The Private Eye Writers of America hand out The Shamus Award every year at Bouchercon. This year, Critical Damage has made it to the final five entries in the “Best Original Paperback P.I. Novel” category. (see here for a complete list of all the finalists). The winner will be announced in October at an awards dinner during Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Shamus Award is handed out to recognize outstanding achievement in private eye fiction. I have to be honest here and say that I am both stunned and amazed and incredibly happy by this nomination. And this is also incredible for another reason, as Critical Damage was a very cathartic novel for me, written during a very painful period of my life. It’s the Mallen novel that is closest to my heart.
Trust me, I’ll keep you posted. If you happen to be going to Bouchercon this year, please let me know. The hotel naturally has a bar, and that’s where you will find me.
Except of course, Friday night.
The wonderful Barbara Sissel “tagged” me on one of those conga line things where you answer four questions, then find another writer and have them answer the questions, and then they, etc.
You get the idea.
I don’t usually do these anymore, however, Barbara is so nice, and I really liked the questions. So, without further ado, here we go:
What am I writing?
I’m currently working on a standalone novel thriller revolving around a secret research project. This one is as far from Mallen as I can get. In order to grow as a writer, I feel you have to keep pushing yourself harder and harder, getting better with each book.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
The co-protagonists involved are very singular, imo. And I can’t say more, or my agent would roast certain of my body parts over an open flame.
Why do I write what I do?
Ah! The Million Dollar Question! I write what I write because I grew up in a violent and jaded age. An age filled with cynicism (Watergate, the Vietnam War, Altamont, etc). I grew up watching (at a VERY young age) very violent TV shows and movies. Movies like Death Wish, The Warriors, Magnum Force, The Seven Ups, etc. I was also exposed to the violent world of pornography at about age 8 (my father and uncle owned a chain of adult bookstores). All these items, once dumped into my head and combined, helped to create a perception that we’re almost nothing but violence. However, on the other side of that is the part of me that believes in having a strong moral compass. It’s more and more a necessity than ever before. Mark Mallen, the protagonist of my “Damage” novels (Untold Damage, Critical Damage, and Innocent Damage in April 2015) possesses such a moral compass. He’s the proverbial white knight, walking the mean and dark streets of murder and mayhem. Sometimes the right answer isn’t the best answer. I love writing characters who can make that hard choice, because really… I hope I could if I were in their shoes.
How does my writing process work?
My process has been growing and changing with every book. I remember, way back when, that I would edit as I went. Now I just rip through the first draft knowing that book only emerges during the subsequent drafts. The process has also changed in that as my stories get more and more complex, I’ve needed to map things out. That’s what I’m doing here:
I’m plotting out the story, color coding each character and their storyline. As you can see, as the story moves forward it begins to expand. It helps me keep track of where subplots might be lagging too far behind the main storyline. Once I’ve done the initial draft of the book, then I do this:
I take the book apart chapter by chapter. I then write a synopsis for that chapter and attach it with a paperclip. I’ve color coded the story again in the same manner as the cards. Again, I’m very visual and so this really helps me “see the whole playing field”. After this stage, I’ll go back and do another draft, then hopefully I’m at the polishing stage, where I shine each sentence and make sure all my metaphors are in order and that the climax is the best it can possibly be.
So, that’s it.
And please do not forget to check out Barbara Taylor Sissel. Here’s all about her: Barbara Taylor Sissel once lived on the grounds of a prison facility in Kentucky, which might explain the nature of her writing, especially her latest: Safe Keeping and Evidence of Life. Driven by the compelling reality that at the heart of every crime, there’s a family, her novels are issue-oriented, threaded with elements of suspense and defined by their particular emphasis on how crime affects families of both victim and perpetrator. She now lives and writes from her bucolic Story House near Austin, Texas. Find Barbara on Facebook and Twitter and Goodreads.
The second Mark Mallen novel, CRITICAL DAMAGE, has arrived after a VERY tumultuous year.
Here’s what Library Journal has to say about the second Mark Mallen novel: “Lewis’s second entry in his gritty, no-holds-barred series (after Untold Damage) portrays the darker side of San Francisco and features a struggling hero still finding his way. Not for the faint of heart, this chilling tale of sexual depravity is perfect for conspiracy aficionados.”
Hope you enjoy it, and please feel free to review it. And again, thank you all for your undying support over the last couple years. SO very appreciated.