Friday, June 28, 2013

Q & A with Troy D. Smith

Troy Smith writes a mean batch of fiction, both Western and hardboiled. I grilled him about his hardboiled work and Hoss Qualls series...

Q: What makes Hoss Qualls different from other hardboiled characters?
 The Hoss Qualls stories fall into a subgenre some call "redneck noir" -so that's one difference. Even though the setting is mostly in a mid-sized American city (Knoxville) there is a lot of rural Southern culture. Another difference is that Hoss isn't actually the detective -his younger brother Howard is. Since Howard is -unlike the ex-com Hoss -kind of naive, and definitely not streetwise, Hoss tags along on his adventures to keep him safe. And more often than not, it is Hoss who solves the mystery. So in essence, though Howard runs the agency and has the license, Hoss is both the brains and the muscle.
Q: How did you come up with the character?
Hoss is sort of a mixture of several people I've known (more than one of them a relative of mine.) For that matter, so is his cousin Ivory. Some of the misadventures the Quallses have are loosely based on things that happened to me or someone I knew in my younger years -although obviously exaggerated. Usually.
As I often do in my work, I created a fictional link among some characters. Hoss and Howard are the descendants of the hero of my western novel Brothers in Arms.
Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
It is similar in many ways, I think, to the mass market paperback revolution right after World War II, which opened up markets for a lot of genre and midlist writers -and enabled readers of those genres to have more to choose from. Right now it's sort of like a frontier, in that it is possible to get in and stake one's claim in ways that were impossible a few years ago -and like a literal frontier, that means the corporations are closing in and looking for ways to corner the market. Anything could happen... but so far, it looks like a big boon to writers and readers, and a threat to middle-men like literary agents.
Q: What's next for you and Hoss Qualls ? Will he return?
 The third Hoss Qualls short story, "Dead Rednecks on a Friday Night," is due out July 1 from Vickery Publishing. I intend to keep writing them, and release a collection once there are enough stories to fill one. In fact, I'm plotting the fourth one now -"Dead Redneck Blues" -which will introduce a new supporting character, nursing home patient Roy Carpenter. He is the blues-musician protagonist of my "Roy Carpenter" mysteries, set in 1950s Nashville -the novel Cross Road Blues (from Perfect Crime Books) and "Stomp Boogie." I'm going to have the elderly version of Roy give Hoss advice from time to time.

Q: How do you promote your work?
 Shamelessly, like the prostitute I am. Seriously, if you're going to get anywhere in this business you have to learn to overcome the natural shyness that afflicts many writers and hawk your wares. In addition to my website - - and my blogsite - - I make as much use of social media as my schedule allows, and do guest blogs and interviews anywhere people will have me.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
 I have very eclectic tastes. I like to read, and write, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and more. Much of what success I've had has been with westerns -I've been honored to win the Peacemaker and Spur Awards, am a longtime member of Western Writers of America, and am current president of Western Fictioneers. I also write nonfiction, particularly history -in my day job I am a history professor.
Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
 I use that trope to varying degrees myself -it enables you to get your hero into situations (and sometimes out of situations) that his natural proclivities would usually prevent him from encountering.

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 can tell you some of the people that have strongly influenced me, and whose names will come naturally to that list (if they don't already):  Ed Gorman, Lawrence Block, Joe Lansdale, Max Allan Collins, Bob Randisi, James Reasoner, Loren Estleman, James Ellroy... and of course Elmore Leonard. And many more.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
 I love mysteries and crime fiction in general, but when it comes to writing I can't imagine myself doing a cozy mystery or a procedural. I've got hardboiled blood -sang noir. I like to write about the grit, to peel away the veneers and get to the heart of the matter -and this is one of the best genres to do that.

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