Snow Leopard Sunday: Alexander Penn


So when did you begin writing?

My mother was actually a great writer in her day (unpublished of course), and she wrote grants for charities as her vocation. She’s always been the motivating factor behind my writing. She’d always tell me that it was my natural gift and that I should pursue it in college, where I ultimately opted for business school. The “writing gene” has always been at my fingertips. The “strong opinion gene” probably comes from my dad, though.

Probably in high school (about 6 or 7 years ago now, jeez) is when I realized I had an unnatural knack for writing. Ya know, I never kept a journal or anything like that, but my friends and I would write antiquated doctrines and corollaries back-and-forth to each other, basically commentaries on life itself, the rules of engagement with this world, and the like. It was really juvenile, but ultimately meant solely to be in jest.

The key to writing for me has never been to take it seriously. I remember writing a satire piece for my high school newspaper that was so controversial the dean of students had it stricken from the paper, which was high-class drama at the time. The piece wasn’t even malicious either, so I sent it out on the school listserv and every student received it personally in their inbox from me. Ultimately, I got suspended for that, but it’s kind of when my renegade personality began to flourish.

Tell us about You're a F**king Looter!

So, there’s this guy, right? His name is DeAnthony Black. Literally nothing good has ever really happened in his life. Then the hurricane comes. It wipes out the little he does have and all that remains are his two friends with whom he’s stuck riding out the storm. In the aftermath, the three friends realize they’re the only ones around and the city is their proverbial oyster. As they go on consecutive looting sprees, the ante gets upped over and again until one day it all goes south in the Motor Lot Massacre.

But the story is really about a burgeoning investigative journalist, Melissa Hawthorne. Almost a decade later, Melissa gets wind of DeAnthony’s story and ventures down to New Orleans to uncover the truth of what really happened that day at the car dealership. As Melissa digs deeper into DeAnthony’s story, she unravels an intricate web of deceit, malice, and racism with roots deep into the state & federal government.

Along the way, Melissa meets the vast cast of characters who had a hand in DeAnthony Black’s unjust imprisonment, suspicious trial, and the various murders committed throughout the book.

When you’re reading this book: expect thrilling action, expect dubious mystery, expect rampant excitement, and most importantly, expect a controversial commentary of it all. You’re going to love it!

How soon after Hurricane Katrina did you get the idea for the book?

Like my main character, Melissa Hawthorne, it was probably a decade after the storm. For a time, the storm wasn’t something I liked to think about. It was painful, destructive, and broke the city that I hold dearest. A lot of people suffered and it was something I kept furthest in the recesses of my mind. It wasn’t until earlier this year in January, actually, that an idea for this work began to creep into my brain. Then, one night in March, I couldn’t sleep. I sat up in bed and typed up an outline. From that point on, I was all in.