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Tim Maleeny

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Emily Bronstein
Gerald So
Tim Maleeny

Gerald So: Welcome, Tim.

Tim Maleeny: hello from San Francisco...thanks for having me

Gerald So: Our pleasure.

Emily Bronstein: Hi Tim, turning off the sound.

Tim Maleeny: howdy.

Gerald So: Em, any questions to start us off?

Emily Bronstein: No, let's start me out slow. Tim, I was the person David Hewson snagged at Seattle about your dustjacket.

Tim Maleeny: oh, yes...Seattle was fun...met some great people at Left Coast. Was that your first Left Coast Crime, or are you a veteran?

Emily Bronstein: I've a few under the belt starting since Pasadena.

Gerald So: Speaking of Seattle, Brian Thornton says hi.

Emily Bronstein: I also like going to Bouchercon so I'll be seeing you in Anchorage. Brian, my biggest fan.

Tim Maleeny: Brian's great...tell him I said hi...and Alaska should be fun if the weather holds.

Gerald So: Brian is on Yahoo Messenger. He hasn't finished Tim's book but heard rave reviews of it from RT Lawton.

Emily Bronstein: If it's 60, I'll be happy. Tim, are you doing the Authors to the Bush program?

Tim Maleeny: RT and I met at Bouchercon in Madison...We've both been contributors to Alfred Hitchcock and were on a short story panel. Not sure about the authors in the bush yet...Cornelia Reed and I talked about it.

Gerald So: Brian says he enjoyed your AHMM story.

Tim Maleeny: it was fun to takes an unexpected twist at the end...I used the characters in a book I just finished, a stand-alone.

Emily Bronstein: So you've gone from Cape 2 to a stand alone?

Tim Maleeny: I'm also finishing Cape 3...a book called Greasing The Pinata...yes, I know my titles sound vaguely, well, suggestive...the stand-alone was something I've been working on for a while, just finished the first draft.

Gerald So: Who came up with the title gimmick? Blanking the Blank?

Tim Maleeny: I did...Stealing The Dragon had such a nice rhythm to it, and the second book, Beating The Babushka, makes people smile when they hear it, so I wanted to continue the pattern...all the titles sound like something illicit.

Gerald So: I see.

Emily Bronstein: Are we also taking a world tour with each book focusing on a different culture?

Tim Maleeny: in some respects, yes...the first deals with the Chinese Triads and their roots in Hong Kong...the second book deals with the Russian mob and the third takes place in Mexico and deals with the drug cartels there.

Gerald So: Brian says: "Short stories as PR. GREAT idea."

Tim Maleeny: tell Brian I wish I had more time to write short stories...tough these days.

Emily Bronstein: Tough when you're doing all these cons - you've got Thrillerfest on your plate this year too.

Tim Maleeny: yes, as the series launched I said "yes" to almost anyone who wanted me to appear on a panel, moderate or I have five conferences this year.

Emily Bronstein: Corte Madera, right?

Tim Maleeny: yes, the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference, which is amazing for aspiring writers...that's where I met David Hewson, among others.

Emily Bronstein: The first two in SF and then on the road?

Tim Maleeny: all the books have a foot in SF, since that's where Cape and his deadly companion Sally live, but their adventures move them around...New York, Mexico, Hong Kong.

Gerald So: Speaking of that, do you see your books as thrillers, mystery, crime, all of the above?

Tim Maleeny: as for sub-genres, that's tough in my case because I think of them almost as modern pulps, combining a traditional gumshoe mystery with a contemporary thriller's pacing and tone...I usually just say mystery.

Gerald So: I see. I also have a few offline questions from John Stickney. I'll work them in gradually.

Tim Maleeny: cool.

Emily Bronstein: Have you heard any comparisons with Stealing the Dragon? Since BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA is one of my favorite movies, it came to mind.

Tim Maleeny: a fan who came to one of my readings mentioned Big Trouble in Little China, which I hadn't thought of but liked as a reference...I think my favorite review compared it to the best of Dashiell Hammett, Sax Rhomer, Jerry Bruckheimer and Jackie Chan.

Gerald So: Oddly, that sounds right on the money. John asks: Where did the character's names come from - Ask Tim about both Cape and One-Eye.

Tim Maleeny: yeah, an unexpected but fortunate collision of old-school mystery and the pacing of a film, I least that's how I hoped it turned out. Cape came about because I knew I wanted to write a PI novel, but I wanted to twist the genre a bit, have some unexpected characters...the name came to me out of the blue, just loved the sound of it.

Gerald So: The later explanation of the name was a nice touch.

Tim Maleeny: as for One-eyed Dong, I was always a fan of Ian Fleming, who wrote such great suspense with the James Bond novels but always had a sense of humor, especially when it came to characters' names.

Emily Bronstein: Definitely suggestive.

Tim Maleeny: and finding plausible explanations for the names kept things interesting, made them seem more real somehow.

Gerald So: What's your writing process like? Does it differ between novels and short stories?

Tim Maleeny: short stories tend to come to me as a single concept, with a beginning, middle and end...novels are more free-form, with the characters first, then a premise, and then an opening. Like a lot of thriller writers (about half) I don't outline in the traditional sense.

Gerald So: ah.

Emily Bronstein: Your background is in marketing, yes?

Tim Maleeny: I once heard Donald Westlake describe it as telling himself the story...I think that's how I write.

Tim Maleeny: yes, spent years and years in advertising, a sordid business far more unsavory than killing people on the page.

Emily Bronstein: Did you make conscious decisions with the characters? I.e. having a PI who wouldn't be afraid to ask for directions? Does that appeal more to women?

Tim Maleeny: it was mostly unconscious, but as a voracious reader of mysteries I had a strong desire to do something different instead of writing my version of a book that had already been written. As for appealing to men or women, I have a bias towards strong women, in my life and my reading, so I wanted female characters who could stand up for themselves and male characters who were more realistic.

Gerald So: Was the flashback structure just for STD - which sure is suggestive, now that I type it - or do you do something similar in the subsequent books.

Tim Maleeny: yeah, the acronym for the title of the first book is even worse than saying the other titles aloud in mixed company.

Emily Bronstein: BRB - have to feed the cats.

Tim Maleeny: the flashback structure is an integral part of the first book but not a technique...there is only one flashback in book two, which works as a straight shot, real time from start to finish.

Gerald So: I see.

Tim Maleeny: so how many groups do you moderate, edit, and so seem like a busy man.

Gerald So: I moderate three: DetecToday, one mostly about Robert Parker's Spenser, and one on crime TV and movies.

Tim Maleeny: I'll have to check out the one on movies...and the early Spenser novels are addictive.

Gerald So: He was one of my first favorites reading the genre.

Tim Maleeny: me, for movies, the second book in my series, Beating The Babushka, deals with some of the shady financing of the movie business.

Gerald So: You've definitely got me interested in the rest of the series.

Tim Maleeny: outstanding...glad you're enjoying the ride so far.

Gerald So: who are some of your other favorite writers? any favorite books on writing?

Emily Bronstein: I definitely enjoyed Cape's voice - I like a bit of a wiseacre.

Tim Maleeny: thanks...I wanted someone who wasn't a superman but was gutsy enough to stand up to anyone, regardless of the consequences, and someone who would say the things you might think but would never say in real life.

Gerald So: reporter backgrounds for PIs are a plus in my book.

Tim Maleeny: other writers...Ross Thomas, Loren Estleman, Elmore Leonard, Robert Crace...

Emily Bronstein: It does make sense that a person like that would have the contacts, friends with special talents and knowledge.

Gerald So: I like integrity that develops from a profession rather than a personal code of honor.

Tim Maleeny: reporters let you be nosy or inquisitive without having to know cop procedures.

Gerald So: good point.

Tim Maleeny: and the personal integrity, I agree...someone who does the right thing because it's the right thing to do. I wanted someone who could work outside the law when necessary.

Gerald So: interesting twist that sally is female as opposed to Hawk, Mouse, Joe Pike.

Tim Maleeny: again, I didn't want an invincible guy, because that's been done before...I thought it would be fun to have the toughest person in the book be a five-foot tall woman. Sally is all about human potential, both in terms of physical training but mental and moral discipline...she encompasses revenge, redemption, justice...all in one person...she stands apart and lends perspective.

Emily Bronstein: And making her a lesbian removes that tension between the two characters that can get annoying after a length of time.

Gerald So: The Moonlighting syndrome, yes.

Tim Maleeny: I've been getting fan mail - which is nice - lobbying for me to change her to being striaght so she and Cape can hook up.

Emily Bronstein: That one right man will do yah?

Tim Maleeny: but the reason she's a lesbian, beyond her background and inclinations, was to preclude the genre cliches of the obvious romance, and Moonlighting is a great example...brilliant at first, but once the romance was consummated, it got a bit stale.

Emily Bronstein: Do you find that you pick up some readers you may not have gotten by adding that angle? Did you lose some?

Tim Maleeny: haven't lost any over it, that I know of, and the readers seem pretty eclectic in terms of age, gender and politics...I think the twists have made the passionate readers more intrigued about what comes next for these least I hope so

Gerald So: True in my case.

Emily Bronstein: And I hope the cops return?

Tim Maleeny: the cops, Beau and Vinnie, are like an old married couple in some respects...getting on each other's nerves but perfect together...and I like their passive-aggressive relationship with Cape.

Gerald So: Cape seemed to develop a rapport with the lead FBI agent, too.

Tim Maleeny: yes, that character really came into his own in an unexpected way, a contrast perhaps to the normal FBI guy...he'd been around enough to gain perspective...might see him again down the line.

Emily Bronstein: I know you have a presence on CrimeSpace - is MySpace coming?. Are these helpful in getting you known? Do intimate functions like library panels do a better job?

Tim Maleeny: Crimespace has been a great community to join, and I met some great people through the site...but my schedule doesn't let me actively participate much...and book clubs or library visits or bookstores are great, yes.

Emily Bronstein: Will the same artist do the next two dustjackets? Loved the vividness of STD.

Gerald So: indeed. great covers.

Emily Bronstein: It was colorful without being glaring.

Tim Maleeny: that's the plan right now...I was delighted with the design of the first two books, and they seem to want to continue the theme.

Emily Bronstein: And still in softback?

Tim Maleeny: a guy named Gavin Duffy at Midnight Ink is the designer. yes, the Midnight Ink line is trade paperback, because that's where they believe the market is going...for new writers it helps with the price point, and it let me get the series established with two books in one year.

Gerald So: when did Beating the Babushka come out?

Tim Maleeny: it will be released this coming October.

Gerald So: I see.

Emily Bronstein: Awwww, can't you convince someone to let a few copies go up to Anchorage?

Tim Maleeny: believe me, I'm working on it...might have to steal some from the warehouse.

Emily Bronstein: Next short story will be about this author who broke into a warehouse...It'll be in the SF Chronicle

Tim Maleeny: exactly...always easier to write about a real event.

Gerald So: John Stickney asks: Where does Tim see the series going?

Tim Maleeny: I think of the books as stand-alone thrillers with recurring characters, so each book is designed to be read in any order...that said, there will be some changes in relationships, some history revealed. And the chronology jumps around, like Lee Child's books in that regard...Babushka actually precedes the event in Dragon, though that will only be apparent to someone who recalls the dream sequence at the opening of Dragon.

Emily Bronstein: Thanks for your time Tim! I enjoyed STD, will definitely pick up BTB and now must go make dinner. See you in September.

Tim Maleeny: thanks...great meeting you glad you enjoyed the book.

Gerald So: The hour is about up. Thanks, Tim.

Tim Maleeny: thanks Gerald...hope this is what you had in mind...thanks again for being flexible about my schedule.

Gerald So: Definitely. And not a problem. Have a good night.


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