Sunday, 10 February 2019

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH ELGIN BLEECKER

Elgin Bleecker, author of the much enjoyed Lyme Depot is the latest willing interviewee prepared to answer a few questions for me.





Elgin's debut novel, Lyme Depot dropped recently and comes highly recommended.

5 from 5 and on the blog yesterday - here.

Is the writing full time? I guess not but if not, what’s the day job? Can you give us a quick biography of yourself?

I’ve been writing full time for a long time, but not writing novels. That is all new to me. I was a newspaper reporter for many years and I’ve had a brush with ad copywriting, too, as well as various freelance writing jobs along the way.

I must admit, you took me by surprise recently with your debut novel Lyme Depot. How long from conception to completion did Lyme Depot take?

It took a lot longer than I would like to admit. Years. My only defense is that it was not one long, unbroken string of work. The book got done in stages. There were times when I had other more pressing things to do and the novel had to be set aside until I could get back to it. Not the ideal way to write a book. Fortunately, I took Hemingway’s advice and left off at points where I knew exactly what I had to do next. Of course, he was talking about coming back to it the next day, not two or three months later. But, that’s the way it got done.

Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way? 

The beginning was bumpy and took a lot of time. But once I had it all figured out, then it went smoothly.

Did it end up being the book you anticipated at the start of the process?

I would have to say yes. I think it turned out pretty well. I was aiming for a fast-paced crime story, and I think that’s what I delivered. Now, I hope readers will enjoy it. 

What was the spark of imagination or seed that inspired Lyme Depot?

There were several threads that came together. One was the idea that there are people in every county who keep the police busy all the time, and I wanted to write something about that. Another was the idea of painting a picture of a semi-rural area and some of the people who live there. The setting, Drum County and the town of Lyme Depot, are combinations of several places I know. I mentally cut and pasted parts of towns, back roads, homes, into my fictional county. The same goes for the characters. They are composites. Some simply started as types and grew as the story developed.

What’s been the general reception to Lyme Depot? I loved it myself and I’ve seen some praise for it from Paul D. Brazill as well.



“Lyme Depot by Elgin Bleecker is a gripping, fast moving slice of crime fiction full of great characters and dialogue.” – Paul D. Brazill, author of Last Year’s Man and A Case Of Noir.

So far, so good. I hope it continues. I do think the book surprised some people. It could be because it took so long to finish. They may have been expecting a doorstop of heavy prose, but what they got was about 200 pages of country noir lite. Well, not all of it is light. There are moments of violence that are pretty darn serious.

It must be a scary moment, taking the plunge and putting your book out there for all and sundry to read and judge. At what point did you feel confident enough to take that step with Lyme Depot?

Well, it was a series of plunges. First, when I felt the story was ready to be read, I jumped into the cold water by running off a couple of copies and passing them around to close friends, other writers. I knew they would give me an honest opinion. That went well. I took their notes, did some rewriting and editing and then went head first off the high dive by sending it out to a few people who know the genre and can measure it against what has been published. That also went well. So the next step was to walk out onto a tightrope stretched over Niagara Falls. With the eBook and the paperback now available on Amazon, I feel like I’ve got both feet on that wire.

Were you always intending to self-publish the book, or did you try and approach some small press indie publishers? I’m always curious about this aspect of the writing game.

I tried not to think too much about that. It can be daunting to read about the number of books being published each year and the difficulty writers have in getting their work to an agent and to a publisher. It can seem like you have to be a TV star or a Washington insider to get noticed. At the same time, I was coming across articles about author’s self-publishing their work through Amazon and other places and the whole DIY thing appealed to me.

When I expressed surprise at Lyme Depot, I think it was because for a while on your blog sidebar - (The Dark Time) you’ve hinted at another book - Stealing Dawn as the WIP.

I sort of jumped the gun by putting word out about Stealing Dawn. Call it a rookie mistake. I thought I was close to publishing it. People who read it gave me positive feedback. But, it still needed work, and until I knew exactly what to do with it, I set it aside. I went on to Lyme Depot, which, as I said, took a long time. While Lyme Depot was being prepared for publication, I figured out what to do with Stealing Dawn. So, it is still alive and will hopefully see the light of day sometime soon.

On your writing in general, do you have a typical writing schedule? Do you write every day?

I would like to say, yes, to both questions. But the honest answer is, no and no. Well, unless you count research and planning and plotting and just noodling around with ideas on a yellow pad as writing time. I do a lot of that before I write. But I have read about Stephen King and John Grisham and Robert J. Randisi and James Reasoner and I admire their discipline.

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct a story – do you know what the end result is going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

A plotter. Definitely. With Lyme Depot, I knew exactly how it would wind up. Not that I knew everything the characters would say or do in the last chapters. Some of them surprised me when I got there. I also knew how the story would begin. But it is a job finding the exact point at which the story should start. And, because I had several parallel stories going in this book, I spent a lot of time figuring out where all the characters were at any given moment, because I wanted everything to fold together at the end.

Stealing Dawn aside, do you have anything else bubbling away? 

I’ve got Word files on my laptop with ideas, notes, outlines for other stories. Some of them set in Drum County. Others not. Some may be good. Some may stink. A couple have stuck with me for a while, so maybe there is something going on there that I need to get to.

Any advice for prospective authors out there?

I feel presumptuous giving advice. I still feel like one of the prospectives. But, OK, I’ll just say this: Write whatever you want and hang in there. It can be a long haul.

What’s the best thing about writing?

No boss. No deadline. No commute. You can write anywhere you want and anytime you want. And the best thing about writing is when someone reads your work and enjoys it.

The worst?

I would have to say editing and promoting the book.

Some writers edit as they go. I wanted to see if there actually was a book there, before I went back and corrected it. Either way, editing is no fun.

And as for promotion, I am just not comfortable with it. But it has given me an appreciation for what a great self-promoter Hemingway was with all that publicity of him hunting and attending bullfights and reeling in gigantic fish. You’ll never see me running through the streets of Pamplona, but if I ever get the chance, you might catch me having a cold one at the Floridita.

What are the last few books you’ve read?

The last four crime novels I read and really liked are on my blog: Himes’s A Rage in Harlem; Knighton’s Three Hours Past Midnight; King’s Worst Enemies; and Cizak’s Down on the Street.




I also read a fair amount of non-fiction. I got Bob Woodward’s Fear as a Christmas present, which I am taking in small bites. I did the same with Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury




Just before Christmas I read two books about the golden age of the movie studios, Clown Prince of Hollywood, by long-time journalist Bob Thomas, about Jack Warner, who ran Warner Bros., and Don’t Get Me Wrong – I Love Hollywood, by Sidney Skolsky, once a top Hollywood gossip columnist who made Schwab’s Pharmacy on Sunset Blvd. his office during the 1940s and 1950s.

Who do you read and enjoy? Is there anyone I should be reading who has snuck under my radar?

Col, the Pentagon only wishes it had a radar system as good as yours.

There are so many current and new writers turning out outstanding work, I feel I will never catch up.

I also feel that way about my favorite era of noir novels – post WWII to the early ’60s. That’s when writers like Lionel White, William P. McGivern, and Chester Himes were turning out fantastic books.




There are writers of an earlier generation I enjoy and re-read, like W.R. Burnett and Dashiell Hammett, just to name two.

Three of my all time favorites whose canons I will never get through, but will enjoy trying are, Erle Stanley Gardner, Georges Simenon, and Rex Stout. They are all clever, interesting, breezy and make it all look so easy and effortless.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Yes. Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road. A great novel about the American suburbs.

A couple of others I would like to plug here are James Jones’ Some Came Running. The book is quite different from the Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin movie. Critics of the day trashed Jones’ book, but I think it is an amazing novel. And James Gould Cozzens’ Guard of Honor about a racial incident at an Air Force base in Florida during World War II, is another one well worth reading.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

We have recently become empty nesters – which took some getting used to – so we have more time to hang out with friends. We go to a lot of movies and I watch even more on cable, DVD or streaming. Once a week, I play on a pub trivia team at a great dive bar (the owners probably won’t be too happy to hear me call it that. But then, how many great old neighborhood corner bars are left these days?).

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

I’m a pretty big movie fan, but I can’t say many of them rock me. But here’s one that did: “Tim’s Vermeer.” It’s an amazing documentary.



TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Bleecker household?

Oh, yeah – I’d say I have quite an addiction. The No. 1 program or programs that are on most of the time in my house are the cable news shows. Other than that, there are still a lot of the original Law & Order episodes I have not seen, and we both enjoy those. We’ve binged on a few shows like True Detective, Line of Duty and Broadchurch. You recommended those last two. In the Spring and Summer, I consume a good amount of baseball. And, as I mentioned, I watch a lot of films.


In a couple of years’ time.....

I plan to have a couple more books out – if I can manage to speed up my process.
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Many thanks to Elgin for his time.

He blogs at The Dark Time - well worth a visit.

Lyme Depot can be bought at......

AM UK  AM US  AM CANADA  AM AUSTRALIA


13 comments:

  1. It's always so interesting to hear about other authors' journeys. And I'm not surprised that the book took some time; sometimes it's like that. Thanks for the interview, both, and I wish you much success.

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    1. I'm always curious about the journey of a book from germ to print, Margot. I'm glad you found the interview interesting.

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  2. Fascinating stuff, yet again! Many thanks to both.

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  3. Yet more encouragement to read his book! I love his comment on your radar. Those tubs are an example to us all.

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  4. Thanks for the questions, Col, and for the comments all.

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  5. Col, thanks for the interview with Elgin. I was hoping you'd do one right after you reviewed his novel. I liked the fact that Elgin persevered with the writing and publishing of LYME DEPOT, and putting it out there for readers to enjoy. I'm sure not many (prospective) writers do that. I wish Elgin success with his next book (STEALING DAWN?) and the ones to follow.

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  6. Good interview, lots of good information there. I like the description "200 pages of country noir lite."

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