Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Q & A with Kent Westmoreland

I interviewed Kent Westmoreland, excellent writer of the Burleigh Drummond stories...

Q: What makes Burleigh Drummond different from other (unofficial) PIs?
Drummond is a fixer for New Orleans bluebloods and politicians. He gets tapped when his clients’ lawyers become faint-hearted. Drummond’s primary skill is his ability to negotiate solutions. He doesn’t own a gun or use his fists; his weapons of choice are brains, charm, and aplomb. When necessary he employs blackmail and bribes.
In the novel BARONNE STREET, he refers to himself as a PI. In the short stories, which were published subsequently, that term is avoided.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
An early decision was to create a character who went against type for the hard boiled genre. I also wanted some who was young (late twenties), financially successfully and a drinker who was not an alcoholic.
Even before I fleshed out the character I knew a key ingredient was setting. I wanted small city with an insular society; a city controlled by the old money mentality that progress may disrupt their lives and for that reason progress should thwarted by any means necessary.
New Orleans was the perfect location for Burleigh Drummond to set up shop.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole ebook revolution?
I think it is a win-win for readers and authors. It enables readers to have many books available at any time. It provides exposure and availability that many authors do not have in the past. Approximately 75% of my sales are ebooks.

Q: What's next for you and Drummond?
I’m taking time off from the second novel to work on a spec screenplay for BARONNE STREET. There is a growing market for direct-to-video and cable movies. Movies with modest budgets that actually get made. I’m writing the screenplay for that market.

Q: How do you promote your work?
My site and Facebook are two methods I use. But mostly I cajole blogs, web reviewers, TV & radio stations to spread the word. I have readings and signings whenever possible.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
Hawk definitely doesn’t fit the clinical definition of psychotic. I see him more as a person who sees most everything in black and white. He has strong views on right and wrong and will act accordingly. His relationship with Spenser has changed his thinking of black vs. white and right vs. wrong.
I would say Mouse from the Easy Rawlins series would be closer to the laymen’s definition of psychotic.

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?
I don’t think Lehane will have a lasting influence; I find his PI novels more sign-of-the-times than classic and derivative of 70’s TV. I would hope that readers and writers are searching out and finding truly original writers like O’Neil De Noux and Anthony Neil Smith

Q: Larry Block came up with the following question: How do you keep the series from running out of steam?
We’re yet to see if I am qualified to answer the question, but I’ll give you my plan. A long term story arc that allows the main characters to grow, recurring characters to appear when needed and not in every novel just because the readers like them. Fresh plots and topics.
As we have seen, many times a successful series will go on long after it has run out of steam. In some cases after the creator has died. No need to name names.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
What hidden secret motivates your PI to become involved in the lives of others? In the case of Burleigh Drummond during high school he was scared to defend an autistic student being mocked by a violent jock-type. Had he become involved he would have surely been beaten badly. From that time on he knew he had to develop and rely on his ability to negotiate solutions.

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