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Sean Chercover

Sunday, February 25, 2007


AldoMystery: Aldo Calcagno
gpscribe: Paul Guyot
Odo6140: Gerald So Sean Chercover

gpscribe: Cherc - how's book two coming along? It's coming...

gpscribe: so's my son's 16th birthday. All the weird sophomore anxieties came to visit me along the way, but I'm rolling along now.

gpscribe: So, Mr. Bigshot Harper author.... Yes, my little pretty?

gpscribe: I understand the 2nd book anxiety stuff, but I felt like you had peppered BCBB with so many characters and histories, that you had plenty of places to go with book two. Did you have an idea already in mind? Or did you come up with one later? I actually had ideas for the first three books. But the idea for book 2 has changed significantly since then. For the better, I hope...

gpscribe: how? Ray goes through a fair amount of hell in BCBB, and I needed that to reflect in his personality. I always wanted a protagonist who would change and grow over time, but it wasn't until I sat down to write #2 that I realized how much the experiences of BCBB have changed him. And since I approach plot as "character in motion", the change in him demanded a change in plot.

Odo6140: Carolina Garcia-Aguilera became a P.I. because she wanted to write about PIs. What led you into the profession? Did you always see yourself writing about it? Yes. I was about to graduate from college, and I needed a job. I also knew that I wanted to write crime fiction, but felt that I needed some hard miles under my belt, and I knew a couple of Chicago P.I.s . They offered me work if I got the state-mandated I did.

gpscribe: so if you had no desire to write, you would have never become a PI? This is true, Paul. I took the job seriously and I was good at it, but I never intended to do it forever. I really just wanted to do it for a few years to get the feel of it, until I was ready to start trying to make a writing career.

gpscribe: that's research dedication You could look at it that way. Or you could call me a dilettante.

gpscribe: ok

Odo6140: Can you recall when exactly you felt you were ready to write? You mean write a book?

Odo6140: yes.

gpscribe: this book It took way too long. After working as a P.I. I worked in a bunch of jobs. I was writing all the time, but I never really followed anything to the end...

gpscribe: I'm in touch with that. Then I started writing television docs and children's shows.

gpscribe: Hammy!!! Exactly. HAMMY HAMSTER! And I wrote corporate crap and magazine articles, etc.

gpscribe: Tell Gerald the name of this opus. Once Upon A Hamster was the name of that fantastic series. You can find it on the Family Channel.

gpscribe: I love that title.

Odo6140: Neat.

gpscribe: Here's some porn for Sean:

Odo6140: uh-oh. Ooh, nice

gpscribe: 1942

gpscribe: How much had you "created" Ray in your head before you began the book? Anyway, so in my late 20s and early 30's, I took a couple stabs at a P.I. novel. Got 80 pages into one, and 150 pages into the second, before abandoning them. All the while I was tweaking my protagonist, who had a bunch of names before becoming Ray Dudgeon.

gpscribe: but it was always the same guy - more or less? Yeah, he was the same guy, more or less. But he was a LOT darker in the earlier attempts. I just found him oppressive to have in my head. Finally one day I said to myself, "Shit, you're 35 and you haven't written the damn crime novel yet. Either write it, or stop pretending that you're gonna." And that time I followed through to the end. And BCBB is the result.

gpscribe: Talk about the title change The title of the manuscript was A QUIET PLACE. It comes from a Mark Twain quote. "I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If any man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him." That's the Twain quote. And that's where I got the title. But my agent thought it sounded like the title of a cozy, and asked me to change it.

Odo6140: Ah.

gpscribe: how did you get BCBB? Wait. First, you must see this:

gpscribe: wow. wow. And you thought I was kidding

gpscribe: Canada's number one media rodent.

Odo6140: I didn't. :)

gpscribe: what's number six? Probably Billy Bob ferrett Anyway.

gpscribe: Ok, I will not rest until I have this show on dvd I'll burn you one.

gpscribe: PLEASE!

gpscribe: I'll send you a pen

gpscribe: But I want the whole series So I submitted about 10 or 15 possible titles to my agent...

gpscribe: oh, yeah, BCBB ...and Big City Bad Blood was the one they liked best

gpscribe: I love the cover

Odo6140: the title fits the plot well. It comes from two songs by Chicago blues guys. Big City by Luther Alison and Bad Blood by Son Seals

gpscribe: Once you had finished - what was your agent/publissher/published journey like? I was very fortunate. Queried a bunch of NYC agents, got 23 rejections and a handful of requests for partials. Then Denise Marcil was the first to ask for the entire ms, and I gave her an exclusive window, and she wanted to represent me. Then she gave me her notes, which were, thankfully, not major. No plot structure issues or major character issues. She basically said, "I understand that Ray is emotionally damaged and has a hard time opening up, but you have to let the reader into his head a little more."

gpscribe: good note Which I did, adding about 5000 words to the ms. Then she took it to market. Yes, it was an excellent note. And within a very short time, we had a two-book hard/soft offer from William Morrow.

gpscribe: what was the final word count? The original word count was 85000, then it was 90000 when we went to market. Then I got notes from my editor. And the final word count is about 95000

gpscribe: you said you read a lot early on - who are some of your influences as a writer? All the classic guys - Chandler and both MacDonalds and Spillane and so on (and Patricia Highsmith) and of the more recent...Block and Mosley and Burke and early Parker and...God, the list would go on and on. Nelson Algren was also a huge influence. Huge. Oh, and Derek Raymond. British guy. Dead now. Wrote some kick-ass books in the late 80s and early 90s

gpscribe: never read him They've been out of print, and are just being re-released in trade pb.

Odo6140: You mentioned to Jim Winter that you thought Dudgeon had a definite shelf life. Can you expand on that, and what other types of books would you like to write? I think I said that the Ray Dudgeon series MAY be self-limiting. I'm not sure. But it comes down to what I was saying earlier about the character being changed by his experiences...

Odo6140: Right. As opposed to dragging on forever like a certain Boston P.I. You won't get me to say anything negative about him. We all owe him a lot. But I hear you. There may come a time where Ray just can't do it anymore. Maybe he'll learn from his experiences and decide to do something else for a living.

gpscribe: do you have other characters (leads) you want to write about? or other genres? For now, I'd love to keep writing about Ray. I feel I've got a lot to explore with him. But I do have a stand-alone that I was working on as a screenplay and would like to try as a novel. It's very strange. There's a lot of religious satire in it, and some borderline paranormal stuff (as in, miracles). It would probably get me lynched, but I'm keen to try it.

Odo6140: I like the fact that you give weight to everything that happens to Ray. Thanks. I didn't want him to shrug off the things that none of us could shrug off in real life.

Odo6140: There's bound to be a market for that paranormal idea someday soon. I'm really not into paranormal crap. Athough I thought Greywalker was excellent. But for some reason, I've got this religious satire in my head with miracles happening all over the damn place...

gpscribe: I love books like BCBB - that take the tried and true traditional PI world and managed to make it fresh and entertaining. Were you conscious of writing within a "box" that so many others had done before? Yeah. When I was writing it, I kept saying to myself, "YOU IDIOT! Don't write a MOB story! Mob stories are SO overdone." And I was also aware of the cliché's of the P.I. But I just tried to write honestly and write about real people (who are a mix of good and bad) rather than "good guys" and "bad guys"

gpscribe: that why it's good

Odo6140: that comes through in Johnny Greico. Thank you. You guys flatter me.

gpscribe: any book with Pelikans and Shelbys, I'm in. That's the same reason I want the characters to change. Glad you responded to my pen-geek stuff. That was totally superfluous to the plot, but I had to put it in.

Odo6140: Ray shares a lot of your experience. How much did you do to distinguish him from yourself? Oh, I am definitely NOT Ray. And wouldn't want to be...

Odo6140: so he started out very distinct from you in your mind. He's got a lot of problems. His backstory informs his character (as it does with all of us) and he had a miserable upbringing. I came from a relatively healthy, nuclear family. So, Ray loves Jazz, and so do I. And we both love Lou Reed and Bob Dylan. But I also listen to The Roots and Gangstar, which Ray would despise. And Ray doesn't go for the arty stuff either. Parts of him coincide with me, and some parts of his personality are what I imagine I would've been like if I'd stayed a P.I.

Odo6140: I see. I'm glad to see you avoid the sense of identification some authors begin to feel with their characters. Just like I didn't want Ray to be a static character, I also didn't want him to be a case of wish-fulfillment.

gpscribe: Are you enjoying writing book two, or is it a pain with all the pressure? The pressure sucks. And for a while, I was not enjoying it. But then I reminded myself the same thing that I used as a mantra while writing the first one. "Just write the book that you would want to read."

gpscribe: Another thing I really enjoyed was how Ray has the witty, wisecracks, but they aren't in dialogue. We hear what he'd like to say , but he doesn't. I thought that was very cool. Frankly, he's a bit of a jerk (and I hope that I am not, although perhaps I used to be)

gpscribe: you are. Yes, I am. I've been busted by some readers for the wisecracks, and I'm glad that you got the fact that he doesn't make wisecracks out loud. Some folks seem to have missed that.

Odo6140: Being a jerk gets him in trouble, though, and characters have to get in trouble.

gpscribe: he's real Yeah, being a jerk does get him in a lot of trouble. It bugs me when characters can mouth off to cops and not get their asses kicked. For example.

gpscribe: moreso than a Cole or Spenser type. There was an underlying authenticity to it that is lacking in some other PI work. Maybe Cole and Spenser are just a lot tougher than Ray, but if Ray talked to cops and hoods like they do, he'd be in the hospital.

Odo6140: Paul, do I recall you weren't 100 percent thrilled with Crais?

gpscribe: My issue with the Crais series is that they are a blatant ripoff of Parker. Not even trying to hide it. the characters, the tone, dialgoue. I love Crais, although I haven't read everything he's written.

AldoMystery entered the room. Cole is not as well adjusted as Spenser. No Susan on the scene, for example.

gpscribe: Other than LA REQUIEM, I feel like every Cole book is a wannabe Parker

Odo6140: the tone, I think, is slicker, more wistful than Spenser.

Odo6140: Hi, Aldo.

gpscribe: Aldo! Hi Aldo!

AldoMystery: hello all. I think the kids eliminated my aim so I wouldn't check on them, lol

AldoMystery: Hey Paul

gpscribe: cill a cella

gpscribe: hi there

Odo6140: Go ahead with any questions, Aldo. You guys all look like the little AOL running guy to me. Do I look like a Cubs logo to you?

gpscribe: um, it's actually a Cardinals logo AAAAHHHHHH!!

Odo6140: bite your tongue. you wicked, wicked man.

AldoMystery: Sean, will you be out in LA on this tour? Unfortunately, no. Wish I were going to be, especially since part of the book takes place out there. But I'm pretty much out of cash. I'll definitely get out there for book #2

gpscribe: speaking of LA, I loved the scene with the car in the swimming pool. Thanks, Paul. I love the car in the swimming pool, too.

AldoMystery: Did Paul ask you what kind of watch you wear? No, strangely, he did not.

gpscribe: I've already seen his watch. so there. I wear a Rolex Submariner. Sometimes I wear a 1960 Datejust with a jubilee bracelet that was once my father's.

AldoMystery: How is the tour with Sakey going? The tour with Sakey has been a riot. We've had a great time. But the downside is, we may both need a liver transplant by the end of it.

Odo6140: ah.

AldoMystery: Damn. Next time try organic beverages.

gpscribe: :-X

Odo6140: I believe Paul just made the about-to-vomit emoticon.

gpscribe: that was my "mouth zipped shut" emoticon. God, I hate emoticons. Yes. We came to a point where we just had to cut it out, and we started eating salads and drinking iced tea. But don't tell anyone, that would be bad for the image

AldoMystery: :-D

Odo6140: any last questions, anyone?

gpscribe: So, Sean... Yes.

gpscribe: what's next for you and Ray? In book #2, Ray investigates an artist with a mysterious past, who ends up being connected with some nefarious goings on in the anti-war movement and strange connections to Big Brother. Or something like that...

gpscribe: big brother the tv show?

gpscribe: :D yeah. The tv show.

gpscribe: God, I'm funny You are a laugh-riot.

gpscribe: What's left on your tour stops? Hey Aldo? Question?

AldoMystery: Well, book 1 rocks...nope, I'm done, I guess. To find out about my tour, go to

Odo6140: Great web site, by the way, Sean. Thanks. I made it myself. Thanks very much for the kind words about the first book. I hope you'll enjoy the next one!

gpscribe: I have one last question.

Odo6140: go ahead, Paul.

gpscribe: Re: your jacket photo (and photo on the site)... how often do you sit and stare off like that? As often as I can. It makes me look deep and thoughtful, don't you think?

gpscribe: I'm a little aroused by it - is that wrong? Not very...

Odo6140: I think it's time to wrap up. :) Thanks very much, Sean. Great chatting with you.

gpscribe: thanks, Gerald as always. Thanks Sean! Thanks guys! This was a lot of fun. Keep in touch.


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