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Harry Hunsicker

(photo ©2006 Martin Rogers)

Monday, August 14, 2006


g_so: Gerald So
harryhunsicker: Harry Hunsicker
macavityabc: Bill Crider

g_so: I'm sorry I missed you at Black Orchid last month.

harryhunsicker: I actually had people show up which amazed me. And they bought books.

g_so: That's great. Looking forward to reading THE NEXT TIME YOU DIE.

macavityabc entered the room.

macavityabc: Hey, guys.

harryhunsicker: Heya, Bill.

macavityabc: Looking forward to stimulating and informative chat with famous writer.

g_so: We have an advance question from Dave White, who wants to know how you approach staying true to P.I. roots while trying to take things in a new direction.

g_so: Hi, Bill.

macavityabc: Hi, Gerald

harryhunsicker: Short answer: I dunno. Long answer: I make sure there is a identifiable client. Because that's the heart of the PI story, getting hired to fix, find, stop something.

g_so: I agree. Your YouTube entries are great, Bill.

macavityabc: Thanks, Gerald. They're fun. Harry was the star of one.

harryhunsicker: I'm gonna have to get on of those video snap-and-shoot thingies. Citizen journalist!

g_so: :)

macavityabc: They're great. Dangerous, too. The opening shot of one of the Lansdale ones I did last weekend has him with his mouth open. Typical pose, though.

macavityabc: I just read Lord Vishnu's Love Handles, and I see that the author was in a writing group with you, Harry. That must have been some weird bunch.

harryhunsicker: I just got off the phone with WIll Clarke actually. He and I talk three or four times a week about the publishing biz. And yes, our group is eclectic. We have a good time though.

harryhunsicker: If getting published is a one in a million shot, then his story is a one in ten million.

macavityabc: Okay, so what's the story?

harryhunsicker: Will self-published VISHNU. He optioned the movie rights to a guy for a modest amount of money and promptly forgot about it. A few months later the guy called and said he had placed it at Paramount and could he please send a copy of the book to Brad Pitt's manager. Will got a deal immediately thereafter with Simon & Schuster and has since sold the rights to his second book to another producer.

macavityabc: That's a great story. Thanks. Tell us more about that writing group. How long has it been going?

harryhunsicker: I am a relative newcomer, maybe a member since 2002. Will and a couple of other core members took a class together at SMU in 1995 or 1996 and that started the group. We've had four publishing success stories to date. We meet once a week at a steakhouse and read and critique.

macavityabc: So you'd recommend a writing group?

harryhunsicker: I would recommend a good one, which is easy to say but hard to create. I owe a great deal to my group that's for sure.

g_so: Bryon Quertermous says hi, Harry, and asks you to send a story to Demolition sometime.

harryhunsicker: Tell Bryon I would be honored.

g_so: will do.

macavityabc: How far along are you in Lee O. #3?

harryhunsicker: I am finished with Oswald 3, tentatively titled CROSSHAIRS.

macavityabc: Hey, being finished is good.

harryhunsicker: What did you think of VISHNU?

macavityabc: I liked Vishnu a lot. I was in the mood for wild and crazy, been reading a lot of that sort of thing lately. I want to read his new one, too.

harryhunsicker: THE WORTHY is a guy's version of THE LOVELY BONES.

macavityabc: I told a group at Armadillocon that I suspected THE WORTHY was pretty much a LOVELY BONES riff.

macavityabc: So are you started on #4? Or should I ask?

harryhunsicker: My contract is for three. I am finishing the final polish on three and will send it off next week. We'll see where we are on No. 4 after that.

macavityabc: They might want you to do a standalone. They seem to like that sort of thing lately.

g_so: I like that there doesn't seem to be a theme to your series titles, Harry.

harryhunsicker: Gerald, that's more by accident than by design. Titles are one of the hardest parts it seems.

g_so: I see. Themed titles tend to blur together, though.

harryhunsicker: I wanted to call No. 3 the DALINCI MODE but they shot me down. Didn't like the second choice either. What's wrong with calling the BIBLE? Huh?

g_so: :)

g_so: How far ahead do you have the Oswald series planned, Harry?

macavityabc: There are no copyrighted titles, so those guys are nuts. Olivia Goldsmith used THE NUMBER ONE BEST SELLER. I thought that was a good one.

harryhunsicker: I have two story ideas in mind. I'm not sure how they play out in terms of Hank Oswald's character arc though.

g_so: Hmm.

harryhunsicker: My thoughts exactly.

macavityabc: You started out writing "literary" fiction, right?

harryhunsicker: Well sort of. I wrote a hundred really really bad pages about a guy named Bob. Bob was very boring. I killed him. Things worked better after that.

macavityabc: Are you a long-time reader of mysteries, or did you read books about guys like Bob?

harryhunsicker: That's the funny thing. I rarely read literary fiction. My library is equally divided between PI fiction and thrillers, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, etc. When I started to write, the fact that I read exclusively in these genres flew out of my mind. I guess I thought "genre" stuff wasn't important enough and that I should concentrate of fiction that "mattered." Or something. Boy, am I glad I got over that.

macavityabc: Me too. How about your writing process: outline or wing it?

harryhunsicker: Outline. At least for the last two. The publisher wanted to know where I was headed which I can't really blame them for.

harryhunsicker: How about you? Do you outline?

macavityabc: I don't outline unless I'm forced. Occasionally I've been forced. How about your outlines? Long or short?

harryhunsicker: Short.

macavityabc: My theory is the shorter, the better, but I've had to do up to 30 pagers. I pad those out by giving them a two or three page "cast of characters." Haven't had to do that in a long time.

macavityabc: Any movie deals in the works?

harryhunsicker: Nope. I wish.

macavityabc: Ever do any screenwriting?

harryhunsicker: I bought the software because I have this idea for a movie but I have yet to type one word of a screenplay.

g_so: How do you feel Hank has developed from Still River to The Next Time You Die, if at all, Harry?

harryhunsicker: He has a crisis of conscience in NEXT TIME, forcing him to examine who he is and what he is doing with his life.

g_so: Nice.

harryhunsicker: Damn, that sounded literary. I need to quit talking while I'm ahead.

macavityabc: Nah, that literary stuff always wows 'em.

harryhunsicker: How hot is in South Texas, Bill? It's a 147 degrees in Dallas right now.

macavityabc: It's only in the middle 90s here. We get that cool Gulf breeze. What about that P.I. fiction in your library? Hammett, Chandler, and . . . ?

harryhunsicker: Robert Crais. Rick Riordan. Lehane. Pelecanos. All of the Travis McGee books though it's been a while. Of course Robert B. Parker.

harryhunsicker: Lee Child though technically he's not a PI writer.

harryhunsicker: Ken Bruen too. I've got PRIEST on my night stand right now, waiting to be started.

macavityabc: I had to buy the British edition of PRIEST. Couldn't wait.

macavityabc: I hate to say it, but Parker's latest, BLUE SCREEN, pretty much bites the moose.

g_so: A lot of people have said that, Bill.

harryhunsicker: I haven't read it but the phrase "bites the moose" has just earned a spot in my top ten.

macavityabc: There are a couple of serious blunders that any copy-editor would have caught. I don't think he's edited any longer. "Bites the moose" is from Lansdale, by the way. I took it from him years ago.

harryhunsicker: I was sorry to hear about ConMisterio. I thought they had a good enough turnout to make money.

macavityabc: When did you decide you wanted to write? And why?

harryhunsicker: I have always wanted to write because I have always been a huge reader. I got serious about it as my 40th birthday approached.

macavityabc: I guess there aren't many, if any, writers who aren't readers. All the ones I know are. Not all of them have my serious book-accumulating problem, though.

harryhunsicker: My father-in-law has a book collection that defies description, most of it non-fiction however. He has quite a few colllectibles.

g_so: One of the things that makes Hank stand out in my mind is he's a lousy shot. And yet he's a Ranger. Do you know of any real Rangers who are lousy shots?

g_so: Brian (son of Alexander) Haig's character is also a Ranger with poor aim.

harryhunsicker: I don't know any real Rangers, I don't think. I did that to make him different I guess. I get tired of the crack shot, etc.

macavityabc: I love those collectors. And speaking of lousy shots, do you have to reasearch the weaponry in the books, or are you a gun guy?

harryhunsicker: I know a lot about guns but I did do some research.

harryhunsicker: Brian Haig is Alexander's son?

g_so: yes.

harryhunsicker: What books has he written?

g_so: He writes military legal thrillers, Secret Sanction, Mortal Allies, The Kingmaker. His protag is Army JAG lawyer and Special Forces guy Sean Drummond.

g_so: The books have improved in quality as he's gone along.

macavityabc: Lots of sons getting into the act. Joe Hill is Stephen King's son, I've heard, and his son Owen writes, too.

harryhunsicker: That will happen if you're not careful. Jesse Kellerman. Chris Rice too.

macavityabc: Right. Must be genetics.

harryhunsicker: I watched the new Gene Simmons reality show the other night. Gene was pushing his 17-year-old son to be a rock start. Funny stuff.

macavityabc: My son was influenced by Kiss. He'd love to be Gene Simmons' son. You're still working full-time, right? If so, when do you write?

harryhunsicker: Yes, I work full time, write and tour and promote. The last two months have been seven days a week. I write in the evenings and on weekends, as Maya Angelou says "On the fringes of the day."

macavityabc: Ever get tired of those guys who say, "I'd write a book if I had time."

harryhunsicker: Hehehe. That and here's an idea for your next book!

g_so: People with those ideas should write their own books.

macavityabc: I have a guy who used to teach for me. Calls me all the time to complain about not having time to write like I do. I don't tell him I wrote 50 or 60 books while I had a job. I guess I should.

harryhunsicker: Gerald, what do you have in the works, writing-wise?

harryhunsicker: Bill, what do you do now with all your free time?

macavityabc: Play on eBay and do the blog! Drives Judy nuts.

g_so: well, my plans for a book haven't panned out so far, but I'm writing poems right now. Working that side of creativity. Funny, I want to write a book, and poems come out.

macavityabc: My first publications were poems. I even got paid money for a couple of them.

harryhunsicker: I had no idea either of you did poetry. Interesting. The best I can come up with a riff on "There once was a man from Nantucket."

g_so: I didn't know I would write poetry until five years after college.

g_so: I'm hoping to write a book with my 1930s Grumman Goose pilot protag.

harryhunsicker: You teach English, right?

g_so: Yes.

macavityabc: There are almost as many English teachers writing mysteries and thrillers are there are lawyers.

macavityabc: I never could do limericks. I gave up the poetry when I started selling books. Your novel sounds great, Gerald. James Reasoner did an "air war" pulp-style story for Lansdale's RETRO PULP TALES.

g_so: Oh, thanks, Bill. I was having doubts about whether it would sell.

macavityabc: You never know what will sell. As an editor told me once, "Sometimes God smiles."

harryhunsicker: Did Reasoner do any other PI novels other than TEXAS WIND. I read that a couple of years ago and was blown away at how much I liked it.

g_so: Me, too.

macavityabc: That's Reasoner's only P.I. novel. He's pretty much writing westerns and historicals exclusively now. But he did a Hard Case Crime style novel that Wildside's going to publish. Someday.

g_so: I'd like to invite him to chat with DT.

harryhunsicker: Yeah, that would be great. He writes a lot of words every year.

g_so: I think he's on the group. joined when we discussed Texas Wind.

harryhunsicker: Love his blog. "Today I wrote a novella. Tomorrow I start on my seventh book of the year."

macavityabc: James writes a book every two weeks, I think.

harryhunsicker: They tell me Bob Randisi does that too.

macavityabc: I wrote one in 17 days once. That remains my record. Randisi may be the only person who writes faster than James. He has a couple of "big" mystery novels in the pipeline.

harryhunsicker: How on earth did you write a book in three weeks? I mean how long was it? How much revision did it need?

macavityabc: How long does a book take you, Harry?

harryhunsicker: Six to eight months.

harryhunsicker: I started No. 3 in February. Finished the first draft last week.

g_so: Have revisions ever taken longer than the book itself.

g_so: That's a q for either of you.

harryhunsicker: Not for me.

g_so: I wouldn't think they would, but that got me curious.

macavityabc: My method is simple. I revise daily. Then when I'm done, I'm done. The book gets read again, but I never make any changes. So far, I've never had to make many changes dictated by an editor. I write what they call "clean copy." Or so I've been told.

harryhunsicker: Joe Konrath says he does his in four to six weeks. But he has a pretty extensive outline.

macavityabc: Maybe I'd be faster if I had an extensive outline. I just hate outlining.

g_so: Outlining too heavily seems anti-creative.

macavityabc: I agree.

harryhunsicker: Yeah, it does to me too.

g_so: I'd rather use that energy finding out what the book was about.

macavityabc: Right. But it does slow things down, and it's pretty scary to be on a deadline with no idea where you're going or how you're going to get there.

harryhunsicker: Yes, that's the good thing about outlines. Deadlines aren't as spooky.

g_so: Yes, which is why a lot of writers like to know the beginning and the end, but not the middle in advance. That strikes me as a good way to go. I'm going to try that tack next.

macavityabc: It doesn't matter how many times you've written a book, either. It's still scary, like working without a net.

harryhunsicker: You mean it doesn't get easier?? Arrgh!

macavityabc: Maybe it gets easier. But no less scary.

macavityabc: At least for me.

macavityabc: Do you have a schedule, like so many pages a day, or so many hours a day?

harryhunsicker: I try to write a scene everytime I sit down. That rarely works but that's what I try to do.

g_so: I've tried that, too. It's a good goal.

macavityabc: Sounds good to me. Lansdale writes a certain number of pages. So does Parker. That's what I try to do, too. It usually works, but I've been doing it for a while.

g_so: I'm a bit too conscious of word- and page count, though I go for completeness in any case, regardless of count.

macavityabc: By the way, Gerald, don't tell your students if you don't outline. I never told mine.

g_so: No, no, me neither. :)

harryhunsicker: Me too. That's why my third book is only sixty pages long. I don't think my publisher will mind.

macavityabc: I hear they're looking for shorter books. Saves paper.

g_so: :)

g_so: Outlines have worked best for me in nonfiction.

macavityabc: Me too. I try to outline stuff like that. It's about ten times harder for me to write, too.

g_so: I guess we should wrap up. Great chatting with you again.

macavityabc: Yeah, this was fun. I guess it's about my bedtime. We old guys need our rest.

harryhunsicker: My wife is giving me the evil eye. Says it's time for me to take her to dinner. Or else. I enjoyed it very much.

macavityabc: Tell her, "Or else, what?" Then run.

macavityabc: I'm signing off now. Thanks, Harry.

harryhunsicker: Night, all. Enjoyed visiting.


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