Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Q & A with Sam Hawken

After a few standalones Sam Hawken decided to write a hardboiled series, in novella form even (my favorite format). Of course that meant I had to ask him a few questions...

Q: What makes Camaro different from other hardboiled characters?
I didn't conceptualize Camaro as an attempt to reinvent the wheel.  Hardboiled characters have certain characteristics about them that are repeatedly employed because they're attractive and effective.  I think what makes Camaro different is the way a well-developed sense of self-preservation has been baked into her.  A lot of hardboiled characters are noble — and to a certain extent she is, too — but there are things she does during the course of Camaro Run that might not be considered selfless, but rather selfish.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
I actually did a whole blog post about this that people might be interested to read (How she came to be.), but the short version is that I wanted a character who had the same internal balance and consistency as a male character in a similar type of story.  Way, way too often female characters are conveyed as either Madonna or whore and I wanted a woman who demonstrated the kind of shades male characters routinely display.  This will become more and more obvious as the series of novellas goes on, as she engages with family and friends, but you can already see in Camaro Run how she disconnects from the oft-used feminine tropes that are so limiting.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I see it both good and bad lights.  On the good side, excellent writing by authors ignored by the traditional system are getting their words out there.  We're also seeing a resurgence in forms like the novella and in genres long neglected.  On the negative side, there's an absolute avalanche of garbage pouring out of the ebook maw and it's drowning the good stuff.  Many (most) readers don't have the time, money or patience to sift through the chaff and find the elusive wheat, which can lead to frustration and the eventual abandonment of ebook reader altogether.  Similarly, those aforementioned good authors can grow disillusioned with tiny or nonexistent sales and simply quit publishing completely, which is a loss.

Q: What's next for you and Camaro? Will she return?
There are four Camaro novellas releasing over the summer and into the fall.  The July, August and September release dates are already set (the 21st of each month), so readers who enjoy Camaro Run should keep an eye out.  After that I have a full-length Camaro novel, One-Night Charter, that's making the rounds with traditional publishers.  If it fails to find a home, it will appear on e-readers and as POD in June of 2014.

Q: How do you promote your work?
I do the usual things: blog, Twitter, Facebook.  When I have something new coming out and I have the opportunity (not always the case with my traditionally published work), I make a concerted effort to get pre-release copies into the hands of different folks in the hope that they'll like what I've written and pass the word to their friends and followers.  Results are deeply mixed, and I definitely don't have the kind of media presence that moves thousands of copies, but the hope is that I'll get there eventually.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
I have an unhealthy fondness for men's adventure fiction.  These days that's limited almost exclusively to the Mack Bolan novels from Gold Eagle, but back in the '80s I used to have a lot of options.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
I don't have such a character in my Camaro novellas, or in any of my published works, but I can see the appeal.  Usually these supporting cast members are attached to straight-laced, stalwart types, so they represent an opportunity for a writer to cut loose a little bit.  It's hard to stay serious all of the time, and there's a fair amount of humor, even if it's gallows humor, embodied by loose-cannon sidekicks.

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?
That's a good question.  What I'm seeing a lot of are crime writers borrowing stylistically from non-crime writers, specifically Chuck Palahniuk and his imitators.  I actually don't think this is a good thing, because everyone's drinking from the same well and consequently their writing all reads the same.  There's a lot of repetition thematically and even in terms of plot and characterization and I don't think that's healthy.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I've never come up with an adequate answer to this question.  I came into crime writing completely by accident with The Dead Women of Ju├írez, and because people seemed to think I had some talent in the genre, I simply kept on writing works in that vein.  Lately I've been branching out into other genres just to keep my work fresh — Camaro Run is crime-flavored, but actually an action story — but I have no doubt I'll return to crime eventually.  I probably still won't know exactly why.

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