Behind the Scenes With Gene

A Deeper Look Into the Inspiration Behind Dark Paradise

  • What was the inspiration behind Boise Montague’s character?

Boise is a name I’ve only heard twice in my life. One was a man who worked for my father and the other was an acquaintance in Los Angeles. The man who worked for my father wound up dead on a beach. I liked him when I was a kid, so the name is an homage to that man and a nod to his untimely death in a mysterious and tragic manner. Boise’s evolution as a character begins when he returns home to “find his sea legs” so to speak. He needs to figure out his place in the world. How and if he does this is the crux of the story, so I’ll leave the reader to see how successful he is in evolving.

  • How has your childhood in St. Thomas influenced and inspired this noir novel?

St. Thomas has a great influence on me, even on my mannerisms, which are deeply ingrained in me. The ever-present smile and open attitude that island life instills in you is something that may not be imprinted on people who live in urban, fast-paced cities, abroad and in the U.S. Growing up on St. Thomas has made me feel comfortable in racially heterogeneous environments. I prefer the company of diverse communities and people of varied backgrounds. To be quite frank, I don’t like how distant my neighbors are in my Los Angeles community. St. Thomas also taught me to be very happy with very little. The electricity constantly went out and we sometimes had no running water. Daily life required you learn to live without amenities that we sometimes take for granted elsewhere.

  • What do you think about the influence that St. Thomas has on Boise and on Dana?

Boise needs the island as a salve and an escape. He’s avoiding constant reminders of his dead wife. For Dana, the island is a place where she can be free to be herself in terms of her sexual preferences, her boisterous attitude, and, of course, her drinking. My experience in St. Thomas was there’s less regulation the farther one gets away from the mainland. The thing that Boise and Dana have in common is their open contempt for incompetence and debauchery, yet they love St. Thomas. It is their true home.

  • What aspects of Dark Paradise make it a noir novel?

Noir has a lot to do with the setting. Most notably people associate American noir with Los Angeles in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s and with the authors Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. In the case of Dark Paradise, the Caribbean lent itself well to noir themes. Like Los Angeles, it’s glossy on the surface with sunshine and beauty. Beneath the gloss lurks hidden evils. The presence of alcohol and drugs in the Virgin Islands, the corrosive effects of money on relationships and people, and the anxieties about masculinity all lend themselves to the genre.

Book Titles vs. Character Names

What's harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

For sure the book title is harder. It’s so immediate, so vital as a first impression, akin to the book cover. You can draw a reader in or shoo them away. The names of characters, while important are rarely deal-breakers as far as someone picking up the book or even continuing to read. Interesting and meaningful character names do not necessarily matter in many cases and analyzing why an author named a character yields few results except in obvious cases like Voldemort.

In fact, obscure or everyday names are chosen more often than not to no ill effect. I sometimes
choose names from the credits of a movie or by combining first and last names I’ve heard. Human names are easy to come by and many are unique and interesting or common and easy to remember. Titles that tell you something about the story are rare and give so much of a feel to the entire text, especially before you have a completed cover. It's hard to overstate the pressure I feel when choosing a book title.

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Why I Like My Genre: IWSG's Monthly Post

I love the idea of piecing together a puzzle, first of all. Showing the thought processes of a detective or someone, even a regular person, must go through to solve a mystery/problem, creates a feeling of comradeship between the main character and the reader. I have felt this connection many times with various characters and most of the best stories have some aspect of mystery to them, even if the story itself is not classified as a mystery. It could be the character figuring out why their emotional make-up leads them down destructive paths, or why someone killed another person (usually because there's no other way to solve the conflict), or why they moved to a certain part of the world. The revelations of these decisions create amazing situations. There is something special about murder though. It's sinister, dangerous, final, and hopefully not part of everyday life for most people. A special circumstance that pushes people to pursue a solution that otherwise they might ignore or push off for another day. That's the crux of murder mysteries and cop stories, especially those of the homicide detective kind. The gravity inherent whenever someone is willing to kill another human being is undeniable. A page-turner of the highest order.