Conversation With Melissa Scrivner Love, Author Of “American Heroin”
In American Heroin by Melissa Scrivner Love, the unforgettable protagonist of Lola returns in a gritty, high-octane thriller about a brilliant woman who will stop at nothing to protect her growing drug empire, even if she has to go to war with a rival cartel or her own family.
In American Heroin, Lola has clawed her way to the top of her South Central Los Angeles neighborhood. Her gang has grown beyond a few trusted soldiers into a full-fledged empire, and the influx of cash has opened up a world that she has never known–one where her daughter can attend a good school, where her mother can live in safety, and where Lola can finally dream of a better life.
But with great opportunity comes great risk, and as Lola ascends the hierarchy of the city’s underworld she attracts the attention of a dangerous new cartel who sees her as their greatest obstacle to dominance. Soon Lola finds herself sucked into a deadly all-out drug war that threatens to destroy everything she’s built.
But even as Lola readies to go to war, she learns that the greatest threat may not be a rival drug lord but a danger far closer to home: her own brother.
American Heroin is indeed an absorbing read and we did have a brief Q&A with the author about the book which follows:
Q: Lola is a complicated character, and you delicately portray her many sides: gang leader, loving mother, ruthless killer, and protector of her neighborhood’s women and children. How do you strike a balance?
I like to think it’s as simple as portraying Lola as fully human. I write to try to understand people. Sure, Lola does things on a different scale than most, but I think anyone can sympathize with a person who will stop at nothing to protect their child, or a woman in power who only runs into trouble when she decides she wants credit for her work.
Q: How did you conduct your research for American Heroin?
I have lived in Los Angeles for over 15 years. I first came here on a volunteer trip in college and fell in love with the city. We stayed at a homeless shelter on Skid Row and worked at a needle exchange. We crashed an open house in Bel-Air. It was a trip that encompassed both ends of the economic spectrum. To say it was eye-opening is a serious understatement. I knew I was home, even though I didn’t move here for another five years. In terms of formal research, I’ve written for various television shows that take place here and deal with gangs, drugs, and crime. I also find that driving L.A. is one of the best ways to experience the city, transitioning from neighborhood to neighborhood really highlights the similarities and differences.
Q: A fantastic set of characters inhabits Lola’s world—from the soldiers she commands to the prosecutor for the L.A. District Attorney’s office and a wealthy father at her daughter’s school. Where do you find inspiration for these personalities?
Everywhere! I did jury duty at the Van Nuys Courthouse years ago, and I remember the prosecutor spoke in a very effective little girl voice while she was interrogating an alleged child molester. Whenever the defense attorney spoke, the prosecutor busied herself taping a piece of copy paper to her binder. It was so distracting, and so effective. Andrea comes from many different places, but jury duty is a valuable experience both as a citizen and a writer. I had plenty of school research because my daughter just started preschool last year… and preschool in LA is a very different experience than preschool in Kentucky, where I grew up.