Category Archives: Author Interview

GUEST BLOG: Paul D. Marks, Shamus Award Winning Author

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“Into the Vortex

My name is Paul and I’m addicted to noir.

So I like to watch it, read it and write it.

To me the thing that most makes something noir is not rain, not shadows, not femme fatales, not slumming with lowlifes. It’s a character who trips over their own Achilles heel so to speak, and then his or her life spins out of control from there because of their own weaknesses or failings.

And that’s just what happens in my latest noir-thriller, Vortex (released 9/1/15). Zach Tanner is just returned from the war in Afghanistan. He finds that he can run from the war, but he can’t run from himself. He and his girlfriend, Jess, careen down Sunset Boulevard, trying to get away from a flashy red Camaro that’s hot on their tail. But it’s hard to get away from your best friends, who think you’ve stolen their spoils of war.

In talking with the original publisher, I pitched the book as a modern day version of the classic film noirs about returning vets and all the trouble they get into when they come home from the war, in that case World War II. Great movies like Somewhere in the Night, The Blue Dahlia (with a screenplay by Raymond Chandler) and Ride the Pink Horse, and also books from a later period like Dog Soldiers and The Last Good Kiss, dealing with returned Viet Nam war vets.

Vortex is a noir-thriller, but on some level I think it deals with the death of the American Dream for many and the Get-Rich-Quick schemes others use to “achieve” it. Schemes that are destructive not only to themselves but also to the country.

These are themes I revisit from time to time. And often the city of LA is as much a character in my work as the people.

Right now I’m working on the sequel to my Shamus-Winning novel, White Heat, plus another short story, the sequel to an as yet unpublished short story about Bunker Hill, Los Angeles that Ellery Queen recently picked up, and several other things. No rest for the wicked noirist.

Good to be here and thank you for having me, Max.


Paul D. Marks is the author of the Shamus Award-Winning mystery-thriller White Heat. Publishers Weekly calls White Heat a “taut crime yarn.” His story Howling at the Moon (EQMM 11/14) is short-listed for both the 2015 Anthony and Macavity Awards for Best Short Story. Vortex, a noir-thriller novella, is Paul’s latest release. Midwest Review calls Vortex: “…a nonstop staccato action noir.” He also co-edited the anthology Coast to Coast: Murder from Sea to Shining Sea.

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Interview with James L. Thane, author of UNTIL DEATH

Why do you write?

THANE: Well to be honest (and I assume that I have to be honest here), I need the money and I’d rather write than have to go out and look for a real job. I’ve had several, most of which required getting up at a reasonable hour of the morning, keeping my boss happy and doing a lot of other such things that I’m really not very good at. Writing allows me to stay up until all hours of the night or early morning, sleep in as late as I like, and get into the office whenever I please. I also like the fact that the office is steps away from my bedroom and close to the refrigerator. I have no commute, no dress code and no boss. On top of all of that, I love to write and can’t imagine anything else that I’d rather do for a living.

When do you write?

THANE: I don’t have an absolutely fixed schedule. I like to get all the boring parts of my day out of the way first so that they aren’t hanging over my head while I’m trying to write. So I usually get up, exercise, read the papers, run any errands that need running and take care of any household chores that have to be done. By then it’s usually time for lunch, after which I can head into my study and write with a clear conscience. I usually get there around 1:00 or so and will work until around 6:00, if I’m eating dinner at home. Then I’ll go back to work for a while after dinner. My preference, though, is to work until 7:00 or 7:30, then go out for a light dinner, preferably someplace where I can have a couple of drinks and listen to some music. I’ll read for a while before I go to sleep and then start all over the next day.

Where do you write?

THANE: I live most of the year in Arizona, and when I’m there I write in my study at home. I’ve never been one of those people who could write in a coffee house or a café or some other place where there are a lot of distractions. I need the peace and quiet of a room where I can close the door, seal myself off and concentrate on the work. Unlike a lot of other authors, I can’t even listen to music when I write. I do spend three months a year on a lake in northwestern Montana. There I also have a room where I can write, but I also have a table in a gazebo in the woods overlooking the lake. I’ll often take my laptop down there and write, even though I know I’ll occasionally be distracted by the beautiful view or the occasional passing boat. This is the spot:




What do you write?

THANE: I’ve written both fiction and non-fiction, but I’ve now settled into writing crime fiction almost exclusively. I’m currently doing a series set in Phoenix, Arizona, featuring a homicide detective named Sean Richardson. The first book in the series is No Place to Die, and the second, which has been out for six months now, is Until Death. I’ve just finished a stand-alone suspense novel, tentatively titled Picture Me Gone, and am now working on the third Sean Richardson book, which I hope to finish while in Montana this summer.

How do you write?

THANE: Pretty much on the fly. I start with a very vague idea and then write the story chapter by chapter with no idea where the book is going from one day to the next, at least early on. I’ve tried outlining but it simply doesn’t work for me; I have to let a story unfold at its own pace. Usually, by the time I’m about a third of the way in, I’ll suddenly realize how the book is going to end without really having consciously thought about it. Then the job at hand is to get from where I am at that point to the conclusion that’s presented itself. This may also involve a fair amount of re-writing to make what I’ve done already fit the conclusion I’ve decided upon.

Since I don’t know where the book is going, I can’t really do much research in advance, and so part of my process involves doing whatever research is necessary as I go along. Of course the downside to working this way is that occasionally a book will simply stall out and what seemed like an excellent idea winds up going nowhere. I have several efforts lying dormant on my hard drive that ran out of gas after about 15,000 words or so.

Tell me about your previous books and where they can be found.

THANE: I have a non-fiction book that is now out of print and can only be found in used bookstores and on the Internet. Occasionally a copy pops up on E-Bay with the seller asking what seems like a totally irrational price. I don’t know what these used copies actually sell for, but it does sometimes lead me to think about the fifteen or twenty pristine copies I still have in a box in my closet. Otherwise, the other two books are available in a variety of editions on Amazon and at other on-line sites. I know that copies are still available at a number of bookstores, but it’s always difficult knowing which ones will have them in stock at any given moment.

Tell me what you’re currently working on.

THANE: As I suggested above, I’m currently finishing up the third Sean Richardson novel which I’m calling Fatal Blow. It begins when a woman accidentally discovers evidence of her husband’s infidelity. Shortly thereafter, he reports her missing, and a few days later a female torso is discovered floating lazily down a Phoenix canal. When it’s identified as the missing woman, Richardson and his partner, Maggie McClinton, have to figure out who’s responsible for beheading the woman and pitching her into the canal. As is usual in a book like this, complications ensue.

Tell me something funny.

THANE: A couple of nights ago, I went to see Megan Abbot and Jeff Abbot, who are not related but who are touring together in support of their new books. It was a great event and later Harlan Coben was teasing Megan on Twitter about touring with Jeff. She responded as only Megan would by saying, “But first rule of book tour: Bring your own bail money,” which stuck me not only as very funny but also as excellent advice for any writer going on tour.

To learn more about this author, visit his website:




Interview with M. Ruth Myers, author of DON’T DARE A DAME, Finalist for the Shamus Award

Why do you write?

MYERS: I write because I have to. It’s too painful not to. Writing is who I am – which I don’t think is especially healthy. Even when I want to tear my hair out because my scene or pacing isn’t working, I’d rather write a book than win the lottery.

When do you write?

MYERS: Whenever I can. At some points in my life I was able to keep a regular schedule of six hours a day, five days a week. Right now I count myself lucky to get in 15 hours a week. Real life has a rotten way of making demands.

Where do you write?

MYERS: I’ve always been fortunate to have a private writing space. In Nebraska, it was an unheated attic that was freezing in winter & broiling in summer. Mostly I’ve had an actual, civilized room. In my current study, as well as the previous one, I enjoy the utter hedonism of wall of bookshelves.

For some time now, I’ve written my novels on a laptop computer that is not connected to anything else. I step over to the desktop computer with printer and internet connections for all other purposes. Somehow I like the magic of the novels not sharing bytes or electrons or whatever with other work.

What do you write?

MYERS: I write the Maggie Sullivan mysteries, a series featuring a woman private eye with great legs who keeps a gin bottle in her desk and a Smith & Wesson under her seat. The series follows her, and the city of Dayton, OH, from the waning years of the Great Depression through the end of WWII. I’ve also written books that aren’t in the series, and will probably be a repeat offender.

How do you write?

MYERS: I’m a plodder and a plotter. I like to have a sense of my opening scene and my climax scene before I write the first word. In addition, I need to have some key plot points in between so I know the book will really hang together. I may throw some out and add others, but that’s how it starts. Then I use index cards and a flow chart to check the flow of the story and test for rising and falling action. It sounds more anal than it really is. There’s plenty of room for spontaneity.

Tell me about your books and where they can be found.

MYERS: I did nine books with New York houses. The last, a thriller titled (not by me) A TOUCH OF MAGIC, is the only one I’ve reissued as an ebook. I hope to bring out my first novel, which was classic romantic suspense, as an ebook within the year. In between were assorted types which are out of print but available used from various sources.

Tell me what you’re working on.

MYERS: I’m currently working on the fourth Maggie Sullivan. It starts with hanky-panky with jewelry in a hotel safe, but quickly leads to murder and attempted murder. Maggie wouldn’t mind getting through a case without broken ribs or stitches somewhere, but we’ll have to see.

Tell me something funny.

MYERS: I’d love to, but I broke my funny-bone tripping over a misplaced comma.


My first novel, a romantic-suspense novel set in Peru, was published by Coward, McCann & Geoghegan in 1979. Since then I’ve had more than a dozen novels published in assorted genres. They’ve been translated into various languages, optioned for film and condensed for magazine publication.

Early on, I wanted to write more mysteries, specifically a series with a woman P.I. The traditional publishers I worked for kept telling me there just wasn’t enough market for that sort of book. Finally I took a long break from fiction writing. Then I decided to do the Maggie Sullivan mysteries. On my own. I’ve never regretted it.

I was born in Warrensburg, MO, moved to Cheyenne, WY, with my mother and grandmother when I was eight, and returned to Missouri to earn a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Missouri. Prior to novel writing, I was a reporter for city dailies in Michigan and Ohio.

My infinitely patient husband and I live in Ohio, and we have one grown daughter.

M. Ruth Myers
author of the Maggie Sullivan mysteries & other novels




Interview with Paul D. Marks, author of WHITE HEAT

Why do you write?

MARKS: I write so I can kill people…on the page that I can’t kill in real life……….. Seriously, why do I write – why does anyone write – because we have to.

When do you write?

MARKS: I keep “vampire hours,” so mostly I write in the middle of the night.  My sleep schedule has shifted over time.  I’ve always been a late-night person.  But that used to mean going to bed at 2 or 3 or 4am.  Now it means going to bed at 9am and getting up at three or four in the afternoon.  So I tend to write starting at about 11pm these days.  It’s quiet.  There’s no interruptions. And the nighttime sets the proper mood for most of what I write.

Where do you write?

MARKS: I write in my home office.  Sometimes I do it other places.  But my office has everything I need. I have a nice view. Pictures on the wall that inspire me. Mostly album covers and movie lobby cards, some other things. And, of course, my picture of Dennis Hopper flipping the bird from Easy Rider. I also have access to my addictions, diet cherry Pepsi and Waiwera water.  Plus I have my assistants, my dogs and cats, to help out.

If I’m out and about in the world, coffee shop, beach, library, I get too distracted by what’s going on around me…but that can be fun.  Too much fun.  And you might think there would be distractions in the office, TV, phone and food.  But I’m pretty good at avoiding those.  What I’m not good at avoiding is the internet.  I love to research and it makes me feel like I’m working even when I’m not.

What do you write?

MARKS: I write mostly noir and mystery fiction, but sometimes mainstream and humor or satire. For example, my Shamus Award-Winning novel, White Heat, is a noir-mystery-thriller set in and during the “Rodney King” riots (see below for more details) and its sequel, Broken Windows (not yet published) is in the same vein.  I’ve had over 30 short stories published that run the gamut from noir to mainstream and satire, including several award winners.

How do you write?

MARKS: I put my ass in the chair, goof for a few minutes on the computer, doing whatever I want, and then I start in on one of my projects.  Doesn’t matter if I’m not in the mood – you get in the mood by doing it.  And even if it’s not going well, just write, stream-of-consciousness.  Hone it later.

Tell me about your previous books and where they can be found.

MARKS: White Heat and L.A. Late @ Night, a collection of five of my previously published short stories, can be found on Amazon in both paperback and e-versions, as well as other venues.  White Heat is my Shamus Award winning novel that Publishers Weekly calls a “taut crime yarn.”  It’s set during the “Rodney King Riots” of 1992 and is about a screwup P.I. who inadvertently leads a murderer to his prey and has to find the killer in order to make things right.  L.A. Late @ Night is a collection of 5 of my previously published short stories.  All set in L.A. and in genres ranging from noir to hardboiled to medium boiled. Lawrence Maddox, the reviewer in All Due Respect, Crime Fiction Magazine said this about that collection: “You could hate L.A. for the way it screws with the decent folk so deftly conveyed here, but you won’t be able to put this highly recommended collection down.”

Tell me what you’re currently working on.

MARKS: I’m working on a slew of projects.  The sequel to White Heat and another novel, this one a mystery set on the World War II homefront, are already done and sitting with an agent.  So I’m currently working on two stand-alone novellas.  One for a publisher of novellas and one for myself.  Both are mysteries, but one is more noir than the other. But the other is interesting because it’s set all in one location. But if I told you exactly what they were about, well, you know…  I’m also working on three different short stories, plus the blog I write for every other Friday (  And I’m co-editing an anthology of mystery short stories from various writers called Coast to Coast: Murder from Sea to Shining Sea (that may or may not remain the final title), that includes several big name and award-winning mystery authors.  I’m definitely not wanting for things to occupy my time.

Tell me something funny.

MARKS: I write so I can kill people on the page that I can’t kill in real life………..  You gotta admit, that’s pretty funny….

Thanks for having me, Max!


Find Paul D. Marks at: 
twitter: @PaulDMarks



Paul D. Marks’ novel WHITE HEAT is a 2013 SHAMUS AWARD WINNER.  Publishers Weekly calls WHITE HEAT a “taut crime yarn.”  And Midwest Book Review says “WHITE HEAT is a riveting read of mystery, much recommended.”  Paul is also the author of over thirty published short stories in a variety of genres, including several award winners – and L.A. LATE @ NIGHT, a collection of five of his mystery and noir tales.  His story HOWLING AT THE MOON will be in an upcoming edition of Ellery Queen.  And he has the distinction, dubious though it might be, of being the last person to have shot a film on the fabled MGM backlot before it bit the dust to make way for condos.  According to Steven Bingen, one of the authors of the recent, well-received book MGM: Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot: “That 40 page chronological list I mentioned of films shot at the studio ends with his [Paul D. Marks’] name on it.”




Interview with Bryce Allen, author of THE SPARTAK TRIGGER

Why do you write?

ALLEN: I’ve never really thought about it to be honest, it’s kind of just something that I’ve always done in one form or another. In high school/college/my mid-20s I played in various bands and wrote songs but when that came to an end I began writing fiction as a creative outlet. It took a few years to get published but I definitely feel like I needed that time to improve my skills and develop stylistically.

When do you write?

ALLEN: Typically I’ll write at night but if I have a free day on the weekend I’ll brew a pot of coffee and pound on the keyboard all morning and into the early afternoon. I’ve tried writing during my lunch break at work but that tends to be unproductive.

Where do you write?

ALLEN: I’ll mainly write in my apartment on the sofa with a good CD playing. Sometimes I’ll throw on a DVD of a film I’ve seen a million times, just so there’s some white noise in the background. If I have to do any research for a story I’ll usually go to a café or library – for whatever reason I’m more productive on that front in public venues.

What do you write?

ALLEN: My undergrad degree was in history so I definitely got my fill of nonfiction/essay writing in college so now I write fiction pretty well exclusively… I’ve always enjoyed dark humour and action-packed stories so those elements will definitely always be present in my writing, with varying degrees of volume. In my first novel I tried to fuse transgressive meta-fiction with spy-fi so in the future I’m sure I’ll try fusing similarly divisive styles somehow.

How do you write?

ALLEN: I typically leave a LOT of blank spots to be filled in later. I was the same way writing essays back in school – I’d write a sentence that served as a placeholder for what that idea would be and then move on to something else. I’ve tried creating outlines and such for bigger projects but those usually go out the window – I think it’s better for writing to have an organic/natural flair so I definitely try not to overplan what I’m working on at any given time.

Tell me about your previous books and where they can be found.

ALLEN: My debut novel THE SPARTAK TRIGGER is currently available through Necro Publications/Bedlam Press: As I alluded to earlier, it’s an attempt at fusing Ian Fleming with Chuck Palahniuk and Charles Bukowski. It’s a short book with a LOT happening and several recurring gags/themes throughout… It’s definitely not something everyone will like but I wanted to write something I would enjoy myself, so from that standpoint I’m pleased with how it turned out.

Tell me what you’re currently working on.

ALLEN: Right now I’m working on an alternate history novel that takes the basic framework of Quebec’s FLQ Crisis and places/reimagines it in the American South. I did a lot of research on the FLQ back in school so it’s nice to be able to incorporate my history degree into something creative.

Tell me something funny.

ALLEN: I used to play bass in a Poison tribute band. I wish that was a joke.



Follow Bryce on Twitter @Bryce_E_Allen

Read an excerpt from THE SPARTAK TRIGGER here: