Knoll was full of spins and twists taking the reader into the JFK assassination plot with some well-known characters. You can check out my review a few weeks back or for your convenience, I have been kind enough to make it easy on you internet slackers by linking it up here.
In fact, it pushed me to order Mirkwood off of Amazon and find out what I missed. Mirkwood is Mr. Hillard's novel about J.R.R. Tolkien which had sparked great controversy. I just got it on my Kindle, so I will be enjoying some porch reading in the mornings and evenings.
Hillard's enthusiasm was invigorating and I can tell just by the short contact I had with him on the phone, that he is full of energy and drive. It really was contagious and he was such a joy to speak with about his books and future undertakings. Furthermore, it is certainly encouraging to listen to someone who is passionate about their work. You can't help but join in the excitement!
Based upon some true events and facts, Knoll sucked me right into the roller coaster ride until the end. Additionally, I found myself getting out my phone and laptop on occasion and googling names, dates, places, and historical accounts. It really brought the detective in me out front and center again. And the ending-left some openings. Let's take a look at the intellectual architect behind Knoll, Stephen Hillard:
Mr. Hillard, how did you get inspired for Knoll?
- Family history, for starters. I grew up in Bossier City, Louisiana, my brother played in the house band at Carlos Marcello's nightclub and gave me a great personal sense of the "Little Man." My father worked in the big downtown hotel in Shreveport and was very familiar with the Louisiana Mafia at the time. The "journal" that plays a role in the book comes substantially from his actual journal. My school friends had fathers who were "made men" in the Mob. My family moved to Colorado shortly after JFK's assassination and I finished growing up in the hometown of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who penned the movie "Executive Action" portraying a conspiracy to murder JFK. All that formed a poignant stew for the book.
Why JFK? Is there a fascination with the historical accounts and perspectives, conspiracies?
- In addition to the personal ties, I realized that (a) the majority of Americans still believe there was a conspiracy, and (b) my generation (Boomers) probably has the last active JFK conspiracists. I wondered at how the mystery of the crime might somehow, if ever, get unraveled.
What kind of research, if any, did you conduct? Did you hit any roadblocks or surprises along the way?
- I used lots of sources--books, newspaper articles, historical archives, oral histories of folks in Louisiana at the time.
Does the book mimic your own findings and opinions on the JFK assassination?
- KNOLL was intended to pose this question: are there thus-far undiscovered secrets about those events and has something helped maintain that secrecy all these years?
Did you hit any surprises along the way while writing this book? If so, what happened?
- Yes, my brother's account of Marcello and the role the Mob played in the history of North Louisiana, and the abiding hatred Marcello had for the Kennedys. Also, the resources and power of the NSA was a stunning revelation to me.
How does the character Bus compare to your own persona?
- He's a different me in a somewhat parallel universe. His reactions are close to my own.
Please talk about how you sit down to write a book. For example, do you go to a cabin in the woods, sit at the kitchen table? Do you have to have a quiet environment, or anything goes when the inspiration strikes you? Is it handwritten ideas and notes, outlines, frantic keyboarding?
- Every book--indeed every project I get into--has a unique way of evolving. I used to just get up at 4 or 5 in the morning and start writing for two hours. For KNOLL, I spent as much time researching as writing, so it was more stop and go. I found myself writing, jumping between characters, as soon as I felt I knew the answer to a particular historical question that had stalled things.
Your work morphing into television and film entertainment is exciting. What can we expect from your books moving into the visual industry?
- Every book has a movie or TV show inside it, if only through picking up on a particular character or event. I try to write with that thought in mind, but I love the craft of words and the images and feelings they can evoke just on their own.
Tell me more about your work at Rikers. I find this fascinating,. Was it rewarding, challenging, both, or otherwise?
- As a student at Columbia, I knew I owed many things back, and that seemed to be a good place to start. Getting there from Manhattan's upper West Side by subway was itself daunting. The place was intimidating as you approach, like a great keep. Once inside--the clanging bars, the smell of generations of inmates, the feel of old cricks and unforgiving steel and ultra-spring tension sitting arm in arm with despairing boredom, all did a job on me. I met and tutored unforgettable people. Some of them I helped. Some of them I could never get out of my head. Some of them should have been governors or movie stars, or students like me, but instead they were facing murder charges in there. One of them became the character Louie Diamond in the book.
Of all the avenues your career has taken, what was the most fulfilling to you?
- Each one has been very different and very fulfilling. My only regret is that I didn't get serious about writing earlier. That thing about putting in 10,000 hours in order to become good at something. Oh well, better late than never. I love this stuff.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
- Get serious now and don't let someone else crush your dream. Everybody is a great story and everybody has a great story to tell. Chalk up some of those 10,000 hours and you will get lots and lots better.
Anything you would like to add which I have not asked.
- Most important, thank you for giving me the chance to interview with you.
Mr. Hillard, I thank you. I was honored and very grateful for the opportunity to chat.
I would like to steer you toward Stephen Hillard's website for some detailed action of current and future works. He has quite the extensive background and interesting career history.
In the meantime, pick up your copy of Stephen Hillard's, Knoll, on Amazon or your local bookstore. If you venture beyond my recommendation, pick up the others. I did.