Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Q & A with Graham Smith

Graham Smith has a few things in common with me. He's from Europe (the UK), he's a reviewer and interviewer (for Crimesquad) and was featured in the ACTION - PULSE POUNDING TALES anthology. Now he's here for an interview about PI fiction and his character Harry Charters...

Q: What makes Harry Charters different from other hardboiled detectives?
I’m not terribly sure that he is particularly different from other hardboiled detectives as he fits all the stereotypes within the genre. He has a serious drink problem, a past which haunts him, he’s beyond world weary yet retains a dry and laconic turn of phrase.
Despite all this he retains a sense of justice, although his justice is usually meted out via brutal methods.
For all Harry’s many flaws he does care about his cases and he will move heaven and earth to resolve them.
Having re-read that answer I realise what a cliché he is. But then again if it ain’t broke…

Q: How did you come up with the character?
I was invited to submit a noir story to a blog and I just sat down and starting writing about a drunken PI. I set the stories in the fifties as I wanted him to have a war history to explain his fighting ability. Other character traits are staples of the genre and I just added then in where appropriate. One thing I was always aware of though was the need for him to be likeable as a character if not a person. He’s very self depreciating and I often used his wry humour to show this trait with lines like “Men came here to drink to forget. I’d have to remember this place. It suited me.”
To me lines like that encapsulate so much of his character. He wants to remember a place where he can go to drink away his memories.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I’m for it and against it. I love books and their smell and the feel of one in my hands. Yet I own a Kobo and like it for it’s ease of transport. Also as a book reviewer for I can see a day when advance review copies are replaced with Kindle or Kobo files which will be much cheaper fro publishing houses and since getting my Kobo everything I have read on it has been a review copy.

Q: What's next for you and Harry?
I’m currently working on a re-write of my debut novel and when that’s done I’m gonna head over to Mariscoper and catch up with Harry. I think he’s finally gonna tell me about the case that went wrong. He’s being coy about it, so I don’t yet know whether it will be a novella length or a short story for another collection.

Q: How do you promote your work?
Via Facebook groups, Twitter, LinkedIn, interviews, guest blogs and so on. I prefer the writing over the promotion and I actually do very little direct “Buy my book. It’s fantastic.” type of blatant self promo. I’d rather engage potential readers with posts or conversations and strike up some kind of friendship.
I hate the idea of losing readers through pointless bombarding with promo. I’d sooner retain the ones I already have through making my stories as good as they can be.
Whenever I get involved in promo blasts I always feel as though I’m prostituting myself. Until I remember that prostituting yourself is every man’s dream as then you get paid to … And that’s enough of that thought!

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
I have rarely strayed from crime fiction in my reading since reading the Lord of the Rings. Most of the books I read can be classed as crime fiction despite some being mainly action based ie Matt Hilton’s Joe Hunter series or Tom Cain’s Sam Carver novels. I also read the Da Vinci Style of historical artefact thriller but almost all of the thrillers I have read have a crime element.
Having said all the above my favourite novel is HMS Ulysses by Alistair Maclean. Pace plot and character combine perfectly aboard a WWII battleship defending the Russian convoys in the North Atlantic.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
I love them and wish I could create one. The idea of a psychotic friend who will turn up kill the baddies leaving the investigator to get on with mystery solving is genius in its simplicity. They can do the things your lead character can’t do in terms of brutality. They can allow the lead to show moral depth by decrying their behaviour. They are an immense source of humour, Elvis Cole delivered one of the best lines I’ve ever read about Joe Pike “I wouldn’t say he’s taciturn but he thinks Clint Eastwood is a blabbermouth”, Windsor “Win” Lockwood III answers his phone with a simple “articulate” and who cannot love Bubba Rogowski? I fell in love with him as a character when I found out the floor of his warehouse home was littered with landmines as a security device.

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?
All of the above will continue to influence PI novels along with many newer authors such as Harlan Coben, Terrell Griffin, Jefferson Parker and even the softer end of the scale such as Alexander McCall Smith. Lots of current UK writers such as Stuart MacBride and Mark Billingham write police procedurals which are as dark and twisted as those early PI novels.
As a writer myself I credit every book I’ve ever read as having an influence on me. Whether I learn what works or what is terrible doesn’t matter. I’m learning.

Q: O'Neil DeNoux came up with the following question: How did you come up with the name of your detective?
With my character set in the fifties at an age where he’d fought in WWII my first thought was to think of people I knew who were the right age. Obviously my grandfathers names came into my head first. One grandfather is called John “Jock” Smith. I couldn’t see that name working as well so I named him after my maternal grandfather Harold Charters. I shortened Harold to Harry as Harold was too English sounding for an American character.
Grandad boxed a lot in the Army and those were the stories he told me of “his” war. So when I sat down to write “Dealt a Better Hand” I added a boxing match so I could put Grandad back in the ring one last time.


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