Saturday, October 6, 2012

Q & A with O'Neil De Noux

Vice-president of the Private Eye Writers of America, cop, a driving force behind the great Big Kiss Productions and author O'Neil De Noux was kind enough to answer my questions...

Q: What makes Lucien Caye different from other hardboiled detectives?
 Lucien is tough but not outwardly. He’s not a law-and-order guy. If he thinks a criminal should get away, he lets them. He’s practical and has a soft heart. He’s a womanizer but is not aggressive in his pursuit. He drinks – occasionally. He doesn’t smoke or wear a hat. He reads a lot and doesn’t consider himself near as good as his heroes Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and Mike Hammer. He is deceptively smart with a wicked sense of humor.
Q: How did you come up with the character?
 Setting created Lucien Caye. I wanted a private eye living and working in the French Quarter in the 1940s-1950s. Once I came up with the character, he took over and told me what to do with him. I’m not kidding. Ray Bradbury once said he didn’t write his books, his characters wrote the books. It’s the same here. I set up the plot and let the characters take me through it. I hear Lucien’s voice as I’m writing him. The same goes with my other recurring characters.
Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
 It’s the best thing that’s happened to my writing career. After over twenty years of living as a low-list writer and going around with a tin cup begging agents, editors and publishers to put my books out there – I took control of my career in 2009 and teamed with a group of New Orleans artists, writers, editors, a literary lawyer, an agent and a publicist to form a co-op – BIG KISS PRODUCTIONS and we're doing it all – writing, editing, layout, design, promotion. We're still a little light with the promo but the products are excellent and we're doing better each month. At least we get most of the royalties (70% eBooks and 35% of trade paperbacks).
Any way a writer can control more of his product – the better.

Q: What's next for you and Lucien?
Enamored is my first PI novel and is set in 1950. Three years before that, Lucien Caye was hired on a wandering daughter case that has it all - murder, blackmail, villains galore, a bevy of pretty women and a black kitten to boot. This second Caye novel is a very sexy crime story set in 1947 New Orleans. The book will be released in 2013.
Q: How do you promote your work?
This is my weak link. BIG KISS PRODUCTIONS is still trying to get a foothold here. I do my best, but it’s not enough. Most of my sales are from word or mouth or the fact that amazon and google have the books listed on search engines.
Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
 Historical fiction. BATTLE KISS, published earlier this year, is my epic novel (320,000 words) set at the Battle of New Orleans. It was a titanic endeavor and I’ve followed it up with a companion book that will be out in 2013. This one is only 230,000 words. I have a degree in European History and enjoy historical fiction.
Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
 Whatever gets you through the night. Whatever a writer feels about his/her character, series, book needs is good. I don’t have one of those although I find them entertaining and very interesting.
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 really have no idea. I don’t look for that.
Q: Keith Dixon came up with the following question: How do you arrive at the structure of your books?
 My books are character-driven. I develop a plot and outline the elements necessary to the story. I get it written, then get it right. Drafts. Along the way the characters do a lot of unexpected things. In order for the book to make sense, things in the plot change. It makes the books less predictable. Sometimes a minor character grows into a major one and their ancillary plot grows.
Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
 How did you come up with the name of your detective?
In my case, I found it on a banquette (a sidewalk in New Orleans). When I spied the blue-and-white tiles embedded in the sidewalk on Royal Street near Toulouse Street in the French Quarter, I saw ‘Lucien Caye’. I later learned it was actually ‘Lucien Gaye’ (like Marvin Gaye) and the ‘G’ has been worn down by people walking over it to make it look like a ‘C’. I later learned it was the name of a restaurant on Royal Street that went out of business in 1941.

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