Jack Getze is Fiction Editor for Anthony-nominated Spinetingler Magazine, one of the internet's oldest (and best) websites for noir, crime, and horror short stories. His Austin Carr Mysteries Big Numbers, Big Money, Big Mojo and “Big Mouth” (a short story) were published by Down and Out Books in 2013 and 2014. His newest, Big Shoes, was released by Down and Out in September. Jack’s short fiction has appeared in A Twist of Noir, Beat to a Pulp, The Big Adios and the 2014 anthology, Down, Out and Dead.
Jack has worked as a newspaper reporter and bond salesman. He has carried the idea of “my characters speak to me” farther than most: a character interviews him. Yes, when interviews appear on Jack’s blog, it’s Austin Carr who interviews The Famous Author. (TFA to his friends.) He also has a pathological relationship with redheads and can be trusted to look after a friend’s wife when said friend needs to absent himself from a bar.
One Bite at a Time: Tell us about Big Shoes.
Jack Getze: I think it's my best book, although I'm not certain why I say that. I just like Shoes the best. Mama Bones kind of takes charge, apparently of everything. The novel I'm now writing is Mama Bones as a teenager, solving murders and meeting her future husband years before Austin Carr is even born, a historical mystery.
OBAAT: Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you? (Notice I didn’t ask “Where do you get your ideas?” I was careful to ask where you got this idea.)
JG: My wife's family serves as major source material for all my New Jersey stories, in this case her maternal grandfather, a race track enthusiast nicknamed The Turk. You have to ask in the right circles, but he was an Asbury Park legend during the Great Depression. The stories are fun and that is always my motivation for development -- to entertain my readers.
OBAAT: How long did it take to write Big Shoes, start to finish?
JG: Nine months, although when Down & Out wanted the series several years later, I ran the manuscript through another two-month re-write. Figure a year then in total, which is pretty much my goal when I start a project. Never turns out that way because nothing I've written has ever sold immediately. Always re-writes.
OBAAT: Where did Austin Carr come from? In what ways is he like, and unlike, you?
JG: He used to be the devil on my shoulder, the voice that had always gotten me in trouble. I think now he's turning into my conscience. The violent events of the first three books are changing him and the way he looks at the world. One some level, Austin is Jack Getze's younger, more-daring, vocal self. I created him to complain about my second career as a municipal bond salesman. Every day, all day on the money machine (telephone) asking people for their money. Oh Dana, did I hate that job. But I was desperate when my new wife dragged me back to Jersey, and once I started, the money hooked me. I was a bad salesman and never made what my friends did, but sales sure paid better than writing newspaper stories or even writing corporate annual reports. Two young children and another needing child support payments in California, I spent a long time doing a job I disliked. And getting out of that business is Austin's number one goal, especially in #4.
OBAAT: In what time and place is Big Shoes set? How important is the setting to the book as a whole?
JG: It's written as taking place in the present, although the fictional setting of Branchtown and Mama Bones give the novel a certain near-history element. I mention it in the book early, describing how the town resembles a collection of buildings from three different centuries, and how Mama Bones clings to an illegal lifestyle that is fast disappearing in the age of legal gambling. Though Branchtown and Mama Bones are fictional, the streets and the people are real. They cling to old foundations in the towns close to where I live -- Red Bank, Long Branch, and Eatontown, New Jersey.
OBAAT: How did Big Shoes come to be published?
JG: It's the fourth in the series, so I'm guessing Down & Out Books hopes this one will bail them out.
OBAAT: What kinds of stories do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors, in or out of that area?
JG: I venture into the best seller list from time to time, but crime is my mainstay. Life is tough for me since Elmore Leonard died. Don't look forward to the rest like I did Elmore, but Robert Crais, Michael Connelly and a few others keep me reading. Newcomers I've been enjoying are Chris Holm, Tom Pitts, and a guy named King. Dana, maybe. His P.I. Nick Forte is top notch.
OBAAT: What made you decide to be an author?
JG: The easy fame and fortune. And I guess I love telling stories.
OBAAT: How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing crime fiction?
JG: Newspaper work helped -- meeting so many different kinds of people and trying to understand them. Not to mention a couple of million words onto paper in the 13 years I did it.
OBAAT: What do you like best about being a writer?
JG: Seeing my books, reading the reviews of people who enjoyed my stories. Doesn't get much better than that.
OBAAT: Who are your greatest influences? (Not necessarily writers. Filmmakers, other artists, whoever you think has had a major impact on your writing.)
JG: My brother was a much bigger influence on me than any writer, I think. He was older, a school teacher, and he loved to read. He got me started reading Willie Mays' biography at about nine or 10 years old. I was hooked on reading and went on to the Hardy Boys, Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, Somerset Maugham, A. Conan Doyle, and Ernest Hemingway-- all in high school.
OBAAT: Do you outline or fly by the seat of you pants? Do you even wear pants when you write?
JG: The more I outline, the better my stories get. I'm in the process of losing my pants.
OBAAT: Give us an idea of your process. Do you edit as you go? Throw anything into a first draft knowing the hard work is in the revisions? Something in between?
JG: I write the first draft knowing there will be a second and a third. I throw in whatever comes to mind. Tangents, Flashbacks. Poems. It all comes out later but it's fun to include all kinds of junk. Inspiration sneaks up on me if I just keep working.
OBAAT: Do you listen to music when you write? Do you have a theme song for this book? What music did you go back to over and over as you wrote it, or as you write, in general?
JG: Tried the music thing once and I'm still trying to sell that novel, so I haven't done it again. No music for me. I try to disappear into the story without distraction.
OBAAT: If you could give a novice writer a single piece of advice, what would it be?
JG: It's what you say, not how you say it.
OBAAT: Generally speaking the components of a novel are story/plot, character, setting, narrative, and tone. How would you rank these in order of their importance in your own writing, and can you add a few sentences to tell us more about how you approach each and why you rank them as you do?
JG: Story is what I love the most about reading and writing, but character is always the biggest part of that, so I think they're hard to separate. Setting, narrative, and tone sound like things writers should worry about, but I don't much. In fact I think tone and narrative belong to the character talking, not the author. The setting should be fun.
OBAAT: If you could have written any book of the past hundred years, what would it be, and what is it about that book you admire most?
JG: I can't answer this question I'm afraid. I only want to write my stories, the stories in my head and heart. I think Bonfire Of The Vanities might be a great one for a long time because it captured so well the craziness of America, but Gone Girl might have topped it. Honestly, I can't think of a book I wish I'd written.
OBAAT: Favorite activity when you’re not reading or writing.
JG: Reading novels or watching movies. I play fantasy baseball, travel a little with the wife. Also, I love to leave bombastic messages all over Facebook.
OBAAT: What is it with you and redheads? I mean, I like redheads—a lot—but you, you like redheads a lot. Explain.
JG: Some day, pal, I will have a drink with you and the Beloved Spouse and tell you the story of how I left journalism and The Los Angeles Times. There were many root causes, but the inciting incident, the true beginning, was a redheaded sports reporter from Chicago. She changed my world, and symbolically I blame her red hair for all of the world's problems.
OBAAT: What are you working on now?
JG: It's 1963. The young woman who will become Mama Bones Bonacelli is seventeen when her father is murdered, leaving Angie his bookmaking operation, a small fortune, and a clue to the grisliest murder in Asbury Park history. It's -- gasp -- a historical mystery. Mama Bones made me do this.