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Sean Chercover



Monday, March 24, 2008

Participants

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.

Comments

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.

Colleen

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