Chatting with the Pros: Interview with bestselling mystery author Gilly Macmillon

chatting with the pros

My “Chatting with the Pros” author guest this month is a New York Times bestselling mystery author with books translated in over twenty languages. Her success as a writer may have come as a surprise, but I’ll let her tell you about that. She currently has five published mystery/suspense novels, and is working on the sixth, I believe. Let’s see what she has to say on the writing of mysteries. Please help me welcome UK author Gilly Macmillan.

 

© Céline Nieszawer/Leextra

© Céline Nieszawer/Leextra


Kaye: Can you tell me about your author’s journey? How did you get to where you are today?

Gilly: I started to write when I was over 40 and I challenged myself to do 1000 words a day until I had finished an entire book. I faithfully recorded my word count each day until it was done. I polished the first three chapters and send them to a few agents. Two rejections followed swiftly, one agent didn’t reply but the fourth one I sent it to was interested enough to offer me representation. She and I worked on the book together for a year before she submitted it to publishers, and we were lucky enough to sell it very rapidly and in over 20 territories! The rest has followed from there. I write a book a year and try to keep things fresh, compelling and thrilling for myself and my readers.

Kaye: When did you know that you wanted to be an author?

Gilly: For many years I didn’t have a burning desire to write, I think because I was busy doing other things and life got in the way, but once my youngest son started school full time I wanted to see if I could challenge myself to write a novel. The idea sort of came out of the blue but perhaps it wasn’t that surprising because at that point I had been an obsessive reader for 35 years. I had a small window of opportunity before having to get a proper job, so I took it.

Kaye: Why do you write mystery? Why not romance, or western, or horror?

Gilly: I read very widely, but mystery books have always been a favorite, so I write what I would like to read.

Kaye: What element do you think is the most important in a mystery story? Why?

Gilly: That it creates an impulse in the reader to turn pages. This can come from great characters, a thrilling set up, tons of action or an intriguing plot, but it must be there.

Kaye: What is one thing your readers would never guess about you?

Gilly: I have no idea! I’m a fairly straightforward person so there’s probably not much they couldn’t guess.

Kaye: (So, there’s no mystery to the mystery author? Hmmm.) What is the biggest challenge in writing mystery for you? Why?

Gilly: Plot. I don’t plan ahead when I write and creating a well-paced, complex and intriguing plot is always my biggest challenge, especially as I like to keep things within the realms of believability.

Kaye: What is the most fun part of writing mystery? Why?

Gilly: I love creating new characters and devising a challenging scenario for them. It intrigues me to explore how ‘regular’ people might behave if placed in extreme situations and pushed to their limits.

Kaye: Your most recent release is The Nanny. What can you tell me about it?

81ul8HE96pL.SR160,240_BG243,243,243Gilly: When her beloved nanny, Hannah, left without a trace in the summer of 1988, seven-year-old Jocelyn Holt was devastated. Haunted by the loss, Jo grew up bitter and distant, and eventually left her parents and Lake Hall, their faded aristocratic home, behind.

Thirty years later, Jo returns to the house and is forced to confront her troubled relationship with her mother. But when human remains are accidentally uncovered in a lake on the estate, Jo begins to question everything she thought she knew.

Then an unexpected visitor knocks on the door and Jo’s world is destroyed again. Desperate to piece together the gaping holes in her memory, Jo must uncover who her nanny really was, why she left, and if she can trust her own mother…

Kaye: What is your biggest accomplishment to date in your writing career?

Gilly: Making bestsellers lists! It’s a dream come true!!

Kaye: Of all of your books, which one is your favorite? Why?

What She KnewGilly: I love them all for different reasons, but I think my favorite is my debut, What She Knew, because that was the book that launched my career and I put a lot of heart into it.

Kaye: How do you keep tension and suspense in your stories, so that readers will keep the pages turning?

Gilly: I work hard to come up with characters that I hope will be relatable and intriguing and then place them in a compelling situation, which subsequently evolves in a threatening, challenging or terrifying way. At the end of every day of work, I ask myself: will this turn pages? If the answer is ‘no’, I start over and do it again until I’m happy that both tension and suspense are maximised.

Kaye: Is there a common theme running through your books?

Gilly: I like to take a person or people who are in a relatable situation and make something very dramatic or difficult happen to them. A mother with a missing child, for example, or a teenager who has made a fatal mistake in her past which threatens to derail the new life her mother has carefully reconstructed for her, or perhaps a little girl whose nanny disappeared overnight without trace or explanation and reappears thirty years later in very mysterious circumstances. I love to explore dynamics within families, especially the parent child bond.

Kaye: What are you working on now? What is next for Gilly Macmillan?

Gilly: I’m working on a novel that feels like a journey into psychological horror. The main character is a female crime writer. That’s about all I can say for now!


I want to thank Gilly for sharing her craft today. I think it is fascinating that she can plot as she writes. When I try and do that, I find myself exploring avenues that lead to dead ends and have to backtrack a lot. You can learn more about Gilly Macmillan and her books on her website and Amazon Author page.


You can catch the monthly segment “Chatting with the Pros” on the third Monday of every month in 2019, or you can be sure not to any of the great content on Writing to be Read by signing up by email or following on WordPress.


“Murder on the Horizon”: A classic cozy in a contemporary setting

Murder on the Horizon

Murder on the Horizon, by M.L. Rowland is a cleverly crafted murder mystery set in a rural resort town 100 miles east of L.A. For Grace Kinkaid, aiding in an evidence search out in the blazing desert sun is all in a day’s work. But when the Timber Creek Search and Rescue Team turns up a pair of severed hands, her view of her rural resort town and the surrounding area is about to change. Her curiosity and circumstance lead her toward the answers, and she won’t stop until she learns the truth, even when she herself becomes a target.

I truly enjoyed this story. Rowland made me feel as though I knew Gracie and her friends, and she drew me into the story, causing me to keep the pages turning. In addition to being a good mystery, it addresses social issues such as prejudice and bigotry which are so prominent in today’s world. I give Murder on the Horizon five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


A children’s picture book literary tasting

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This month on Writing to be Read, I thought it would be fun to do a children’s picture book literary tasting to give readers an opportunity to sample short extracts from some wonderful children’s picture books. Interesting toddlers and small children in books and the written word lays the foundation for future readers and there is nothing like a great picture book to entice them into the book world.

Imagine you are at a picnic and the snippets in this post are delicious and varied food items.

Fondant art picnic

The wonderful Dr Seuss

Dr Seuss’ delightful rhyming verse picture books are the perfect reading material for small children and beginner readers. There is a lot of benefit to the sound and word repetitions in these books which is comforting and confident enhancing to children in this age and learning bracket.

Dr Seuss also includes messages about friendship, environmental friendliness and sharing in his books which can’t go amiss.

I see his books as the hamburgers at the picnic.

Green Eggs and Ham (Dr. Seuss)

And then I got mad.

I got terribly mad.

I yelled at the Lorax, “Now listen here, Dad!

All you do is yap-yap and say, Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!

Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you

I intend to go on doing just what I do!

And, for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering on biggering

      and BIGGERING

                    and BIGGERING

                              and BIGGERING,

turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds

which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!

From The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. You can purchase all of Dr Seuss’ books here: Dr Seuss Amazon US

The creative Richard Scarry

Richard Scarry is an amazing artist and children’s book author. He is know for his brilliant artwork personification where pigs, dogs, hippos and other animals wear clothes and take the roles of humans in his fantasy world. His books are aimed at a variety of age groups from toddlers to young children and teach them about a variety of things such as their ABCs for the youngest age group to What do people do all day?, Cars and trucks and things that co and A day at the airport. My boys loved these books and listened to me read them over and over again.

Richard Scarry books are the French fries at the picnic.

Hardcover

“Ho! Ho! Ho! And who are you?” asks a 

great big fellow in red trousers. Mr Frumble

explains that he needs his skipickledoo

repaired so that he can get to the North Pole.

“Ho, ho, but you ARE at the North Pole!

I’m Santa Bear and these are all my helpers.”

Welcome!””

From The Night Before the Night Before Christmas! by Richard Scarry. You can buy all of Richard Scarry’s books here: Richard Scarry Amazon US

The artistic Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter wrote beautiful stories about the trails and tribulations of the small animals she had as pets and also studied during holidays to Scotland and the Lake District. The most famous of Beatrix Potter’s books is The Tale of Peter Rabbit. My personal favourites are The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, which features a hedgehog, and The Tale of Two Bad Mice, which features two naughty mice, Tom Thumb and his wife, Hunca Munca.

The Beatrix Potter books are the delicious cake at the picnic.

The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (Illustrated)

Hunca Munca tried every tin spoon in

turn; the fish was glued to the dish.

Then Tom Thumb lost his temper. He put

the ham in the middle of the floor, and hit it 

with the tongs and with the shovel – bang, bang,

smash, smash!

The ham flew all into pieces, for underneath the

shiny pain it was made of nothing but plaster!

From The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter. You can purchase all of Beatrix Potter’s books here: Beatrix Potter Amazon US

The fun Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul

Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul have teamed up to create the Winnie the Witch series of children’s picture books which feature a sweet and unconventional witch called Winnie and her sardonic cat named Wilbur. Winnie likes black and eats funny foods like batburghers, but Winnie has a heart of gold and is always trying to do nice things to impress and entertain the “little ordinaries” who attend the local primary school. Unfortunately, Winnie’s attempts to do conventional things always ends in disaster and Wilbur has to try to bail her out of her debacles. My son, Michael, and my two nephews loved these books and I read them many times to an attentive and fascinated audience. These books are more modern and include references to technology in the form of computers and mobile phones which appeals to modern children.

I see the Winnie the Witch books as the sweet and tempting cupcakes at the picnic.

Winnie turned around, and there behind her

was a great crowd of people. They were

running along the road towards her house.

***

They crowded into her garden

They took off their coats, their

hats, their boots, their gloves,

and their scarves.

***

They sat in the sunshine

They walked on Winnie’s flowers

They put orange peel on Winnie’s

grass. They paddled in Winnie’s pond.

From Winnie in Winter by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul. You can buy all their books here: Valerie Thomas Amazon US

I hope you have enjoyed this literary tasting. See you next month.

About Robbie Cheadle

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Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with five published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. I have two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.

I have recently published a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


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Interview with mystery author Gerald Darnell

GD

My guest today has made a career from a single mystery series. He must be doing something right. His Carson Reno Mystery series consists of 18 books and still going strong. He was awarded the 2016 Indie Author Crime Master “Best Thriller/Suspense/Murder Mystery Author” for book 18, Lack of Candor. Let’s find out how he’s done it. Please help me welcome mystery author Gerald W. Darnell.


Kaye: Can you tell me about your author’s journey? How did you get where you are today as a writer?

Gerald: I began writing in college, but nothing serious. After college I published a couple of articles for outdoor magazines and then joined the working world.  I retired after 30 years in the computer industry and wrote my first non-fiction book (which I had been working on for about 15 of those years). It is mostly a bio about my life Don’t Wake Me Until It’s Time to Go. My Carson Reno series started after that – and 18 books later…here we are.

Kaye: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Gerald: Anything outdoors. I have a boat, and when I’m not riding I’ll be fishing.

Kaye: You describe what you write as “Fiction for Fun”. Can you clarify for my readers just what you mean by that?

Gerald: Sure. I use real places with semi-real characters (reflections of my friends or people I know) and tell a story that didn’t happen – but could have.

CR logo

Kaye: In your Carson Reno Mystery series each book is a stand-alone mystery, yet you claim they have character continuity across novels. How do you accomplish that?

Gerald: While the core characters might grow (as my writing grows) they change very little from book to book.  And each new book has enough new characters to keep any reader’s attention.

Kaye: Your latest book, Lack of Candor, received the 2016 Indie Author Crime Master award for best author in thriller/mystery/suspense category. Can you tell me a little about that book?

Lack of CandorGerald: It is set in 1962 with most of the story taking place in and around Memphis, Tennessee. A Sergeant with the Memphis Police Department is found dead only hours before his scheduled testimony before a grand jury. Was it suicide or was it murder? What was he going to testify about? A handwritten note left by the Sergeant and addressed to the District Attorney disappears. What was in the note? Was it a suicide note with information regarding his pending testimony or something else? A woman claiming to have information related to his planned testimony comes forward and seeks protection.
Carson is hired to look into the matter and provide protection to the mysterious woman, but protection from whom? The situation gets out of hand quickly, and Carson finds himself in trouble with most everybody involved. A dark cloud hangs over the truth, as he tries to determine the ‘good-guys’ from the ‘bad-guys’ from the ‘bad good – guys’.
This old fashion crime story takes Carson Reno and his crew on a complicated adventure, where it seems that no one is looking for a solution.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge in writing mystery for you? Why?

Gerald: My time period (early 60’s) has its own challenge. Limited transportation, no cell phones, no CSI type of stuff to solve these crimes. Old black and white solutions to whatever Carson is involved in.

Kaye: What is the best part of writing mystery for you? Why?

Gerald: I’ll answer that by referring to what I tell other writers or wanna’be writers. Don’t write to get rich, but to enrich others.

Kaye: What time of day do you like to do your writing? Why?

Gerald: No particular time, but I prefer the evenings with a little ‘libation’ for inspiration.

Kaye: How do you decide on your titles? Where does this come in the writing process?

Gerald: Titles are always first and I have NO idea where they come from. My friends constantly ask the same question – wish I had a catchy answer.

Kaye: Of all of your books, which one is your personal favorite? Why?

Gerald: I have two and they are my most popular and best sellers – ‘Dead End’ and ‘Murder and More’.  I like the stories and I guess my readers do too.

 

 

Kaye: Many of the events in your stories are inspired by real life events. What was the strangest or most unusual inspiration you’ve ever had for a story?

Gerald: ‘Dead End’ involves a chase scene in a rural Arkansas area where I spent many years when I was younger. The snow, the dirt roads, the mud, the outdoor part of me enjoys that.

Kaye: There are 18 Carson Reno books, one book in your Jack Sloan series: Concrete Jungle, in addition to your autobiographical book, Don’t Wake Me Until It’s Time To Go. So, is Carson Reno on the way out and Jack Sloan on the way in? Or is there more Carson in the future?

Gerald: More Carson and maybe a little more Jack.  A work in progress.

Kaye: What are you working on now? What is next for Gerald W. Darnell?

Gerald: ‘The Disappearance of Robin Murat’ and it will be out before the end of this year (I hope).  No spoilers, but a big part of the story takes place in New Orleans – one of my favorite cities. A great place for mystery and ‘bad-guys’.


I want to thank Gerald for chatting with me today and sharing his experiences and advice. You can learn more about Gerald Darnell and his books at the links below.

Website: www.geraldwdarnell.com/

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NQRPXMW/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i5

Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4521276.Gerald_W_Darnell

Lulu.com Spotlight: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/geralddarnell

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/geralddarnell


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“Broomsticks and Burials”: A paranormal cozy that’s fun to read

Broomsticks and Burials

Broomsticks and Burials, by Lily Webb, is a paranormal mystery cozy and a really fun read. Once you buy in to a magic place that only those with paranormal talents can see, the rest comes easy.

Zoe Clarke is an out of work journalist, and when she gets an offer to work on the newspaper in Moon Grove, she can hardly refuse, even though it requires her to pull up stakes and move to a town she’s never even seen on a map. Right away she notices something different about Moon Grove. Maybe it’s the anchorman who transforms from a wolf to show her around that tips her off, but she worries she may not be right for the job. After all, she has no paranormal talents, so she shouldn’t even be able to see Moon Grove. Or does she?

When she finds that her predecessor was murdered, creating the opening for her, she starts looking into the mysterious circumstances even though several people warn her off, a broken broomstick at the scene her only clue. But, once she gets started, the plot thickens and she just can’t stop until the mystery is solved and she’s discovered that she belongs in Moon Grove more than she ever could have imagined.

Broomsticks and Burials is a light-hearted cozy mystery that’s fun to read. I give it four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“Death Among Us”: A collection of short fiction mysteries

Death Among Us

Death Among Us – An Anthology of Murder Mystery Short Stories, compiled and edited by Stephen Bentley is a curious collection of stories, indeed. As I’ve mentioned before, the problem with short fiction lies in telling a complete story in a condensed form, with beginning, middle and end, and it’s one of my peeves when I walk away from a short story and it doesn’t feel complete, or it feels as if it ended too abruptly, as if the author was in a hurry to wrap things up. Some of the stories in this collection are like that, and some were more telling than showing. A few I didn’t feel really fell into the category of murder mystery at all, but for the most part each one kept me engaged despite all that. (That’s another thing about short fiction; you don’t have to keep your reader engaged for a long period of time, but that also means that you have less time to hook them and reel them in.) And there were some stories in this collection, which I’ll talk about in a minute, that were really well written and I was able to immerse myself in from start to finish.

Of particular note, Michael Spinelli’s No Man’s Land is the tale of a desert manhunt for a gruesome serial killer. It’s well-crafted, and built tension and suspense all the way up to the surprise ending. The two stories by L. Lee Kane, A Deadly Lady and Stop Me If You Can, are really two parts of one tale of abuse and revenge, crafted so that the first part offers the motive for what happens in the second. And Justin Bauer kept me fully engaged clear through Sales Meeting, although I felt the ending was tied up a little too neatly. This is not to say that the other shorts in this collection weren’t good, but these three are the ones that stick out in my mind the most.

I will also mention that there are three stories included by Writing to be Read team member, Robbie Cheadle, in this murder mystery collection: Justice is Never Served, An Eye for an Eye, and The Murder of the Monk. Robbie’s stories are each inspired by factual historic events that have to make one wonder and tell the tales the way she imagines them to have happened.

Overall, this anthology was entertaining, (and, after all, isn’t that the point?). I give Death Among Us four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Interview with noir author Michael Pool

MP Framed

My guest today is a talented author, whom I happen to know personally. He was a part of my M.F.A. cohort at Western State Colorado University, and I had the privilege of , being present for his reading from his thesis novel, which was released this past year and fit in with this month’s Crime Fiction genre theme for review, Rose City. A P.I. by day, it’s no surprise that he writes crime fiction. What was a surprise to me was his talent for writing noir with true craftsmanship, which is why I invited him to join me here. Please help me welcome noir author, Michael Pool.


Kaye: Would you share briefly your writer’s journey? How did you get to where you are today?

Michael: A lot of writing, haha. I’ve been writing fiction since my very early twenties, however, I did take about 5 years in my late twenties where I barely wrote at all. In my 30’s I finally decided to take it more serious and began focusing on building a career through longer works. Prior to that, I’d mostly written short fiction. Though I still enjoy short stories, these days I mostly write novels, with a recent focus on detective fiction.

Kaye: Noir fiction takes a look at the darker side of human behaviors and generally features corruption and loose, (or lack of), morals. Why is it your chosen genre?

Michael: Well, I guess first I would say that it’s not my chosen genre. These days I definitely gravitate toward detective novels.

It’s a sub-genre that I have written in quite a lot, however. I would put Texas Two-Step as more of a pure crime novel, although it fits the Elmore Leonard vision of noir to a large degree. Rose City is a Southern Gothic Mystery.

However, I am attracted to noir stories because I like seeing the world through the eyes of an anti-hero. No matter the criminal, they are always the star of their own movie, and always see themselves as the justified “good guy.” What noir does really well is show that there is enough dirt to go around, and thus it turns notions of good and evil on their heads, leaving the reader with the distinct understanding that there are no good and bad people, only good and bad choices.

All of us are always teetering on the edge of destroying ourselves through our shortcomings and noir is all about that process, making it entertaining, if horrifying, to read.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge in writing noir for you?

Michael: I’m not sure I see it as challenging. I’ve always been a fan of the underdog, and I consider the down and out to be my people in so many ways. I love capturing the world from the view of men and women with their backs against the wall, many of whom have just enough ruthlessness in them to cause catastrophic damage in the pursuit of (often) vein goals which are not necessarily good for them.

Kaye: What is the most fun about writing noir?

Michael: I always joke that I’m a bit of a dark and stormy person, so I like that noir’s tone allows lots of room for that darkness and allows for a lot of intense, violent, complicated conflicts to arise in the narrative.

Kaye: Rose City was your thesis project in your M.F.A. program, but it is also the companion novel to Texas Two-Step. Can you tell me a little about both books and explain how they are related?

Michael: Both books are set in the fictional East Texas locale, Teller County. They are related only by their setting and a shared villain in common. Without giving too much away, there is a villain who skates on consequences in Texas Two-Step that may finally get his in Rose City.

Interestingly, Rose City was written first, as a graduate school thesis. For whatever reason, Texas Two-Step was published first. They can be read in any order.

Texas Two-StepTexas Two-Step is a “One last crime” story involving a couple of jam-band obsessed Denver pot growers who, after getting pushed out of the market by legal marijuana, have one last big crop to sell, and turn to an old but reckless associate down in Texas to move the harvest. They soon find themselves tangled up with real, violent criminals in a cat-and-mouse game where everyone involved has an agenda, and a rogue Texas Ranger is on their trail, desperate to nail their associate. It’s a multiple point-of-view book with lots of humor and a satisfying climax.

Rose CityRose City is a “prodical son returns” story where the protagonist, Cole Quick, has left Teller County 14 years earlier after being robbed of a stash of fronted cocaine, taking with him his local debutante girlfriend, whose family all but disowned her as a result. The book picks up 6 months after her untimely death from breast cancer. Cole returns to Teller County for his estranged, abusive father’s funeral, and soon finds himself caught up in his old debt, as well as tasked with proving an old friends death was murder, rather than a vicious murder-suicide. To get back out of town alive, he has to take on the entire crooked town’s structure and bring it down to rubble.

Rose City was the first full novel I had ever written. And, honestly, it was a mess for a long time. Five years of good edits have turned it into a really great novel. It’s emotional, suspenseful, and moves forward at a non-stop pace. It deals with themes of racism, classism, corruption, abuse, and self-destruction in a way that is compassionate but takes a hard eye to the reality these kinds of problems crop up in.

Kaye: In Rose City, Cole Quick has a dark past that he thought he left behind. But a trip back to his home town finds him down and out, and vulnerable. There’s a lot more going on than he is aware of in his old stomping grounds, and almost without realizing what’s happening, he’s swept up into it, and it becomes a matter of survival for him to discover what really happened to his best friend, Jimmy. Are noir protagonists all average guys who get swept up by circumstance and have to fight their way out?

Michael: I don’t think noir protagonists are all average guys. In fact a whole bunch of them are anything but, they’re self-destructive fringe characters living by their own moral codes, and bound for trouble of their own making.

But all of my characters tend to be average men and women caught in extraordinary scenarios. I’m not much for thrillers with  superhuman protagonists, and my writing tends to put a lot of focus on everyday people and their relationships, with the understanding that crime and total destruction are always in the peripheral of our lives, whether we believe it or not. I use crime as a lens to explore the human condition, because it’s an integral part of the human experience. We live in societies with rules, both good and arbitrary, and we all find ourselves running up against those in some ways. But some men and women won’t just accept things the way they are, and that to me is the kind of person who will make a good protagonist.

Kaye: You are the founder and editor-in-chief of Crime Syndicate Magazine. Can you tell me about that? What was your motivation to start it? What can readers find there? What are your goals for it in the future?

Michael: I put Crime Syndicate down about a year ago, just didn’t have time for it anymore. Crime Syndicate did focus a lot on short noir fiction, and there are some incredibly good stories in the three issues I put out. I’m happy to have had the experience, but I’m a writer at heart, not an editor.

Kaye: Noir characters are always flawed in some way. How flawed should a noir character be?

Michael: The important thing is not how flawed, it’s more that their flaw be something that will drive them to make decisions that are not necessarily good for them, and in fact the best noir characters have a flaw that is in direct opposition to their needs, causing a sense of inner conflict that will drive the story to a dark ending.

Kaye: If you could have lunch with any noir author, alive or dead, who would it be? Why?

Michael: I suppose a Dashiel Hammett or Ross MacDonald. Neither are really “noir” authors. I’d put them both more as hardboiled detective writers. But both have been major influences on my writing. I work as a private investigator, and in Hammett I get a very clear sense that he knows the work (which makes sense, because he was a Pinkerton at one time). With McDonald, I love the way he uses the detective as a lens to look at family dynamics and the effects changing social issues and dynamics have on families. It’s something I naturally do in my own writing, and I’d love to pick his brain about process.

Kaye: You are a Jiu-jitsu instructor. Are any of your characters skilled in martial arts?

Michael: Not really, for some reason! I am working on a modern pulp P.I. series (I’m calling it Gonzo P.I. as a style), and that character, Rick Malone, does have some jiu-jitsu experience, which he puts to good use from time to time. But in a lot of ways Rick is also a broken man and an outcast, so he’s still very far from the superhuman or hyper-capable protagonists I was talking about earlier. I love jiu-jitsu, and of course it does show up from time to time in my action scenes!

Kaye: In addition to book length works, you also write short fiction. Your works have been included in several anthologies. Which do you prefer? Why?

Michael: As I mentioned, I mostly write novels now. I prefer them because there is a market for them, haha. No, honestly, I agree with readers on why they prefer novels, and particularly series. When you fall in love with a protagonist you want to spend more time with that protagonist as a reader, and as a writer, I feel the same way. It can be hard to spend a year at a time on the same project, but the end result is more satisfying and makes it much further out into the universe.

Kaye: What parts of you, do your readers get to see in your characters?

Michael: Compassionate but conflicted and flawed characters in my books all have a big piece of me in them. I’m highly emotional, and have had plenty of dark experiences in my personal life. Those experiences crop up in less-than-direct ways in my writing, but anytime you reach an emotional moment in one of my books, you’re definitely interacting with the deepest parts of me as a writer and human being. To me that is a vital part of why I write in the first place.

Kaye: Your books feature intricate storylines that are well thought out. What’s your writing process like? How do you create your plots?

Michael: I’m an outliner these days. I stray from the outline often, but I mark out plot beats in advance as much as possible, and adjust them as I go. I literally keep a beat sheet for each book to make sure I’m staying on pace and on task. I find structure to be freeing rather than limiting. To understand why story structure is so vital you have to understand why humans began to tell stories in the first place, then you can see why structure evolved the way it did, and use that information to create the ever-elusive “uniquely familiar” plot lines that resonate with readers.

Kaye: What is your greatest writing accomplishment to date?

Michael: That’s a tough one! I feel like my greatest accomplishment is just getting to where I am. I feel poised to break through to a larger audience with this next project, finally, but more than that, I feel like I’ve finally become a skilled, adept long-form fiction writer.

Kaye: What are you working on now? What’s next for Michael Pool?

Michael: Right now I’ve just finished the first book in a new P.I. series, Throwing Off Sparks, and am at work on book two, tilted Daughters of the Republic. Both feature my obsessive female East Texas P.I., “Rowdy” Riley Reeves. Riley’s origin story, “Weathering the Storm,” is slated for release as part of The Eyes of Texas anthology on 10/21/2019. Within a paragraph of starting that story I knew she would become a series character, and I’m REALLY excited to share this new series with the world, I think it brings something totally new to detective fiction.

I’m also working on a pulp P.I. novel I mentioned earlier, also the first in a series, called Catfish Quarum. It is set in Colorado and features down-and-out drug-addled P.I. Rick Malone. A second book in that series is currently in the outline stage, titled One Way Out. I have big hopes for this series, it allows me to be goofy and serious all in the same breath, and to really capture a lot of uniquely Colorado social issues and characteristics. Look for it over the next couple years. I wish that were faster, but publishing is its own complicated process, unfortunately.


I want to thank Michael for sharing with us today. I think he has helped to define noir  and differentiate it from the other sub-genres of crime fiction. If you’d like to learn more about Michael or his books, you can visit his author site, or his Amazon author page.


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