Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Today's Mystery Author Guest: Larry Seeley
As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Larry Seeley is visiting my blog today. To read his bio and see his photo, please page down to yesterday's post.
Above is the cover photo for his most recent release, 17 Degrees North, the second book in his Jack Sloan mystery suspense series. Seventeen degrees, three minutes North is the latitude of the border that separates Juarez, Mexico from El Paso, Texas—for all practical purposes, one city with two souls. Jack Sloan follows a trail between Juarez and Santa Fe with stops in El Paso and Phoenix. The trail begins and ends in the barrancos of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains north of Santa Fe with Jack’s discovery of a satchel full of cash. Jack tells his wife Darlene about his find, and they’re both sucked into the most dangerous mystery of their lives.
The money is tied to the kidnapping/murder of Robert Pendleton, a prominent New York hedge fund manager. The hostage is taken in Juarez, released and killed in New Mexico, and the Mexican AFI and U.S. FBI work together to solve the case. High-profile publicity is not something either government wants. Carlos Santiago, the AFI agent assigned to the case, and Frank Hunter, his FBI counterpart, know that something doesn’t fit, but they need Jack’s help to find out what. Love, greed, and betrayal drive the characters and their stories. It comes to a surprising end in the same place it started—the hauntingly beautiful barrancos of the high desert.
Sounds exciting, doesn't it?
Below are Larry's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment for him, and if you have a question of your own for her, ask it!
1. Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?
I started reading Hemingway and Louie L’Amour when I was very young. I recall reading newspapers at age six—headlines about the war (WWII). I began working at a young age and used spare money to buy books. I read a Bruce Catton history, This Hallowed Ground, at age sixteen and wrote a lengthy book report that my teacher fell in love with. After that I wanted to be a writer but didn’t start seriously until I lost my day job in 2004 at age 65.
2. What tools and process do you use to “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I often write a short bio of the main characters and a line or two about supporting cast. I use real people I have known to fill in the details—and I’ve known some genuine ‘characters’. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve spent a lot of time around gamblers and their crowd. You see every facet of human nature in people who walk the edge to earn a living. Same with the Army. I still recall the oddballs I met there and sometimes use their traits in my characters.
A guy I knew in Vegas went there with two million dollars in twenties stuffed in the trunk of his Caddie. Three years later, he was broke. He got a security job on the casino floor. A year later he had a heart attack wading through the slot players, then took up hard drugs. He couldn’t live without a rush and he couldn’t afford to play cards, so he figured the next best thing was speedballs. He’s now dead.
3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I do a broad stroke for the main theme. What I figured out early on was that readers need to see a beginning and a desired end to a story, otherwise, they lose interest. A target goal that runs through the entire novel, augmented by support narratives and dialogue.
4. In the age-old question of character versus plot, which one do you think is most important in a murder mystery and which one do you emphasize in your writing? Why?
Characters are the most important part of any story. If readers can’t identify with one of them, they won’t be interested in your plot, no matter how clever.
5. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
Biggest challenge is the same we all face—getting someone else interested in what you are doing. It takes ego to write and greater ego to think it’s publishable. Writing comes to me without much angst. I can sit down and produce a decent story without exerting myself. What inspires me is seeing my work in print (or electronic format these days) and knowing that someone else is enjoying it.
Writing is easy; marketing is hard. I’m not interested in book store signings unless the establishment is willing to place a substantial order. Then I’ll support them. I have a great on-line marketer these days, and I’m learning a lot about what it takes to sell a book in an incredibly competitive arena. Blogs like yours are a great venue, and I appreciate a chance to say what I think.
6. What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
I stay up and sleep late. Coffee at 11:00 am, into the office, check emails and marketing programs, then commence writing about noon. I work until 4:00 pm, then feed the animals. With eight cats, four dogs, and lots of chickens, that’s no small task. Oh, and I take a break about 2:00 pm to walk my dogs to the river for some exercise (theirs and mine). Later on I swim, fix dinner (the unspoken arrangement between my wife and me), watch some recorded shows like Game of Thrones, Mad Men, etc., then go back to the office about 10:00 and write for a couple of hours. My target is five pages per day, either new or rewrites. Time is irrelevant.
7. What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t stop rewriting until you have what you consider a perfect page. Writing is ten percent creating and ninety percent rewriting.
8. Now here’s a zinger. Tell us something about yourself that you have not revealed in another interview yet. Something as simple as your favorite TV show or food will do.
When I was ten, my older cousin constantly beat me up. He was a pretty big guy who played the accordion—not an instrument that endears you to other children. One day he was torturing me, and I ran into my house when no one was home. I latched the screen door. There was a hole in the screen, and he kept taunting me and sticking his finger through the hole. My dad had left a pair of hedge scissors on a bench, so I picked them up and waited. He pushed his index finger into the opening again, and I clipped off the end. He didn’t play accordion again.
9. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I've almost finished writing the third novel in the Jack Sloan series, Bridge of the Americas. The fourth novel in the series will be titled The Placebo Effect. I plan on producing two books a year until I croak.
10. Is there anything else you would like to tell my blog readers?
Best place to look me up is at my website. There are many links associated with the site. I’m also on Facebook. I look forward to speaking to book clubs or any group interested in my work.
Thanks, Larry! Now, who has a comment or question for him?