Corey Lynn Fayman writes a cool series featuring PI Rolly Waters. The fact he's a guitar-player makes this particular blogger / rock reporter very excited. I asked him a set of questions, just in time for his newest book, Desert City Diva.
Q: What makes Rolly Waters different from other hardboiled characters?
I like to call Rolly a cozy hero in a noir world. He’s not the tough guy protagonist that usually defines hardboiled mysteries. He’s over forty, overweight, and he doesn’t own a gun. His only advantage in a fight is his weight and I doubt he could throw a decent punch. Also, he lives next door to his mother.
The situations he finds himself in end up more noir, though. He meets nasty people and has to deal with some horrific crimes. He is tough as nails on the inside, though, and won’t give up on a client. It’s part of his promise to himself that he’ll see a job through. In that way he is a lot like a more hardboiled character.
Q: How did you come up with the character? And does he owe his name to Muddy Waters?
Nice catch there. Rolly does owe his last name to Muddy Waters. Most of the character names I come up with are combinations of musically-related names. His first name, Rolly, is short for Roland. Within the world of the books, the backstory on his first name is that his mother had been reading “Song of Roland” when he was born and saddled her first born with that noble moniker. It got changed to the nickname of Rolly in high school. I got the Roland name from Roland Instruments, a company that’s been making electronic instruments for years, including one of the original and most well-known drum machines, the TR-808.
As far as where Rolly came from, I’m not quite sure anymore. I had an idea for a musical play that would include a private eye narrator who was also a guitar player. The play never got very far, but the idea for that character morphed into Rolly Waters.
Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I’m all for disruptive technologies and I think eBooks have revolutionized the publishing business in ways no one fully understands yet. It’s always good to threaten the dinosaurs, which in this case are the major publishing houses and chain bookstores. Ebooks have made publishing available to anyone who’s interested in writing a book. There’s basically zero cost. In the late 90s and early 2000s I worked for a company called MP3.com, which made the distribution of music available to anyone. The record companies were so resistant to it then, but they’ve had to go along now. It can’t be stopped. The same thing’s happening with publishing companies.
That said, I find more and more these days that I like the tactile feel of a book and most of the books I read now are in hardback or paperback form. But I still read things on my Kindle, especially when I travel.
Q: What's next for you and your characters?
I’m working on the fourth Rolly Waters mystery now. The working title is “Ballast Point Breakdown”. Rolly has been traveling pretty far afield in San Diego County in the last two books, so I’m bring him back, closer to home. This case takes place in and around San Diego Bay. The U.S. Navy’s ocean mammal training program was based in San Diego for many years and if you hung around the bay you would occasionally see a training session in process, with scub divers and sea lions or dolphins. I’m building the book around that.
Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
I read a lot, because that’s what writers have to do. You learn a lot from great writers, but also from average ones. I’m still a big music fan, so I’m always listening for something new and interesting. My wife and I moved to the Little Italy section of downtown San Diego a few years ago. Aside from the all the great restaurants, it’s fun just to walk around the city these days. There’s a lot going on, much more than when I was growing up here.
Q: Any special reason why your main protagonist is a musician? Are you a big music lover?
I’m a big music fan. In my teenage years I was mostly interested in blues-based rock, but I like almost everything. Except Smooth Jazz. It’s literally painful for me to listen to that stuff. That and all this American Idol power ballad schtick.
I played piano and keyboards for many years in various bands and I wrote a fair amount of songs, as well. Basically, I got to watch and study guitar players for many years from behind my keyboards. That’s probably why I made Rolly a guitar player rather than a keyboard player like myself. Guitar players tend to have more dramatic personalities, especially rock and blues players.
Q: How do you promote your work?
I have some background in web design and such, so I developed my own web site using Wordpress. I’ve developed a mailing list over the years, as well. At first it was just friend and acquaintances, anybody who knew me and wouldn’t automatically delete the email. I’ve been adding to the list over the last couple of years with people who come to signings, sign up for giveaways, and people I meet at conferences. If you give me your business card, you will be on my list.
I have a Facebook business page in addition to my personal page. I’m playing around with Facebook advertising, as well. I like the way you can focus it on very specific audiences like “People who read mysteries in Southern California.” I have a Twitter account, although I’m not a very dedicated Tweeter.
For other promotion work, I found a publicist in San Diego, Paula Margulies, who’s great about tailoring her efforts to your budget. She’s been a great help getting me into bookstore signings, speaking engagements and more traditional media.
Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
I grew up loving Science Fiction, although I may have burned out when I was young since I don’t read much of it anymore. I’m a big fan of William Gibson, who really combined the science fiction genre with the noir tradition. He is the father of cyberpunk. Other SciFi writers I’ve enjoyed are China Miéville and Neal Stephenson.
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’m not sure I have an answer to that question. I’ve read some very good young authors, but none that were innovative enough to make me want to put them in that kind of company yet. So I’m not offering any names yet, but they may develop that way. It will be someone who has a feel for the changes technology will have on our lives, as well as understanding the traditions of the genre.
Q: Why do you write in this genre?
Many years ago, I got a B.A. in Creative Writing with a specialty in poetry from UCLA. I rarely wrote poetry after that, but it was helpful with my songwriting efforts. I came to the crime genre fairly late. Chandler, of course, made an impression, but the three writers who really made me want to work in the genre were Ross MacDonald, Elmore Leonard and John LeCarre. They all write deeply, and in very different ways, about character and morality and the delicate strands of experience that tie them together.
From a more technical point of view, writing mysteries forces you to work with plot. It’s essential that you plot well. That helps me focus and keeps me from running too far off track with my characters, settings and philosophical ruminations. I like that discipline. It’s a kind of navigational device that gives me a star to fix on.