Friday, February 10, 2017

Q & A with Glen Erik Hamilton

The series featuring ex-con Van Shaw by Glen Erik Hamilton seems to be quite popular, winning several awards and good reviews. Time for me to interview Mr. Hamilton...

Q: How did you come up with the character Van Shaw?

I started with the idea of writing a character raised with a different set of moral standards than mainstream society.  Given my love of crime thrillers, that quickly progressed to the world of lawbreakers, in particular independent thieves unaffiliated with organized crime or gangs.  I wanted Van to have broken away from that life on the cusp of adulthood, only to revisit it with a different outlook years later.  Simply having him move away seemed weak, and it was logical that a tough young man with no job prospects might enter the military to build a new life.   That's where we find Van at the start of the first book, having served with distinction -- accumulating scars both physical and emotional -- for ten years.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?

Anything that gets books into the hands of readers is a plus.  Ten or fifteen years after the first rush to market, eBooks have never quite gained momentum into the anticipated revolution to overthrow the old world of publishing.   They became a new frontier all their own.  While eBooks have opened huge new opportunities for authors, readers, and publishers, evidence shows the reading public still has a serious hunger for physical copies, and for independent booksellers.   That's all to the good.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?

My third Van Shaw novel will be out in July.  With each book, I invest a lot of thought into where Van is at the start and how the book's events -- often violent, often morally challenging -- leave him at the end.  I'm not interested in having Van remain status quo.  The concept of families, both blood and chosen, is a running theme.  Van thought he could do without that for a long time, with the exception of his brothers and sisters in the Army.  Now, he has people around him he loves, and that means new responsibilities.  And new risks.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?

In those precious hours that aren't taken up by the day job or writing, I'll play with my family (Legos and re-enacting scenes from the Harry Potter books are current favorites), get in some reading (see below), and exercise (boxing, mainly, with no delusions of being a bad-ass).

Q: How do you promote your work?

I'll invest time in the usual social media platforms, and often write guest articles or do interviews when a book launch is nigh.  There's also attending conventions, which can be a great way to meet readers as well as other authors.  But in truth, I'm not certain if all of that really helps book sales to a large degree (a small degree, yes -- and careers can be built on small degrees).  Mostly, being part of the writing community is fun -- and if it's not fun, why do it?

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?

Leaving aside other branches of mystery fiction -- I enjoy everything from cozies to espionage thrillers -- I like history, biographies, and the occasional how-to manual.  It's amazing how often real life is far more bizarre and magical than we could ever get away with in writing fiction.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?

Your examples are solid evidence that it's been done, and done well.  Ideally, the sidekick gives a reflection on the main character -- the limits of what he or she is willing to do -- and provides complications.  Mouse might get Easy Rawlins out of trouble, or just make the situation immeasurably worse by murdering people.  Unfortunately, the tough sidekick can also become a weak cop-out, killing off the villains while letting the main character retain the moral high ground.

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?

Lehane of course is still producing great work to influence the newest generation, including me.  Looking at private eye writers who have broken out in the last decade or so, and who are likely to have long and influential careers ahead, there's Julia Dahl, Duane Swierczynski, Alison Gaylin. And my friend Ingrid Thoft, writing the Fina Ludlow series set in Boston.  All award winners, and all superb at making a reader turn the next page.   There's no shortage of serious talent out there.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?

Crime is endlessly fascinating.  It exists in every society, for many reasons: greed, power, protest, or simple survival.  The kinds of crimes that flourish or wither are reflective of that society.  And the individuals who choose crime, fight crime, or are victims of crime have their own motivations and their own viewpoints.  Viewpoints make characters, and characters make a book more than just a recounting of what happens next.

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