Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Author Interview: Marshall Karp

Okay, first of all, I owe a HUGE apology to Marshall, Shelly Overlook, and Amy. I was supposed to post my portion of this interview yesterday morning. However, when I got to work yesterday morning, our computer and phone networks were down. It took the entire morning for them to figure out that the problem was isolated to our building rather than our corporate network, and that it wouldn't be fixed any time soon. So I drove over an hour to another office so that I could process our payroll, a task that usually takes a full day. I got everything done, but I didn't have any extra time in which to post this interview. So guys, I'm so so sorry!

Without further ado since this is already a day late, here is what was supposed to be Part One of our interview with Marshall Karp, author extraordinaire:

What is it about your work that would make YOU one of those must-read authors for me? In other words, what will I find that differentiates your mysteries from the work of others? In even OTHER words, sell yourself to me as a potential reader
In a word, CHARACTERS. Read the first three chapters of The Rabbit Factory on my website. It’s free. Then decide, do I want to spend more time with these people? Plots don’t win hearts and minds, great characters do. I would say that ninety percent of the reader mail I get barely reference the plot of the book. Everyone writes to me about the characters. Terry Biggs is such a wiseass. Big Jim reminds me of my father (my mother, myself). I have a crush on Mike Lomax. The same lesson I learned working on series TV applies to the Lomax and Biggs series of books. People come back time after time because they look forward to the predictable emotional experience they know those characters will give them. Even if some of those characters really piss you off, you know you can count on them to deliver. That’s why people keep watching soap operas. And I’m pretty sure that’s why my wife has stayed with me all these years.

Do you have the story planned out completely or do you write it as you go?
I am the consummate index-cards-on-the-corkboard plotter. And I have the push pins scars to prove it. For me writing a book comes easy. It’s like painting a house (with a roller). Plotting it out is like designing one (with a crayon). I vaguely know what I want to build, and the only thing I’m sure of is that I have a deadline to get it done. If I start writing before I’ve blocked it out, I will most likely write myself into a corner. I need the structure of a tight outline first. But structure doesn’t mean I can’t let the characters bust out when they’re so moved (sometimes they know before I do). Once I have the blueprint, the real fun for me is in figuring out how to put my own personal spin on each chapter. At various points in the book Mike and Terry have to recap where they are in their investigation. They do it for each other, for me, and for you. It’s boring if they always do it in the car or the office. That why the card on the corkboard for the book I’m writing now simply says “Mike and Terry recap investigation,” and by the time you read it, it’s a very funny chapter that takes place in a Chinese restaurant.

Do you personally visit all the locales you write about? Will Lomax & Biggs be heading to Hawaii soon?
I wrote The Rabbit Factory on spec. No publisher. No thought that I’d ever get it published. But I had lived in LA during my TV years so I tried to do the best I could without going back. When I started Bloodthirsty I spent a week in LA, at the Hollywood station where Mike and Terry work, the LA County morgue, and cruising the streets looking for a place to dump bodies. But throughout the writing process I find myself needing to find new venues, and for that nothing is handier than Google maps. I’m working on the next book right now. Yesterday I needed to find a Laundromat in Mike and Terry’s jurisdiction. I went to Google and two minutes later I was looking at the perfect storefront and navigating my cursor around the surrounding neighborhood.
As for Hawaii, Lomax and Biggs have fans there and I really, really hope they have a reason to visit. Odds are if they go, they’ll take me along with them.

Have you ever had one of your characters "make" you write something you'd rather not have? Something that felt right for the character, but that you weren't too thrilled with personally?
My characters and I have consistently been on the same page, and while we’ve always been in agreement, sometimes they get way ahead of me. There were a number of times when they were much smarter than I was when it came to solving a case (I know you think I’m kidding here, but it’s true). However, I don’t want to spell out the details, because that might be a spoiler for those who haven’t read it.
I can give you one good example. In The Rabbit Factory, Mike is still a recent widower, but his father, Big Jim, sets him up with Diana, despite the fact that Mike has asked Jim to stop meddling. Mike’s first date with Diana goes well, but he’s not ready to pursue it. At least that’s what I thought. Five days later, she calls him, and he meets her at the hospital where she works, and does her a favor. They’re leaving the building when much to my surprise, this happened:

We took the elevator down to the lobby. “Are you hungry?” she said.
“What kind of food are you in the mood for,” she said.
Whatever you have in your refrigerator, I thought. But I knew better than to say it. My wife had passed away less than seven months ago. My brother was in deep shit, and my father needed my help digging him out of the quagmire. And my partner, my boss and the governor of California needed me to solve the crime of the century. The last thing I needed at this point in my life was a serious relationship with Diana Trantanella. Then she repeated the question.
“Earth to Mike, I asked what kind of food you’re in the mood for.”
“Whatever you have in your refrigerator,” I heard myself say out loud.
And then I felt her arms around my neck and her lips gently kissing mine. “Are you sure?” she said.
“No,” I said. “Maybe if you kissed me again.”
She did. It was long and deep and went directly to every pleasure center in my body.
“I’m sure,” I said.
Twenty minutes later we were in her bedroom furiously peeling one another’s clothes off. I’d have to call Big Jim in the morning and thank him for meddling in my life.

So, if the question is: was it something that felt right for the character, but that I wasn’t too thrilled with personally, the answer would have to be I was thrilled for Mike and Diana, and relieved that they had taken matters into their own hands, so to speak. There’s so much emotion riding on the first time you go to bed with someone that I was glad the three of us had gotten past it.

You can read the rest of the interview at Amy's and at Shelly Overlook's.
And to answer your burning question about my contest, yes, there is a winner! Fiona Picklebottom will be recieving an autographed copy of Flipping Out and a prize package from me. Fiona darlin', please send me your address (*ahem*and that bribe of devil chicks*ahem*).


Fiona Picklebottom said...

Yay me! Yay me! Yay me! I have to go put Beth on the bus and Amy down for a nap, but I will be back to email you my info ASAP!!! Woo Hoo!!!

Fiona Picklebottom said...

Oh, I will also DEFINITELY check out the chapters on Marshall's website and will probably definitely buy the two previous novels (unless he sends them to me *wink*) since the anal retentive part of me hates to enter a series in the middle. Thank goodness it's book 3 and not 9 or something. I am really looking forward to reading these now, my TBR pile may have to wait...

Shelly said...

Fiona - you are so cute! Well, let's just say that your prize pack may remedy part of that problem.

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