The House of Crime and Mystery Interviews Michael Robotham, author of LIFE OR DEATH

 crime, Crime Fiction, Interview, Life or Death, Lit, Michael Robotham  Comments Off on The House of Crime and Mystery Interviews Michael Robotham, author of LIFE OR DEATH
Mar 102015

The House of Crime and Mystery: You went from journalist to ghostwriter to novelist; how would your fiction be different today if you’d started as a novelist?
Michael Robotham: Twenty-eight years ago, when I was still a journalist, I wrote the great unpublished Australian novel. It was more literary in style and quite worthy in tone, without a murder in sight. The novel was almost published by Penguin in the UK, missing out by a single vote in a final publishing meeting. Looking back, I’m glad that it wasn’t picked up. If I had been published at twenty-five, I would probably have thought I was God’s gift to writing and been quite obnoxious. I would also look back now and cringe at that first effort.
I am a better writer today for having been a ghostwriter. I know how to capture someone’s voice and hopefully make a character leap from the page and live and breathe in a reader’s imagination. I have the discipline and the tools to be a writer, but I have lost the ego. Every new book is a blessing. Every new reader is a joy. Life is good.
HoCaM: Do you have a long-term plan for your series or do you go one book at a time?
Robotham: It’s definitely one book at a time. I finish each one convinced there won’t be another. I tell my wife that every “description, one-liner, plot twist, setting and bit of dialogue has been used up, it’s gone. I’m an empty shell, a hollow human being, I will never write again.” Then I follow her around the house for two hours until she tells me to go away. She finds me a few hours later, back at my desk. “What are you doing?” she asks. “I’ve just come up with an idea.”

Jan 082015

New York Times Book Review: What are your literary guilty pleasures? Do you have a favorite genre?
Miranda July: I’m too guilty for guilty pleasures, but a friend sent me “Breed,” which is a thriller by Chase Novak, who is actually Scott Spencer (apparently he felt guilty too). This violent page-turner had a big impact on my novel “The First Bad Man,” because it forced me to recognize that I wanted to write a thriller too — i.e., I wanted the reader to read quickly, with some urgency. This isn’t something I was going to realize in Lydia Davis-land.

Outtakes from Publishers Weekly’s Interview with GENOCIDE OF ONE author, Kazuaki Takano

 Genocide of One, Interview, Kazuaki Takano, Lit  Comments Off on Outtakes from Publishers Weekly’s Interview with GENOCIDE OF ONE author, Kazuaki Takano
Dec 032014

Publishers Weekly: What would you identify as the themes of the book?
Kazuaki Takano: It’s about who we are, as human beings.
PW: What did the Congo setting allow you to do, that setting the story elsewhere would not have?
Takano: At the conceptual stage I was also considering setting the story in Southeast Asia or the Amazon jungle. I decided to go with the Congo for a simple reason: it was far away from both America and Japan, and I thought that would make it more thrilling. I was stunned to learn afterwards of the war actually taking place in the Congo. I quickly investigated the war situation there, decided it was an issue I had to deal with, and incorporated war as a major subject matter in the novel.
PW: Are there aspects of your biography, apart from your film studies, that played a part in your decision to write, and how your writing has turned out?
Takano: American culture teaches us that works of entertainment, ones anyone can enjoy and that are down to earth, can still provide deep insight into a variety of issues. When it comes to writing style, movies have been a huge influence, and my style wouldn’t exist without them. One turning point for me was when I was eight and my mother took me to see the film “Duel,” which was my first encounter with Steven Spielberg’s work. Ever since then, Spielberg has been a big part of my life. His masterful direction has lifted movies from the realm of things you watch to things you truly experience. When I write my own novels I’m aiming for the same thing, for readers to feel they’re experiencing, and really living, the story. (This interview has been translated by Philip Gabriel.)

David Morrell Talks About the Historical Hero of His Novel, Murder as a Fine Art

 David Morrell, Interview, Laudanum, Lit, Opium, Thomas De Quincey, true crime  Comments Off on David Morrell Talks About the Historical Hero of His Novel, Murder as a Fine Art
Jul 212014

Society Nineteen: Why do you feel that Thomas De Quincey is significant?
David Morrell: He was the first person to write about drug addiction at a time when opium in the form of laudanum was in everybody’s medicine cabinet and was used the same way we use aspirin. Many people were addicted to the drug, but the hypocrisy of the time was so severe that when De Quincey openly discussed his opium use, he became notorious and was called the Opium-Eater for the rest of his life. De Quincey was also an inventor of the true-crime genre. He was obsessed with the Ratcliff Highway mass murders of 1811. The first publicized multiple killings in English history, they paralyzed the entire country and created terror comparable to that of Jack the Ripper three-quarters of a century later.

BOLO Books Interviews Marcia Clark About Her New Novel, The Competition

 Interview, Lit, Marcia Clark, News, The Competition  Comments Off on BOLO Books Interviews Marcia Clark About Her New Novel, The Competition
Jul 162014

BOLO Books: Did you and/or your publisher have any trepidation about centering your latest novel around a school shooting—with it being such a grim and hot-button topic of discussion these days?
Marcia Clark: People want to talk about this subject. They need to talk about it. We can’t push this under the rug and pretend that’ll make it all go away. We have to get out ahead of the problem and we can’t do that unless we to learn as much as we can, talk about it and find ways to spot these killers before they can act. That is, ultimately, our best protection. But it’s a difficult subject, to say the least. So putting it into a fictional setting creates somewhat of a remove, a safer forum to learn about it and think about it. I’ve been very glad and relieved to see all the positive reviews and reactions, and all the discussions the book has sparked.

Big News – Page One of the Wall St Journal!

 Interview, Jet  Comments Off on Big News – Page One of the Wall St Journal!
Jan 082014

I’ve been promising to unveil my big news for what seems like forever (November’s big news became December’s big news, and, well, here we are), and it’s finally time.

This week, oh nobody, just the Wall Street Journal, broke the story on page one.


NEWS: A new blog on how to be a prolific writer, at All That’s Written. Worth taking a look at if you’re an author.


The article itself is humbling in and of itself, but the news is also big: I’m co-authoring a novel with none other than the legendary Clive Cussler, appropriately monikered the “Grand Master of Adventure.” It will be the next installment in the bestselling Fargo series, and I’m excited by the opportunity to work with a master of the genre.

My name will be on the cover, along with his. I’m arguing to make it almost all me, in raised, neon red lettering, but it remains to be seen how persuasive I am. As always, please, those at home, no wagering.

Why is this news significant, other than because it will be published by a Big 5 publisher? Because an indie author has been selected by a household name to collaborate on a novel. As you might imagine, someone like Cussler can have whoever he likes – he has authors begging for the opportunity.

But for him to have teamed up with lil ol me…well, you get the point. It’s a watershed moment for indies, because there has long been this sentiment that the reason authors are indies is because they can’t cut the quality at the trad pub level, and so have to release their material themselves. This handily rebuts that belief.

The truth is that there are plenty of terrible indie releases. And there are plenty of great ones. Just as there are plenty of good and bad in any of the arts. But with authors like Hugh Howey, Colleen Hoover, and H.M. Ward scorching the charts, indies have clearly arrived, and the market’s embraced them –  or at least, some of them.

I went the indie route because I’m impatient. I didn’t feel like waiting years to find an agent that would “get” my work, and then another year for a publisher to decide whether it fit in one of the slots they had for that season. Not to mention another year for it to actually reach readers. That just didn’t seem worth it to me. For others, it did, and I have no issue with their choice. I just didn’t see it as a productive use of my time.

When Amazon broke big with 70% royalties, I understood the game had changed. Now I could release books written the way I wanted to write them, on a schedule that worked for me, and I could keep most of the money, assuming I made any. After hearing about authors like Hocking and Locke breaking the bank and selling tons in this new paradigm, I decided to jump in. Now, 25 books in 30 months later, I feel like my decision was vindicated, not the least because I’m writing with one of the most successful authors in the world and having a ball in the process. If you’d told me years ago that I’d be writing with the author of Sahara and Raise The Titanic I would have laughed you out of the room. Now, not so much.

What a long, strange trip it’s been. 30 months of basically non-stop work on a crippling schedule of my own devising. Has it been worth it? Absolutely. No question. Will I keep it up? Not a chance. You can only run an engine in the red for so long, and it starts to come apart. 2014 will involve fewer Russell Blake releases and more attention to each, with forays into romance and NA as RE Blake (following my own counsel to brand different genre offerings differently so Russell Blake fans don’t mistakenly pick up an RE Blake “Lust on the Range” tome, or RE Blake readers don’t buy an Assassin or JET book and go, “Where’s the sex, and why is everyone getting killed?”) By branding each genre’s offering in an unmistakably distinct way with a different name, I hope to avoid that, and build a readership in other genres based on the merits of my stories. Only time will tell whether that’s deluded or brilliant.

The WSJ article is a must read. It’s a good capsule summary of some of the high points of my career, such as it is. I wish it had mentioned that I take considerable pride in the plot and prose, and not just the rate of release, but hey, everyone’s a critic. The only thing I dislike about it is that my privacy is now going to be harder to maintain, but I can always get plastic surgery or wear a fake nose or move to Ecuador or something. A sex change isn’t out of the question, either. Small price, I suppose.


For those who are new to my work, I’d suggest taking a look at JET, which is my most popular series. Pure escapist action adventure with a female protag battling for survival. Think Bourne crossed with Kill Bill seasoned with a little Bond, and you’re not far off.


The Legendary Lawrence Block

 Interview  Comments Off on The Legendary Lawrence Block
Dec 202013

arnold lee drawingThe legendary Lawrence Block (who heretofore shall be referred to as simply, “The Legendary”) agreed to further sully his reputation by doing an interview with yours truly, having forgotten the furor, riots and lawsuits stemming from his last outing here. This glimpse into a literary icon’s process is fascinating, all the more so because, after more years as an author than I’ve been alive, he’s releasing his first self-published offering (hopefully not his last). Without further ado, let’s get to The Legendary and his latest triumph, The Burglar Who Counted The Spoons.



NEWS: BLACK Is The New Black just went live! Get it while it’s hot!


Russell Blake: Well, here you are again. You may not remember, but you were the subject of my very first Author Spotlight, just about two years ago.

Lawrence Block: How could I forget? That’s when my career took off. I figure I owe it all to you.

RB: And you’ve returned to express your gratitude. Very decent of you.

LB: To express my gratitude, and to let the Spotlight shine on The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons. It’s the eleventh book about Bernie Rhodenbarr, burglar and bookseller, and the first in almost a decade. The on-sale date is December 25th

RB: —which should be easy to remember.

LB: You’d think so, but why rely too heavily on memory? The canny reader can play it safe and pre-order the book now from Amazon.

RB: I’d ask you to tell us something about the book, but you’ve already done so. Still, a couple of points cry out for further attention. I understand you wrote the book on a cruise ship.

LB: Holland America’s MS Veendam, on a five-week cruise this summer. Round trip from Boston, sailing the North Atlantic and visiting ports in Newfoundland, Labrador, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway, and, well, you get the idea. I’ve always tended to go away to work, sometimes to writers’ colonies, sometimes to a hotel room, and I like ocean travel, so I gave it a try.

RB: As an alternative to the retirement you’ve been nattering about in recent years.

LB: Well, I did honestly think I might be done writing novels. And the efforts I’d made seemed to confirm my suspicions, dying five or ten thousand words in. I didn’t intend to take up shuffleboard, I knew I’d be busy tending to my backlist and writing the occasional short story, but I feared I might not be up to the heavy lifting that a novel demands.

But I really wanted to do at least one more book, you know? So I decided to give myself optimal conditions—a cruise, all by myself (plus 1200 strangers, but let’s not count them). Food when I wanted it, ease, comfort. And internet access in the ship library—but not in my cabin, to spare me that particular diversion during my working hours.

RB: And you just sat there and wrote?

LB: I woke up every morning around five and went straight to work. A steward brought my breakfast around seven, and I paused long enough to eat it, then went back to work. I kept going until I made my daily quota, which was a minimum  of  2000 words. I rarely did much more than that—until the last two days, when everything was coming together and it was easier to keep going than to stop.

RB: Did you ever leave the ship?

LB: If we were still in port when my day’s work was done, I generally went and had a look around. But the work always had priority, and I kept at it seven days a week. I may have been afraid that if I stopped I’d never get started again.

And, by God, it worked. I boarded the ship July 13, started writing the following morning, finished up August 15, and disembarked in Boston two days later.

RB: And you’re publishing it Christmas Day. Self-publishing it, to be specific, which is a murky pond you’ve been sticking a toe in for a couple of years now.

LB: I’ve been republishing backlist titles ever since Kindle made that possible. And two years ago I published an original, a collection of Matthew Scudder stories called The Night and the Music, which has done very well for me as an eBook and a HandsomeTradePaperback.

RB: That’s all one word? HandsomeTradePaperback?

LB: I think it ought to be, don’t you? But I’m taking a big step with The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons. It’s one that any of several traditional publishers would have been eager to publish. I could have pocketed a substantial advance, and instead I chose to be out of pocket and do it all myself.

RB: A fair number of folks might question your sanity.

LB: Well, it’s always been questionable at best. I sat down with my agent, who had read the book and loved it. He told me the advance he thought he could get for it, and asked me if I thought I could sell enough $9.99 eBooks and $14.99 HandsomeTradePaperbacks to match that number.

RB: And you said—

LB: I said, “How the hell do I know?” Because even an educated guess is still a guess. But I didn’t think it was unrealistic. And what he especially appreciated was that if I published the book myself it would be mine forever. I wouldn’t have some guys in suits hanging on to the eRights like grim death, long after they’ve stopped selling printed books.

RB: Of course if you self-publish, he doesn’t get a commission.

LB: Yes, he does. He’s selling the book overseas, he’s making the audiobook deal—and he gets his commission on the book’s earnings irrespective of who publishes it. That’s been true ever since The Night and the Music, and it works for both of us.

But it was still a hard decision. Publishing it myself meant giving up store sales, for the most part. It meant a smaller sale to libraries. It meant some media wouldn’t review it. It meant there wouldn’t be a hardcover trade edition.

RB: You’re doing a deluxe hardcover limited edition, however (cover reveal below – second one).

LB: I am, and it should be quite beautiful, signed and numbered and limited to 1000 copies. It’s selling nicely, and we’ll wind up making money with it, in addition to supplying collectors with a really handsome volume.

Will I do as well overall publishing the book myself? Things look very good at this point, but the question’s still unanswerable. But, you know,  that’s almost beside the point. Another consideration led to my decision.

RB: I bet you’re about to tell us what it was.

LB: How well you know me. It’s pretty simple: the desire to publish the book myself was largely responsible for my getting the book written in the first place. Once it was finished, and once it had turned out to be a better book than I’d dared to hope, how could I turn my back on the very impulse that had propelled me through it?

Look, if this venture falls short financially, I’ll regret the dollars I’ve lost. But I won’t lose sleep over them, and the regret won’t burrow very deep or last very long. But if I didn’t give it a shot, I’d regret that failure of nerve for the rest of my life.

I’ve come to believe that, when I face that kind of fork in the road, I’ll regret whatever choice I make. So it’s a question of which regret will be easier to live with. Once I looked at it that way, it was clear that self-publication was really the only way to go.

RB: And you’re not regretting it yet?

LB: Not for a second. I’ve been a professional writer for something like 55 years, and in all that time I’ve never been as busy as I am right now. And I’ve never had anywhere near as much fun.

And I don’t have to wait a year and a half for the damn thing to be out there! In my first Author Spotlight interview, I was whining about the fact that I’d finished Hit Me in November and it wouldn’t be coming out for fifteen months. I’m of an age whereat a prudent man doesn’t buy green bananas. You think I want to wait fifteen months for a book.

RB: So you evidently like it here on the dark side. Plan to dig in and stay awhile? Or is a return to retirement the next item on your agenda?

LB: I don’t seem to be very good at retirement. I’ve got a couple of books coming next year from a pair of very classy publishers—Subterranean Press will bring out Defender of the Innocent: The Casebook of Martin Ehrengraf, and Borderline, a pseudonymous work from 1962, is being resuscitated by Hard Case Crime. (A good thing, too, as it was barely suscitated in the first place.)

There’s a writing book of mine, Write For Your Life, that’s long out of print, although it’s been eVailable for a while now. But I found 25 copies of the original edition in a storage bin and put them on eBay last week, one to a customer, and they were all gone three hours after my newsletter went out. God knows how many I could have sold. So that suggests I really ought to do a print-on-demand edition, and I’ll get on that sometime after the first of the year.

RB: A HandsomeTradePaperback, I suppose?

LB: You bet. So there are all these things to bring out, including a new collection of reviews and essays and such, and that should be enough to keep me out of mischief. But I can’t get away from the fact that I’d like to write another novel, and I even have the sense of what it might be. It’s early days, it’ll be months before I’m ready to sit down and get to it, but sometime in the spring or summer I think I’ll find a way to do it.

RB: And will you publish it yourself?

LB: It does look that way, doesn’t it?

Spoons_CoverKindle Cover



Limited Cover1030

Limited Edition Hardcover


Getting the most from interviews

 author interview, Interview, Steve Weddle  Comments Off on Getting the most from interviews
Sep 052013

By Steve Weddle

Folks have been really nice about sharing the recent Publishers Weekly review of COUNTRY HARDBALL. If you haven’t read it, here you go. I was too anxious to read the whole thing closely, but I’m told it says that purchasing the book will make parts of you bigger where you want and smaller where you want and help you live a better life and get to Heaven and stuff like that.

Here’s the thing that happens when you combine your need for promotion with the kindness of people — they help promote you. I have found, at least in my case, that people have been far nicer to me than I deserve.

So let’s look at interviewing, shall we?

I’ve done some interviews. People have asked me questions. I’ve asked them questions.

Here’s a list of some of the times people have asked me questions: Interviews with Weddle.

I’ve talked via video with people, on the phone, on the email machines. Radio and podcast. Print and dig.

And I’ve interviewed people, both during my newspaper time and my blogger-ing time.

I’ve had the pleasure of chatting via telephony with Frank Bill and Hilary Davidson and Lynn Kostoff and others. Those are available at the DSD Podcast.

I’ve done video interviews with folks, including JT Ellison.

I’ve been on both ends of the emailing of TEN questions and/or answers. Or one at a time.

All this to say, I have had ample opportunity to see how to screw this up in every single way you could think of.

Maybe you’re interviewing people. Maybe you’re being interviewed. Lately, though, I’ve had the experience of being interviewed, so I thought I’d share some thoughts I kinda wish I’d had a while back.

Know The Format

Is this a conversational interview or a straight Q and A? I’m more of a conversational guy, in that I tend to look for connective tissue in everything. An interview can be a string of thoughts flowing into each other, building and collapsing throughout the hour. Or an interview can be more of an informational gathering process. Informal or informational? Shit. Prolly shoulda used that as a header somewhere.

If you’re in a conversational interview, keep it loose but on-track. I’ve heard far too many interviews in which the whole thing jumps the track, plows through the water tower and into the orphanage. Don’t do that. The kids. For the love. If it’s conversational, you’ll want to engage the interviewer and, by extension, the audience. No matter what side you’re on, this isn’t all about you. If you’re a jerk like I am, then you’re still convinced it’s mostly about you. But you’ll want to talk with your chat companion, not at him/her. If you’re asked about the best book you’re read recently, you probably don’t want to put your interviewer on the spot by saying “Chris F. Holm’s BIG REAP. Have you read it?” Because, you know, maybe she hasn’t. Maybe you say the thing about Holm, but say “It’s about a war between Heaven and Hell, kinda. I like book with big themes that seem grounded in the personal” or something along those lines, to which your interviewer can say something about Holm or, on the off-chance that he/she hasn’t read, something more general. But you’re engaging, at that point.

Let me be clear, here. Do or don’t do. Whatevs. I’m not saying that you should say this thing or not. Just, you know, something to think about. That’s all. It’s your interview. Do whatever you want. Just offering some ideas. K? K. *hugs*

If it’s more the “here’s a question-give an answer” kind of interview, you’ll definitely want to review the types of questions the interviewer asks. Are they big questions? Are they the same for each interview? I used to have this thing where the last question I asked was always about the favorite room in the person’s house. When I was doing reporter-y interviews, it was always whether golf was a sport, because ha ha.

With my book (there goes Weddle again. it’s all about him.) the bigger questions tend to be about economics in the rural south. That’s from people who have read the book. If people haven’t read the book, they can ask “Tell us a little about your book.”

Either way, figure out which type of interview you’re lined up for and give it some thought ahead of time.

Of course, if the person is emailing questions instead of doing so in real time (phone, skype, etc) then forget everything I’ve said. (Pause. Wait for joke.)

Have a thing

John Locke, who sold a gazillion books and was a darling until some people got the angers about paying for reviews, said you’ll need to communicate one thing when you’re doing an interview. That’s good advice I hadn’t considered.

If you’re doing an interview with someone, you’ll want to wrap up something nice and hand it over as a present. Maybe it’s a particular anecdote you want to share this one time with this one audience.

I don’t have the maths, but many of the questions you’ll get as an author are the same from interview to interview. “What’s your process?” “Do you enjoy editing?” “What are some of your influences?” “Do you find toothbrushes as gross as I do?” “What are you working on now?”

Interviewers and readers can get Interview Fatigue. Engaging the interviewer is one way to beat this, but so is dropping in something fresh. Have a story in your pocket that you want to convey to people. A thought. Maybe you want people to know that you wrote the book in just under ten years. Or that proceeds are going to help train-wrecked orphans. That all kinda lead to our next and (checks clock) final point:

Know Your Audience

People read books differently. Some people will read a book and see an aging headmaster trying to hold on to control after one of the students he’s failed tries to take over the world. Others will read the same book and see three wizards coming of age. You have to figure out what your interviewer and his/her audience will see. You have to connect before you connect. Hmmm. Something like that.

If you’re being interviewed on Wake Up, Metroville, then you’re going to want to connect with whoever the hell is up at 5 am. Worker people? Stay-at-homes? Invalids? I dunno. Whoever that is. Maybe watch the show. Do they do consumer tips? Local history? Somehow, you’ll want to tie in to the things they talk about. “You know, Annabelle, I saw your segment last week about preventing pick-pockets and it reminded me of this scene in my book.” Um, maybe not that obvious.

If you’re Joelle Charbonneau and you’re writing the Glee Club Mysteries, your responses are going to be much different if you’re talking to the Chicago Tribune or the Valleydale High Glee Club Newsletter.

My book has baseball, mills, convenience stores, VCRs, meth, an elephant, a funeral, deviled eggs and so forth. If a cooking mag wants to talk to me about all the food in the book, I’d better know the difference between paprika and nutmeg.

Mostly, I think, it comes down to knowing that each interview is different and preparing accordingly. Don’t just show up and figure you don’t have to do any work if you’re being interviewed. You spent years writing this book, yeah? Don’t screw it up now.

And be nice to the interviewers. Their time is valuable and they’re hella nice for bothering with you at all.

Dorothy Salisbury Davis Interview with Don Swaim, 1988

 don swaim, Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Interview, wired for books  Comments Off on Dorothy Salisbury Davis Interview with Don Swaim, 1988
Jun 162013

In December 1987, to promote her latest and last novel in the Julie Hayes series The Habit of Fear, Dorothy Salisbury Davis talked with Don Swaim for his “Book Beat” segment on WCBS Radio. Regrettably, the full 30-minute interview with Swaim — one of the best book journalists around, who interviewed dozens and dozens of authors during the 1980s and early 1980s — appears to be offline, or at least inaccessible. (I’ve made inquiries; we’ll see if anything comes of them.) But two extracts that comprised two different “Book Beat” segments that aired on March 14 1988 are accessible. They give a flavor of Davis’s voice, manner, and subject matter. (At one point she describes herself as a “little old lady with white hair and a raincoat.”)

The Habit of Fear doesn’t shy away from tough subjects, and includes a brutal rape scene made more so because of its brevity and plain prose (when I read the book recently, I was knocked out by how much that scene, and the aftermath as it plays out over the course of the novel, got to me.) Of writing violence, Davis said: “If I have to have blood, it’s going to be blood. It’s not going to be colored iodine.” And on the rape scene itself, Davis added:  “While it’s violent, it’s as brief as I could make it to have it credible.” Without giving too much away, it’s the same ethos that runs throughout “Lost Generation”, the story of hers I reprinted in Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives.

In the second “Book Beat” extract, Davis talks a bit about finding out she was adopted at the age of seventeen and why she waited many decades more to sleuth out her biological parents and family history, an experience she also drew on for Julie Hayes’ search for details on her own father in The Habit of Fear.