Friday, May 11, 2007

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR SHANE GERICKE

By Lonnie Cruse

Morning all. Author Shane Gericke (pronounced Yurkey) and I did an interview recently while he was recovering from shoulder surgery (nightmare for a writer, of course.) I think you'll enjoy getting to know him. His website is at: http://www.shanegericke.com

LC: Good morning, Shane. Please, tell us a bit about your books.

SG: I have two: BLOWN AWAY, my 2006 debut, and CUT TO THE BONE, which launches worldwide in June, 2o07. Both are about Emily Marie Thompson, who at age 40 abandoned her safe existence as an office manager to become a suburban cop. She’d hoped catching bad guys would free her from the unspeakable tragedies in her life that had looped themselves around her neck and dragged her into the mud of perpetual gloom. Her instincts were right—at long last, her life was sorting itself out, she was leaving the tragedy behind, and she was coming into her own as a cop and a person. Then came the jackals: ferocious serial killers out for blood and vengeance. My story is simple: Emily battles evil without losing herself back to the mud. How she accomplishes that, and interacts with the fascinating folks she meets along the way, provide the drive and sparkle of the stories. And oh, yes, there’s a truckload of shoot-em-ups and blow-em-aparts. Can’t write a thriller without thrills!

LC: Wow, I do love thrills! What inspired you to write this book and/or these characters?

SG: Cops are fascinating, and I like strong women. So I put them together to create a cops-and-robbers series with a worthy female protagonist. But one that wasn’t one of the two female-cop stereotypes I hate most: hard-drinking, jaded, profane and violent (Mike Hammer in a dress) or cutesy-wootsie cop-gal who’s forever leaving her gun in the cookie jar because eek it might go off (Stephanie Plum). I wanted to write women cops as I know them: tough when it counts, vulnerable when appropriate, standing shoulder to shoulder with colleagues and friends, neither two steps behind nor a step ahead. I wanted lipstick and steel, so I created Emily. And her male and female friends, who do so much to shape her life.

LC: Sounds like my kinda gal! Is this a series, or do you write stand-alones?

SG: A series, thanks to my good fortune in finding Kensington Publishing, who saw what I was trying to do and said, “Go for it.”

LC: How did you sell your first manuscript?

SG: By scouring the countryside for a literary agent. It’s almost impossible to get into a big house without one. I found Bill Contardi, who’s been in the game a long time and is highly respected in New York publishing. He’d just come aboard Brandt & Hochman—the firm representing Scott Turow, among other literary worthies—to build the “blood-thrill” side of the agency. Bill picked me up, went through my manuscript, and set me loose on New York publishers.

LC: Wow, you found the right agent! How did you find your publisher?

SG: That was Bill’s department. As agents do, he sent the manuscript to a select group of editors. Michaela Hamilton at Kensington was the first to say "yes." As a first-time thriller writer, I was, well, thrilled to latch on to such a big outfit. Working with Michaela was, and is, a bonus. Her edits are a master’s class in writing, and I learned a ton. I was in the newspaper business for a quarter century, but that does not a thriller writer make.

LC: Two very different kinds of writing, I imagine. What sends you running to the computer to write (aside from a need to make money?)

SG: Fear—that if this doesn’t work out I’ll have to work at a mini-mart. Seriously, I’m happy when I write and unhappy when I don’t. That’s the motivation. I was a newspaper editor for 25 years and my dad was a cop for 30, so both are in my blood. The great clash of good and evil is fun to explore, and writing lets me do it without getting hurt or killed like a real cop.

LC: What writers do you love to read?

SG: John Sandford is my favorite, followed closely by Lee Child, Gayle Lynds, James Rollins, Eric Larsen and anything that appears in The Atlantic Monthly magazine. And there’s a new writer to keep your eye on: Robert Fate. He pens a terrific young-female P.I. series called BABY SHARK. It’s set in 1950s honky-tonk Texas, and his writing is some of the crispest and freshest I’ve seen.

LC: Your BLOWN AWAY just won Best Debut Mystery of 2006 by Romantic Times Book Reviews. No. 1 in the nation for your very first novel! And it became a national bestseller, too. How has that changed your life? Larger hat size? Writing faster? More respect at home?

SG: My hat size has always been too big. Otherwise, I’d never have abandoned a perfectly good paycheck for the vagaries of cop fiction. As for home, I’ve always gotten the utmost respect: my wife Jerrle is the one who pushed me to leave newspapering and follow my dreams of becoming the next Lee Child. She meant it, too—she knew that my leaving the Chicago Sun-Times, where I was a senior financial editor, would instantly cut our income 50 percent. So I could literally have not taken this step with her encouragement and backing. Now as before, I work seven days a week. Sometimes just a few hours, sometimes all day and half the night. Each day is a mixture of writing, book promotion, keeping in touch with industry friends (I hate the term networking. It’s so cold. I think of it as hanging out with people I like and swapping useful information) and keeping my desk somewhat cleared of its perpetual mess. How much I do of what depends on how close I am to my manuscript deadline, how many stops are on the upcoming “road trip” of book promotion, and whether my butt can stand another two minutes in the ^%^^&$#%$ chair.

LC: Ahhh, the chair. Makes all the difference to how long we can sit and write. Where did you get that wonderful picture on your home page?

SG: By accident. I’d gotten a new digital camera and was taking photos in a local coffeehouse. Someone volunteered to take my photo, and placed me in front of a bright picture window. Instant backlight, just like in the movies. The result made me look scary and mysterious, and I knew that would be the one for the home page. In art as in life, it’s better to be lucky than good.

LC: What else would you like our readers to know about you?

SG: I was born in a manger, no crib for a bed … uh, wait, wrong guy. Well, let’s see. I was named after the cowboy movie “Shane.” It came out in 1950, I came out in ’56, and my folks liked the possibilities. “Gericke” is pronounced YER-key. Back in Ye Olde Country (Germany) there was a U in there: Guericke. That provided the YER sound. At Ellis Island, someone “Americanized” it by whacking the U, making it unpronounceable. Thank you, Immigration! What else? I like to read all sorts of things, including the backs of cereal boxes. I like to mow the grass because I get my best ideas when I sweat like a fiend. I like guns and shooting. I like Scotch, neither stirred nor shaken. I like to paint (canvas, not houses), but never get the time. I like breakfast out, supper in, the former to read my three daily newspapers, the latter because we’re both good cooks. I do a fair amount of housework, as I have a home office. Doing a little every day keeps our weekends free for friends and other good stuff. I don’t have kids, but would like a pack of beagles someday. At age 11, I was held at knifepoint in a state park toilet and told I would die. The fates and other people intervened before I literally went down the one-seater. Yay! The experience gave, and gives, tremendous insight into the minds of crime victims and other survivors. That really helps the writing sing. To paraphrase whoever said it, That which doesn’t kill you makes your writing stronger. BLOWN AWAY is available in Turkish and Slovak (out as we speak in those countries), and later this year, in Polish and Chinese. Who knew my little cop tale would have so many fans in languages I can’t read? I love foreign editions—and especially the crazy cover art that comes with.

LC: Thanks, Shane!

SG: Thank you for thinking of me, Lonnie. It’s an honor to meet your readers.

2 comments:

Annie C said...

Enjoyed this interview! Congrats on the RT Award, Shane, and I'm looking fwd to seeing you on tour with CUT TO THE BONE..

Shane Gericke said...

Thanks, Annie C! It's a pleasure talking to readers this way, and yes, I'm still smiling over the RT award. It's a rare and cherished honor. See you on the road for sure!