Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of THE DESIRE CARD, SLOW DOWN and THE MENTOR from St. Martin’s Press. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. The second novel in The Desire Card series, PREY NO MORE, is forthcoming. THE ANCESTOR will be out from All Due Respect books in 2020 along with a reissue of his debut novel. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, Essays & Fictions, The New Plains Review, and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series.
We had a chance to catch up with Lee to discuss one of his many literary works, and this is what he shared up with us.
For those who have not read The Desire Card, what would you hope they take away from the storyline and plot theme?
While The Desire Card mostly takes place in New York City and Mumbai, I hope they enjoy a fast-paced thriller that leaves them thinking as well. There are a lot of twists and turns that will surprise them. The main character Harrison Stockton might be hard to love at first, but as the book progresses he starts to win you over. He gets himself in terrible jams but you’ll root for him to succeed, even if you don’t agree with everything he does.
What was your inspiration behind the character Harrison Stockton?
The inspiration for Harrison Stockton happened in 2012 around the time of Occupy Wall Street. Harrison works in Mergers & Acquisitions, has a high salary, and an apartment facing Central Park. He’s been able to buy anything he wants for his entire life, but when he needs a liver transplant, money won’t help him move up on the donor list. I thought about the inequality between the one-percenters and everyone else. The expectation that being rich can make you invincible. Harrison learns the hard way that, in his scenario, this is not the case. But I wanted to create a character that could be redeemed too. You can behave irresponsibly and then have a life-changing experience that can shift your entire outlook and make you a better person. That journey is important as well.
Besides writing, what are some other activities or hobbies that inspire your creativity?
I love to travel. Soaking up new places definitely helps me come up with new ideas so I can see the world from a different angle. I’m always reading fiction too, usually something similar to what I’m working on. Films are big influences because I like my books to be very visual and read like a movie. I listen to a lot of music when I’m writing. I find working out keeps my brain active too. Also, since you’re in your head a lot as a writer it’s important to be social and surround yourself with people.
How would you compare all 3 of your novels? Which one is your favorite?
All of my novels are literary thrillers and have a noir quality. They are fast-paced but have something to say. The Desire Card is about the depths we might morally sink to get what we desire. My last novel The Mentor was a comment on the publishing industry, and my debut Slow Down was about a guy who wants to be a famous director so bad he would kill for it. In each one, the main character has an obsession that winds up taking over their life. I like pushing my characters to the limit and then watching them struggle with the outcome. Of the three, The Desire Card is my favorite. It has the best mix of twists and turns and thrills that will keep you up at night, but also have you think about what you might do if you were in Harrison’s situation. It’s easy to admonish him, but in times of desperation, it’s hard to say how much we might ethically slip too.
How was the writing process and story development different across your 3 published works?
They’ve all been very different. With Slow Down, I wrote a draft when I was 23 and then stuck it in a desk for eight years before going back to it. The Mentor was the idea of my editor at Thomas Dunne and then I was able to write the book and take it in the direction I wanted. The Desire Card was finished a few years ago, but took a while to find the right publisher because it was the first in a series. I sent it and the second book Prey No More to my publisher at Fahrenheit Press and he bought them both. I wouldn’t have been happy with a publisher that only took one.
Since the Desire Card is the first in an ongoing series, how do all the books differ?
With some series, you follow a main character from book to book. With the Desire Card, the evil organization called the Desire Card is the constant throughout. A character who is the star in one book might have a smaller part in another. They can be read in any order without any confusion or independently. The next book Prey No More stars a supporting character from the first book and Harrison Stockton isn’t in it at all. But he is in the third book with a minor part. I just finished the fourth, which takes place in 1978 and is about the inception of the Desire Card through the eyes of its newest employee.
In short, The Desire Card is a riveting thriller that was produced by a master storyteller. The plot, the storyline, the setting and the way Goldberg sets the stage for the reader is simply the mark of a genius. For more information on all of his books visit his author page at http://www.leematthewgoldberg.com