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Getting to know author Ed Arre

ed~ His imaginary island is eerily familiar… ~

You may have seen his books around, at the Shipwreck Shop, perhaps, or at Book’s End, or even at Roland Richardson’s Art Gallery. His novels are about the dark side of a community, the crime and corruption that runs below the surface of what most people would call “paradise.” Ed Arre writes fiction that hits close to home – our home, St. Maarten.

Okay, he calls the island which serves as the setting of his first two novels, St. Gregory, but there can be little doubt that the island is modelled after St. Maarten. With landmarks such as Simpson Bay, Rouge et Noir Casino, a newspaper called The Herald, and various Dutch prosecutors and American tourists running around, the world of St. Gregory seems eerily familiar. Arre’s books, The Prisoner and Deadline, are similar in that way to the highly popular Caribbean novel by Herman Wouk, Don’t Stop the Carnival, where hints and suggestions remind one of our island, but with these reads, you know exactly where you are. Arre’s style has been called “in-your-face fiction.” He keeps the action moving with to-the-point descriptions and limited flowery prose.

WEEKender stopped by the novelist’s striking hilltop home recently to get to know the man behind the books. Ed Arre is actually Ed Regenye, a native of New Jersey. He and his wife Judith make their home in Pelican Key most of the year. The couple is retired from their earlier high pressure careers, he a public relations specialist working in New York and London, she a top charity lawyer in the U.K. Having been loyal vacationers to The Friendly Island for 20 years, they imagined living here full time could be good, but have found it to be, in fact, “a hundred times better than we imagined.” Now Judith’s main occupation is gardening, and she pointed out some of her favourite plants, ylang ylang, which she planted just for the fragrance.

“The island just suits us down to the ground,” he said, “we still drive around and ask each other, ‘Do you believe we are living here?’ The island is a fascinating place to live, it’s just so terrific.” When asked if they mind the traffic, Judith giggled, “Well, we come from London!” But then she acknowledged that there are advantages to being retired, they have the time to wait, or go the long way around when necessary.

While Judith cares for the flowers, Arre sits at his desk which has an expansive view of the bright blue Caribbean, and creates his dark imagery. He explained that his daily routine is one set in the discipline of the writer. “I get up in the morning, and I write until about lunchtime. I set a goal of about 1,500 to 2,000 words a day. I do that Monday to Friday and then on Saturday I’ll go back and edit what I have written. Then on Sunday I rest.” He finds the process of writing a fascinating one. In fact, the island itself seems to be a muse for Arre. When he was writing these books in London he said, “I would sit down at my desk in the morning at about 8:30 and with very few interruptions I would look up at the clock and it would be one o’clock. And I had been in St. Maarten for those hours. Then I would look around, and I was back in London. It is just a fascinating process because when you’re in the book, you’re really there [in your mind]. It made the writing fairly easy because I could feel and sense the island, and it was great, because I felt that I was there. And because I love the island so much, I was glad to be there.”

Continuing his thoughts on the writing process, Arre said, “You do have to say to yourself, ‘OK! I am just going to do this, and then sit down and do it.” He continued, “I also follow the advice that Hemingway gave about writing: ‘Don’t leave the story at an abrupt end the day before, always know where you’re going to go the next morning. So you’re on a roll whenever you begin again, and also you think about the story subconsciously throughout the day.’ It’s very good advice, so when I sit down every morning, I very rarely am concerned about looking at a blank page, because I always have two or three paragraphs into the next scene.”

The writer’s mind

When asked where his idea for The Prisoner had come from, he laughed and said, “I don’t know.” He thought for a minute and said, “One night we had a flat tyre over in Simpson Bay and I was looking out at the bay and I saw a ship come in and anchor, but it stayed quite far out and I was just intrigued by it, and I just let my imagination go…”

He doesn’t have the plot fully outlined when he sits down to write a story. He often has a destination in mind but what the characters will do when they get there, depends on them, he tried to explain, “It’s as if they are independent and alive. When you get immersed in it, it just takes you along. I find that if you have strong characters they are basically telling me what to do. I know it sounds very strange, but I had one character that I had to kill off and I felt the character keep asking me, ‘What are you going to do? How are you going to do this thing to me?’ I kept telling him I don’t know, we have to wait and see.” He delved further into his process, “Part of the joys of what I am doing is that you become so involved in it that you’re actually living the thing. But the main approach that I take is that my characters never do something that a normal person wouldn’t do, I like to have their response to a situation be realistic. I hope I portray people in a way that rings true.”

Arre’s female characters are especially realistic, even feisty, but not cliché. “I like to create personalities that are real and so their actions are real. The one [American] woman in Deadline is an amalgam of several women that I’ve known,” he chuckled, “and it’s the characters that push the plot and take it along and say, ‘No, we’re not going there, I’m going to turn left here.’” When asked about how he writes dialogue, he replied, “I listen a lot.” Listening, observing, trusting his inner voice, and discipline, that is how the magic is created.

Ed Arre has three more books due out soon, with at least one more set in “St. Gregory,” and another, a possible sequel to Deadline. Though dark in style, the books are fun and quick to read, what critics like to call page-turners. Surprises are guaranteed, and that is all I will venture to say, lest I spoil your reading. His new book Terror is coming out next month, another dark one to be sure, but this one is set in London. Check out his website http://edarre.com/ to find out more about Arre’s books, his upcoming activities and his background.

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