Entire interview with author Jerry Banks


Three- time author of the Barry O’Shea series is my guest author this week. I am honored to have interviewed author Jerry Banks. Jerry practiced law for over 41 years and using his many years of legal experience and his knowledge of how the system works. He has written three outstanding mystery/legal thrillers for everyone to enjoy. I would like to thank author Jerry Banks for agreeing to do this interview with me. Jerry is the author of three outstanding novels that I have read and reviewed. Each day I will post several questions that I posed to Jerry along with his responses. Please feel free to comment, leave questions for the author and read the interview to get to know him better. I am reposting all three of his reviews to whet your appetites and entice all readers to buy the entire Barry O’Shea series written by this five star author. Thank you again for agreeing to do this interview with me. Fran Lewis

Interview Questions for Jerry Banks

Day One

Fran: How did you develop your character of Barry O’Shea?

Jerry:  I have to admit, that Barry O’Shea was modeled after me.  Of course, O’Shea can be a bit of a rule-breaker and I’m not.  But, for the most part, his reactions to events are very similar to how I would handle things.

Fran: In writing your first book in this series did you do any research before writing it?

Jerry:  Yes, of course.  Even though this is fiction, like all good fiction, there is foothold in reality.  Readers are willing to suspend disbelief the moment they pick up a novel, so you have to make it as really as possible for them.  To do so, I visited the site where I put the Lukarilla retreat camp and did research  to develop the NYC & Illinois characters.  I am personally familiar with the NYC scenes like Dorset Hotel which I stayed at many times.  I relied on my personal experience and knowledge for most of the locations and character types.  The saying goes, “Write what you know.”

Fran: As a lawyer how much of what you write about have you experienced in your career?

Jerry:  Most of it.  All of the courtroom scenes are based upon direct experience.  I have tons of expertise to draw from when it comes to direct examination and cross-examination.   My first novel, Secret Agenda, is about a case against a cult—it just so happens I tried a case in Oregon that involved a cult.  Of course, names, locations and circumstances within the novel are different…that’s the fiction part.  I played the game of “what-if” and that added quite a bit of drama to the plot.   My second novel, Second District is about contested election, the “fixing” of the ballots and the recount.  Just so happens I was involved in such a case.  However, in the novel I was able to explore how such a thing happened, whereas in “real” life, the facts were too difficult to prove.  It’s great writing fiction because I get to alter, change, or complete rewrite events.

Fran: In Second District: The character of Arch Sinclair is really interesting- what made you decide on a movie star as the character in your book to go after a congressman? How did you develop the idea for this book?

Jerry:  I like that question because entails a little bit of family history.  The character’s name is the actual my wife’s grandfather’s name, which to me sound so Hollywood and I suppose I was influenced by movie stars running for Congress. I’m not sure why, but that always intrigued me.  I always hope that they are more than just a pretty face!   I was developing a scenario for the novel that would end with a contest of a recount, while doing so I moved the location and was forced to come up with an election event that was much different from the one I was personally involved in.  I also had a case in the Steens Mountains, and I fell in love with the area.  It is distinct different from an area place in Oregon.  I knew of some movie stars getting into ranching, and the Steens Mountain area seemed to me like a great area in which to invest.  There was only one big ranch in the area at the time I was there, but in the book I had my “movie star” buy a fictional farm nearby the real one. I did investigate the existing ranch’s structure, and I patterned the fictional ranch the same way.  I figured that if I made the owner of the neighboring ranch the congressman for that part of the state, I could create a story where the movie star was shooting a movie in the area, fall in love with the scenery, as did I, and by an abandoned ranch.   The problems between the neighbors developed, which can be all to true, and I put them at further odds when the movie star runs against his neighbor in the election.  Again, I manipulated reality and played the game of “what-if”.

DAY TWO

Fran: In Second District the character of Jason Yarbrough is not that different from politicians today- when you describe some of the underhanded things he wanted to do in order to win the election and ruin Arch’s reputation: Did base it on real life events or as these entirely fictional?

Jerry:   I had handled a case for sheriff of a small county where the opponent did exactly what Yarbrough and his men did.  However, much has been fictionalized.  It is always a compliment to me when some asked me: “Did that really happen?”  That means they bought into my story and that, at least to some degree, I successfully blended fiction and real life.

Fran: Pam Hall is a unique and different character: Are there people that do that type of work and keep their identities hidden and are contacted through other people?

Jerry:  Pam Hall is based upon an investigator that I knew for many years.

Fran: Sarah is really amazing in that she is able to deal with Barry’s schedule, all of the people that he comes in contact with and never fails to support him in all he does: Do you think there will come a time when she will not understand how dedicated he is to his career and his job as a lawyer? Do you see him ever becoming Attorney General of Governor?

Jerry:  No, I don’t see that time coming.  That is not my contemplation of the role she plays.  And, no I don’t foresee Barry ever becoming an Attorney General, Governor or a judge.  But one never knows.  Sometimes the characters taken on a life that I never expected them to live.  They surprise me from time to time and I created them!

Fran: How did you decide to use the theme of a cult in Secret Agenda? Did you do any research? Is this story based on real life events or just fictional?

Jerry:  The plot line of a cult with a “secret agenda” is terrifying to most people.  It also makes for good suspense and a ton of thrills.  It has a foot in truth and another in fiction.

Fran: When you described how an election process works and how disputed elections are handled, what research did you do? I found the entire process of recounting ballots and understanding how that works interesting? I have never used a paper ballot in an election; we have the old machines here. How does that work?

Can the boxes be stuffed with extra ballots? How do the people counting know that they have a bad or invalid ballot that needs to be analyzed? The process of setting the ballot aside and the rest that you described in Second District: Is that the procedure followed?

Jerry:  Yes, I did research in my real-life case.  The scenario is based on the law in Oregon.  Since that law has been rewritten and is completely changed.  We had written ballots at that time.  In each race or issue, you had to place a mark beside the candidate or issue you were voting for and those ballots were counted by hand.  When I researched the law to find a remedy I finally found an old Minnesota case (pre 1900) that was factually similar and had the result I wanted.  The procedure I describe in the book is the actual  procedure in accordance with an old Oregon statute.  The ballot boxes could contain unused ballots.   If such ballots were left in the boxes when stored after the original count this would be against the procedure specified in the statute.  If such ballots were found by someone before the recount and that someone used them, there would be no way to detect them in the recount.  In the story the ballots set-aside by the recounting board had actually been defaced with by adding an additional vote to the ballot or by scratching out the voter’s vote.  Those ballots could be analyzed.

Fran: In Secret Agenda: the way these people were able to infiltrate an entire state was frightening to say the least: How did you come up with the chain of events that allowed them to complete most of their goals?

Jerry:  I researched the statutes that were in place at the time and found that a new county could be formed if sufficient number of residents petitioned for it; enough area involved and the population of the area was large enough.  So I had the cult set about populating the towns in the area.  They did this quietly as not to drawn any attention to themselves.  Essentially their goal was to take over the towns before anyone could stop them.

DAY THREE

Fran: Without giving away anything could you please give our readers a short summary of Secret Agenda and Second District?

Jerry:  Secret Agenda is a story about a middle-eastern cult that settles on an abandon ranch in a remote area of Oregon.  Through a series of moves, then allowed by an Oregon statute, they quietly set in motion a plan to take over two existing counties and set up their own country with a separate government and separate regulations and laws.  In the process they contrived grounds to bring suit against a local newspaper and editor for a libel action.   The suit takes place in Portland in an effort to keep it from the community the cult was taking over.  Portland lawyer, Barry O’Shea, defends the paper and its editor   while he was also representing the Governor in his effort to defeat the cult’s take-over activities.  The libel case is brought to trial is filled with suspense and drama.  The outcome is rather unexpected.

Second District is a political story about the clash of two neighboring ranchers in the southeastern Oregon Steens Mountain.  One neighbor is the Second District Congressman; the other is a famous movie star.  Barry O’Shea is hired to get the actor out of his bitter entanglement with the Congressman but is initially unsuccessful, so the actor runs against the Congressman in the next election.  The election is one dirty trick after another by the Congressman and his cohorts.  The actor narrowly wins the race and the Congressman calls a recount and he wins by a slim margin.  The actor then files a contest of the recount result.  Then the whole thing ends up in court and a stream of intriguing events finishes up the batter.  Like all Barry O’Shea’s court cases, the ending is not what is expected.

Fran: Why did you pick Oregon as the setting for Secret Agenda? Having never been there are the areas described in your book really counties in Oregon?

Jerry:  I am familiar with all the locales in my novels. Most settings are in Oregon. The counties are actual counties and I’m not aware of any earlier efforts to divide them. Actually, I don’t know of any prior uses of the unusual statutory scheme to create new counties out of existing counties.  That was one of the reasons I tried it in this book.

Fran: What made you include the information about Tantric Buddhism, which really added to the cult’s mystic?

Jerry:  When I decided to write a novel I knew I wanted to have my cult leader from a country that the reader would readily accept an upbringing that could develop from mysticism for spiritual growth to cult-like control of others.  I decided on Pakistan and India, and then did my research. During my research I learned that the practices of ancient Bhutan still are practiced by someone. So I had my character visit and become involved in Bhutan.

Fran: In the Lukarilla Affair you chose to deal with the area of sexual harassment and abuse? What message did you hope to convey to your readers?

Jerry:  The same as the one delivered by the jury.

Fran: In this book you included every deposition, every document and all of the evidence used in a trial. Why did you decide to include so much information? Were you trying to instruct the reader to understand the legal process of what it takes to prepare for any trial?

Jerry:  Fiction is about the character and his storyline.  I believe including depositions, etc it added to creating a real the character.  I must admit, though, I hope the reader picks up a few pointers.

DAY FOUR

Fran:  When Amanda warned Susan not to appear at the trial, why did she? What were her true motives for asking for Amanda’s help?

Jerry:  She did not want Susan around during the trial for fear that if the defense saw her they would call her as an adverse witness and that would have put the press on trial.   However, Amanda wanted Susan’s help in trial preparations because Susan had a large network behind her and could accomplish lots of things that were beyond Amanda’s reach.

Fran: What type of law did you practice? Did you ever try any cases similar to the ones in your three books?

Jerry:  Yes, I did. I wanted to try trial law right-out-of law school.  I was very fortunate to be hired by the premier defense firm in Portland at the time.  The think that made the timing so good was that there were a lot of automobile cases.  There were no no-fault laws at that time so the courthouse were full of cases involving personal injuries, or purported ones, from automobile accidents.  This was a great training ground. During the ’60s I tried nearly l00 cases, all very similar so they were easy to prepare, but the courtroom experience was exceptional.  Now days, there aren’t as many uncomplicated case around to teach lawyers how to act in court, thus there are fewer lawyers who actually have this background.  I did trial a few criminal cases for low-income persons in my earlier years because there were no public defenders and judges appointed you lawyer to defend these people.  And yes, I did try cases similar to those in my books.

Fran: In your first novel you really help the reader understand the process of filing depositions, how they are taken and what each witness has to handle while on the stand. Why did you include all of this in your novel? I found it very interesting and it helped me to understand how the process works and more about he law? Why did you include these documents?

Jerry:  I did that do add to the character—to give the story a “real-life” sense.  If a taught the reader a few things, then great.  It’s an added bonus for me—author and teacher.

Fran: Why did Susan get so involved in the trial? Why didn’t see adhere to Amanda’s wishes when she told her to stay away from the courtroom?

Jerry:  It’s part of her personality.  She always has to be where the action is and no one can keep her away.

Fran: Where do you see Barry and his team of lawyers next?

Jerry:  I have completed two more Barry O’Shea novels.  Vital to the Defense is being published SterlingHouse Publisher for release in April 2011.  It’s a story about a horrendous fire at a plywood mill in south central Oregon.  Barry and his team become represent the manufacture of a forklift truck that the plaintiff claims caused the fire.  The trial is held in Federal Court in Medford, Oregon.  The next one is in the editing stage and involves tragic head-on collision between a passenger van and a pickup truck pulling a cattle trailer on a mountain road heading through the Oregon Coast Range Mountains. The driver of the van was killed as was one of his son passengers.  His wife was rendered a paraplegic.  They are represented by a well-known attorney from Carson, Nevada who files suit against the designer and manufacture of the van and the manufacture of the pickup.  Barry and his team represent the truck manufacture.  Is a great story that involves a series of investigations, relationships, and pretrial proceedings.  I enjoyed writing and researching the setting: Astoria Oregon.  After the editing is complete, I’m on to the next one.

DAY FIVE

Fran: Why is Sarah so understanding of Barry working with Becky, Pam and so many other women and she is often left at home?

Jerry:  Sarah is Barry’s secretary as well as his wife.  She loves the law, and Barry’s part in it.  Pam is her confident and the other women are a part of the legal proceedings, so she understands Barry working with them.

Fran: Does Pam ever get frustrated by Barry’s drive? Do you think she will ever take more of an active part than she does in his work?

Jerry:  Pam is very satisfied with the work she does and the way she does it.  She’s a supporting character who may get a larger role from time to time, but really she is, for the moment, happy where she’s at.

Fran: Second District was really interesting with the area that you delve into: Do you think that voter tampering could take place by having the ballot boxes taken without anyone’s knowledge? The way you did it in this book was quite ingenious.

Jerry: Yes, I do.  I created a believable scenario in my book.  Problem is in really life it can be harder to prove.

Fran: What was the hardest or most difficult part about writing your first book?

Jerry:  Going from lawyer writing to fiction writing.  Let’s put it this way: You can knit a pair of gloves and you can knit a pair of socks—both involve the craft of knitting.  BUT, you would look awful stupid wearing socks on your hands and gloves on your feet.  Oh, you could do it, but again you’d look silly.  Writing legalese and writing fiction—both involved the craft of writing.  But they are different—it took years and constant input from my teachers, editors and publisher to get to the point that I am as a novelist.  And, I’m still learning!  The only difference is: I can accept criticism gracefully and learn from it.  (It still hurts, though!).

Fran: How did you decide to write about each area? In each book you chose a topic that is current and vital: You chose sexual abuse, you chose voter tampering and finally cults and wanting to take over an entire county and more. How did you decide in these areas and what is next?

Jerry:  As a fiction writer the safest, most effective thing to write about is about what you know.  Take what you know, add in a lot of imagination and a huge helping of “crafting” and you’re on your way.  As far as what is next: The Barry O’Shea side of me never lets a good story pass him by.

Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview with me. I am looking forward to having you on my show in June as guest author and as featured author in September. It is has been my pleasure to do this online interview with you.

Fran Lewis

Exclusive interview with Eric Brown


I would like to introduce multi-author Eric Brown who has agreed to let me interview him today. Eric has written many novels and has agreed to share his ideas about writing, his novels and his passion for Zombies and Scifi novels with everyone.

 

Thank You Eric: Fran Lewis

 

 

Fran: Creating a dynamic plot around Zombies is not easy. As a reviewer and interviewer I have read many novels where the central characters are zombies. What makes your book The Weaponer stand out above the rest and why are Zombies an integral part of what you write about?

 

Eric: The Weaponer, like any well done zombie book, is more about the people who dealing with the zombies then the zombies themselves.  It’s set in world where civilization fell long ago and humanity has now rebuilt to the level of the Old West but still have a few things from our modern world.  The main character Alan isn’t a warrior or lawman, he’s a gunsmith and weapons designer.  None the less, Alan is forced to grow and realize his true potential as the dead return to plague Hyattsburg once more.  As to why zombies, I have always loved the walking dead.  I grew up with Dawn of the Dead and John Skipp and Craig Spector’s Book of the Dead.  Folks say to write what you love and know and that’s what I do.  I am a fanboy first and writer second.

 

 

Fran: Writing about these big hairy and huge monsters in your book Bigfoot War that you were afraid of growing up, did it help you overcome your fears? Do you think it would help kids overcome their fears of monsters too? Why ?

 

Eric:  No, didn’t really help me overcome my fear of Bigfoot.  I would still rather face a zombie horde, even fast movers, than a single Sasquatch any day of the week.  Bigfoot War is the first book in a series of cryptozoological terror.  It does not have a very happy ending for any one but it does set things up for the next book to come though it reads fine as a dark, stand alone work too.

 

Fran: Give our readers a short summary of Bigfoot War to motivate everyone into going online and buying some copies right now for Christmas presents?

 

Eric:  Bigfoot War is in short an apocalyptic twist on the Bigfoot mythos.  Think of it as a zombie apocalypse novel but without the zombies.  If you have seen films like Sasquatch, Abominable, Clawed, Sasquatch Mountain, Yeti, etc. and enjoyed them then this is the book for you.  It’s not only an homage to all the great Bigfoot B movies out there, full of gore and crazy rednecks with guns, but also an upgraded version of them in a sense.  It has dozens upon dozens of giant monsters coming out of the woods not just one.

 

 

Fran: What is your latest release and how did you get Simon and Schuster to publisher it?

 

 

Eric:  War of the Worlds Plus Blood Guts and Zombies was just released from Simon and Schuster on Dec. 14th, 2010.  The book was first released from Coscom Entertainment in 2009.  Coscom asked me to take War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells and make it scarier and filled with zombies.  I did my best to make it a full on horror/zombie work that stayed true to Wells’ original.  The book sold insanely well and got a lot of attention so Simon and Schuster came after it at the start of 2010.  Before I knew it, I had a contract for its re-release and Simon and Schuster and I were working on expanding it with new material.

 

Fran: Who are the authors that you identify with? Why?

 

Eric:  The films of George Romero are what my work most reflect but my hero is David Drake.  I love that man.  His Hammer’s Slammers series is the best military SF one will ever read.  Part of that comes I think from Drake’s own time in Vietnam.  I learned everything I know about writing action from reading his works.

 

Fran: How did you develop the main character in Bigfoot War?

 

Eric:  Bigfoot War doesn’t really have a central character so much as it has a Joss Whedon’s Firefly type cast and feel.  The viewpoint shifts a lot through the chapters so you get to see a bunch of folks reactions to what’s happening around them.  If I had to label a main character in it, I would say it’s deputy Zack.  Though he doesn’t appear to later, he is the character who wraps things up at the end of the book.

 

Fran: What is the message that you want to give your readers? How does this book teach humans a lesson about life and the wild?

 

Eric:  Bigfoot War is first and foremost a fanboy romp from someone who grew up loving horror and wanted to write something that Hollywood hadn’t done before that we all wanted to see.  You can certainly read a LOT of “green” messages into it though.  Perhaps it’s biggest message is don’t just not believe because others tell you too.

 

 

Fran: What road blocks or stumbling blocks did you face when writing this novel or any of your novels?

 

Eric:  The biggest challenge I faced with Bigfoot War was it was such a crazy and not really done before I idea, I had to talk the publisher into it.  I am known for zombies and have reliable sales in that genre.  Bigfoot War was something totally new as there’s not really much Bigfoot horror literature out there.  In the end, they gave me the green light on it and it has become the most praised and raved about book of my career even eclipsing my zombie work with the critics.  Though of course, I will still be writing zombies too as long as I am able.

 

 

Fran: Give our readers a short summary of your latest novel War of the Worlds and Blood and Guts?

 

Eric:  It’s basically Wells’ original tale but with zombies added.  The Martins unintentionally carry the “Z virus” to Earth with them and the war between man and Martin becomes a three way war as the dead begin to rise and eat the living, Martin’s included.

 

 

Fran: How did you create Weaponer and what is this character supposed to do to save mankind?

 

Eric:  The Weaponer came right on the heels of my book How the West Went to Hell.  I was really having fun with the sub-genre of the horror western.  As always, I wanted to do something a bit insane.  For The Weaponer, I took the best parts of Louis L’amour, who I read a lot of before starting it, and the best elements of Mad Max and The Road Warrior then tossed them together in world where zombies had wiped out most of mankind.  The main character is just one man and not even a real fighter so he can’t save the whole world.  The book is about him becoming a hero and growing into the man he “could be” as he helps to save those that he can.

 

 

Fran:  How the ending of your War of the Worlds different than Wells’ original?

 

Eric:  It’s a LOT darker.  I don’t want to spoil the ending but the zombies certainly are not totally defeated and do not go away.  You won’t find a true happy ending in the novel and I can safely say the main character walks away very scarred and tormented by what he’s endured.

 

Fran: Why are reviews by credible reviewers really necessary to help promote your book?

 

Eric:  They not only help spread the word about the book and let folks know it’s there but they also give you an idea of what it’s about and if it’s worth the cash you’re about to shell out snagging a copy.  I know I use Amazon reviews a lot myself when shopping.  I buy a lot of comic book trades and tend to use the reviews to know if the book I am looking at contains a storyline about say Green Lantern that I really want to read or not.

 

Fran: When reviewing a book I never focus on any typos or grammar errors left by the editors. I focus on the plot, character development and storyline and much more. What do you find are the primary points made by reviewers after reading your novels?

 

Eric:  Overall, folks say I write my books as if they were movies.  They are fast paced, very visually, and often original in some way.  It’s very flattering and I am very grateful for their words.

 

 

Fran: Are Zombies going to be the primary focal point of all of your novels? Why?

 

Eric: Zombies are my “bread and butter” so to speak and my one true love but I also write about fanboy things like superheroes with my books The Human Experiment and Anti-Heroes as well Bigfoot in my new series that kicked off with Bigfoot War this year.

 

Fran: Is your novel writing with dialogue or in narrative form?

 

Eric:  A bit of both usually.  Critics really seem to like my dialogue in Bigfoot War and say it’s a spot on take of southern culture.  Makes sense given that I grew up in the South.

 

 

Fran: Where do you get your main idea or plot line for your books?

 

Eric:  They can come from any where:  something I saw on a shelf walking through a Walmart to a line in a comic book I just read to my own nightmares.  Bigfoot War was totally born of my own nightmares as a child who loved zombies but lived in the south with creepy trees all around my house.

 

 

Fran: Have you ever written in any other genre? Why or why not?

 

Eric:  I have written zombies, horror, superheroes, bigfoot, fantasy, and even military SF.  Though I think of myself mainly as Z author most of the time, like I said, I am really just a fan so I don’t limit the genres I try to write in.  If it’s something that moves me, I will write about it.

 

Fran: Why should everyone read your books and if I read your books why would I give them five stars?

 

 

Eric:  If you like books written out of love and passion for a genre and that are often fast paced, different, and action filled, I think you’ll like my stuff enough to easily give it five stars.

 

 

Fran: Do you have a mentor or mentoring group you work with to support your goals and your writing?

 

Eric:  In some ways, I consider New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry a mentor.  He almost singlehandedly got me back into writing at the end of 2008 and is a constant source of wisdom about the industry.

 

Fran: Do you hear from your readers?

 

Eric:  Oh yeah, I get tons of fan emails and stuff all the time.  They really make me smile and I am super blessed by them.  They let me know I am doing what I set out to do and I try to answer as many of them as quickly as I can.

 

Fran: What advice would you give new authors that are just starting out?

 

Eric:  Never give up and always try to listen to your editor.  Determination is a huge part of making it in the world of writing.

 

Fran: Are all of your books traditionally published? Did you self-publish any of them?

 

Eric:  I have NEVER self published and have no plans to.  Most of my books are from indie publishers who really support their authors and let you have a more openness in your work than say the big New York houses.  However, as of this year, I am with Simon and Schuster and that has been an awesome experience as well.

 

 

Fran: What is next for you?

 

Eric:  I am currently hammering away on my second Bigfoot book.  It will be much more crazy than the first.  I promise you that.  Otherwise, I am hoping to slow down a bit in 2011 as I had 8 books in 2009 and 10 books in 2010.  I might also go back to writing some short fiction again.

 

Fran: How did you start writing and why become an author?

 

Eric:  I started writing out of a love of genre fiction and it was my wife who pressed me to try get to published when I started out.  I do what I do out of a true and honest love of the genres I work in.

 

Fran:  What are you websites and where can we get your books?

 

Eric:  You can find almost all of my books via www.amazon.com and you can track me down on Facebook.

 

 

Thank you for agreeing to let me interview you.

 

Fran Lewis

 

 

 

http://www.facebook.com/fran.lewis1?v=wall

http://coldcoffee.ning.com/forum/topics/exclusive-interview-with

http://www.writerface.com/forum/topics/exclusive-interview-with

http://premierewriters.ning.com/profiles/blogs/exclusive-interview-with

http://www.theauthorssociety.spruz.com/pt/Interview-with-author-Eric-Brown/blog.htm

 

http://minds-eye.ning.com/profiles/blogs/exclusive-interview-with

http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=135486133130440&topic=417

http://www.livelaughlovetoshop.com/forum/topics/interview-with-author-eric

 

 

 

Day One of my Interview with Jerry Banks


Three- time author of the Barry O’Shea series is my guest author this week. I am honored to have interviewed author Jerry Banks. Jerry practiced law for over 41 years and using his many years of legal experience and his knowledge of how the system works. He has written three outstanding mystery/legal thrillers for everyone to enjoy. I would like to thank author Jerry Banks for agreeing to do this interview with me. Jerry is the author of three outstanding novels that I have read and reviewed. Each day I will post several questions that I posed to Jerry along with his responses. Please feel free to comment, leave questions for the author and read the interview to get to know him better. I am reposting all three of his reviews to whet your appetites and entice all readers to buy the entire Barry O’Shea series written by this five star author. Thank you again for agreeing to do this interview with me. Fran Lewis

Interview Questions for Jerry Banks

Day One

Fran: How did you develop your character of Barry O’Shea?

Jerry:  I have to admit, that Barry O’Shea was modeled after me.  Of course, O’Shea can be a bit of a rule-breaker and I’m not.  But, for the most part, his reactions to events are very similar to how I would handle things.

Fran: In writing your first book in this series did you do any research before writing it?

Jerry:  Yes, of course.  Even though this is fiction, like all good fiction, there is foothold in reality.  Readers are willing to suspend disbelief the moment they pick up a novel, so you have to make it as really as possible for them.  To do so, I visited the site where I put the Lukarilla retreat camp and did research  to develop the NYC & Illinois characters.  I am personally familiar with the NYC scenes like Dorset Hotel which I stayed at many times.  I relied on my personal experience and knowledge for most of the locations and character types.  The saying goes, “Write what you know.”

Fran: As a lawyer how much of what you write about have you experienced in your career?

Jerry:  Most of it.  All of the courtroom scenes are based upon direct experience.  I have tons of expertise to draw from when it comes to direct examination and cross-examination.   My first novel, Secret Agenda, is about a case against a cult—it just so happens I tried a case in Oregon that involved a cult.  Of course, names, locations and circumstances within the novel are different…that’s the fiction part.  I played the game of “what-if” and that added quite a bit of drama to the plot.   My second novel, Second District is about contested election, the “fixing” of the ballots and the recount.  Just so happens I was involved in such a case.  However, in the novel I was able to explore how such a thing happened, whereas in “real” life, the facts were too difficult to prove.  It’s great writing fiction because I get to alter, change, or complete rewrite events.

Fran: In Second District: The character of Arch Sinclair is really interesting- what made you decide on a movie star as the character in your book to go after a congressman? How did you develop the idea for this book?

Jerry:  I like that question because entails a little bit of family history.  The character’s name is the actual my wife’s grandfather’s name, which to me sound so Hollywood and I suppose I was influenced by movie stars running for Congress. I’m not sure why, but that always intrigued me.  I always hope that they are more than just a pretty face!   I was developing a scenario for the novel that would end with a contest of a recount, while doing so I moved the location and was forced to come up with an election event that was much different from the one I was personally involved in.  I also had a case in the Steens Mountains, and I fell in love with the area.  It is distinct different from an area place in Oregon.  I knew of some movie stars getting into ranching, and the Steens Mountain area seemed to me like a great area in which to invest.  There was only one big ranch in the area at the time I was there, but in the book I had my “movie star” buy a fictional farm nearby the real one. I did investigate the existing ranch’s structure, and I patterned the fictional ranch the same way.  I figured that if I made the owner of the neighboring ranch the congressman for that part of the state, I could create a story where the movie star was shooting a movie in the area, fall in love with the scenery, as did I, and by an abandoned ranch.   The problems between the neighbors developed, which can be all to true, and I put them at further odds when the movie star runs against his neighbor in the election.  Again, I manipulated reality and played the game of “what-if”.

 

 


 

Interview with author Bruce De Silva


Welcome, readers, to my interview with author, journalist, and investigative reporter Bruce DeSilva. I am honored to have the opportunity to interview Bruce and discuss his many careers and his new crime novel Rogue Island. Please feel free to join in the discussion and ask Bruce questions too. I am honored to interview Bruce and hope that everyone will join in the discussion. Please post your questions and comments on Reviewers Roundup and I will copy and paste them on the other sites for other readers. Fran

Interview with author Bruce DeSilva

Fran Lewis

 

Mondays Questions

1.   Fran: As a journalist for 40 years what kind of training did you provide for the wire service’s reporters to enhance their reporting and writing skills?

Bruce:

For the first 20 years, I was a reporter. I learned my trade by covering small-town news, but before long I was specializing in investigative stories and magazine-length narratives, first at The Providence Journal and then at The Hartford Courant. For the last 20 years, I was a senior editor and writing coach, first at The Courant and then at The Associated Press. In those roles, I was often asked to work with writers who “needed help.” I always declined. In journalism, you see, most editors spend the most of their time with the worst writers, struggling to make bad copy good enough to publish. That leaves editors with little time for the best people—the ones who, with sufficient attention, will write the stories that distinguish a news organization. I chose to spend my time with the most talented writers. I encouraged them to abandon the stiff, overly formal language most news stories are written in and to discover their natural, conversational voices as writers. I taught them to forsake the old-fashioned inverted-pyramid structure they learned in journalism schools and to become storytellers instead. I taught them to gather the details that turn stick figures into real characters and turn place names into settings for their stories. I taught them to use fewer quotes (the words news sources say to reporters) and to use more dialogue (the words people say to one another.) Over the years, stories I edited won virtually every major journalism prize including The Polk Award (twice), The Livingston (twice), the ASNE, and the Batten Medal. I also edited two Pulitzer finalists and helped edit a Pulitzer winner.

2. Fran: What were some of the stories that you covered as an investigative reporter? Was it difficult to present a fair and objective account of the events?

Bruce: Journalists should always be fair, of course; but they are not—and should not be—objective about everything. Journalists are against political corruption, organized crime, the victimization of the helpless, and the looting of the public treasury. The best journalists don’t just write about those things. They crusade against them. The dozens of investigative stories I wrote over the years exposed, among other things, massive voter fraud in a mayoralty election in Providence; the looting of Medicaid by nursing home owners; corruption in the Section-8 low income housing construction program; physical and sexual abuse in a state-run institution for homeless kids; and horrible conditions—including needless deaths—in a state institution for the retarded. My many investigations also led to the indictment or firing of exactly 100 people (I once added it up).

3. Fran:  What difficulties do you encounter when editing articles of other reporters? The most important part of any script, book or article is the editing which many authors have difficulty doing themselves. Many publishing companies offer these services; and even with their top-notch editors, books often have both grammar and spelling errors. How can a new author or seasoned one avoid this pitfall?

Bruce: As an editor, I was always more interested in bigger questions: Do we have the whole story or only part of it? Is the story organized properly? Can we tell a story instead of write a tedious report? Is the piece written tightly and in a voice that talks conversationally to readers? Is it well focused, and does everything in it pertain to its central point? Does it begin and end in the right places? And so on. That’s what real editing is all about. What you are asking about is copy editing, which requires a completely different set of skills. I was never very good at it. Every time I try to copy edit a story, I find myself caught up in the larger questions and start missing misspellings and typos. The only way I can find such small (but important) mistakes is to read a story backwards. I am also a firm believer in spell-check.

4. Fran: Which authors’ books have you reviewed? As a reviewer I give an honest and fair review to every author whose book I am asked to review. I even give them the courtesy of reading the review before posting it. The one thing that I really find unprofessional is when an author rewrites a paragraph or insists on a shorter review. My reviews are detailed and thorough and I never give anything away. You can tell that I read the book and sometimes more than once. Has an author ever changed your review? Do you send the author the review beforehand? I am thinking of stopping that practice and just posting the reviews. What is your opinion?

Bruce: I’ve written hundreds of reviews for the AP and a few for The New York Times book review section. Usually I review crime novels, most recently the latest book by Walter Mosley. Only occasionally do I review other fiction, most recently the latest mainstream novel by Howard Frank Mosher. I rarely write negative reviews. There are two reasons for this. First, if I’m not enjoying a book after a few chapters, I toss it aside and read something else. I wouldn’t feel right reviewing a book that I haven’t finished. Second, I’m not much interested in telling people what they shouldn’t read. I’d rather advise them on what they should read. I have never shown a review to an author in advance. Doing so would be a violation of policy at the AP, but I wouldn’t do it anyway. Authors should let the work speak for itself.

5. Fran: Besides writing Rogue Island what other projects you are working on?

Bruce: I recently finished a draft of the sequel, tentatively titled “Cliff Walk,” and I am now working through my agent’s suggestions for revisions. I’ve also sketched plans for the third and fourth books in the series, which features an investigative reporter at a dying newspaper in Providence, R.I., a claustrophobic little city with a rich history of corruption. I’m also editing the next collection by my wife, Patricia Smith, an award-winning poet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday’s Questions

1. Fran: Why and how did you choose the subject and title of your book?

Bruce: One of the many quirks of Rhode Island history is that no one knows how the state got its name—although historians have come up with several half-baked theories. One of them, for example, is that the name was chosen because the state resembles the Isle of Rhodes. The problem with that theory is that it doesn’t. My favorite theory is that “Rhode Island” is a bastardization of “Rogue Island,” a name the God-fearing farmers of colonial Massachusetts bestowed upon the nest of pirates, smugglers, and heretics who first settled the banks of Narragansett Bay. My first job was covering Rhode Island for The Providence Journal; and right from the start, I loved being a reporter. Today, newspapers are dying. I wanted to write a book that would be both an entertaining crime novel and a lyrical elegy to the business I worked in for most of my life. That’s why I chose to make the main character of my crime story an investigative reporter instead of a cop or a private detective.

 

 

2. Fran: Where did you get the ideas, and was this subject your first choice or did you ponder others first?

Bruce: You can’t be a journalist for as long as I have without meeting a lot of fascinating people and accumulating a lot of interesting stories, many of which you never get around to writing about. So, when I decided to write crime novels, I had a wealth of experience to draw on. I began with a list of a dozen possible plots and just picked the one that seemed like it would be the most fun to write.

3.     Fran: What genre did you pick for your book or books and why?

Bruce: I became enthralled with crime fiction in junior high when I read a paperback copy of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. Over the decades, I’ve read thousands of crime novels, and I finally decided I knew how to write one.

4. Fran:  What is your target audience?

Bruce: Anyone who likes a suspenseful, well-written story.

5.    Fran: What inspired you to write your first book?

Bruce: For most of my journalism career, the idea of writing a novel never occurred to me; but a seed was planted one day in 1994 when I got a note from a reader. It praised a “nice little story” I’d written and went on to say: “It could serve as the outline for a novel. Have you considered this?”  The note was signed by Evan Hunter, who wrote fine mainstream novels under his own name as well as the brilliant 87th Precinct police procedurals under the pen name Ed McBain. I sealed the note in plastic, taped it to my home computer, and started writing. But then life—in the form of a new marriage, fatherhood, and a demanding new editing job—intervened. For years, I found no time for novel writing. Every time I bought a new home computer, I peeled that note from Hunter off the old one and taped it to the side of the new one, promising myself I would get back to the story someday. Finally, a couple of years ago, I did.

6. Fran: Were you always an author? If not what was your first career and what made you decide to write?

Bruce:  Way back in 1968, as I trotted off to college to major in geology, my favorite high school teacher made a prediction:  I would soon find myself writing from compulsion. He was right. I soon abandoned science for the humanities, and I went to work for The Providence Journal as soon as I finished college.

7.   Fran: How much of what you write is realistic?

Bruce: The plot and the characters in Rogue Island are entirely made up. However, my depiction of the state’s history and geography are as true as I can make them, and a few of the minor incidents in the book are based on fact.  For example, years ago some highway department workers in Providence really did steal lots of manhole covers and sell them for scrap for a few dollars apiece.

8. Fran: How do you promote your books? What can you tell other authors about promotion?

Bruce:  The first thing I did was collect blurbs for the book cover. Dennis Lehane, a friend of mine long before he became famous, quickly agreed. Then I sent e-mails to 14 other big-time crime novelists whom I’d met at writers’ conferences over the years, hoping one or two would say yes. To my astonishment, 13 of them including Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, Ken Bruen and Alafair Burke agreed. A couple of them, James W. Hall and Joseph Finder, even favorably compared Rogue Island to Lehane’s great first novel, A Drink Before the War. Each time a new blurb came in, I splashed the news on all of the places I hang out online. And then I did the same with every review that appeared in the press. I’ve made myself a daily presence on social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Linkedin. I’m guest blogging on lots of sites including this one. I created a website for the book (http://brucedesilva.com) and a blog that I update regularly, sometimes several times a day (http://brucedesilva.wordpress.com). I had a book release party at Otto Penzler’s famous Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan and, with the help of my publicist at Tor, I arranged appearances at several chain bookstores and at independent mystery bookstores in Houston; Decatur, Ga.; and Scottsdale, Az. I arranged radio and TV interviews in Providence, where the book is set.  I was selected as a panelist at Bouchercon, the big crime-writing conference held in San Francisco this fall.  Everywhere I appear, I take photos and post them online. I got 23 famous crime writers and several famous journalists to pose reading my book, and I’ve been posting the photos online one at a time. And that’s just for starters. Nobody told me how hard a first-time novelist has to work to promote his book. I’m working harder now than I was when I had a job.

9. Fran: How did you get a traditional publisher?

Bruce: A couple of years ago, a mutual friend introduced me to Otto Penzler, the proprietor of the Mysterious Bookshop and the dean of America’s crime fiction editors. Otto and I quickly discovered that we admired the same writers, had friends in common, and even looked a lot alike. We hit it off.  One evening over dinner, I happened to mention that long-ago note from Hunter. “Evan Hunter was a good friend of mine,” Otto said. “In all the years I knew him, I never heard him say a single good thing about anything anyone else wrote.” So, Otto added, he wanted to read the book once I finished it. Six months later, I handed him the manuscript; and he loved it. He asked if I had an agent. I told him I didn’t even know any. Otto said he’d take care of it. The next thing I knew, I was represented by Susanna Einstein of LJK Literary Management, one of the top agents in the country. A few months later, she sold the book to Tor, a division of Macmillan.

10. Fran: What was your biggest obstacle in writing your books?

Bruce: Writing a novel requires discipline. You have to turn off the Red Sox or Celtics or Patriots game (I’m a big fan of Boston sports teams), stop playing with the dog that’s begging for attention, set that half-read Michael Connelly novel aside, put your butt in the chair, and pound the keys. If you can do that, finishing a book is not as difficult as you might think. Write just 800 words a day and you’ve got a book in 100 days. I aimed for 1,000 words a day, but sometimes life intervened. Some days the lawn needed mowing or the leaves needed raking or I wanted to go to our 15-year-old’s softball game. But mostly I stuck to my schedule, and the book–and the sequel–got written. For me, writers block was never a problem. I was a journalist, after all. Journalists write every day, whether they are in the mood or not. We journalists don’t believe in writer’s block. We think writer’s block is for sissies.

 

 

11.    Fran: What message do you want to convey to your readers in your writing?

Bruce:  Few of us are all good or all bad. People do good things for bad reasons and bad things for good reasons. Sometimes you have to fight evil with evil. Places aren’t all good or all bad, either. According to Newsweek magazine, Rhode Island, the setting for my novels, is the most corrupt state, per capita, in the country. It has always been so, going all the way back to the time when one of the first colonial governors dined with Captain Kidd. This thread of corruption runs all the way through the history of the state—but so does a thread of decency and integrity that began with the state’s godly founder, Roger Williams. The world we live in is not rendered in black and white. But I also want readers to appreciate the importance that newspapers, like the fictional one my main character works for, have played in preserving our democracy—and how much we all stand to lose as they pass into history.

 

 

Wednesday

1.  Fran: How did you develop the character of Liam Mulligan? Liam is a hard-core, hard-nosed, old-school reporter who knows where to look to get a story: How much of you is in this book?

Bruce: Mulligan is me—except that he’s 24 years younger, six inches taller, and quicker with a quip. He’s an investigative reporter; I used to be. He doesn’t do well with authority; I do worse. He’s got a smart mouth; I get a lot of complaints about the same thing. He and I both have a fierce but shifting sense of justice that tempts us to cut corners and work with bad people to bring worse people down.

2.   Fran: How much of you is Mason when first starting out?

Bruce: In the novel, Edward Anthony Mason IV is the publisher’s son. He comes from old money, the scion of six inbred Yankee families that ran the Rhode Island for more than two hundred years until the Irish and Italians showed up and took it away from them. He just graduated from an Ivy League journalism school; and as the Rogue Island begins, he’s being groomed to succeed his daddy. He is nothing whatsoever like I was when I was starting out.

3. Fran: Why did you decide to use arson as your theme in this novel?

Bruce: Serial arson is a terrible crime. It destroys property, displaces and kills people, and spreads terror. When it is confined to a single working class neighborhood, as it is in this book, it even threatens to extinguish a way of life. But the biggest appeal is that, aside from a series of books by Earl Emerson, there aren’t all that many crime novels about serial arson.

4.  Fran:  What type of research did you do before writing this book? What steps do firefighters take when investigating a fire?

Bruce: Journalists inevitably pick up a lot of arcane knowledge. I covered a lot of bad fires in my day, so I knew a lot about arson investigations by the time I started writing the novel. I did need to look up a few details, such as the name of the test investigators use to determine what accelerant is used to start a fire. For those things, the internet comes in handy.

5.  Fran: Why did the police arrest Mulligan and name him as a person of interest in the fires?  And why did Lomax, the city editor, not support Mulligan when he was arrested?

Bruce: Ernie Polecki, the head of the arson squad in Providence, detests Mulligan for writing a lot of negative things about him over the years. So Polecki jumped at the chance to try to pin the crime on Mulligan. When Mulligan was arrested, it put his boss in a difficult position. He couldn’t let a man named as a suspect continue to investigate the arsons for the newspaper. To protect the newspaper’s credibility, he had to suspend Mulligan until he was cleared of suspicion.

 

Thursday

6.  Fran: Why did you include the story about the dog in this novel?

Bruce: Mulligan wants to spend all of his time investigating the fires, but investigative reporting takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money. Like most newspapers, the one Mulligan works for is shrinking. It can’t afford full-time investigative reporters anymore. So Mulligan’s boss demands that he also write features that can be done quickly. One of the stories he assigns to Mulligan is a light feature about a couple of nice people and their amazing dog. Mulligan resists but finally has to give in. The dog story, of course, turns out to me more than it first appeared. But the main reason for this sub-plot is to illustrate how hard it is for a reporter to concentrate on investigative reporting these days.

7. Fran: How fair is the media when reporting a story?

Bruce: People talk about the media as if it is a single entity. It’s not and never has been. The media includes Rush Limbaugh and National Public Radio, FOXNews and CBS News, The New York Times and High Times (the self-appointed voice of the marijuana community). Most journalists, and most news organizations, have high standards and strive to live up to them. Most try to do an honest job. But not all of them do. Some of them (Hello, FoxNews and MSNBC) are little more than propaganda machines.

8.  Fran: Is the story in Rogue Island similar to any that you reported?

Bruce: No. The plot is entirely made up.

9. Fran: How does someone get to write reviews for a publication like The New York Times?

Bruce: You need a track record. If you’ve published some books and have established yourself as an expert on a subject, you can approach a publication like The Times and ask to be considered as a book reviewer in your area of expertise. They might even approach you first. If you don’t have a track record, you have to begin small. Volunteer to write some reviews for your local newspaper, which is likely to pay you only with a free copy of the book. Volunteer to write some reviews for one of the many websites that publish them. Or maybe even start your own book-review website. And make yourself an expert in something.

 

Friday

1. Fran: What are some important things that Mason needed to know when investigating the story on manhole covers? Why did Mulligan ignore his efforts at first?

Bruce: Mason, the publisher’s son, is always hanging around Mulligan, trying to learn what it takes to be an investigative reporter. Mulligan doesn’t much like the kid, both because he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and because he is always under foot. So when Mulligan gets a vague tip that there’s some chicanery going on involving manhole covers, he gives it to the kid, hoping the trivial story will keep him occupied and out of the way for a while. The kid’s approach to the story is to go to the guy who runs the highway department and ask him about it. Of course this gets him nowhere. What he needs to do, Mulligan then tells him, is develop some sources. Seduce a secretary, Mulligan says, or talk to the guys who work with shovels for a living.

2.  Fran: You left a couple of unanswered questions and lose ends at the end of Rogue Island? Do you intend to tie them up in the next book?

Bruce: The big questions are all answered in the conclusion to “Rogue Island,” but yes, I deliberately left a few loose ends. I’m not going to say what they are because that would be giving too much of the story away. But, no, they won’t be addressed in the next book. In real life, there are always a few unanswered questions, and I wanted “Rogue Island” to feel like real life. This is one of the things that Ken Bruen, the Irish master of noir, liked best about the novel. Here’s what he said about the ending: “There are no tidy solutions, and the ending of the novel leaves a fierce chill lingering. The last lines are as callous as I’ve ever read, and perfectly fitting.”

3. Fran: How will Mulligan finally face the future with all the lies and deceit from the past?

Bruce: When you are an investigative reporter, you deal with a lot of deceitful people. Getting lied to and even betrayed are part of the job. As Mulligan puts it, “You spend long working days listening to idiots drone on at public meetings, getting lied to by cops and politicians, chasing down false tips, having doors slammed in your face, and standing in the rain at 4 a.m. watching something burn.” You get used to it. You roll with the punches. And sometimes, if you’re lucky and good at the job, you find a way to write something that gets back at the bastards.

4. Fran: Will Mulligan and Mason team up again? Mason is the publisher’s son, yet he did not act like a spoiled kid who would not take direction. Is this common?

Bruce: Yes, they team up again in “Cliff Walk,” and almost certainly will once again in the third novel in the series.  What I’m doing with the Mason character is playing around with a theme that has been explored endlessly in American fiction—the relationship between the hero and one of society’s outcasts. Robert B. Parker’s detective hero, Spenser, for example, has a violent black sidekick named Hawk. James Lee Burke’s cop-hero, Dave Robicheaux, is pals with a thuggish drunk named Clete Purcel. This theme goes all the way back to Natty Bumpo and his Indian companion Chingachgook in James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking novels. My hero’s sidekick is a different sort of outcast. He’s not a drunk or an ex-con or a member of a racial minority group. He’s a privileged young man with a big trust fund—the sort of person those of us who grew up poor or middle class tend to resent or even despise. Is Mason’s willingness to take direction from Mulligan unusual for a rich kid? I don’t know. I’ve spent a lot more time with firemen, cops, and mobsters than I have with rich kids.

 

 

Saturday

1.     Fran: How did you get your book signings and where?

Bruce: I’ve done book signings at The Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan; Murder By the Book in Houston; Eagle Eye bookstore in Decatur, Ga.; the Providence Public Library; The National Press Club book fair in Washington; The Other Tiger bookstore in Westerly, R.I.; The Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, Az; the Borders bookstore in Providence; and Barnes & Noble bookstores in Howell, N.J. and Middletown, R.I. The first six got in touch and invited me to come. The others were set up by my publicist at Tor.

2. Fran:  Did the press ever interview you? Which ones, and how did you get the interviews?

Bruce: I was interviewed by two television stations, the public radio station, and a drive-time radio talk-show host in Providence as well as by my little hometown newspaper in New Jersey.  I contacted them and set the interviews up myself.

3. Fran: What is your favorite genre to read?

Bruce: I love crime fiction, but not all of it. I prefer well-written noir, hard-boiled detective novels, and police procedurals. I don’t like cozies. I will not read books in which crimes are solved by hair dressers, dentists, old ladies, or cats. I also read a lot of science and history.

4. Fran: Do you have a favorite author? Who and why?

Bruce: There are so many that it’s hard to know where to start. I love Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett and reread their work every couple of years. As lovers of hard-boiled fiction know, they are the ones who started it all. I admire the lyrical crime novels by James Lee Burke, Dennis Lehane, Thomas H. Cook, and Daniel Woodrell; the tight-as-a-drum noir novels by Ken Bruen; the high-on-amphetamines prose of James Ellroy; the remarkable historical crime fiction by Ace Atkins; and the quirky New England novels by Howard Frank Mosher. But my favorite passage in all of literature is the opening passage of Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. What these books have in common is that they are all beautifully written.

5. Fran: What do you think it is about your book or books that keeps the reader turning those pages until they get to the end?

Bruce: My novels are character-driven. I think readers care about the characters and keep reading to find out what will become of them.

6. Fran: What is your website? Who has reviewed your books?

Bruce: My website is http://brucedesilva.com. My blog is http://brucedesilva.wordpress.com.  Rogue Island has been reviewed by The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Associated Press, The Dallas Morning News, the McClatchy newspapers, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Providence Journal, Publishers’ Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Library Journal, Suspense Magazine, and a bunch of websites including Harriet Klausner’s popular Genre Go Round, to name the major ones. All have been raves. For example, The Dallas Morning News said the novel “raises the bar for all books of its kind.” The Washington Post said called the book “as good and true a look at the news game as you’ll find this side of The Front Page.” And Publishers Weekly said Mulligan is “a masterpiece of irreverence and street savvy.”

7.     Fran: Where can we buy your books and when is your next one coming out?

Bruce:  Rogue Island is on sale at most major bookstore chains, many independent bookstores, and most online booksellers including amazon.com.  I don’t have a publication date for Cliff Walk yet, but it should appear about a year from now.

 

8. Fran: What advice would you give new authors?

Bruce: Write every day, even it’s only a few lines. Create memorable characters that readers will care about. Make sure they don’t sound alike when they talk. A veteran investigative reporter, the privileged son of a publisher, a female fire chief, a corrupt arson investigator, and a mobbed-up bookie may all speak English, but they don’t use the language the same way. Find a good agent. It’s almost impossible to find a publisher for an un-agented book. Try to get a hard-cover book deal because soft-cover originals almost never get reviewed.

9. Fran: As a journalist, it must have been easier to get your book published. Tell us about your publishing experiences and how other authors might learn from yours.

Bruce: Agents and publishers like to work with journalists because they are used to writing every day and know how to meet deadlines. The best strategy for getting published is to produce a well-written, original story—but connections also help. My friendship with Otto Penzler, dean of the country’s crime fiction editors, led me to my great agent. And the blurbs I got from 14 A-list crime novelists I’d met a writers conferences over the years helped convince my publisher that my book had legs. Don’t have connections?  Go out and get some. Go to writers’ conferences like Mystery Writers of America, Bouchercon, and Thrillerfest. Introduce yourself to people and say something smart that makes an impression.

10.  Fran:  When you decided to write Rogue Island, did you create a chapter outline, a book outline, or did you just develop and the main character and go from there?

Bruce: I began with a handful of characters and this general idea: Someone was systematically burning down the Providence neighborhood where my main character grew up, people he knew and loved were perishing in the flames, the cops were looking for answers in all the wrong places, and it was up to my main character, an investigative reporter, to find the hand that strikes the match. Then I set my characters in motion to see what would happen. I didn’t outline my second novel, either. I prefer to write myself into the story, discovering the plot as I go along. If I don’t know where the story is going, I end up with a lot of surprises. If I don’t know what’s going to happen next, my readers won’t either.

11. Fran: What else would you like to add to this interview?

Bruce: The most memorable crime stories transport you to interesting places and let you hear, see and smell them. It is difficult to imagine Ken Bruen’s best novels set anywhere but in his native Galway, Ireland, or Daniel Woodrell’s work set anywhere but in the Ozarks. Read James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux novels and you have been to New Iberia, LA, even if you’ve never left your house. As my friend Thomas H. Cook once said, “If you want to understand the importance of place, imagine ‘Heart of Darkness’ without the river.” One of the places I know best is Providence, RI. Unlike big, anonymous cities like New York, where many fine crime novels are set, Providence is so small that it’s claustrophobic. Almost everybody you see on the street knows your name, and it’s almost impossible to keep a secret. Yet it’s big enough to be both cosmopolitan and rife with urban problems. And its history of corruption, which goes all the way back to a colonial governor dining with Captain Kidd, makes it an ideal setting for crime fiction. I made Providence not just the setting but something akin to a major character, in “Rogue Island.”

Fran: Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview with me and share your writing experiences with everyone.

Fran Lewis