Saturday, March 3, 2012

Q & A with James R. Tuck

There's a number of hardboiled operatives running around in the urban fantasy setting. I interviewed the author of one of the coolest of those...

Q: What makes Deacon Chalk different from other (unofficial) PIs?
Well, he's a monster hunter. Five years before the events of BLOOD AND BULLETS Deacon's family was horribly, ritualistically murdered by a monster. He decided to track it down and kill it. While hunting for this monster he came across an Angel (yes, a real Angel Of The Lord) who had been captured by the bad guys. She was being abused repeatedly in an attempt to creat Nephilim, which are half-human/half-Angel offspring. Deacon couldn't just walk away from that so he rescued her and continued on with his hunt. Once he found the monster responsible for the death of his family he went after him.
And, being only human he got himself killed.
The Angel shows up and returns the rescue, infusing him with her blood, or whatever it is that Angels use for blood. She ressurects him, bringing him back a little bit stronger, a little, bit faster, and a little bit tougher than human. He also has the ability to sense the supernatural. Using these new abilities he got his revenge.
Now all he wants is to go and be with his family, but he's a devout Catholic so he cannot take himself there. Suicide is a mortal sin and would send him straight to hell, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. So he now throws himself at monsters hoping for the day that he is just that little bit too slow, that little bit too weak, theat little bit too human and one of them sends him on his way.
He's a damaged character with a death wish and a high propensity for violence.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
Deacon Chalk actually pulled a Conan on me. Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan, once said that Conan sprang fully formed in his mind, as if he had walked out of the mists of time. Deacon did this to me. He showed up in my imagination one day, complete. I knew who he was, what he could do, and his backstory. He basically showed up in my head and said: "Point me at the monsters. I'm here to kick ass."

Q: Why did you decide on an urban fantasy setting instead of a more traditional crime setting for Deacon Chalk?
I love urban fantasy. It and crime fiction are my two favorite genres to read. Deacon is an urban fantasy just so I can write about how the world might really be if monsters actually existed and there were people who fought them. It would be dark, bloody, and violent. And the people who would choose to mount up and fight the good fight would be pretty fucked up.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole ebook revolution?
I like it. I am a little conflicted, but overall, right now, I am okay with it. I own a Nook. I read about an even split between ebooks and paper books. Now, that being said, I am a fan of both authors being able to go directly to readers, but leary of giving one marketplace the majority share of control. I also love traditional publishing, and while they have some changes to make to their business model, I think that anyone who thinks they are dead in the water is mistaken.
I know a lot of self-published authors personally who are doing ebook sales. Some are wildly sucessful, bringing in 10,000+ a month in royalty checks but some are still waiting to break 20 sales of the book they put out a year ago. No one has all the answers, but it seems to me that the people having huge success in self publishing ebooks all have a traditional publishing backlist and a built in customer/fan base. The folks who are just starting off with selfpublishing still have a HUGE pile of competition that is really, really difficult to overcome.

Q: What's next for you and Chalk?
There is a second e-novella titled SPIDER'S LULLABY that hits in July from all fine e-tailers and book two BLOOD AND SILVER is on bookstands world wide on August 7th.

Q: How do you promote your work?
I work my balls off. lol. I do blog tour stops, interviews like this one, all my social media work, as well as traveling and guesting at conventions like the upcoming Con Carolinas and later this year, Dragon Con. It's a lot of work. You really have to put yourself out there. I also network with other authors and we support each other.

Q: What other genres besides urban fantasy and crime do you like?
I'll read almost anything if it is well written. But most of what I read is urban fantasy or crime fiction and comic books. I LOVE comic books and have since I was a wee child. Give me superheroes and I am happy.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
They give the author a chance to have a really decent main character, a genuine good guy like Spenser, but also someone who lets them explore doing the things that need to be done, the things that really mean getting your hands dirty. I love the Spenser/Hawk combo. Plus, borderline psychopaths are a lot of fun to read about.

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?
In crime fiction I think you are seeing a darker turn. Crime is pretty ugly and now writers can really explore that. I hope the influence will be folks like Tom Piccirilli who is one of my favorites. Man, he can go dark with the best of them, pushing deep into the heart of how jacked up things can get in the crime scene.
I also think you will see more and more crime writers who take their inspiration from movies and television instead of reading. This can be good in the hands of talented writers, there is a lot to be said for a good crime movie or show (like Justified. That is an excellent, highly recommended show). It gives you a visceral, visual way of seeing storytelling. However in the hands of the untalented it could lead to some truly horrible, boring storytelling.

Q: Mike Dennis came up with the following question: What criteria did you use to choose the setting for your PI?
I went with write what you know. Now I don't live in the Deaconverse where monsters fill the night, but I do live in the South. The South is the southeastern part of America, not including Florida. It is a weird mix of metropolitan and rural full of guns, rednecks, country music, hotrods, superstition, religion, survialists, urban culture and racial predjudice. The South is something that makes for unique stories. I grew up here. I love it here. This is the place you can find Shotguns and Jesus in the same home and it makes no one blink.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
Have you ever been involved in a crime?

I was held up once. I was working overnight at a gas station in a small town. Cleveland, Ga. Now Cleveland is a little bitty town. Population about 2800 people. It has only 5 main roads and the town proper is about 4 blocks square surrounded by miles of rural area. Home of the Cabbage Patch Kids and a vast array of chicken houses. The gas station I worked at was one of three in town and one of only two businesses that stayed open past 10PM.
3:40 AM this scrawny kid with a bandanna over his face, holding something in his hand tucked inside his jacket walks through the door. I am on the otherside of the counter behind the register. There are four other people in the store shopping. Like I said, your choices are pretty limited in Cleveland, Ga if you're up at 3:40AM.
He walks up. His voice was thin and shaky. Sweat ran between sores on a whitewashed complexion. He had the classic meth-head jitter to his eyes. "Give me all the money."
"Why would I do that?"
"I have a gun."
My finger punched the button. The register sang open. "Do you want the change or just the bills?"
"Just the bills, fuck the change."
I pulled the money out, about $60 crumpled bucks, and dropped it on the counter between us. "You know all the cops drink their coffee here right?"
He scooped up the cash, half of it fluttering out of his hand and onto the floor, turned and ran out the door. I walked over, locked the door behind him, because that is what I was supposed to do according to procedure, just like I was supposed to hand over the money. He drives past the door in a beat up old Monte Carlo. I caught part of the tag as he tore ass out of the parking lot heading south on the main drag.
Toward the trailer park.
Turning to the people in the store I said, "Don't be alarmed, but we just got robbed. You'll have to stay here until the police show up." Then I called 911.
One minute later all three police cars and all five police officers in town were inside the store, getting a description from me, the tag partial I had written down, and the direction he was headed.
They caught him, sitting in his underwear in his momma's broke down trailer doing a line of fresh bought crank, down the road in less than 15 minutes.

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