By ED WATERS Jr.
The Frederick-News Post
FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — In an era of female anti-heroes, the Nina Zero series is a timely read.
The fictional Nina begins as a baby photographer “living a life of reduced expectations,” according to author Robert Eversz, a Frederick resident.
When her boyfriend persuades her to do something illegal, Nina goes on the lam and works as a tabloid paparazzo who ambushes celebrities — becoming an “anti-celebrity,” Eversz said.
Eversz’s theme is celebrity obsession and striking out at male dominance, as in “Shooting Elvis,” where Nina fires a gun into an artwork depicting Elvis Presley.
The books are set in Southern California, especially Los Angeles, “where people go to become somebody else, where they go to become famous,” Eversz said.
Eversz, a former film student, has been approached about movie versions of his books, but nothing has succeeded so far.
“Like all films, it will succeed when there is a good screenplay and a bankable actress,” he said.
Eversz said he grew up a moody, depressed young man who wrote poetry at 13 and fiction at 16.
He gained international recognition with “Gypsy Hearts,” a novel set in Prague and Budapest. His novels have since been translated into 15 languages.
The idea for Nina Zero came while Eversz was helping form a workshop in the Czech capital now known as the Prague Summer Program, where he remains part of the permanent faculty.
A future Nina Zero book could reflect the transformation of society by social media, Eversz said. Nina might come out of jail unprepared for the new social media world.
“When I was in Prague I lived an ‘unplugged’ lifestyle,” Eversz said. He had access to the Internet, but no Facebook, no Twitter.
“I felt like Rip Van Winkle when I came back to the U.S.,” he said. “The culture had changed with electronic contacts.”
Eversz loves Frederick. He met his wife, Elizabeth Knapp, at Western Michigan University, where he was writer in residence for more than three years.
When she was hired as an assistant professor of American literature at Hood College, they moved first to downtown Frederick and then to Mercer Place.
“There is a sense of presence (in Frederick). You have a real downtown with integrity, architecture, history. I feel at home here,” Eversz said. “Especially after living in Prague, the city of a thousand spires.”
Critics have given his books favorable reviews, including Richard Lipez, who spoke fondly of his work in The Washington Post.
“Nobody is funnier or more acute than Robert Eversz on the American culture of celebrity as it is reverently observed and marketed in the city of Los Angeles,” Lipez wrote in 2006.
In the Los Angeles Times, Dick Lochte wrote that Eversz writes on the cutting edge of hip without tipping (his protagonist) into the shallow chick-lit box.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler said that with the novel “Rubicon Point,” Eversz “solidifies his place as an important American writer.”
Eversz said Butler volunteered the quote, which Eversz passed on to his agent.
But such success is no guarantee of the future, Eversz said.
“It is all about the bottom line,” he said. “Publishers have been bought out by conglomerates, and it is all about the sales of the book.”
Self-publishing is an alternative, but the nation has also seen a cultural change, he said.
“There was a time when America was more literary,” he said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)