Interview Transcripts

Steve Hamilton: Writing Mystery 9/30/04

Event start time:

Tue Sep 28 18:25:18 2004

Event end time:

Thu Sep 30 21:02:07 2004



Legend:
Questions from the Audience are presented in red.
Answers by the Speaker are in black.
The Moderator's comments are in blue.

Mary Rosenblum

Hello, all, and welcome to our regular Professional Connection live interview.

 

Tonight we're visiting with bestselling mystery author, Steve Hamilton.

 

Steve Hamilton's first book, A COLD DAY IN PARADISE, won both an Edgar and a Shamus award, and was a USA Today Bestseller. The sixth book in the series, ICE RUN, came out in June, 2004. Steve lives in New York's Hudson Valley with his wife and two children.

 

For those of you who are not familiar with mystery awards, the Edgar and Shamus are two of the top awards and a double win is very impressive.  Steve Hamilton’s Webpage

 

So, Steve, welcome! I'm so glad you could join us! Great website by the way!

Steve Hamilton

You're probably all wondering why I called you here tonight …

 

Seriously, thanks. It's great to be here.

 

On debate night yet.

 

You're all taping it, right?

Mary Rosenblum

Me, I'm waiting for the reruns!

 

It DID occur to me that we are offering premium alternative entertainment and enlightenment here tonight!

Steve Hamilton

If you can call it that, yes.

Mary Rosenblum

So why don't you begin by sharing a bit of your history with us? How did you get started in writing?

Steve Hamilton

Oy. Let's see. I really wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember.

 

If you go back in time and ask the 8-year-old me what he wanted to be when he grew up

 

he would say a writer, and preferably a mystery writer. Seriously.

Mary Rosenblum

Really! You were much more specific than I was. It was writer, but no particular genre!

Steve Hamilton

Well, I always loved reading mysteries

 

and maybe once in a while I'd think I had outgrown it, but I always went back.

 

Mostly because we've had so many great, great writers in the field.

Mary Rosenblum

No kidding. That and SF have always been my twin genres of choice.

 

I'm curious. Has writing mystery spoiled your reading of it?

Steve Hamilton

Not really. I guess I can see certain things coming more easily now.

 

Fortunately, there are still enough good writers working, better than ever.  It spoiled me for BAD mysteries, I'll say that much.

janp

Do you recall any of the first mysteries you read?

Steve Hamilton

First mysteries

 

I loved Hardy Boys, I'll admit, and those Three Detectives kids

 

then Agatha Christie. And ANYTHING with Alfred Hitchcock's name on it

 

I ate up those paperback anthologies. Remember those?

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, I loved those and owned them ALL!

 

And I have always loved Dame Agatha.

ashton

Who are your favorite mystery writers now?

Steve Hamilton

Oh man. Let's see

 

Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, James Crumley, Denise Mina

 

Lee Child  I could go on for a while.

arfelin

Hi Steve! Diane from Marquette here. Thanks for coming! What sparked the idea for COLD DAY IN PARADISE?

Steve Hamilton

From Marquette! Well, as far as the setting goes, you know how unique that part of the world is

 

I thought we had enough PI stories set in NYC, LA, etc.

 

I thought it would be fun to try something a little more out of the way

 

and with that lake there --

 

Lake Superior, which is really an inland sea, it is so incredibly huge

 

and just like in that song (sorry, it'll run through your head now)

 

it really does turn into a monster in November.

 

I thought that would be a great background for a hardboiled mystery.

Mary Rosenblum

You're right I can hear the tune right now . But that was one of the things that caught my attention --

 

your setting. NOT one of the major metropolitan areas, Alaska, etc. Good for you!

Steve Hamilton

Really, I'm getting my steps mixed up a little bit .

 

The character came first, this lonely, lonely guy who was living with something in his past .

 

I thought maybe he'd be in Detroit, because that's the city I knew best.

 

But then I thought, no, he WAS there, now he's by himself, in the loneliest place he could find,

 

which, if you're from Michigan, is straight north.

Mary Rosenblum

That's cool.

 

I like that.

 

Did you intend this to be a series when you first conceived of your original book?

Steve Hamilton

I barely could imagine it being a BOOK, let alone a series.

 

But then as I got toward the end, I thought maybe I could keep going .

 

But really, that was imagining that the first one would actually do something.

 

I didn't think it WOULD do anything, because I tried to write a PI story and failed.

 

It's not really a PI story at all. He doesn't go out and solve a case, if you know what I mean.

 

He doesn't take somebody else's problem as his own, like PI's do.

 

All these things happen to him and he just holds on.

Mary Rosenblum

That is different. Maybe that's what adds to his appeal? That this is not the 'cookie cutter PI novel'?

Steve Hamilton

Well, that's what happened, it turns out. The failure was exactly the right thing.

 

It was something different.

Mary Rosenblum

And that is a sterling piece of advice for our writer audience, Steve --

 

doing it 'differently' is not necessarily the wrong tack to take!

Steve Hamilton

That's right. FAIL!

Mary Rosenblum

And that, too!

 

Rejection slips CAN be a good thing! LOL

Steve Hamilton

But do it in spectacular, original fashion.

Mary Rosenblum

There you go.

ashton

What advice can you give newbie writers about the mystery world?

Steve Hamilton

Well, it's still a great place to break in, that's the first thing .

 

If you're a writer, you have to ask yourself a question early on:

 

Why am I writing?  

 

Simple question, right?

 

But what's the real answer?  You have to be honest with yourself .

 

Are you writing because you enjoy it, because it's something that you need to do?

 

I.E. Are you doing it for your own --

 

what's the right word (that doesn't sound hokey)?

 

Fulfillment?

Mary Rosenblum

That works.

Steve Hamilton

Something like that. Whatever personal reason you have ,

 

if that's why you're writing, then GREAT.

 

That's a great, great reason to do it .

 

But if you honestly also want to sell something

 

then now you have to think backwards.

 

You have to

 

walk into the Barnes and Noble and look around.

 

Look at what books are actually selling.

 

It's maybe a crass, cold-blooded way of looking at it

 

but if selling something is honestly part of your motivation, you'd be a fool not to be aware of it, at least.

 

So if you happen to love one of the types of books that are selling

 

that's a great place to start. Mysteries still sell pretty well, it turns out.

Mary Rosenblum

Good advice, Steve.

Steve Hamilton

Sorry, which doesn't really answer the question.

 

It's just something I thought I had to say first

 

because I still meet so many writers who haven't honestly answered that question.

 

But if you do decide you want to try to write a mystery

 

I'm assuming you already know the field well.

 

So now you have to try to do something that's unique.

 

And I'll cut right to what I think is the best way to break in.

 

St. Martin's Press is still the one major publisher accepting the most first time novelists

 

and they happen to have these two 'contests' each year.

 

'Contests' is a lame word, because it sounds like a sweepstakes or something.

 

It's just another way to get a manuscript to an editor.

 

It's how I sold the first book .

 

You can find out more at http://minotaurbooks.com/minotaur/faq.html

 

There, I'm done!

Mary Rosenblum

There are other publishers, too, Berkeley, which is part of Putnam, is one, who are also very open to new writers.

Steve Hamilton

Definitely! I don't mean to make it sound like SMP is the only one.

 

Enough people are reading mysteries.

 

And it takes a lot longer to write one than to read one .

 

And there's ALWAYS room for a good one.

Mary Rosenblum

And I think your 'ask yourself why' question is one that is central to your personal success as a writer.

 

It's a question very few writers ask themselves, I agree.

janp

What are your criteria for a good mystery?

Steve Hamilton

Yow. Um.

 

Almost the same as a good book in general.

 

It owns you by the end of the first chapter, by the first page even.

 

You want to find out what happens. And you care about the characters.

 

And the writing is either wonderful, or at least doesn't get in the wa.y

 

It just has this 'drive' to it. You need to keep reading.

Mary Rosenblum

Compelling, in other words?

Steve Hamilton

Absolutely.

ashton

With what did you first get your writing feet wet? Books?

Steve Hamilton

Original helps, too.

 

When I graduated from college, I told myself that I'd keep writing, even though I was starting a full-time job at IBM.

 

Some years went by, and I didn't keep that promise to myself.

 

It was a writers' group that got me going again

 

and as I got back into it, I was writing short stories.

 

I sold a couple of those, and then decided to try the mystery novel.

 

So I really only did a couple of stories, and then sorta skipped ahead.

 

I've only done a few stories since, mostly when somebody asks me.

Mary Rosenblum

Are your short stories mysteries?

Steve Hamilton

I've done both. The first I sold was a mystery, the second a 'mainstream' or 'literary' or whatever you want to call it.

 

Most since then have been mysteries.

mitch gill

Steve I was wondering whether you begin your writing with a problem (unsolved murder, secret, etc) or do you start with characters in mind and let the story evolve?

Steve Hamilton

Well, in the first instance, it was the character, Alex.

 

And then this situation sort of became clear around him, this problem.

 

Now that I've been working in the series, I know the character already

 

so I just start with something that sounds like an interesting situation

 

like he's playing poker and a bunch of guys break in and rob the place.

 

And then I just go!

 

No outline. No nothing.

Mary Rosenblum

Aha, that answers one question someone asked about whether you outline.

Steve Hamilton

I wish I did. Really.

 

Because then I'd know where I was, you know?

 

If I was lost or on track. If I was halfway done or almost done .

 

But I just can't do it.

 

If I waited until I had my outline, I'd still be working on the first book. Literally.

Mary Rosenblum

Whatever works!

Steve Hamilton

Exactly.

patchworkcat

What method do you use (if any) to keep yourself straight on presenting clues and other details?

Steve Hamilton

Well, that's the kind of thing you can get right as you go over it again

 

I write to find out what's going to happen

 

And I'm as suprised (I hope) as much as the reader will be

 

On rewrite, I try to get some of the details right

 

(THAT'S usually when I do my research, by the way )

 

And if something needs to be planted early, I'll try to do that.

arfelin

How manys drafts do you usually write?

Steve Hamilton

I write that first draft to see what happens, like I said

 

Then I'll go over it a few times  Maybe, I don't know  I'll guess --

 

Six, seven times?

paja

Do you do lots of research and if so in what areas?

Steve Hamilton

A lot of times, I'll wait until I know I'm going back to Michigan, say,

 

and then I'll make a point of talking to people up there, particularly the Indians I know

 

(I call them Indians because they tell me to, by the way ).

 

When I'm talking about someone else's way of life, that's when I really have to make sure I'm accurate and respectful

 

Other stuff, like guns and medicine, I have my 'usual suspects' now --

 

my gun expert, my ER doc, etc.

Mary Rosenblum

So does the 'on location' research take the most time?

Steve Hamilton

Well, I sort of combine that with the trips I'm making back there anyway.

 

I'm going back on vacation with my family, because it's such a great place.

 

And with so many great, great bookstores up there

 

I'm naturally going to go back every time a new book comes out.

Mary Rosenblum

Nothing like combining business with pleasure!

Steve Hamilton

Why not?

 

Although my wife wants to know why I never write about Hawaii.

Mary Rosenblum

LOL

ashton

Ho long did it take to write your first book verses now?

Steve Hamilton

It's still most of a year, then and now.

 

It hasn't gotten that much easier, really .

 

I'll flatter myself and imagine that I'm making sure it DOESN'T get easier, you know?

 

I don't want to get to the point where I'm just mailing it in.

 

I can start to see now how you COULD do that with a series character.

 

I hope I'm still trying to do something new each time out.

 

(Like with the standalone I'm doing now  Hint hint.)

Mary Rosenblum

I hope so, too. I've stopped reading a number of mystery series when the author seemed to start, 'mailing them in'. Oh, tell us about this standalone.

.

Different character?

Steve Hamilton

Ah, funny you should mention that

 

Yeah, Dennis Lehane has a great line:

 

Nobody ever said to an author, 'That twelfth book in your series, that was the BEST.'

 

Seriously, after six McKnight books, it felt like I needed to try something new,

 

just for myself as a writer, and maybe (if you go for writers talking like this)

 

for Alex, too. He's been through a lot. Maybe he needs a break, too.

 

I'm doing something totally different, still crime fiction, but set in New York State,

 

with new characters.

 

I hope it'll make me better, so I can go back to the Michigan series for the next book

 

And really kick some ass.

Mary Rosenblum

My hat is off to you. I think it is very difficult for an author to take a break from a series that is selling well, even when it is needed.

 

Good for you!

Steve Hamilton

Well, it doesn't hurt that that's sort of the model right now

 

You establish a series, then try to make that big break with the standalone --

 

Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly, etc --

 

it's worked out well for them.

 

But of course you can't just do it for that reason.

 

You can't just say, okay, it's my turn to write a big blockbuster movie book.

 

Readers will see right through that.

arfelin

Are you sure it's going to be a stand alone. You do a good series. :-)

Steve Hamilton

One book! Then back to Alex.

tkat_2

How do you keep the creative spark lit?

Steve Hamilton

I even have the title to the next Alex book.

Mary Rosenblum

Which is???

Steve Hamilton

That's a great question

 

(A STOLEN SEASON)

 

Unless it changes. Half the time, it does.

 

But the creative spark…

 

This is a tough one

 

because you can struggle with it sometimes

 

you can try to FORCE it.

 

You can really go all out on a book and feel like you're totally empty when you're done.

 

Somehow, the well always fills back up.

 

It's kinda mysterious.

 

Mostly, and not to get too zen here,

 

it happens when you stop trying to make it happen.

 

It happens when you get out there and do everything else you have to do in your life

 

instead of sitting in a room.

 

Your sub-conscious is always working on it .

 

And then when you're taking a shower …

 

bam, you get that little something.

 

What would happen if …

 

And you're off.

mitch gill

Do you find yourself daydreaming sometimes about the characters or the plot or do you just sit and write a portion daily or..?

Steve Hamilton

The best part of being a writer is that you're more or less allowed to daydream as much

 

as you'd be doing anyway.

 

I'm always sitting around daydreaming or half-thinking about it.

 

When you know that you're going to sit down at night and work

 

it's like you're telling that part of yourself to have something ready by then.

 

So when it's time to work, you have something.

roe

Is it possible that you may return to the stand alone character at some point and do a sequel or begin a new series?

Steve Hamilton

In this particular case, I honestly don't know. More likely, I'll return to this setting.

 

The Hudson Valley has a lot of stuff going on here now.

 

I think I could definitely come back here for something else.

 

(But next, it's back to Alex!)

 

(He's got some stuff to do.)

Mary Rosenblum

I was about to ask do you feel a sense of obligation to Alex to finish telling his story?

Steve Hamilton

I really do. Which sounds funny, I know. I always used to be skeptical when I heard writers talk that way:

 

The character wants to do this or that, etc.

 

But now I'm starting to understand. He's been through so much.

 

And there are people he still has to track down some day.

Mary Rosenblum

How much of an overarching story have you created in your mind, then, that your individual books might refer to?

Steve Hamilton

If I have that, I'm sort of feeling my way as I'm doing it. I can look back and see it, maybe.

 

But I don't know how conscious of it I am when I'm actually writing.

 

I'm just trying to find out what happens, like I said.

writeaway

Are the locations in your stories real, or do you make up names?

Steve Hamilton

Almost all of them are real .

 

I'll make up the name of a bar, like the Glasgow Inn

 

because there's no real place like that in Paradise, Michigan.

 

Paradise NEEDS a good Scottish pub, like most other towns in America.

 

But you have to go to Scotland to find one.

 

I thought Alex should have a place that he could go to every single night, you know?

 

Beyond that, let's see  I did make up the name of a small town on the coast of Lake Michigan

 

mostly because it ended up being populated by total psychos.

 

I didn't want to piss off a real town.

writeaway

Have you ever had anyone complain that you wrote about their town?

Mary Rosenblum

I was going to ask, too, if any Paradise residents think they're characters in your novels?

Steve Hamilton

Nobody has complained that I can think of, no. (And I've had plenty of other complaints in other areas, believe me ).

Steve Hamilton

The people of Paradise totally love it.

Mary Rosenblum

I bet they do. Nothing like a little fame. :-)

paja

What kinds of complaints do you get?

Steve Hamilton

Don't EVER get a gun detail wrong.

 

(That's why I have my expert now.)

 

That and little geography things.

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, I know the gun detail thing very well!

Steve Hamilton

Oh man.

Mary Rosenblum

I love the automatics with clips that never empty, LOL

Steve Hamilton

The wrong ammo in the gun. You're toast.

Mary Rosenblum

Or the ten shot revolvers.

Mary Rosenblum

It's about as bad as getting a Civil War detail wrong in a book!

Steve Hamilton

I haven't gone there yet.

Mary Rosenblum

Don't not without some REALLY good experts!

Steve Hamilton

I won't. I promise.

senicynt

What would you say is the best way to throw out those 'red herrings'?

Mary Rosenblum

Yes, how do you keep your readers guessing?

Steve Hamilton

Oy. That's a good one.

 

It's funny, because the mystery field is so big now.

 

That's one of the great things about it -- you can do anything.

 

And in the hardboiled field, it's really not so much about the 'puzzle'.

 

Although of course it's good to have that element of whodunit there.

 

But mostly I'll just find things sort of accidentally.

 

Alex has to figure something out, so I'll just work backwards.

 

And I hope I'll make it so that you the reader see things at the same time he does

 

or maybe even a little before. That's okay.

 

Of if not, then at least you won't feel cheated by it.

paja

What does "hardboiled" mean?

Mary Rosenblum

Maybe this is a good time for you to talk a bit about the 'subgenres' in mystery?

Steve Hamilton

Well, yeah. Hardboiled is typically a more violent, darker type of mystery.

 

The violence is often on stage

 

as opposed to discovering the body in the drawing room.

 

The opposite, they usually call 'cozy.'

Mary Rosenblum

Think Miss Marple.

Steve Hamilton

With no actual onstage violence. The emphasis is on solving the crime.

 

And of course now they've got to come up with new terms like 'medium-boiled.'

 

Somewhere in the middle.

catydorr

I have had some success with mystery shorts, but wonder about sub-plots and how much to incorporate them into the main story?

Mary Rosenblum

She means in novels, and not short stories, Steve.

Steve Hamilton

Hmm, subplots.

 

As much as you can do just about anything in crime fiction now

 

everything still has to serve the story.

 

If you have a subplot 'thread'

 

that's great, as long as you weave that into the main story itself.

 

It's really a case of feel here. Every book is different.

 

But if it's not serving the story, or doing it fairly soon anyway

 

it might be a distraction.

writeaway

Do you have someone to help with the legal (or illegal) stuff your characters might do?

Steve Hamilton

I do have another friend who was once the police chief in a small town near here.

 

He helps me with a lot of that stuff.

Mary Rosenblum

There are books available, too, written specifically for the mystery writer.

Steve Hamilton

Really, I'm more interested in what's happening with the characters, anyway,

 

not so much the particulars of the law.

 

Other writers go a lot further into that stuff.

Mary Rosenblum

But you do need to get them right, correct? If they come up?

Steve Hamilton

Exactly.  Like anything, you'd better get it right if you're going there.

ashton

Do you write better at night, during the day? No preference?

Steve Hamilton

Absolutely, positively at night.

 

Everybody goes to bed. Then I start my other life.

 

I'll write from about 11 to 2 or so.

 

You can imagine the chances of me making an 8:00 meeting the next day.

Mary Rosenblum

Be glad you don't milk cows, LOL

Steve Hamilton

That wouldn't work at all.

ashton

Do you ever get a story idea from a dream you've had?

Steve Hamilton

Umm, not so much an actual story idea. More like a feeling maybe

 

I can't think of one offhand.

Mary Rosenblum

Where do you find most of your ideas? The newspaper?

Steve Hamilton

Sometimes the paper. Real-life crimes.

 

Mostly it's just what-if's I keep asking myself

 

What if someone you loved just disappeared one day?

 

Something like that.

 

One little thing. Then what happens next.

janp

Do you use a preset words per day schedule?

Steve Hamilton

When I'm going, I'll just work every night, and I'll know if I did enough. It's not exactly word counts.

 

But roughly, I'd say about a thousand words a night.

 

On average.

ashton

Do you do your research with online tools as well?

Steve Hamilton

Oh yeah, I'm always googling stuff. It's a great way to avoid the writing, too.

 

Like, where exactly is this place? How long would it take him to get there?

Mary Rosenblum

I'm laughing. Google is the greatest writing sinkhole there is although it IS a great research tool.

Steve Hamilton

What kind of ice cutting tool would that guy use to kill somebody?

arfelin

Are you going to use first person POV in your stand alone? Do you think there's a trend towards first person?

Steve Hamilton

I wrote six books in first person, and I know I'm more comfortable with that POV.

 

But the standalone is third person, which is a big change. But it lets you do something bigger, if you know what I mean.

 

Overall, yeah, I suppose we're seeing more first person.

Mary Rosenblum

First person is a more traditional voice for hardboiled PI fiction, isn't it? A la Raymond Chandler?

Steve Hamilton

I'm not even sure why.

 

Yes, definitely. It works great for that.

Mary Rosenblum

Which do you like better? First, I assume?

Steve Hamilton

I personally feel at home there, yes.

 

You can switch in and out of thoughts so well.

Mary Rosenblum

Definitely. Did you feel at all awkward tackling a third person novel after six in first person?

Steve Hamilton

I thought I would, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

 

You can still get pretty close to the character if you want to.

 

I'm still doing limited omniscient POV (mangled that spelling) .

 

Really telling the story from one person's point of view in each chapter.

Mary Rosenblum

Everybody has a personal preference in voice, I think. :-)

Steve Hamilton

Sure, like most things.

senicynt

Hi, Mysteries, PI's, serial killers  Just how do those 'buried under the floorboards and the backyard' serial murders get discovered anyway? All we hear in the newspapers is that bodies were discovered, not how they were found. :-)

Steve Hamilton

Hmm, you want real life details here? I know of a couple of cases.

 

It ain't pretty, believe me.

 

Basically, a dead body doesn't keep real well.

 

It happened right here in a town down the river,

 

just down the street from where I lived one summer.

 

A hot summer.  Well, you get the idea. It became sort of obvious.

Mary Rosenblum

Someone didn't do a good job of burial, huh?

Steve Hamilton

Ah, well this case was in the basement

 

If you're talking in the backyard,

 

mostly that's just connecting the dots to eventually get to that person

 

when they finally make a mistake. Then they just go to the house, suspecting the worst.

Mary Rosenblum

The local back-yard burials around here were found because the killer was a suspect and they eventually got a warrant to dig.

Steve Hamilton

Can you imagine having to serve that search warrant?

Mary Rosenblum

My son was on a couple of those 'evidence search' teams.

Steve Hamilton

Yowza.

ashton

Where do you go when you can't find the information you need?

 

I mean, is it possible to just go to the police station and ask?

Steve Hamilton

Well, sure. I think if you did it the right way, you could walk right in and ask them.

 

Tell them you're a writer (having a card or even better a book would help), tell them you have a couple of questions.

 

Like most people, cops love to talk about what they do.

Mary Rosenblum

I've done that several times. The police tend to be a bit suspicious, but once they decide you really ARE a writer they seem much more interested in having you get the details right than anything else.

Steve Hamilton

Right, once you get over that initial barrier.

 

Exactly.

Mary Rosenblum

And have been a font of information.

paja

How can you research/know about crime/violence and not become afraid?

Steve Hamilton

Well, that's a good question, but you know, just reading the paper

 

you see all these horrible things happening anyway.

 

At least when you're writing about it, you sort of try to make some sense of it in a way

 

and put it in its place, at least in a fictional world.

 

Bring some order to the chaos, if only in your imagination.

 

It actually makes you feel a lot better about it.

 

I've noticed that the people who write the darkest, most violent books

 

are usually the happiest, nicest, most well-adjusted people around.

 

Maybe because they get to kill people they don't like.

 

Sue Grafton, who is a complete sweetheart in person

 

got her first book done that way. She wrote about murdering her ex-husband.

Mary Rosenblum

I'm laughing! What a GREAT way to sell a first book and stay out of prison at the same time!

Steve Hamilton

Whatever works!

Mary Rosenblum

Actually, I know quite a few horror writers and what you say is true. They are very nice, well adjusted folk.

Steve Hamilton

They work it out.

janp

Do you feel that you and Alex share some characteristics? Good, of course.

Steve Hamilton

You know, it's funny how different we really are.

 

I honestly don't know where he came from.

 

He's actually a little older than I am, which I found out was pretty rare.

 

I'd say maybe there's more of my father in him than me, if that makes any sense.

 

An old ballplayer, a totally practical person, with a slightly tough exterior --

 

but the most loyal friend in the world.

 

Okay, the loyal part. We have that in common.

Mary Rosenblum

He sounds cool. I ordered a copy of your latest book. I haven't started a new hardboiled series in quite some time and I enjoy the good ones.

Steve Hamilton

Well, thanks. Alex gets beat up a lot, though.

 

He's a real fool sometimes.

Mary Rosenblum

Most of them do. :-) An ER doc friend of mine and I cleared an elevator car once as we discussed how to damage a character without disabling him.

 

Lots of eavesdroppers, I guess.

Steve Hamilton

Yikes. Yeah, my uncle is an ER doc.

ashton

How do you stay upbeat when people trash your work?

Steve Hamilton

Ah! Well now

 

The first couple of times, it hurts.

 

Then you just say, the hell with them. What do they know?

 

Seriously. You just get used to it.

Mary Rosenblum

Yep. I know that response. :-) It's a good one.

Steve Hamilton

Ultimately, what does it matter?

 

They don't like it.

 

SOMEBODY has to not like it, or you wouldn't be doing your job.

Mary Rosenblum

And ultimately, you are not writing for them. You are writing for the rest of your readers.

Steve Hamilton

Sure.

Mary Rosenblum

And mostly, yourself.

Steve Hamilton

Ultimately, yes.

jr souza jr

Who bought your first few short stories

Steve Hamilton

Let's see, the very first one was this cool little magazine called PIRATE WRITINGS. Ever hear of it?

Mary Rosenblum

I know that one! It's quite good.

Steve Hamilton

Sort of mystery and horror and SF, a lot of cross genre stuff..

 

I got for it! That was something.

mercy1

How has Hitchcock influenced your writing style?

Steve Hamilton

In Hitchcock's movies, he understood one thing.

 

Well, he understood a lot of things, but one thing really stuck with me  --

 

there is nothing more suspenseful than NOTHING HAPPENING.

 

I've always loved that. When you can make that work.

Mary Rosenblum

Want to explain that?

Steve Hamilton

You remember the Birds?

Mary Rosenblum

Oh yes one of his best.

 

It scared the pants off me, first time I saw it.

Steve Hamilton

What was more suspenseful, when the birds were attacking the house? Or when the people

 

were WAITING for the birds to attack the house?

Mary Rosenblum

I agree. Some of the scariest stuff is not the monster, but the shadow under the bed.

Steve Hamilton

Right.

Mary Rosenblum

HP Lovecraft does that you never see the creatures. But I won't read him in an empty, spooky building!

Steve Hamilton

Oh yeah. I forgot about those stories. Those were something.

Mary Rosenblum

I was working alone one rainy night in a huge, empty research facility full of blinking lights and humming machines. BAD choice of reading material, let me tell you!

Steve Hamilton

I can imagine.

paja

Were you encouraged in your writing as a child?

Mary Rosenblum

As that eight year old?

Steve Hamilton

Sure, I think so. Both my parents encouraged that. And my teachers. It was really in high school

 

that I found my first writing teacher who really wanted to help me see what I could do.

Mary Rosenblum

That's cool. That kind of teacher is priceless.

Steve Hamilton

She just showed up at an event, the last time I was in Michigan.

 

I hadn't seen her since high school.

Mary Rosenblum

How great!

Steve Hamilton

What a great surprise.

Mary Rosenblum

Before we run out of time and you choose our winner of your book that you are so generously giving away

Steve Hamilton

Uh-huh?

Mary Rosenblum

want to tell us a bit about your stand alone? Is it that far along? Whet our appetites?

Steve Hamilton

(Me choose?)

 

Last year, my wife had a sore throat that turned into something serious, and she ended up in the hospital

 

for like ten days, which these days is amazing.

 

She's totally fine now, by the way.

Mary Rosenblum

That IS serious ten days.

Steve Hamilton

But I was home with the kids (4 and 9) for all that time, keeping things together

 

while at the same time worrying about her.

 

I have never felt so totally wrung out.

 

A year later, now that's everything is great and she's fine

 

I still remember that feeling,

 

and that's really all I need to try to start a story.

 

What if someone like me was just holding things together, barely holding on

 

but because of a more serious reason?

 

Something mysterious?

 

Like instead of being in the hospital

 

his wife was just…

 

Gone?

Mary Rosenblum

Aha.

 

Sounds like a solid start.

Steve Hamilton

We'll see!

Mary Rosenblum

So you have a release date yet, or is this early in the process?

Steve Hamilton

I'm about half done.

 

So maybe it’ll be out late next year.

Mary Rosenblum

We'll watch for it.

Steve Hamilton

Oh, and my web maven would kill me if I didn't mention the web site

 

You can sign up for the newsletter there, too.

Mary Rosenblum

Your website is great.

 

Steve Hamilton's great website

Steve Hamilton

Maggie does Lee Child's site, and Lawrence Block's, too.

 

And T Jefferson Parker.

Mary Rosenblum

She did a very nice job.

Steve Hamilton

She's the best.

Mary Rosenblum

So what one piece of advice would you give every aspiring writer, Steve?

Steve Hamilton

Besides the bit about failing the right way?

 

One thing, a little more technical…

 

The best thing I've ever heard in the way of advice:

 

Don't put words in your characters' mouths.

 

LISTEN to what they say. Then write it down.

Mary Rosenblum

Good way to put it.

 

You done good, Steve!

 

We'll let you go write, and thank you so much for joining us.

Steve Hamilton

This was a lot of fun!

Mary Rosenblum

People would love it!

 

Feel free, Steve!

Steve Hamilton

I'm there.

Mary Rosenblum

Thanks for coming all! And thank you, Steve!

 

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