Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Tom Schreck

As promised yesterday, fellow mystery/thriller author Tom Schreck is visiting my blog today. To read his bio and see his photo, please page down to yesterday's post.

The first photo above is the cover for Tom's recent May release, The Vegas Knockout, which is part of a series. Duffy Dombrowski just accepted a dream job: chief sparring partner for Russian heavyweight contender Boris Rusakov in Vegas. His obstinate basset hound, Al, and a few friends join Duffy for the ride—but before Duffy knows it, his trip turns into a nightmare. Someone’s killing local Mexican workers, friends and relatives of Duffy’s gym buddies. And to make matters worse, Duffy’s got Boris’s Russian mobster pals chasing him with murder on their minds. Quirky characters, rapid-fire dialogue, and nonstop action propel The Vegas Knockout into the sphere of gritty thrillers that hit with astonishing power.

The second photo above is the cover for Tom's upcoming July release, Getting Dunn. When TJ Dunn enlisted in the US Army, she knew the risks. And not just the combat risks—six years earlier her father, an army veteran, killed himself. But TJ is tough, determined to carry her own weight as a soldier, and she subsequently earns a spot as an MP. Everything changes when her team is ambushed during a mission in Iraq. As the only survivor, TJ is left both physically and psychologically traumatized. Yet even as she struggles to come to terms with the loss of her friends, she receives another devastating blow: her fiancĂ©, stationed in Afghanistan, has taken his own life.

Discharged from the army and back home in the States, TJ drifts from one dead-end job to another, unable to reconcile the senseless losses of the people she loved. Just when she thinks she’s reached her limit, an anonymous phone call shocks her back to life. The caller alleges that a top military official is executing soldiers and masking their deaths as suicides, all for the sake of covering up an elaborate heroin-trafficking operation. Determined to avenge her fellow soldiers, TJ vows to bring the traitor to justice, no matter the cost. Getting Dunn is a tension-filled military thriller, a captivating novel that takes a hard look at the horrors of war and the burdens borne by returning soldiers.

Betcha' can't read just one!

Below are Tom's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment for him, and if you have a question of your own for him, ask it!

1. Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?

 I have always respected writers.  My first love was POV essays from writers like Bob Greene, Art Buchwald and Tony Kornheiser. Then I picked up a John D. MacDonald Travis McGee book because it was thin and I thought I could finish it. I fell in love and wanted to be Travis. Then, when I read the 22 book series I found Spenser and did the same thing.

I kept writing for magazines but I never wanted to be the bore at the cocktail party talking about his unfinished novel. I liked the idea of being a working writer who wrote an assignment and got a check. After seven years of being on the newsstand every month (uninterrupted!) I felt I deserved to try to write a mystery. That was in 2005.

2. What tools and process do you use to “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?


My head.

My dreams.

My characters are the people I know and me, twisted, distorted, amplified and reduced. I have a masters degree in psychology and spent 15 years as a therapist and that helps. I’m also a bit neurotic and I think about thinking way too much. I spend a lot of time in other people’s heads whether I’m writing or not.

3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?

I’m an in-betweener. I heard Chris Grabenstein once talk about it and how four times a book or so your plot has to turn sharply. I’ve also read that every scene a character’s position has to change, like from happy to sad, sad to happy, excited to bored, bored to excited etc. So I try to make every scene count.

I have an idea where I’m going and then I backtrack to make sure I set things up correctly but I don’t produce more than two pages of notes when it comes to setting out and starting. I like how plots surprise you and come out by themselves—that’s when this crap gets really fun!

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?

I love reading about people. When people get thrown into adversity I love seeing what it does to them. To me, you have to care about the character first. Of course you have to then do something interesting with him or her to bring the nuances of their character out.

5. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

The biggest challenge is dealing with the business of writing. Marketing, sales, agents, no agents, self-pubbing…I just want to write and connect with readers. The other stuff I can’t make much sense of for long.

And if you let it, it will break your heart. Then someone will write to you out of the blue and tell you how they enjoyed what you had written and it will make every second of it worthwhile.

6. What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?

I get up early and write before my day job. I also teach school at night, still freelance magazine stuff and travel around as a pro boxing judge. My best asset is my ADHD-like tendencies and that I prefer to write in short bursts.

I’m also good at doing a little consistently every day without missing a day. That’s really what it takes. 

7. What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

Hmm…do it for fun but be business-like and learn how books get bought and sold, what the market will tolerate and what it won’t and treat it like a gig if you want to get published.

And if you just want to have fun—ignore the business side of it and write for the heck of it. Self-pub, do ebooks or give your stuff to friends. There’s no rule that says you have to do any of the business torture bullshit.

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.

I’m often besieged with anxiety and self doubt about writing, inadequacy in all life areas and people not liking me.

9. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

I’m working on my fifth in the Duffy series and folding in the lead character of my forthcoming thriller Getting Dunn into the Duffy series.

10. Is there anything else you would like to tell my blog readers?

I’m giving away a Kindle Fire at my Facebook page. Go there and click on “Duffy Extras.” Also, please stop by my blog to learn more about me and my books.

Thanks, Tom! Now, who has a comment or question for him? 


Mario Acevedo said...

I've missed you. Glad that you're still writing a lot. Makes me feel like a slacker.

Tom said...

LOL--Bouchercon this year?

Beth Groundwater said...

Bouchercon definitely! Meet you at the bar, Mario and Tom! :)

Patricia Stoltey said...

Excellent interview, Beth. Thanks for hosting Tom.