Monday, November 18, 2013

Twenty Questions With Jude Hardin

(Editor’s Note: Saturday’s launch exceeded all expectations, so much so I lack the energy to do justice to all those who made it special for me. A full report will come in Wednesday’s blog. Today, Jude Hardin has plenty to interest and entertain.)

Jude Hardin has worked as a fence installer, pizza delivery man, convenience store clerk, freelance journalist, film extra, professional drummer, bartender, avionics technician, carpet cleaner, chemical plant supervisor, substitute teacher, and registered nurse. His varied vocations have given him a wealth of experiences for his true passion — writing novels.

 I’ve been a fan since his first novel, Pocket-47. Long Jude Hardin time readers of this blog know better than to accept what I say without corroboration, so here are a couple of folks you may trust more:

New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen says: "Pocket-47 sucked me in and held me enthralled. Author Jude Hardin keeps the pace frantic, the thrills non-stop, but best of all is his hero, the wonderfully ironic Nicholas Colt. This is a character I'm eager to follow through many adventures to come."

One New York Times bestselling author is not enough. David Morrell (First Blood, from which Rambo was taken) says: "With Crosscut, Jude Hardin takes the PI novel and psychological suspense to a new, unrestrained level. Fast, fierce, and relentless."

Jude graduated from the University of Louisville in 1983 with an English degree, and currently lives and works in northeast Florida. When he’s not pounding away at the computer keyboard, Jude can be found pounding away on his drums, playing tennis, reading, or down at the pond fishing with his son. His newest book is Blood Tattoo.

One Bite at a Time: Tell us about Blood Tattoo.

Jude Hardin: First of all, thanks for inviting me here, Dana. Nice digs!

Blood Tattoo is the sixth novel in the Nicholas Colt series, including a prequel titled Colt, which was released earlier this year. I wanted to take the series in a new direction, so I added a character named Diana Dawkins, who is an operative for a clandestine government agency called The Circle. She has a problem, and she comes to Colt for help, informing him that he’s been a potential recruit for the agency for a while now. In Sycamore Bluff, the book that follows Blood Tattoo, Nicholas Colt and Diana Dawkins share equal billing. From there I’m planning to give Diana her own series.

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.)

JH: Like most of my ideas, it started with a what if? scenario. What if a secret agent posing as a Department of Defense inspector happened across a binder full of coded schematics that outlined, in precise detail, how she was going to be framed for assassinating the President of the United States? Who could she go to? Who could she trust? Nobody, at that point, because she doesn’t know who might be on it—maybe people in her own organization. So that was the initial concept.

OBAAT: How long did it take to write Blood Tattoo, start to finish?

JH: About six months, but that includes several rounds of edits and time spent on other writing projects. I had a working draft put together in less than four months.

OBAAT: What’s the back story on the main character or characters?

JH: In 1989, at the peak of his career as a rock and blues guitarist, Nicholas Colt crawled from the wreckage of a chartered jet as his wife and baby daughter and all the members of his band were consumed in a ball of flames. Colt was the sole survivor. He went through a very rough period where he basically gave up on music and life in general. He hit rock bottom and finally clawed his way back and decided to become a private investigator.

Colt also had a very troubled childhood. His mother died in a car accident when he was five, and his abusive stepfather committed suicide when he was fifteen. Bad luck has a way of finding him, but he perseveres, and he maintains a sense of humor through most situations.

OBAAT: In what time and place is Blood Tattoo set? How important is the setting to the book as a whole?

JH: It’s set in the present. Most of the action takes place in north Florida, but at one point Colt makes a trip to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

I like to use the nature of various spaces to augment the suspense, so in that regard the settings are crucial throughout.

OBAAT: How did Blood Tattoo come to be published?

JH: Back in 2011 my agent submitted my novel Crosscut to Thomas and Mercer. They loved it, and they put together a multi-book deal, which I accepted. Blood Tattoo is part of that deal.

OBAAT: What kinds of stories do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors, in or out of that area?

JH: I like to mix it up. Right now I’m reading Michael Crichton for the first time. I try to learn something from everything I read, whether it’s horror, techno-thrillers, or historical mysteries.

OBAAT: Who are your greatest influences?

JH: John D. MacDonald, Robert B. Parker, Stephen King. Just to name a few.

OBAAT: Do you outline or fly by the seat of you pants? Do you even wear pants when you write?

JH: I don’t outline, but I make notes as I’m composing, and I often go back and add things here and there based on those notes.

Pants are always optional, unless you write with a cigarette dangling from your lips. Hot ashes can be painful down there. Not that I gave up smoking six years ago because of that.

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?

JH: I edit as I go. My first drafts are actually pretty clean.

OBAAT: Favorite activity when you’re not reading or writing.

JH: Sex. I recommend it. It’s even better when another person is involved.

OBAAT: Which do you take to bed at night, the money earned or the good review?

JH: Are we still talking about sex?

OBAAT: Would you stop writing if someone paid you enough money so you’d never have to work again, on the condition you could also never write again?

JH: I would take the millions and then publish on the sly under a pseudonym. What could possibly go wrong?

OBAAT: If you were just starting out, which would you prefer: 1. Form your own indie publishing house and put your work out in paper and e-book yourself? 2. Go with a small or medium traditional house that offers very little or no advance, a royalty that is only a fraction of what you'd get on your own, and also makes no promise of any type of publicity push, keeping in mind that you also will lose the publishing rights for a period, sometimes indefinitely?

JH: I started out with a small press, and I think they did a great job on my debut. The book received a starred review in Publishers Weekly, along with some other solid reviews, and it’s a book I’m proud to have written. Right now I’m trying my hand at self-publishing, but there’s no way to predict what the future might hold. The only thing I know for sure is that publishing is a tough business, and that writers must choose their own path based on their goals and what they hope to gain from the experience.

OBAAT: Beer, mixed drinks, or hard liquor?

JH: Yes.

OBAAT: Baseball or football?

JH: In the early 1970s, when I was a kid, I was a big Cincinnati Reds fan. Johnny Bench was my hero. I wanted to be a catcher because of Johnny Bench. I bought a mitt, a face mask, shin guards, a chest protector, everything I needed to be just like Johnny. Except the talent, of course.

Well, I recently reconnected with one of my favorite teachers from Jr. High, and I soon discovered that he’s the former Executive Director of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, and that he’s the current team historian.

I still have that catcher’s mitt from when I was eleven.

And my friend is going to get Johnny Bench to sign it for me.

So right now? BASEBALL!!!!

OBAAT: What question have you always wanted an interviewer to ask, but they never do?

JH: What’s Charlize Theron REALLY like?

OBAAT: What’s the answer?

JH: I don’t have a clue. L

OBAAT: What are you working on now?

JH: A standalone thriller. It’s still in the idea stages, but I plan to start writing it soon.

Sycamore Bluff, the follow-up to Blood Tattoo, is almost ready to be published, so I’ll probably release those two books concurrently. In the digital age, there’s no point in delaying publication once a book is ready. There’s infinite shelf space, and lower prices mean readers can afford to buy more books than ever before. It’s a great time to be a writer.

Also, I just finished a collaboration with author J.A. Konrath a couple of weeks ago, a novel featuring his Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels and my Nicholas Colt. Hoping to see that one released before the end of the year.

A lot going on lately, so my batteries are still sort of recharging at the moment. But I’ll start on the new thriller soon. I get antsy if I go too long without working on a book.

OBAAT: If you could give a novice writer a single piece of advice, what would it be?

JH: If you smoke, wear pants.

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