Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hard Boiled MANfiction: An interview with mystery author Robert Downs

Today I'm talking with Robert Downs about his hard boiled mystery Falling Immortality.

1) Tell us about Falling Immorality.

It’s what Stephen King in an Entertainment Weekly article has referred to as MANfiction. Casey Holden, former cop, current PI in Virginia Beach, VA, screens his clients the way he screens his women, based on whichever drop-dead gorgeous woman happens to waltz through his door first and manages to hold his attention. So when Felicity Farren, widow-at-large, struts into his office asking him to solve the two-year-old murder of her husband Artis, she intrigues him. When Casey starts digging, he learns the murder isn’t what it seems to be and he doesn’t have a big enough shovel to unearth the truth. And to top it all off, his former rival at the police department, Greg Gilman, is determined to disrupt his investigation. Casey's challenge is to learn what really happened to Artis, and why Gilman can’t seem to remove his head from his butt. And he’ll need all of his wits to complete the task.

2) Although your book is hard-boiled mystery, you've also described it as MANfiction. Please explain your definition of MANfiction.

Well, a book needs plenty of action, with fistfights and gunfights galore, since the whole point is escapist entertainment geared toward men, and oftentimes women come along for the ride as well. I’d like to add muscle cars into the picture, since every strong male needs a strong automobile. In Casey’s case, he drives a 2005 Dodge Viper SRT-10.

3) Give us some insight into your protagonist, Casey Holden.

Sure, he’s a former cop, current PI, wise-cracking smartass, who never takes himself too seriously. His trust fund allows him to take the cases that really intrigue him, so he can turn away all the riffraff. He loves danger, adventure, and good-looking women. He’s never far from a cup of coffee, and he’s always prepared to do battle in the bedroom, on rooftops, or on street corners.

4) What do you feel are the primary ingredients in a good hard-boiled mystery?

Like MANfiction, I’d say you want a strong male lead, plenty of action, and a first-person mystery. And it’s important not to shy away from fights and blood when the situation warrants it. A few wisecracks and smart aleck comments never hurt anyone either.

5) Time marches on, along with technology. This has complicated writing for some mystery authors because advances such as the internet and cell phones have made it more difficult in certain situations to maintain dramatic tension and suspense. Was this an issue you had to deal with at all?

Not really. When I write, I try to use technology to my advantage, just as I do in my daily life. Characters, like readers, have information constantly thrown at them. Like you said, I’m sure that changes the makeup of dramatic tension and suspense, but I didn’t write much other than song lyrics before the Internet revolution. For me, though, it’s all about the characters, especially my main character, and the stories he finds himself in the middle of.

6) Are there any authors who have influenced your style?

At the time I discovered Casey, or he discovered me, I was reading a lot of Robert B. Parker and Lawrence Sanders. I’d also devoured quite a bit of James Patterson and John Grisham. I pop open mystery and thriller novels the way one might consume green vegetables, so my wife and I are never short of good books around. I also work as a budget analyst for the government, so I have an overly analytical mind, to my detriment in some cases, so it’s probably safe to say that about every writer I’ve ever read and enjoyed has influenced me in some form or fashion, even if he or she doesn’t make it all the way onto the page.

7) Do you have any sequels planned?

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.


Thanks, Robert.

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