Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with mystery / suspense and non-fiction author Larry Seeley. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Larry. Please tell us how you came to be a writer.
Larry: I started writing after I lost my big-shot job in 2004. Thought I knew what I was doing, but didn’t have a clue. I was fortunate to find an incredible teacher. I think I’ve mastered the necessary skills to be a writer, but you can never let yourself stop listening and learning.
Morgen: Absolutely. Sorry to hear about your job but a good thing’s come out of it. What genre do you generally write?
Larry: Strictly mystery / suspense. I wrote three non-fiction textbooks on casino operations, but they’re pretty boring.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date?
Larry: Two novels: ‘Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves’ and ‘17 Degrees North’. My new novel, ‘The Bridge of the Americas’, will be released in May by Eloquent Publishing.
Morgen: Congratulations. Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Larry: My books are available in all formats—ebooks, paperback, and hardcover. I was not involved in the printing or ebook conversion process. Sorry to say, I don’t read ebooks—strictly print.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Larry: The main character in the three novels I’ve completed is named Jack Sloan. My agent thinks a movie deal is possible, but you never know. My favourite to play Jack would be Timothy Oliphant (Justified, Deadwood). He’s a fine actor and has the necessary machismo.
Morgen: Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Larry: I retain final approval on titles and covers. They are critical.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Larry: I’m halfway through the fourth Jack Sloan novel titled The Placebo Effect. It’s a tough project, and I haven’t thought yet about what’s next.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Larry: I write every day. My target is five new pages or five rewritten. I edit and rewrite about ten times more than I create new pages. I want the finished product to be readable and literate. Writer’s block? If that’s a euphemism for laziness, the answer is ‘yes’.
Morgen: <laughs> Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Larry: I believe a novel must offer the reader a broad idea that can be followed to a satisfactory (not necessarily, happy) conclusion. I read many books, and the best ones give me clues in the first couple of chapters about what I’m looking for. I just finished a book written by an old acquaintance and published by Harper Collins. It’s very well-written, but I didn’t get the point—not at the beginning, and not when it ended. Unsatisfactory.
Morgen: Oh dear. It often happens. At least you can tell him. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Larry: I use what might be called ‘caricatures’ of people I’ve known over the years. I’ve had the fortune (or misfortune) of knowing some genuine scoundrels. They make for interesting subjects. Of course, as a fiction writer, I can make them do or say whatever I choose, so they are not real people.
Morgen: Fortune if you get to write about them. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Larry: I edit and rewrite, and, occasionally, I create.
Morgen: I blog, edit and rewrite, and, occasionally, I create. 🙂 Do you have to do much research?
Larry: Yes. I use detail in my novels to make the reader feel comfortable—like, “I know that place.” or “I’ve carried that type of weapon.” The more closely a reader identifies with the author’s story and details of same, the more likely they are to enjoy the book—and that is my goal.
Morgen: And it should be for every writer. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Larry: My main character, Jack Sloan, is written in first person. Others are in third person. I’ve never tried second. First person is intimate, and I like it when I read other writers.
Morgen: Second is an acquired taste, and best left to short pieces. Do you write any short stories?
Larry: Short-short stories. I write ghost tales for my children and grandchildren.
Morgen: What fun for them. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Morgen: Excellent. 🙂 Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Larry: This must be the joke question. I’d estimate that I’ve had well over one hundred rejections. There are only two ways to react—give up, or keep trying. I kept trying and finally found and agent who likes my work and a publisher who will produce it.
Morgen: Not a joke question because some authors have said “no”… I know, I was surprised too… either because they’ve not submitted (which would help) or because they’ve written a core body of work which has all been accepted. Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Larry: I enter about four a year. I highly recommend Reader Views.
Morgen: Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Larry: I have an agent, and I believe you can’t be a serious, successful author without one.
Morgen: I’ve had mixed reports but I’d never say never. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Larry: Not enough, but I think it’s critical. I’ve had the good fortune to be able to use established connections in the casino business to get my novels launched with great success. Both came out with book signings that attracted over 1500 readers.
Morgen: Wow. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Larry: My least favourite is the entire publishing business. It surprises me when royalties don’t arrive on time; when there are machine-made typos in books; when the publisher doesn’t spend as much on marketing as they promise; etc. The only things I like about it are writing and knowing that someone likes what I have produced. When people approach me and tell my they love my books, I’m flattered and happy.
Morgen: I have occasional emails and it makes my day / week / month, although the last one was for Feeding the Father where the reader said he didn’t ‘get it’ so I emailed him the inspiration which I hope helped. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Larry: Before you submit to an agent or publisher, make sure you know how to write. Most of the self-published books I look at are pure crap. The height of arrogance is to believe your ‘talent’ will carry the day or that someone might be interested in your banality. What is required is hard work and study.
Morgen: And passion. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Larry: Hemingway, Ave Gardner, and Lincoln. I’d cook cous-cous (because I’m good at it).
Morgen: Lincoln’s very topical at the moment. If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
Larry: The day I was born—immortality.
Morgen: The first person to say that. I love it. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Larry: Many. My favourite is from Churchill. I don’t recall it verbatim, but to paraphrase—‘If we’re not willing to support the arts, then what are we fighting for?’ Referring, of course, to WWII.
Morgen: He’s often quoted here, as is Mark Twain. Very clever men. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Larry: I used to screen submissions to my agent. She would receive about a hundred a month, and most were unreadable. I learned a great deal.
Morgen: Wow. It’s amazing how many authors don’t take care with something so important. What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? 🙂
Larry: I play guitar, take care of my animals, volunteer for a group named Felines and Friends—we save and care for shelter cats. My wife and I often have several foster cats in our home in addition to the eight we own (used to be nine, but we lost my favourite girl to a coyote.) I play golf with friends a couple times a week (I’m pretty good). We’re not social people, so we keep to ourselves on the rancho. Very political (knee-jerk liberal).
Morgen: ‘Felines and Friends’ – how sweet. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Morgen: Thank you, Larry.
I then invited Larry to include an extract of his writing…
In the winter of 1995, Tulip Prescott trudged along the shoulder of a country road east of Flagstaff, Arizona. She watched the sky darken and felt the January wind pick up a chill. The cold seeped through the soles of her cheap shoes.
She pulled the collar of her worn coat up tight around her neck and shivered, then scanned the horizon behind her for signs of a car that might stop and give her a lift, but she knew that traffic thinned this time of evening. Twenty miles to walk before suppertime.
Damn, why didn’t my uncle pick me up? Mustn’t swear. She tried to make the sign of the cross, but her heavy overcoat stuck in the way. Please, God, bring me a ride.
The farm kids she took care of were Mark, Bode, and Sheila. Mark, the oldest was eleven, five years younger than she. There would have been no work for her if their parents hadn’t given up on horse ranching and taken jobs in town.
We need a reliable person to watch our kids, the children’s mother told her. Are you dependable? Yes’m, she’d said. She needed the money.
She knew she was pretty in a sixteen-year-old sort of way, but didn’t dream of a handsome stranger taking her away from this place. People called her a nice girl and said she looked like her mother. She didn’t mind. She liked to flash a smile and show her good disposition. A nice, big-boned farm boy would do just fine.
Spectral images played on the dark mass of ponderosa pines that bordered the highway, and her heart hammered in sudden fear. The rumble of exhaust from an approaching vehicle made her knees wobble in relief. She turned to walk backwards and headlights swept over her. Before she raised her arm to flag the car down, it pulled off the road onto the gravel. The driver put his arm out the window and waved. Never take a ride from a stranger, her mother had said, but the wind and cold convinced her to move to the automobile.
“Come on, hop in. It’s gonna snow. Gonna freeze if you try to walk through dis storm.” The man’s voice was rough, and he spoke in heavy Native patois.
“Thanks for stopping.” Tulip opened the door. “Thank you, God,” she added under her breath. It felt toasty-warm inside, and an immediate sting bit into her wind-chilled cheeks. She ran her tongue over her chapped lips. She slammed the door and felt guilty for not being more careful. She had clicked the snow off her boots before she entered, but saw traces on the brand new floor mats.
She glanced at the driver and recoiled. She’d seen him before, but he’d never noticed her, let alone talked to her. He smiled, and she saw cruelty in his face.
“Welcome aboard,” he said with what sounded like fake heartiness. “You headed inta town?”
She nodded, too nervous to answer.
He stomped on the accelerator and the car squealed onto the highway. “You’re a pretty little thing,” he said. “What’s your name?”
“Tulip Prescott,” she answered. Darn, she heard how shaky her voice sounded. She stared out the side window.
“Good thing I came along. Gonna snow pretty soon, and no percentage gettin’ caught outside when it blows.”
He put his hand on Tulip’s leg and gave it a squeeze. She jumped and grabbed for the door but couldn’t find the handle. Damn new cars. Her heart pounded under her heavy coat. The man looked at her, the ugly smile spreading across his face again.
“A hot one ain’t you?” he said. She heard the catch in his voice. “I need to pick up somethin’. Jes take a minute.” He slowed the car and turned onto a small dirt road.
He finished his third cigarette and tossed the butt out the crack he’d opened in the driver’s side window. He could still feel the heat of anger in his face. Look what you did to my car with those fucking clodhopper boots.
That damn kid had kicked the dashboard and broken the trim. He looked over at her in disgust. He saw what she might have looked like at thirty, and then forty—not unattractive, but plain, wide-hipped, and homespun. He reached across her, opened the glove box, and took out a small cellophane envelope and a mirror. He spread the meth out in two small, neat lines and inhaled. That felt better. He reached over and opened the rider’s side door, then took his foot and pushed her out into the fresh snow.
“Sleep tight, you slut.” He engaged the gears and backed away, careful not to run over her. The snow would cover his tracks, and they wouldn’t find her until spring.
and a synopsis of his latest book…
The Bridge of the Americas is the third instalment of The Border Wars Trilogy featuring Jack Sloan. The plot is based on true events, but fictionalized to protect the innocent.
A few years ago, a killer who worked for a Juarez cartel was recruited as an informant by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He played both roles for five years, but was eventually exposed by his cartel employers. The US had promised him safe haven, but when he arrived at the border, he was arrested for fifteen murders he’d committed in Mexico. Tried, convicted, and sentenced to life, he still resides in a Supermax prison. In my novel, he escapes before his trial, and the story follow him to its inevitable conclusion.
Larry Seeley, author of the award-winning (USABooks Finalist IBA Winner 2011) mystery / suspense novels, Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves (April 2010) and 17 Degrees North (February 2012), lives twenty miles north of Santa Fe in a high desert valley bounded on the east by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and on the west by the Jemez range.
He and his wife, Katie, care for chickens, nine cats, and four dogs on their secluded rancho. Katie is active in finding foster and adoptive homes for lost and abandoned pets. Larry has just completed the third novel in the Border Wars Trilogy, Bridge of the Americas.
His experience ranges from CEO of a multi-national corporation to professional blackjack player. An army veteran, he speaks, reads and writes fluent Arabic. Among his many vocations, he considers building a Native casino in New Brunswick, Canada among the most educational.
Con artists and swindlers swarmed Native casinos in the early days, and learning to deal with them and discovering whom you could trust and who had a knife at your back gave Seeley a distinct edge in deciphering people—and a decided advantage in character creation and development.
The strength of his writing lies in his characters. Seeley’s protagonist, Jack Sloan, represents all good guys caught in bad situations. He’s tough, but fair, and takes the reader through the agonizing decisions faced by people who must choose between right and wrong, good and evil, and do what is necessary.
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