Friday, June 29, 2012

Interview with Robert Downs

Today I am interviewing a fellow author by the name of Robert Downs. He proudly writes Manfiction (the opposite of Chick lit) and is not afraid to put a few noses out of joint because of it; whether from a right-hook or a callously chosen gibe. He is the author of the novel Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Detective.

What five words would you use to best summarise your novel?
Manfiction, hard-boiled, sarcasm, dialogue

Who is your intended audience?
It would be nice if it was every reader on the planet, wouldn’t it? Sorry, I have to dream once in a while, before I get smacked back down to reality. Since I ended up writing myself smack dab in the middle of the Manfiction category, without even realizing it—sometimes ignorance is bliss—my intended audience focuses around those individuals who enjoy Mickey Spillane and Raymond Chandler, as well as modern authors, such as the late  Robert B. Parker, Robert CraisLee Child, and Michael Connelly, to name just a few.

What inspired you to write Falling Immortality?
I literally have no idea—although I wish I knew, because it would make my life easier in many respects—but my muse decided to bless me with a main character who is absolutely perfect for me, even though on the surface it looks like the worst match imaginable. Once I had my main character, I needed a story worthy of his attention, since he has the attention span of a gnat in a thunderstorm; otherwise, my tale would have had trouble breaking short story length.

But I can tell you that Falling Immortality came about through my own failings as a writer. I needed to focus as much as possible: I was all over the place as a writer, and my original manuscripts were tales only a mother could love. By writing a first-person mystery, I had a goal and a writing standard I could more easily follow, and once I decided on a first-person tale, I searched within myself and came up with the strongest male lead I could possibly envision. And he gives me a voice I wouldn’t have otherwise found on my own.

I have discovered a new category: Manfiction - and I like it. What does a book need to do to qualify for this genre?
Well, I wish I could take credit for the term but Stephen King actually coined the phrase. In the early stages of the marketing phase of the publication process, I discovered the term and haven’t looked back since. It’s certainly descriptive and attention-grabbing which is exactly what I’m going for. To answer your question, a book needs plenty of action, fist-fights and gun-fights, since the whole point is escapist entertainment geared toward men, and oftentimes women come along for the ride as well. I’d also like to add muscle cars into the picture, since every strong male needs a strong automobile.

If you had to compare Casey Holden, who would he most resemble?
If you try hard enough, you could compare him to any number of individuals. I was devouring plenty of Robert B. Parker and Lawrence Sanders at the time my vision for him materialized although I would like to think he’s unique in his own right. I tried to come up with an male lead that would be able to fit into my own warped view of the world (extrapolated to the nth degree). I haven’t read anything quite like him so far and neither has my publisher.

I noticed references to hard-boiled; would Inspector Tequila get on with Holden?
Honestly, I’m not really sure. My original intention for the reference was hard-boiled mystery. Either way, he does have as much bite as a Doberman. Casey can rub just about anyone the wrong way, which is one of the reasons he left the police force. He’s also extremely bad at following rules: he probably colored outside the lines a lot when he was younger. I cannot envision a world where a clarinet-playing police officer and Casey would get along, though.

I'll play a little word game; choose from each selection and tell me why:
Action or words?
I’d have to go with action. Manfiction novels don’t have flowery words or descriptions, and they’re shorter novels with more character-driven plots.

Ace Ventura or Gum Shoe Detective?
Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private InvestigatorI’d choose gum shoe detective, since I ended up mirroring the detectives of yesteryear, even though that wasn’t my original intent.

Dapper Dame or Film screen harlot?
I like the alliteration of dapper dame, and it fits very well within the confines of Manfiction. Film screen harlot presents images of sophistication that I don’t possess, although my main character likes to think he does.

Blood-soaked moon or Crimson sky?
Blood-soaked moon, definitely. It presents images of action, grit, and violence.

Miami Vice or CSI Miami?
I’d go with Miami Vice. I incorporated a buddy relationship within the confines of my novel, and I needed a character that polishes Casey’s jagged edges. Ian Jackard proved the perfect foil, and without him, Falling Immortality would have missed a step or two.

Whodunit or Vigilante justice?
While vigilante justice holds a certain appeal, I prefer the whodunit. I’ll take a good mystery any day of the week, including Sundays, and I like the aspect of discovery.

Now, are there any more adventures for PI Holden or future projects you are working on?
I like your use of the term projects, since I tend to work about four or five steps ahead of the publishing industry. The publishing industry, like the government, moves around about as well as an antelope on a tricycle. In either case, it’s certainly not their fault, as it takes quite a bit of work to bring a book to market, if you do it right, and the government ends up being a mega-corporation.

The next two novels in the series are currently with my publisher. Graceful Immortality, the sequel to Falling Immortality, involves the murder of a female dancer from the Virginia Dance Company. Kathryn Gable, another dancer in the company, comes to Casey, and asks him to solve Jessica Mason’s murder. Like in the first novel, things aren’t quite what they seem, and before he even realizes it, he’s in over his head again.

I’m in various stages of completion on the next three novels, with the sixth Immortality mystery being the roughest at this point. I’ve also begun work on three novels outside of Casey, one of which is a mystery with a female lead, and two of which are thrillers. My mind tends to go off in various directions, and I do my best to keep it in check. It’s a constant give and take relationship.

Thank you for your time, Robert - are there any parting words for your fans?
I’d like to thank you with every fiber of my being. You’re the reason we continue to write, and you’re the reason writing is one of the greatest gigs on earth. Your passion inspires us to sit down at a computer and stare at a blank screen with a blinking cursor and make that screen come to life. If not for you, writers would have manuscripts stuffed in file drawers (guilty), holding up desks, and being used for doorstops.

I would like to thank Robert for his in-depth answers and harrowing tales of the perils of writing :) I think we all have a greater understanding of his novel and mindset now. You can discover more from Robert Downs on his website and his facebook page.