Tag Archives: Minotaur

Yes, a thriller has to be thrilling, but it can also be literature

We have a special guest today!  James Hayman, author of The Chill of Night (Minotaur, St. Martin’s Press), is here with us to talk about thriller novels, his specialty.  Enjoy!

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Yes, a Thriller Has to Be Thrilling.  But It Can Also be Literature

by James Hayman

A lot of people, but especially self-proclaimed book snobs, create a kind of false distinction between thrillers (and other forms of so-called “genre” fiction such as romance and sci-fi) and what they like to call “literary fiction.”

Genre fiction, they say, is plot driven.   Literary fiction is “character driven.”

That is a distinction that implies that in thrillers or in other kinds of genre fiction, the depth of the characters and the examination of their problems as human beings doesn’t matter.

I think that’s baloney.

Yes, a thriller has to be thrilling. A least a good one does.  To qualify as a really good thriller a book has to have a plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat.  It has to create a need in the reader to find out what happens next. A need that makes them unwilling to put the book down until they’ve turned just one more page, and then one more after that, even if it means staying up way past their intended bedtimes.

But is it only the unfolding of the plot that creates that kind of urgency and involvement in a story?

I don’t think so. I think it’s also the characters.  The characters in really truly memorable thrillers have to be as interesting, as fully-developed and as multi-dimensional as they are in any so-called literary fiction.

I know in my own books, The Cutting and The Chill of Night, McCabe’s problems with his own past and the development of his relationships with his daughter Casey, his girlfriend Kyra, his partner Maggie and especially with his ex-wife Sandy are at least as important to the story as the unfolding of the plot or the undoing of the villains.

And it’s not just me. My bookcase is full of thrillers that, by any rational measure, qualify as first-rate literature.

Take Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River for example. It’s certainly a thriller with a plot that unfolds with all the awful inevitability of a Shakespearian tragedy. But Lehane went beyond plot and explored the character of his three protagonists, Jimmy Markum, Sean Devine, and Dave Boyle with subtlety, intelligence and great literary skill.

Or take John LeCarre’s classic The Spy Who Came in From the Cold or Richard Price’s 2008 best-seller, Lush Life. Are they thrillers or literature?  I think they’re both. And then there’s Cormac McCarthy.  He’s the winner of both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award and is considered one of the finest “literary novelists” of our time. Yet he has written widely-acclaimed books, such as No Country For Old Men, that any fair-minded reader would call thrillers no matter how you cut it.

Yes, there are lots of thrillers populated with one-dimensional cardboard characters. And yes, there is much literary fiction that offers so little plot that its authors’ main intention seems to have been to induce sleep rather than prevent it.  But, to me, those are the books that don’t work and won’t be remembered.

I think the best novels offer both great characters and great plot and arbitrarily categorizing them as either genre writing or literary fiction is a false and often dishonest  choice. And one that needn’t be made.

Visit James on the web at www.jameshaymanthrillers.com.

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Interview with Hasta la Vista, Lola!’s Misa Ramirez

Misa Ramirez is the author of the Lola Cruz mystery series: Living the Vida Lola (January ’09) and Hasta la Vista, Lola! (2010) from St. Martin’s Minotaur. A former middle and high school teacher, and current CEO and CFO for La Familia Ramirez, this blonde-haired, green-eyed, proud to be Latina-by-Marriage girl loves following Lola on her many adventures. Whether it’s contemplating belly button piercings or visiting nudist resorts, she’s always up for the challenge. Misa is hard at work on a new women’s fiction novel, a middle grade series, is published in Woman’s World Magazine and Romance Writers Report, and has a children’s book published. You can visit her website at http://misaramirez.com and her blog at www.chasingheroes.com.  Connect with her at Twitter at http://twitter.com/misaramirez and http://twitter.com/chasingheroes or Facebook at http://facebook.com/misaramirez.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Misa. Can you tell us what your latest book, Hasta la Vista, Lola!, is all about?

Hasta la Vista, Lola! is the 2nd book in the Lola Cruz Mystery Series.  The first, Living the Vida Lola, came out last January.  I’m working on the third book, Bare Naked Lola.  The series follows Dolores (Lola for short) Cruz as she solves crimes and struggles to balance life and her culture as an American woman.

Hasta la Vista, Lola! deals with one of America’s most prevalent crimes: identity theft.  It’s Lola’s identity that’s been stolen, and when the woman who stole it turns up dead, Lola has to discover which one of them was the intended victim.

Q: Is this your first novel?  If not, how has writing this novel different from writing your first?

This is the second book in the series.  Hasta la Vista, Lola! came much faster than Living the Vida Lola.  My children were older, and though I was still teaching, not having an infant made it a lot easier to write!  Plus I know the characters so much better now that I understand them, know how they’ll react and what they’ll do in certain situations.  That definitely makes the writing a more fluid process.

Q: How difficult was it writing your book?  Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

I have so much fun writing the Lola books that I barely consider it work!  That’s not to say there aren’t challenges; there are.  But I wouldn’t say they’re ever overwhelming or difficult beyond reason.

I don’t usually get ‘writer’s block’, but if I do I spend a lot of tiem mulling things over.  I just think and think and think!  I used to walk, but just had knee surgery, so no more walking!  I’m going to start bike riding after my recovery, so that will be my outlet and thinking time.  The writing process is different for everyone.  For me it does not come quickly.  I have to really work through problems, and often end up changing key elements along the way as I discover new or better plot points.

The wonderful thing about Lola Cruz Mysteries is that I now know Lola so well that she comes quite easily.  I like to say that she’s my alter ego (if I were a sexy, sassy, Latina private eye!).

Hasta la Vista, Lola! by Misa Ramirez (click on cover to order at Amazon)

Q: How have your fans embraced your latest novel?  Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

When I received my first fan email, it was such a thrill!  To know that someone (who I don’t know) loved my book enough to email me and tell me so was astounding.  The response to Living the Vida Lola has been wonderful, though it takes time to build a series.  I anticipate that fans of the first book will absolutely love Hasta la Vista, Lola!

Q: What is your daily writing routine?

Once my kids are off to school, I make my own version of a mocha and head through the backyard to the office.  That’s where the magic happens!  I waste too much time with emails and such, but when I get into the zone, it comes quickly and I just love it!

Q: When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

Of course I love to read.  Go out with my friends, the Margarita Mamas, to unwind with our favorite drink.  Spend time with my kids and husband.  Watch Project Runway.  And Supernatural.  Yoga.  LOVE yoga, though I’m waiting for my knee to heal right now.

Q: What book changed your life?

Probably Gone With the Wind.  That’s the first book that I got so wrapped up in that everything else went by the wayside.  I was in high school and read every waking moment until I’d devoured it.

As an adult, I felt that way about The Joy Luck Club.  The relationships in the book struck a chord with me that I still treasure.

Q: If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

Ha!  Some Kind of Ordinary.  My life is nothing thrilling!  Though my mother would call it Pioneer Woman of the 21st Century because I’m a go-getter and a doer.  I’ll tackle almost anything (with the possible exception of dealing with snakes).

Q: Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

Oh, wow, that’s tough!  I don’t think I have many bits of myself hidden away.  What you see is what you get, so I think people pretty much understand me.

I guess, if I absolutely MUST answer, I’d say that I wish people would understand that my motivation is usually centered around my convictions, what I believe to be right and best for whoever or whatever is at stake.  I’ve learned over the years that I have to be willing to stand up for what I believe.  It’s been a hard lesson at times, but one that is worth learning and putting into practice.

Thank you for this interview Misa.  I wish you much success on your latest release, Hasta la Vista, Lola!

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Interview with James Hayman, author of THE CUTTING

James Hayman

Crime Thriller Novelist James Hayman

Crime fiction novelist James Hayman is a former creative director for a New York advertising agency who now lives and writes on Peak’s Island, Maine. Jim was kind enough to answer a few questions about his debut crime novel, The Cutting (St. Martin’s Minotaur Books).

Thank you for this interview, James. Can you tell us what your latest book, The Cutting is all about?

First and foremost The Cutting is about a character named McCabe.  He’s an ex-NYPD homicide cop, a single father, who hoped moving to a place like  Portland Maine would allow him to build a new and safer life, both for himself and his teenage daughter. Little did he know what terrible violence awaited them on the cobblestoned streets of this small and charming city.

The Cutting

The Cutting

Yes. It’s my first novel.  I’m 90% finished with McCabe#2 now and that’s been a totally different experience.

How difficult was it writing your book?  Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

In some ways it was hard.  I don’t work from an outline and that makes the process more difficult bit, I think it lso frees yo to be more creative, to take unexpected turns.

As for writer’s block, I just let my characters lead me through it.  If characters are full, well-rounded and truly human, they’ll always let you know where the story should go next. Just listen and they’ll pull you through. any writer’s block you might experience.

How have your fans embraced your latest novel?  Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

The people who read it love it!  I never expected the book to be so well-liked but reader after reader has said that it’s a great story they couldn’t put down. They love the characters, and they just can’t wait for McCabe #2 to appear on the shelves.

The Cutting also received a bunch of fabulous  write-ups from professional reviewers both in traditional newspapers and online.

What is your daily writing routine?

I usually get up about six or six-thirty, make a cup of coffee and start writing.  About ten or so I’ll put it aside and take a four or five mile walk.  Then I’ll eat lunch.  After lunch I try to write for anoth hour or two.  Sometimes it comes. Sometimes it doesn’t.

When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

Have a couple of glasses of wine. Read. First, I read the news. Then maybe a novel.  Only good ones.  I no longer have the patience to finish books I have no respect for. And I no longer watch much television.  Books are better.

What book changed your life?

No one book has changed my life.  Many have influenced it. Most recently, Ian McKeown’s Atonement. I thought it was a great book that I think will last and still be read many years from now.

If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

Dreamer.

Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

I’m a really good writer.  A really, really good writer.

Thank you for this interview, James  I wish you much success on your latest release, The Cutting!

You can visit James on the web at www.jameshaymanthrillers.com.

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