Q: Thanks for visiting my blog again! Our guest is another talented and interesting mystery author. Let’s give a warm welcome to Paul D. Marks. He won the Shamus Award in 2013 and specializes in crime thrillers. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a literary panel and luncheon. Thanks for joining us, Paul.
A: Thanks for having me, Stephanie.
Q: Why did you become a mystery author?
A: I write crime fiction so I can kill people...on the page that I can't kill in real life...........
Q: Did you start as a self-published author or did a traditional publisher pick up your work right away?
A: I’ve done both and both have pluses and minuses to them.
Q: The Shamus Award is quite prestigious for a mystery author. Did you feel confident that you were going to win?
A: Hardly. I was hopeful, of course, but not confident. Nonetheless, my wife and I packed our bags to go to Albany where Bouchercon was that year as the Shamus Awards are always at the same time and place as Bouchercon. And we went to the convention too. But when I learned of the nomination, I told my wife, “Albany – who wants to go to Albany?” But we took an extra day or two to sightsee and we both really enjoyed it and got to discover a city we probably otherwise would never have visited. And winning the Shamus certainly didn’t hurt our moods and our reaction to Albany.
Q: It seems like several of your stories take place in Los Angeles. Is there a particular reason why the City of Angels intrigues you?
A: Oh, boy, do you want the long or short answer? Because I could go on forever about this, but I’ll give you the short one: I love writing about L.A. I’m a native of Los Angeles, born and raised here and I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the City. I’ve seen it go from a spread out small town to a big, cosmopolitan city and I love its history. It’s the place at the end of the map where people come to start over or fade away. You can’t go any further west, you either sink or swim in L.A.
Q: I imagine your books need to be realistic. It’s a different situation for a science fiction author like me. Is it difficult to maintain believable realism in your work?
A: Well, as you know from your own work, you can create any “world” that you want to as long as you remain true to that world. So if you create a science fiction world that bears little or no resemblance to the world we know people will buy it if you set the foundation and don’t defy the rules that you’ve set up. The same is true for writing crime fiction. My stories are set in the world we know, but it’s a hyper-real version of that world, at least for most of us. So in terms of maintaining realism in that world I think it’s what I said, the characters have to be true to themselves and if they change you have to show it and why. They can’t defy the laws of physics, so to speak, that you set up for them and don’t throw in a deus ex machina to resolve everything at the end, which is like pulling rabbits from a hat.
Q: Your books have a significant emphasis on noir. Why does the noir subgenre appeal to you?
A: I think noir is a modern-day version of the fall from grace. To me, noir is somebody basically tripping over their own faults: somebody who has an Achilles heel, some kind of greed, or want, or desire that leads them down a dark path. I think we can all relate to that. We’ve all made mistakes and tried to do the right thing. But I also like the ambiguity of noir. Things are never black and white. You never know who is really the good guy and the bad guy.
Q: In my opinion, most protagonists in noir stories seem grizzled, tough, cynical, and the poster child for damaged goods. However, they’re still redeemable. Would you say this stereotype is true for your protagonists?
A: Well, some are and some aren’t redeemable. And in classic film noir about the only redemption is death. But my characters are very much like I describe in the previous question. They’ve fallen into the gutter, but ultimately some of them do have something redeemable. And I think we all want to root for that person. My PI character in White Heat, Duke Rogers, screws up a case and an innocent person ends up dead, that’s his Achilles heel, he’s a screw-up. But he tries to make things right by going after the killer, that’s the redeemable part.
Q: A great mystery author needs to keep their readers guessing until the end. How do you make sure the general plot and ending doesn’t become predictable?
A: I try not to give into stereotypes and clichés, but I also want my endings to grow naturally out of the plot. I hate when people pull rabbits out of hats in books and movies. I like it when things happen that you didn’t anticipate, but when you go back you see the clues and have that “aha” moment when it all makes sense.
Q: You write a lot of crime thrillers. I definitely love books that have plenty of action. Bloody violence doesn’t frighten me away either. How much action and violence should we expect from your books?
A: I’d say that depends on the book or the story. Some of my stuff is pretty violent. In one story a dog gets killed and, believe me, I heard about that from a lot of people. But I think it grew out of the plot, and that’s what violence or anything requires – to grow organically from the plot and characters and not be gratuitous. But I also write stories that are more mainstream mystery and have less violence and some that are more humorous or satirical. So as to how much to expect, I’d say it depends on the book or story and maybe that’s not good because people who read something of mine that wasn’t very violent could pick up something else that is and not be expecting it, but that’s a chance I have to take.
Q: Some mystery authors conduct a lot field work for their research. Does this method of research apply to you?
A: Research is my Achilles heel. I like doing it too much and spend too much time on it when I should be doing actual writing. And I have done field research. Once, while working on a screenplay set in New Orleans I just had to go and check it out first hand. I mean, after all, I didn’t want to wrongly describe the taste of a beignet now did I? And very recently, between the time of this interview and the time you publish it I will have gone to New York City. I’m going there for a couple of reasons, but one is to do research, as a novel I’m writing is set there. As far as LA goes, well you just sort of learn that by osmosis from living here forever.
Q: My books have a heavy dystopian element. Do any of your books have dystopian settings?
A: I’m not sure anyone would agree with me, but I think noir is dystopian, at least in the larger sense. If this definition from Dictionary.com applies, “a society characterized by human misery, squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding,” I’d say noir fits most of those to a T or is that a D, for dystopian. White Heat takes place during the Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles, what could be more dystopian than that?
Q: What are you plans for the remainder of 2017?
A: I’ve got several projects I’m working on. And I think I’m about to ink a deal for Broken Windows, the sequel to White Heat. That’s been a long and winding road of close encounters of the bad kind. I’m also working on another “Bunker Hill” story and I have another novel set during World War II in Los Angeles that I’m shopping around right now. Always working on something.
Q: That was a really cool interview. I’m glad you took the time to answer my questions. Your books sound very interesting and I’m sure your fans will enjoy this blog post. I wish the best for your career and book sales. Keep your ambitions high!
A: Thanks for having me, Stephanie. And good luck with your writing too!
That's the end of another interview. I thought it was fun to venture into the realm of mystery again. There are more things wroth mentioning about Paul. One of his books titled Ghosts of Bunker Hill was voted number one in the 2016 Ellery Queen Readers Poll. Howling at the Moon was shortlisted for both the Anthony and Macavity Awards in 2015. He has quite a few accomplishments. I believe his work is definitely worth the read. Paul's books are thrilling, intriguing, and very characteristic of the gritty noir style. Here are a few links pertaining to Paul.
-Official Website: www.PaulDMarks.com
That's a wrap for tonight. Please leave comments if you want to say anything about this interview. Stay tuned for next week's blog post. I'll write another interesting topic to keep you guys entertained. Thanks for visiting and enjoy the rest of your week.