Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Q & A with Dale T. Philips
I interviewed Dale T. Philips, author of several cool genres and the Zack Taylor series.
Q: What makes Zack Taylor different from other (unofficial) PIs?Zack hates guns and doesn't use them, but goes up against people who do use them. That puts him at a decided disadvantage from the start. He has to use his wits and physical skills to get out of trouble, but there's a cost. His anger has even caused him some jail time in the past.
Q: How did you come up with the character?
I had a story idea which grew. I love the works of John D. MacDonald, especially the Travis McGee series, and wanted a sort of influenced hommage, with an amateur hero, a flawed man, who helps others and grows in the process. Travis didn't normally carry a gun, either, and it makes for a much more interesting and lifelike narrative.
Q: What are your thoughts on the whole ebook revolution?
This is marvelous, and the best time to be a writer. I've been able to put out five good story collections (and individual stories) in the last three months, with many more books forthcoming. It allows writers to reach new audiences around the world, without needing a big publishing house or a lot of money for promotion.
Q: What's next for you and Zack?
Book #3 of the series, A Shadow on the Wall, needs to get completed (will be out later this year), and then on to book #4, A Certain Slant of Light. Then more to follow.
Q: How do you promote your work?
In as many ways as possible and practicable. Television, radio, social media, email, in-person events, drop-ins to libraries and bookstores, and simply talking to people.
Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
Fantasy, humor, science fiction, magical realism, mainstream. You can see how these all blend in my latest story collection, Jumble Sale, which has a bit of all of that.
Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
Actually, I'm developing this as a theme for a non-fiction study of the Private Eye genre. One of the chapters would be an in-depth study of the psychotic sidekick. They're interesting and fun, but they're too convenient to be realistic for the protagonist. In the real world, psychotic killers don't usually hang out with good guys. Zack doesn't have a psycho sidekick, which would sure come in handy at times-- but he's got to do all the hard 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?
Tastes change, and I can't say who will be in fashion for the next wave.
Q: Mike Dennis came up with the following question: What criteria did you use to choose the setting for your PI?
Easy one-- I grew up in Maine, and love it, and wanted to showcase the unique stories that come from there. It presents a different set of challenges for a mystery-- low population and crime rate, and vastly different from those mysteries set in New York, L.A, or Chicago. When Zack goes to Maine to solve the death of his friend, he's an absolute fish out of water. But he finds a measure of peace there, and learns to heal his tortured soul.
Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
Apart from entertainment, and catching some criminals, what is in your story that matters?
For my series, it's how to live with past tragedies and bad decisions that we've made. How to deal with difficult moral choices and be a good person, despite our flaws. How to go on living with the pain we bear.