Friday, November 15, 2013
SCHMOOZING WITH RICK BLECHTA
1. Who has influenced you the most in your writing career?
That’s sort of a tough one. If you mean for crime writing, I’d have to say there are three: Dick Francis for how he handled the horse racing backgrounds in his novels. I always felt there were just enough interesting informational tidbits as well as a clever way of working the racing background into the plot of the story. Even though the main character became pretty repetitious after awhile, Francis books are a good, fun read.
For dialogue, hand’s down, it has to be Rex Stout. He was such a deft hand at it, you seldom noticed how much information he was feeding you, not just with the words, but also with the actions and reactions of those speaking. There’s a lot to learn about good writing from reading Nero Wolfe.
Among current writers, I would have to say I really admire the way Michael Connelly and Val McDermid put their books together. They make very few missteps in plotting and can paint a pretty amazing picture with just a few, very spare phrases.
2. What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished a full-length novel for Dundurn which happens to be a sequel to my previous publication with them. This is called Roses for a Diva and even though it was a very difficult and time-consuming job, I really enjoyed it and am quite happy the way it all turned out. Roses will be released sometime late next year – at least, that’s what I’ve been told. Readers will like it (I hope) because this time the story travels to Italy for much of the book.
Also out next spring will be a new Rapid Reads novella titled The Boom Room. This is another Pratt and Ellis story and concerns a murder at a nightclub. I enjoy writing these stripped-down works a great deal. I think it improves my prose-writing in general since you have to say just as much with a greatly reduced palette.
3. In what ways is your main protagonist like you? If at all?
Since I don’t have a main protagonist that travels from book to book (except for this current one), there are only so many generalities about their personalities that they might share with me. My characters don’t give up easily, very much like me, and while they may be occasionally unsure of themselves, they know how to think things through. Some of them also have a rather ironic view of the world, which I definitely do. I do wish I had the amazing musical talents a few of them possess! In which case, I probably wouldn’t be writing novels…
4. Are you character driven or plot driven?
I’d have to say both. I have to really be engaged with the characters in my novels, the good as well as the bad, in order to write each one. They usually have some sort of flaw they have to overcome during the story (or not, if they’re a baddy), but I also feel the plot needs to be strong and compelling in order for the book to be ultimately successful for readers. So let’s put it this way: I like to explore my characters, but I don’t want that to get in the way of telling the basic story. Since not a few of my novels are whydunits rather than whodunits, the plot can be especially important. Above all, everything has to be believable. I’ve occasionally been told (by reviewers as well as readers) that my characters are very much like most people they know, but I take that as a compliment. How many really outré people does the average person know?
5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Lately, I’ve been told by both my publishers that they want at least a detailed plot outline, if not a chapter-by-chapter summary. Because they require it, I do it, but I can’t say I like it. It does help sort things out for plot requirements, but once I send it in, I generally never look at it again while I’m writing the story. If I were to follow things off my summary, I would certainly be more apt to miss those interesting and exciting plot twists you come up against along the way. For instance, with The Boom Room, I got to the final chapter and realized the wrong person did it! If I’d followed my chapter outline, the storyline wouldn’t have changed enough to allow that to happen. As a sidebar, when you work this way it’s very interesting to finish a novel, then look at your long-forgotten summary and see how well you did at following it. To sum up, I would much rather work through my plots without the aid of too much forethought.
6. What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
A sense of enjoyment, certainly, but since I write about music and try to do it authoritatively, I would hope they might enjoy the insights into how music is made, both internally and externally, since to many, being a musician or involved in the music biz is something mysterious and arcane. Foremost in my mind as I write is in producint “a good story, well-told” to quote one of my publishers.
7. Where do you see yourself as a writer in 10 years?
I would like to not have to rely on a day gig to earn my living. I work best when I can concentrate totally on writing. Currently, that only happens on vacations or if I don’t have any graphic design work on my desk. And I sure hope that happens sooner than in ten years!
8. What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?
Probably that I can be very unsure of myself at times. I have learned how to think my way out of tight corners, but sometimes I’m very much up against it. They might also be shocked to find out that when I write I always wear a pirate costume – complete with eye patch and a live parrot on my shoulder. Just kidding…
9. What do you like to read for pleasure?
Anything that strikes my fancy. My wife and I both love looking at maps (we have a large number of British Landranger maps for instance), and I often read history. We have amassed over 150 cookbooks. I read one or two biographies every year – usually about musicians. I wish I had more time to read, actually, since it is one of life’s great pleasures. If I have a novel on the go, it’s extremely hard for me to feel anything but guilt that I’m reading instead of working on it.
10. Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet (140 characters or fewer).
Operatic soprano Marta Hendriks is being stalked as she travels the globe. Is it just an over-enthusiastic fan – or something more sinister?
Rick Blechta is a musician as well as a writer of crime fiction. He has successfully melded the two in his critically-acclaimed thrillers. His 9th and 10th novels are scheduled to be published in 2014. First, another novella for Orca Book Publisher’s Rapid Reads imprint will be released in spring. Next fall will see Dundurn publishing his full-length novel, Roses for a Diva, the sequel to his very popular The Fallen One.
Rick posts every Tuesday on the long-running Type M for Murder blog (http://typem4murder.blogspot.com) and you can visit his website at http://rickblechta.com.
Catch Rick playing trumpet with The Advocats Big Band on the first Monday of every month at Seven44 Restaurant and Lounge, located just south of Eglinton on Mount Pleasant in Toronto.