Interview with Gray Basnight
by John Dwaine McKenna
Here’s our next author interview with Gray Basnight, writer of Flight of the Fox, along with an excerpt to whet your appetite for more of this timely and thrilling novel.
Why do you write?
It’s an important question that, in some ways, is unanswerable. Why artists and writers are compelled to create is elusive, but I feel compelled to do it and with all that said here’s why I write . . . Damned if I know – but I can’t seem NOT to.
Where do you write?
The one-bedroom apartment where I live in New York City has a small, four-foot by seven-foot walk-in closet I converted into an office. I call it my in utero work chamber.
Who’s your favorite literary character?
I have two, Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, the central protagonists in their own novels by Daniel Dafoe. Both books are beautifully written, life-enhancing stories about people playing the hand they were dealt.
Do you plot-outline or wing it?
I do not outline in the traditional sense, but I do outline in my own way. For me, the story idea arrives with the full arc of the narrative. I do not yet know all details, but can see the beginning, the middle, and the end. And I know the sentiment I want the reader to feel when the book is closed for the last time.
This method seems to help limit overly long and time-wasting digressions, while at the same time, it preserves the opportunity for more discovery along the way.
How can we, as writers, encourage more people to read?
I like the word “entertainment,” but I also like the word “enrichment.”
In “Flight of the Fox,” Sam Teagarden is named in honor of my Shakespeare professor at N.C. Wesleyan College, who also taught freshman English. He demanded dedication to the fundamentals of reading and writing from all his students – most of whom were no older than 18. During one lecture, a student objected that he was “Teaching over our heads.” Dr. Tea’s response was: “Raise your heads!”
That worked for me then, and it still works now. As writers, agents, editors, publishers, and reviewers we all need to do as much as we can to offer entertainment as well as something enriching that makes us raise our heads, and think.
We all need to raise our heads . . . a profound sentiment. I couldn’t agree more.
Do you have any other comments, suggestions, tips, anecdotes, quotes or inspirational material you’d like to share?
The primary rule is: butt in chair. If you’re not sitting at the keyboard several hours a day, you’re not going to be a writer.
Excerpt from Flight of the Fox:
Saturday Afternoon, July 20, 2019
Sam Teagarden’s House, Bethel, NY
Sam Teagarden mistook the tiny drone for a hummingbird.
Sitting on the sundeck near the bird feeder filled with sweet red liquid, he was accustomed to the motorized sounds of ruby-throated visitors. Yet there was something about the revved-up buzz of this particular bird that was not natural. Whatever it was, that unnatural—something—drew his attention from the unopened manila envelope at the top of the snail-mail pile he’d picked up at the rural post office an hour earlier. Glancing at the dangling feeder, he saw that the muted mechanical whirr was not coming from a hummingbird at all. It was a compact helicopter about the size of a baseball, hovering just beyond the railing.
His second mistake was to assume it was a toy.
“Well, hello there,” Teagarden said. It held steady, as though watching him.
He leaned from the round table to peer through the gaps in the sundeck floorboards. He expected to see the shadowy outline of the boy who lived on the other side of the wooded lot.
“That you Billy? You down there playing a trick on old Abe?”
Eleven-year-old Billy Carney enjoyed sneaking up, squirting a water pistol, and calling him “Old Abe,” because he had a beard similar to President Lincoln.
“C’mon up here, Billy. Let’s chat some more about the great mysteries of mathematics.” But there was no answer. “Hey, Billy the Kid—you down there with your remote control?” Still no response.
The glare of the afternoon sun made it difficult to see. He scanned the yard’s edge and tree line of the adjacent undeveloped lot. No Billy out there either.
His voice, however, did cause movement. It awakened Coconut, Teagarden’s old and overweight yellow Lab who had the good sense to be lounging in the shade of the screened-in porch adjacent to the sundeck. Hearing his owner call Billy, and knowing perfectly well who Billy was, he rose and lumbered to the screen door where he, too, took interest in the hovering device.
“Oarff.” His tone held more idle curiosity than canine threat.
Beyond the railing, the drone appeared to hear Coconut’s languid bark and reacted by climbing to a higher angle at the edge of the table’s umbrella shading Teagarden’s papers and laptop. It was almost as though it were trying to gain a view without glare.
Teagarden watched it glide back and forth. He saw then that it couldn’t possibly belong to Billy Carney because it was certainly no toy. It was a complex device, delicate but substantial, engineered with metal parts affixed by miniature rivets. As a mathematics professor and numerical analyst, he couldn’t help admiring its perfect geometry. The body was little more than the open frame of a three-dimensional diamond, nearly like a lighter-than-air box kite. A camera lens hung in the geometric center that looked like a manic little techno-fetus as it feverishly spun 360°. Short twin antennae protruded at the front and a trio of rotor blades held it aloft, each tilting independently to adjust for wind or, in this case, the afternoon sun.
“Oarff,” the Labrador complained again, more forcefully than before, his tail vigorously wagging.
“Don’t ask me Coco, I’ve got no idea what the damn thing is.”
7. Where could you be reached on the World Wide Web?
Thx again for your insights and expertise, and for taking time out to speak with our audience today. Please keep us in your contacts list and let the MBR know about your next literary project.