Monday, January 21, 2019

Interview with writer Nicholas Fillmore about true crime memoir Smuggler

Writer Nicholas Fillmore is here today to chat with me a bit about his true crime memoir Smuggler.

During his virtual book tour, Nicholas will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too!

Nicholas Fillmore attended the graduate writing program at University of New Hampshire. He was a finalist for the Juniper Prize in poetry and co-founded and published SQUiD magazine in Provincetown, MA. He is currently at work on Sins of Our Fathers, a family romance and works as a reporter and lecturer in English. He lives on windward Oahu with his wife, his daughter and three dogs.

Please share a little bit about your current release.
Smuggler tells about a trip down the rabbit hole of international drug smuggling. Why, I got involved in this line of work is of course the $10,000 question … which I attempt to answer by narrating events, that is, by attempting to inhabit the logic of my actions. Basically, I was recently out of grad school—I studied with a famous poet—and suffering a kind of postpartum depression. My writing seemed to have lost some of its urgency. Beyond that, some combination of things—temperament, historical moment, socioeconomic state—conspired to create within me the desire to take a burden upon myself. It’s true! All that romantic autobiography, metaphysical poetry and Russian lit in college had done its work. How was one supposed to settle in at a nice temping gig without complaint when Milton, Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky beat down in one’s breast? I’m having fun here … but I’m serious. So I contrived to get myself into as much trouble as I dared….

What inspired you to write this book?
One inspiration was a Chicago Tribune article summarizing my allocution at sentencing. I’ve always kind of hated the sanctimony of cops, in the movies anyway; like, “what’s it to you?” I got the same feeling reading this newspaper article, which talked about a “day of reckoning” and basically made me out to be the groveling penitent under the stern gaze of the law. I suppose that’s good reading and has a salutary effect on public morals, but it’s a gross oversimplification of the facts. And I realized pretty early on that I needed to rectify that. It was a long time, though, before I actually started writing the memoir in its present form. That required a little bit of perspective. About a half a dozen years. And another half dozen to take it through various drafts.

Excerpt from Smuggler:
Judge Norgle, a Reagan-appointee with a sober face, came briskly through the chamber door adjusting the sleeves of his robe and settled himself at the bench.

The principles identified themselves, and Judge Norgle addressed me directly.

“Do you understand the charges being proffered against you?”

“Yes, I understand them, Your Honor,” I said, feeling like I’d spoken too much.

“Do you understand you have pleaded guilty?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Have you read the court’s pre-sentence investigation report?”

I said I had.

Did I have any objections?


Then he asked if I had anything to say.

I stepped up to the lectern and unfolded my sheets of paper and began to read. As he always did, Judge Norgle stared right through me. When I was finished, I folded up the papers and put them back in my pocket. Then my lawyer spoke. Then the Judge asked if anyone else had anything to say, and my parents stepped forward as Sean held the gallery gate for them.

In the cavernous theater of the courtroom, amidst the spectacle of the law, and the machinery of the law, we suddenly seemed small parts—frightened, small-town people whose son had gotten in trouble.

My mother spoke briefly, spreading her manicured hands in front of her and looking at her engagement ring, her wedding band, her mother’s opal ring as if summoning a collective wisdom, a faint, violent shaking of her head.

Then my father spoke a few sentences. “I know Marines aren’t supposed to cry,” he said, choking up.

The room was silent for a moment. Then the judge called on the Prosecutor. This was what it all came down to.

AUSA MacBride actually spoke glowingly of me, lauding me for my cooperation. “Mr. Fillmore has done everything asked of him. He has answered all our questions. He has remained incarcerated at the Metropolitan Correction Center for the last four years.” I looked up now and smiled as kindly as I could after she finished her recitation. Then the Judge began shuffling papers, wrapped in thought.

“I am not unmoved,” he said, still looking down, “but this is a serious offense, and the court needs to impress upon the defendant the seriousness of the offense.”

“Oh-oh,” I thought. Any wayward hope of “time served” dashed on the rocks, I listened carefully now, like someone tuning a radio to some distant signal late in the night. And here it came between little bursts of static….

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m currently working a book called Sins of Our Fathers, which takes as its point of departure a story my father tells of how he returned from two years in the service to find a note taped to the front door: “moved.” That’s something of an exaggeration. My grandparents moved out of state some time after he got back. But the poetic truth, the feeling of abandonment conveyed by the note on the door, (as well as the conceit of self-made man) was compelling. And I decided to construct a story around that moment. (Not a very good elevator pitch, I’m afraid.) That elaboration by my father, though, suggested a method, or rather gave me permission, to reconstruct events around available clues, personalities, hunches. I guess I’d call this personal historical fiction. It’s led me into some interesting places: following my grandfather on a drinking jag, for instance, and encouraged me to enlarge the received picture of our family history.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Freshman year in college, banging away on my Smith Corona late at night on a term paper after everyone else had abandoned campus for Christmas break. I felt a union of physical and intellectual energies akin to horse and rider.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Nooooo. I have day job(s). I generally write late at night when everyone is fast asleep. More factotum than faculty, (though I do do some adjunct teaching).

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have a polished egg-shaped stone on my desk that I habitually spin around and around.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A Buddhist monk.


Thank you for being a guest on my blog!
You’re welcome!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


James Robert said...

Thank you for sharing your book with us. I always look forward to finding out about another great read.

Unknown said...

You're welcome. I enjoy finding new ways to talk about the book in these little interviews.

Unknown said...

(Checking out briefly. It's 2AM here in Hawaii. Be back soon.)

Rita Wray said...

Sounds like a good book.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing!

lildevilgirl22 said...

thanks for sharing this book

Unknown said...

Thanks. To make the elevator pitch: When twenty-something post-grad Nick Fillmore discovers the zine he’s been recruited to edit is a front for drug profits, he begins a dangerous flirtation with an international heroin smuggling operation and in a matter of months finds himself on a fast ride he doesn’t know how to get off of.

After a bag goes missing in an airport transit lounge he is summoned to West Africa to take a voodoo oath with Nigerian mafia. Bound to drug boss Alhaji, he returns to Europe to put the job right, but in Chicago O’Hare customs agents “blitz” the plane and a courier is arrested.

Thus begins a harried yearlong effort to elude the Feds, prison and a looming existential dead end…. Smuggler relates the real events behind OITNB.

Bernie Wallace said...

Do you have any ideas for a sequel book? Bernie Wallace BWallace1980(at)hotmail(d0t)com

Unknown said...

I'm working on a non-fiction title, Sins of Our Fathers, which attempts to fill in the gaps of family history. It begins with my father coming home from the service to find a note allegedly taped to the front door of his parents' house: "moved." That's not exactly what happened, but I took it as a clue: to reimagine characters through their own conceits. Which emboldened me to imagine other things: my parents' courtship, my grandfather's amateur boxing career, drinking binges and inner life. I started working on it after I'd finished Smuggler and was waiting to hear from agents/publishers. The conventional wisdom is to get back to work. I think that was a good movie because now I've got 100 pages under my belt rather than starting from scratch.

Cali W. said...

Thanks for the giveaway; I like the excerpt. :)

Unknown said...

Shoots. (Thanks.)

Unknown said...

Thank you. Lisa; thank you all. See you on the boards.

Dale Wilken said...

Excerpt sounds great.

travel write for us said...

thank you for the giveaway ; I like excerpt.

Bernie Wallace said...

I hope your book is a success. Do you know what your next book will be? Bernie Wallace BWallace1980(at)hotmail(d0t)com

Bernie Wallace said...

If you could meet one literary character, who would it be? Bernie Wallace BWallace1980(at)hotmail(d0t)com

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