Fear in Writing: Author Alan Orloff, Diamonds for the Dead

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Monday, April 26, 2010

Author Alan Orloff, Diamonds for the Dead

Fellow blogger and debut author Alan Orloff joins Southern City Mysteries today, to talk about his novel Diamonds for the Dead. He gave me a brief bio that I now share with you...Before Alan stepped off the corporate merry-go-round, he had an eclectic (some might say disjointed) career. As an engineer, he worked on nuclear submarines, supervised assembly workers in factories, facilitated technology transfer from the Star Wars program, and learned to stack washing machines three high in a warehouse with a forklift. He even started his own recycling and waste reduction newsletter business. Now he writes fiction.

ME: You base your book around the Jewish culture in Reston, Virginia. Why was it important to you to include religion in your debut novel?

AO: I didn’t actually set out to write a book with a Jewish background (in fact, writing about anything religious was probably the farthest thing from my mind). The germ of the story came not from an incident, but from a person. One of the characters in the book, Kassian, is (very) loosely based on someone from my childhood. When I was just a lad, my family would gather together for the Jewish holidays at my grandmother’s apartment, and she would often invite a relative to join us. I didn’t exactly know how he was related to us, but we called him “cousin.” He was a diminutive man, well-dressed, quite polite, and impeccably groomed. He also smelled heavily of aftershave. It wasn’t until years later that I learned it wasn’t aftershave I was smelling; it was something a lot more potent (of the 100-proof variety). So given this association, I guessed it just seemed natural to have the characters be Jewish, and have the action set against some Jewish cultural background. In my mind, though, I set out to write a suspenseful, page-turning mystery, and that’s how I view it—the “Jewishness” adds some interesting depth.

ME: Another major theme in Diamonds for the Dead is family, both alienation from and devotion to ones elders. How does this fit into your own life? Do you have elderly parents you take care of or are expected to?

AO: I’ve always respected my elders, and I’ve never felt alienated from the elder members of my family. But you’re right, in the book, Josh (the protagonist) had drifted away from his now-deceased father. When Josh comes home to bury him, he discovers all sorts of secrets his father kept. I guess that’s part of what makes the story interesting—learning how Josh deals with his discoveries, especially seeing how he infers qualities about his father through these secrets.

ME: I get that many people are moved to write, but why were you moved to write murder mystery? What is the fascination?

AO: I read a lot of crime fiction, so I guess it seemed natural to write crime fiction. Plus it’s better to write about crimes than commit them (at least that’s what my parole officer tells me).

ME: What is next for you? Are you working on your second book already? Third?

AO: The first book in my Channing Hayes series will be released next Spring (2011). Called KILLER ROUTINE, it’s about a stand-up comic with a tragic past. I’m working on the sequel to that one now (due out in Spring 2012). Back to your first question, religion isn’t even mentioned in this series, unless you consider stand-up comedy a religion.

ME: Anything else you'd like to tell the readers?

AO: Part of the publishing “game” includes promotion, and part of promotion includes blogging and reading others’ blogs. It’s been very rewarding to get to know so many great bloggers and blog readers in cyberspace (like yourself), and for that, I’m grateful!

Thanks for hosting me on your blog today, Michele—I appreciate it. And I also appreciate that you made DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD your April Challenge book; that’s very cool! For more info, visit http://www.alanorloff.com/


  1. Alan, it's interesting how you start off to write one way and then the characters and the story take you in another direction. Sounds like you have a very intriguing murder mystery.

    Thoughts in Progress

  2. Great interview, Michele and Alan!

    Isn't it funny how our books never really end up exactly like we thought they would when we were starting them? I'm like Alan--people I've known or know or met heavily influence my writing in unexpected ways.

    Congratulations on your release, Alan!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. Wonderful interview! Thanks for posting about Alan and his book, Michele!

    Have a great Monday! :D

  4. I think it's great to be that open to outside influences, to be that fluid in your writing. Who knows where a book could go? Or what new work could spring from a chance encounter?

    Also, I forgot to thank Alan for opening himself to my blog in my post! So I'll say it now--thank you, Alan!


  5. Alan, your parole officer is a wise man.

  6. The aftershave anecdote is priceless.

  7. Alan, congrats! on your release. Best wishes for your success. And blogging is an integral part of a writer's promotion. Just keep bloggin' is my motto.

    Stephen Tremp

  8. Mason - Well, I don't want it to sound like I was winging it. After I decide on the story, I try to stick to my outline, with as few detours as possible (of course, I change my outline a lot!).

    Elizabeth - Thanks. It is quite interesting how a chance encounter or something small like that can mushroom into a much bigger idea/book.

    B - Thanks! Have a great Monday, too! (And Tuesday, and Wednesday, and...)

    Michele - Thanks so much for inviting me! Your blog always has so much energy--glad to be part of it!

    Alex - I try to heed his words whenever possible.

    Stephen P.- I always wondered why he was so happy.

    Stephen T. - Thanks. Just keep bloggin! And Twittering! And Facebooking! And, oh yeah, writing! :)

  9. Isn’t it fun how a story unfolds even when it’s not exactly what you planned to write in the first place.

    I’ve got some of those relatives where I still can’t figure out how we’re related!

  10. Jane- We all have those--stories AND relatives!

  11. Great interview! It's always interesting to hear from fellow writers. I like how your characters dictated the story elements - that's the way it tends to go for me too :)

  12. Jane - Life's like that, too. Although it's a lot easier to highlight a bunch of stuff in your manuscript and hit DELETE.

    Michele - Thanks again for interviewing me. It was a pleasure to visit today--you've got some great blog readers with some insightful comments (which is better than inciteful comments)!

    Jemi - Yeah, I think it's usually the characters who drive the plot, at least in my books. But you've got to have a good story, too!

  13. I just received a copy of "Diamonds for the Dead" in my latest book order -- the TBR stack is taller, and I need a month-long reading retreat. Looking forward to this novel, Alan. I love to read the books of people I "know."