Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Interview with Brian DeLeeuw, Author of The Dismantling + Giveaway! (US/Can only)

I'd like to welcome the Brian DeLeeuw, to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of The Dismantling from Plume Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Brian! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Brian DeLeeuw is a novelist and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. His first novel, In This Way I Was Saved, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2009 and long-listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize, with editions published in the U.K., Germany, and France. “Some Kind of Hate,” an independent horror movie he co-wrote, is currently in post-production. He is a graduate of Princeton University and received his MFA in Fiction from The New School.

It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which hit shelves last month:

In The Dismantling, troubled med-school dropout Simon Worth is faced with the grim reality of failure and massive student loans. Haunted by the accidental death of his sister, he accepts a lucrative job at Health Solutions as a black market organ broker, arranging the sales of kidneys and livers from donors who need the money to recipients whose time on the transplant list is running out.

Eight months into the job, Simon is tasked with finding a match for Lenny Pellegrini, a severely depressed ex-NFL player with a serious drinking problem and a failing liver. When Simon is contacted by Maria Campos, he believes he’s found the perfect donor. The surgery goes according to plan, but soon afterward Lenny makes a cruel and destructive decision, while startling secrets from Maria’s past further complicate the situation. Under tremendous pressure to keep the media and authorities from exposing Health Solutions, both Simon and Maria find themselves the targets of Peter DaSilva, Simon’s boss, who is desparate to protect himself and his organization at all costs. Backed into a corner, Simon is forced to decide that, against his better moral judgment, the only way to survive is to put his trust in Maria.

Embracing themes that are widespread in the media today, such as depression among ex-NFL players, black market organ transplants, adolescent trauma, and the terms of revenge and atonement, Brian DeLeeuw deftly treads the line between literary fiction and suspense with his propulsive storytelling and exquisite writing. What Kirkus Reviews has already called a “smart novel” with back stories that make the character complex and convincing, The Dismantling is a high-octane novel perfect for summer reading.
Buy the book from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Books-a-Million | iTunes | Kobo | Google Play | Publisher

What was the inspiration for The Dismantling?

There were a number of different inspirations that coalesced into this book. First, I wanted to write a psychologically-focused crime novel, the kind of book in which a well-meaning character makes a series of bad—but, in the moment, understandable—decisions that slowly and inexorably accrue into a criminal disaster. I was particularly interested in the illegal organ trade and some of the ethical dilemmas it raises: Should we have the right to buy and sell parts of our bodies? Is health just another free-market commodity? Is a successful illegal transplant a victimless crime? The more I researched, the more I was sure this morally murky world was the ideal setting for my central character, Simon Worth, a young man scarred by a traumatic event from his adolescence who stumbles into the organ brokering business.

I was also interested in writing about atonement. Many of the characters in the novel are trying to fix things that cannot be fixed. Whatever original mistake they made cannot be reversed, so they transfer their guilt onto a new and unrelated situation. They simply cannot live with the conception of themselves as bad or careless people, but the compulsion to atone does not always work out the way they might want or expect it to.

Are the characters based off people you know in real life? How much of your life do you put into your stories in general?

The characters aren’t directly modeled on people I know, although of course anything anybody writes is in some respects based on real life, since our imaginations do not exist in vacuums. That said, I can point to a difference between this novel and my first book, In This Way I Was Saved. In that first novel, I used settings and environments with which I was already intimately familiar: the Upper East and Upper West Sides of Manhattan; Fire Island; Princeton University. The external facts of the life of the book’s central character were not so dissimilar to my own. With The Dismantling, however, I leaned much more heavily on deliberate research rather than lived experience.

Interesting how that worked out! As a sucker for first lines, I'd love to hear the first sentence of the book. Can you give us a brief commentary as well?

The first line is: “Simon looked again at the girl’s photo on his screen.”

A little context: when the novel opens, Simon Worth is at the Health Solutions office, searching for a suitable liver donor (or, more accurately, seller) for one of his clients. The recipient will be former NFL player Lenny Pelligrini, who suffers from CTE and has been deliberately drinking himself to death. Since Lenny’s drinking disqualifies him from a legal transplant, his old teammate, Howard Crewes, wants to purchase Lenny a new liver on the black market and Simon has been tasked with finding a seller who’s a match. The photo on his computer screen is of Maria Campos, a Los Angeles bartender willing to sell a portion of her liver for $150,000 and a trip to New York. Simon has asked for her photograph so he can determine if his favorite cover story for the transplant hospital will work. He wants to convince the hospital’s social workers that Maria and Lenny are second cousins involved in an altruistic partnership; if Maria looks even remotely like a plausible relative to Lenny, Simon’s job becomes that much easier. The book’s second line is: “There was no denying it: she might as well be Lenny’s younger sister.” With this hurdle crossed, Simon reaches out to Maria and sets the plot of the novel into motion...

I'm hooked! What are the top 5 novels that influenced your life or your writing?

From childhood, it was probably The Chronicles of Prydain, Lloyd Alexander’s fantasy series. From high school, something by Stephen King (maybe Carrie) or Philip K. Dick (maybe VALIS). From college, definitely Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. In my twenties, it had to be Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. And more recently, during the writing of The Dismantling, it was most likely either Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Jennifer Egan’s Look At Me, or Mary Gaitskill’s Veronica.

Where can you be found on the web?

It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Brian! Thank you again for dropping by, and best of luck with future endeavors!


Books à la Mode is giving away
 one print copy of The Dismantling
—woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
What is the best gift you have ever received?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Brian and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher and tour publicist—a huge thank you to the lovely folks at Plume and TLC Book Tours!
Giveaway ends June 4th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar on the right for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!