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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 25, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 34
Interviewing the interviewer
Arts & Entertainment
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Interviewing the interviewer

by Felice Picano - Special to the SGN

How do you interview a well-known local interviewer?

According to the old saying, very, very carefully. But first you need a reason, and second you need a topic.

Luckily I have both.



The reason is that I allowed Eric Andrews-Katz to talk me into coming to the Pacific Northwest to do a series of reading events with him. Seattle is the first stop, then Vancouver, and then Spokane. This is my first visit in over twenty years when my big gay saga, Like People in History, was published. The truth is that I didn't need much persuading; I've been so welcomed in the past that I needed very little prodding.

Second is the topic and that of course is the news that the local - and now nationally-recognized - interviewer that Eric Andrews Katz has developed into via the Seattle Gay News, is now an author of three books.

So the topic of this interview is Eric as an author of two books, what I call comic-thrillers, and then this amazing third novel, Tartarus. As Eric himself might say in one of his 'In The Writer's Studio' interviews at various literary conferences, this is a game-changer, a serious, exciting read of a story, with thematic underpinnings going back to the beginning of Western Literature.

Felice Picano: Tartarus is so completely different than your first two novels, which let's face it are sort of comic-thrillers. What made you decide to write this book? Was it a life event? Or was it more internal: a book you'd wanted to write for a while and now felt ready to take on?

Eric Andrews-Katz: I've always had a love for world mythologies, especially Greco/Roman. I've studied them most of my life. There was something about the Echidna that stood out for me. You always hear about the 'Mother of Queens' or the 'Father of the Country,' you rarely hear about a 'Mother of Monsters.' I'd been plotting Tartarus for several years and it finally felt right to do it.

Picano: Was there any research? Did you do a lot of research done for the mythological background of Tartarus? Or did you have most of the mythic material at your fingertips?

Andrews-Katz: It was a combination of both. I knew the myths and legends, but there were details I needed to research. For example, at first, I only mentioned three rivers in the Underworld, but my editor (Greg Herren) pointed out that it is clearly recorded by the Ancient Greeks as having five rivers. If the blueprint is there, I had to work with it. Same thing when it came to the legends themselves. I went back and reread many of the myths involving Apollo, Artemis, Zeus and Echidna. Once you have the classic foundation you can build on it and bring it into more modern times.

Picano: Echidna is such a monster! She seems almost undefeatable. What was it about this character that made you want to follow her so closely? As closely as the human twins (who are her enemy) and as sympathetically (empathetically) at times?

Andrews-Katz: Rarely do monsters start off as monsters. They are usually condemned to the role by others not understanding them, or by circumstances initiated by others. No one (and nothing) is a hundred percent evil - there is always some sort of good, even the smallest degree to balance it out. Echidna was the first Titan, and not perfect, and her brood wasn't either. Her children were only deemed monsters later, by the very different human race, and so when the humans hunted down the Titans, Echidna was given the same label - monster. It only goes to show that it is usually a one-sided history written by the victors.

Picano: The world that you established in Tartarus seems to be one in which you can play around in for a sequel or two. Do you have any planned?

Andrews-Katz: I originally planned Tartarus to be a solo, stand-alone book, but when I was finished writing it I had to go back and rethink that. I've decided that I'm going to write a book about each of the main six male Olympian gods. (I'll leave the goddesses to people that have better insight into females than me.) Each book will stand on its own, but there will be an inside joke, a casual, throwaway sentence or two, that connects them together. That way if you read them out of order, nothing important will be missed.

Picano: Your writing seems to have both sharpened up - details and backgrounds are much better drawn than in your previous novels - and at the same time loosened up, so that the scale of Tartarus is so much larger, almost epic - and the characters are larger than life. How did you achieve that effect?

Andrews-Katz: My previous books (the 'Agent Buck 98' series) take place entirely in our world. They deal with serious subjects so there is also a light (often silly) humor to help the characters get through. There is a definitive beginning and end with the cases they are working on. Tartarus is definitely more on an epic scale of time and place. I'm not only dealing with humans, I am also dealing with gods, and with motivations that go back thousands of years. The characters have to be larger than life. I think that visualization when writing is very important. If my characters can see, smell, touch, hear and taste the world around them it makes it more palpable for all involved.

Picano: What is your next book? Or do you have more in the pipeline?

Andrews-Katz: I'm working on two novels that are very different. One is from the same series of Tartarus and is called 'The God of the Dead' and will deal with Hades, god of the underworld. It'll be a little different from Tartarus but will still involve elements of magical realism. The other book is called 'Shalom Y'All' and it is about being the outsider/in-law at someone else's family event. It revolves around a gay couple and both of their very different families.

Eric-Andrews Katz will be reading from one of my favorite chapters of Tartarus at the University Book Store on Friday, September 8 at 7pm; Little Sisters Books and Emporium in Vancouver, B.C. on Sunday, September 10 at 7pm, and at Auntie's Books in Spokane on Wednesday, September 13 at 7pm.

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Gay authors Felice Picano and Eric Andrews-Katz to appear at University Book Store September 8
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Interviewing the interviewer
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