Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Today's Mystery Author Guest: John Gaspard
As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author John Gaspard is visiting my blog today, with answers to my interview questions. To read John's bio and see his photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, John is running a contest for a free autographed copy of The Ambitious Card, the cover art for which appears above. John will select the winner tomorrow evening from among those who leave a comment today or tomorrow and will announce the name in a comment on this post.
In the book, the life of a magician isn’t all kiddie shows and card tricks. Sometimes it’s murder. Especially when magician Eli Marks very publicly debunks a famed psychic, and said psychic ends up dead. The evidence, including a bloody King of Diamonds playing card (one from Eli’s own Ambitious Card routine), directs the police right to Eli.
As more psychics are slain, and more King cards rise to the top, Eli can’t escape suspicion. Things get really complicated when romance blooms with a beautiful psychic, and Eli discovers she’s the next target for murder, and he’s scheduled to die with her. Now Eli must use every trick he knows to keep them both alive and reveal the true killer.
Sounds like a very intriguing read to me! Below are John's answers to my interview questions.
1. Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?
I started writing film scripts as a kid in junior and senior high; I liked shooting movies and I needed something to shoot. So I wrote scripts. This continued for years, as the scripts got longer and more complex.
The author of one the great filmmaking books, Breaking Through, Selling Out, Dropping Dead (and Other Notes on Filmmaking), William Bayer, wrote about how he turned to novel writing as he got older, as an adjunct to scriptwriting. So that always seemed like an option in the back of my mind.
2. What tools and process do you use to “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I’m not a magician. However my main character is a magician, as are several minor characters. So I spent a couple years learning everything I could about the life of a magician. That meant reading books and biographies, going to magic conventions, hanging out with magicians … even taking lessons from a magician in order to learn how to perform the ambitious card routine.
This process continues throughout and even after the book is written. I’m still learning new things, which leads to ideas for the next book in the series, The Bullet Catch.
3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I always know the ending and all the key elements that need to happen along the way. However, when it comes to specifics, I generally only know what’s happening in the chapter I’m writing and have a general idea of what will happen in the next chapter. I keep it very loose, so I can adapt to ideas that pop up while writing.
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?
Well, it has to be a good mystery, or else the reader is going to feel cheated. However, it’s the characters that bring the mystery to life and make you want to keep reading. So I start with what I think will be a good mystery and then find ways to get my main character involved in the mystery as deeply as possible.
5. What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
Surprisingly little time is spent actually writing. Most of the time is spent thinking about the writing – what specifically will happen next, how can I add a twist, what humorous elements can I come up with? I let all that roll around in my head, take notes when ideas occur to me, and then find a few spare hours to actually sit down and write it.
6. What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Write a book that you’d like to read. Don’t try to write a best seller – write what you find interesting. If you’re passionate about it, that will come through in the writing and people will respond to that.
Oh, and don’t take all the rejections personally. That will make you crazy.
7. 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.
I’m a big fan of the movie Harold and Maude. I’ve seen it countless times; that’s true. I have lost count. At least a hundred times. Anyway, when I was in high school, the movie played for over two years at the same theater here in Minneapolis. For the two-year anniversary, the film’s stars – Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort – came to town. I was able to have dinner with Bud Cort … and the next day, received a kiss on the cheek by Ruth Gordon.
8. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I’m working on the next book in the Eli Marks series (The Bullet Catch) and making notes for the one that comes after that.
9. Is there anything else you would like to tell my blog readers?
Please check out my film blog, where I interview filmmakers. Also, take a look at my publisher's website page about The Ambitious Card.
Thanks, John! Now, who has a comment or question for John Gaspard? Good luck in the contest!