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Sean Chercover

Monday, March 24, 2008


Tasha Alexander
Sean Chercover
Gerald So
Dave White

Sean Chercover: Go Cubs.

Gerald So: They look pretty good this season.

Gerald So: If Boston can beat their curse, so can the Cubs.

Sean Chercover: Yeah, but Boston has WAY better front office management.

Sean Chercover: They do. They need a center fielder. And if they could make the trade to upgrade at 2nd, that would be very good, but I'm not sure the Orioles will go for it.

Gerald So: They are looking to shop Brian Roberts.

Sean Chercover: Yup. But there was some resistance because Roberts was named in the Mitchell report.

Gerald So: oh, yeah, that's right.

Gerald So: I would still do the deal.

Sean Chercover: Me too. Time to turn the page on steroids (with better testing in place, that is)

Gerald So: I agree.

Gerald So: When is TRIGGER CITY due out again?

Sean Chercover: TRIGGER CITY is coming out in August

Sean Chercover: And Roberts screwed up a couple of times, but he wasn't an habitual user

Gerald So: the yanks are lucky to have Robinson Cano.

Sean Chercover: Very. And I think Girardi is a fantastic choice.

Gerald So: I guess Soriano can't play 2nd anymore?

Sean Chercover: No, Soriano is strictly LF now.

Gerald So: I'm optimistic. I was tired of Torre's ways.

Sean Chercover: I dunno. I mean, I think Girardi is a great choice, but Torre did a hell of a lot for that team. I have nothing against him. Maybe his time there was just past.

Gerald So: Oh, I think Torre was the right guy for ten years, but yeah, he had just become too predictable.

Sean Chercover: Yeah, I think you nailed it. Predictable. People stopped listening to him. Not his fault, really. like you said, a great 10 years.

Gerald So: Are all the Dudgeon titles going to have "city" in them?

Sean Chercover: Dudgeon City.

Sean Chercover: God, I hope not.

Gerald So: I picked up on that pattern not long ago, although I know you wanted to title Big City, Bad Blood A Quiet Place.

Sean Chercover: It wasn't even intentional to do it twice. I was using TRIGGER CITY as a "working title" just 'cause I liked the way it sounded. Then all the people at HarperCollins went ape over it, so that's the title.

Sean Chercover: I love the title TRIGGER CITY, but I was never completely sold on Big City Bad Blood. I just couldn't think of anything better, and everybody else liked it.

Gerald So: I see. Yes, sometimes things just catch fire. Think of Star Wars.

Sean Chercover: What about Star Wars? Was it supposed to be called something else?

Gerald So: No, but Star Wars itself sounds tame.

Sean Chercover: I guess it does. But it's become so iconic, I can't imagine it being called something else.

Gerald So: right, same thing with James Bond.

Sean Chercover: Ornithologist.

Gerald So: Fleming picked the name because he thought it sounded plain.

Sean Chercover: Yes, he picked it off his bookshelf. There was a book on Birds of the Caribbean, by an ornithologist named James Bond.

Gerald So: Speaking of that, how did you settle on the name Ray Dudgeon?

Sean Chercover: Ray had a few names along the way. First he was . . . should I even say?

Gerald So: Not if you don't want to.

Sean Chercover: Ah, what the hell...

Sean Chercover: First he was Miles Dunbar. Then he was Miles Denny. Then he was Jack Dunbar. Then Ray Dunbar...

Gerald So: That's a lot of iterations.

Sean Chercover: I loved the name Ray, but Dunbar wasn't working for me. I liked that it started with D (no idea why) and I liked the two syllables to go with the single of Ray...

Gerald So: was he ever Jack Denny? :)

Sean Chercover: No. Maybe he should'a been.

Gerald So: Too much like Jack Benny.

Sean Chercover: Finally, I went through the dictionary, looking at the two-syllable D words...

Gerald So: ah.

Sean Chercover: I wanted a name that also works as a word. You know, Spade, Archer, Hammer...

Gerald So: I see now. Interesting.

Gerald So: Joe Pike...

Sean Chercover: And Dudgeon jumped out at me. It describes Ray in a number of ways.

Sean Chercover: Love Joe Pike.

Gerald So: although apparently Pike is named for the fish.

Sean Chercover: Yeah, but it's a mean fish.

Sean Chercover: What did you think of The Watchman?

Gerald So: I liked it a lot.

Sean Chercover: I did too. I thought it was great.

Gerald So: I think he'd been a little too into Elvis's head and life the last couple of books, so going somewhat into Pike's head forced him to get back to basics.

Sean Chercover: Elvis had definitely been through the wringer lately, both physically and mentally. So we were pretty deep in his head. I agree, going into Pike's head was a great palette cleanser.

Gerald So: Are you writing the third Dudgeon book right now?

Sean Chercover: I'm making notes for the third, but I'm not writing it yet. Still tying up ends to get the second ready and planning for all the marketing stuff...

Gerald So: I see.

Sean Chercover: Hey, congrats on your new project - THE LINEUP. Great idea.

Gerald So: Oh, thanks. We'll see how it's received.

Sean Chercover: Will you have it in time for B'con?

Gerald So: I hope so. I plan to start printing sometime next month.

Sean Chercover: Cool. I will be one of your first customers.

Gerald So: we have one more ad coming from Busted Flush Press, and we should be set to go.

Gerald So: Thanks.

Sean Chercover: Nice. Was it hard to put together?

Gerald So: Not especially, but I had three guys working with me.

Sean Chercover: You gonna be at T'fest of B'con?

Gerald So: I will be at B'con. Don't know about T'fest yet.

Sean Chercover: Oh, of course! We're gonna do a DT breakfast, or something like that.

Gerald So: Right.

Gerald So: I live in New York so T'Fest shouldn't be a problem if I get to go. It's going to be at the Grand Hyatt again?

Sean Chercover: Yup. You can always come hang in the bar. What part of NY do you live in?

Gerald So: Suburbs, about 40 mins to Manhattan by train.

Sean Chercover: But Marcus and I are gonna share a room in a cheapie hotel a few blocks away.

Sean Chercover: The commuter train is great for reading.

Gerald So: Do you feel you know Ray better the more you write about him, and how do you think he's changed from book to book, story to story?

Sean Chercover: I do feel I'm getting to know him better. I purposely made him pretty screwed up, and he's learning more about himself. There's room for him to grow...

Gerald So: always a good thing, I say.

Sean Chercover: After the first book, I wrote a couple of short stories (thanks for the nice review of the KY story, btw) and I found that, given what happened to him in the first book, he had changed.

Gerald So: though some readers don't want a protag to change much, I think it shows a series has life.

Gerald So: Oh, I see, and you're welcome.

Sean Chercover: He lost a bit of his swagger, which was a good thing. But in the second book, he's getting to know himself better.

Sean Chercover: He's still suffering from some of the effects - both physical and mental - of the tourture in boook 1

Gerald So: My favorite line in the story: "This was tough-guy talk."

Sean Chercover: Thanks!

Sean Chercover: yeah, there are some protags who I love that never change Reacher, McGee, etc.

Sean Chercover: But for me to write it, I felt that I needed one who changes. You know, like in life.

Gerald So: I always like when stories are grounded in real events. Again, it shows time passing.

Sean Chercover: One Serving... was actually based on a real case I had when I was a PI. Of course, the last third of the story is total fiction.

Gerald So: I see. The case seemed nicely meaty.

Sean Chercover: Time passing. That's another tricky one. How fast do you let your protag age?

Sean Chercover: The case was depressing as hell. But we got the woman her money. Of course there was no suicide and no standoff with guns.

Gerald So: Right.

Gerald So: I don't think a protag has to age per se, but I think s/he should be affected every so often.

Sean Chercover: I've been very specific about Ray's age in the first two books. In the first book, he has his thirty-eighth birthday, and in the second, he is just a few months shy of 39.

Sean Chercover: So book 1 ends in mid-January and book 2 starts in september of the same year.

Gerald So: I would think the "bigger" the events of one book, the more time has to necessarily pass before the next.

Sean Chercover: That's a very good point.

Sean Chercover: Obviously, he's aging slowly, if the books are that close together in his life, but a year and a half apart in our world

Gerald So: right.

Sean Chercover: I think book 3 will have to take place more than a year after book 2. There's just no way that this many exciting things happen to the guy every year.

Gerald So: I don't always like "big" events. If you have too many of them bunched up in a series, like you say, each individual event loses some weight.

Sean Chercover: Right. And sometimes the most emotionally significant events are not "big" events.

Gerald So: One of the perils of writing series is everyone expects it to continue or top itself.

Sean Chercover: Yeah. For sure.

Gerald So: But I guess a series couldn't be written any other way.

Gerald So: one of the warning signs for me is when the protag starts to develop a rep from past heroics.

Sean Chercover: I don't know. I thought Block was brilliant by following Eight Million Ways... with Sacred Ginmill. A much more intimate book, and a flashback to 10 years earlier. A real character book.

Gerald So: I agree, but I don't know that a writer today would be given the room to do what Block did.

Sean Chercover: That's interesting. It's a double-edged sword. To be realistic, if (to use my own stuff as an example) Ray was instrumental in busting a bunch of corrupt pols...and was in the newspapers and on TV, then in the next book, he'd come into contact with people who have heard of him.

Gerald So: I thought Jerry Healy's series was well paced, too.

Sean Chercover: Yes, that's a great series. I like Cuddy. And I think your point about Block is a good one. The expectation of publishing houses has changed.

Gerald So: People seem to want to call everything a thriller right now. It sounds exciting, I'll say that.

Sean Chercover: Yup. When I solicited agents, I called BCBB a hardboiled detective story. Then my agent called it noir. Then my editor called it "literary suspense". Then the sales department decided it was a thriller. Whatever. It's a story.

Gerald So: Yeah, the categorization is never up to the writer, nor should it be. A story should be allowed to be different things to different readers.

Gerald So: I guess that's why authors have trouble with titles, too.

Sean Chercover: I guess, in truth, it is a PI thriller, since there isn't much mystery to it. You're not figuring a puzzle about a past event, but rather navigating twists.

Sean Chercover: You read to find out what will happen, not to find out what happened in the past.

Sean Chercover: I agree that the writer shouldn't be the one to categorize the book.

Sean Chercover: I'm am decidedly bad at titles (although I lucked out with Trigger City).

Gerald So: At the same time, though, it goes back to series pacing. Not every book will be a thriller. Some will engage the P.I.'s deductive skills more.

Sean Chercover: Absolutely. TRIGGER CITY is still a thriller in structure and perhaps pacing, but there is a past event that Ray must figure out, so it's more of a hybrid.

Gerald So: I see.

Gerald So: I'm writing a series of shorts with a 1930s pilot-for-hire, and I try to do something different every time, if only to keep myself engaged.

Sean Chercover: I think that's the way to go, although I get your point that a lot of readers want to read something familiar each time.

Gerald So: Another guy who's great with different tones of story is Bill Pronzini.

Sean Chercover: I dig the pilot-for-hire. Is it a flying boat? I love those.

Sean Chercover: Pronzini is a master.

Gerald So: He flies different planes in different stories, but his favorite is a Grumman Goose.

Sean Chercover: I LOVE the Gumman Goose!

Sean Chercover: You ever hear the song Treetop Flyer by Jimmy Buffett?

Gerald So: No, but I've read Where is Joe Merchant? by Buffett.

Sean Chercover: Me too. Great fun.

Gerald So: and I am a bit of a Parrothead.

Sean Chercover: I'm more than a bit of a parrothead.

Sean Chercover: Treetop Flyer is a hidden track at the end of Banana Wind. You should give it a listen. A pilot for hire story. Melancholy. Great stuff.

Dave White entered the room.

Tasha Alexander entered the room.

Gerald So: Oh, here's a question for Sean or everyone: What's your favorite and least favorite thing about Dudgeon?

Sean Chercover: Ooh, I'll answer last. I want to hear this!

Dave White: I loved the voice of the character, his vulnerability.... I didn't particularly like Gravedigger--because I wanted to see more of him.

Gerald So: more of Dudgeon, you mean?

Sean Chercover: Gravedigger returns in Trigger City. And there's a Gravedigger story in Hardcore Hardboiled (Big Daddy Thug, ed.)

Dave White: No, I wanted to see more of Gravedigger, know more about him. There wasn't anything I didn't particularly like about Dudgeon except he didn't hang out with Gravedigger more.

Sean Chercover: Ray's not in the Gravedigger story.

Gerald So: Aha.

Gerald So: I don't have favorite and least favorite Dudgeon traits. I just ask the questions. Tasha?

Sean Chercover: Come on, somebody say what you hate. Tasha?

Tasha Alexander: Sigh. I didn't hate anything. Sorry.

Sean Chercover: Wimps.

Tasha Alexander: All I know is the guy kept me up all night. Couldn't stop reading.

Sean Chercover: You're sweet.

Tasha Alexander: I'm honest. Maybe I'll learn to hate him in the second book ;)

Sean Chercover: Yikes. No pressure.

Gerald So: I can't recall if Ray smokes at the moment.

Sean Chercover: Yeah, he smokes. Damnit. He quit, but he starts again in the second book. One of these days he'll kick it for good.

Sean Chercover: Hold on while I light my smoke...

Gerald So: :)

Tasha Alexander: For as hard boiled as he is he's incredibly sympathetic and engaging

Dave White: I tried to have Donne smoke, but since I don't smoke I never remembered to have him light one.

Tasha Alexander: Emily smokes cigars

Gerald So: really?

Sean Chercover: Good idea not to have him smoke if you don't. I hate reading characters who smoke or drink in a way that is unconvincing.

Sean Chercover: Emily is one sexy woman.

Tasha Alexander: She has her moments

Dave White: and she knows eunuchs!

Sean Chercover: Does she ever.

Tasha Alexander: That she does!

Gerald So: My character drinks, but I don't describe the after-effects, so I think I get away with it.

Sean Chercover: She gives me the vapors (am I using that correctly?)

Tasha Alexander: Oh yes! Indeed you are....

Dave White: hahahahaha.

Sean Chercover: The after-effects usually include acting like a dick and phoning an ex-girlfriend at 3am

Gerald So: He's got Part A down

Gerald So: Any idea how well the BC, BB paperback is selling, Sean?

Sean Chercover: No idea. they don't tell me nuthin'

Sean Chercover: But I've seen it in a train station newsstand. That's a good sign.

Tasha Alexander: I love the new cover

Sean Chercover: Thanks, I love the new cover too. Big improvement.

Tasha Alexander: That's a VERY good sign

Gerald So: Anyone with final questions before the afterparty starts?

Tasha Alexander: OK....What do you consider the driving narrative arc in the series as a whole?

Sean Chercover: Ha!

Sean Chercover: I don't know. It's a character journey. Ray is a pretty messed-up guy, but he's trying to become a better man. He wants to understand himself...but he's afraid of introspection.

Gerald So: Tough question. Wouldn't want to answer it for my own work.

Dave White: Ah good point... do you have an end point in mind?

Sean Chercover: It is a tough question. the thing is, after book 3 (assuming there will be a book 3), I'm not sure if Ray is going to get better or worse.

Sean Chercover: I have a few end-points that I've been playing with. One is pretty bleak. One is more redemptive. And then there's another that is very ambiguous.

Sean Chercover: Problem is deciding which fits Ray the best.

Gerald So: I would think that depends on how the middle books go.

Sean Chercover: Good point. If the middle books go very bleak, he can't go on like that forever.

Sean Chercover: Part of the reason that I don't have it planned out way down the line is, I'm still getting to know Ray.

Tasha Alexander: One thing I find challenging about a series is plotting out that narrative arc---you need to keep it in mind to a point, but can only get so far ahead of yourself

Sean Chercover: Yes, I think if you get too far ahead of yourself, you start bending the character to fit your plan.

Tasha Alexander: YES---exactly

Sean Chercover: And I don't want to do that with Ray.

Sean Chercover: Some of the changes in his character from #1 to #2 actually surprised me. I think that sense of surprise, discovery, is part of the joy,

Tasha Alexander: Definitely

Dave White: Yeah, it's fun.

Sean Chercover: On the other hand, people like agents and editors want to know what's next...

Sean Chercover: I've been very lucky that way, however.

Gerald So: 'Night, all. Thanks for attending.


Tasha said…
Gerald, fun chat!

Mr. Chercover, you are charming as usual....
Colleen said…
Had wanted to join the chat, but had to work that night. I'm 3/4 the way through BCBB and I totally dig Ray Dudgeon. Can't wait for Trigger City.


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