A Few Quick Questions With…Jo Perry

One of the first things I did when I decided to participate in Fahrenbruary was to see if Jo Perry would participate in one of these Q&As (and thankfully she displayed poor judgment and agreed). I decided to post this today to commemorate the publication of the fourth book in her fantastic series, Dead Is Beautiful. It’ll be the next book I start and I’m hoping to have my post up about the book itself on Monday. I know the positive reviews are already popping up out there on teh IntraWebz. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this.

What was your path to publication? What did you do to prepare yourself to this career in fiction?
I don’t believe anything prepares a person for writing fiction except writing and reading. My father’s formal education ended at fourth grade. He educated himself by reading and became a comedy writer. My mother had been a teacher. Both read relentlessly. Words, especially jokes were serious business: One wrong word and the joke’s punch evaporates.

I always wrote—mostly poetry, studied literature in college, got a Ph.D. in English, taught literature and writing, wrote episodic television and some other stuff. But despite all that I am very late bloomer when it comes to fiction. My first novel, Dead Is Better was published in 2015.

As for a “career in fiction,” I’m not there yet, but I’m very lucky that my husband, novelist Thomas Perry demonstrated how that’s done. This year he published his 26th novel, The Burglar.

Whatever one might think about Charlie (your protagonist we know best), there’s no denying that Rose is what most of your readers connect to. You recently posted something brief to Facebook about Rose’s origin — can you talk a little more about that?
During the scorching summer of 2008, I came upon a dusty, thirsty, exhausted, frightened dog that someone dumped in crowded home improvement store parking lot. I drove her home (she fell asleep immediately on the front seat of the car) and––after some listless attempts to find a home for her because we were strictly cat people––we were hers and we named her Lucy.

From the first moment she met me, Lucy upended my life, revealed new worlds and introduced me to people who have become deep, cherished, important friends. Lucy’s constancy, her sweetness despite being neglected and abused, her patience with me, a total dog-novice idiot, her sense of humor, her wisdom and her benevolence changed me completely. I experienced the bottomless, endless goodness dogs give us, and witnessed the casual and not so casual cruelties which human beings visit upon dogs hourly and daily.

The experience of knowing/experiencing Lucy, and Lola, the second dog who appeared to us, is the basis for Dead Is Better and the other books in the series—so yes, in general ways, Lucy is the model for Rose.

Outside some pretty extreme — and rare — circumstances, Charlie and Rose do little more than watch events unfold in front of them. What was the reasoning behind that choice? What are the special challenges behind that kind of protagonist for the writer?
I wanted my protagonists dead, which means that they would be ghosts. But I wanted none of the traditional ghostly machinery, telekinetic movement, special effects or general creakiness. So I set up some rules: In the afterlife the dead can touch each other, see each other and of course hear each other.

But in living world only the dead can see the dead.  They cannot be heard or felt or seen. The dead cannot affect anything directly.

The challenges are huge but fun and in some ways a relief from guns, computers, traditional violence, cell phones of crime fiction.  And ghosts are perfect voyeurs. They can spy all they want. They can float through walls. Through people. They can go anywhere at any time. And they are fearless because they cannot be killed.

Most of the time these limitations are liberating and inspiring. Other times they are a pain.

Is there a genre that you particularly enjoy reading, but could never write? Or are you primarily a mystery/suspense/thriller reader?
I love nonfiction. I don’t think I could write it well. Nonfiction demands meticulous, massive research and an ability to organize all of it into a compelling, graceful narrative.

I have become mystery/suspense/thriller reader now and love it.

What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
TV: I wish I’d written Fauda, and The Method.

Books (short list) I wish I’d written Nikki Dolson’s All Things Violent, Grant Nicol’s A Place To Bury Strangers, Denial by Paddy McGrane, James Craig’s A Slow Death and A Shot At Salvation, Timothy Hallinan’s Pulped, For The Dead and Crashed, Saira Viola’s Jukebox, Fidelis Morgan’s The Murder Quadrille, Seth Lynch’s Salazar novels, Thomas Perry’s novels, esp. the Butcher’s Boy novels, the Jane Whitefield novels, and Strip; Derek Farrel’s Danny Bird mysteries, David Keenan’s This Is Memorial Device.

This one’s not about you directly, but what is it about Fahrenheit Press that seems to generate the devotion and team spirit that it does (or at least appears to)? I don’t know that I’ve seen as many authors from the same publisher talk about/read each other’s books — or talk about the publisher — as much as you guys seem to. Is it simply contractual obligation, or is there more?
In no way do F13Noir/Fahrenheit Press require their authors to, as they might say, flog their publishing house. The truth is that their writers and readers rave about them because they love them. They’re funny, they’re honest, they’re daring, and they take risks.

Too often publishers avoid risk entirely and busy themselves with policing genre boundaries to make the selling of books easier, i.e. so they can say, “This luminous thriller is Girl On A Train meets [insert name of best seller here].  Any book that violates genre norms or bends genres or or that is too weird is a no-no. An example: A publisher liked Dead Is Better except for one small thing—the dog. I was told that I couldn’t have a “dog detective.” That a dog protagonist in a mystery was not permitted. Was a rule breaker. That if I removed the dog, they’d look at the book again. Which means either that they didn’t like the dog, which is fine, or that they didn’t know how to sell the dog because a dead dog protagonist was too different, too weird, maybe too upsetting for some.

Fahrenheit Press/F13Noir don’t play that game or any games––which is extraordinary. They look for crime fiction that (and I cannot speak for them, but I infer this from their list) makes the reader feel something, that’s exciting, daring, fresh, brave. They look for powerful voices. They don’t try to tame crime fiction, they like it wild, unapologetic, unadulterated. In fact, they kind of dare writers to produce the most courageous books they are capable of writing.

That is miracle and I am endlessly grateful to them because of it.

Thanks for your time — and thanks for Charlie and Rose. I hope you enjoy continued success with them (and not just because that would guarantee me more of them to read).

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A Few (more) Quick Questions With…Nick Kolakowski

Nick Kolakowski’s back for another round of questions (feel free to check out the last round while you’re here), to commemorate the kick-off to Main Bad Guy (which I just posted about), the conclusion to his trilogy of Love & Bullets Hookups.

Since we covered a lot of the basics last year, I dove deeper into this trilogy than I usually do. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did and that it spurs you to check these books out.

Was A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps always supposed to kick-off a series, or did that idea come during/after writing it? It’s not your everyday way to start a trilogy about a couple, why this approach?
“A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps” was originally going to be a standalone. After it was finished (but before publication), I found myself still jotting down bits of Fiona and Bill—scraps of dialogue, the outline of an action scene, etc. So I realized I wasn’t done with either of them, at least on a subconscious level. But where to take the story next? I didn’t want it to become an open-ended series, so I needed to figure out a way to climax it, to resolve all the dangling plot threads I began weaving in “Brutal Bunch.” And that meant taking Fiona and Bill back to New York City, where everything began.
Why the Elvis suit? It was absolutely a great idea — but I’ve spent weeks coming back to this question, why did you pick that?
The suit is iconic and ludicrous, but it’s also (to me, at least) a symbol of courage. Can you imagine what it took for Elvis to suit up in that thing every night, step in front of hundreds of people, and belt out something like “Suspicious Minds”? In any case, the suit has so much power, it felt like the perfect thing for a character who’s emotionally wounded and more than a little insane to slip into—he draws enough from it to keep going.

I (very) briefly considered making it a John Wayne thing, and having him put on a vest and a cowboy hat, but that didn’t really work—as a costume, it didn’t pack the same ludicrous punch as a sparkly Elvis jumpsuit.

Two things in particular made me realize that Main Bad Guy was going to be the best of the trilogy early on — Fiona’s “origin story” and Walker. I love it when we get a mysterious figure like him and are given juuuuuuust enough information to buy into the character, but are left with a billion questions. Where did Walker come from, and have you considered doing more with him?
“Aging Badass” is a noir/thriller trope that I particularly love—the older guy who’s seen and done too much to get particularly bothered over anything that happens, even if what’s happening is really ludicrous and bloody and crazy (think James Caan in “Way of the Gun,” or Jonathan Banks in “Better Call Saul”). I’ve wanted to do my own variation on that type of character for years, but I needed him to be a bit more flawed and human. Walker is a badass but his skills are rusty; he’s a tactical genius but he has a certain impulsiveness—mirrored by his daughter—that leads him to do things that get him into trouble.

I do want to do more with Walker in the future. Writing him was an enormous amount of fun, especially the scene in “Main Bad Guy” where he walks into his favorite bar and finds it’s been converted into a hipster hellhole, complete with paintings of pugs on the walls. Maybe I’ll do a novella where he comes back and wrecks it.

There’s this great thread running throughout the trilogy, chronicling the rise and evolution of The Rockaway Mob. Some authors would devote a novel or three to this saga, you make it something that can be overlooked. How intentional was that, and what was your reasoning?
It was pretty intentional. I wanted the books to be as fast as possible, and as much as I loved (briefly) tracing out the rise and fall of this very weird gang (and its very weird leaders), I felt it would distract a bit from the core of the story, which is the incredible flight of Fiona and Bill.
Is there a genre that you particularly enjoy reading, but could never write? Or are you primarily a mystery/suspense/thriller reader?
I’ve wanted to write a historical novel for years, but haven’t quite had the courage (or the time to plunge into extensive research). Maybe I’ll get to it—I just need to really commit myself to such a massive effort.
Thanks for your time — and thanks for these Hookups.

A Few Quick Questions With…Russell Day

Yesterday I reposted a couple of personal highlights from 2018 (I’m talking about what I read, not what I said) — Not Talking Italics and Needle Song. Today, I get to share some A’s to my Q’s behind the brilliant writer behind them, Russell Day.

Without further ado…

What was your path to publication? What did you do to prepare yourself to this career in fiction?
I don’t think I ever consciously prepared for a career as a fiction writer (my default setting is pretty much: wing it). I started writing when I was a teenager, but it’s only been the last five years or so that I’ve taken it seriously. Before that, I’d make a lot of good starts but then get bored or, worse, sit around waiting until I was in ‘the mood’. That’s a recipe for a drawer full of unfinished manuscripts. Now I just sit and write and if it’s crap, I rewrite.

Getting published, for me, has largely been down to competitions. The first piece of fiction I ever had published appeared in Writer’s Forum Magazine, where it had won second prize in their monthly short story contest. It was a Doc Slidesmith story, called The Tattooist, the Tarot and Bang-Bang the Clown. Fahrenheit might be releasing a collection of my short stories this year, and hopefully The Tattooist will be included in it. I’ve got a lot of affection for that piece, it was the first time I saw my stuff in print and it was doubly exciting that it featured Doc.

The book deal with Fahrenheit Press came my way because of their Noirville competition. I entered two pieces for that, The Icing on the Cake and Not Talking Italics (another story about Doc). Both stories struck a chord with the judges, and Chris McVeigh offered me a two book deal on the strength of them. The Icing on the Cake, was included in the anthology and Not Talking Italics, was offered up as a teaser to introduce people to Doc.

What first hooked me with your story “Not Talking Italics” was the way you told that particular story — all dialogue, practically an extended monologue. Was there anything in particular that drove that choice, or did it just “happen”? Would you/have you consider writing a novel in that manner?
We’re back to competitions again. I wrote Not Talking Italics with a view to entering it into a competition that wanted stories told entirely in dialogue. In the end I couldn’t keep to the required word count, but I liked the story and thought it might be a good fit for the Noirville competition. One of Doc’s main features his the-gift-of the gab, so he lent himself to the style.

I don’t have any plans to write a whole novel using just dialogue. I wouldn’t rule it out, but I think that technique is best suited to pieces that can be read in one sitting. That said, I like my characters to talk a lot and I sometimes slip ‘transcripts’ into the plot. I do that in Needle Song in a couple of places and do it again in Ink to Ashes, the second Slidesmith novel.

Liking to hear the characters ‘talk’ is why I often write in the first person, I try to give the impression that the reader is being ‘told’ the story.

Doc Slidesmith has quite the interesting and varied résumé/CV — he’s clearly not your everyday fictional detective (amateur or not). Psychologists have been done, tattoo shop owners — not so much. Definitely no one’s put them together before — and then throwing in the Tarot reading has to make him even more distinctive. How did you stumble across that particular combination, and why would you go looking for it?
Just before I started writing Needle Song, I’d met a woman who practiced Voodoo and it caught my interest.  Doc’s connection with Voodoo and Tarot stemmed from that. After that I sort of built Doc, bit by bit, around the scene where we first see him reading the Tarot. Once I’d established him as a freak, albeit a clever one, I had to ask myself how he’d make a living. It had to be something that fitted his aesthetic and suggested a certain depth. Tattooist was an obvious choice.

The psychologist angle was almost accidental. I’d wanted a name that had a Voodoo flavour to it. For a while I thought about calling him Papa Slidesmith, but that made him sound too old. Doctor Slidesmith had a certain ring to it and, of course, someone would have to ask why he called himself ‘Doc’. Giving him a full-fledged PhD was a good way to show his intelligence and it also muddied the waters as to whether he’s reading the Tarot cards or the people around him.

(that’s one of my favorite answers I’ve ever received from an author . . . )

I’ve often heard that writers, or artists in general, will forget hundreds of positive reviews but always remember the negative — what’s the worst thing that someone’s said about one of your books, and has it altered your approach to future books?

I’ve been very lucky in terms of reviews and haven’t been roasted … yet. I don’t know how, or even if, harsh criticism will affect my writing. I’m pretty well tuned into my own sense of what does or doesn’t work, so I’ll probably stick with that.
Is there a genre that you particularly enjoy reading, but could never write? Or are you primarily a mystery/suspense/thriller reader?
I read many genres, but my first port of call is mystery/crime. I couldn’t write a historical novel, I’m just not good enough at research to get the details right.
This one’s not about you directly, but what is it about Fahrenheit Press that seems to generate the devotion and team spirit that it does (or at least appears to)? I don’t know that I’ve seen as many authors from the same publisher talk about/read each other’s books — or talk about the publisher — as much as you guys seem to. Is it simply contractual obligation, or is there more?
A lot of it’s down to Chris McVeigh’s enthusiasm. If you talk to the man for a few minutes it’s clear he wants Fahrenheit to publish books he believes in. Yes, it’s a money making venture but that’s not all it is to him, not by a long way. Another thing that makes Fahrenheit different is simply the selection of books.

Fahrenheit doesn’t think like a mainstream publisher. It doesn’t want to publish a reworked version of last year’s best seller. It wants to publish something else. And if that means colouring outside the lines a bit then so be it. THAT implies a certain trust in both the writers and the readers. That trust makes you a part of Fahrenheit. We’re not just numbers being told what to write this year or told what we’re going to read. With Fahrenheit we’re all in it together.

And they sell cool mugs.

Can’t argue with that last line — love my Fahrenheit mug. 🙂

Thanks for your time, sir. Can’t wait to see what you’ve got coming next.

A Few Quick Questions With…Luna Miller

Earlier today, I talked about The Lion’s Tale by Luna Miller (translated by Aidan Isherwood). Miller was kind enough to answer a few questions for me. Hope you enjoy this.

Tell us about your road to publication — was your plan/dream always to become a novelist and your education/other jobs were just to get you to this point, or was this a later-in-life desire?
I have always had an ambition to write, but with a restless personality it was a challenge to complete any work in a satisfying way. Always a lot of ideas, but never enough patience to complete any of them. I was always occupied with other commitments – long travels when I was young, and then education, then kids, then work…

But difficult experiences made me realize how important it is for me to make my dream come true. And my years spent working as a civil servant, specialising in providing support for cultural life, taught me about patience. So, a few years ago I started to give myself time to write. And then more and more time. Disorganized at first, but then slowly developing.

I don’t want to ask “where do you get your ideas?” But this collection of characters — Gunvor, Elin, David, Aidan — is so unusual, so great. How did this come to you? Did you start with Gunvor and then try to figure out how she could accomplish things (and therefore needed the kids), or did you start with one/both of David and Elin and then added Gunvor? I’m just guessing here — you take over 🙂
Gunvor was the first character, but Elin and David entered the story soon enough. I did just about all of the backstory on the three of them before starting to write the book. The idea was to tell the story of unexpected heroines and heroes. Characters that have issues the readers can relate to and feel a bit sorry for. Characters who can barely cope with each other, or even themselves. But characters that grow with the story, even if they do make mistakes along the way. Characters that don´t really know what they are doing, but still give it their all.

Even if I worked on a backstory and planned how to take it along, the story still took on a life of its own. There are always a lot of unexpected things that happen when I start to write. It is like the characters begin living their own lives. Making decisions within the story that I hadn’t planned in advance.

I spent so much of this novel convinced that everything The Fruängen Bureau (one member in particular) was doing and thinking regarding one particular character was a giant mistake — did you plan this character arc out from the beginning, or did it come to you mid-draft? It’s possibly the trickiest thing you did in the book, very impressive.
I made the backstory of Chibby pretty early in the process. I am fascinated by people whose strengths and weaknesses are close. But, as I described in my answer to the previous question, Chibbe also “came to life” during my writing session and evolved in the process.
Is there a genre that you particularly enjoy reading, but could never write? Or are you primarily a mystery/suspense/thriller reader?
I like to write mystery/suspense/thriller. I have already written the second book about Gunvor Ström and her allies in Swedish, but I have tried other genres as well. The first book I wrote, Three Days in September, is a contemporary adult relationship drama about unlikely friendships, loyalty, love and hope intertwined with sex, violence and tragedy. That story had been in my head for many, many years before it finally become a book. The main idea is about the desires, dreams and fears of six lives that collide when a stranger comes to town. The story is intense, short and drastic.

I love books like The Lord of the Rings and the stories of Harry Potter. But I cannot see myself having control over so many characters at once.

I’ve often wondered what it’s like to work with a translator — was it a collaborative effort, or did Aidan Isherwood just take the manuscript and run with it? How was the translator selected?
Years ago, I lived in the house where I have now placed Gunvor’s home. I am nothing like Gunvor except that I also had a neighbour and friend by the name of Aidan. So, except that he is the translator he is also an inspiration to the Aidan character in the book. He did an excellent job.
At that time, I had no money to pay a translator, so we made an agreement to split the income of the book.The Lion´s Tail was also edited by Perry Iles. He was recommended by a friend of Aidan who is also an author. He did a great job with the book. I really recommend working with an editor. No matter how long you work on a book there are always things that can be made better by a “third eye”.
What’s next for Luna Miller?
I am writing the third book in the Fruängen Bureau series in Swedish. I hope that the second book will be translated into English in 2019 or 2020. I am also working on a sequel to Three Days in September.
Thanks for your time — and thanks for The Lion’s Tale, I really enjoyed it, and hope you have plenty of success with it.
Thank you for taking time to read it. I am really happy that you enjoyed it. And thank you for the possibility to answer these interesting question 😊

A Few Quick Questions With…Matthew Hanover

Matthew Hanover’s Not Famous was released last week (see my initial post about it)– and he was clearly and understandably busy with that. Still, he took the time to answer a few questions for me — which I greatly appreciate. As usual, this is designed to whet your appetite for the author so you go check out their website/twitter feed/etc., but more importantly, you check out their book. I hope that’s what happens here.

I threw in a bonus question about the Nick Hornby/Ben Folds album Lonely Avenue to see just how deeply the Hornby-fan in him ran. Also, his book is about a musician — we should talk music, right?

You’ve spent a lot of time blogging your way through the production of Not Famous — which, incidentally, forces lazy bloggers to get more creative than usual when coming up with interview questions — why did you decide to do that? Did thinking about what you were going through via reporting it help you in any way?
My hope was to build an audience before my novel came out and help motivate me to get the novel finished.Talking about my novel’s progress on my website and on Twitter did help me connect with potential readers and book bloggers like you, so I guess it worked!
In the writing of Not Famous, what was the biggest surprise about the writing itself? Either, “I can’t believe X is so easy!” or “If I had known Y was going to be so hard, I’d have skipped this and watched more TV.”
I think the biggest surprise was how much I cared about the story and the characters. There came a point where, even though I was the writer, I felt I was just transcribing the story as the characters I’d developed would play it out naturally. As nice as that sounds, it was really difficult other times… If I didn’t feel inspired to write, I didn’t force it. There were definitely stretches of weeks and months at a time I never touch it.
I’ve made it clear that Lacy is the character that I’m most interested in — where did Lacy come from? Was it a conscious choice to make her role in the Nick/Alli relationship so pivotal, or did that just happen as you wrote?
Lacy, as you know, is Nick’s half-sister. Originally, she was just his sister, but as various plot points evolved, I felt it was necessary to put as much distance between them as I could, and so she became the daughter of their mother’s second marriage which contributed to his struggle to connect with her, and gave him a stronger opportunity to redeem himself with her. It seemed like an interesting way to explore a different kind of relationship (other than a dating relationship), and the problems that exist in that dynamic. Intertwining those to arcs was a real learning experience because I wanted it feel natural, and not forced.
Is “Lad Lit” all you write/want to write? Can you articulate what draws you to the genre? Is there a genre that you particularly enjoy reading, but could never write?
As far as novels go, yes. When I first read books by Nick Hornby and Jonathan Tropper, they were totally the kinds of stories I want to read… and eventually discovered I wanted to write. I do like science-fiction and post-apocalyptic novels, and I’ve written one sci-fi/paranormal short story… but I don’t think a novel in those genres in my future. Lad lit has always been the genre I’ve been most drawn to, and there’s quite a few stories in my head trying to get out!
What’s next for Author Matthew Hanover? Is Novel #2 underway, or are you solely focused (for now) on getting this launched?
I’ve been plotting out my next novel since before Not Famous was finished. I’m not actively writing it yet, and I should tell you straight out it is not a sequel, but is set in the same universe as Not Famous. Some characters you met in Not Famous will make an appearance… but this will be an office comedy / romantic dramedy. I hope to start it soon!
Oooh, sounds great. Hope to see it soon.

Bonus Question: Best song on Lonely Avenue and why?

Wow, what a great, and difficult question. How about I give you my top five? I’m guessing since you’re a Nick Hornby fan you’ll understand!

5. Picture Window
4. From Above
3. Claire’s Ninth
2. Practical Amanda
1. Your Dogs

As for why? I think these are the most solid songs on album… they’re all different… each tell vastly different stories…

Technically cheating — but I figure Rob Fleming would approve of the Top 5 approach. Good answers, too — although if we were hanging out in Championship Vinyl, I’d be compelled to tell you that you got 3 out of 5 correct, but your order is wrong. Good thing we’re not there, right? 🙂

Seriously, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, I hope that Not Famous does well — and I look forward to your future work.

A Few Quick Questions With…Gray Basnight

Earlier today, I talked about Gray Basnight’s thriller Flight of the Fox and now I get to present a little Q&A I did with him so you can get acquainted with him. I did zero prep for this beyond reading the small “About the Author” paragraph at the end of the book, so I appreciated the opportunity to get a peak behind the curtain. I hope you do, too.

Tell us about your road to publication — was your plan/dream always to become a novelist and your other jobs were just to get you to this point, or was this a later-in-life desire?
I’ve always been a writer and long aspired to be a published novelist. One key reason why I worked in broadcast for three decades was to be in an environment where the written and spoken word mattered. When I was laid off during the financial crisis, I decided it was time to take my fiction writing more seriously.
I don’t want to ask “where do you get your ideas?” But out of all the ideas floating around in your head, why’d you latch onto “A Math Professor being chased by drones”? (to be highly reductive) — what was it about this character, this idea that drove you to commit months/years to it?
The truth is, I haven’t a perfectly coherent answer about the specifics of how Sam Teagarden came to be. I wanted to create a protagonist who was an Everyman, or at least as far from a secret agent with karate chopping skills as I could make him. A math teacher seemed to fit the bill.

As for drones, I have no idea where they came from, except to say that they began making news while I was starting this novel, related to their potential for mail order package delivery. From there, remote controlled assassins seemed a logical progression. By the way, I’m confident – and I fear – this will become a reality in the not too distant future.

Pangolin is such an interesting character — I can easily see him starring in his own book. Can you talk about where he came from?
Thanks for that. I’m glad you liked good ole Pangolin. In terms of plotting and pacing, he was a bit of a challenge because he’s an important character introduced in the final third of the novel. Technically, that’s a no-no. But when he appeared on my pages, I liked him so much I kept him along for the duration. He’s an ex-Navy pilot who despairs over the evolving intrusion of technology, computers and A.I. into our economy and general way of life. As a kid I always liked a comic book hero called Magnus, Robot Fighter. It’s curious to me that Hollywood hasn’t yet discovered Magnus for the lucrative franchise I believe he would be. So Pangolin is my Magnus.
Is there a genre that you particularly enjoy reading, but could never write? Or are you primarily a mystery/suspense/thriller reader?
I’m a voracious reader. With some exceptions (steampunk/boys with swords) I read a little from all genres. As a writer, I think it’s important to do that.

For personal enjoyment, I tend toward crime/espionage and literary fiction, plus well-crafted biography from the non-fiction shelf. Chernow’s bio of Grant was wonderful. What a unique and important American that man was.

I’ve often heard that writers, or artists in general, will forget hundreds of positive reviews but always remember the negative — what’s the worst thing that someone’s said about one of your books, and has it altered your approach to future books?
True, true, true. As for the absolute worst thing, I haven’t seen it—yet. Nothing has really crushed me, except for a face-to-face insult levied by a famous editor at one of the large publishing houses who hadn’t read my manuscript but was confident it was unworthy of her time, which she let me know in no uncertain terms. As Frank Sinatra sang, “some people get their kicks stomping on a dream.”

As for altering my approach to writing, thankfully, that has not happened. All I can do is sit down and try my best with the skills I possess. And, hey, sometimes the result is pretty good.

What’s next for Gray Basnight?
Lots. I’m putting final touches on a sequel to Flight of the Fox.

I have a finished YA manuscript that I’m confident has commercial viability – I only need one agent or publisher to see what I see!

I’m excited about another project I’m now outlining after having written a crappy first draft a couple of years ago. I’ve never outlined before, but so far, it’s going surprisingly well. The plot centers on an event in the Confederacy that springboards to an adventurous contemporary story.

Behind all that, there’s a bottleneck of about a dozen projects that may or may not get further fleshed out, including some first drafts that are already done.

My hope is to keep writing, and to keep readers interested!

Thanks for your time — and thanks for Flight of the Fox, I really enjoyed it, and hope you have plenty of success with it.

A Few (more) Quick Questions With…Russ Colchamiro

Russ Colchamiro came back for round 2 — and I’m very happy about that. I hope you enjoy this:

Tell us a little about your road to publication.
Finders Keepers is loosely based on a series of backpacking trips I took through Europe and New Zealand, set against a quest for a jar of the Universe’s DNA. Very much in the spirit of The Good Place, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

It original published in 2010, and got great notices, including in Publishers Weekly. As part of the launch—it was my debut novel—I landed a national distribution contract, with Finders Keepers on the shelves in 20 or so Barnes & Nobles throughout the U.S.

About a year ago I had a hankering to revisit the guys and see if it stood the test of time. Seeing how I could improve upon the original, I was inspired to write Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition. It’s 15,000 words shorter than the original, with tighter pacing, some new content, and a few characters I reimagined to better match how I always intended them. This new, updated novel is indeed the final version. This is it!

In the Author’s Note you talked about your reasons for this new version of the novel, and how you cut a good deal of the original text. Talk to me about the process of revising — how painful was it to cut anything? What was it like to look back at an almost decade-old work with a critical eye?
It was trippy to go back and look at the manuscript with fresh eyes. Certain scenes were painful to cut because I loved them, as individual scenes, but I needed to serve the story, and keep the pacing as tight and lean as possible. The biggest change, where I had to take a humble, was some of the language. The original version was a bit raunchy, but as the series evolved, and as I evolved as a writer, I accepted that some of the sex comedy elements were distracting from the overall adventure. So I cut virtually every F-bomb, toned down some of the sex elements, and ultimately made it friendlier and more accessible for a wider audience. Consider the original as the Raw & Uncensored Edition, with an ‘R’ rating, whereas The Definitive Edition is ‘PG-13’.
I’m admittedly late to the Finders Keepers party — what kind of feedback have you received from readers who showed up earlier to the trilogy to The Definitive Edition? Anything surprising about the reaction (hopefully positive surprises, but I’ve been online long enough to not know to assume that)?
All of the feedback I’ve gotten is extremely positive. Finders Keepers is a 3-book series— Finders Keepers, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza. The Definitive Edition much more closely matches the tone, length, and style of Genius de Milo and Astropalooza, so the entire trilogy feels much more like one cohesive adventure. I’m incredibly happy with the way it turned out.
Last time we talked, we spent some time talking about Finders Keepers when we were supposed to be talking about Angela Hardwicke and the anthology she was in. It’s time for some payback — talk a little about Angela — her tie to these books and her future.
Angela Hardwicke is my hard-boiled private eye, who briefly showed up in Genius de Milo with a much bigger role in Astropalooza. I’ve since written a few short Hardwicke mysteries in Crazy 8 Press anthologies. The biggest news is that I’ve also written the first draft of my first Hardwicke novel. I’ll be doing revisions over the next few months, with plans to publish either this year or in 2020. After that I plan to write Angela Hardwicke mysteries for years to come as an ongoing series. I’m not supposed to pick favorites, but Hardwicke I’ve never had more fun as an author than with Angela Hardwicke.
You’ve said Finders Keepers is loosely based on a series of backpacking trips you took through Europe and New Zealand. What inspired you to turn those adventures into a novel, and then expand it into a trilogy?
I know its cliché that a trip was life-changing, but in my case, it happens to be true. Before I went overseas, I hadn’t traveled much, and since then I’ve been halfway around the world, and made friendships that have endured all these years. Finders Keepers and the sequels are for readers who want to go on a wild cosmic ride that will, I hope, inspire you to think a bit about the meaning of life, your place in it, and the machinations of the Universe. And, of course, leave you with a smile on your face.
Thanks for your time, and I hope that Finders Keepers meets with all kinds of success!