Mystery, Crime and Time Travel With Rob Hart
Down a Winding and Suspenseful Road With Rob Hart
Rob Hart is no stranger to crime fiction. He’s written an entire series on them, some to great acclaim that propelled him to the world of illustrious crime and mystery writers. When I sat down with Rob back in January of this year, the first thing I noticed about him was his friendliness and congeniality. Through our screens, we talked about a few things including his new book The Paradox Hotel, a dystopian sci-fi type of murder mystery set in a hotel where guests travel through time and sinister things occur. According to CrimeReads, The Paradox Hotel is one of the most anticipated books of 2022. It’s about grief, loss, and perception,where the lines between memory and reality are blurred. But according to Rob, it’s “very much about looking inward and facing yourself.” Either way, it’s a gripping and suspenseful novel that’s sure to linger in your mind after you’ve finished reading it!
Rob grew up on the east coast and now lives on Staten Island, but he loves Portland, he told me. He’s visited Portland no less than eight times and even set his second novel, City of Rose (named one of the best reads of 2016 by BookPeople’s bookstore’s crime blog) in Portland. Little by little, I found out more about Rob and his connection to my hometown. The more we talked, the more I realized that he is both a very interesting and laid-back person like many of my fellow Portlanders. He loves ice cream and considers it comfort food, and his love for food goes so far as Take-Out, a story collection that he described as “where food and crime intersect.”
Before becoming a full-time author, Rob wore many hats including stints as a political reporter, commissioner for the city of New York, and communications director. His first book came out in 2015, so he’s been around the block a few times, but he remains a humble storyteller —even though several of his books, including The Paradox Hotel, have been optioned for film and television. Rob is a master at creating worlds where he bends time and makes impossible things possible. On top of that, he mentors aspiring writers for Pitch Wars and teaches writing classes at LitReactor, all while being a father to a 7-year-old. All in all, Rob has done so much for the fiction community and I’m so excited to have discovered Rob. The Paradox Hotel is a worthwhile read and I can’t wait to see his work on the screen!
Here’s More From Our Conversation
Tell us a bit about your journey to becoming an author. Was this the career you always knew you wanted?
Ever since I was around 18 I wanted to write books. But my first book didn’t come out until I was 32. In college I was an art major, then I moved on to journalism. As you can guess, I wanted to make a living and art wasn’t exactly going to be that path. So I did journalism for a while and covered politics. Then I worked for a small publisher.
It was 2015 when my first book, New Yorked, came out. Since then, I’ve written eight books. One is a short story collection called Take-Out, and the other I co-wrote with James Patterson called Scott Free. The Warehouse was wildly successful and ended up being optioned for film. Now I work as a full-time writer.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given, with regards to careers and success?
Over the years I’ve received lots of great advice, but the best one comes from Amy Hempel, a short story writer who said, “The biggest mistake that young writers make is wanting to publish more than wanting to write well.” It takes a while to get published and writing is a journey, not a destination. When you focus too much on getting published, it takes away the path to learning. You should instead focus on doing the best work you can. Aside from that, avoid vanity presses; those are places that charge you money to publish your book. You should never pay someone to publish your book. It should be the other way around.
What books are on your reading list right now?
The bulk of what I read these days is from writers who want a blurb or a review. I tend to read all over the spectrum. Some recent good ones include Anybody Home? by Michael Seidlinger, Child Zero by Chris Holm, and All Her Little Secrets by Wanda Morris.
When you’re writing—where do you write? What is the setting?
Before COVID, I rented an office at a place in Manhattan called The Writer’s Room. It’s a nice writing workspace. I still go there sometimes. Back when I travelled, I used to write on airplanes and airports. But not lately…as you can see, I have a little office at home in Staten Island with a giant whiteboard behind me. I use it for notetaking, planning, etc.
How have you been staying connected to your friends/family/community during COVID-19?
I was born and raised in New York and I’ve stayed close to home. My family is nearby, so it’s not difficult to go see them. In the beginning we hung out in our backyards. I also have friends who are nearby. Sometimes I’d meet people over Zoom, but I haven’t seen them in person much lately. I really miss going to conferences. It’s much nicer to connect in person at conferences and I always looked forward to them. I met a lot of my writing buddies there.
Do you have exciting projects coming up? If so, please tell us.
Yes, I’m working on a comic book with a friend. I’m hoping we can announce it soon. Plus, I also have a few other projects I’m pitching. The Warehouse, is being optioned into a movie while The Paradox Hotel and some other books are being optioned for television. They’re all at different stages of development right now.
What is your dream brunch date? Where and with whom?
This is a tough question. I’ve always been a fan of Ursula K. LeGuin [editor’s note: LeGuin was a Portlander!] She was a brilliant writer; I think we’d get along pretty well. As for locations, an ideal spot would be a cute place in Park Slope in Brooklyn with unlimited mimosas. We’d have a lot to talk about!
What is your ideal comfort food?
Ice cream. I’m always looking for new flavours or brands I haven’t had before. At the same time, I’m trying to bring down my sugar intake. I do, on occasion, make my own ice cream. I’m particularly a fan of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams (Honey Vanilla Bean flavour). Vanilla bean is great and has lots of depth of flavour. Also, Amy’s Ice Cream in Austin, Texas has great flavours too.
Which authors inspire your work the most?
I’ve already mentioned them, but obviously, Ursula K. LeGuin and Amy Hempel have been great inspirations for my own writing. There’s also Tom Spanbauer, Ray Bradbury, and Blake Crouch (we share an editor). Chuck Palahniuk and Margaret Atwood are also good.