Here is an interview I just did for my publisher, ZOVA Books. Enjoy.
What are some of your inspirations for writing?
Through out my life, I’ve found the greatest inspirations for my writing and characters that I feature in my writing, is real life. Many characters that I write about are people I’ve met or witnessed. I’m a people watcher. I like to sit at coffee shops and watch the people go by. Especially in Las Vegas. If I told you the things I’ve seen around the city, you wouldn’t believe it. And I don’t mean just Las Vegas Boulevard, I’m talking the out-of-the-way places. I like finding the places only the locals visit; the pool halls, dive bars, etc.
Movies are another inspiration for me. I love crime movies like Tarantino and Scorsese and classic movies. Humphrey Bogart is an inspiration. Casablanca is my all time favorite film and has a lot of noir aspects to it. I watch Casablanca at least four times a year.
Why 1948 Las Vegas?
I wanted to put the story in a classic noir setting; utilize traditional noir aspects and put them in one of my favorite places. What better place to put antiheroes, gangsters, and guns?
I’ve frequented Las Vegas since before I was even legal gambling age. The grittiness and colorful people there are a wealth of inspiration for characters and plot lines. Now that I live here, I’m hoping the well will never dry up.
One for the Road features a very specific kind of writing style. What are some of your favorite books that may or may not feature similar styles?
I’ve been a reader since I was very young. My mother used to read Poe stories to me before bed when I was little. I get a lot of shocked and disapproving looks when I tell people that, but to this day Poe is still my all time favorite. I even dabbled in horror writing when I was younger, but they weren’t very good.
I’m way off topic. I got into noir and crime writing when I was in college. A friend of mine asked to read a short story of mine and said it reminded her of Hammett. To me, that is the greatest compliment a mystery/noir writer can receive. Dashiell Hammett wrote The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon, to name two favorites. Other authors that write in this style are Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson.
What about the characters?
I love to watch people. And a lot of the time, I see people several times and never learn their names, so I end up giving them nicknames; like, Red Wagon Guy or Pig Lady. I felt it would be fun to have Johnny do the same thing. Not ‘cause he doesn’t want to learn people’s names, but because he can’t be bothered.
You’ll notice that in One for the Road, Johnny uses people’s real names rarely and when he does it is to show specific character qualities. For example, he learns Lou’s name because he grows to trust and respect him. This also comes through in their character development. He gets to know Lou and Nora because he likes them. One for the Road is written in first person, from Johnny’s point of view. If he cares about a character, I want the reader to as well.
Many of the characters are either based off of people I’ve met or archetype (or cliche) characters that are fun to play with in genre fiction. The mindless thugs, the sexy moll, the pitiless psycho.
Other characters were based on historical personalities who would’ve been involved in the mentioned activities during the time period. I did quite a bit of research before, during, and after writing the book. I wanted to make the story as authentic as possible.
Johnny Flamingo really isn’t a nice guy, is he?
I really wanted to stick to the noir standard. Antiheroes have always been my favorites because they are more true to real life. I’ve yet to meet a knight in shining armor or the personification of evil. I firmly believe everyone has a little bit of both (though in varying degrees) in many shades of grey. They are more fun to read and more fun to write.
Johnny Flamingo isn’t a bad guy, but you’re right, he is not a “nice guy.”
Johnny Flamingo is a name that your main character makes up to protect his identity. What is Johnny’s real name?
Ha! That’s probably the most asked question I get. I’m not giving that away just yet. Little is given away through the course of One for the Road, and that is the point. I plan on writing more about Johnny and giving a little bit of his back story as I go. Where he grew up. What he did during the war. What he did when he got home. Who is Danny the Dutch and what did he did to Johnny. And, of course, what Johnny’s real name is.
How do you write? What process do you find works for you?
Well, I do a lot of reading. I get an idea of the plot and start researching the time/setting of the book. I read old newspaper articles, look at photographs, and visit the places I’m writing about so I get a flavor.
After that, I start outlining. I plot out the book in scenes then see where the logical places for chapter ending/beginnings would be. Under each scene/chapter, I give a brief synopsis of what I want to say and tell during that time. I include details and specific facts I want to use as foreshadowing later.
Then I watch movies and read more. I’m writing a noir book, so I pull out all the movies and books that I classify as noir.
If there is an action scene, I watch a fast-paced movie. A hand-to-hand fist fight? I might pull out a martial arts movie. This gives me some visuals that I can work from. It also gives my writing the pacing it needs for the scenes.
After that, I start writing the chapters.
I’m working on a sequel to One for the Road. I won’t give too much away, but he’s in another city and gets into trouble, of course. Along the way he’s gonna meet some really great characters. Some you like and some . . . not so much.
Like I mentioned earlier, I plan to give some more of Johnny’s personal history away, so readers will get a chance to understand what makes him tick.
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