Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Reed Farrel Coleman Interview

Reed Farrel Coleman is the blog's guest today, and he agreed to be interrogated. Here's what he had to say when I stuck the bamboo splinters under his fingernails.

Q: I think I first met you at the Bouchercon in Toronto in 2004, and everybody was wearing “Save Moe” buttons. Obviously Moe was saved, and here he is again in The Hurt Machine. Tell us a little about his publishing travels.

A: After I lost my Plume/Viking contract on an Edgar nominated, Shamus, Barry, and Anthony winning novel—The James Deans—Bleak House Books was very happy to pick up the series. I published two Moe books with them—Soul Patch and Empty Ever After. Soul Patch was nominated for the Edgar and won the Shamus. EEA won the Shamus. When Ben LeRoy moved over to Tyrus Books, Moe went along with him. First for Innocent Monster and now for Hurt Machine. There are two more books planned: a prequel titled Onion Street and a final coda for the series.

Q: Moe might have been saved, but you’ve really put him through the wringer. What about the future? Anything you can tell us about what it holds for Moe?

A: Well, yes and no. Hurt Machine is a bittersweet novel because Moe is on the verge of his daughter’s wedding when he finds out some very grave news about his health. At this best and worst moment in his life, his ex-wife and former PI partner, Carmella, appears to ask him a desperate favor. He takes on the task as a hedge against his own fears.

Q: The series has won some nice awards. Do awards have any effect on sales in your experience?

A: Awards are great, but if you get a sales bump, it’s from the nominations. As Harlan Coben once said to me, “People forget who wins. They remember who gets nominated and think you won anyway.” Awards do earn you some respect among your peers, but I’ve never known how to quantify what they do for my sales. I’m just happy to have them. At Lee Child’s party in Madison, Lee came by my table and jokingly admonished me for winning so many awards at one time. He asked if I might give him an award or two. I said I’d trade them for his pin#. He half-smiled and walked away.

Q: You’re also a poet. Do you think writing poetry has had an effect on your prose style?

A: Absolutely. There is a certain rhythm to my prose. I don’t count iambs or anything, but it’s definitely a component of my work. It has also effected my process in that I edit and edit and edit constantly and how the words look on the page are very important. I also read my work aloud. This is so important, I cannot emphasize it enough. It helps eliminate clunky language and helps with the flow of the work. Poetry also taught me how to get to the reader’s heart economically.

Q: Tell us about Tower, your collaboration with Ken Bruen. What was it like to write a novel with another poet who’s also a distinctive stylist?

A: I often joke that both Ken and I benefited from having three thousand miles of ocean between us and that neither one of us owning a handgun. Seriously, though, it was the hardest work I ever did and also the most Zen-like. Ken left my half of the book to me to figure out. He gave me almost no instruction on how to do my part. It was like being the other hand in the one hand clapping allegory. It made me really get inside the characters and it forced me to excel. I guess we did okay as we sold the movie rights and word is they want to make this happen. We’ll see.

Q: Back to plugging the current stuff. Not only is there a new Moe Prager book coming out this month but Gun Church, a standalone novel, as well. Great planning? Accident of fate?

A: I wouldn’t have planned it this way, but it has given me some cross-promotional opportunities and allows me to get back to my real work after a month or two of heavily pushing the new books. David Lehman, my poetry instructor at Brooklyn College, used to advise us to use our mistakes. Here, I’m using fate and serendipity. The books are an interesting contrast in styles, sub-genres, formats, etc. It makes promoting them more fun than usual.

Q: Gun Church is coming out exclusively from rather than in print. What do you see as the advantages of this format?

A: After a set time period, I can seek a traditional and e-rights deal, but I love this format. The book is done by two narrators/voice actors. This reflects the fact that Gun Church features a book within a book conceit: one first person in American English, the other in third person Irish dialect. Audible believed in this book so much, the two actor thing was their idea, not mine. It’s sort of the difference between a movie and a book, but where my manuscript is the actual script. Very cool.

Q: I thought Gun Church was a terrific story. It has action, humor, great characters, and something to say about writing and the creative process. But you imply in your intro that it was a tough sell. Any idea why?

A: Well, it might be a tad controversial, which is good after a book is out, but makes it tougher to sell initially. Also, it was a matter of finding the right editor or the right editor finding it. Steve Feldberg at Audible worked very very hard with me to get the book into shape. The novel has so many characters, so many moving parts, that I lost control of the process at times. Steve saw the book in the manuscript my agent sent him and he stubbornly worked with me till we got it right. I think that’s part of the problem these days. I think many novels out in the world have great potential, but editors are so overworked, they don’t have the time to devote to manuscripts to make them publishable. I got lucky.

Q: Any other writers you’d recommend, aside from the usual suspects? Maybe a forgotten book or forgotten writer?

A: I am a huge fan and friend of Peter Spiegelman. I think he’s about as good and talented an writer as there is working today. He just doesn’t get the attention he should. When I look at my own work, I hold it up against Peter’s to see if I’ve done well. He’s my measuring stick. Red Cat is one of the 10 best detective novel’s I’ve ever read and should have been nominated for every award in mystery fiction. It will be a classic someday. His new novel Thick As Thieves is an amazing caper novel and a truly seamless piece of work. New writers would do well to read Peter’s work and to measure by his standard.

Q: Thanks for taking the time for this interview, Reed, and congratulations on two terrific new books in two different formats. I hope they sell a ton. And now one final question: Are you really related to Henny Youngman?

A: Thanks, I hope they sell a ton too. I am indeed related to the late Henny Youngman. He was married to my father’s Aunt Sadie, so he was my great uncle. And now you know when he used to say, “Take my wife, please,” he was saying it about my great aunt.

Thanks again, Reed, for being such a good sport!

No comments: