This is my part of a blog tour that’s been thrown my way. Unfortunately, I came to it kinda late in the game and pretty much everybody I know has already committed to doing this with someone else. The ritual here calls for me to find three other people to pass this on to—the idea being to drive our audience to others’ blogs—and put links to their sites at the bottom. I was only able to get my daughter, YA author Jesi Marie, to go into this with me.
You do what you can.
Anyway, it was humorist/satirist Russell Gayer who asked me to take part in this with him, so if you’re seeing this without benefit of knowing about the blog tour, hope on over and visit his site. And when you’re through reading my post, click on the link at the bottom to visit my daughter’s blog.
Let us begin.
What am I working on?
The first novel in my Rural Empires series entitled A Temporary Thing. It’s the one that tells the story of how my protagonist, Lyle Villines, came to be a meth cook. I’m sure readers will drum up similarities between what I’m doing and the show Breaking Bad, but I honestly started all this before I ever watched an episode or was really even aware of the show. I’d heard the title and knew it was about a high school chemistry teacher who starts cooking meth, but that was all I knew. Wasn’t even interested at the time.
Lyle gets involved for a reason similar to Walter White’s: his daughter gets acute lymphoblastic leukemia. But that’s where the similarity ends. Lyle takes an under the table delivery job to help pay medical bills, unaware he’s actually delivering drugs. He’s been told the product varies. But then he’s hijacked and threatened, and his boss has to take him off the road. The boss tells Lyle he owes the money lost on the load and he’ll pay it back by taking on a new job. That’s when Lyle is taught how to cook meth, though it ends up being very much against his will.
Beyond that, I have several ideas percolating on the back burner, and I have a couple others written that need some work to fit into the Rural Empires series. I’ve pretty much got my work cut out for me for the next several years.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Hmm. That’s a tough question.
I guess it’s because I try to throw a lot of humor in the mix, for one. I’m talking about humor of the everyday variety here. I’m not trying to be Carl Hiassen or Ben Rehder. The humor comes out of the situations my characters find themselves in and my observation that, when we’re stressed, we often find a way to laugh about it to relieve the tension. A lot of black comedy comes about because of this, and it makes us wonder about ourselves at times, but it’s how we are.
The other thing I think makes mine different is I write about the guys who are low on the totem pole of the criminal world. I don’t write cops in as main characters—though I do use one as a viewpoint character in Spree—and I don’t write about Don Corleone or anyone of his lofty station. All my characters are the guys who work for these people, and are rarely known to them. The higher-ups only figure in as walk-in roles, showing up to give orders or mete out punishment, if they show up at all.
And my Rural Empires series is set in the South, chiefly Northwest Arkansas, not a place you’d normally associate with high-end crime, but I’m sure it goes on. It certainly does in my books.
Why do I write what I do?
Because the criminal world has always fascinated me. Why do these folks do what they do? What motivates them? They know their lives will likely be short and violent, so why not do like the rest of us and get a normal job?
I tried for years to write science fiction and fantasy and, as much as I still love those genres from a reading standpoint, I can’t write them. I lose patience with all the world building that’s required because I can’t seem to come up with something new and original, at least not in my opinion. I did manage to finish a couple of fantasies back in the nineties, but they’d take considerable reworking for me to let them see the light of day. And it’s something I’m considering, since the main character is a bounty hunter. Crime fantasy, anyone? We’ll have to see.
How does your writing process work?
I’m a pantser. By that, I mean I write seat of the pants. I get an idea and mull it over. If it sticks with me, I’ll eventually write it. If it burns in my brain, I’ll write it soon as possible.
But I don’t outline. I tried that one time with a space opera. Used the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing idea and adapted it to my own method. Me and a friend brainstormed over the course of several weekends, putting everything in order and writing down two- and three-sentence synopses of the individual scenes. You know, sorta like an elevator pitch, except we did it scene by scene.
I suspect two problems caused that project to die out. The first is that it wasn’t all mine. Several of the ideas came from my friend, enough so that I would have felt better calling it a co-authored work. But the other was that I knew how it ended. In detail.
When I work, I have a general idea of where I’m going, but I don’t dictate ahead of time how I’m going to get there. And I might not arrive at the end-point in quite the way I originally envisioned. I keep a file of notes for each novel, jotting them down in a notebook and then transferring them to computer, but a lot of those ideas end up falling by the wayside. The main point of them is to get the creative process working.
I have to write a novel as if I’m reading it, and I like that because I often end up getting surprised along the way. If I get surprised, it’s hoped that means the reader will too. It keeps me interested in the book and lets me finish it, rather than losing interest because it’s all mapped out and done already.
As for that eternal question all writers get asked—where do you get your ideas?— I’m a crime fiction writer. I get my ideas by paying attention to the news, for the most part. Or learning about real-life criminals. Spree is, in essence, a modern day Bonnie and Clyde. I write a novel to answer a question. In this case it was: could a couple of people get away with a thirties-style crime spree today? I wrote the novel to see if they could pull it off.
So that’s it. Next Monday, go visit my daughter’s blog where she’ll answer the same questions.
Jesi Marie has never licked a spark plug, and never sniffed a stink bug. And she’s never painted daisies on a big red rubber ball. And while she’s never bathed in yogurt and doesn’t look good in leggings (no matter how much she likes them), she has been to Boston in the fall. Not that any of this matters. What does matter is that she writes. Or she tries to. Sometimes she just feels like a pirate who doesn’t do anything. But, when she is doing things that aren’t in the sewing, schooling, cross stitching, doodling, or light gaming, she’s busy writing (mostly YA), reading (mostly YA), and editing whatever she can get her hands on. So she may never have thrown her mashed potatoes up against the wall, she probably has or will have a character do just that.
You can visit her blog over at http://jesimarie.wordpress.com/