mercoledì 22 settembre 2010

Interview with James Reasoner

Hi James. Thanks for accepting my interview and welcome on Liberidiscrivere. Tell us something about you. Who is James Reasoner?
A storyteller. A lifelong Texan. A husband and father. Not necessarily in that order.

Tell us something about your background and your childhood.
I was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up in a small town nearby. It was a very normal childhood. My mother was a schoolteacher, although she didn’t teach after I was born, and my father worked in the aircraft industry and also repaired television sets. I went all the way through school in the same town and attended college with the idea of being either a librarian or teacher . . . although I knew by then that what I really wanted to be was a writer.

When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve been making up stories for my own entertainment. When I was growing up in the 1960s, Westerns were very popular on TV, and when I played with the other kids in the neighbourhood, I usually came up with some sort of story to go with it, instead of the group of us just running around and pretending to shoot each other. I started writing down my stories when I was 11 years old and continued to do so from then on. By the time I was 13 I knew I wanted to be a professional writer, but that seemed impossible. A few years later, though, I started submitting stories to magazines, so at least I was giving it a try.

Did you have much encouragement in those early times and if so by whom?
My parents didn’t actually encourage me, but they didn’t discourage me, either. They just couldn’t grasp the concept of someone actually being a professional writer, especially not someone from a small town in Texas. My friends, who sometimes appeared in my stories, seemed more enthusiastic about it, but I doubt if it ever occurred to them that I might write for a living someday. People where I was from just didn’t do that.

Tell us something about “Texas wind”, your debut now published for the first time in Italy by Meridiano Zero and translated by Marco Vicentini a great fond of american crime. How long did you work on it ? Where do you get your ideas?
I started writing TEXAS WIND in the fall of 1978 and finished it in January 1979. By the time I started working on it I had been a professional writer for almost two years. My first sale was in December 1976, and I had published quite a few mystery stories in MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE. I had been a fan of mystery fiction for many years, starting with juvenile novels, and I was particularly fond of private eye novels. I had done a couple of the Mike Shayne novellas in the magazine under the Brett Halliday name and decided it was time to try a novel of my own. Naturally I decided on a private eye novel and set out to write a realistic book about Texas that wasn’t filled with stereotypes. Also, on a practical level, most private eye novels that I’d read were set in New York or Los Angeles or San Francisco, and I hadn’t been to any of those places. But I’d been around Fort Worth all my life and knew it very well, and I didn’t see any reason that a private eye novel couldn’t be set there. All the locations in the book except for two or three actually exist, or at least they did at the time.

Tell us something about your road to publication. Have you received many refuses?
Like most writers, I received many, many rejection slips, enough that I was seriously considering giving up. But then I got married, and my wife Livia Washburn (who eventually became an award-winning novelist herself) convinced me to stick with it and try harder. I sold my first story a few months later, and while I’ve had plenty of rejections since then, I’ve been able to sell pretty steadily, too.

Your first novel is a private eye novel set in Fort Worth. You start the novel with the Cody’s visit to a potential client. It remind me Marlowe in The Big Sleep or Lew Archer in The moving target. Do you think of any particular writers as having influenced your style, or approach? Crumley in particular?
When I was in high school and college, I read every private eye author I could get my hands on. Hammett, Chandler, and Ross Macdonald, of course, but also Richard S. Prather, Mickey Spillane, Brett Halliday (I was reading Mike Shayne novels long before I ever dreamed that I would write stories about him), Michael Avallone, and plenty of others, I’m sure. One I didn’t read at that time, though, was James Crumley. I didn’t discover his work until after I had started writing. I became friends with Joe R. Lansdale and Joe recommended Crumley’s THE LAST GOOD KISS to me. It remains one of my favourite novels, with one of the best opening lines of all time, and I’ve read several more of his novels, but I don’t think his work really influenced mine to any great extent.

Could you tell us a little about your protagonist, Cody?
Cody (and I’m pretty sure that’s his last name, but to this day I don’t know his first name) is a smart, decent guy, and tough enough when he has to be. He was born and raised in Texas and loves the place, but he doesn’t necessarily like everything it’s come to be. He has a broad range of interests. One of my favourite lines from the novel is when Janice looks at the books in Cody’s apartment and says, “That’s the first time I’ve seen Herman Hesse and Zane Grey on the same shelf.” One thing I don’t recall if I’ve ever mentioned about him is that I came up with the name not because of Buffalo Bill Cody but rather Phil Cody, who was an early editor at BLACK MASK before Joseph T. Shaw became editor.

Forth Worth is not Los Angels or New York. It isn’t a metropolis. It’s a semy rural town of South very pecurial. In wich way the setting influenses the plot?
Fort Worth has an influence on the plot because at the time I was writing the book, it was still a small town in many ways. It was possible to know your way around, know the ins and outs of most of the neighbourhoods, and be acquainted with somebody who lived there, as Cody was. Mostly, though, it’s just a place I knew well and was confident I could write about it with some degree of authenticity.

You describe the sunset of Texas, Cody is a sort of last cowboy with a moral identity and an unwritten code of honour. Is the regret for American Old West an important theme of the book?
When I first thought of the book, the title was going to be THE PASSING OF THE BUFFALO. The very first image in my head was Cody standing in front of the paintings at the Amon Carter Museum and regretting the passing of the Old West, feeling like he was a man out of his proper time. So that sense of melancholy and loss is a huge part of the book. A lot of people have drawn the comparison between the lone cowboy in Western fiction and the lone private eye in mystery fiction, and I feel that connection strongly. The idea that, whether it’s good or bad, nothing stays the same and everything changes is really what TEXAS WIND is about. Although I wouldn’t say it’s deliberate, that theme crops up a lot in my work.

You are so prolific.You have written in several different genres: historical military novels, westerns, mysteries. What genres do you prefer?
For a long time people thought of me primarily as a Western author because I wrote more Westerns than anything else. But I started out to be a mystery writer and had in fact sold more than a million words of mystery fiction before I ever wrote a Western. So mysteries are my first love, but I do enjoy a good Western. Really, I’ve been very lucky in that I can find something to like about every genre in which I’ve worked. I love the variety. The genre doesn’t matter to me as much as having the chance to write a good strong story with lots of action and interesting characters.

Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler?
If I really, absolutely had to choose . . . Hammett. But I love them both.

Could you tell us something about your books? Which one is your favourite?
I can’t narrow it down to one, but I can limit it to three: TEXAS WIND, because it was my first novel and has a lot of raw enthusiasm to it; DUST DEVILS, a crime novel from several years ago because I set out to write a book with a lot of surprises in it and I think I succeeded, plus there’s some nice writing in it, especially the end; and UNDER OUTLAW FLAGS, a historical novel that’s part Western and part World War I novel, because I really like the voice I captured in it and it’s a lot of fun (and because I wrote myself into it as a character, in the book’s framing sequence).

Do you read other contemporary writers?
Yes, a great many of them, and I’d start listing them except I’d forget somebody and I don’t want to do that. My reading is divided about equally between current or at least newer books, and stuff from the pulp and vintage paperback era, the 1920s through the 1970s.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?
Read a lot. I read hundreds, maybe even thousands of the sort of books I wound up writing before I ever sold a word, and I still read more than a hundred books every year and am always learning new things and figuring out new ways to do what I’m trying to do. I sometimes tell people that I’ve been in the business for nearly 35 years, and I’m finally starting to figure out what I’m doing. The other important thing is to sit down and write, then write some more and keep at it. It’s classic advice, but it’s classic because it works.

I'd like to talk about the day to day process of being a writer. Would you describe a typical working day for you?
I start each day by going over what I wrote the day before, editing and polishing it for the most part but occasionally doing more extensive revisions. I work for two or three hours, take a break for lunch, and then write for another four to five hours in the afternoon. Researching and plotting other books is usually done on days off from producing new pages.

Do you prefer in a book the description of place, the description of characters or the dialogue?
Description of both places and characters has always been a problem for me. I have to work at putting in enough of it. I prefer the dialogue and the action. A huge battle always goes fast, or at least it seems to when I’m writing it.

Three Walker, Texas Ranger books, are written by you: Walker, Texas Ranger, Hell's Half Acre and Siege on the Belle. Could you tell us something about the books?
My agent at the time called one day and asked if I had ever seen the TV show. As it happens, we watched it regularly because our kids were fans of it, and I enjoyed it, too. So when my agent asked that question, I said, “I’ve not only seen every episode, I can sing the theme song.” Luckily, he didn’t ask me to. But he said that one of my regular publishers had just licensed the series for tie-in novels and an editor I worked with all the time was going to be editing the books. They thought I’d be perfect for them. I spoke with Aaron Norris, Chuck Norris’s brother, as well as a couple of CBS executives in New York, and they agreed that I should write the books. After that I worked with the executive producer and head writer of the series, developing outlines for the books. I never met or talked to Chuck Norris. They wanted the first one to be a sequel of sorts to one of the TV episodes and sent me the script of the one they had in mind. I came up with the ideas for the other two books. There was some brief discussion about adapting the third one into a two-part TV episode, but nothing ever came of it. I felt like I did a good job on the books. Some of the fans of the TV show agreed and some didn’t, but that’s common for tie-in novels. I really enjoyed writing them and would have been glad to continue, but the series ended with the third book.

What are you reading at the moment?

A collection of pulp Western stories by E. Hoffmann Price called NOMAD’S TRAIL. These stories originally appeared in the pulp Spicy Western in the 1930s. The book hasn’t been published yet. I’m going to be writing the introduction for it as soon as I finish reading the stories.

Finally, the inevitable question: what are you working on now?
A Western novel in an ongoing series that will be published under a pseudonym I can’t reveal. But I can tell you that it’s a good yarn, with plenty of action and colourful characters.

venerdì 12 febbraio 2010

:: Interview with Nick Quantrill

Hi Nick and welcome on Liberidiscrivere! Tell us a little about yourself and the beginning of your interest in writing

Hello and thanks for inviting me! I’m a crime writer from Hull, an isolated city on the north east coast of England and I’m just about to have my first Joe Geraghty novel, ‘Broken Dreams’ published. I’ve been writing seriously for about four years now, once I’d finished the degree I was studying for and hung my football boots up. My interest in being a writer definitely comes from loving reading. I was always reading as a child, and apart from a break as a teenager when other things suddenly seemed more interesting, I’ve always been fascinated with books.

What was your first written work? Tell us about your road to publication.

I was extremely fortunate that the first short story I wrote, ‘Punishment’, won the HarperCollins 2006 Crime Tour competition. The prize was to see my story printed in ‘Crime Time’ magazine, which was a huge confidence booster. From there, I wrote more short stories, trying to stretch myself each time before writing a police procedural novel. Although it wasn’t a huge success, it taught me how to actually approach writing a novel. I then wrote ‘Broken Dreams’ and Caffeine Nights Publishing liked it enough to take a chance on me.

Who are your favourite living writers?

I read a lot of crime fiction, so I have plenty of favourites. Top of my list is George Pelecanos, who has matured into a fine writer over the years. I’m a big fan of Graham Hurley, who writes English police procedurals - I’m amazed he isn’t wider known and read. I love Ray Banks, too. His Cal Innes series is magnificent. The list is endless...Elmore Leonard, Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, James Ellroy, Don Winslow, Martyn Waites...Although I don’t read too much fiction outside of the crime genre, I always look forward to new books from Roddy Doyle, Irvine Welsh and Nick Hornby.

What advice would you give to young writers in search of a publisher?

Work hard at being lucky. Although I was offered a contract with Caffeine Nights within a about a month of finishing it, I’d spent the previous couple of years networking with numerous publishers and professionals, just trying to figure out who I’d ideally like to work with and who would be a good fit for my writing. I would also suggest submitting short stories to websites like and, so you’re a building a writing profile and letting people know you’re serious about your writing. It’s also a great way to get feedback, too.

How about e-publishing? Where do you see that heading?

If I could answer that question, I’d be a rich man! Books aren’t going to die any time soon, but I’m sure like the way we listen to music, it’s going to evolve. Books are like any other form of entertainment – you’ve got to make them available in whatever form the consumer wants. If an increasing number of people want to read on their Kindles and phones etc, the industry has to adapt. I can see there are advantages and times you’d want to use new technology for reading. That said, it took me forever to get a mobile phone and mp3 player, so I’ll be ten years behind the times, anyway!

What are typical qualities of a good writer?

I think what I’ve learnt is that you need plenty of stamina. Only the lucky few make a living from writing, so the rest of us have to come home from a day at work and motivate ourselves to start again. Sometimes it’s hard and I’d much rather rest or do something else, but I hate nothing more than people saying they’re bored or they can’t be bothered. If you’re a writer, you’ve got to be a self-starter. I think you’ve also got to develop a kind of self-belief in what you’re doing and understand what you’re aiming for. I suspect, like many writers, I have far more bad days than good, so that kind of determination and thick-skin is important. More than anything, it’s the ability to keep going.

Can you tell us a little about the publisher who published your book?

Caffeine Nights ( are a relatively new publisher, based just outside of London and their aim is to produce ‘fiction aimed at the heart and the head.’ Until recently, the company was a vehicle for the owner, Darren Laws, to publish his own books. Last year, Darren expanded and started to take on some new writers, as I think his real interest lies in the business side of the industry. Seeing as we’d been in touch for a couple of years, we knew each other relatively well, so although I had interest from elsewhere in my book, it was an easy decision to make. As well as publishing in paperback, Caffeine Nights are very clued up on the new technology and the opportunities they bring, so they’re well placed to succeed in a difficult marketplace.

What role does the Internet play in writing, researching, and marketing your books?

The Internet has been a massive help to me in many ways. In respect of marketing, it’s certainly helped me to reach readers in places I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. I never expected to be talking to an Italian website, but it’s fantastic for me to be sharing the space with great writers like Tess Gerritsen and Allan Guthrie. The Internet’s a great leveller in that respect, so I make sure I take advantage of it by offering plenty of free short stories and content on my website ( The Internet is also great for time-poor writers like myself when it comes to research. It’s certainly helped point me in the right direction. It’s a powerful tool to have, but most of the research I did for ‘Broken Dreams’ was done by reading local books and talking to people, so it’s only one of many options.

What changes have you noticed in the world of fiction in the time you've been writing?

I probably don’t see things in terms of ‘changing’, as I’m still very much a novice when it comes to the business of publishing. Here in the UK, it seems to be ever harder for new writers to be find publishers and agents. As the recession continues to bite, it’s well documented that the major publishing houses are struggling, and the result seems to be that they’re taking the easy option of selling celebrity books. There’s no real imagination or passion in it. Certainly one change I have noticed as a reader is that independent bookshops in the UK are disappearing fast and even major chains are failing. More and more books are being sold by supermarkets, but they only carry a narrow range. It’s not a healthy situation for readers or writers.

Do you ever use any of your personal fears or experiences in your stories?

Only in the very broadest sense. My day job brings me into contact with a lot of different people, so I sometimes inadvertently pick up something interesting, maybe just a phrase or an attitude, but might spark off an interesting possibility. I imagine this one of the biggest dilemmas for professional writers. On one hand, having the time purely to write would be a dream, but on the other, not been part of the real world means you’re losing out on a lot of contact and interaction. It’s a tricky to get the balance right. My fears are probably the same as everyone else. Now I’m in my mid-thirties I’m starting to experience loss and grief in ways that didn’t touch me when I was younger, so that’s maybe something that comes across with more authority.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading the first Tony Black novel, ‘Paying For It.’ Tony’s yet another of these great Scottish writers who keep appearing. The lead character, Gus Drury, is a washed-up, alcoholic journalist-turned-reluctant PI, but the book stays nicely away from cliché. Friends tell me the follow-up, ‘Gutted’, is even better. Tony runs the excellent, so you know what you’re getting from him.

Any movie plans for the books?

There are no plans whatsoever in that sense. It’s certainly not something I let myself think about with any degree of seriousness. ‘Broken Dreams’ is my first published novel, so I’m focused on doing everything I can to establish myself a writer. Anything on top of that would be a bonus. Obviously, my door is always open to television and movie executives...

Do you write non-fiction?

My time is pretty much taken up with fiction, but I do occasionally write non-fiction. It’s nice to be able to finish something quickly, as opposed to working for months and months on a novel without the ending in sight. I sometimes contribute articles to an independent fanzine for my football team, Hull City, which is sold around the stadium on match-days. I also occasionally write for, a local website. It might be a CD, book or gig review – whatever takes my fancy, really.

What do you think of modern crime writing?

I think it’s in great shape from top to bottom at the moment. Crime writing is a great way of taking a microscope to society and picking at the seams of things. If you’ve got something interesting to say, or you can make someone stop for a moment to think from a different perspective, yet wrap it up in an entertaining story, you’ve cracked it. I don’t think there’s a better way of doing that than the crime story. Aside from the top dogs, modern crime writing seems to be thriving lower down the chain, too. If you look around the Internet, there’s a wealth of great writing talent, there are plenty of great websites hosting work and the indie presses are finding an audience. I think the future is bright.

In your novels do you prefer use the first person or the third person?

I’ve written in both, so I appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of both methods. I actually starting writing ‘Broken Dreams’ in the third person before realising there was a good reason most PI novels are written in the first person! I think I was trying to be too clever. Once I spent a bit of time getting comfortable in Joe’s skin, writing in the first person felt natural and right. I can see Joe sticking around for awhile, so I’ll probably lean towards the first person for the time being.

Can you tell us a little about your latest book?

Here’s the blurb for ‘Broken Dreams’:

Invited by a local businessman to investigate a member of his staff’s absenteeism, it’s the kind of surveillance work that Geraghty and his small team have performed countless times. When Jennifer Murdoch is found bleeding to death in her bed, Geraghty quickly finds himself trapped in the middle of a police investigation which stretches back to the days when the city had a thriving fishing industry. As the woman’s tangled private life begins to unravel, the trail leads Geraghty to local gangster-turned-respectable businessman, Frank Salford, a man with a significant stake in the city’s regeneration plans. Still haunted by the death of his wife in a house fire, it seems the people with the answers Geraghty wants are the police and Salford, both of whom want his co-operation for their own ends. With everything at stake, some would go to any length to get what they want, Geraghty included.

It’s also the story of a forgotten city’s past, present and future. Hull generally suffers from a bad reputation, so this was my deliberate attempt to get behind the headlines and try to offer some thoughts on why it might be.

What projects are you working on now?

I’m well on with the next Joe Geraghty novel, which has the working title of ‘The Late Greats.’ Joe’s asked to act to as a buffer between the press and a reformed Britpop band from Hull, who split up acrimoniously over ten years ago. The job soon changes when the singer disappears, feared dead. The story takes Joe deeper into the city and he soon finds himself having to choose carefully which side he’s on. Above all, it’s a story about friendship and loyalty. Hopefully, it’ll be in a decent shape by the summer. After that I’ve got a couple of ideas to work on. We’ll see what happens.