Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Interview with Simon Wood

Thanks again for interviewing with me Simon.

Glad to be here.

What’s scarier, your books or your driving?

I think I can scare most people with both, because I’m in control of their destiny. In both situations, people are passengers on my rides.

What do you find different about your American audience versus your overseas readers?

Usually their accents.

For a more serious answer, I find American readers a little more moralistic than British readers. American readers seem to be more sensitive to things such as cursing and the morality of the characters, especially when it comes to the protagonist. I know several readers picked on me for things such as infidelity and occasional lawlessness. Heroes have to be good for goodness sake.

So you do private investigations? How did you stumble into that one?

When I first moved to the US, I struggled to find a job for the longest time and my wife and I were struggling to make ends meet, so we became ‘mystery shoppers’ where we’d check to see if stores did what head office told them to do. We ‘shopped’ fast food joints, movie theaters, supermarkets, etc. We got a little pay and got to keep what we bought. We did so well that we kept being bumped up. We moved on to fancy restaurants, hotels and casinos. Every few weeks, we would be sent to Vegas to check up on dealers, hotel staff, bar staff. We’d have to watch people who were thought to be doing something naughty. It was fun but hard work.

If you could change one thing about our current laws, what would it be?

One land—one law. As an outsider, the fragmented approach to law and law enforcement where crimes are judged differently from one state to another is beyond me. It’s a jurisdictional nightmare. I was once hit by a car and landed on a city-county line. Three jurisdictions fought over whose responsibility it was to respond. It’s supposed to be “one nation under God,” not five hundred municipalities.

What book are you most proud of and why?

I’m proud of all my children, but if I had to save any of them from a burning building, I guess I would have to say Paying the Piper and The Scrubs. I love Paying the Piper because it’s so relentless. The storytelling never draws breath. I love The Scrubs because it’s the most visual thing I’ve ever written. It’s Technicolor in words. It’s started off as a short story and kept expanding and expanding. I think the images stick with most people long after they’ve finished it. Also these are my wife’s favorites. If I can, I’d like to show some love for Road Rash. I have a real soft spot for this one because I used my own personal encounter with Santeria in Guatemala and I incorporated it into a supernatural crime story. I love the change the protagonist goes through—physical and spiritual.

Why Simon Janus?

I have two loves—horror and crime fiction. They tend not to share the same readership. When I kept bringing out different books and stories that switched from one genre to another, it confused my readership. So a couple of years ago, I started using Simon Janus for my horror fiction and Simon Wood for all my crime fiction. It helps give readers the heads up on what to expect…most of the time.

How long does it take you to write a short story?

I might ponder a short story for years, but I’m pretty quick when it comes to writing it. I usually produce one in a day, and spend a couple of days rewriting it.

What character from a short story still sticks with you to this day?

If we’re talking about other people, I would say the painter from David Morell’s “Orange is for Anguish, Blue for Insanity.” It’s one of my favorite short stories of all time. If you're talking about my own, then it would be Captain John Clelland in “Acceptable Losses.” With both stories, it’s the emotional horror that hurts the most. People can listen to an audio adaptation of “Acceptable Losses” for free here.

King said no one ever asks about the language. What is the most beautiful poem you can remember hearing?

When I was in high school, we studied the war poets and I was touched by Rupert Brooke’s, The Soldier.

Do you mix poetry into your writing?

Oh no, I have no poetry in me.

Favorite word(s)?

Usually rude ones.

Was there ever a moment when you realized, “You know what, I’ve got this English thing down?”

No. I’m still waiting on that moment, but I don't think I’ll ever get there. I’ll be forever working on it. I’m dyslexic so I was abysmal at school. To be honest, I speak English, but I still have little idea how it all works.

You can be a writer or the president, which do you choose?

Oh, I’d be a writer. As a writer, I stand a chance of actually making positive change—although only fictionally.

Tell us about “The Fall Guy.”

It’s somewhat of a dark crime caper in a Donald Westlake/Elmore Leonard kind of a way. It’s the story of Todd Collins who has failed in every job he's ever undertaken, but that all changes when he backs his jalopy in a shiny, new Porsche belonging to a drug dealer. When the police stop the drug dealer for a broken taillight that Todd has caused and discover a cocaine shipment, a West Coast kingpin holds Todd responsible. On the run from organized crime, Todd discovers his true calling. It’s inspired by an incident that happened in my first year of college. It’s in eBook form at the moment, but I sold the print rights last month and it’ll be out in paperback in November.

Scott Nicholson told you to ‘Do something with it.’ What was the story like at that point? How much did you have left to do?

I wrote a short story called Fender Bender and it appeared in an anthology called Small Crimes. A publisher wanted me to do a collection of short stories with a workplace theme using Fender Bender as the backbone of the collection by expanding the story into novella and that was the genesis for “The Fall Guy”. Unfortunately, I kept developing the story and ended up writing a novel and it got included in the book, Working Stiffs. Working Stiffs went out of print about a year ago. Scott had read Working Stiffs and suggested that I break “The Fall Guy” out and release it as an eBook all by itself. I hemmed and hawed and finally released it a few months ago and it’s really struck a chord with readers recently. That inspired me to send it out to a publisher and it picked up a print contract. So I owe Scott big.

When you first started writing, did it come naturally, or did you have to work at it?

No, I was not a natural. Like I said earlier, I’m dyslexic and avoided therefore written words for most of my life. But when I came to US, I had this hankering to write. The problem was I had no idea that I was essentially a functioning illiterate. It wasn’t until I made some faltering steps that I realized how little I knew about composition and grammar. I picked up some books and my wife walked me through the basics.

Could you give some links to your stories on Fictionwise, your novels and novellas?

Fictionwise only has some of my short stories. With so much of my backlist going out of print in the last year, I’ve resurrected them as ebooks. My complete back catalogue of novels and novellas are now available for the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony, etc. All the links can be found for all these outlets here.

Could you give me an example of your process when writing a new novel? You joke that you have little idea how it all works.

I’m not very disciplined, so that’s made me quite structured when it comes to writing a book. I’m a plotter and an outliner. I construct a color-coded spreadsheet showing the story’s development from beginning to end, which point of view the scene is being told from, whether it’s a lead or subplot. I might not stick to my outline, and usually don’t, but it’s a nice security blanket. The outline gives me the confidence that I won't run out of puff while I’m writing. When I’ve got my outline in place, I just plow my way through. I don’t worry about how it looks or reads. It’s all about getting that idea down. Because I can't really read what I’ve written very accurately. My wife acts as my eyes and reads the manuscript. She marks it up and I change it, then give it back to her to re-read. Once we've got a reasonably clean manuscript (usually after six edits or so), she’ll read the whole book aloud so I can hear it and I make edits as she reads. Once, the manuscript is clean, I send it off to some readers who are good with grammar or genre fans. When the manuscript is as clean as I can make it, then it goes to my editor.

Congratulations on “The Fall Guy” getting put into print and thank you for the interview today, Simon.


Simon Wood said...

Thanks for interviewing me, Draven.

Jeff King said...

Awesome info and great interview... thx guys.

Jeffrey Beesler said...

Great interview, Draven and Simon!

Two for the Road said...

I'm glad you liked it, gents.


Michele Shaw said...

Great interview! You always have interesting questions, Draven. And your guests answer with insight, humor, and passion. Fun series of posts!

Draven Ames said...

Thank you for reading, Jeff and Jeffrey. I'm almost done with another of Simon's books, and he writes very good thrillers. I'm glad to know him.

Thanks for the compliment, Michelle. Can't wait to interview you next.