**AUTHOR PEEK** Interview with WAYNE ZURL
Before we get started talking about your writing, tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from, what you do for a living (if you’re not a full-time writer) what hobbies you have, etc. Whatever you’d like to share to introduce yourself.
Karen, you ask good questions. I needed an extra day to provide intelligent answers. Now, let’s see if anyone else thinks I’m as clever as I do. Here’s a little something about me:
Shortly after World War Two ended, I was born in Brooklyn, New York. Although I never wanted to leave a community with such an efficient trolley system, I had little to say in my parents’ decision to pick up and move to Long Island where I grew up.
Like most American males of the baby-boomer generation, I spent my adolescence wanting to be a cowboy, soldier, or policeman. Those aspirations were based on a child’s perceptions fostered by movies and later television.
The Vietnam War and additional time in the reserves accounted for my career as a soldier. After returning to the US and separating from active duty, the New York State Employment Service told me I possessed no marketable civilian skills. So, I became a cop. That was as close to military life as I could find. I spent twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years, I served as a section commander supervising investigators. Thanks to the GI Bill, I graduated from Empire State College with a couple of degrees and now that I’m retired from the police service, I still like the cowboy idea, but have interrupted that aspiration with an attempt at being a mystery writer.
Years ago, I left the land of the Big Apple to live in the picturesque foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee with my wife, Barbara.
Twenty (20) of my Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. Ten (10) of these novelettes are now available in print under the titles of A MURDER IN KNOXVILLE and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries and REENACTING A MURDER and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries.
My first full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, won Indie and Eric Hoffer Book Awards for best mystery and best commercial fiction in 2011 and 2012, and was a finalist for a Montaigne Medal and First Horizon Book Award. My other novels are A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT and HEROES & LOVERS. A fourth book, PIGEON RIVER BLUES, is under contract to be published in the near future.
Going beyond that canned biography, I now live in one of the most beautiful parts of the United States, just outside the most visited national parks in the country. In addition to spending my days writing and taking care of five acres of woodland, I’ve returned to something I’ve enjoyed since I was a small boy, fishing. I still use tackle from the 1950s and never mind throwing back those really big old lunkers that wouldn’t taste good and sort of remind me of myself.
1. How did you get started writing?
There are a few defense attorneys who might say I began writing police fiction when I was still a cop. But back then, we called them prosecution worksheets. No one should ever believe a lawyer. My real writing career began after I retired. For almost ten years, I wrote non-fiction magazine articles about Colonial American history and the writings of James Fenimore Cooper. In 2006, I switched to fiction. I saw my first novelette published in 2009 and a full length novel debuted in 2011.
2. What appeals to you about the genre that you write?
I cash in on the old author’s maxim of write what you know. With police mysteries set in Tennessee I can cover both bases: subject and venue. My protagonist is a former New York detective who retired and found a job as police chief for a small city in the Smoky Mountains. Like me, he would investigate crimes the old-fashioned way. In police language, he’s a dinosaur.
I take actual cases I investigated, supervised, or knew a lot about and transplant them to Tennessee. This whole procedure saves me from doing all but a bare minimum of research.
3. What is your favorite part of writing?
The seventh word in that sentence. Writing is fun. All that Facebook and Twitter nonsense needed to market the books is too much like work.
4. If you had to give up writing and do something else, what would you do instead?
I collect three pensions and think my royalty checks are pitifully small. So, I write to stabilize my ego on a livable level and keep me from playing stickball in the traffic not to make money. Right now, if I had to take a job to occupy my time, I’d probably want to be a charter boat captain. I’ve owned boats most of my life, know how to behave on the water, and the work would be fun.
5. What’s your favorite meal of the day?
No doubt about it—dinner. My wife is a great cook. I like to cook, and we’re not afraid of the clean up. We rarely eat prepared foods or frozen meals. It’s almost like going to a restaurant.
6. Which are your favorite characters to write, the female characters or the male characters? The heroes and heroines, or the villains?
This is a tough one. I use a lot of dialogue in my books and I love the conversations between Sam Jenkins and the three women in his life—his wife, Kate, Bettye Lambert, his administrative officer and desk sergeant, and Rachel Williamson, his friend the TV reporter. Each lady handles him differently. I’d say, they’re my favorites, but since most of the characters I use are based on real people, I like the idea of duplicating the delivery and style of speech for these quirky and unique personalities. If I can “hear” and “see” someone I know, it’s easy to write their dialogue and develop their character.
One of the things I dislike about my kind of story is killing off a few of the bad guys. Sometimes they’re so evil, I hate to see them go. I’d like to get more mileage from these real rats.
6. Are you an avid reader? When you do read someone else’s writing, what is your favorite genre?
I’m constantly reading something. For years, I read lots of historical fiction. When I was a cop, I rarely read mysteries or police fiction. Then one day someone gave me a copy of James Lee Burke’s book BLACK CHERRY BLUES and I got hooked. From him I moved on to guys like Robert B. Parker, Raymond Chandler, Joe Wambaugh, and that other fellow from Long Island who tries to write mysteries, Nelson DeMille.
7. Many writers dream of having the ideal location to write. If you could live anywhere in the world or live a particular lifestyle, where would you be answering these questions right now?
We almost moved to Scotland when I retired, but thanks to the US dollar sinking and the exchange rate being abysmal, we changed plans. But since you’re allowing me a fantasy existence, I’ll take a renovated old stone cottage on a few acres of headland near a harbor town in the Western Highlands. I would happily sit in front of a picture window overlooking the sea and the islands sipping single-malt whisky and write about an ex-New York detective who moved to Scotland and helps the local constables solve crimes.
8. If you were a color, what color would you be and why?
Questions like this are too abstract for me. So, what do I do? Simple, ask my wife. She thinks I should be Great Lakes blue. We’ve just started fishing up there and I’m amazed at the expanse and beauty we cover in a boat.
If that doesn’t work, how about orange? I love the autumn and the foliage here in the Smokies is almost as spectacular as it was in New York’s Adirondacks.
9. Tell us about your newest book & when was it published?
HEROES & LOVERS came out in August of 2012. It’s a continuation of Sam Jenkins’ antics as chief of Prospect PD and features the same ensemble cast of cops and citizens from east Tennessee seen in all the books and stories. This is actually a composite of four incidents, three supporting the most story-worthy, Rachel Williamson’s abduction. I changed the real case of an assault and attempted rape of someone I knew to a kidnapping to prolong the tension and give Sam a very time sensitive goal to achieve.
I’ve also got three novelettes under contract and scheduled to be produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. THE SWAN TATTOO deals with Asian organized crime in the southeast US, ALVIS IS IN THE BUILDING looks at the world of professional pool players and a murder that shakes up the Prospect Billiard Club, and GRACELAND ON HEELS finds Sam Jenkins hooking a dead Elvis impersonator while fishing in a Smoky Mountain river.
And my publisher is currently working on the second round of edits on a full-length novel, PIGEON RIVER BLUES, which I hope to see in print and tell you folks about in June. This one takes Sam Jenkins into the world of country and western music where he investigates death threats against a beautiful singer.
Karen, Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog and allowing me to meet your fans and followers.
Links to Wayne’s website, blog, books, etc.
Author website: http://www.waynezurlbooks.net
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/waynezurl
B&N author page: http://barnesandnoble.com/s/wayne-zurl
Mind Wings Audio author page: http://mindwingsaudio.com/?s=wayne+zurl
Most recent novel, HEROES & LOVERS
BE SURE TO COME BACK to read more about Wayne and his book, HEROES & LOVERS (A Sam Jenkins Mystery), on Wednesday’s Karen’s Killer Book Bench!! Happy Reading!
**SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Wayne will give away a PDF copy of his book, HEROES & LOVERS to EACH reader who comments on his Monday Interview or Wednesday Book Bench blogs!! He’ll also give away an Amazon Kindle book copy of HEROES & LOVERS to one lucky reader who comments (random drawing)!! Don’t miss this chance to read this story!! Thanks, Wayne, for sharing your stories with us!