Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Scott Brick on Voiceover

 Jonathan Lowe) You’ve been narrating for a couple decades now, so you literally need no introduction. To begin, when did you foresee how your acting would turn from stage to recording booth or studio?

Scott Brick) It started slowly transitioning when I did my first audiobook in 1999.  For the first few years of my career I was doing a book or two every month, but it wasn’t until about four years in that I realized this was a full-time gig.  What had been a passion of mine, narrating audiobooks, was suddenly my career!  Or not so suddenly, but you take my meaning.

JL What was the watershed moment for why all this came about, as an evolution? How much was chance, and how much just hard work and planning?

SB) Well, I’m a fan of the quote from the great Branch Rickey: “Luck is the residue of design.”  I like to think there was definitely a purpose for putting me in the position to book that first job, God gave me the opportunity to pursue it as a career if I wanted to, but after that much of it was up to me.  He wasn’t going to do it for me, right?  We get out of life what we put into it.  I feel like God gave me certain gifts, the ability to tell stories in ways people enjoy, but it’s up to me to use them.

JL) You are teaching as well as performing these days. Plus you’re publishing. This came about as a natural progression, did it not?

SB) I think it did, yes, and both simply because I was passionate about doing them.  When a number of people asked me to teach classes, I at first didn’t think I had anything to say, but when they kept asking, I gave it a try and found out that I loved it.  I didn’t just love it, I wanted to do more and more of it, and it’s been hugely rewarding.  Five years ago, UCLA, my alma mater, came to me and asked me to teach their third year graduate Theater students, so we created the first nationally-accredited university course that teaches solely audiobook narration.  That felt wonderful, and is a nice way to spend my Fall months.  And the publishing happened similarly, I had a series of books, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson, and nobody had narrated the first six volumes on audio.  Well, I had a studio, I had pretty much everything I needed to get them finished and distributed online, so I asked my attorney to contact the publisher and we secured the rights.  We just renewed that contract, in fact, and it’s wonderful seeing them available for the first time on audio.  And my best friend suggested the name of my company: Brick by Brick Audiobooks.  It seemed right.

JL) You’ve often been asked who your fav writers are, or books, true? What is your ballpark total now, after so many awards?

SB) Yes, I’m often asked which are my favorites, but I’ve narrated nearly a thousand titles at this point, so it’s difficult narrowing it down to one or two.  I typically ask the person I’m speaking to what their favorite genre is, then suggest something I’ve done in that genre that I particularly liked.  Much easier to handle it that way, although I do maintain a list of favorites on my website that fans can check out if they wish, it’s the list of books I am most often asked about.

JL) What is the most surprising thing in your personal life up to this point?

SB) I still get such a huge kick when someone whose work I’ve loved, respected and admired somehow knows who I am.  I’ve been a lifelong fan of Stephen King, and years ago, he actually mentioned my name in an interview, and it was the most surreal experience.  I mean, of course I know who HE is, but HE knows who I am?  That’s nuts!

JL) The Wall Street Journal once published a cover piece on you. That’s amazing. What amazes you most about the audiobook industry itself, and how do you see it changing?

SB) That was a wonderful moment, and really helped my career take off.  They came back to me this past year and profiled me again in their Entertainment section and I told them they’d given me no end of street cred.  I told the interviewer, “This is going to be my third time in your publication, and I’ve never even been indicted, that’s got to be some kind of record…!”  As for the changes to the industry, the biggest one I’ve seen over the years is that it’s finally become cool to do books, as in, celebrities seek out the work, occasionally.  I was part of a terrific profile of the industry by CBS This Morning last month, and David Pogue interviewed a number of celebrities who spoke eloquently about why they love doing this work, and it was wonderful to see.

JL) Are there voices, dialects and pronunciations even you struggle over, or is research generally able to clear up problems in the course of production? What’s an example of a difficult book?

SB) There’s a wonderful database available online, the International Dialects of English archive, or IDEA as it’s known, and it breaks down accents by every country on Earth, some of them, like the US and the UK, quite extensively.  So there’s rarely an accent that’s described that we can’t listen to rather quickly.  At that point, it’s up to us and how well we can mimic it.  Some of the hardest accent work I’ve ever had to do have been in Brad Meltzer’s books, because he intentionally puts in crazy ones, just to see if it’ll trip me up.  Oy.

JL) The Reacher series by Lee Child is a recent coup for you. How did it come about, and what do you try to bring to the character that’s special?

SB) I’ve been reading and listening to those books for years, so I cannot tell you how much it meant to me to be cast to do it.  The month it took between the audition and the news I’d been picked was nerve-wracking, there were a lot of sleepless nights, believe me.  As for bringing anything special to it, look, it’s really hard replacing a legend like Dick Hill.  He’s wonderful, and knew that character so well, so I’ve always said I can’t fill his shoes, but it’s nice to be walking in them.  I used to be a fight choreographer, so I spent years seeing the world in a tactical way, where everyone’s attack leaves them open to their opponent’s next move in some way.  If I swing at a guy’s head, that means my chest is exposed, yes?  And Lee Child has always written from a highly tactical mindset, so I’ve just paid particular attention to those moments where Reacher looks for a weakness, then pounces on it and exploits it.  It’s those mental moments that I enjoy the most, and I think the listener should too.

JL) It must be thrilling to be reading a book no one has read yet in book format. Exhausting too?

SB)  Yes, getting to read stuff months before other people is pretty darn thrilling, I won't lie.  A part of me kinda wants to rub it in online, sometimes, especially when it's really good.  But yes, it is pretty exhausting work, at least when you're as tightly booked as I am right now.  Still, it's a good problem to have, a First World problem for sure.

JL) How many times do you read and make notes on any particular galley before recording, and how long does it take to produce a typical unabridged title?

SB) The average books takes about a week to record, depending on how difficult it is, or how much research is required.  I have a researcher who writes copious notes for me, in case I need them.  For instance, when he preps the manuscript, he may not know that I know how to pronounce “fecund,” so he’ll typically write it out for me, just in case.

JL) Where do readers go to best sample your work--ScottBrick.net?

SB) My production manager Gina has been working for years to update my list of books recorded to date on my website, and while it’s not quite comprehensive yet, there are a ton of books listed, many by genre, or by series, or by author, and each of them links to various click through pages where they can either listen to samples or purchase them if they want.  I love audiobooks so much that I told her long ago that I want to make them as easy as possible to put them in people’s hands, or ears, or phones, or however you want to look at it.  There are a lot of people who’ve never listened to one, so I’ve got my work cut out for me if I want to convert them all. 

(Jonathan Lowe is author of Awakening Storm, a thriller featuring a hurricane party in Miami, at Audible.com.) 

Friday, July 10, 2020

James Sallis

Over the past fifty years, while "mostly wandering about the house," James Sallis has published fifteen novels, multiple collections of short stories, poems and essays, three books of musicology, reams of criticism, a classic biography of Chester Himes, and a translation of Raymond Queneau's novel Saint Glinglin. Onetime editor of the London-based magazine New Worlds, Jim worked for many years as a reviewer for periodicals including the New York Times, L.A. Times and Washington Post; served for three years as books columnist for the Boston Globe; and maintains a books column at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. He teaches advanced novel-writing at Phoenix College and plays out often with his band Three-Legged Dog, as sideman for other musicians, or solo. His novels include Drive, from which Nic Refn's award-winning film derived, the six Lew Griffin novels, Death Will Have Your Eyes, and The Killer Is Dying. Jim has received a lifetime achievement award from Bouchercon, the Hammett Award for literary excellence in crime writing, and the Grand Prix de Littérature policière.

Jonathan Lowe) You have wide interests, a cosmopolitan noir writer/musician with published poetry, fiction, essays, scripts, translations. Genres, too. Mystery, science fiction? Have you also had an array of odd jobs along the way?
James Sallis) No colorful author’s bio here, I’m afraid. Aside from teaching, off and on for twenty-five years or more, when necessary – when markets for writing faded away -- I worked as a critical-care respiratory therapist, mostly specializing in the care of newborns, some of them as little as a pound or so at birth.
JL) That’s not odd, it’s unexpectedly befitting in a way. Of course most writers write what they like, or they sidle up to producing the required novel every year in the same genre and formula, which keeps fans happy but can seem limiting, even boring. Medicine, liquor, or soda pop. What’s your preferred poison for fictional characters?
JS) I don’t seem to have a lot of choice.  Something begins it all, an image, a voice in my head, then before long the story and characters take over. I follow as best I can. Watch, pay attention, try to keep them in sight as they take sudden turns.
JL) Harlan Ellison once said science fiction is great because of its reach and range, although pop scifi is about blaster battles, the least interesting to me. You?
JS) Mimetic fiction strives to describe the world about us, this place of corners, tabletops and shadow, as seen by writer, narrator, characters. Arealist fiction – which may be fantasy, magic realism, surrealism, science fiction – steps back, shows mankind and existence from outside the frame, in far larger contexts.
JL) Where did Lew Griffin come from—experience? And what do you think of Lew Archer? 
JS) From years of reading classic American detective fiction – but especially from Chester Himes, imagining how again and again he reconfigured his life into his novels. As, in quite another manner, did Ross Macdonald. The Long-Legged Fly was intended as a stand-alone, a fairly standard detective story, but even then it had begun to shape-change into something else, and with each of the six novels took on greater substance and depth. It may be the only six-volume series with a surprise ending. The entire series, by the way, will soon be republished in uniform paperback by my new publishers, Soho Press.
JL) Have a friend in New Orleans, lived there a while. What makes the city attractive to you besides the jazz?
JS) It’s at once the least and most American of cities. Tradition, diversity, a pervasive sense of history, an equally pervasive sense of America’s double consciousness. The original gumbo city – parts of everything we are, the worst and best, forever on open display. 
JL) The father of VR, Jaron Lanier, plays a lot of instruments most people have never encountered. Why the attraction, and do you play jazz, fusion, or classical on guitar?
JS) Mostly I play old-time music: mountain music, string-band music from the 30s, blues, Cajun, vintage country. Traditional American musics, on banjo, mandolin, guitar, Dobro, Hawaiian guitar, fiddle, Weissenborn, steel guitar, harmonica. As with literature, I’m naturally drawn to music from the marginalized, the pushed-aside. 
JL) Do you like the word “stylish” as a description of you? How would you describe your writing?
JS) I’m working to get as much of the world as I possibly can in every word, sentence, phrase, scene and page, swimming upstream of cliche all the way, denying the gravity of narrative – of making everything fit -- that can pull one down.  I want my worlds messy, like the reflected, real one, and my language as stubbornly precise an evocation of that world as possible. 
JL) Loved Willnot, while narrator Kevin Kenerly on audio captures the character of Hale perfectly, and with all the allusions weaved in, too. Tone is perfect. Does your personal philosophy get filtered into the text, and do you prefer stand-alone novels, serials, or sequels? 
JS) I prefer novels that are self-contained and short, almost like short stories with lots of breathing room, things like L’Etranger, Sturgeon’s Some of Your Blood, McGuane’s Panama, A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood, surprise packages containing so much more than they seem to.
JL) Am thinking Last Night at the Lobster by Stuart O’Nan, now. Loved Drive, and sequel, and also the Ryan Gosling movie, which simply fired on all cylinders. People need characters like that, to mix things up. Complex and surprising, with an unknown history. What do you like about the movie, and did you see Spielberg’s first film Duel? 
JS) I think it’s a great movie, a brilliant reimagination of the novel in cinematic terms. As for Duel, I do recall seeing it many years ago – from a Richard Matheson story, by the way, and from his script.  Matheson’s “Born of Man and Woman” is one of the first stories I remember reading.
JL) Anyone you wish would play Lew Griffin? And what’s next for you?

JS) I can think of many fine actors out there now. There’s always been interest, and for several years options were held on the books, but thus far they wander the world alone. As I mentioned earlier, all six Lew Griffin novels—the “bug books”—are coming out in new editions from Soho, as is my new novel, Sarah Jane. A new, greatly expanded version of my book on original-paperback novels, Difficult Lives, is out from No Exit in the UK and due from Syndicate Books here in the US. This go-round, it’s coupled with another group of pieces on crime writers under the title Hitching Rides. New poetry and story collections.
Jonathan Lowe is author of Who Moved My TV?
and Lottery Island.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Elizabeth Letts

Hollywood, 1938: As soon as she learns that M-G-M is adapting her late husband’s masterpiece for the screen, seventy-seven-year-old Maud Gage Baum sets about trying to finagle her way onto the set. Nineteen years after Frank’s passing, Maud is the only person who can help the producers stay true to the spirit of the book—because she’s the only one left who knows its secrets. But the moment she hears Judy Garland rehearsing the first notes of “Over the Rainbow,” Maud recognizes the yearning that defined her own life story, from her youth as a suffragette’s daughter to her coming of age as one of the first women in the Ivy League, from her blossoming romance with Frank to the hardscrabble prairie years that inspired The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Judy reminds Maud of a young girl she cared for and tried to help in South Dakota, a dreamer who never got her happy ending. Now, with the young actress under pressure from the studio as well as her ambitious stage mother, Maud resolves to protect her—the way she tried so hard to protect the real Dorothy. The author of two New York Times bestselling nonfiction books, The Eighty-Dollar Champion and The Perfect Horse, Elizabeth Letts is a master at discovering and researching a rich historical story and transforming it into a page-turner. Finding Dorothy is the result of Letts’s journey into the amazing lives of Frank and Maud Baum. Written as fiction but based closely on the truth, Elizabeth Letts’s new book tells a story of love, loss, inspiration, and perseverance, set in America’s heartland. On audio the book is narrated by the author and Ann Marie Lee.

  1. Jonathan Lowe) The book CIRCE by won an award this year as Best Fantasy, and on audio was chosen as a Best Audiobook of the Year, read by Perdita Weeks. What gave you the idea to mingle fiction and non-fiction to create a novel about The Wizard of Oz?
Elizabeth Letts) I was first drawn to the story behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz when I was reading the book aloud to my son and I wondered about the author, L. Frank Baum and why his characters were so much better known than the man himself.  With a quick bit of research, I discovered that Frank’s mother-in-law was a prominent advocate for the rights of women—which made me see Baum’s strong female characters in a whole new light. But I didn’t realize I had a story to tell until I discovered that his widow, Maud, was still alive during the filming of the Hollywood movie. I found a picture of Maud on the set with Judy Garland and I wanted to know what happened when they met—as a non-fiction writer, I believe in grounding my work in historical fact, but to get to the emotional heart of a story, fiction has the edge. In writing this book, I took my inspiration from Frank Baum himself. He believed that only a thin veil separated us from other worlds. In Finding Dorothy, I tried to push aside that veil and live in the world that Frank and Maud inhabited—to unveil them as they actually were, before The Wonderful Wizard of Oz whirled them into the spotlight. Circe is a fabulous book by the way! I think it much deserved its honors.
  1. JL) Why tell it in the author’s wife’s point of view—because she had a hard life and overcame adversity?
EL) Frank and Maud did not have any daughters, so the first mystery for me was how did a man with no daughters create one of the most beloved little girls in all of literature—Dorothy? As one of America’s most beloved tales, the inspirations for Baum’s story have been well-researched, but no one knew if there was a real little girl who inspired the character of Dorothy. Some have speculated that she was named for a niece who died in infancy, but I did not think that rang true since Baum first wrote about a character named Dorothy before that niece was born. As I read more about Baum’s wife and their life together, the more convinced I became that their marriage and life together inspired Baum’s book—as for who inspired Dorothy—well, you’ll need to read the book!
  1. JL) Any great anecdote to share from the non-fiction side to the story, or the movie itself?
EL) If you read the book, you’ll read a scene set in the witch’s castle where Dorothy sings a reprise of “Over the Rainbow.” That scene was cut from the final movie, and no film has ever been found, but there is an audio recording and it is simply heartbreaking to listen to. 
  1. JL) What writers have influenced your own fiction?
EL) I have always been a voracious reader since I was a little kid. In addition to reading the Oz series as a child, many children’s books made a big impression on me—and I had a special fondness for books where ordinary children had extraordinary adventures—the Oz books of course, but also Edward Eager and Roald Dahl. I adored historical fiction and used to read the big sprawling books—Irving Stone, James Michener. Some go to authors for historical fiction—Paula McClain, Melanie Benjamin, and Tasha Alexander.  My favorite book of the past year was Pachinko by Min Jee Lee. And I never miss a book by Anne Tyler.
JL) Are we not in Kansas anymore, culturally speaking?
EL) I still have an old black and white photograph of a farmhouse in Parsons, Kansas that my grandmother’s family moved to after my great-great-great grandfather fought in the Civil War. I was born in Houston and moved to Los Angeles when I was five, but my family still has deep Midwestern roots.  I absolutely love the Great Plains. In my opinion, we’ll always be in Kansas, metaphorically speaking, because of the many ways that the center of our country has fueled our imaginations and affected how we think of our identity as a nation. The Smithsonian called The Wonderful Wizard of Oz “America’s first homegrown fairy tale” and Baum knew what he was doing. Kansas and Oz are the two sides of our national psyche, and they have always coexisted side by side.
JL) You also love horses. Do you still own one, and which horses do you love most from history?

EL) I do love horses, and I don’t currently own one but I still ride all the time, and I confess I’m looking for a new horse right now. My favorite horse from history? No question—it’s Snowman, The Eighty-Dollar Champion!

THE YEAR OF LESS by Cait Flanders

We live in a world of MORE. Everything is predicated on growth, earning potential, world domination, and “crushing the competition,” as Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank puts it. (He spends $120 on a pair of underwear.) Consumption is “bragging” these days, with condos rising on cleared land or near the ocean in an unsustainable model (given rising oceans, as in Norfolk, VA or Miami FL.) Hurricane seasons get worse each year, amid melting glaciers, while population growth means more pollution and plastics in air and water. So here comes Cait Flanders to join the few not buying the lies of advertising. In THE YEAR OF LESS, which she also narrates on audio, this binge shopper decided to not buy anything for a year, except groceries and gas and toiletries. Joining the zero waste movement, she discarded 70% of her “stuff,” as George Carlin once said it in a funny monologue. “When in doubt, throw it out” is the motto of the anti-hoarder. Getting rid of the television freed up immense time, as well. She reports that she feels more fulfilled, more in tune with herself and nature. A year of less means less stress, too. This is a book mainly for women shopaholics, it being doubtful that “good old boys” who “love their toys” would relate. Add mindfulness to the mix, and the author’s appeal goes to Oprah, Forbes, and the CBC. Related books on this subject are Minimalist Living, Soulful Simplicity, Destination Simple, and The Power of Now. People fight and die for more. They value themselves and others by how much they “own.” In a Silicon Valley book with the odd title LIVE WORK WORK WORK DIE, which men would appreciate, author Corey Pein offers “a scathing, sardonic exploration of tech culture, laying bare the greed, hubris, and retrograde politics of an industry that aspires to radically transform society for its own benefit. This enlightening audiobook is a must-listen for anyone interested or involved in the tech industry.” He narrates a no-filter look at the perils of approaching investors (as on Shark Tank), who often require payment upfront just to pitch them, at least in California. It’s like AGT, with just about the same hope. Subtitle, after all, is “A Journey into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley.” VR and gaming plays into it. GameGate. Die on screen and in real life before you find “success.” Fascinating, as Spock would put it. The author wonders why startup founders must pay venture capitalists to hear them, and not the other way around. Perhaps there are just too many bad ideas out there, and too many pitches going on, that the public never sees good ideas passed over for ones that make big bucks…and get all the press in our “winner take all” TrumpIt culture. 

Friday, July 3, 2020

James Fallows

James Fallows is a writer and journalist for The Atlantic. He was Jimmy Carter’s chief speechwriter, and won the National Book Award in 1983 for National Defense. He has since written about China, business, technology, and the military in both books and articles. A Rhodes scholar at Oxford in economics, he also went to Harvard, where he was editor of the Harvard Crimson. He later worked as an editor at The Washington Monthly, Texas Monthly, and U.S. News & World Report. In addition to holding a number of honorary degrees, he is also a licensed pilot, and once, long ago, worked as a mail carrier for the USPS. Given this experience, it is perhaps befitting that his last book was written with his wife Deborah, and is titled OUR TOWNS: A 100,000 Mile Journey into the Heart of America. 

Jonathan Lowe) Describe your book tour. Whom did you meet?

James Fallows) Over the past four months, my wife, Deb, and I have spent most of our time on the road across the United States, talking with readers -- and a wide range of other citizens. We've met business people, teachers and librarians, mayors and other political leaders, immigrants and refugees, artists, nurses and doctors, police officers and judges, architects and construction staffers, farmers and shop owners, reporters and local news staffers, entrepreneurs, brewers and distillers, truckers and delivery drivers, and the others who make up a modern community. 

JL) Impressions of America between the coasts?

JF) The more we've continued to travel, the more humbled and impressed we've become by the breadth and intensity of the renewal efforts already underway in communities large and small. Every American is aware of the problems and failures of the current United States, from bitter division at the level of national politics to economic dislocation and stagnation, and drug-addiction scourges. But not enough people are vividly enough aware of how much innovative energy is being applied toward solutions. 

JL) How do you think this will all turn out?

JF) We can't be sure -- no one can -- of how the balance between national-level bitterness and local-level practicality will turn out. But the more we've seen, the more convinced Deb and I have become about the importance of sharing these stories and letting today's Americans know about the solutions their fellow citizens are discovering.  

JL) You and your wife recorded the audio version of this book, reading the alternating passages each of you wrote. What did you learn from the experience?

JF) We benefitted from the guidance of a skillful producer / director of the recording, Gordon Rachman. Deb says about the experience, “Gordon was a great coach. He turned a famously arduous process – (think of going to the dentist!) -- into one that was as pleasant and rewarding as could be (think of taking the happy gas!)”
  I agree with Deb, and found the recording process both more demanding than I expected – every word and syllable had to be spoken clearly, in contrast to the tolerance for half-slurred words we get in normal life – but also more satisfying. Deb and I were trying to tell the story of what we had seen city-by-city as we went across the country, and telling those stories, aloud, finally seemed like the right and natural way to deliver the message. (Though I couldn’t help copy-editing myself as we went along, or thinking, “Gee, there could have been a clearer way to make that point!”)
I am a huge fan and customer of recorded books, and so I was all the more gratified to be able to participate in this part of the writing-and-publishing process.

From the Publisher: “For five years James and Deborah Fallows traveled across America in a single-engine prop airplane. Visiting dozens of towns, they met hundreds of civic leaders, workers, immigrants, educators, environmentalists, artists, public servants, librarians, business people, city planners, students, and entrepreneurs to take the pulse and understand the prospects of places that usually draw notice only after a disaster or during a political campaign.  The America they saw is acutely conscious of its problems—from economic dislocation to the opioid scourge—but it is also crafting solutions, with a practical-minded determination at dramatic odds with the bitter paralysis of national politics. At times of dysfunction on a national level, reform possibilities have often arisen from the local level. They describe America in the middle of one of these creative waves. Their view of the country is as complex and contradictory as America itself, but it also reflects the energy, the generosity and compassion, the dreams, and the determination of many who are in the midst of making things better. Our Towns is the story of their journey—and an account of a country busy remaking itself.”
Jonathan Lowe is author of Awakening Storm, now at Audible.com.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Remembering Clive Cussler

The undisputed Grand Master of the American action/adventure novel, Clive Cussler was author of many bestsellers published in more than 40 languages, with a readership of more than 120 million avid fans.  The founder of the National Underwater & Marine Agency (NUMA), a non-profit organization that dedicates itself to preserving maritime and naval history, Cussler and his crew of volunteers discovered more than 60 historically significant underwater wreck sites.  His alter-ego Dirk Pitt, like James Bond,was re-cast for the big screen, with an initial production of his novel "Sahara."  Cussler died in Feb. of 2020. This interview dates from his work on the Trojan Odyssey.

JONATHAN LOWE:  You have a degree in maritime history, yet you worked in advertising, then in a dive shop on a lark, where you started writing.  This was what--the mid-60s?
CLIVE CUSSLER:  Yes, that would have been the mid-60s.  But I got the degree, though, in '99 or 2000.  Sometime around then.
LOWE:  How long had you been diving by the time you incorporated NUMA?
CUSSLER:  Started diving when I was in the Air Force.  We were in Hickam Field in Hawaii for a while in 1951, and my friend Don Spencer and I sent for a dive tank and regulator from Cousteau in France, who'd started manufacturing them.  I think we might have had the first tank in Hawaii, and I remember we went into the hanger and filled it up with a couple hundred pounds of stale air out of a compressor, and just ran into the water.  So I would have started diving in '51.
LOWE:  Finding lost shipwrecks isn't easy, is it?
CUSSLER:  Oh, no!  Sometimes you get lucky, but I would say most of the time it's difficult.  The ghost ship Marie Celeste, we found that in the first hour.  The Civil War submarine Hunley took me fifteen years.  
LOWE:  Is it the location?  Do the wrecks shift or drift?
CUSSLER:  No, it's just that the records aren't good.  I always give the example that, say, a plane crashed in your neighborhood. . . you could come back in two hundred years to find that site, but of course everything has changed, and you don't know where to begin.  Maybe they gave you a street, but maybe the street's not there.  And they didn't say "it crashed two hundred yards from the old rock," you know?  So you can see how difficult it is to find the exact spot.  That's the same way it is with shipwrecks.  Nobody puts a big marker up and says "here it is."  So when you come by later, there's no GPS coordinates.
LOWE:  Like in the story "The Gold Bug" by Poe, where they drop the line through the skull to find the treasure.
CUSSLER:  Yes, but even then they had a ball park.   
LOWE:  How many expeditions have you mounted by now?
CUSSLER:  {sighs}  Oh my, there must be a hundred or more.
LOWE:  The two Sea Hunters books outline some amazing successes, like the Hunley, Carpathia, Marie Celeste.  Is there a ship still out there that beckons you, though, or still nags at you?
CUSSLER:  For sure.  John Paul Jones, the Bon Homme Richard.  I tried for that four times, haven't found it yet.
LOWE:  Where did that sink?
CUSSLER:  In the North Sea off Yorkshire.
LOWE:   How goes the Sea Hunters TV series?  Will it air here?
CUSSLER:  I don't know.  It's under National Geographic, and airs internationally.  What's so funny with Geographic, I narrate the program overseas, but here they run a few of them under "Mysteries of the Sea" or something, and I'm cut out of it.  (laughs)
LOWE:  So you don't know what's going on?
CUSSLER:  Well, somebody told me, and I don't know how true it is, but they didn't want to upset Bob Ballard, who found the Titanic.
LOWE:  Your novels have been wildly successful, I think, due as much to the research behind them as the pacing and characters.  Are you doing research for some lost shipwreck when it occurs to you that Dirk Pitt might wade in?
CUSSLER:  Not really.  I haven't really combined the two.  I had Pitt looking for a Pharaoh's barge in the Nile one time, but we really haven't crossed paths.  I don't know why.  I think it's just because the storyline doesn't work as far as following anything I've done. 
LOWE:  Are there any more Pitt adventures in the works?
CUSSLER:  Yes, I'm about two thirds through the next one.
LOWE:  Really?  I thought you were just continuing with Kurt Austin.
CUSSLER:  No, those are just spinoff series.  I come up with most of the plotting and they'll start the writing, and I'll edit, that sort of thing.  
LOWE:  So you switch off with Craig Dirgo.
CUSSLER:  Right.  Together we just finished a fiction book which has nothing to do with NUMA or Pitt or anything.  In one book, "Flood Tide," I had this ship that looked like an old beat up tramp steamer, had all the exotic gear, and people who ran it were like corporate mercenaries, they go around the world, like a Mission Impossible plot.
LOWE:  Where did the name Dirk Pitt come from?
CUSSLER:  My son's name.  He was six months old when I started writing.  His name is Dirk, and I used it for fun, really.  I was looking through an encyclopedia about the British prime ministers during the Revolutionary war, Pitt the younger and Pitt the elder.  So I thought, well, that works, 'cause I wanted a one syllable name.  
LOWE:  I was thinking, you know, like one letter less than James Bond, and easier to type than Brandon Tartikoff or something.
CUSSLER:  (laughs)  Well, that's it.  It's easier to say "Pitt jumped over the wall" than that.  I think that's why Fleming wanted a simple name.  James Bond.  There was an ornithologist by that name too.
LOWE:  What does your writing schedule look like these days?  Do you work nonstop on a project?
CUSSLER:  Pretty much, but I get so many interruptions.  I mean, an expedition, or I have to go out to L.A. to fight over the screenplay or the movie.  Or I have to speak here.  There's always something.  But I try to work nine to six.  Some nights now too.  
LOWE:  What's up with the Sahara movie?  Is Tom Cruise still linked to it?
CUSSLER:  No, they're talking to Matthew McConnehy 'cause I wouldn't have approved Cruise, and then he wanted to go off and do Mission Impossible III anyway.
LOWE:  So you have control over that?
CUSSLER:  I have casting and script approval, right.
LOWE:  So they can't do a switcheroo and replace Matthew with Brad Pitt playing Dirk Pitt, then?
CUSSLER:  Not a chance.  Legally, they're bound.
LOWE:  What's your next book about?
CUSSLER:  It's called "The Trojan Odyssey" at this point, so it has to do with Troy and the fact that Odysseus didn't sail around the Mediterranean, he sailed around the Atlantic.  That'll be out probably in December.
LOWE:  You know what would be great is a full cast and sound audiobook of a Pitt or Austin book.  
CUSSLER:  Yes, it would.
LOWE:  Most big publishers don't have the time to spend on productions like that, though.  
CUSSLER:  No, they don't.  Usually it's just a guy sits there and reads.
LOWE:  Do you ever get fan mail from people about your audiobooks?
CUSSLER:  Yes, I do.
LOWE:  I remember being at an air show at Davis Monthan Air Force Base here in Tucson, and seeing a lady listening to a Cracker Barrel audiobook before the show started up.  I asked what she was listening to, and she said "Clive Cussler."  I said, "I know him."  She goes, "No way."  Have you ever visited a Cracker Barrel?
CUSSLER:  Certainly.  I'm trying to think when I was travelling.  I remember eating at one in Indiana.  Oh course, I've stopped in them.  They're kinda neat.  Good basic food.  I've stopped in others in Oregon and Colorado, I think.
LOWE:  It's a nostalgic place.  Your interest in antique cars plays into that.
CUSSLER:  Yes.  
LOWE:  Have you ever been on the Tonight Show?  Leno's a car buff.
CUSSLER:  No, I never have, but I remember I talked to him at Pebble Beach one time and I asked him "How come you don't have more cars on the show?"  And he said he had Carroll Shelby on one time, and the audience just had no connection with him.  So producers got after him, and other than a brief bit with him in a car now and then, that's about it.
LOWE:  Who are your own favorite authors?
CUSSLER:  When I started out the one I leaned on the most was Alister McLean.  And then Hammond Innes, in his eighties now and still writing.  As for new authors, I like Nelson DeMille.  But I don't have time to read.  I had lunch one time with James Michener, and just for fun I said, "Have you read any good books lately, Jim?"  And he laughed and said "I don't read," then clarified it by saying he doesn't read fiction because he's always working.  I'm pretty much the same way.  About the only fiction books I'll read is like in your case, try to help a new author with a quote.  I gave a quote for "The Hunt for Red October" for Clancy.
LOWE:  Really?  Clancy?  That's amazing.

CUSSLER:  If you ever find an original, those things sell for about a thousand bucks.  And then there's Stephen Coonts, for "Flight of the Intruder."  Tells you how long I've been around, doesn't it?