Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Introducing Vicki Hendricks
Vicki Hendricks is the author of noir novels Miami Purity, Iguana Love, Voluntary Madness, Sky Blues, and Cruel Poetry, the latter nominated for an Edgar Award in 2008. Her collection, Florida Gothic Stories was published in 2010. Hendricks lives in Hollywood, Florida, and teaches writing at Broward College. Her plots and settings reflect participation in adventure sports, such as skydiving and scuba, and knowledge of the Florida environment.
TSG: How'd you become a writer?
Vicki: I became a writer in the dullest way possible: schooling. I always wanted to write, but thought I was a lazy procrastinator because I never got past the first few pages, at those rare moments when I wrote anything at all. Having taught college-level English for ten years, I had settled into writing poetry reviews, literary analysis, and a few non-fiction articles for local magazines when I heard of the new MFA in Creative Writing at Florida International University. It was difficult to be accepted, and is even tougher now because it's such a popular program, but well worth the struggle. Four years later I graduated, and soon my thesis was published by Pantheon for a six-figure advance. I would never have gotten anywhere without learning technique and structure, so I owe it all to the instructors at F.I.U.--and hard work. Dennis Lehane and I were classmates, and I'm sure he agrees.
TSG: Describe yourself as a writer?
Vicki: I would go along with other people and call myself a noir writer. I don't write mysteries, and there is never a detective solving a case because the narrator is the criminal. This is noir in the style of James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, Serenade, and others. The fun is in watching the person make choices that get him or her deeper into trouble, the hallmark of noir. My characters are not evil, but deeply confused and often psychologically damaged, innocently trying to make their lives work by the only means they find open to them. The narrators of my novels are all women compelled into crime by obsession, my favorite theme, although men often play a similar role in my short stories. Noir is the darkest of the crime genres, and with Miami Purity in '95 I introduced graphic sexual content that Cain was never allowed in his day and that has continued to be popular in the neo-noir world.
TSG: Your influences?
Vicki: Besides James M. Cain, my influences are Harry Crews, Charles Bukowski, and Jim Thompson. Lately, I've heard magical realism and horror both applied to my short stories, so the influences range widely beyond those.
TSG: Your muses?
Vicki: My muses are terrific writers that I happen to be reading. Nothing inspires me as much as seeing technique so beautiful that it brings tears to my eyes. I can't resist parsing it out to see how the writer made it work, then trying to do it myself. When you see the bottom corners turned on a book I've read, you know I'm planning to go back to study.
TSG: Your first sale?
Vicki: My first sale was my thesis and most successful novel: Miami Purity. I heard of Sonny Mehta's interest in purchasing the novel when I was in the midst of a writing workshop and a phone call came in from "my agent." I didn't have an agent until that moment, and didn't even believe it at the time, but soon a fantasy, beyond anything I imagined, came true.
TSG: Your biggest, most memorable thrill as a writer?
Vicki: It's been an exciting process all the way through, finishing the first novel, selling it, taking a book tour with James Ellroy, traveling to London for Serpent's Tail and to France for a noir conference. Being an Edgar Award finalist in 2008 and getting my collection of short stories together has recently kept the excitement going. I'm hopeful that the current film option on Miami Purity will make the leap into production, and that will be another prime moment in my writing life.