Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Interview With Maine Mystery Author James Hayman

Maine mystery author James Hayman and I have been attending the same conferences, like Bouchercon and Crime Bake for some time, so here is more info on him and his works.
Plus, he lives in and writes about Portland, Maine, a place near and dear to my heart, and also the setting for my Zack Taylor mysteries, the latest being A Sharp Medicine.

With the holidays upon us, perhaps you'd like to try a new author and delve into some dark territory to take your mind off the stress of the in-laws?

Q: Tell us about your latest book.

A:  My fifth McCabe/Savage thriller, The Girl on the Bridge (right now a steal on Kindle for $1.99), was published by Harper Collins in May 2017. The book begins with a seventeen-year-old college freshman being drugged and gang-raped at a college fraternity party. Twelve years later, still suffering from an extreme case of post-traumatic stress disorder, she leaps to her death from a rusty old railroad bridge into the rushing waters of the river below. Her attackers, all former members of the college football team, have never faced or feared justice or retribution. Not until now, when one by one they are found murdered. Are their deaths simple revenge? Or something more sinister?

Q: How does it differ from your earlier work, or from other books in the genre?
A:  My books are all part of a series of police procedurals featuring two Portland Maine homicide detectives, Mike McCabe and his partner Maggie Savage. Most of the stories involve issues of social relevance. McCabe/Savage #2, The Chill of Night, deals with sexual abuse of runaway teens and touches on the abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.  The third in the series, Darkness First, is centered around opioid addiction among teens and young adults in Washington County, which is the poorest county in a relatively poor state.  And, as I said before, the plot of McCabe/Savage #5 grows out of the epidemic of sexual abuse on college campuses.

Q: Why do you use Maine as the setting for your novels?

A:  A couple of reasons. First, I happen to live in Portland which means I am surrounded by the settings of my stories. I think that’s a good thing for any writer. Second, I think Portland, Maine is a great place to set a series of murder mysteries. It’s a gritty but beautiful small city. The waterfront provides lots of opportunities for plot twists. And it boasts a police department with approximately 180 members. Big enough to have all the bells and whistles of a big city department. But small enough so all the members of the department know pretty much everybody they work with in a personal way.

Q: How was your protagonist created as a character? Where did they come from?

A:  As I discuss on my website, my initial protagonist, Detective Sergeant Michael McCabe, and I are in many ways the same person. Like McCabe, I’m a native New Yorker. He was born in the Bronx. I was born in Brooklyn. We both grew up in the city and both married beautiful brunettes. McCabe’s wife, Sandy dumped him to marry a rich investment banker who had “no interest in raising other people’s children.” My wife, Jeanne, though often given good reason to leave me in the lurch, has stuck it out through thick and thin and is still my wife. She is also my best friend, my most attentive reader and a perceptive critic.
Both McCabe and I eventually left New York for Portland, Maine. I arrived in August 2001, shortly before the 9/11 attacks, in search of the right place to begin a new career as a fiction writer. He came to town a year later, to escape a dark secret in his past and to find a safe place to raise his teenage daughter, Casey.
There are other similarities between us that are reflected in the books. We both love good Scotch whiskey, old movie trivia and the New York Giants.
There are also quite a few differences between us. McCabe’s a lot braver than me. He’s a better shot. He likes boxing. He doesn’t throw up at autopsies. And he’s far more likely to take risks. McCabe’s favorite Portland bar, Tallulah’s, is, sadly, a figment of my imagination. My favorite Portland bars are all very real.

Q: What were the major influences that drove you to write?

A: I’ve been a writer all my life. First 30 plus years were spent writing advertising. Then another ten as a freelance business writer.  All that time I wanted to try my hand at writing fiction but I never did until I hit the ripe old age of 65. Not even a single short story. The first fiction I ever wrote was the first McCabe/Savage thriller, The Cutting.  Happily it almost immediately attracted a terrific agent, Meg Ruley of the Jane Rotrosen Agency in New York, who sold it in a two-book deal to St. Martin’s/Minotaur.

Q: What advice can you offer the fledgling writer?

Write. Write. Write. Keep on writing and don’t stop writing.  If you find you can’t or don’t want to do that, find something else to do with your life.

Q: What drives you to write?

A. I no longer have a day job. I’m a lousy athlete. I don’t play golf. Writing is about the only thing I think I do well. Though, I must admit, I’m not a bad cook.

Q: How has your background shaped your writing?

A: I’ve been a writer, though not a fiction writer, for all my adult life. I worked as a copywriter and creative director for major New York advertising agencies for thirty-plus years. I believe writing scripts for television commercial campaigns hones one’s skills for writing both tight prose and realistic dialogue. My books tend to be almost cinematic in structure, and they are heavy on dialogue.

Q: The publishing world is a strange and scary place. Can you speak to that?

A:  My experience with the publishing world has, thus far, been neither strange nor scary.
That’s probably because I have a great agent who handles most of my interactions with what you might call “the publishing world.” Through my first five books and counting, I’ve only worked with two major commercial publishers. The first two books, The Cutting and The Chill of Night, were published by St. Martin’s/Minotaur. The Cutting did well. The Chill of Night, not so great.  After the disappointing sales for book #2, St Martin’s and I parted ways.
Happily Harper/Collins picked up my third book, Darkness First, almost immediately and published it on their ebook first imprint, Witness/Impulse. After the fourth in the series, The Girl in the Glass, made the NY Times bestseller list, number five, The Girl on the Bridge, was published in both trade paperback and as an ebook under Harper’s William Morrow imprint.

Q: Take us through your writing process from start to finish. Do you have a prescribed way of doing things, or do you have more of a "free form" approach?

A: Very much free form.  I don’t work from a written outline.  Rather, I keep a rough concept of the basic plot elements in my head.  These elements change frequently as the writing progresses and the story moves forward.

So, readers, are you tempted to give it a try? 
Happy Holidays! 

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