Monday, February 17, 2014

Twenty Questions With Jochem Vandersteen

Jochem Vandersteen is an indefatigable proponent of the art of the private eye novel. His Sons of Spade blog is among the most complete resources on the Internet for keeping up with who’s doing what in the realm of PI fiction. No slouch as a writer himself, Jochem’ s PI, Noah Milano, is an intriguing twist on the tradition: a scion of a Mafia family who promised his dying mother he’d go straight. Having spent his formative years in apprenticeship to run the family business, Noah’s straight skills lack breadth, so he becomes a PI. He is distrusted on both sides of the law, having to build his circle of who he can trust out of those who trust him. It’s an idea I wish I had thought of.

Jochem’s newest Noah Milano story is Death Business.

One Bite at a Time: Tell us about Death Business.

Jochem Vandersteen: It’s my new Noah Milano novella and on sale here:

It’s the story of ex-gangster Noah Milano investigating the death of a Hollywood gossip columnist.

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.)

JVS: I think it actually started with the title. I heard those words somewhere and thought it would make a cool title. I realized Noah’s friend and Medical Examiner Minnie was in the death business and I figured it might be a good idea to have her start the investigation that would get Noah into the usual trouble. I always like to make the most of the LA setting so decided to write about the death of a Hollywood gossip columnist. From there the characters and events took on their usual lives of their own…

OBAAT: How long did it take to write Death Business, start to finish?

JVS: I think about a year. There’s been time spent on editing the Shamus Sampler, writing some superhero fiction and blogs aside from that of course.

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

JVS: Noah Milano is the son of a big gangster boss. When his mom got killed he promised her on her death bed he would try to find redemption for the criminal stuff he did for his dad and to make an honest living. That honest living turns out to be working as a security specialist. Minnie is his best friend since kindergarten, ever since he dealt with some bullies for her.

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

JVS: It is set in today’s Hollywood. The setting is very important because it deals with celebrities, their secrets and our obsession with them.

OBAAT: How did Death Business come to be published?

JVS: I wrote the story, asked my pal Sean Dexter to help me out with the edits and cover and then self-published it.

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

JVS: Basically I of course love the kind of stories I write, so hardboiled detectives. You can check out those favorites at my blog Some favorites are Charles Collyot, Nathan Gottlieb, Les Roberts, Robert B. Parker, Lee Child, Robert Crais, Dennis Lehane, Josh Stallings and Andrew Vachss. I also like occult detectives and comic books.

OBAAT: Who are your greatest influences?

JVS: Robert B. Parker, Dennis Lehane, Robert Crais and Les Roberts.

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

JVS: I do wear pants when I write. At least when the curtains are open. I pretty much fly by the seat of my pants. It worked for Robert B. Parker, so it should work for me.

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?

JVS: I try to edit every page right after writing because the work is so boring. And I have a really great editor in Sean Dexter.

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

JVS: Do it for the love of writing, not the money.

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

JVS: That’s not fit for print.

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

JVS: The good review. There’s not enough money earned.

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?

JVS: That’s not an option. Writing is my life.

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? 3. Go with a Big Six or legacy publisher that offers a larger advance, legitimate review possibilities, entrance to industry literary awards, and exposure on the shelves of brick and mortar stores. Pick one and say why.

JVS: I’m afraid the last one. It would be nice to make a living out of writing and with the first two options that’s not much of a choice.

OBAAT: Beer, mixed drinks, or hard liquor?

JVS: I like beer (Duvel, Corona, Guinness) and Jack Daniels.

OBAAT: Baseball or football?

JVS: None of the above. I don’t follow sports.

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

JVS: There’s a Swedish female volleyball team waiting around the corner needing a massage, can you come and help me out?

OBAAT: What’s the answer?

JVS: Let me ask my wife.

OBAAT: What are you working on now?

JVS: I am currently writing the first Vance Custer story. It’s about a true crime writer who will investigate your case if he gets the rights to the story. Really like the character so far. He’s a tad less hardboiled than Milano. And here’s a secret… I envision crime writer Ace Atkins starring as Vance when I write.

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