Monday 10 November 2008

An Interview - John McFetridge

John McFetridge – I live in and write about Toronto – cops and criminals, usually organized. Reviews have most often called me a disciple of Elmore Leonard which is fine by me. I like the idea of the writer not poking his nose in and letting the characters tell their own stories. One of the best things said about my books is that the criminals aren't as smart as they think they are and the cops aren't as dumb as they let on.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

My novel Swap is finished and I hope it will be published in '09. I don't have dates yet.

So now I'm working on a new novel called Tumbling Dice. It's about a rock band that broke up in the mid-80's getting back together to play the casino circuit – and rob a few along the way. At the last stop on the tour the casino is being run by the guy who was their manager (and who ripped them off) back in the day and who's now tied in with organized crime. Some band members decide to extort a couple million dollars out of him and, well, it doesn't go exactly as planned. It's sex and drugs and rock'n'roll.

Q2. Can you give us an idea of John McFetridge’s typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day?

I'm almost embarrassed to say. Ten years ago when my wife and I decided to have kids I was working freelance and she had a nice steady job (she's an engineer). When our son Doug was born I became a stay at home dad (sahd, pronounced sad). Now, Doug and his brother Jimmy are both in school all day and I'm still at home.

So, the boys go to school and I write. Uninterrupted for two and half hours. We have lunch together and then I get another two and a half hours. Really, I should be writing two or three series under different names, or at least a kids' series like McKinty.

Q3. What do you do when you’re not writing?

I play with the kids. I walk the dog. I do “research” which is what I call endless internet surfing.

Q4. Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the crime fiction scene?

All those old cliches are true – write the book you want to read. Only put in the stuff you really like, entertain yourself. There are no rules.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

George V. Higgins' The Friends of Eddie Coyle. I don't know how I got this far without reading it. Fantastic stuff.

Q7. Plans for the future?

More novels. My books are a sort of loose series with a large ensemble cast – main characters in one book are minor characters in others so I plan to keep going with that.

Q8. With regards to your writing career to date, would you do anything differently?

That advice I gave about writing the book you want to read? I'd have done that a lot sooner. When I finished university I got sidetracked into movies and tried to write screenplays for years. That was all about rewrites and getting notes from producers and directors and chasing “demographics” and markets and it wasn't till I said, “fuck it,” and just wrote the book I wanted that I had any success.

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

All the movie stuff was bad. But also, when I was in university in the early 80's I wrote a private eye novel and spent a long time sending out queries (typewriters, snail mail, it was the dark ages!) and actually got a few agents to read the whole manuscript. They all said the same thing – it wasn't literary enough to be a hardcover novel and it wasn't hardboiled enough to be a paperback original. I wrote another novel and heard the same thing a lot more times. I say this was my worst experience because I got so close a few times and the reason I was rejected was because my writing wasn't good enough – I hadn't fully committed to it and was wishy-washy. Those agents were right. It was really another twenty years before I wrote another novel, finally getting to the point where I just wrote what I wanted.

Q10. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

I want to say how much I like websites like this one and Declan's Crime Always Pays and Detectives Beyond Borders and International Noir and so many more that have really opened up the world to me. People are saying a lot these days about newspapers cutting back on reviews (and they are, and that's terrible) but I've discovered more great writers in the last year than I would have in ten years of newspaper reviews. And from all over the world. I think it was McKinty who said the internet is our Paris of the 30's and as much as I'd prefer to be in some cool cafe, this is a good second choice.

Thanks for taking the time and putting in the effort.

Thank you, John McFetridge!


adrian mckinty said...


Great I/V with Mr McF. His antecedents are from Larne apparently so I'm glad you were gentle with him.

Paris v Internet? Paris had Colette, Djuna Barnes, etc. attractive, intelligent, women who'd have casual sex at the drop of a hat (or beret if you will) so Paris wins in my book.

Gerard Brennan said...

Adrian - I thought I'd heard a rumour that he has a connection to Larne. I haven't read it, but I've heard of a legendary tourism book that states there's no reason to visit Larne... It was a stand up comedian who told me, so it has to be true.

RE Paris vs Internet, I've heard another rumour that you can get casual sex on the internet, if you know where to look.

I don't.


John McFetridge said...

Wait, somewhere on the internet there's sex?

Gerard Brennan said...

That's the word on the information highway, man. Crazy, huh?


Peter Rozovsky said...

I've seen clips of Josephine Baker. She dropped more than her hat.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Logan Lamech said...

Internet is no substitute for the real thing, Yay Paris.

Logan Lamech

Declan Burke said...

A word to the wise, people - never, but NEVER, allow McFetridge make the accomodation arrangments if you're travelling with him. If he says, "I know this place, it's cheap," just shoot him in the face. The beard'll hide the damage. Cheers, Dec