Sunday, March 28, 2010
An Interview with International Author Sam Reaves
Q)What was the defining moment or event that sparked the desire to become a published author?
A)I remember wanting to be an author as a child, just about as soon as I learned to read and figured out where books came from, i.e. that somebody has to write them. When I was in first or second grade somebody gave me a set of cards with pictures and bios of famous authors, and that glamorized the whole thing. I think I declared my intention to be an author about that time.
Of course, I also wanted to be a jet pilot, professional football player, underwater explorer à la Jacques Cousteau, and a million other things as the years went by. But the author thing stuck with me as the others fell by the wayside. In college, where we acquire most of our pretensions, I decided I was going to write literary fiction, and I spent a couple of years writing the first chapter of a novel that never got off the ground. And then finally I realized I should be writing crime fiction, which was what I had always most enjoyed reading.
Q)You are an educator, author, and family man who attends conferences, seminars, and book signings. You're one of the 'nice guys' who makes himself available to his fans. It has to be a hectic schedule. How do you handle it so it doesn’t take away from your family time, as I know how important family is to you?
A)I am fortunate enough to have a day job as a free-lancer that allows me to work on my own schedule, so I can take a few days off and go to a conference if I want to. I should do more in the way of promotion than I do; effective promotion is a full-time job. I just fit in what I can. To tell the truth, I consider conferences, signings and other events the perks of the job, a chance to get out and meet people. Writing is very solitary, and the payoff is to be able to go rub elbows with interesting people at a conference or workshop.
Q)In your private life you read and stay current on world events and political issues. Given your preference for engaging in conversation and debate about the world around us, what prompted you to write hard-boiled Chicago crime fiction?
A)I grew up reading crime fiction; my father, who was a theoretical physicist by trade, had been reading and collecting mysteries since the thirties and had a closet full of old Pocket Books with the wonderfully lurid covers and vintage Penguins from England acquired when he studied at Oxford in the fifties. In my teens I started working my way through my father’s collection, and I just got hooked. So it was natural that when I finally got serious about writing, my efforts would be channeled in that direction.
As for Chicago, that’s where I live. There is no better canvas for a crime writer (or any kind of writer) than Chicago; it’s the great American city, diverse and dynamic and with a rich tradition of corruption and intrigue to boot.
Q)As international author Dominic Martell you breathe life into Pascual Rose. What inspired that character and why Spain as his base of operations?
A)In college I spent a wonderful junior year abroad in Barcelona and fell in love with the place. Later I lived in France for a year; I’ve traveled widely and picked up a few languages and wound up working as a translator. So while my background is firmly rooted in Middle America, there’s this whole side of me that is deeply interested in foreign countries, the world at large. And my Dominic Martell books are just a way of dealing with all that in fiction. One of the authors I grew up reading was Eric Ambler, who wrote espionage/intrigue novels set in interesting locales, and I always wanted to write something along those lines. The Martell books have allowed me to take a few interesting research trips and write about places that fascinate me.
Q)I know it’s a bit trite, but any interview with an established author has to conclude with this question: What advice can you give to a struggling writer trying to become published?
A)Don’t quit! In addition to a modicum of talent and ceaseless work to improve your craft, persistence is what you need most to break into print. There is a great deal of competition, and success is not always determined by literary merit, sad to say. Good books get rejected all the time. Your manuscript has to land on the right editor’s desk on the right day. The only way to succeed is to finish that book, send it out and start collecting rejections and, most importantly, get to work on the next book. Don’t spend the rest of your life trying to sell one book. The more you write the better you get; there’s a learning curve in this as in anything else. I wrote four novels that were never published before I had one accepted. So keep writing, keep working on your game, and above all, don’t let anyone make you quit.