Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Dancing With Myself: RICK MOFINA interviews RICK MOFINA



Before we get cracking with the next 'Dancing With Myself' interview, I just wanted to let you know of a Goodreads giveaway, courtesy of Kuboa Press.

For the rest of the month, residents of the US can get a free copy of Dirty Old Town (and other stories) as a tree-book for free.  Just follow the link and click the enter to win button and you should get a copy.  Which is pretty amazing. 

I have some now and love them for their size and production values.  If you've read it and enjoyed, I'd recommend getting the 3D version.

And so to business.

Please welcome Rick Mofina to Sea Minor.

Take it away, Rick.


RM: We'd like to know a little bit about you for our files.


RM: Is that thing on? Are you recording this?


RM: Yes and yes. All on the record. You know how these things go.

RM: Yeah, well, for the record you never read me my rights

RM: Can we get started. Tell us about yourself.


RM: I grew up in a working-class family east of Toronto, in Belleville, Ontario, Canada. I was always writing since I was maybe seven years old. It is an affliction. I was fifteen when I sold my first short story. I was eighteen when I hitchhiked to California and wrote a (dreadful, still unpublished) novel about the experience. After university, I was a cub reporter at The Toronto Star, the same paper where Hemingway worked, before I embarked on a career in journalism that spanned three decades and several newsrooms. My reporting has put me face-to-face with murderers on death row in Montana and Texas. I covered a horrific serial-killing case in California, an armoured car heist in Las Vegas and the murders of police officers in Alberta. I have flown over Los Angeles with the LAPD, and gone on patrol with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police near the Arctic. I have also reported from the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East.


During that time, it took me several years to understand what I wanted, or needed, to write about. I had written and abandoned a few novels.Then one day, I was assigned to my newspaper’s police beat. I didn't want the beat, but that was the job. Unless you’ve done something similar, nothing prepares you for it. You see what cops, paramedics, fire-fighters, emergency experts see. For me, as a reporter by day, novelist by night, a light had been switched on. Covering human tragedies and dramas up close was overwhelming. But on another level, having a university degree in English Literature and Journalism, and having took a couple of interesting courses, one titled Religious Responses to Death and a gem called, American Detective Fiction, I felt I was equipped to try to make sense of what I was experiencing. To try to convey through fiction the truths I’d learned. It was during my time as crime reporter with the Calgary Herald that I sold my first book, If Angels Fall. I am now starting work on my 15th novel.

RM: Tell us the best and worst times from your reporting days.


RM: One of the best, well, there was a little girl who had a terminal brain condition and her dream was to meet a certain music star. When her family’s situation was made known to my news organization, we wrote about it. The music star learned about the little girl and her dream came true at a concert. The family invited me back stage for the meeting, there was not a dry eye there. I'll always cherish that one.


The most scary moment, there were many, let’s see … One quiet night I was working alone in the newsroom on the cop beat when a call came in for me. It was a convicted murderer who was calling from prison. From the psych ward. I didn’t know him, but I had written about him. That night he confessed to me how he tricked his way to get access to a telephone because he needed to talk to somebody outside the institution. So, I said, talk. He then went into every detail, every vile, disgusting detail, of how he abducted two young women then held them hostage in a suburban home. Then he told me exactly how he murdered one but decided to let the other live. He was not remorseful, or even emotional. He just wanted me to have a clear accounting. Then he hung up. My spine rattled for hours after. I had trouble sleeping that night. That’s only one strange experience from the beat.


RM: But you've since left reporting and have a day job in another aspect of communications while still writing a book every 10 months.


RM: Right.

RM: Do you miss being a journalist?


RM: I miss aspects of it. The adrenalin rush of being parachuted into chaos with the goal of making sense of whatever drama is unfolding – of finding the story within the whirlwind. Then having to tell that story in plain, sparse language to a large, immediate audience while facing a deadline. I miss working with other reporters, photographers and editors, of sharing war stories. I don’t miss having to talk to people victimized by tragedy. No matter how many times I had done it, it never ever got easier.


RM: So all of this kind of stuff that filtered through you, goes into your fiction?


RM: I guess so.

RM: And you still have a day job, tell us how you produce a book every 10 months.


RM: As I recently told Joe Konrath, since I’ve been published this is my routine: I rise around 3:45-4:00 a.m. Head to the computer and read over chapters and make notes. Then on my 50-minute bus commute to my fulltime day job. I use those notes to advance my story. I do the same on the 50-minute commute home. I work on those notes at bedtime and repeat the process at the crack of dark. On weekends I turn those notes into chapters. I write in hotels, at airports and on airplanes.

The craft and product are paramount.

I put everything I’ve got into my work. My readers get the absolute best I can give because without them, a story never lives. I go to conferences on my own dime because as a midlister you take nothing for granted. You do all you can to hang on to the pursuit in which you’ve invested much of your life.


RM: Tell us about your books - what you have out there - what you have coming.


RM: Well, I have about 2 million books in print in 20 countries. (Stress in print). I have 12 published books out there - two more on the way - and I have just published my first eBook, an anthology titled, Dangerous Women & Desperate Men, with the theme of ordinary people on the brink. The collection includes four of my short stories. It's available on major online sites and if you want to sample the book, you have the option to buy each story individually.

 
With the first story, “Blood Red Rings,” I wanted to partner the reader for one night with seasoned cop Frank Harper. After 24 years of putting his life on the line, Harper sees it all tick down to one defining moment. “Blood Red Rings,” first appeared in Crimespree Magazine where Jon, Ruth and Jennifer Jordan have opened the door of their revered publication to short crime fiction.

The second story, “Lightning Rider,” is the study of a damaged woman determined to achieve what she believes she is owed. The reader meets Jessie Scout, a twenty-six-year-old woman who had endured a life steeped in pain and goes to Las Vegas, a city of risk, not to gamble, but to collect. “Lightning Rider” first appeared in Murder in Vegas, edited by Michael Connelly. It also won Canada's top literary prize for crime fiction, the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Story, presented by the Crime Writers of Canada. It is also featured in Deadly Bride and 21 of the Year's Finest Crime and Mystery Stories, Edited by Ed Gorman & Martin H. Greenberg.


In the third story, “Three Bullets To Queensland,” we meet Ike Decker, a loss recovery agent, for the armored car industry. His dream is to leave the U.S. for Australia but the only thing in his way to realizing it is Paco Sanchez and $1.2 million in stolen cash.


The last piece is, “As Long As We Both Shall Live.” It features Liz Dalton, a hard-working middle-aged woman. When her world was coming apart she fought back with a shocking vengeance. This story is presented in the format of transcript, much like a court document. The story first appeared in Blood on the Holly, an anthology of Christmas mysteries edited by Caro Soles and published in 2007 by Baskerville Books. “As Long As We Both Shall Live,” was named a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Story.


With this collection I wanted readers to step into the lives of everyday people as they battle extraordinary circumstances.


RM: What about your other books?


RM: I have a standalone, Six Seconds, a global thriller about how two ordinary women, heartbroken mothers from two different worlds, one from California, one from London, become entangled in a worldwide plot to change history. Recently, through a promotional deal that has since expired with Expedia and iTunes in the UK, the eVersion of Six Seconds held the #1 Amazon UK ranking for all free eBooks.


RM: Can you tell us a bit more of the story behind Six Seconds.


RM: Six Seconds took shape by refining a number of unrelated scenes, dramas and events I had observed during my time as a reporter; such as the heart-wrenching anguish of interviewing a mother whose child had vanished. Then there was the time I was on assignment in Nigeria, not long after the September 11 attacks. I was in Abuja where I saw a boy in a slum wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Osama bin Laden’s picture and message calling him #1 Hero. On that African trip I also visited Ethiopia where I watched old women, who lived in some of the harshest conditions on earth, weaving fabric on a loom in the slums of Addis Ababa. Prior to that, I was in the Gulf where I talked to British aid workers, and at Kuwait’s border with Iraq; I also visited the tank graveyard in Kuwait city. I talked to peacekeepers from Canada concerned about the toll land mines were taking on children who plucked them from the dunes.


And I’ll never forget the big-city homicide detective back home who confided that he was haunted by the case he couldn't clear. I also remembered years back, when Pope John Paul II visited my city where I was attending university. I went out to see him and met an international student who joked about assassination as the papal entourage passed by our group near the campus.


It got me thinking. What if I took these elements and twisted them into fictional threads that were all connected? What if ordinary people from different parts of the world became ensnared by extraordinary events that could alter history as a clock ticked down on them? Suppose it all came down to six seconds?


RM: Tell us about your series, I understand in each one a reporter is the protagonist.


RM: My current series features Jack Gannon, a reporter in Buffalo, New York, who is haunted by his blue collar roots and the disappearance of his sister Cora. We meet Gannon in Vengeance Road (2009), where he sets out to nail a Buffalo cop for the brutal murder of a troubled nursing student. In the follow, The Panic Zone (2010), Gannon achieves his dream to work for a worldwide news wire agency based in New York City. Gannon is dispatched to Rio De Janeiro to investigate a café bombing that took the lives of two fellow reporters. The story takes him around the world. Then comes In Desperation (2011) where Gannon finds his long lost sister Cora, whose own 11-year old daughter has now gone missing. This Christmas Gannon returns in The Burning Edge, where Gannon takes up the story of a single-mom, who is a supermarket cashier from Queens. She becomes a key witness for the FBI after she survives a botched armored car heist that leaves 4 men dead in metro New York City.

So far, the Jack Gannon series has received one Thriller Award Nomination from the International Thriller Writers, two Shamus Award Nominations from the Private Eye Writers of America, and a Seal of Excellence Nomination from RT BookReviews.


RM: Your earlier books?


RM: My trilogy features Jason Wade, a rookie reporter with the Seattle Mirror, whose story is told first in The Dying Hour, then Every Fear, followed by A Perfect Grave. The Dying Hour was a finalist for a Thriller Award. For this series I did drew upon my time as a rookie reporter at The Toronto Star. At the Star, I learned the news business by reporting craft working in the suburban bureaus and the metro news desk at One Yonge Street. I covered a range of stories, including a murder trial, and a takedown by the SWAT team looking for an escaped killer. I also did time in the "torture chamber", the cell-like room housing banks of chattering police scanners where you kept your ears pricked for the first hint of a story that could stop the heart of the city. Or break it. After I left The Toronto Star, I embarked on a news career that would span three decades and several newsrooms. Over the course of that time, I would write about death in all of its terrible manifestations. Reporting on death never got easier. If anything, I grew more philosophical, searching for deeper meaning in its aftermath. In the courage of families, in the determination of detectives and in the lives of reporters who struggled to make sense of the chaos unleashed on them all. But it was in writing The Dying Hour, with rookie Jason Wade, pursuing the first big story of his news career, which I looked back on mine. Through Jason, it was easy to re-live the thrill of landing a scoop and the adrenalin-fuelled days of my summer at The Toronto Star.


RM: Tell us about your first series, featuring Tom Reed and Walt Sydowski based in San Francisco, California.


RM: They live in five books, If Angels Fall, Cold Fear, Blood of Others, No Way Back and Be Mine. Reed is a hard-hitting journalist, Sydowski is a grizzled SFPD Homicide Inspector. Reed is a compilation. I think he embodies the sins and virtues (yes there are virtues) of every hard-driving new reporter I’ve ever known. Every aspect about him is drawn from someone’s reality somewhere. Then I push him as far as I can. He works well with Walt Sydowski. He represents every case-hardened detective I’ve ever met, including one or two with the SFPD Homicide Detail and some Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigators. And he stands as a foil and father-figure to Reed. I’ve used some of my father’s actual biography in shaping Sydowski, in that my dad is Polish. He was a child when the Nazis invaded Poland. So I’ve given that background to Sydowski. Other elements I gleaned from other detectives, including one whose dad was a barber and another who breeds canaries. Blood of Others won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel presented by the Crime Writers of Canada.


RM: In closing them any advice for aspiring writers?


RM: Just an overall message or two: The only guarantee that you will fail, is if you give up. The only thing impeding you stares back at you in the mirror. Don't make excuses for not writing, create sentences. Don’t trouble other people looking for the magic beans, because you have them in your hand. Get to work. You have to earn the right to be on a book shelf -- real or digital -- next to all the other authors who have all paid their dues. Do your homework, read, study the industry, be realistic and ask yourself the following: Are you a writer? Or, do you want “to be” a writer? Real writers reading this will understand the difference immediately. Those who don’t get the meaning of that, never will. And, as Stephen King, said, "Do not come to this lightly."


Oh yes, don’t quit your day job.




- End-

And that, everyone, concludes what is a superb interview.  Many thanks Rick.  Fantastic work.

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