I recently had an email conversation with first-time novelist Pari Noskin Taichert, author of the very entertaining Sasha Solomon mystery The Clovis Incident. She was kind enough to take time out from her busy schedule, and anyone who checks out her attractive websites will understand that she must be incredibly busy. I asked Pari some questions after reading and reviewing The Clovis Incident, and the following is the transcript of our conversation.
Tim Davis: Whom do you see as the target audience for your excellent mystery novel The Clovis Incident? Who are your readers?
Pari Noskin Taichert: Originally, I thought Sasha Solomon would appeal to intelligent baby boomer women with a good sense of humor. I was surprised upon publication to find such a variety in my readership. I’ve met middle school boys, college-age girls, and 60-to-70 something men who have enjoyed the book too. So, I guess my answer now would be that my readers are people who want to be introduced to a very different world (small-town New Mexico, from Sasha’s perspective), want to learn about public relations and New Mexico, and want very much to have a good time while they read. Of course there are deeper themes in my writing, more serious ones, but Clovis can be read for just plain fun.
TD: Your protagonist Sasha is wonderfully conceived and developed. And, if I’m not misreading your book, she seems to have a lot of the author in her personality. We know about Sasha and Glenfiditch, whipped cream, anxiety, intelligence, and physical (and emotional) toughness. But tell us more. What did you admire most about Sasha when creating her? What surprised you? If you were forced to explain your protagonist in one word, what is the word?
PNT: I’ve known Sasha for more than nine years now. She came to me when I was pregnant with my first daughter. Sasha was much more like me then. In the intervening years, we’ve both evolved. I like to joke that I’m a lot more together than she is. What I admire most about her is her go-get-‘em attitude and her willingness to stick her neck out for what she believes. I also love her sense of humor. What surprised me about her is her lack of self-awareness given her profession. She’s so good at seeing how other people project themselves to their publics, but she’s lousy when it comes to her own image. Frankly, I have a great time messing with her life and watching how she responds. It’s never how I’d predict. One word for her? Hum. Gutsy. No, that’s not it. “Moxie.” Yes, that’s the word. Sasha is dripping with moxie.
TD: Why the amateur sleuth novel form? Is there something about the amateur sleuth in detective novel form that you find particularly well-suited to your purposes in this novel? What detective novels, incidentally, as your influences or antecedents most interest you? Other than the authors of detective novels, by whom do you think you are most influenced as a writer/artist?
PNT: I enjoy amateur sleuth novels very much. I don’t like scads of violence or graphic details about murder. What I’m interested in is character development. I also like writing funny and that lends itself better to a less hard-edged series. As far as influences, well, I’m not sure. There are so many good story-tellers out there that I wouldn’t know where to begin. I love the humor in some of Carl Hiassen’s work and the dialog (especially between Spenser and Hawk) in Robert Parker’s work. As a writer/artist, I’m most influenced by people like Stephen R. Donaldson who queried 49 publishers and agents for his first book. He got 49 rejections, and he started querying all over again. That kind of stick-to-itiveness impresses me mightily. So, rather than being influenced by a particular style, I’m influenced by the kind of creative people who pursue their work with assurance and the desire to share it with a larger audience.
TD: I note that The Clovis Incident is receiving very good critical attention and reader response, and I am picking up on some chatter through the publishing-business “grapevine” that some awards might be on the horizon. What do you think of the reception for your novel?
PNT: I’m delighted so far. The critical and marketing receptions for the book both humble me and remind me that I’ve got a long way to go to be able to reach my goals of actually making a living as a novelist. Step-by-fascinating step.
TD: Tell me a little bit about those steps. Talk about your previous writing, publishing, or artistic enterprises.
PNT: I’ve got two unpublished manuscripts featuring Sasha that don’t deserve to be published. I keep them to keep me humble. I’ve got poetry I wrote when I was six. I’ve always been a writer, and in much of my adult life I’ve used that skill for nonfiction pursuits.
TD: What do you plan for future projects? Will readers be seeing more of Sasha Solomon (and her romantic interests, Bob—or perhaps Henry)? I think you’re really onto something here with your smart and sassy (loaded-with-moxie) protagonist. We all know that creating characters who lend themselves to a series of books is a marketing dream for writers and publishers. Surely you have more on the way.
PNT: By the beginning of January, I’ll have some idea of when my next Sasha book will be published. I’ve been offered a contract from a publisher for The Belen Hitch (yep, it’s Sasha again). So, Belen will be coming out sometime soon, and I’m working on The Placitas Peril, the third book in the series. As to Sasha’s boyfriends, well, her love life will always be a mess. That’s another way she and I differ. I’m married and have kids and lead a fairly normal life. As for Clovis, have you heard, it will be going into mass market paperback to the World Wide Inc. book club in July 2005, and did you see that Clovis was included in Library Journal’s most recent list of the most successful debuts of the last publishing season? This book is making me—and my publisher, the University of New Mexico Press—very proud.
TD: That is great news about the forthcoming books, and about the success and future of The Clovis Incident. You and the University of New Mexico Press deserve to be proud. But following up on the subject of the book’s reception and success, has anything else surprised you in the process of writing and promoting The Clovis Incident?
PNT: First of all, I’m surprised—and pleased—that no one has really objected to the UFO or the hallucination themes in Clovis. I was really expecting some major fallout about that. In the next book, Sasha remains intuitive but no longer hallucinates. Belen also focuses on another small town that’s trying to market itself to tourists in a different way than attracting UFO-buffs. One of the other things that has surprised me is how slow the build is for a book. I thought once a book was published, everyone in the whole world would know about it. But that’s not the way it works. It’s a steady and wonderful process. I hope Clovis and Sasha both have long lives. Frankly, it’s been an astounding ride for me. I hope to be on this roller coaster for many, many years to come.
TD: Well, I also hope The Clovis Incident and Sasha Solomon both have long lives. I want to thank you, Pari, for so graciously spending time with me during this interview. I (and I imagine many other readers) look forward to seeing more of Sasha Solomon. I’ll be on the impatient lookout for The Belen Hitch and The Placitas Peril.
[NOTE: I invite everyone to check Pari Noskin Taichert’s website: http://www.parinoskintaichert.com/. — Tim Davis]
Interview conducted December 4, 2004