Friday, December 30, 2011
Q & A with James Winter
James Winter has finally brought out his Nick Kepler novel Northcoast Shakedown out as an ebook. A nice time for an interview...
Q: How did you come up with the character?
When I started sketching the story that became Northcoast Shakedown, I worked for a large insurance company. A freelance claims investigator seemed like a good fit for the story, and Nick sort of evolved from there. I wrote a few shorts to get a feel for him: He’s a part time musician. He used to work for the company that gives him office space (a tip of the hat to Sue Grafton). He gets along fairly well with cops, but not with organized crime. All that came about as I worked on Northcoast Shakedown.
Q: What's next for you and Kepler?
When Northcoast Shakedown was originally published, I already had the second book in the can, so I plan to release Second Hand Goods in the new year.
Q: How do you promote your work?
Twitter. Other blogs. Beg. Whine. Plead. Mainly I count on word of mouth. I think when I get enough work out there, I’ll start offering books for free.
Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
It was interesting when Parker did it because no one had done it before, and for his first couple of appearances, you never knew whose side Hawk was on. Pike is an interesting character in and of himself. But beyond that, I’ve read too many PI novels where the psycho sidekick was there because someone told the author they had to have one. Beyond Hawk and Pike, Bubba Rugowski’s the only one that’s ever worked for me. I deliberately avoided using one in my work.
Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation?
Probably Michael Koryta, who can really craft a good story, and Sean Chercover, who didn’t really reinvent the PI novel. He just wrote a damned good one. We need more from Sean.
Q: Dennis Palumbo came up with the following question: what is it about those "mean streets" that make your character insist on going down them, regardless of what awaits?
The mean streets are actually something we don’t see very often in our day to day lives, unless you’re a cop or a criminal or someone on the fringes of society. We do our daily commutes, go to work, go to school, go home, go to the bar or to church or to the movies, and life functions, on a very basic level, by a certain set of rules. The “mean streets” are where those rules breakdown. It’s not that our daily life is a fallacy, but it’s what’s beyond it that’s where the conflict lies. And the guy going down those mean streets for some reason always has a need to put things right. His or her idea of right doesn’t necessarily conform to what we normally think it should be.