Fans of Rick Blechta know how he mixes his knowledge of music into his work. His thrillers give the sense of being well-researched and well-thought out. This year will be a very busy one for Blechta as he has just released The Boom Room (Link to my review)  for the Rapid Reads program at Orca Books and Roses for a Diva for Dundurn Press in November.
1) So it has been about a month since the The Boom Room came out. Was it difficult to write for the Rapid Reads series? How has the reaction to it been so far?

A: Writing is writing, but that being said, every kind of writing needs a different “toolbox”. Marching orders from Orca for my Rapid Reads books are pretty specific, and most of it has to do with the fact they’re primarily written for those without great literacy skills. But the final one is always that “the book must be a good story, well told.” Okay… I’ve managed to write two of them now (with a third hopefully coming next year or so), and I’ve found that once you wrap your head around the “simplicity” aspect of Rapid Reads, they’re not that much different than other books. The same care has to be taken with the plot structure. Because they can’t be more than 20,000 words, you can’t have much in the way of characterization or subplots, but telling the story well is not that hard within the given framework.

As for the reaction to The Boom Room, it’s received two reviews (that I’m aware of) and both have been very positive. Since one was in Library Journal, we’re hoping that this will help with sales throughout North America. There are a lot of libraries out there!

2) Who are some other writers that you admire? What are you currently reading right now?

A: For current crime writing, I enjoy Michael Connelly, Denise Mina, Peter Robinson and Barbara Fradkin. If you want to go back to books from the past, I really enjoyed all the Nero Wolfe novels and Maigret novels, Further afield are authors like Tolkien, Robert Louis Stevenson, and I got my start reading crime fiction with the Hardy Boys. And then there is Sherlock Holmes. As a child, those were my favourites.

As for right now, I just finished Barbara Fradkin’s The Whisper of Legends (excellent) and I’m about to dive into Vicki Delany’s latest.

3) Like many other writers that I have followed, you have had a series of occupations and interests. Did being involved in those activities help you at all in your writing? A Case of You seemed to have a lot of background on the Toronto music scene for example.

A: Up to this point, all of my novels and novellas have involved some sort of musical background, whether it’s the main character being a musician or the backdrop being the music business. A Case of You is not that only one that is set in the Toronto music scene. The way I look at it, everything you learn and experience as you make your way through life can become grist for the writing mill. I’ve been a musician for more years than I care to acknowledge so why not use that? Readers find it interesting, I can write about it authoritatively, and it brings something a bit out of the ordinary to the plots of my novels. Plus, since I know all this stuff other people don’t, I can spend more time researching other things for my novels.

4) Your website says you have another book coming out in the fall called Roses for a Diva Could you provide a brief synopsis?

A: Roses for a Diva is a good case in point. It’s about an opera singer who picks up a rather over-the-top fan. At first she’s enchanted. At the premiere of every new production, she’s been receiving beautiful bouquets of roses. Then other things start happening in her life, things that are decidedly not nice. Is she imagining it or is it her fan who’s responsible — and does this person have other intentions? So, here I’m again using a musical background to give my story a bit of something out-of-the-ordinary.

5) How do you like living in Toronto? Does it cultural scene provide you inspiration for your writing?

A: I enjoy living in Toronto (as long as our infamous mayor is deep-sixed in the election this fall), but I don’t think its cultural scene has provided all that much inspiration for my writing. Actually, I like getting my stories out of Toronto as much as possible, if only because it means I’ll have to go someplace new in order to research my novel. Roses for a Diva has sections set in Rome and Venice, so naturally I was forced(!) to visit both cities (for several days each) so that I could do research and also get a feel for what I would be writing about. It’s those small details gleaned from actually having been to a place that make it seem real to readers. There are several things I included which I wouldn’t have known about had I not actually walked the streets in these two iconic cities. I do the same thing for my Toronto settings, of course, but it’s a little different to hop on a subway and scout some location in Toronto, compared to spending a week in Rome.

6) You seem active on the social media fronts (ie Facebook) Does it help with your writing or does it distract you?

A: I try to pay attention to Facebook, but not let it rule my life. I have friends who spend hours a day looking at Facebook posts. For me it is simply a tool to let people know what I’m up to, both in writing and in music. Yes, it also does help me keep in touch with friends, but to me it’s more of a promotional tool than anything.

7) Has your writing changed since your first book? If yes, in what ways?

A: I would hope that my writing has gotten at least marginally better. Like anything else, writing needs to be practised, and practised consistently. A writer needs to leave no stone unturned in an effort to improve. This usually comes from reading (and talking to) other writers, seeing how they’re doing things, and then trying to bring those good ideas you’ve gleaned to your own work. Writing will also improve by listening to what people are saying about your work. A lot of criticism is disposable, but when I hear the same thing from a few sources (especially reliable ones), I know I have a problem that needs to be looked at seriously. The angle I’m always looking at improving is saying more with less. Words can have great impact when used properly. I still get really excited by making a sentence better by making it shorter.

8)There are a lot of people who seem to be writing fiction right now just for their own personal enjoyment. Do you have any advice for people who are doing that task right now?

A: I write because I enjoy writing. That’s the same reason I still make music after all these years. If you’re writing for personal enjoyment, that’s great. But the step from there to an actual career in writing is a very large one. I explain it this way. Having books published is actually an amalgamation of two jobs: writing and “authoring”. Being an author is the business part of being a writer. It requires a completely different outlook and skill set. It’s more of a job in sales than anything creative. Fortunately, it’s something that can be learned (and taught — although it’s generally not), but you have to be willing to take that part of the equation seriously. There are very few of us ink-stained wretches who have the world beating a path to our doorsteps. We have to get our wares into the public eye by pushing hard, promoting what we do at every opportunity. Writing a book is the easy part. Getting it published and promoted properly is a lot more difficult, and unless you like that sort of thing, it is certainly not as enjoyable. But if you’re going to experience any kind of success, you have to learn to be just as good at that aspect of your craft as you are with putting words and ideas together. For anyone aspiring to get their fiction published, I say this: learn your craft, both parts of it, the fun and the not-so-fun aspects, then decide if you actually want to make this your career.

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