Monday 28 February 2011


Q: When did you start creating stories?

A: I was making them up in my head before I could read or write. I started to keep a diary on my 7th birthday, and now I’m up to my 76th volume. My journal entries included story sketches sometimes. My first book was published when I was 12, the second when I was 17, and now I’ve been a professional writer since 1993. I would create stories even if nobody published them, because they’re both therapy and entertainment for me.

Q: How much is true and how much is fiction in your books?

A: The only things that are usually real are the places, the milieu. I like to use places I know, places I can go and watch, listen and even smell the character of the place. But the places aren’t only places; they all have a larger meaning. The place provides the atmosphere.

The characters and events are made up. I very seldom use things that have happened in the real life, and if I do, I mask them so nobody can recognize them. Sometimes reality has imitated my books, and that’s a bit creepy.

Q: Where do your characters’ names come from? Do you put a lot of thought into them?

A: A character can’t come alive without a proper name! I really do put a lot of thought into them. I read the name day lists on my calendar, I browse phone books, I visit old graveyards. Stuff like that. Names can be symbolic and reveal a lot about the people who choose them.

Many of the foreign characters’ names come from the figure skating world. It’s an inside joke.

Q: Mario Kallio is the protagonist in 11 of your books. Why did you create her?

A: She’s been living in my mind for nearly 20 years now. I had read every Finnish crime novel written by a woman before 1991 and was struck by the lack of professional female detectives in them. I wanted to write about a policewoman, because unlike other female characters who might solve a crime, she would have the power to question suspects and arrest people, but there would also be the tension of having to work within the law. She is not an alter ego, and she has no equivalent in real life: she’s a purely imaginary character. Despite that, many people think of her as a friend, and real policewomen have told me they see themselves in Maria.

I wanted to turn a new page on Finnish crime fiction by creating the first professional female protagonist, and it’s work out marvelously. I’m proud she has so many female colleagues in Finnish crime literature now.

Q: On the other hand, Hilja Ilveskero, the heroine in your new trilogy, is a bodyguard. How does she differ from Maria?

A: In most ways! She’s politically incorrect and gets herself into tight spots just because she likes danger. She’s isn’t shy or easily intimidated. A lot of the time she’s just driven by instinct, like her favorite animal, the lynx. She has a tragic past—her father killed her mother when she was four—and she’s still trying to come to grips with that.

Q: You write a lot about different political and social themes. Why is that?

A: I’ve always been intensely interested in politics, both global and local, with how political decisions affect everyday life. I don’t have any special message for my readers; I would rather make them think for themselves and pose questions than provide pat answers. My readers aren’t stupid. If there is one message, it’s that everyone is equal even though we’re all different. I also try to show that violence is never a good solution.

Q: What does language mean to you?

A: A lot, naturally. It‘s my tool, a way to express my feelings, to explore world. I get really frustrated with sloppy writing, and unfortunately you see that a lot in crime fiction. The best crime writers are as skilled with language as they are with plot development.

I try to create a special rhythm in my language, to make every sentence have an inner rhythm, like music. Finnish is a very rich language; we have lots of synonyms, and sometimes I even create new words myself, which can drive my translators crazy.

Q: You’ve also written other things besides crime novels. What and why?

A: Some stories fit the crime novel form, and some don’t. The storyline determines the way I tell it. I’ve written three non-crime novels, lots of short stories with and without murders, a couple of scripts for comic books, a stage play, some song lyrics and all sorts of essays. One thing I’m really proud of is the book I co-authored with the editor-in-chief of Taitoluistelu, Finland’s figure skating magazine. It’s a nonfiction book about figure skating and was chosen as the best sports book of 2010 in Finland.

I really want to keep learning as a writer, so maybe I’ll write a biography someday, and I would love to try to do an opera libretto.

Q: Do you read a lot, or are you afraid of other writers influencing your work?

A: I’m a total book junkie! There’s no way I could live without books. I read all different kinds of books, including children’s books, all sorts of nonfiction, academic research and even cookbooks. I feel that for a prose writer, it’s very important to read poetry. It’s like yoga for your language.

I’m not afraid of my colleagues influencing me; I think I have my own voice that nothing is going to take away. There’s no way I could name one favorite author, or even ten, but there are books that have a special place in my library and in my heart.

Q: Writing is a difficult and insecure profession. What do you do to relax? What are your main interests and passions?

A: Because writing is mostly sitting behind a desk, I try to move a lot when I’m not working: jogging, cross-country skiing, Nordic walking, yoga, sailing. I like to be outdoors. My passions are figure skating, which I follow closely and write articles about, Finnish ramopunk music – punk rock inspired by the Ramones - and cats. Currently we have two, but whenever I meet a cat, I greet it as an old friend.

nigel's note - I love the idea of Finnish Ramopunk. Can you recommend any bands for me?

Sunday 27 February 2011


Before kicking off, I'd like to offer many thanks to Richard Godwin for this:

I'd also like to thank him for reading his novel. I'm at page 70 of Apostle Rising on my first evening of writing and I'm loving it.

And here's a deadly duo for you. Take good care, folks:

Mike Nettleton and Carolyn J. Rose are a husband-wife writing team with 5 jointly written novels to their credit: The Hard Karma Shuffle and its sequel The Crushed Velvet Miasma , The Big Grabowski and its sequel Sometimes A Great Commotion (a third book in the series is on the way) and The Hermit of Humbug Mountain. The first four are mysteries and Humbug is a young-adult fantasy. Carolyn has also published four mysteries as solo projects.

Mike: So Nigel is giving us the opportunity to ask ourselves the questions we’ve always wished an interviewer would pose.

Carolyn: Let me start. What’s that stain on your shirt?

Mike: Clam chowder. Maybe. But I don’t think that’s what Nigel had in mind.

Carolyn: Of course not, I just needed to know before you dropped it in the laundry. Pre-treating means never having to say, “That shirt is now a dust rag.”

Mike: Point taken. Here’s a question for you. In the course of the novels we’ve written together and the four you’ve written by yourself, how many people have you murdered?

Carolyn: About a dozen.

Mike: Doesn’t that make you some kind of literary serial killer?

Carolyn: Cute. Well, I do sometimes wonder if I’m tapping into a very dark place in my psyche when I’m planning some of these mysteries. Which real-life people are these fictional victims surrogates for?

Mike: I’ll continue to sleep with one eye open. Your turn.

Carolyn: Do you think you’d have written a novel if you hadn’t run into me? (She bats her eyes seductively)

Mike: Probably not. I’ve always written—short stories, essays, Rod McKuenesque poetry and the like—but it took someone as focused and single-minded as you to nag—

Carolyn: I prefer the term verbally incentivizing.

Mike: Okay, what you said. But, because you were so serious about your goal of getting a novel published I found myself drawn in. After winning a couple of short-story contests I was pretty firmly hooked.

Carolyn: And did you enjoy the process of team writing?

Mike: Enjoy might be a little strong. Sometimes, I’d write something really creative (or at least that was my estimation), only to find myself defending it in relation to its value to the overall story. And when we’d cut it because it didn’t contribute, the little voice inside would scream, “Wait that’s my baby you’re killing!”

Carolyn: Don’t forget I sacrificed some children too.

Mike: True. Have you always been so focused and goal-oriented? You certainly have in the 26 years I’ve known you.

Carolyn: Yeah, I have.

Mike: Why?

Carolyn: Because I grew up in a small town and, for as long as I can remember, I wanted to leave. Working hard, paying attention, and getting good grades in school was my ticket out.

Mike: Why was it so important to get out? I’ve been to Bearsville, New York. It’s a beautiful and scenic spot in the Catskills, certainly not a hell-hole.

Carolyn: Anyone who grew up in a small town knows there are expectations about what you’ll do with your life, who you are, and what you’ll become. Most of those expectations center around getting married, having kids and living within miles of where you grew up. I wanted to create my own identity.

Mike: I guess I experienced some of that, too, although I grew up in a larger town. But I did leave home at 17 and never went back.

Carolyn: The fact that your parents changed the locks may have had something to do with that.

Mike: (shoots her a look) I could have crawled in my bedroom window. That’s how I got in and out of the house most nights anyway when I was a teenager.

Carolyn: I’m a Virgo and I like schedules, lists, predictability. I like knowing where I’m going to be the next day, what I might wear, who I might encounter. You on the other hand . . .

Mike: Am a poster child for the Chaos Theory.

Carolyn: You’ve gotten somewhat better, but yeah. Haven’t you ever said to yourself, “My life would be much better if I got more organized?”

Mike: Briefly. In fact I even wrote it down. But then I lost the slip of paper. I would have to say, you’ve made me a believer when it comes to color-coded index cards. They’ve made our team writing much more manageable. I think it’s interesting how things change through the years. I used to listen to music, turned up to, as another Nigel, the guitarist with Spinal Tap once said, “to eleven. It’s one louder than 10 you see.”

Carolyn: I remember. The walls of the house would shimmy and the dogs would hide under the bed.

Mike: But you always minimized distractions.

Carolyn: I’ve always immersed myself in the writing. The click of the computer keys were plenty of sound for me.

Mike: But now you have something else on when you write. A Seattle Mariners game on your tiny portable TV.

Carolyn: You really don’t have to pay attention to that. If they have a season like last year, they’re probably losing, so what’s the point?

Mike: And you even listen to music sometimes, while I tend to work without sound. What happened?

Carolyn: For one, I think you lost most of your hearing.

Mike: There’s that.

Carolyn: Works to my benefit when I tell you something I don’t really want you to hear. Like, for example, “I’m cutting that section you wrote.”

Mike: Huh? Well, I think we’re almost out of space here. Do you have a last question?

Carolyn: What are you working on now?

Mike: A rewrite of a hard-boiled I wrote years ago. I had it with an agent but no one snapped it up. Now I’d like to try to market again. It’s called Shotgun Start.

Carolyn: So you’re just cleaning it up a little? Taking out a little, adding a little?

Mike: I just lost chapters six through nine. I’m really rethinking the whole book. Interesting what some time away from a book can do to your perspective. How about you?

Carolyn: The sequel to my Five Star mystery, Hemlock Lake.

Mike: I thought that was a stand-alone novel?

Carolyn: So did I. But, apparently I forgot to tell Dan, Camille, and the others who live around the lake. Turns out they had another story to tell.

Mike: Thanks for the interview, Sweetie.

Carolyn: You’re quite welcome. And, Mike?

Mike: Yes

Carolyn: Don’t you dare wear that shirt to work tomorrow.

Friday 25 February 2011


Michael A. Gonzales ladies and gentlemen.

1. How old were you when you began interested in writing crime fiction?

MG: I’m a native New Yorker, born and raised in Harlem during the 1970s, so I saw a lot of strange things when I was a kid. Pimps, junkies, number runners and whores were the norm. The neighborhood I lived on was a family oriented, but around the corner was a different story.

Growing-up in the 1970s, most of the movies and television shows I watched were all about cops and robbers. There was a great show called NYPD starring Jack Warden and Robert Hooks, who later played the lead in the Blaxplotation flick Trouble Man, which had an early influence on me.

I was into programs like Mannix, The FBI, The Streets of San Francisco and anything else produced by Quinn Martin when I was younger; then, later in the ‘70s came shows like Baretta, The Rockford Films, SWAT, The Rookies, Starsky and Hutch and on and on. I was also into the Twilight Zone, the Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Elvis movies. Frankly, I was a TV junkie. As my mother used to say, “If you study your school books thee way you study the TV Guide, you’d be better off.”

Yet, for me, the turning point was in 1971, when a few things happened. First, that was the year Shaft was released. I didn’t see the movie for years, but the theme song (as well as commercials for the film) blew my mind.

I also remember my mom taking me to see the French Connection which was showing at the Lowes Victoria on 125th Street along with a gritty Frank Sinatra flick called The Detective; that was the best double-feature ever.

But, it wasn’t until the 1980s when the Black Lizard reprints of Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Peter Rabe, Paul Cain, Charles Williford and Barry Gifford came out that I was hooked. Goodis and Chester Himes are my noir gods.

2. Tell us how your godfather helped launch your writing career?

MG: When I was seven or eight, my mom took me to see a mafia comedy called The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, which was based on a Jimmy Breslin book starring Jerry Orbach and Robert DeNiro. Strangely, that same day I ripped-off the plot of that film for my first short story.

I had a godfather named Uncle Hans who was a writer. He was very literary and had worked with Thomas Mann on a literary magazine in Germany. His grandfather was Paul Ehrlich, whom Edward G. Robinson played in The Magic Bullet. Uncle Hans never had any kids, but he was wonderful with them.

On the day I saw The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, mom took me to visit him. He lived in the Excelsior Hotel, which was on 81 Street and Central Park West, right across the street from the Museum of Natural History. It looked like something out of the Thin Man movies and had the best floor to ceiling bookcase I’d ever seen, stacked with volumes of plays, novels and essays.

I was eight years old and for some reason he asked me if I wanted to dictate a story to him. We went into his home office and, having seen the film a few hours before, I rehashed the plot and an hour or so later, we had a story.

That experience changed my life, because it was the first time I realized that someone actually wrote books, movies, whatever. My mom was a big reader and she used to put books and magazines in my playpen when I was a baby. Anyway, afterwards Uncle Hans bought me an Olivetti typewriter for Christmas and I’ve been writing my own stories ever since.

3. Your writing is quite visual. What do you attribute that to?

MG: Again, coming of age in the 1970s was a blessing, because there were so many great movies coming out during that period. I’d go see crime, kung-fu and Blaxplotation flicks like Death Wish, The Valachi Papers, Fists of Fury, Black Caesar, The Mack, Across 110th Street, Billy Jack, Walking Tall and Enter the Dragon with my friends at the Tapia, The San Juan or the Roosevelt. Then, mom would take me to see movies like Barefoot in the Park, Chinatown, Lady Sings the Blues, Dog Day Afternoon, Annie Hall, Serpico or The Anderson Tapes.

I was also into comic book artists Jim Steranko, Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Marshall Rodgers, Howard Chaykin and others who were doing great books. Batman was always my favorite character and nobody drew a better Gotham City than Neal Adams and Marshall Rodgers.

I was also into mystery and horror comics. There was an amazing crew of comic book artists that included Beri Wrightson, Michael Kaluta (who also drew The Shadow), Jeff Jones and Alex Nino (to name a few) who just blew me away.

I was blessed to have a mom who exposed me to art and took me to museums as well. So, from a young age I was into the work of Van Gogh, Picasso and Dali. Believe me, those three painters are very much a part of my development as a writer.

4. Did you ever try to become a comic book writer?

In addition to the artists, there were also writers like Denny O’Neil, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman and Steve Englehart that inspired me.

Although I read a lot of different comics, my favorite company was DC, because they put out the mystery and science fiction anthology comics I dug so much.

When I was 14 years old and a freshman in Rice High School in Harlem, I somehow got the balls to contact DC Comics to try and write comic books. A young editor named Paul Levitz, who later became the President of the company, took my call and invited me to his office. He was very encouraging and gave me a few scripts to study. He met with me a few times after that and although I never sold a script to him, just having him guide me was an invaluable experience.

I also used to send material to a wonderful writer and editor named Nick Cuti who worked at Warren Comics. That was the company that put out Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella; Cuti used to work with the great comic book artist Wally Wood and he was one hell of a nice guy. I remember he told me if I wanted to be a good writer I had to read everything, not just comics.

I’ve only done a few minor comic scripts over the years. I was blessed a few years ago when my friend and crime writer extraordinaire Gary Phillips invited me to contribute a textual comic book story for a 2008 collection called The Darker Mask: Heroes from the Shadows (Tor Books). My story was called “The Whores of Onyx City,” which I dedicated to Paul Levitz.

5. Were there any teachers in school that helped you?

MG: Well, there were a few. In 8th grade there was Teresa Barry, who tried to accuse me of plagiarizing a poem I wrote for class. What she didn’t know was I had written poems for every guy in class for twenty-five cents each.

When I was a sophomore in high school, we moved to Baltimore. My English teacher for the next three years was a remarkable woman named Louise Sommer who taught at Northwestern High. At the time I thought Harlen Ellison and Kurt Vonnegut were the best writers on the planet. However, when Mrs. Sommer gave me a copy of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, I realized those guys were just the tip of a fantastic iceberg.

6. Your early published short stories were erotica. Can you talk about that?

MG: My friend Carol Taylor, who used to be an editor at Random House, edited series of erotica books beginning with Brown Sugar in 2001. There were four books altogether and I was in the first three.

Carol knew my work as a music journalist. I wrote features for many urban magazines, including The Source (when it was good and still mattered), Vibe, Ego Trip, XXL and many others.

As an aside, let me just say this was a great training ground. I was for many years, a “hip-hop” writer, writing features on people like Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Gang Starr, Cypress Hill, Lauryn Hill, Queen Latifah and others. At The Source, the pieces could be up to 3,500 words.

My pieces were often written from a new journalism perceptive, combined with what I learned from watching films, digging art and reading great music writers like Lester Bangs, Nick Torches, Greg Tate, Barry Michael Cooper, Frank Owen, Simon Reynolds, Nelson George, Carol Cooper, Lisa Jones and others.

My friend Marc Gerald, who is currently a literary agent, but also edited the Old School book series (reprinting the forgotten works of Chester Himes, Clarence Cooper Jr, Robert Deane Parker), once said that the hip-hop writers were like the modern day pulp writers. I’m talking about folks like Bonz Malone, Dream Hampton, Kevin Powell, Ronin Ro, Kierna Mao, Sasha Jenkins, Amy Linden, Karen Goode, Miles Marshall Lewis and many others.

I also wrote a lot about other types of music and was blessed to do wonderful interviews with Portishead, Teddy Riley, Prince. Tricky, Massive Attack and Eartha Kitt.

More recently, I’ve been writing old school soul stories for a magazine called Wax Poetics. I wrote a cover story on Curtis Mayfield and the making of his seminal Superfly soundtrack.

7. Can we talk about the erotica now?

MG: Of course. When I met editor Carol Taylor I really wanted to write short fiction, but wasn’t sure to kick it off. She dug my magazine work and offered me a little something something to bang out a piece.

At the time, my girlfriend of ten years Lesley Pitts, who encouraged me very much, had recently died and I was drinking and depressed. I’d go hangout and come back home and work on my story. It was a crazy, surreal piece called “Movie Lover,” about a frustrated video director and his sexual fantasies of having a three-way with Liz Taylor and Sophia Loren while also remembering his coming of age in ‘70s New York City.

Carol taught me a lot about writing fiction. She was a tough editor, but I learned a lot from her.

8. In most of your fiction, New York City is an important character.

MG: Well, in addition to growing-up in Harlem and Washington Heights, my favorite filmmakers were always the New Yorkers like Woody Allen, Sidney Lumet and Martin Scorsese. Movies like Dog Day Afternoon, The Pawnbroker, Annie Hall, Manhattan, Mean Streets and Taxi Driver changed my life. A decade later, Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch, Wes Anderson and Darren Aronofsky joined that canon as well.

My late friend Jerry Rodriguez was also a crime writer who penned The Devil’s Mambo and Revenge Tango was also a film nerd. He and I met in college and he was the one who turned me on to flicks like The Yakuza, Thief, The Godfather, the Rocky movies and stuff like that. At the time I was into filmmakers like Truffant and Wim Wenders, but Jerry got me into other kinds of stuff.

He used to say, “Michael always liked films, but I got him into movies.”

9. Recently you’ve been writing a lot more noir short stories. Can you talk about that?

MG: First of all, whether there is a crime or not, I consider most of my stories to be noir; even the erotica stories. Most of my stories all have a dark sensibility that is creepy enough without a crime happening.

That said, earlier this year I reprinted my short story “Boogie Down Inferno” on my blog Blackadelic Pop and got a great response from a few online editors. Pulp Metal editor Jason Michel reprinted the story, which got the ball rolling. Later, I wrote new stories for Crime Factory, A Twist of Pulp and Needle #3.

Through Facebook, I’ve met great folks like Keith Rawson, Paul D. Brazill, Steve Weddle, Nigel Bird, Jason Michel, Cameron Ashley and others who have either encouraged me or published my work.

10. What’s going on in 2011?

MG: I have a Harlem based crime novel called Uptown Boys I’d like to finish. I also have a new erotica piece called “Serious Moonlight” (thank you David Bowie) coming out in editor Rachel Kramer Bussell’s “Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex” in the Spring. I’ve also had a story accepted for Beat to a Pulp called “Another Kind of Blue,” that was published in January.

11. What is your goal as a writer?

MG: When it comes to fiction, I like the high and the supposed low. I’m a fan of Camus and Simenon, but I also love Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim. For me, there’s not much difference. In my work, I’m shooting for the mixture of Kool-Aid and champagne, caviar and chitlins. I don’t want to argue about real lit versus street lit versus pulp lit, I just want to write stories I can be proud of--‘nuff said.

Stories and Essays by Michael A. Gonzales

Bombing Babylon (Colorlines)

Nights on Broadway

Nothing Nice on Murder Avenue (Crime Factory)

Boogie Down Inferno (Pulp Metal)

Interview with Akashic Books publisher Johnny Temple (Stop Smiling)

The Birdman of Harlem (A Twist of Noir)

Chester Himes Essay (Allan Guthrie’s Noir Originals)

Blackadelic Pop (blog)

Bob's Bits And A Little Bit Of Charity.

Things in the writing world move and shift so quickly, it's definitey difficult to keep up.

I'm delighted that the 600-700 series over at
A Twist Of Noir are back up and running. There's some great stuff to read if you get over.

If you don't, you'll miss out on this so follow this link to Apostle Rising's video:

another helping of noir from Katherine Tomlinson over at NoHo, so go see.

And there's a new and exciting cover for you to admire over at Allan Guthrie's
ebooks that sell. Kill Clock's a real good ride, so watch this space - it looks like it won't be long till it's available.

If you're short of things to read on your Kindle, phone, PC or whatever this weekend why not try some of this:

The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson (Book 1) (The Barney Thomson Crime Series)

You'll be royally entertaines and Douglas will be here soon with his very own dance.

And at the moment I'm reading
Fat City by Leonard Gardner. Seems like it's hard to get, but the yummy thrill of its textures is a feast for anyone.

Last thing, if you have 71p/$1:12 to spare you could help out. This time it's not for
Dirty Old Town (though after only one sale in the UK yesterday, Lord knows it needs it) but for a charity venture.

Jack And The Giant was produced by a group of 6 year old children as part of their topic last term. It's a 500 word tale that sticks to the traditional story pretty much. The main focus of the lessons was on the use of interesting words.

On the Amazon board the other day, someone asked me how they could tell it was for charity. I was so angry that I felt physically sick, but now I guess it's a fair point. If you go to the link below, you'll see some of the fine work the children did and hopefully be convinced that it's not a big scam. In all truth, if I was going to be scamming anything it would be with my own work, but I'm just not that kind of guy. Hopefully anyone who'se been here more than a few times knows that.

And Naomi Johnson and Hilery Williams were kind enough to offer brillian blog space at:


They're lovely people and deserve public thanks from me, so thanks and xx.

25p will go to Save The Children for every copy sold and it fits in with their study of the United Nations Convention Of The Child (Article 28).


And thanks.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Dancing With Myself: PABLO D'STAIR interviews PABLO D'STAIR

Pablo D’Stair: Your supposed appreciation, even love, for the typographical error is a put on (begins coughing) Excuse me. (continues coughing)

Pablo D’Stair: Was that a question? I’ll take it to’ve been a question. No, it’s not a put on—or rather, you’re repositioning it to being a “love” or an “appreciation” when it’s actually neither of those things. It’s more banal—I just don’t mind them, they are there and they are meaningless. I detest, however—no, “detest” isn’t even strong enough a word—I…cannot fucking stand, we’ll just say I can’t think of a better word than “detest” at the moment…I cannot fucking stand any person—whatever the quality of their character else—who has any, even the most miniscule, problem with them, regardless of what rhetoric such a person might hide behind. It’s abominable, it’s horrific—it showcases all that is and all that can be wrong with a person-as-a-reader and goes a bit further toward an indicator of such a person’s true core character. The worst of the lot are those who “blame it on their education or jobs” or some such shit—this underhanded way of licking some hoity praise at themselves at the same time they’re putting down on something it’s just sick making. You know the people? “Well, I just spent so many years studying and having to refine papers and have had such a respect for diligence and language and etc etc that now if I see a typo my mind just locks down and I cannot go any further, even if I want to, it’s become an instinctive aesthetic response. Oh blah blah blah. Oh really it’s a sad thing, that I’m just so calibrated that my enjoyment of what I’m sure is a perfectly quaint attempt at writing must be destroyed. Pity me, oh pity me for not being able to lower myself into the realm of flaw that a moment’s caution or a dignified respect for linguistic and typographic cleanliness would have saved us all from.”

PD: Yes. (pause) Yes, fine. (pause) Wow, I have to say that I’m now terrified to actually ask you a question if that’s how you respond to something that wasn’t even a question.

PD: Wasn’t it?

PD: No. No it wasn’t. It was the start of what was going to be a connective series of statements which would have eventually become a question that was interrupted by a momentary bit of coughing—but apparently you’ve just a hair trigger when it comes to finding an opportunity to carry on like an obnoxious twat.

PD: What’s your first question?

PD: Do you have any cigarettes?

PD: (pause) Is that the question your statement I so rudely cut in on would have lead to?

PD: Christ, never mind. (coughs) You aren’t a fan of digital media—or rather, being fair, you don’t spend much time thinking about it and your appreciation for publishing and writing, in general, is primarily artifact based. You’re a physical book man, it’s imbued in your lowest psyche. What do you make of this news that—at least with regards to Amazon—digital books through Kindle or whatever the fuck it’s called for the first time have outnumbered the sales of print books? You must be mortified, yes?

PD: No. Well—Yes I’m mortified, but moreover I don’t care and really—really—in the final analysis it’s quite a good thing. See, I was most put off all the time by the Indie Scene’s insistence on embracing digital media as “their thing”, as The Alternative, the “thing that mainstream isn’t doing, so we’ll own it, force our identity onto it as principle, bloom with it—since they fail to see the value, we’ll nurture it to health and go into the future with it.” Ridiculously short sighted, you know? In fact, I’ve been longing for these digital devices to really take off and when they do to take Hep Publishing and it’s marketplace centered paradigm with them. It was a matter of time, you know? It always was a matter of time. Now the time is come and now what my problem is is that it’s taking Indie’s so long to extricate themselves—in fact mostly Indie’s’re even more than ever diving on board, all hands on deck, thinking it’s some El Dorado of giving them “a real chance to be in there with the big guys”. Fuck, even presses and writers who I’d’ve imagined wanted nothing to do with anything like “being like the big guys” have waddled over into the discussion. Instead of seeing this for what it is. Or better, for what it can be.

PD: What can it be?

PD: You wasted a question, there, because I was just going to barrel along, taking that question totally for granted, you know?

PD: I’m shit as an interviewer and you’re shit as a subject, so in the end it works out to all of our advantage if I burn through the allotted ten questions as quickly and inexpertly as possible. Don’t you think?

PD: Ha ha. Very nice. Are you even keeping track of where we’re at, question number wise?

PD: Are you?

PD: (pause) You know? Hmn. (pause) I’m not sure I should really be on your side, here. (pause) I mean, there’s cavalier recklessness that comes off as really clever and then there’s really just wasting questions. (pause) What it could be—returning to what you seem to be disinterested in having me go on about—is a re-imagining of what should be done with the print medium book—the exclusively print medium book—and who should be doing it. The combination of the continuing inexpensiveness of producing print books of increasing physical quality and of these books being available in a marketplace less and less interested in commoditizing the print medium is the perfect stepping off point for a reinvigorated Indie Literature that could make some real headway—non commercially—in increasing its audience simply by not going along with digital publishing’s expansion. The mistake—it’s always been a mistake, but is now a mistake made across the board manifest—of thinking that books made available through inexpensive, electronic medium equates to a rise in potential readership is very, very silly. It’s nothing trading with nothing for nothing with nobody watching. But, in pockets of early resistance among to the swell of digital literature among not-usually-interested-in-the-indie-scene readers there is a huge opportunity to get print books into willing hands—not in the commercial sense, or at least I hope nobody chooses to exploit it in that way as it could be exploited commercially to the further detriment of everyone—and this opportunity is pointed unique, right now, especially as the superficial quality of indie books, the artifacts themselves, are at a point they can so beautifully and inexpensively easily be made—I take the quality of the work for granted, you know? A huge step forward could be made in breaking the ill informed stereotype that “Indie books are lesser quality and you can tell by looking at them”—the chance is just there for the plucking and the fact that there is—though many still don’t think it—an incredibly erudite and eager reading audience who would adore the usual Indie Scene ‘alternatives’ if they would be presented it as an actual alternative—in how they receive it and what is it, what it represents—and these readers would love to “Get into the literary discussion” by discovering that the classic, print medium of books is offering itself in a non-monetized way, seeking earnest discussion and nothing else. That is, even amongst Leisure Books readers, Harlequin readers, Beach Read toss away folks, this more intimate dialogue with literature is still what readers want.

PD: (lights cigarette) I let you get that all out of your system, alright? But now I have to point out that No, it isn’t what readers want. Give-it-away-free or don’t is totally irrelevant, so I won’t touch that pointless rhetorical round and round—but No, no people do not want to discuss books, not like you mean, anyway. They want to tell each other if they liked the books they read, they want to have fun, amongst friends, dissecting the books they read to no consequence—yes—but people who truly want to discourse on them are a selective breed and they have been discussing and dissecting and dialoguing, forever—they have journals for that, hierarchies, it’s a fucking art form and a fucking industry in itself. And neither of those truths are negative. You—tell the truth—just so desperately “want on board with the dissertation lot” because you’ve convinced yourself that’s what you want for your work—you want to be talked about, discussed interviewed, inspected and as you don’t have the wherewithal to but in the miles to get in with the writers who would be worthwhile interview partners for Bill Moyer you are trying to substitute casual readers into their position, trying to prop up someone who doesn’t give a shit about the theoretical or rhetorical abstractions of your personal literary into the façade of someone who really does have a deep investment into the nuance and “purity of art”—don’t you have to admit that?

PD: What do you mean “convinced myself that’s what I want”?

PD: What do you mean what do I mean?

PD: Oh fuck off with that. Just…what do you mean?

PD: When did this shift come about in you, man? When did you all of a sudden want to chit-chat with any stranger about your work—before, all the time before, while no you weren’t about the money, what you were about was just writing and maybe getting it to people. And look, I’m all for your wanting to “only get it to interested people” and your wanting “some way to track if a book is being actually read”—that’s all good and it should be brought a little more to the forefront, maybe, a subjective forefront—but when did it become about your having to personally talk to people? You never wanted that and then—Presto Chango— it’s all you prattle on about, so far to the point you name it as philosophical necessity for Writers capital W, not even just for your personal satisfaction.

PD: That, by the way, only counts as one question. And to answer: it isn’t “all about me talking to them”, me, or any writer, talking to them as stipulation for getting the book is just the only way to best assure future dialogue starts. I recognize this as something not everyone will dig and that can come off as bullshit—whether or not I say “it isn’t about wanting praise”, that “it’s about wanting to know any and all reactive thought to my work” I know it can boil down in the eyes of anyone to “Yeah, but it’s about you, you want to be the focus, not have the work be the focus.’ But the work is going to go off where it’s going to go off after the initial trading hands—me-to-reader or publisher-to-reader or whatever—the idea is to reset the paradigm, to say, definitively, that what is desired of a readership is not “the purchase of the book” and not even “JUST the reading of the work” (I need to emphasize that ‘just’—quiet, interior, personal reaction that is never shared is equally as valuable, if not more so, than conversation, but that is something that cannot be tracked or ever known so for all intents and purposes is an abstraction and is an abstraction I think it is silly and ill advised to assume is happening often, if ever) but what is desired, as exchange, as marketplace, is “giving life to a secondary expression of the work in a continuing—even sporadically and on other subjects—discussion referencing back to the work”. What literature is to a writer and what literature is to a reader are two wildly different things and always will be—what I think should happen is a kind of concerted effort to build a middle ground, an Esperanto, a place where the work—even if there is some construction, even artifice, to the method of discussion—is approached on equal—and appropriately equal—footing by both parties, author and reader. Reader-to-reader talk is wonderful, writer-to-writer talk is wonderful, but writer-to-reader talk, without some consciously understood admissions of the distance between the two and a concerted effort at a method to allow the interaction to have meaning, is worthless. A writer, when talking about someone else’s work, they are just a reader—it’s reader-to-reader, you know?—but if it’s their work being discussed, they need to find a way to break from looking at it as writer-to-reader discussion, they need to acquiesce that they, at best, are approaching their own work as “equivalently foreigner” as any other random reader and, probably, are impaired in their ability to interface with their work without it being filtered through the unassociated reader’s reactions.

PD: Jesus. (pause) So, the way you make it equal is “the Reader is talking about the writer’s book” but “the Writer is only discussing the reader’s reaction”—the writer admits they are no authority and to further place themselves away from their work they can only discuss, really, the response to the work—not argue with it, but have to take the response as meaningful, as inviolate, just as the reader is expected to take their book. Is that the thing?

PD: (pause) I think so. (pause) Yes. (pause) Yes, I think so. (pause) Why aren’t you saying anything?

PD: Because, come on, it obviously doesn’t even fucking make sense to you. It obviously doesn’t, man. (coughs, lights new cigarette) You used to just write—never published a thing, didn’t even think about it, commercial or otherwise. Remember that? All those novels so passionately written—some by hand even, some partially on a typewriter—and then a final, neat copy printed out and you’d hole punch it and go to the store to get those binder clasps you liked and put it all together and that was that. I admired you, then. I think that’s really admirable and I think that everything you’ve done since then has been a step down a long path of blah and run-of-the-mill, at best, neurotic, anit-art propounding at worst . Don’t you ever wish you’d never published and definitely that you’d never learned of self-publishing and all?

PD: (pause) Yes.

PD: Good. (coughs) Good. And I’ll tell you, I think your shame is apparent in your current work—it isn’t even as disguised as you think it is, you know? You think in your work that you’re disguising elements of yourself that you’re working through etc., but your real disguising is of the shame you feel that you can’t think about “just writing” anymore—it has to be Printed up, even five copies, you know? You have lost touch with the entity of literature, the personal tension between consciousness and unconsciousness you philosophize about so endlessly. You’re reduced to self-consciousness filtering through conscious attempts at self-effacement. (stubs cigarette, lights new cigarette) Remember when you were a writer?

PD: (pause) Yes. (motions for cigarette)

PD: That’s the ten. (lights cigarette, hands it across) Eleven actually. I just wanted to give you opportunity for a somewhat dignified curtain line.

Sunday 20 February 2011


I must apologise if I've become a little too wrapped up in my own projects recently to keep abreast of develpments elsewhere.

Take this as an example:

It's an excellent review of Richard Godwin's Apostle Rising that passed me by. I've rectified the situation and placed my order. If it's as good as the review, and I suspect it will be, I can't wait.

I'm also fortunate today to have a story of mine, 'Snow Angel' over at Not From Here Are You , which is an amazing coincidence given that Michael J Solender is here with me today.

Right here, in fact:

Solender Does Solender: WTF Was I Thinking??
Michael J. Solender Plays With Himself

Me: You just got back from Kerala, Southern India. What type of nefarious shit did that conjure up for your crime writing?

MJS: There were some fabulous scenes I found to develop. I stayed at a place in Cochin called Malabar House. The name alone gave me some fabulous imagery. I have a story title that I’m riffing on right now called, Murder at Malabar House. It will feature some shady characters, scents of jasmine and musky incense and just have an aura of the mystery that is India overlaid up the plot which I am still crafting.

Me: What is it about travel, particularly third world travel you find so intriguing?

MJS: I love third world travel in spite, or perhaps because, of the hardships. Let’s face it lack of running water and facilities is not always desirable but invariably I’m put in such proximity to real living, real people and real culture that truly characterizes and defines this grand journey called life. I am always amazed at how I may see a situation, like substandard living conditions of nomad sheep herders in Mongolia, sleeping under the stars in Yurts and initially think...Whoaa, look how difficult this life is and how much they don’t have. Then after spending time with these people I come to see how rich they feel their lives are and how much they believe they do have, it really changes your perspective rather quickly.

Me: What are some of the third world places you have been and what stories have you written that reflect your travels there?

MJS: My wife Harriet and I rode the Tran Siberian Express from Khabarovsk Russia through Siberia into Mongolia. Running With The Iron Rooster is a story I wrote for a competition that had scenes taken form that trip. We traveled to the tiny Indonesian Island of Sulawesi. Bug Lady is an audio cast I wrote that reflected some scenes I developed from our experience there. Other out of the way spots we have been include Bhutan where I cooked up one of my favorite writes ever called Their Next, and the Ecuadorian jungle, where I dreamt up Tourist.

Me: Where to next?

MJS: We are going to go to Hungary and Romania next fall. I want to see where my grandparents are from. I want to wallow in all that great eastern European soul food and walk in the footsteps of my ancestors.

Me: You are an impatient writer and get bored easily - What impact does that have upon your work?

MJS: I don’t know if it is as much impatience rather than just lazy but when I am done with something in my mind, I’m done with it. I want to move on. As I have tried to improve and strengthen my work, I’m finding I need to come back to it and work it long after I felt I was done. I guess this means I’m maturing, I have always been in too much of a hurry to put shit out and then when I spot mistakes or areas where I could have strengthened my work I get pissed at myself for being so lazy. Editing chapbooks has helped me learn to fight the tendency to be sloppy. I don’t want to EVER futz up someone else’s work.

Me: Is it true you just got your first cell phone two months ago? What the hell took you so long?

MJS: I work out of the house and never felt I could justify the expense. Maybe I’m cheap, OK I AM cheap. I also never felt I needed to be that connected. Now I’m swinging the other way and finding new aps I HAVE to have. It is annoying to people, especially my wife.

Me: What is your favorite meal of the day?

MJS: I was hoping you would get to the food questions. I absolutely live for breakfast, I love it. No matter where in the world I am I go all in on breakfast, usually have a late lunch and skip dinner all together. While I love full American breakfasts, especially buckwheat pancakes, I also dig the whole Japanese Miso soup, fish and pickles deal. Indonesian noodle breakfasts are great and the breakfasts in Mexico are legendary.

Me: What would most of your virtual writer buddies be surprised to learn about you?

MJS: What a good chef I am and how much I love to be in the kitchen. I really love to cook and share my creations. I love to cook for people.

Me: What is a perfect meal for you?

MJS: I make an Osso Bucco Risotto where I prepare Osso Bucco and retain all the cooking liquid which I use to make my Risotto, then I take the Veal Shanks, and debone them incorporating the meat into the rice. It is over the top. A nice Caesar Salad, some Claret and that is all I need.

And for the final question I turn the tables and ask myself the concluding inquiry:

MJS: Where are you going with your work? Where will we be seeing Michael J. Solender’s work in the future?

Me: Folks may have noticed already that I am writing more nonfiction than I did say two years ago. This reflects the success I’m having selling my work to journals and magazines. I also love writing essays and love to write about things I’m interested in like Theater, Urban Life and The visual and performing arts. I want to get more national publications and have developed a “professional” writer site where I house many of my clips and such. is a place I can send editor to check out my work. I’ll never stop writing fiction completely, it is too much fun for me and noir is the most fun of all.

Me: Thank you sir.

MJS: No, thank YOU.

editor: no, MJS thanks to you both. And enjoy Hungary - I've loved it there on my visits.

more at

Saturday 19 February 2011

Dancing With Myself: MICHAEL STANLEY interviews MICHAEL STANLEY

The View From The Blue House has a lovely review for Dirty Old Town, so a big thanks to Rob Kitchin for taking the time. It was just the tonic I needed after a week away in a village called Amble, a place that absolutely lives up to its name.

It's in a beautiful part of the world and there's lots to see and do.

One such place is Barter Books, a second hand bookshop housed in an old railway station in Alnwick.

I know I'm off on one with Kindle blindness just now, but Barter Books reminded me of what is so wonderful about the paper variety.

It's enormous and quiet and populated by contented people. A model railway line runs above the bookshelves. The smell of the books and the variety of subjects covered is something to be amazed by. In the children's section alone, I saw many of the books I grew up with and had to restrain myself from buying them for my own clan. Refreshingly enough, the place was full of punters ranging from between 1 and 90 years old (by my eye, anyway). Truly a place of beauty. I couldn't recommend it enough to people passing through the North-East of England and with the Harry Potter castle and the gardens, it's not the only place of interest on offer.

And today, a warm welcome if you please for Michael Stanley, who finds it less difficult to have a dual personality than most.

How did you get started?

The idea for our first book, A Carrion Death, came on one of our trips to the wilderness areas of Botswana. We were watching a pack of hyenas demolishing the carcass of a wildebeest that they’d killed. If one wanted to get rid of a body, we thought, feed it to hyenas. They eat everything including the bones. The idea sat dormant for many years, but when Stanley retired in 2003 he persuaded Michael that it would be fun to work on a novel together. We hadn't a clue how to go about it and took three years of muddling our way through plot dead-ends and uncooperative characters before we finished a satisfactory draft.

How do two white men write about a black protagonist?

We think this question should rather be “How can anyone successfully write about someone who is culturally different?”

Of course, there are many authors who have protagonists who are substantially different from themselves. Men have women protagonists; women have men protagonists; English have Russian protagonists; Americans have French protagonists, and so on. So how do they do it?

We think it’s important to know the different culture as well as possible. We have visited Botswana many times and have read a lot about that country. Michael worked with a company which has extensive involvement in Botswana. Having been born and raised in South Africa gives us a feel for southern African Black culture in a broad sense. Certainly diverse Black groups have differences, but overall there are more similarities. For example, all have a great respect for their elders; there are strong extended families; communities are very supportive; there is still a belief in witchcraft; and colonization has brought Western ways to the region, with mixed results. For authenticity, a Black protagonist would need to conform reasonably closely to these behaviours, thought patterns, and beliefs. Part of the enjoyment for us was learning much more about the Tswana culture than we had known before we started working on the books.

Ultimately it’s the readers who will pass judgement on whether a writer has done a good job of developing a lead character. Our Western readers enjoy our depiction of Botswana and its culture.

Perhaps more significantly, A Carrion Death and
A Deadly Trade have been well received in Botswana itself.

How do two people write crime fiction together?

It’s not common but there are a few partnerships writing crime fiction and they all seem to use different methods. We’ve developed a strategy which works well for us. Upfront we work out a map of the plot, a synopsis, and the timelines. We try to get together to do that, and it takes a considerable amount of time. When we start on the writing there are usually areas where one of us has a particular interest or a mental picture of what’s going to happen. He’ll write a first draft, and often we will each be working on a different section of the book at the same time. That’s the starting point for multiple iterations. This phase we do by email interspersed with long internet telephone conversations. Eventually we go through each section independently to make sure it’s smooth, stylistically coherent, and that the characters’ behaviours are consistent from one place to another. Of course from time to time the plot diverges from our original plan, and the story takes new twists and turns. But that’s part of the fun.

Perhaps surprisingly it seems to work. Most people say they can’t discern any changes of style as they read.

What makes your books different from other books set in southern Africa?

Most of the other mysteries set in southern Africa take place in South Africa. And there are many wonderful writers there – living and dead: Antony Altbeker, Wessel Ebersohn, Richard Kunzmann, Sarah Lotz, Chris Marnewick, James McClure, Jassy McKenzie, Deon Meyer, Sifiso Mzobe, Mike Nichol, Margie Orford, Roger Smith, and Martin Welz to name only some. There are also writers who live elsewhere, who write about South Africa: Malla Nunn, Peter Temple, and Caryl Férey. Almost all of these writers focus on the violent aspects of South African society – and some of the most violent areas in the world are located around Johannesburg and Cape Town.

On the other hand, neighbouring Botswana is very different. It’s a large country with a small population – less the 2 million. Unlike heterogeneous South Africa, it’s relatively homogeneous, with the Batswana comprising nearly 80% of the population. It’s relatively affluent, and there are few slums. Consequently the incidence of violent crime is far lower than in South Africa. Much of the violent crime is domestic, while in South Africa there is a large amount of violent crime perpetrated against strangers.

This stark difference in the crime demographics is reflected in the murder mysteries written about the two countries. Almost all mysteries set in South Africa are violent, often bordering on the noir. Mysteries set in Botswana generally are gentler and unfold in a more leisurely African fashion. The homogeneity of Botswana also leads to there being a more pervasive set of traditional values, which are often reflected in books. A good example of this is the Alexander McCall Smith Precious Ramotswe series. One exception to this is Unity Dow’s riveting novel, Screaming of the Innocent, which deals with the use of body parts for witchdoctor spells.

Our books are much darker than the McCall Smith books (we have plenty of bodies!), but share with them the sense of community and family ever present in Botswana.

What makes Kubu so appealing?

Of course, we’re delighted that Kubu has become so popular. You must have a character that attracts readers’ affection for a series to be a success. We think what makes him so attractive is that he is a rounded person. He’s smart and, despite mutual respect, his relationship with his boss, Director Mabaku, always has an edge to it. On the other hand, he is madly in love with his wife, Joy. Even though he is very overweight, he continues to eat and drink large quantities – despite Joy’s constant encouragement for him to diet – and enjoys a healthy and satisfying sex life. He also is very respectful of his aging parents, whom he visits every Sunday.

Readers tell us that they see him as a solidly grounded person, happy in his own (substantial) skin, and relentless in trying to make Botswana a better place. He is honest and incorruptible.

‘Kubu’ is the Setswana word for hippopotamus, and we like to think that Kubu has many of his namesake’s characteristics. Normally large and placid, these creatures are the most dangerous animals in Africa. Kubu is normally placid, but if he or his family are threatened, he, too, becomes very dangerous.

What background do you have in writing?

Since we have both been professors (Michael still is – part-time), we have written a lot of non-fiction professionally. Michael’s fields are mathematics and computer science, and Stanley’s are the application of computers to teaching and learning, as well as aviation safety. Both of us are extensively published in those fields. Until we started A Carrion Death in 2003, neither of us had written fiction.

However, the discipline of being academics set us in good stead when we started writing fiction. We are both good at research and know what it takes to complete long and complex projects. We had no misconceptions about how much time and effort it would take to complete a novel, and both of us have the energy and enthusiasm to complete projects we start.

Where do we see the series going?

This is a difficult one to answer. In the current bookselling environment, it is presumptuous to assume that the series will continue to be published even if we write the books! If they are, perhaps the best answer is “until we stop having fun”. At some stage we can see wanting to write something outside the series, too.

When is the movie going to come out?

Many of our readers ask this question because they find the books very visual, particularly with respect to the physical aspects of Botswana – the people, the landscape, and the animals.

Unfortunately, no studio has approached us for the rights. So we keep dreaming!

How do you keep a character interesting throughout a series?

In real life, an interesting person is someone who has special interests and abilities. Someone who can surprise. In particular, in detective fiction the detective needs to keep ahead of the reader putting together the jigsaw puzzle – Kubu loves jigsaws – in a way that is inspired but also logical. Beyond that the character needs to grow, develop, just as your friends and family develop over time.
Should a reader start with the first book in a series?

We’ve written our books to be stand-alone, so a reader can start with any one. However, starting at the first one (A Carrion Death) definitely allows the reader to watch the characters develop. Detective Kubu in the upcoming Death of the Mantis, for example, is a different person from the Kubu in A Carrion Death, which takes places several years earlier. He is older and has had more varied experiences. We would hope that the reader starting at the beginning of the series would see Kubu grow professionally, personally, and emotionally from one book to the next.

From a writing perspective, it is always difficult to cater to readers who start a series in the middle. You have to provide enough background information about the characters to make them interesting, but at the same time not become repetitious for people who have read one or more of the earlier novels.

Why do you spend so much time researching your books?

When we started writing the Detective Kubu series, we had several goals. First, we wanted to see whether we could start and complete a mystery novel. Second, we wanted to have fun doing so. Third, we wanted to entertain our readers. And, fourth, we wanted readers, by the end of each book, to have a better understanding of the social, political, and physical attributes of Botswana and her peoples.

With that in mind, we decided that as far as possible everything that was not fiction had to be accurate. We felt this would add authenticity to the stories and provide information for the readers. In addition, if we both had visited the actual locations in Botswana that we were writing about, we’d be more confident in our writing. It’s much easier for two people to write about things they’ve seen, than about things that initially existed only in one of the two’s head. For example, although Kubu’s parents’ house is fictitious, the roads to it are real. And we’ve driven down them a number of times. This way either of us can write a scene involving a trip to his parents’ home and describe the route in a similar way. In addition, there are real places on the route that we could never have made up, such as the Taliban Haircut and Car Wash or the Jailbirds Security Company, which are on Kgafela Drive in Mochudi.

We want to provide readers with an authentic African experience. We want them to see the dust of Gaborone and the desolation of the Kalahari. We want them to experience the closeness of African families and the respect in which elders are held. We want them to understand the emotional conflicts that exist for people who have feet in both traditional and Western cultures. If we didn’t visit Botswana regularly, we wouldn’t be able to do this.

Monday 14 February 2011

Dancing With Myself: BRAD PARKS interviews BRAD PARKS

For Valentine's Day, some give chocolates and some give flowers. You might even be luck enough to get a poem.

Me, I give you Brad Parks.

Love you all.

1. At conferences and book signings, you present this façade of the happy-go-lucky guy, always well-groomed, ready with a smile or a song. But while that’s your public face, who are you really, Brad Parks?

Umm, I’m, uhh… pretty much just a happy-go-lucky guy who showers regularly and likes to sing. My second book, which just came out, is called
EYES OF THE INNOCENT . It’s gotten a blurb from Michael Connelly and a starred review from Library Journal. My debut, FACES OF THE GONE , became the first book ever to win both the Shamus Award and the Nero Award, and… I’m sorry, is this not what you’re looking for?

2. No! Didn’t you see the way my eyes went all narrow and piercing at the end of the ‘who are you really’ question? You were supposed to expose yourself, spill your inner angst. Instead you go and give me a damn infomercial! You’re pretty full of yourself, aren’t you?

Yeah. You’re not the first to notice. My Dad tells the story about the first time he and my mother took me to see Santa Claus. I was five years old and when my turn came, Santa asked me, “Have you been a good boy this year?” And I looked Santa right in the eye and said, “Oh, Santa, I’ve been great.” Dad says he knew at that point he’d never have to worry about my self-esteem.

3. You’re aware some people don’t find that particularly attractive, aren’t you?

Believe me, I’ve learned. Sometimes the hard way (if you think I’m a cocky bastard now, you should have seen me at 22). I try to dial it down whenever possible. Self-deprecating humor can be a nice shield for me. But, deep down? Yeah, I think I’m pretty good at this. And, frankly, if I didn’t, I’d be in real trouble. I sit down every day to write, and I have to believe the story I’m telling is worth hearing, that I’m the best person to tell it, and that I know how to tell it in the best way possible. If I lose that confidence, I might as well go sell shoes for a living, because I am done as a writer.

4. Okay, Mr. Uber Confident, so let’s delve into your insecurities. What are your greatest fears?

Heights and spiders.

5. Stop being such a smug bastard for once and answer the question.

Okay, sorry. I used to worry that one day I’d wake up and the words would be gone – just gone – and that there wouldn’t be another original phrase in my head. Then, at a certain point as a writer, I came to realize stories matter more than words. So these days I worry about my stories. There’s a certain amount of fiction writing that’s like magic to me. Things just sort of happen: That random detail I stuff in the manuscript at word 30,000 – without even knowing why – becomes absolutely crucial at word 75,000. And it might seem like I planned it, except I didn’t. I don’t even know how it came about. So I guess my biggest fear is that one day magic like that will stop happening. And then I’ll go sell shoes.

6. What’s with selling shoes? You got a foot fetish or something?

Uh, no. Though I do have big feet, which makes shoes a little hard to find sometimes. Probably the most difficult time of my life was when my feet had grown but the rest of me hadn’t. Imagine a chubby little kid, 5-foot-2, voice higher than half the sopranos in the choir, walking into the shoe store and saying, “Uh, I’d like size 13, please.” That was me as a freshman in high school. I’m 6-1 now but I didn’t get there until sometime in college. I don’t think I started shaving regularly until I was 22.

7. Being a longtime observer of you, I suspect that had a large impact on your personality?

That’s very perceptive of you. Err, of me. Whatever. But yeah. I mean, here I am, award-winning author (I love saying that!); Phi Beta Kappa Ivy League graduate; women want me, men want to be me, blah blah, blah. I’m hot stuff, right? But somewhere inside me there’s still a short, fat kid who has a huge crush on Teri Hjelte, that cute blond girl on the volleyball team who barely even notices I’m alive. And I’m desperately trying to figure out how I can convince her to go to the Homecoming dance with me.

8. And now you’re going to say, here on Valentine’s Day, that you kept at it and today Teri Hjelte is known to all as Mrs. Brad Parks?

Uh, actually, no. She totally blew me off. I was way too much of a dork.

9. So that means you really are just insecure beneath all the self-involved bluster? Dude, you are such a cliché!

No, no. I’m just saying, at my core, I’m a striver. If I’m proud of anything about myself, it’s that I never stop trying to improve. I was an awful writer when I first started (heck, according to a one star review I just got on Amazon, I’m still awful). But writing was something I enjoyed – or at least took satisfaction from – so I kept at it, kept trying to make myself better. The older I get, the more I realize the desire for self-improvement is one thing shared by every successful person I’ve met. Even now, I’m not the least bit contented by what I’ve accomplished. Hell, if I stopped here, I’d think of myself as a massive failure, as a guy who took a lot of advantages – doting parents, comfortable upper middle class upbringing, wonderful college education – and squandered them.

10. Oh, bloody hell, you’re not going to start singing “Climb Every Mountain” now are you?

Well, what would Valentine’s Day be without a nice serenade?

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Saturday 12 February 2011

Dancing With Myself: LJ SELLERS interviews LJ SELLERS

"More love for DIRTY OLD TOWN
Just can't help myself. I want more people to buy Nigel Bird's Dirty Old Town and read it and love it and tell others about it. I was surprised by every story. These are short, punchy, thoughtful, hard as a punch, but sometimes they dig in and squeeze. It's dirty stuff, done beautifully.Nigel is also responsible for the too-cool "Dancing With Myself" interview series at his blog, Sea Minor.”
Anthony Neil Smith (Yellow Medicine, Psychosomatic, Hogdoggin')


Least I could do was to give one of his books a space (eyes right)>>>.

Truth be told, comments like that can never be taken away and give me such a lift I find it impossible to explain.

Our guest today has had a hell of a lot of good feedback and that might help to explain the way she's flying high in the Amazon Kindle charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Readers and writers, ATTENTION.

Q: What motivates a novelist to participate in a blog like this? Being both the interviewer and subject?

A: Control and ego! It’s an opportunity to say exactly what we want about ourselves and our work. Who could pass that up?

Q: There are hundreds of crime stories out there, why should anyone make time to read yours?

A: I believe my stories are a good balance of what readers want. They combine realistic crimes with complex plots. I do enough character development to engage readers but without sidetracking the story. I write about provocative social issues as an intrinsic component of the plot, so the story has meaning. But I do it in subtle ways that leave readers thinking. Most important, I keep the pace moving. Besides, Mystery Scene magazine says you should be reading my work.

Q: You write a series about a homicide detective, is there a formula to your plots?

A: Not at all. Each of my Detective Jackson stories is unique. The crimes are all different, and each story has its own structure with different POV characters. In the first book, The Sex Club, I had two main protagonists, a Planned Parenthood nurse and Detective Jackson. In Secrets to Die For, I opened the story from the victim’s POV, then told most of the rest from Jackson’s perspective, with a reporter having a small part. In Thrilled to Death, women go missing and the body doesn’t appear until halfway through. In my last release, Passions of the Dead, the story opens with a mass murder, and I tell a parallel subplot through the eyes of the victims.

Q: Which book was most challenging to write and why?

A: The Sex Club was especially challenging, because the timing of events had to be perfect to pull off the ending, which readers are still talking about. Some even e-mailed me to say they read the ending over and over. But the book I’m working on now, affectionately called “Jackson 5,” is proving to be even more difficult. In this story, I have two separate investigations going and they both involve crimes of the past. It’s very challenging to craft an investigation with no crime scenes, no bodies, and no autopsies. But I’m halfway there, and I believe I’ll pull it off.

Q: Enough about your books. It’s time for some personal questions. What do you do for fun when you’re not writing or promoting?

A: I love cycling and I bike year round. And anything that gets my adrenaline going is fun for me, so I’ve been parasailing, gone up in hot air balloon, and jumped out of an airplane. For affordable everyday fun, I shoot pool with my husband and go bowling with my brothers.

Q: Until recently, what was your day job?

A: I’ve worked as a journalist/editor for magazines and educational publishers for most of my career. I spent seven years on a pharmaceutical magazine and know more about drugs than I should. I finally ended up with a part-time newspaper job writing features, which was perfect. Then they laid me off as a cost-cutting measure. I used my down time wisely, and now I’m a full-time novelist.

Q: What are some of the strangest jobs you worked as young person and how did they affect your life and your writing?

A: In high school, I worked in the meat department at a local grocery store. Boy was that a stinker! It made me realize I needed to go to college, even though we had no money. In college, I had a job as a vacuum cleaner sales person. That ended when my boss kissed and groped me. That experience made me realize that perverts are everywhere, which is why they come up in my books. I also pulled green chain for six months. I lost 20 pounds and realized I could do almost anything a man could do, but I was smarter than that, so why should I?

Q: If you’re such a tough woman, why do you write about a male homicide detective?

A: When I wrote The Sex Club, I wasn’t sure it would be a series, but I was sure that I needed two main characters: a Planned Parenthood nurse and a homicide detective. The nurse had to be a woman, so I made the detective a male for balance. The detective had to be the one to carry the series forward, so I ended up with a male protagonist. Fortunately, it’s also realistic for him to be male. There are no female detectives in Eugene’s violent crimes division. But a female sergeant runs the unit, so my character’s boss is woman.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of writing a series?

A: Character arc. If your characters change too much, your readers will be disappointed and lose interest. If they don’t change at all, reviewers and readers will ding you for that too. So Jackson’s changes are subtle, and they are also organic to the plots. His circumstances—such as his relationship with Kera, his ex-wife’s involvement with his daughter, and his home arrangement—are changing slowly too. I may move him forward in one novel, then move him back in the next. But that’s how it is. Jackson’s life is complicated and stressful, like most of ours.

Q: What other amazing things have you done besides write novels?

A: After I graduated from college, I rode my bike to the Grand Canyon (from Eugene Oregon), including crossing Donner Pass. It was a three-day 10,000-foot climb. When we reached the top, a blizzard was happening and ten feet of snow had already piled up at the side of the road. We spent two days in Truckee waiting for the snow to stop. Then we rode down the mountain into Reno, with snow, ice, and gravel on the road. It was the most terrifying 45 minutes of my life.
To get to find out a little more about LJ or to take a look at her book, follow the links below.