R.E. Conary writes a really cool series about a female PI, Rachel Cord. I was lucky enough to land an interview...
Q: What makes Rachel Cord different from other hardboiled characters?
That she shares so many common elements with others makes that difficult to answer. I think more than anything, it's her openness. The extent to which she exposes her innermost thoughts, desires, accomplishments and mistakes. She holds nothing back.
Q: How did you come up with the character?
Private investigator Rachel Cord was created by a desire for a modern-day Cyrano de Bergerac willing to stride through Raymond Chandler's mean streets -- with attitude and panache -- taking on any odds, yet humanly flawed and tender within. A James Rockford in drag.
Rachel's character is greatly based on the independent tough attitude of the film women I watched avidly on afternoon TV movies: Hepburn, Dietrich, Roz Russell, Jean Arthur, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford; also the bubble-headed comediennes like Judy Holliday, Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Marie Wilson who off-stage were real-life astute and successful business women. And a lot from my mother who worked in a man's profession (precision tool cutting), yet kept her feminine side, read a book-a-day, and liked her humor served dry with a wry twist.
Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
Robert Heinlein had five simple rules for writing. The most important to me was that you must put your work in the marketplace and keep it there until it sells. For Heinlein and others that meant submitting it endlessly through editors and publishers until someone said "okay, I'll buy it and publish it." Maybe it would reach the public, maybe not.
The eBook revolution lets the author jump directly into the toughest marketplace of all: the readers. It's both exciting and scary.
Q: What's next for you and Rachel?
There are three books out ("Life's a Bitch", "Still a Bitch" and "Bad Bitch Blues") and I'd like to get audio versions developed of them as that's a very popular and profitable format.
As for Rachel herself, I think her next venture will bring her home to Iowa and resolve some of her family issues that have lingered for 20 years. It'll be set in 2010 after Iowa allows gay marriage and is the impetus for the story, but she will also stumble upon a crime or two to be solved.
Q: How do you promote your work?
Not as well as I should. I have a website and promote the books on a few discussion threads at sites like Amazon, Kindleboards, Barnes & Noble, and I've done a couple of interviews such as this one. But I haven't done any blogging or joined any of the social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pininterest. I still have a reticence and desire for privacy I need to overcome. My audience would probably be larger if I did.
Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
Genre is a poor term. To me, fiction is fiction and I lump it all together and read everything, but I also understand the desire to categorize subject matter. For the longest time I concentrated on reading fantasy & science fiction. I enjoy some spy and espionage thrillers, some historical novels.
Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
Characters like Hawk, Pike, Lisbeth Salander, Mouse from the Easy Rallins series are there to do the heavy lifting -- do what needs to be done now -- without the soul searching that makes the main character hesitate or guiltily regret doing. Actions have consequences. Spillane's Mike Hammer. Sam Millar's Karl Kane. Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor. Richard Stark's Parker. Lee Child's Jack Reacher. Rachel Cord. They don't need no psycho 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?
Very difficult to say. New writers may claim a particular author spurred them to write, but I believe their writing will be influenced by everything they've read, seen or heard.
I think that Sam Millar, Ken Bruen, Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson and Roslund & Hellsträm are already influencing new writers, and that Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller and Sara Paretsky will continue to do so, as do lesbian authors like Katherine V. Forrest, Val McDermid and Claire McNab. But as writers broaden their reading experience -- and I think writers are primarily readers first -- they discover or rediscover classic authors and, therefore, will be influenced by them as well.
My influences were J. A. Jance, Lawrence Block, John D. MacDonald, Stephen J. Cannell (The Rockford Files) and, particularly, Edmond Rostand (Cyrano de Bergerac) and Raymond Chandler with help from fantasy & science fiction writers like Fritz Leiber, Keith Laumer and William Tenn, as well as other writers as far afield as Aristophanes, Walt Whitman, Chekov, Kafka, Hemingway and Steinbeck. The list is endless.
Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I like the PI format. There's a problem or puzzle (i.e. crime) to solve that invites reader participation. That's the major draw. The main characters are mostly mavericks who won't be pigeonholed. The stories are usually first-person POV. What you see is what you get.
Rachel plays fair letting her readers solve the mystery as quickly -- often more quickly -- as she does.