Conversation with the author
How did you get started writing?
"Steve" in the fourth grade wrote a short story that the teacher read to the class. I thought it was terrific, amazing. At that point, I wanted to write too. Steve and I became good friends. In the fifth and sixth grades we "nerds" walked the playground during recess, talking about writing, trying to come up with other ways to say "said." During that time I wrote a "novel" by hand (of course) 87 pages long. Ever the critic, I realized it was awful and burned it. Now I wish I hadn't. Too late. (I no longer burn my novels; I rewrite them until I believe in them,)
You write in many genres --- thrillers, mysteries, fantasy, western, US Navy. What's that all about?
I bore easily. Seriously, I do. I have so many interests (math, science, fun, mystery, adventure, bad guys, good guys, love stories) that one genre doesn't give me enough "room" to write. I probably got that by reading many different kinds of novels as a young adult (voraciously), and all the different careers I've had have had a big impact. One "career," the Navy, gave me Olongapo Liberty. Olongapo was a liberty port in the Philippines during the Vietnam War. The place was so exotic, wild, and dangerous that I had to write about what I saw and experienced there. Call that one a "true" novel (see the reviews on Amazon). I am also an electronic technician (U.S. Navy), a mechanical engineer, a high school math teacher, and a writer (including a screenwriter). Many of my thrillers involve a bit of math and science. Try Sunspot or Richter Ten if you want science, math, and adventure, with love stores in them. My novel, Maxwell's Demon uses a concept by the same name (see Maxwell's Demon in Wikipedia) as a basis for a rip-roaring thriller in which a 13-year-old boy is said, by the FBI, to be "the biggest threat to national security the country has ever known."
But . . . fantasy? How does that fit in?
Nicholas Phree and the Emerald of Bool is the funniest book I've ever written. How could I pass on that? I call it a "children's novel written for adults." Kids starting about age nine or ten will get the adventure, but only adults will get the "adult" humor, such as a twenty-dollar bill being turned into a thirty-six-dollar bill due to inflation, with Bill Clinton's face on it. A Bill on a bill. And the flying carpet, Jules, has a top speed of just over Mach 1.6, so he's no slouch (he's one of the main characters in the novel). Adult humor: He was scorched during the Battle of Hastings in the year 1066 when he was "young and impressionable"; his dreams of that battle are so vivid that he wakes up smoldering and needs to be doused with water. Oh, and the genie has narcolepsy. Even the trolls are funny (and stupid). Adult humor? You decide.
You've written more thrillers than in other genres.
I'm basically a thriller writer. My fantasy, "The Emerald of Bool," is a thriller for young adults with references that in fact make it a novel adults will enjoy more than kids, particularly adults who haven't lost that core of "child" in them. The Tenderfoot is a western "thriller." Maxwell's Demon is a huge thriller---science, math, submarines, CIA, FBI, Russian commandos, a huge manhunt as "clandestine services" try to track down and capture a 13-year-old boy. Richter Ten and Sunspot are "science thrillers," both containing love stories. I don't write love stories, but many of my novels have love stories embedded in them. I'm a romantic at heart. It's likely I got that from reading the "Mars books" by Edgar Rice Burroughs---the ongoing love story between John Carter and Dejah Thoris was terrific (and of course frustrating). The love stories in my novels are fun and not nearly as frustrating, but ERB started writing the Mars books in 1911, years before Pluto was discovered, so I'll give him a pass. Novels tended to be much more "tame" back then.
You've signed a contract with Oceanview Publishing. Care to comment on that?
Yes. It didn't take the folks at Oceanview long to recognize the potential of my novel, GUMSHOE. It was published in November of 2015. Gumshoe is a "Mort Angel" mystery. It's "humor with a bite." Mort is funny, self-deprecating, serious, complex---a former IRS-agent turned "gumshoe," and, as he says (thinking Mike Hammer), "Girls are going to flock to me like pigeons to a statue." He has no idea what he's doing, but he's learning, doing the best he can. Along the way, girls do flock to him, much to his surprise, and he finds himself involved in some very nasty cases. GUMSHOE was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best Private Eye Novel (in 2015) by the Private Eye Writers of America, and it made the USA Today bestseller list. My thanks to Pat and Bob Gussin and the rest of the team at Oceanview for seeing what others could not. The second novel in the series is GUMSHOE FOR TWO, published on April 5, 2017 and a finalist in the 2017 "Best Book Awards" in the "Mystery/Suspense" category. The third novel in the series is GUMSHOE ON THE LOOSE, and the fourth novel is GUMSHOE ROCK, a finalist for the 2019 Foreword Book of the Year Award in the Mystery category. I'm currently working on the fifth novel in the series, GUMSHOE IN THE DARK.
I have to ask about your novel January Cold Kill. Are you really Gabrielle Johns?
Yes, I am. In fact, I am every one of my characters, although when I look in the mirror I don't see a 29-year-old gorgeous woman, and I consider that to be a good thing, as does my wife. I wrote January Cold Kill as a challenge, putting myself in the mind (and body?) of a beautiful woman, divorced, who was, years ago, a showgirl who danced topless with a hundred other girls in big "Hollywood-style" productions in one of Reno's biggest casinos. Now "Gabbi" makes a living as a backroom poker player, but she trained as a PI with her ex-father-in-law after the divorce, and old friends and family members still come to her, needing the kind of help only a private investigator can give. Gabbi is sexy, funny, and serious---just what I would be if I were a gorgeous female 29 years old with the ability to bluff at poker and pick locks. All I am in real life is funny; I reserve serious for April 15th paperwork and trips to the DMV. Oh, and I'm up for jury duty this year, if they call. That'll be serious too, unless, of course, it's two old guys fighting over a ham sandwich in which case they're both guilty.
Tell me about Killing Suki Flood.
A thriller. "Suki" was published in hardcover by St. Martin's Press. It was then optioned by Warner Bros. for a movie. That fell through, then Suki was optioned by a "third party" in Southern California. That option ran out, so Suki (obvious a girl with legs) was optioned by Davis Films, and is still under option by them. A movie might be made some day. Killing Suki Flood has been published in England, France, and the Netherlands. Suki Flood is a beautiful 18-year-old girl being hunted down by a seriously evil bad guy. She finds an unlikely protector in Frank Limosin, age 54, a former truck driver who is on the run from the police. This is a story that really takes off and goes.
A fifth Gumshoe novel, GUMSHOE IN THE DARK. The Mort Angel "saga" continues, as deadly and bawdy as ever!
Where do you get your ideas?
Like most authors, most of my ideas fly at me out of the ozone and I snag them as they come by. It probably has something to do with the huge amount of reading I did as a child. Might be a form of magic, like card tricks.
Can we continue this discussion later?
Of course. Looking forward to it.