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Steve Hamilton

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Gerald So
Jan Long
Steve Hamilton
Maggie Griffin

Gerald So: First question, anyone?

Maggie Griffin: anybody want to share snacks?

Gerald So: How did you begin to come up with McKnight, Steve?

Steve Hamilton: Oy, that's a big one. I was trying to write what I guess you'd call a typical PI novel. And I really, totally failed to do that.

Maggie Griffin: in a big way.

Steve Hamilton: Yeah, thanks, Maggie. You know, the wise-cracking PI sitting at his desk, that kind of thing.

Gerald So: I know the feeling.

Maggie Griffin: Instead, steve got the wise-cracking webmaven.

Steve Hamilton: After the failure, Alex was sort of just there. He was all alone and feeling like a failure, kind of like me. And I just started asking myself questions, why was he all alone, what had happened to him, etc.

Gerald So: So the original character wasn't Alex?

Steve Hamilton: Well, there wasn't an original character, really. I never got that far.

Gerald So: I see.

Steve Hamilton: I literally wrote two words in two weeks: Chapter One. I couldn't even get started.

Maggie Griffin: It wasn't right for you

Steve Hamilton: Definitely not. You can't just will yourself to write a certain type of book, if it's not in you. I mean, you could. But it would probably suck.

Maggie Griffin: you know, somebody just told me they thought "voice" was the same thing as character. You needed to find your "voice" or Alex.

Steve Hamilton: I did have to find the voice, yes.

Gerald So: good point.

Steve Hamilton: It was kinda different, in that the first note of that voice was loneliness. Not the kind of start I would have expected.

Gerald So: That note is still part of him, yes.

Steve Hamilton: Definitely still part of him.

Gerald So: Are Alex's friends based on anyone you know? They seem like a tight-knit group.

Steve Hamilton: Not really based on anyone real, no. Although I have to say, I met someone who is a perfect Vinnie, but it was after the first few books had been written. It's funny how these secondary characters come about. Like Leon, he was just supposed to have a quick walk-on in the first book. He was the local goofball whose job Alex "stole." And he showed up at the Glasgow in the first chapter, wanting to fight him. That was all I had in mind for him. But then later, there was a great spot to bring him back, to have him actually help Alex out.

Maggie Griffin: And yet, Alex didn't know what he was doing. Vinnie did.

Steve Hamilton: And prove that maybe he wasn't just a goofball.

Gerald So: I like how Leon is goofy but also knows his stuff.

Steve Hamilton: It's funny how these characters just sorta take over and make you keep them.

Gerald So: Yes.

Maggie Griffin: like me, he means. Sorry... I'm unconscionable today.

Gerald So: I miss you.

Maggie Griffin: As in "Please go away so we can miss you?"

Gerald So: No, no...

Maggie Griffin: Maybe we should ask Jan Long if he or she has any questions?

Gerald So: Jan, questions?

Steve Hamilton: No score in the Phillies game, by the way.

Gerald So: Jan is slightly delayed.

Maggie Griffin: Gerald, I'll be sending you an ARC of Night Work soon.

Gerald So: Oh, thank you.

Jan Long: Well, Maggie just answered my question.

Steve Hamilton: The title of the next book?

Maggie Griffin: That's me, alrighty! Maybe Steve should tell you a little about it?

Jan Long: Yep. I've seen the same cover on the internet under two different titles.

Steve Hamilton: Really? What was the other title?

Jan Long: Last Watch

Steve Hamilton: Ah yes. Title number seventy out of the hundred we went through... That was a whole ordeal right there. But anyway...

Maggie Griffin: Due out Sept 18th, which means St. Martin's will have it in stores in August.

Steve Hamilton: Night Work is the first non-Alex book I've done. It's a standalone about a probation officer in upstate New York. It sounds kinda funny to say, but after the last book, I think Alex kinda needs a little break...

Jan Long: Alex isn't the only one.

Steve Hamilton: Did you read it? A Stolen Season, I mean?

Jan Long: Yes.

Gerald So: Someone on DetecToday said A STOLEN SEASON felt a little like the last book in a series. He worried it might well be.

Steve Hamilton: I could see how it would, but really, I don't think it will be. I know it won't be.

Gerald So: That's good news.

Steve Hamilton: I can't imagine not wanting to know what comes next.

Gerald So: What was it like writing your first standalone?

Steve Hamilton: It was really a little scary at first. Everything is new.

Maggie Griffin: scary and new is good.

Steve Hamilton: You can't help wondering if you can pull it off.

Gerald So: were you under contract to write it?

Steve Hamilton: I was, yes. At least, that's what they were expecting. It's weird the way it worked out. I actually wrote half of that book first, then did A Stolen Season, then went back to Night Work. First time I ever did something like that.

Gerald So: wow. I guess the plot stayed with you.

Steve Hamilton: Well, it was more a case of timing. It took so long to finally get on the right track with that book, by the time I was, it felt like it was time to see what was up with Alex... And to have that book come out next... And THEN to go back and finish up with Joe - that's the new character.

Maggie Griffin: Whatever caused the wait, it was worth it, imho.

Steve Hamilton: It wasn't always fun along the way, but funny how it all works out the right way. I hope.

Maggie Griffin: It's a splendid story.

Steve Hamilton: Sounds like the check cleared this month.

Jan Long: Sorry I'm only part way here. I'm trying to help Em get past her internet security to get in here. It's like the blind leading the blind.

Gerald So: How do you feel Alex's baseball background contributes to his character?

Maggie Griffin: What do you think are the differences between Joe and Alex? Emotionally, not geographically.

Gerald So: That's a better question.

Steve Hamilton: Well, Alex was a catcher, that's the main thing with him. Once a catcher, always a catcher. There's a certain personality that goes with that position... Solid, reliable, etc.

Gerald So: wow, I hadn't thought of that.

Steve Hamilton: He certainly wasn't a pitcher.

Gerald So: catcher in the rye.

Steve Hamilton: It just felt like the right thing for him. Between Alex and Joe... Well, Joe is younger, first of all. Where Alex is solitary, Joe is very much connected to the world around him. He's a probation officer, after all. He works with people in trouble every day. He has to get into their business all the time.

Maggie Griffin: Connected, but not fully. Not yet.

Steve Hamilton: Right, after a tragedy, he's still sorta making his way back.

Maggie Griffin: I promise, I won't give anything away.

Steve Hamilton: Trying to do his job and keep his head together.

Gerald So: It's good to have characters with room to grow.

Steve Hamilton: His job is really the only thing he has left.

Jan Long: Is the new book truly a standalone? Or will it turn into a series?

Steve Hamilton: Great question. I was thinking standalone, but because of what Joe does, I would be a stone cold fool not to write more. I learned so much about what probation officers really do. Having spent so much time with them in real life. It's really amazing. They're in the middle of everything. And there really aren't that many books about them. There are a million cop books, lawyer books, PI books, etc. People don't think about probation officers.

Jan Long: Er, I hope that 'spending so much time with them' thing was in an authorly, not personal, capacity.

Steve Hamilton: Authorly, I promise. In this state - NY - especially, they're part cop, part social worker, part just about everything.

Maggie Griffin: Jan... He did walk around with an ankle tag. Take that as you will.

Steve Hamilton: I did get to wear a GPS ankle bracelet for a day. She's way ahead of me here.

Maggie Griffin: Did it make you feel having to go to confession might?

Steve Hamilton: It made me feel strange, having them know exactly where I was at every second.

Gerald So: I can imagine.

Steve Hamilton: And the modern trackers actually interact with you. There's a read-out where they can send you messages. If you're in a red zone, they send you a message to get out of the area immediately.

Maggie Griffin: Wouldn't it be great if they could locate nearby restaurants? Oh, sorry.

Steve Hamilton: Some GPS systems do that now. It's amazing how accurate they are.

Maggie Griffin: I know, I meant the ankle bracelet.

Steve Hamilton: Oh, well. I suppose it's possible.

Maggie Griffin: I love GPS in cars.

Gerald So: Very handy, yes, Maggie. Which was the first book where Natalie appeared?

Steve Hamilton: She appeared in Blood Is the Sky. She was one of the OPP officers up in Canada, where Alex was helping Vinnie to look for his brother. At the end of that book, Alex goes back up to find her. Just a gut instinct that he needs to do that. He's the one person in the world who can relate to her, he feels.

Gerald So: I may have read every one but that one so far, uncannily.

Jan Long: Oooh, Gerald, read it! That one's my favorite.

Steve Hamilton: That book really turned out differently from all the others, in a way. It's almost an outdoor adventure thriller. It's really Vinnie's book, too, in a way.

Gerald So: What or who influenced you to start writing fiction?

Steve Hamilton: I guess it's just something I always wanted to do, going back to when I was a kid... I always assumed it would be what I did when I grew up. Maybe I actually will someday. Grow up, I mean.

Gerald So: I think it takes imagination, and that's something kids seem to have naturally.

Steve Hamilton: You're right!

Gerald So: How about what led you to try a PI novel?

Steve Hamilton: I always loved reading mysteries, and when I saw the listing for the PWA/SMP Best First Private Eye Novel Contest, I thought I'd try it. PI novels seemed so easy to write, after all. They all start the same way: PI at his desk, in his office, client comes in. Etc. You see the whole scene right there.

Gerald So: they're devious that way. :)

Steve Hamilton: Real easy, I thought. Oy. That's brings us back to the two words in two weeks. Phillies and Marlins still scoreless.

Jan Long: Boo.

Gerald So: You mentioned Alex's age vs. Joe's. I tend to forget how old Alex is.

Steve Hamilton: He's pushing fifty.

Jan Long: Early fifties.

Steve Hamilton: Back when I started with him, it seemed like he'd be older than I was.

Gerald So: and Joe is how old?

Steve Hamilton: Joe is mid thirties.

Gerald So: I see.

Jan Long: Hey, wait a minute! Pushing fifty? He's getting younger!

Steve Hamilton: He sort of lives in a suspended time state. I'm catching up to him.

Gerald So: Have you ever thought of writing a story with young Alex as a ballplayer?

Steve Hamilton: That would be interesting. Of course, it would be his minor league days. He never made it to the majors. I did flash back to that time a lot in The Hunting Wind. When his old pitcher finds him, twenty years later.

Gerald So: I recall that.

Jan Long: I think if we're going to get the young Alex, I'd rather have more with his dad.

Gerald So: I liked that book a lot, pitchers and catchers, instant close relationship.

Jan Long: And that's despite the fact I only started reading the series because he played baseball.

Steve Hamilton: Hey, whatever it takes!

Gerald So: speaking of baseball, are you a tigers fan?

Steve Hamilton: We have an interesting task now, thinking about who could play him in the movie... Big yes on the Tigers question.

Jan Long: NO! NO MOVIE!!

Steve Hamilton: Yes, yes movie. But done the right way.

Gerald So: why not?

Steve Hamilton: An independent film. Not a big Hollywood thing. I'm helping with the screenplay, will be involved all the way through.

Gerald So: Tom Berenger as Alex.

Jan Long: That's why not, G.

Gerald So: He's already done a baseball movie, I'm cheating.

Steve Hamilton: It won't be any of the usual suspects. None of the A-list guys.

Gerald So: I see, that would be interesting.

Maggie Griffin: Berenger is A-list? Only to his mom.

Steve Hamilton: Because as soon as you attach George Clooney or whoever, it becomes something else. You're right. Tom's not A-list.

Gerald So: True.

Steve Hamilton: More likely, there will be a big name or two in the supporting roles. And Alex will be a break-out for someone you don't know that well.

Jan Long: I shudder to think who they will think looks like Alex.

Maggie Griffin: Omar Shariff, Sean Connery.

Steve Hamilton: Well, "they" is us. That's the good part. Nick the director and I get to make it happen.

Gerald So: It could be someone younger, playing fifty-ish as well.

Steve Hamilton: Yeah, that would be good, especially if you want to make more than one movie.

Gerald So: Question from Em - when will he write the next McKnight book?

Steve Hamilton: Hollywood wouldn't do any of the film on location in the U.P., either...

Gerald So: good point.

Steve Hamilton: For Em, I honestly don't know. I do know that I'll go back to him, for sure. I can promise that. And I can promise that I'll never just mail it in.

Jan Long: Will you be touring with the new book?

Steve Hamilton: I'm sure I'll be out there somewhere, not sure where yet. St. Martin's has a lot to do with that stuff.

Jan Long: How far out do they normally make those decisions? I don't want to pre-order it if you'll be doing signings here.

Gerald So: I almost caught your STOLEN SEASON signing at the now-closed Coliseum Books.

Steve Hamilton: It's closed?

Maggie Griffin: months ago - chapt 11.

Steve Hamilton: By mid summer or so, I would think.

Maggie Griffin: We should know your tour details by Aug 1.

Steve Hamilton: What Maggie said.

Jan Long: Thanks, Maggie. I'll check the website around then.

Steve Hamilton: Is here Philly?

Jan Long: No. I wish!

Steve Hamilton: So where do you live now?

Jan Long: Just outside of Los Angeles.

Steve Hamilton: Got it. I've certainly been out there in the past. Mystery Bookstore (or whatever the name is), right in Los Angeles.

Jan Long: Yep.

Steve Hamilton: I love driving out there, too.

Maggie Griffin: and the Vroman's in Pasadena. And the Borders in Brentwood. And Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks.

Steve Hamilton: Great place.

Jan Long: The other local mystery bookstores are Book 'em in South Pasadena and Book Carnival in Orange.

Steve Hamilton: Right, been to both. More great stores.

Maggie Griffin: What's the one across the street from Vroman's?

Jan Long: Maggie, in case it matters, both Vroman's and Dutton's in Brentwood are reporting bookstores.

Maggie Griffin: Yup, they sure are.

Steve Hamilton: Ding ding.

Jan Long: The only bookstore across the street is a used bookstore.

Maggie Griffin: I know. Weird owner.

Jan Long: Cliff's, I think it is.

Maggie Griffin: Or he was when I was there. Disgruntled. Or maybe it was my face he didn't like. Ha-ha-ha.

Steve Hamilton: Impossible.

Jan Long: I'm sure Steve remembers Linda from Crime Time Books.

Steve Hamilton: Absolutely. Haven't seen her in a while. Has she come out of her shell since then, I hope? You had to drag the words out of her...

Jan Long: Yes, didn't you though? She closed the store a few years ago.

Steve Hamilton: Right.

Gerald So: The hour is about up. Any last questions?

Jan Long: Oh, please-please-please go back to Alex eventually.

Steve Hamilton: I absolutely will.

Gerald So: Thanks again for chatting, Steve. Looking forward to NIGHT WORK.

Steve Hamilton: Thank you very much!

Maggie Griffin: Thanks for this, Gerald! Nice chatting with you and Jan!

Jan Long: Looking forward to the new one!

Maggie Griffin: Night!

Gerald So: My pleasure, Maggie.

Steve Hamilton: Thanks again to all! Good night!


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