Friday, January 25, 2019

Jealous, who me?

Which crime fiction author are you insanely jealous of and why?
by Paul D. Marks, Robert D. Kidera, Travis Richardson, Wendall Thomas

I wish I had thought of Catriona’s title, Premise Envy for this post. I have title envy over that one 😄.
For today’s post and question I thought I’d ask three guests and friends, in alphabetical order, to offer their responses to this question. Each writes a different kind of mystery, so something for everyone. So, let’s get right to it:

Robert D. Kidera is the author of the Gabe McKenna Mysteries for Suspense Publishing. His first novel RED GOLD won the Tony Hillerman Award in 2015. His latest book, MIDNIGHT BLUES debuted in October of 2018. Kidera lives in Albuquerque with his wife Annette and his cat Woodrow Elvis. He has two daughters, a grandson and granddaughter. His favorite color is blue, his favorite food is New York pizza, and he hates long walks along the beach on moonlit nights. . Take it away, Bob:
“Which crime fiction author are you insanely jealous of and why?”
I’ll answer that question with another question: Is it possible to be insanely jealous and incredibly grateful at the same time? That’s how I feel toward Donald E. Westlake. How could he possibly have created such an off-center, off-beat menagerie of characters without them becoming off-putting but, instead, so downright real and even loveable? I have come to realize that he was a con-man himself, a conjurer and his written words are magic. I struggle to add some of that flavor to my work without dissipating his magical qualities. Of course, Westlake himself said “I believe my subject is bewilderment. But I could be wrong.” Maybe I should stop trying to understand his magic and just enjoy it?

I’m referring more to his Dortmunder novels, not so much the ones he wrote as Richard Stark, though they do possess their own magic (or perhaps dark magic). Dortmunder is heroic in his own way—the way it is with geniuses who endure the foibles of their comrades as well as their own. It’s the journey rather than the destination, isn’t it? And the journey isn’t just where you go, it’s the ones who accompany you along the way.
Westlake’s practice has informed the way I people my novels. My latest, MIDNIGHT BLUES, finds protagonist Gabe McKenna taking on a deadly human trafficking operation with the “assistance” of a reclusive 93 year-old World War II desert rat, a dwarf with a Thompson submachine gun, a thrice-divorced childhood friend on the run from his alimony obligations, an Apache long-haul trucker, a college professor who has lost all her grant funding, and a gimpy-legged former prize fighter who drives a hearse but serves the best barbecue in town. I blame Donald Westlake.

Travis Richardson lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. He has been a finalist and nominee for the Macavity, Anthony, and Derringer short story awards. His short story collection, BLOODSHOT AND BRUISED, came out in late 2018. Find more at, you’re up, Travis:

Oh, Hey There, Jealousy.
Paul Marks asked me to write about “Which crime fiction author are you insanely jealous of and why?” with an offer to promote my recently published short story collection, BLOODSHOT AND BRUISED. I said yes and now I’m in a position of answering a question I’m not sure about.
I can’t think of a particular author who I’m jealous of. No name immediately comes to mind. I believe many authors who have achieved success got there by talent, hustle, and serendipity. (A pop psychologist once told me that serendipity is being ready and positioned so that lucky moments will happen.) Sure there are writers who cut corners, but I usually don’t think of them as having long-term careers. And there is something sad in that. (In a former life, I worked with Faye Resnick who believed she was an author because she flew to the Hamptons to talk about Nicole Brown Simpson for 48 hours while transcribers typed away.) Also, there are machines like James Patterson or writers who have passed on, yet their names have been franchised. In many ways, that seems to be less than fair for living authors trying to stand out in an oversaturated publishing world, but I’m happy for the co-writers whose names and incomes are raised. And would I turn down an opportunity to co-write a Patterson title? Probably not. I would, however, like to break the stranglehold that many readers have who only reach out for the familiar, but I’m not sure how.
When I read prose or a scene that blows me away, I often see it as a challenge to improve to that writer’s level. No jealousy there, just more steps up an ever-steepening writing skill-set mountain. But when it comes to areas where I feel inadequate and see others thriving to the point that it may lead to jealousy, it would be in the areas of social media skills, promotion, and those who maximize their time to achieve their goals. So, yeah, I’m looking at you 7 Criminal Minds authors, you no good… Oops. Sorry about that. Let’s shove that little green monster back in the suitcase.  

I’m a bit overwhelmed in the social media arena. In the physical, non-virtual world I often do well with the nuances of conversation. Listening, adding opinion, etc. based on the person in front of me. But the anxiety of writing a spot-on pithy comment that says what I mean with the possibilities of misspellings, misinterpretations, and or missing important elements like a negation so that I come off like an idiot supporting something I hate often leads me to paralysis. I am a bit jealous of those who see something or have a brilliant thought, pull out their phones, and post. I’ve taken hundreds of photos of things assuming I’ll post them, but never do. I’ll stumble across a stimulating article and think that I should pass it on with commentary, but rarely do (and when I do nobody reads it). And oh those brilliant world-changing ideas… they come and go without any documentation. I have too many filters in place, and it inhibits me. A 20th century antique in a 21st century world. 
I also suck at promoting. Some writers do it well. Others, not so much. Some overdo it and alienate people. In the lead up to my short story collection coming out, I felt I was plastering the world with my upcoming book, but I maybe did a quarter of the promotions my wife had suggested for me. And now that time has passed, I see it is very little. To those who promote themselves and others, well done. 
The final thing that I want and find that I have very little of is time. And when I have it, I don’t always maximize that precious resource very well. There are writers who are incredibly disciplined, and my hat goes off to them. It seems like many published authors were former journalists. They don’t need to wait for a muse or certain atmosphere to write. Nope, they sit, type, and create stories. I tried reporting for one semester in college, but the newsroom drove me crazy. Too much noise and too many distractions. Perhaps if I had stuck with it, perhaps my brain would have broken through the chaos and learned to write in focused bursts regardless of the location. While I have some discipline, I can always improve and am impressed to the point of envy by those who can churn out multiple novels in a year.
So that’s it. I thought I would have nothing but I ended up with three. Thanks again, Paul Marks for the invitation. My short story collection BLOODSHOT AND BRUISED: Tales from the South and the West came out in November. 16 stories include Anthony, Macavity, and Derringer finalists. You can find it here: (Look, I’m promoting, Teresa!)


Wendall Thomas teaches in the Graduate Film School at UCLA, lectures internationally on screenwriting, and has worked as an entertainment reporter, development executive, script consultant, and film and television writer. Her novel LOST LUGGAGE was nominated for Lefty and Macavity Awards for Best Debut Mystery of 2017 and her short fiction appears in the crime anthologies Ladies Night (2015), Last Resort (2017), and the upcoming Murder A-Go-Gos (2019). . Hit it, Wendall:

When it comes to the mystery community, I feel more awe than envy. I’ve yet to meet anyone I admire who isn’t generous to a fault and killing themselves doing the best, bravest work they can. Any occasional flashes of “insane jealousy” come from my own cultural schizophrenia.
I’ve spent my life ping-ponging between Henry James and Sam Shepard, Earth, Wind & Fire and Joni Mitchell, Ghostbusters and The Passenger, Preston Sturges and Sidney Lumet. As a writer, I’m divided, too. Both Lost Luggage and the upcoming Drowned Under— in which Cyd Redondo joins an Australian cruise in search of her missing former in-laws and stumbles onto a plot to kidnap the last Tasmanian tiger—are pure screwball. My short stories are pure Hollywood cynicism, and my work in progress, Devilling, opens with a woman dying on an abortion table while a pianist drowns out her screams.

So I’m gobsmacked by the writers who are able to move seamlessly between genres or sub-genres, by those who’ve perfected both the comic and the terrifying, by writers like (to join the chorus) Catriona McPherson and Tim Hallinan. The thing they have I really wish for is their representation—the agent who believes in them, allows them to follow their instincts, and finds a way to sell the books, that, in this world of brutalized branding, they might have been warned not to write. So it’s really “agent envy” rather than “writer envy” that occasionally turns me into what Bobby Charles called “The Jealous Kind.” Writers, I love.
Thank you, Bob, Travis and Wendall.

And now for my usual dose of BSP:

I want to thank Colman Keane of Col's Criminal Library in the UK for the great review of Broken Windows. In part, "What I really enjoyed in addition to a joined-up, coherent and satisfying case, was the backdrop of the city, depicted both physically in Mark's referencing of cultural hot spots and emotionally in the depiction of the attitudes and mood of the time. Plot, pace, setting, characters, resolution - all ticks. 4.5 stars," out of 5. Hope you'll check it out:

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Jacqueline Seewald said...

I find jealousy to be a waste of time and energy. I'd rather admire outstanding writers and figure out what made them special. It can help to improve my own technique.

GBPool said...

What I found so admirable in your guests' reaction to your question, Paul, is that they all respected other writers, learned from them, were motivated by them, and wanted to keep creating their own plots and characters because that is where their hearts are. Great advice.

AJ Wilcox said...

Interesting responses to the question. Great BLOG today Paul.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Jacqueline. And I agree, jealousy is pointless...unless it spurs us on to do better ourselves.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Gayle. You're right, if it motivates us, that's the good thing. But jealousy itself is really not productive.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, AJ. Glad you enjoyed it.

M.M. Gornell said...

Interesting question, great answers. I'm in agreement jealousy is not only a waste of time, but can inhibit you from learning from or liking. Excellent post.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Madeline. Glad you enjoyed the post.