that’s what you’ve been itching to say.”
Porter had the rim of his mug to his lips before he started laughing. A few drops of coffee splashed his pant leg.
Larkin offered the pencil to Ulmer. “Unless this display of toxic masculinity is actually you trying to ask if you may borrow my Lisa Frank pencil. The answer is, yes, you may.”
Ulmer grabbed it, broke the pencil in two, then threw the pieces, hitting Larkin in the chest. “What do you think of that fucking display of masculinity?”
Larkin said, without any perturbation, “I think it’s very cute you needed both hands to snap a Number 2 pencil.”
Buy Links: https://books2read.com/MadisonSquareMurders
C.S. Poe is an author of gay mystery, romance, and speculative fiction. She is a Lambda Literary and two-time EPIC award finalist, and FAPA, Indie, and two-time e-Lit award winner.
She resides in New York City, but has also called Key West and Ibaraki, Japan, home. She loves Romanticism artwork, Gilded Age New York, the films of Buster Keaton, coffee in the morning and whiskey in the evening, true crime, and cats. She’s rescued two cats—Milo and Kasper do their best to distract her from work on a daily basis.
C.S. is an alumna of the School of Visual Arts.
Her debut novel, The Mystery of Nevermore, was published 2016.
CONNECT WITH C. S. POE:
Author Website: C.S. Poe | Homepage (cspoe.com)
Amazon Author Page: Amazon.com: C.S. Poe: books, biography, latest update