Sunday, February 25, 2018
Q & A with Tom Fowler
Q: What makes C.T. Ferguson different from other hardboiled characters?
A: Mainly that he doesn’t come from a law enforcement background. Characters like Spenser and Scudder are great, but I didn’t want to write someone who’s an ex-cop. I wanted a character who would be more of a fish out of water. I think the series starts more “medium-boiled” in the first book, but the more C.T. sees and does, the more the harder edge comes in.
Q: How did you come up with the character?
A: Basically, I asked a lot of questions once I knew I didn’t want to write another ex-cop. What’s his background? Is he licensed? What makes him want to be a PI? Is it his full-time job? Etc. It didn’t take long to come up with a character bankrolled by his parents, and the reasons why flowed pretty well from there. I spent a few months cranking out short stories. Most of them were terrible and unprintable, but they allowed me to flesh out the character more and find his voice.
Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
A: I say this as someone who loves physical books: it’s great. Paper books will never go out of style. Look at music: vinyl is still a thing (niche, but it’s around), even though we’ve had CDs for a generation or more, and despite the ease of downloading and streaming songs. Ebooks allow people to read more easily, in more places, and to carry entire libraries in their pocket, purse, or backpack. It’s terrific. As an author, anything that makes it easier to reach readers is a good thing.
Q: What's next for you and your characters?
A: I have the next couple of C.T. novels written, and a couple more plotted out. Obviously, I don’t want to spoil anything, but in coming books, C.T. is going to have some personal conflicts he never expected, and he’ll deal with a case that rocks him right down to his core.
As for me, I have a couple other characters I want to explore at some point. I wrote two spy thrillers years ago. They’re awful, but the main character is good, and I can salvage elements of the plots. I also have another crime thriller protagonist I’m kicking around and developing. Those will come after I’ve published a few more C.T. books and established both him as a character and myself as an author. Later this year, I’d also like to get into audiobooks. I want a bigger platform first, and I’m hoping that sometime in the fall or winter will be good for that.
Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
A: Well, I do have a full-time job. Besides work and writing, my wife and I bought a house last summer, so we’re doing projects and working on some things to make it our own. It’s coming along nicely. As a writer, reading is a big hobby. I like movies and TV, and there seems to be a lot of good TV these days now that we have so many more people and networks making shows. There isn’t enough time for us to watch all the shows that look interesting. I’m also a sports fan and am a total homer for Baltimore teams. Both my full-time job and writing are sedentary, so I try to get to the gym three or four days a week.
Q: How do you promote your work?
Probably not very well yet. 😊 I have a website with a blog (www.tomfowlerwrites.com). It’s not super important for a fiction writer, but people have found me that way. I’ve promoted my free novella, The Confessional, on Instafreebie and BookFunnel (and I’ll have another free one out in early March called Land of the Brave). I try to write good book descriptions and have engaging covers. Especially since The Unknown Devil came out, I’ve dabbled in ads on various platforms. With only two books at the moment, I can’t get a ton of read-through, so I haven’t immersed myself yet. My initial impressions are that AMS ads on Amazon are probably the best, and that Facebook ads are better at building a mailing list. Other authors’ mileages may vary, of course.
Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
I do most of my reading in the mystery-crime-thriller space. Outside of that, I read graphic novels and trade paperbacks (I’m liking some of the DC Rebirth stories after not caring for The New 52). I’ll also read some occasional fantasy, urban fantasy, supernatural thrillers, and science fiction. In the nonfiction world, I like books that teach me something or come at an idea from an interesting angle. And, of course, books for writers.
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 hope those classic writers (and a few others) will continue to be influences. It’s hard to innovate in the genre without knowing the tropes and understanding what came before you. But I also think the coming generation will take their cues from more than just books. Teens and college-aged people today absorb information and stories in ways that just weren’t possible when I was younger. I think you’ll see people influenced by movies and TV, especially now that more studios and networks are creating content.
TV and movies can also lead people back to books. Someone could see the Jack Reacher movies, for instance, and like them enough to check out the books. (This is how I got started with the series—I watched Jack Reacher on a long flight, bought Killing Floor a few days later, and have since read all the books.) Then, after twenty-some books, our hypothetical person may fancy him or herself the next Lee Child. I wonder how many people watch Bosch on Amazon, read the Michael Connelly books, and are inspired to write their own crime stories? Or maybe someone streams House, M.D. on Netflix and goes on to write a medical mystery.
I don’t know which newer writers will be the influencers. Reading some of them, I can tell they were inspired by the masters. If you don’t know and understand what Chandler, Parker, Block, Grafton, etc. did, I think you’ll have a hard time meeting reader expectations. And meeting those expectations is important, regardless of what genre you write in.
Q: Why do you write in this genre?
Crime stories are great. You have a hero, usually flawed with his or her own problems, trying to solve a major problem for someone else. Done well, you get a lot of elements of the hero’s journey. They’re classic, timeless tales. You can graft anything onto a crime story and it still has the same heart. Look at The Dresden Files—magic and supernatural creatures play a big part in it, but if you strip all that away, you’re left with a damaged detective trying to solve a mystery. There’s not much better than that.