Interview with “A Dangerous Fiction Author Barbara Rogan
A Dangerous Fiction is the latest thriller from author Barbara Rogan. Barbara answers our questions about this exciting new series.
Shelf Pleasure: We’re so excited to meet literary agent-cum-detective Jo Donovan in your new thriller A Dangerous Fiction. As a former literary agent and publishing professional yourself, did you draw exclusively on your own experiences to form Jo? How much are you two alike?
Barbara Rogan: All my “day jobs” have been in publishing, and I’ve been published by a number of the large New York publishers, so it’s a world I know well. I’ve also worked with many aspiring writers, and was once one myself, so I know how deep that passion runs and how much rejection hurts. These two sides of my experience came together in A Dangerous Fiction, which starts with a literary agent being stalked by a rejected writer.
But Jo Donovan, my protagonist, is not me. We have a few things in common—both of us strong advocates and a bit mother-hennish toward our clients—but Jo is tougher than I am. She had to be to survive a hellish childhood. Jo also has certain issues that I don’t share, but I won’t go into those for fear of giving too much away.
SP: Did you do any outside research in addition to your work experience?
BR: Some, but less than I did for most of my novels. The publishing business has changed dramatically over the past few years, but the role of the literary agent is essentially the same. When I did have questions, it wasn’t hard to find answers; I just turned to my own agent, Gail Hochman, and other friends in the industry. The novel is set almost entirely in New York, a city I’ve lived in and still know well, so that part was a breeze. In the past I’ve had to learn all sorts of arcane skills and information, from performing open heart surgery (not that I wielded the scalpel!) to building Shaker furniture, so it made a nice change to write from within a world I actually knew.
SP: Jo has to deal with a client who becomes a stalker, which sounds like every publishing professional’s worst nightmare! Have you had any experiences like that with clients?
BR: I think every agent who’s been in the business for a while has had unpleasant encounters. Just last year, a literary agent in California was assaulted by a disgruntled writer whose work she’d rejected. Of course, most writers draw the line well before violence, but there are other forms of overzealousness. An agent friend of mine was handed a manuscript at her own husband’s funeral—I think that incident might have made its way into the book. When I was an agent, I had my share of angry letters in response to polite rejections, writers telling me what a moron I was for turning down their masterpiece. Most writers are not at all like that, I hasten to add; but out of the hundreds or thousands of submissions agents get each year, there are bound to be a few loonies.
SP: What can readers who have never read one of your novels before expect
from A Dangerous Fiction?
BR: It’s hard to answer that without sounding boastful, so I’ll just quote my editor at Viking, who said that A Dangerous Fiction was the first mystery she’d ever read that made her laugh and cry. It’s a well-plotted mystery, I think, which means that readers won’t know till close to the end who dunnit, but once they do, it will make perfect sense. I think readers will enjoy spending time in the company of Jo and her friends. Setting a novel in the publishing world meant coming up with characters who are as articulate and amusing as I could make them, which was fun for me and will be, I hope, for readers as well. The book also offers an informative view of an industry that can seem remote, even daunting, from the outside, but is quite different once you’re inside it.
SP: Are you going to continue to write about Jo Donovan? If so, what’s next for her?
BR: I am. I realized when I finished this book that I wasn’t through with her, or she with me. Jo is the most flawed protagonist I’ve ever created, and to me the most interesting. I also think her profession—literary agent—lends itself to the exploration of worlds beyond the realm of publishing, while giving her access to all kinds of expertise. I plan to write at least two more Jo Donovan mysteries.
SP: Now that you’re writing full-time, do you miss the business side of publishing?
BR: I don’t miss schlepping 30 pounds of books and manuscripts with me everywhere I go, but I do miss the rest of it. When I was an agent, I worked with fascinating people, including writers and publishers I admired wildly. I went to book fairs all over the world, traveled a lot, ate a ton of good lunches…it was fun and I was good at it. But writing is my first love, and every day when I sit down to write, I know I made the right choice.
SP: What books are sitting on your nightstand right now?
BR: The Burgess Brothers by Elizabeth Strout, Tenth of December by George Saunders, Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst, and How Fiction Works, by James Wood.
SP: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our audience?
BR: Thanks for reading; and thank you for having me.
Learn more and order your own copy of A Dangerous Fiction here:
If you’d like to be featured as an author on Shelf Pleasure, email us here.
Take a break from the sun and settle in the ..
There's nothing we love more at Shelf Pleasure than a ..
Author and Shelf Pleasure contributor Karen A. Chase on how ..
One of author Mary Miley’s favorite things about being a ..
Author and police psychologist Ellen Kirschman, Ph.D., weighs the pitfalls ..
Little known fact about Shelf Pleasure's Kristen: she's obsessed with ..