Tuesday, March 2, 2010

May I Introduce Thomas Kaufman?

Late last week I was reading this great review over at Pop Culture Nerd's blog and wondering why I had not heard of this book. I figure it's because my head has been stuck in other books, but that's still no excuse. Anyway, the name of the book is DRINK THE TEA and it is the winner of PWA's Best New Private Eye Novel Competition. This always raises my eyebrows since former winners include Steve Hamilton, Michael Koryta and Les Roberts. So, I'm thinking, "I have to get this book." Even though, in my mother's words I have "50 million books" around my house, I need to get THIS one. And low and behold, I kid you not, the next day there's an email in my inbox from the author, Thomas Kaufman.

Thomas Kaufman is an Emmy-award winning director and cameraman (gosh, he's going to need a bigger house for all these different awards). He's worked on many documentaries with cops and FBI agents. Now he's writing about those subjects.

Thomas graciously agreed to take over the reigns of the blog today, the release date of his debut novel DRINK THE TEA. Please help me welcome Mr. Thomas Kaufman:

Some people write to escape their days jobs. I write because of my day job. This job often forces me to take long airplane rides, and spend lots of evenings in hotel rooms.

I work as a cinematographer. I shoot TV shows for people like Barbara Kopple & Michael Moore. And I've filmed too-many-to-count programs for Discovery and National Geographic, BBC, WGBH, WNET…you get the idea.

The other thing about my day job is the kind of films I do – lots of commercial and some dramatic films, but more on the documentary side of things. And a lot of shows with cops, DEA agents, FBI agents. I have a great time with these men and women, and a lot of them are born story-tellers. Over the years I've written down some of these stories, and tried to use them in DRINK THE TEA.

My work lets me see life unfold through the viewfinder of a camera. So when I wrote the different scenes in DRINK THE TEA, I was doing my best to visualize them – how the people moved, their body language, what they were saying, what they weren't saying.

Last week my wife took me and the kids to an art gallery. We saw Renoir and Monet paintings. The impressionists believed in studying gestures, that certain poses and body language conveyed emotions and attitudes that were universal. I think about that kind of language when I visualize the scenes I'm writing.

Another type of language is spoken. I like to play music with my friends. So I think I have a pretty good ear. When I hear dialogue, I listen for the rhythms. Then I try to write that way. Folks don't speak in grammatical constructions. They talk in fragments. All the time. So I try to engage that part of me when I write dialogue. I try to hear it.

The last thing I'll tell you is where I write: anywhere but home.

Maybe it's all those years on the road, but I find it hard to do a first draft at home – too many distractions. But a coffee shop, sure. A doctor's waiting room? You bet. A Chuck E Cheese for a 9-year-old's birthday party? Even that is better than being in my own house, thanks just the same.

Oh, and pass the pepperoni.

So hopefully that birthday party turned out to be very productive for Thomas. The other great news Thomas shared with me is that he is going to be in my neck of the woods next weekend, so I'm headed off to see him on Sunday...and get my hands on that book...so I'll have 50 million and ONE books in my house!

You can find out more about Thomas Kaufman and his debut novel, DRINK THE TEA, at his website. And you can also check out his tour schedule to see if he will be in your neck of the woods!


Naomi Johnson March 2, 2010 at 9:38 AM  

I just finished the book last night and will be seeing Mr. Kaufman on Saturday at Foul Play.

rhapsodyinbooks March 2, 2010 at 10:28 AM  

I didn't know about this book and author, and am grateful for the introduction. As it happens, my youngest sister was a "bad" kid who ended up in the D.C. police! So naturally I've got to get and read this book!!!

Christine March 2, 2010 at 2:21 PM  

How great is it that you were emailed about his book? Face up to the fame, kiddo! You're known.:-D

The man must have some incredible filtering skills if he can concentrate on ANYTHING at Chuck E Cheese. The sensory overload is enough to fry most of my synapses! ;-) Looking forward to this read!

Pop Culture Nerd March 2, 2010 at 4:44 PM  

You can never have too many books lying around, Jen. After you get your million and one, you should shoot for a million and two. Or five.

Mr. Kaufman, the rhythms of speech are really important to me so I'm glad to hear about the attention you pay to writing dialogue. If it's written well (as yours was), I can hear the rhythms in my head and will sometimes read lines aloud to fully appreciate them. It annoys me when I read dialogue that doesn't remotely sound like how people talk.

Congrats on DRINK THE TEA and happy pub day!

Kaye Barley March 2, 2010 at 6:45 PM  

This sounds like a terrific book - you have most certainly gotten my attention. I'll be looking for it, and I wish you great success with it.

And I agree with Christine - I'm VERY good at tuning things out, but doing at Chuck E. Cheese might be beyond my tuning out skills - I applaud you!

Thomas Kaufman March 29, 2010 at 9:42 AM  

Thanks for kind words, everyone. I hope you enjoy DRINK THE TEA.

By the way, I wouldn't recommend writing at a Chuck E Cheese...unless the kids let you have some of the cake.

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