We had the good fortune of connecting with Otho Eskin and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Otho, why did you pursue a creative career?
After I finished college and law school, as well as a short stint in the Army, I joined the United States Foreign Service. For the next twenty years or so I served in US embassies abroad and in the State Department in Washington, DC. For much of that time I was engaged in negotiating international agreements and in the work of multinational organizations. I spent much of my time at the United Nations headquarters in New York and in Geneva, Switzerland, and visiting world capitals.

Following my retirement, I took piano lessons (Don’t ask me to play, I would only embarrass myself). I took painting and drawing classes and found I loved drawing, mainly with pencil and charcoal. I still do. I used my painting skills (such as they were) when I painted close to thirty canvasses in various styles for use as props in the production of one of my plays (called Murder As a Fine Art). When the show closed, I gave most of the paintings away to the cast and crew.

I also took flying lessons at the Dulles International Airport in Virginia. Which meant I had to go an hour to Virginia for my lessons because DC is a no-fly zone. I got my license, but never actually flew on my own much since. It was fun and I still miss flying, but it’s an expensive hobby, and I knew I was never going to pursue flying seriously.

So: not a painter or a pianist, a pilot, or an artist: what to do next? Sitting around watching TV or taking up golf was never an option. I have always enjoyed fiction writing. I began writing science fiction short stories while I was still in high school. Later I was exposed to the theater and saw a lot of shows growing up. When I retired, I took courses and workshops in playwriting, and eventually started writing full length plays. My plays have been produced in New York, Washington D.C., and in small professional theaters across the country, as well as in professional theaters abroad in Europe and Australia. I tried to attend productions of my plays although I missed the ones in Australia and in Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia.

After that, I went on to write thrillers: the Marko Zorn novels. The first book, THE REFLECTING POOL and its sequel, HEAD SHOT are available wherever books are sold. The paperback edition of HEAD SHOT was just released late November of 2022. My latest novel in the Marko Zorn series, FIRETRAP will be available in 2024.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’d say the hardest part in writing a thriller is creating the lead protagonist. He or she must be engaging and at least somewhat sympathetic. In my case, my lead character is Marko Zorn, a complex, not altogether trustworthy, man.

Throughout the Zorn series I reveal bit by bit his secrets; the experiences which formed him and the man he has become. Creating a complex, intricate plot which keeps the reader guessing is a major challenge. Juggling all the characters and personalities who populate the novel, who surround the main character, is hard work. In books that are plot driven, every page must move the story forward and create tension and mystery until the final reveal. It’s like stretching a rubber band further and further, to the almost-breaking-point, but making sure it doesn’t snap until exactly the right moment.

In regard to my process and lessons I’ve learned: I do constant rewrites. It was true when I was writing plays and short stories, and it’s true writing novels. I write fast and then go back and clean up the text over and over. I’m very private about the work at the beginning. But I need feedback, of course. Every writer does: it’s important to have collaboration. Art can’t exist in a vacuum. But collaboration comes after the first draft of the main novel is completed. Until that point, when someone asks me what I’m working on, I usually mumble. Once I have a good first draft, I invite comments. I get most of my advice from my agent Judith Ehrlich, whose feedback I immensely value.

In my novels, many of the events are based loosely on my personal experiences. Many take place in the diplomatic world, a world I know well. There are scenes in embassies, in the office of the secretary of state. One of the climatic scenes happens at a huge diplomatic reception, something I was sometimes professionally engaged in. I was involved in organizing foreign diplomats meeting with Henry Kissinger in New York.

Other scenes in my novels occur in that part of Washington where drug dealing and violence is a daily occurrence. While in law school I volunteered to work with a defense attorney and had to interview witnesses in criminal cases and met and talked with people who lived these lives, in that world. I once knew a young man who worked in my neighborhood. One day he told me his brother had just been murdered. What do you say to someone whose brother has just been shot dead on the street? These experiences are reflected in my Marko Zorn novels.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Because of my long association with theater, I would have my visitor the artists involved in the small, often experimental Washington theaters, whose productions deal with important contemporary social and political issues. These are the heart of Washington, far from the bloviating politicians. I’d also give a tour of the small experimental art galleries. We’d stop for lunch at one of the many ethnic restaurants such as one of the Ethiopian restaurants in town. And before they left, I would spend time with them at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall. Be warned, some of my visiting friends burst into tears.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My literary agent, Judith Ehrlich, has been a constant support, and given me superb literary advice, and invaluable creative guidance. Thanks also to Meg Gilbert, my multi-talented assistant; Sean Dugan for his expert help with editing, marketing and promotion; Ludovica Villar-Hauser, for her steadfast encouragement; and my publishers, Pat and Bob Gussin and the rest of the Oceanview team for their ongoing enthusiasm and fine support of my literary endeavors. Additional appreciation goes to Laura Apgar for her skilled and insightful editorial input and to Erica Ferguson for her careful copyediting. And, finally, my deepest gratitude to Therese, who has always been my biggest fan.

Website: https://othoeskin.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/othoeskin/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/otho-eskin-16225612/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/OthoEskin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/otho.eskin

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