1 – Do you write a single series or do your fingers flow over the keys creating tales in many forms? Do your reading choices reflect your writing choices? Are there genres you wouldn’t attempt?
I’m currently writing for two different series – one featuring a private eye, the other starring a former CIA spook and his lover. Both are in the mystery/thriller genre but the Vic Fallon private eye series is more mystery with a touch of romance. It echoes the work of Raymond Chandler, Donald E. Westlake and Robert B. Parker. Fallon is like an old school gumshoe from the 1940’s or 50’s but in a contemporary setting with current themes. I’ve also published several romantic comedies.
My reading choices definitely reflect my writing choices. I’ve enjoyed those kinds of stories for years, featuring the tough wisecracking hero with an eye for the ladies who always takes one on the chin in the name of love. With this series, I wanted to bring Phillip Marlowe, Sam Spade, Peter Gunn and Jim Rockford into the 21st century and I think I’ve succeeded, based on what readers have told me.
As for genres I wouldn’t attempt, I have no interest in writing vampire, paranormal or shape-shifter romance because I don’t understand them.
2 – Heroes, heroines, villains. Which are your favorites to write? Does one of these come easy and why?
I enjoy crafting heroes and heroines but a really colorful villain can be fun to write. Most of them have a screw loose any way (hence why they do what they do) and you can go over the top with characters like that, as long as they get theirs in the end. You typically know what motivates the hero but sometimes it’s fun to explore the villain’s psyche and see what makes them run. One of my stories featured a villainess who became sexually aroused by shooting people. Another featured a mob enforcer who liked breaking heads but really got into being degraded by hookers. I think I’m seeing a trend here.
3 – Heroes. How do you find them? Do pictures, real life or plain imagination create the man you want the reader to root for? Do they come before the plot or after you have the idea for the story?
When I get a good story concept I decide which series it would best be suited for. If it’s a ripped from the headlines idea, it would probably fit the Nick Seven spy thriller series. If it’s something quirkier, I’ll make it a Vic Fallon private eye caper. The online dangers of sexting formed the premise for the Fallon mystery “Lido Key,” and the Wikileaks affair was the jumping off point for the Nick Seven thriller “Never Look Back.”
I generally have a mental image of what I want my heroes to look like before I begin. I like to make them more three dimensional by including something that reflects their moral code, which often mirrors my own. For example, Vic Fallon can’t tolerate domestic violence against women. It was the reason he was nearly bounced off the police force and it’s something I also feel strongly about. I like to make my heroes and heroines human, with many of the everyday foibles we all have. I’m bored with some of the heroes I’ve read in crime fiction stories that come off as too real to be believable. When one of my heroes gets into a fight or a shooting match, they bleed like the rest of us.
4 – Heroines. How do you find them? Do pictures, real life or plain imagination create the man you want the reader to root for? Do they come before the plot or after you have the idea for the story?
I usually have an idea of what I want the heroine to look like before I start writing. Since the Vic Fallon series features a different female lead in each story, I work hard to not have them appear the same. I’m a very visual writer, seeing the scenes play out on a movie screen in my mind, and I cast the parts accordingly. If I’m seeking a certain look, inspired by an actress I’ve mentally cast for the part, I may find a picture of them and refer to it when creating the character.
I don’t like to ruin the whole theater of the mind thing for the readers, though. I recall reading one of the later James Bond novels by Ian Fleming. When it came time to introduce the girl of the week, Fleming did the unthinkable – he described her as looking “just like Ursula Andress.” That ruined it for me because I had someone else in mind.
5 – Villains or villainesses or an antagonist, since they don’t always have to be the bad guy or girl. They can be a person opposed to the hero’s or heroine’s obtaining their goal. How do you choose one? How do you make them human?
Choosing the antagonist can be tricky, and sometimes there’s more than one. It helps to put your faith in mankind on hold and realize that like it or not, most of us have a little larceny in our souls. In the Nick Seven thrillers, there’s always the primary villain for Nick to lock horns with but since he’s a former CIA spook, don’t be surprised when someone from the government also gets involved. That characters past life was filled with double-dealers and shady people with political agendas. It would be a shame to waste all that treachery and distrust, wouldn’t it?
I try to make the bad people human just like I do with my heroes and heroines. I’m a people watcher and I’m always making note of little things people do. It can be anything from the way someone turns a phrase, or their dialect, or the way they compulsively arrange the silverware at the dinner table. People are unique and I try to add those little touches to every character I create. An editor told me long ago to always include a brief physical description when I introduce a character, no matter how large or small their part may be. Best advice I ever received.
6 – What is your latest release? Who is the hero, heroine or the villain?
My latest release is “The Dirty Blonde.” It’s the third installment in the Vic Fallon private eye series, but the books don’t need to be read in order. For the uninitiated, Fallon is a former cop who was about to be let go from the Sandusky, Ohio police force for unnecessary roughness when he got shot and took a disability separation. He doesn’t really have to work and usually takes cases when he’s bored or intrigued. There’s a different female lead in each story, which keeps it interesting.
When I conceived this series I kept thinking of the private eye shows we all watched on TV in the sixties and seventies, like “Mannix,” “Peter Gunn” and “The Rockford Files.” In each episode, the hero got involved with a different woman and just when things were about to get interesting they’d cut to a commercial. In written form we don’t have commercials so I can show what really happens after the lights go down low.
7 – What are you working on now?
I recently submitted the fourth Nick Seven spy thriller, “Operation Payback” and I’m working on another installment. I’m also working on another Vic Fallon caper.
8 – How can people find you?
My website is www.timsmithauthor.com. I’m also on Facebook, and I have an author page on Amazon. If they can’t find me at any of those places, they can try the Buckhorn Tavern in