The Surreal Killer

The Surreal Killer
Machu Picchu. Peru

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Blog Hopping and What's New?


I’ve been tagged!  Tagged to participate in a blog hop for writers. Every Monday a new set of authors is invited to blog about their own writing process, using a standard format. I was invited to this blog hop by Susan Holmes (http://dogmysteries.com), a mystery writer whose novels feature dogs (does that sound familiar?).  This is definitely a multi-genre hop; previous authors have been from the mystery, paranormal, young adult, and romance genres. Follow the chain if you want to see for yourself!

What am I working on?

I’m in near-final edits for The Origin of Murder, the fifth novel and eighth book in my Roger and Suzanne Mystery series.  This story picks up the characters shortly after the events described in The Deadly Dog Show.  Private detective Roger Bowman and his wife, biochemistry professor Suzanne Foster, decide to take a vacation cruise through the Galapagos Islands, off Ecuador’s Pacific coast, accompanied by their infant son Robert with his nanny Bruce.  The dead bodies start appearing almost immediately.  There’s a ship full of suspects, including a shady DEA agent and two mysterious sisters from San Francisco, with more dead bodies to come.   In addition to the Galapagos Islands themselves, Roger and Suzanne visit Quito, Ecuador and Guaymas, Mexico as they stumble upon an international conspiracy and help solve a complex murder mystery against a background of retracing Charles Darwin’s historic 19th century voyage on HMS Beagle.

I’m also currently about half way through writing Being Dead Is Unbearable in Alaska (provisional title), the sixth novel and ninth book in the Roger and Suzanne Mystery series.  This story picks up the characters shortly after the events described in The Origin of Murder.  After the family gets back from the Galapagos Islands, Roger’s partner in his detective agency, Vincent Romero, asks Roger and Suzanne to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of his good friends from Chile, who were apparently attacked and killed by a bear in Denali National Park in Alaska.  Working closely with the FBI, Roger and Suzanne go undercover impersonating wealthy tourists to investigate Suzanne’s theory of why this may have been a well-planned murder, and who might have perpetrated the crime.

Neither of these books features a dog, although both briefly update Juliet, and her new puppy Romeo, as they progress.  I’ll try to get back to a dog-oriented story with book number ten in the series, which should get started this summer or fall.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My style is hard to classify in traditional terminology.  It’s sort of a “tweener” between hard-boiled noir and cozy.  You’ll find elements of the traditional cozy mystery in my work: there isn’t any vulgar language (at least in English) or graphic sex in these books.  There’s an amateur sleuth (Suzanne), connections to local law enforcement, and a complicated mystery my sleuths are motivated to solve.  On the other hand, the world we visit in the Roger and Suzanne mystery series is considerably darker than the usual cozy.  There are plenty of dead bodies and there are scenes of violence, even though the violence usually contains minimal gore.  There’s also a supporting cast of recurring characters, which vary from book to book, so there is some connection between all of the books in the series.  The books are, nominally at least, written chronologically from the characters’ point of view.  Some of these recurring characters are “good” bad guys or “bad” good guys, so they can have complex motivations for getting involved.  There are also complex plots, well-researched locations described authentically, and plenty of plot twists to keep you guessing.  The final goal of the heroes is to solve the mystery and to make sure justice is served and that the villains are punished.   


Why do I write what I do?

I choose exotic locations that I’ve really visited so they have authenticity, and research the locations thoroughly so they are authentic and up to date.  My wife and I lived in Montevideo, Uruguay and Salta, Argentina for several months each, and we’ve travelled around much of South America as tourists or in conjunction with my research work.  Suzanne’s science is authentic (I have a Ph.D. degree in biochemistry), and as up to date as I can make it.

I write about South America and California because I love the regions. I want readers to see beyond the stereotypes and appreciate the beauty of both places and the interesting people who live there.  I also love dogs, especially the German Shorthaired Pointers my wife breeds, shows, and hunt tests.  Pointers show up in cameo or featured roles in many of these books.

Roger and Suzanne can each take care of themselves in a risky situation.  Both are highly trained in martial arts.  These skills can, and do, come in handy in many of their books.  A strong female amateur detective married to a professional like Roger gives the stories balance, while avoiding such clich├ęs as damsels in distress and women as helpless victims.  I’ve enjoyed watching Suzanne grow throughout the series, from a sheltered academic living in an ivory tower to Roger’s partner in crime solving in a noir world where official incompetence and corruption can make solving crime difficult for the good cops on the regular police forces.

How does my writing process work?

All of the books are plot driven.  I like to create complex whodunits to insert my characters into then let them take over and create the plot.  Whodunit, and why the bad guy(s) did it, can, and does, change during the writing process.  I start at the beginning and mostly write consecutive chapters for the first draft, although I’ll also write scenes as they pop into my head and splice them into the work in progress wherever they seem to fit.   Much of the creative process takes place in my head before I write anything down, so writing the first draft comes easily.  I wish I could say the same for editing!

Somewhere around the third or fourth draft, my wife gets a hard copy to read and critique. If dogs are involved, she is an expert dog trainer and acts as a consultant as well.  If she says something (a dog scene, a paragraph, a plot device, a character) doesn’t work, out it goes and I’ll revise until she’s satisfied.  I’ve tried asking friends to edit drafts, but that’s a good way to lose a friend so doesn’t work for me.

Keep on Hopping!
Thanks for reading. Be sure to check out author L. A. Remenicky’s post from last week. And on March 14th, look for new blog hop posts by authors Carmen Amato (http://carmenamato.net/friday-fiesta/friday-fiesta-blog-hop-striking-gold-recommended-stories/).

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