Friday 29 July 2011

An Interview - Thomas Fitzsimmons

Thomas Fitzsimmons didn't need to go to the public library, interview participants, or hire a team of high-priced researchers to write gritty stories. For Fitzsimmons, a former New York City police officer, NBC television personality, Ford Model, and soap-opera/TV commercial actor, business associate and friend to some of the country's most rich and famous, it was as simple as recalling his life.

Fitzsimmons, who has written two novels, a memoir, a short story collection, and three screenplays has sold stories in Esquire Magazine, and New York Magazine. He has optioned film treatments to Doug Wick, Academy Award wining producer of "Gladiator," to the actor Ray Liotta and Larry "JR" Hagman's Majlar Productions.

What are you writing at the minute?

I’m writing a third book with the “confessions” theme. First there was “Confessions of a Catholic Cop,” then “Confessions of a Suicidal Policewoman” (coming soon!), and now “Confessions of a Celebrity Bodyguard.” Since I’m a former New York City cop who comes from a family of cops, and have been a bodyguard to A-list celebrities for the past 20years (the last nine spent bodyguarding Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas), I guess I’m uniquely qualified to write these types of books.

Can you give us an idea of Thomas Fitzsimmons’ typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day?

Since I’m on call 24/7 when CZJ & MD are in town, I’m forced to structure the days I’m free to write. I rise around 5:30 a.m., read the New York Times, and drink about six cups of coffee. Then I answer emails, speak to my identical twin brother (a retired cop; we speak every day), eat breakfast. I’m usually at the computer by around 8 a.m. at the latest. I’ll work non-stop until around noon, break for a sandwich, then back to writing. I knock off around 4 p.m., head down to the gym for a workout. Shower. Shave. Off to a pub for a pint or two followed by dinner at one of Manhattan’s fabulous restaurants.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

As mentioned above, I’m a full-time bodyguard and private investigator. The bodyguard work can be most challenging. Unfortunately, there are a lot of crazies in the world (they grow on trees here in New York) and my team and I must be alert and ready for anything and everything; from insensitive, overzealous fans to predatory stalkers.

Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the genre fiction scene?

How about I quote Stephen King? “Fiction writers, present company included, don’t understand very much about what they do—not why their writing works when it’s good, not why it doesn’t when it’s bad.”

Write what you feel, what you believe, what you’ve lived.

And every aspiring writer should read the “Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White.

Which writers have impressed you this year?

Dennis Lehane—he keeps getting better. Donald E. Westlake—always makes me laugh. Walter Mosley—for his unique voice.

What are you reading right now?

I read several books at once: “Alone” by Lisa Gardner, “Early Autumn” by Robert B. Parker, and “Eightball Boogie” by Declan Burke.

Plans for the future?

I plan to keep writing as long as the ideas keep flowing. Seeing that I’m of Irish decent (Cavan, Donegal) and grew up in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx, I never seem to be at a loss for the blarney.

Also, I’d like to be a snowbird someday, live and write on a sunny beach in the winter, be home here in Manhattan in the summer.

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

I wished I’d started writing seriously earlier. But I was too occupied with women and beer—still am to a lesser degree. I wish I hadn’t listened to early critics who advised me to write for the marketplace—no author should.

Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

Since the book business is subjective, the worst thing about being a writer is dealing with publishers. When my publisher Tor/Forge published “City of Fire,” which I have re-released as “Confessions of a Catholic Cop,” they published another book by the same title, with a similar theme, and similar cover art at the same time. When I objected, the publisher insisted that having the two thrillers in the same mystery/thriller sections in book stores at the same time wouldn’t be a problem, that there’d be no conflict. They, of course, were dead wrong. There’s also the fact that an author is forced to deal with the publisher’s totally overworked and grossly underpaid editors, marketing and public relations people. There’s no way they have the time to “get behind” a book.

Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about? -- What’s it like to be an A-list bodyguard?

It’s a high pressure job. The hours are brutal. You must be vigilant; watch everyone, trust no one. What makes my job worthwhile are my clients. I happen to work for decent, thoughtful, down to earth people who put their family first and above all else.

Than you, Thomas Fitzsimmons!

Monday 25 July 2011

Crime Fiction in the Wilderness

Fresh from a revitalizing pint of the black stuff at the Crown bar in Belfast the Wyoming-based author, CJ Box, looks very comfortable as he sits by the window of the first floor lounge in the Europa hotel. He sets his Stetson to one side, crown down to protect the brim, and offers a firm handshake and easy smile. In a few hours, he’ll launch his latest novel, BACK OF BEYOND, at No Alibis bookstore on Botanic Avenue, but for now, he’s happy to discuss his latest release and the Joe Pickett series which is currently being published by Corvus at a rate of one a month.

BACK OF BEYOND, set in Yellowstone National Park, features an alcoholic detective by the name of Cody Hoyt and he’s the polar opposite of his series character, Joe Pickett. Box believes it’s easier to write the more traditional flawed hero in crime fiction than a family oriented man. For one thing, they have so much freedom in that they don’t have to go home at night to check in with the wife and kids. Cody Hoyt is ‘stripped down’ and unpredictable and so the reader will never really know how far he might go in a given situation. And Box has enjoyed immensely the opportunity to explore a dark side through this broken man.

Box himself could be a character from one of his wilderness thrillers. He’s a keen fisherman and has been on the kind of outfitting adventure featured in BACK OF BEYOND. And his experiences very much inform his writing style. One of his strengths lies in the way he can bring nature to life through prose. Does he go on hikes with a notebook in hand?

“No, just like it’s easier to write about the summer in winter it’s easier to write about the wilderness when you’re not in it.”

An interesting element to Cody Hoyt’s back story is that he’s a keen crime fiction reader and one of the writers he’s a fan of is Ken Bruen. This is a little Stetson-tip to Box’s friendship with the Galway writer. They met at Bouchercon, an American crime fiction convention, a few years back when Bruen introduced himself as a fan of the Joe Pickett series. Since then, they’ve sent each other their novels and share a mutual respect. In fact, CJ Box described Bruen’s novel, AMERICAN SKIN, as his ‘…biggest, boldest, most sweeping and heartfelt novel yet.’

When asked if any other Irish writers have captured his imagination he cites Adrian McKinty and in particular his Colorado-set novel HIDDEN RIVER.

‘I was kind of blown away by his dark Irish sensibility in sunny Colorado. It’s very well done.’

And like so many others he believes McKinty’s work should be much wider read. And in fact, there and then in the Europa lounge, he jots down a reminder on a napkin that he should download McKinty’s FIFTY GRAND when he gets back to his Kindle.

He may be a man of nature but he has not shied away from the new e-publishing phenomenon. The first of a series of short stories available in electronic format can now be downloaded. The information and links can be found on his website, as well as a full bibliography of his printed novels. It’s an impressive backlist and a reader could do much worse than get stuck in at the start of the Pickett series with the thrilling debut, OPEN SEASON.

A burned out cabin in the woods. A dead body. A dinner table set for two

Detective Cody Hoyt is called to the scene. A brilliant cop, Cody is also an alcoholic struggling with two months of sobriety. So it doesn’t help that the body in the cabin is his AA sponsor Hank Winters. It looks like suicide, but Cody is convinced it’s foul play.
So who was at Hank’s cabin? Data pulled from Hank’s fire-damaged hard drive leads Cody to a website running wilderness adventures deep into the most remote parts of Yellowstone National Park. Their big trip of year has just left – a two-week horseback journey into the wild. The very same trip that Cody’s estranged teenage son, Justin, has signed up for.

Cody has no choice but to trek deep into the wild himself. In America’s greatest wilderness, Cody is on his own, he’s out of time, he’s in too deep. He’s in the Back of Beyond!

CJ Box is the author of nine novels including the award-winning Joe Pickett series. He’s the winner of the Anthony Award, Prix Calibre 38 (France), the Macavity Award, the Gumshoe Award, the Barry Award, and an Edgar Award and L.A. Times Book Prize finalist. Box was named 2007 Writer of the Year by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. His short stories have been featured in America’s Best Mystery Stories 2006 and limited-edition printings. The novels have been national bestsellers and have been translated into 13 languages.