Southern belle with a story to tell. Refreshing iced tea served after literary punches thrown.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

An Interview with Robert K. Lewis

It's a dark and rainy day in Georgia. Despite being the middle of August, the temperature's a chilly 63 degrees.  Gone is my usual sweet tea, and I'm enjoying a cup of coffee on my virtual front porch fangirling with my friend Robert K. Lewis, (and my thriller writing hero). Rob's the author of UNTOLD DAMAGE, and created the character of Mark Mallen, one of my all-time favorite crime noir characters!
Get it NOW! By Midnight Ink Press
From the Kirkus review: “Equally rooted in the struggle for justice and the struggle for sobriety, Lewis’ debut makes it clear that there may be no clear right or wrong.”
Robert also writes for the mystery & thriller supersite, Criminal Element!  (Love it!) 
JF: Thanks for stopping by Rob and pardon my giggles, but it's just that you are now officially one of my thriller writing heroes. I promise to try to keep my composure, but it's not everyday that one of my friends actually becomes a rockstar! 

*Rob looks away. I think I freaked him out a little.*

JF:  Now if you will, tell us a little about yourself, and reveal one deep dark secret to only my Soul & Sweet Tea readers. 

RL: Well, I grew up loving reading and movies. My folks split up when I was ten and my dad, on visitation days would let me see any movie I wanted, so I got to see films like The Enforcer, The Seven Ups, and The Warriors WAY earlier than any of my friends. Those movies helped shape the books I write. My dad was also part owner in a chain of bookstores and so I was never lacking for reading material. In grade school, I was reading at high school levels so I was always called on to read out loud in class. I wrote screenplays for a long time. I also am a devout lover of blues guitar. A dark secret? I always wanted to be Father Merrin in The Exorcist. 

*Cue the creepy piano music.

JF:  Your series is about a former undercover cop (Mark Mallen) struggling with drug addiction who has to dig himself out of a precarious situation when his best friend is found murdered.  What I love about your book is everything seems very, very real.  To me, this is a something that all writers should strive for, especially in our genre (thrillers/suspense).  Did you have any real life inspiration for this tale? How did you create such a great character like Mark Mallen?

RL: Well, in answer to your first question, about having real life inspiration, I DID live for a long time in San Francisco, in the Tenderloin. I’ve also seen, first hand, the ravages of drug addiction and the struggles an addict goes through. Once you’ve lived in that neighborhood for any length of time, you don’t forget it. Regarding your other question, about Mallen’s origins, he started as a character in a literary short story I had published in an online literary journal called Cherrybleeds. The story opens with Mallen shooting up in a church confessional on a cold, snowy night and a woman comes into the church looking for a priest to come home with her to give the last rights to her dying mother. I felt it was one of my strongest pieces. It was up on my corkboard above my desk, along with this other piece of writing that I felt was also strong. It was about a child killer coming into a room to feed “his little visitor”. I was literally looking from one piece to the other thinking, “junkie… child killer… junkie… child killer… junkie goes after a child killer. Why would he do that? Because he’d once been a cop!” And Mallen was born.

JF: I love the evolution of your character.  Now Rob, you and I became friends over at (the awesome site) AgentQuery Connect, and it wasn't so long ago you were like me, a writer deep in the query trenches.  So tell us how you got through this angst-y process?  Many a seemingly normal writer has gone mad querying. 

RL: Very simple: every time I got a “no” back in my inbox, I immediately sent out another query. Also, I was always  working on my next book. You just got to keep moving forward during this period. And trust me, I received a LOT of rejections in my time. My earlier urban fantasy novel? Sent out over 200 queries to agents and publishers. You grow a thick skin going through something like that. Also, as I mentioned, I’d been a screenwriter, sending out queries on my movie scripts. Got TONS of rejection there, too. You just learn to let it go and keep onward. If you believe in yourself and keep learning about your writing and the publishing business, you’ll get there.

JF:  You are represented by the wonderful Barbara Poelle, of the Irene Goodman Agency, and I've got to know-what happened when you got THE CALL? How did it  all go down? 

RL:  Hahaha… I never got the call. My wife did. I was at work, and it was my wife that called me, saying, “Hey, you have an agent.” I literally stopped in my tracks and my eyes teared up, because I’d been trying for almost TEN YEARS to get to that one spot: represented. And Barbara is as awesome as her reputation. She’s been wonderful to me, and for my career.

JF: I can't believe it.  You NEVER got the call! Now we all know good writers read good books.  Who are some of your favorite authors?

RL: A LOT of the old noir guys. Frank Kane. Henry Kane. Raymond Chandler. Hammett. Don Westlake, and his alter ego, Richard Stark. Ed McBain. However, I also love Kurt Vonnegut, David Mitchell, and Alfred Bester and Michael Moorcock.
JF:  Can you give us a sneak peek of what's in store for Mark Mallen in your sequel, CRITICAL DAMAGE?

RL:  No. Hahahaa…my editor would kill me. However, I CAN tell you that it’s like “The Empire Strikes Back” was to “Star Wars.”

JF:  I always tie music to books, and when I started reading UNTOLD DAMAGE, the song "You Belong To the City" by Glenn Frey (of the Eagles) came to mind. Do you have a song you associate with your book?

RL: Well, yeah… I guess I do. Mr. Brownstone by Guns n Roses.

JF: Thanks for stopping by Rob.  And for our younger friends who haven't discovered the total awesomesauce that is/was GnR, here's a hard rockin' tune in honor of Det. Mark Mallen.


T.J. said...

How full of awesomeness!! Congrats to R. Lewis :)

Anonymous said...

I'll 2nd the Congrats! to R. Lewis (Way to go!)

Another delightful interview, Joey, keep 'em coming. Best wishes to you and yours this holiday weekend. Safe travels :)

Anonymous said...

I'll 2nd the Congrats! to R. Lewis (Way to go!)

Another delightful interview, Joey, keep 'em coming. Best wishes to you and yours this holiday weekend. Safe travels :)