Friday 13 May 2011

Dancing With Myself: JACK BATES interviews JACK BATES

1. Your name is Pat Bates. Why publish under Jack Bates?

I have published under my given name. For about three years I wrote for a theatrical publisher out of Houston, Texas. JD Drama is run by a woman named Julie Dierschke who discovered me after she posted at the Society of Children’s’ Book Writers and Illustrators website. I think I sold her around twenty short plays, duo scenes, and monologues. It helped to pump up my confidence. Around the same time I started experimenting with screenplays, eventually optioning one. All of this I did under Pat, or Patrick, Bates. When I turned to crime fiction, I found Pat wasn’t selling. I decided to change my name and took my father’s. A publisher who shall remain nameless ran a story from Jack Bates that had been rejected when Pat Bates submitted it. Jack was born. Pat keeps writing in the YA market.

2. Wait. You optioned a screenplay?

I did. I co-wrote it with a buddy of mine. It was called WHITE OUT. No, it wasn’t the Kate Beckinsale WHITE OUT. Ours was the story of a group of college kids who make a wrong turn and cross paths with a trickster spirit. It took first place at the Gotham Screenplay and Film Fest. The coordinators of the event optioned our script for their studio in New York.

3. Many questions about this experience. Would you care to share anything about it?

I’ll tell you this. My buddy is SAG. He kept me centered. When I told him we were going to get a nominal fee for agreeing to the option, he told me it would be $100. He was right. See, I had heard buzz words like ‘six figure deal’ and ‘royalties’ and started looking at new cars. I found out that while we did sign a six-figure deal, there were hurdles to get over before we would see any of those numbers. The hurdles consisted of getting the movie made, whether we got billing for writing the script (because in Hollywood, just because you wrote it doesn’t mean you wrote it), whether it had a theatrical release, a television release, or went straight to video. The first option ran out. It was extended for another $100. I got a call from the producers saying it looked promising. They had gone to Cannes, met some people with money eager to invest in a slasher/thriller script like ours. Then the money people went away and the option ran out.

4. Are you bitter about it?

I’m bummed it never got made. But I’m not bitter. Everything was on the up and up. The studio is an independent one but it’s legit. I’ve seen some of its films and the studio has worked with major film stars. I’d work with it again in a blink. It’s just the nature of the business. Nothing’s ever certain until it’s up on the screen.

5. Have you written any screenplays since?

I had a good run with writing screenplays, but I found out very quickly if I wanted to succeed at it, I needed to live in L.A. and at that point, I just couldn’t uproot my family and quit my day job. I had been writing and submitting to film and scripts fests around the country and was developing quite an extensive success resume. Tony, my writing bud, and I had written ED’S DEAD (AND HE’S HITCHHIKNG HOME), a dark comedy that became the Screenplay of the Month for December of 2006. We got a hard cover edition of the script that was signed by Kevin Spacey. Then there was the option of WHITE OUT. Our last collaboration was a family comedy about a young man and a dog called MY TICKET HOME. It won first place in its division at the Indie Fest in Cleveland, Ohio.

6. But you stopped writing screenplays. How come?

Like I said, the market is in Hollywood. We live in Detroit; although, Tony did live in L.A. for several years when he was acting. I found I was spending a lot of money on entry fees and travel costs to go to these festivals. The recognition was good, but I started counting the pennies and realized I wasn’t selling anything. I was losing money at writing. That’s not a good system.

7. What made you switch to crime fiction?

A bunch of things all kind of happened at once. I was at our local library and found myself in the audio book section. I had never listened to an audio book for entertainment. I found myself looking at the spine of one called DIE A LITTLE by Megan Abbott. My wife was ready to go and took it from me and put it in her bag to check out. The next morning on my way into work I slid it in and I was sold. A week later I checked out LUCKY AT CARDS by Lawrence Block. Around the same time, I started buying up Hard Case Crime books and finding sites like Yellow Mama, Beat to a Pulp, you know the places. I stumbled onto the Short Mystery Fiction Society which led me to other groups like the Private Eye Writer’s of America. I went to Bouchercon 09 in Indy. Everything just kind of jelled because I realized not only did I enjoy reading these books and stories, I knew I could write these books and stories.

8. So what was Jack Bates’ first story?

LABOR TO GO. When Big Daddy Thug wrote back that he loved the story and was going to run it at Thug Lit, I knew I was hooked. And no, that wasn’t the story Pat Bates had tried to sell.

9. How did Harry Landers, your rookie private investigator, come about?

First I found the publisher. I saw a Google ad on a web page that said a new kind of publisher was looking for interesting stories. I went to the Mind Wings Audio Books website and checked it out. I saw the publisher, Mary Gould, was interested in mystery stories. I had nothing in mind until I remembered a guy I worked with that loved to drink Scotch, play poker, and tell stories. I started with this as a back story and eventually found Harry’s voice. I let him do the talking and it wasn’t long before MUMBLY PEG was written. I have nine Harry Landers stories and two free standing stories with Mind Wings. They come in audio disks or for e-reader platforms. They are more like novellas or extra long short stories.

10. Are you pleased with the success?

I tweeted the other day that sometimes I feel like a junior varsity writer waiting to get called up to the varsity team of print writers. Then I think about all the talk of how e-publsihing is catching on, surpassing print publishers and all, and I wonder if I’m on a fast moving train that is taking the publishing world in a new direction. Regardless of how or where I’m getting published, it’s still all about the writing. If it’s good, people will find it wherever it is or however it is presented and it will catch on. I keep checking my sales on Amazon UK where TEN MINUTES AFTER MIDNIGHT and A MODEL FOR MURDER go on and off the best selling sales rank lists and it makes me feel good. The royalties aren’t too shabby, either.



  1. Jack Bates might not be his real name but his writing is the genuine article. Nothing fancy, no printed word CGI crap. Just sound, hard-nosed stories that satisfy. Jack's kind of like bourbon in a world of Wine Coolers. He's like a . . . Ah hell with it, he's good and his stuff goes down smooth and easy . . . but with a burn. Check him out. You'll never regret it.

  2. Great interview - thanks, folks!

  3. Good to know more about a great guy.