Robert Ferrigno Interview on NRO

John J. Miller has an interview with Robert Ferrigno (author of The Wake Up), over at National Review Online today. Given my discussion of morality in Kevin Wignall’s People Die, I found this exchange interesting:

National Review Online: In The Wake-Up, the plot turns on a hard-charging businessman who is cruel to a boy and a bystander’s belief that a wrong must be made right. Like your other novels, it feature loads of bad guys and no cops, yet there’s a moral sensibility as well. How do you work that in when even the good guys live outside the system?

ROBERT FERRIGNO: I think the highest morality is by definition, personal, and outside any system. As a character in one of my previous books says, “if you need a rule book to tell you the difference between right and wrong, you’re f*** ed forever.” Consequently, none of my protagonists are cops, and there is little official police presence. This began instinctively and has since become quite deliberate, as a reflection of the moral imperative of my fictional universe. I don’t like characters who are required to do the right thing as part of their job descriptions — so no cops, no firefighters, no crusading attorneys. I prefer the individual who is confronted with a moral choice and, out of his own free will, does the right thing. The fact that the consequences of such action are that things are frequently made worse is part of the moral conundrum. (The Wake-Up revolves around an innocent good deed that has terrible consequences, and the “hero” of my last book, Scavenger Hunt, investigates an old crime, a supposedly solved case, and in so doing sets the real killer back killing to cover his tracks) My protagonists, even knowing the risks of moral involvement, always choose to take that risk. The good man is compelled to do good, no matter the consequences. It is the blowback, and how the good man deals with the blowback, that I am most interested in. The hero cleans up his own mess. I take my work very seriously — the dangers of an undergraduate degree in philosophy — but while Nietzsche said he philosophized with a hammer, I prefer a more deft approach, and a funnier one. I spend most of my time at the keyboard laughing at the things my characters say. If the writer isn’t having fun, the reader isn’t going to get a satisfying ride, and that’s my true intention.

With the discussion surrounding David’s trip to the author’s conference and the film people, I also thought this was of interest:

NRO: When I your books, I often feel like I’m watching a movie. I understand that you studied filmmaking in school. How does this affect your writing?

FERRIGNO: I think and write very visually, which is one of the reasons I studied filmmaking. Thinking cinematically, thinking in terms of dialogue and movement, is an advantage. It allows me to lie in bed with my eyes closed and “play” different chapters in my head as scenes, reshooting them from different angles and points of view until I get it right. Then I can get up and go to the keyboard with certain problems solved. It’s mental storyboarding and keeps things fast and true. If it doesn’t look right, it’s not going to read right. An extra advantage is that I can reassure my wife that I am still working, even when horizontal.

NRO: Will we ever see The Wake-Up, or one of your other books, on the big screen?

FERRIGNO: Most of my books have been optioned, some more than once, but none have been made. The Wake-Up is currently being considered by a major Hollywood studio.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).