Friday, March 01, 2013

Interview with George D Shuman Author of Rattleman

What inspired you to become an author?

You know, I remember in my early twenties finding myself living in a DC rooming house without a TV and I poured through stacks of paperback novels every night. And became aware of how powerfully entertaining they could be. And with volume came distinction, I was becoming a discerning reader and by then in awe of several writers. Le Carre always comes out of my mouth when I speak on this subject. I was blown away by his innate talent to dispense words so precisely, so economically and yet draw you into his world where you can touch the dust on the bannister and feel the hairs rise on the back of your neck because you opened the closet door and saw a pair of shoes out of place. Le Carre hits bull’s-eyes with every word. AND THEN, I picked up a book by an author I do not remember. And thought it was just awful. And for the first time in my life, I realized it wasn’t my job to like the writing. It wasn’t my fault when I couldn’t get through a book. That Publishers’ did indeed print garbage! And an idea germinated in my head. What if I could do better than what I’d just read?

I made my first attempts at writing. For a decade I could never get past forty pages, but then two years before retirement I finally did. That book was RATTLEMAN and even though a major publisher loved it, it was eventually turned down. I had to wait another fifteen years, through hundreds of rejection letters, before my second novel, 18 SECONDS was bought by Simon and Schuster. That novel was nominated for both a Shamus and Best First Novel by the National Thriller Writer’s Association. It has now been translated into 23 languages.

Do you have a specific writing style? 

I would have to call it “Writing by Ear.” For it feels to me like I’m writing music, but without a music education. That has to sound confusing, but it’s as close as I can come to describing my own process. I imagine something and then try to find the perfect words that make it pleasing to the ear. Like tapping notes on the piano I test words until I find the right ones to convey my meaning. And I have never forgotten the lessons I learned from author John Le Carre. More is never better. I am frugal with descriptions, sometimes driving my editors to despair. I don’t want to slam my readers over the head with a shovel. I want them to think and I give them credit to have the ability to grasp my meanings.  I know I appreciate that when I’m a reader. SO I think that the time spent on crafting is rewarded many times over. I think all of my editors would tell you they don’t tinker a great deal with construction in my novels. I will tell you, I don’t know what in the hell I am doing. I have no education whatsoever in the art of writing.

Also I like getting to the point. I don’t meander all over the place. You might not see it at first, but everything in my novels is heading in one direction. And fast. It’s like getting on a single thrill ride, rather than spending a day at the Amusement Park.

Is the book, characters, or any scenes based on a true life experience, someone you know, or events in your own life?

No. And now that I’ve said that, YES, or at least allow me to qualify it with MAYBE for it was only after many decades of deliberation that I discovered while speaking to an audience about two events from my childhood that certainly inspired my first novel. I swear they were never looming right there in front of me when writing it years later, but after reading the novel even I had to agree they’d planted the seed. You can read them in the foreword of RATTLEMAN

So now I say with a degree of caution, that NO I don’t ever write about specific events or people and WOULD say with unwavering certainty that the joy of the process is the creation. The process of filling a blank page with purely imaginative places and people. The reward is when readers are heartbroken or concerned for the welfare of my fictitious characters. Or to visit one of my crime scenes (some are real locations where I’ve only made up towns and people—like Wildwood New Jersey or Ohio Pyle Pennsylvania—I had a book club that was doing just that after discussing my novels and they found it just like I described. Even though it wasn’t real! And they all had their picture taken together and sent to me. How sweet!J

What book are you reading now?

A History of the Inquisition actually—Yes, yes, I KNOW!!!!!! It’s a little dark to say the leastJ  But I’ve recently re-read Henry VIII by Alison Weir (she writes history like Anne Rule writes true crime!!!!) Before that the bio of Eleanor Roosevelt and Vince Lombardi and Tony Dungy—I’ve been going through a lot of non-fiction lately if you haven’t noticed. I did zip through Daniel Silva’s wonderful Gabriel Alon series though and have started his latest FALLEN ANGEL on my Kindle.

What is your current “work in progress” or upcoming projects?

I just completed another Sherry Moore novel. This will be my Sixth novel, Fifth of the Sherry Moore series, and I have to say it might well be a favorite. This was pure ecstasy to write and it reads fast as a bullet. In was in fact written in (a personal best of) 80 days from setting down the first word to pushing Send to reach my agent.

The novel is very timely and in so many ways. It was highly researched and quite a complicated subject. This novel actually forced me to transform my usually tidy office into a war room with flip charts and diagrams and graphs to keep it all straight. In the end I think I reduced it into a wonderful, tragic, terrible and heartrending story of human beings at their best and worst. Hints---Depression…Aggression…Resurrection…Terror!

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Yep…a Seventh novel, but Sixth Sherry Moore, which takes between Bal Harbor Florida and a fictitious village in Maine. It starts with the usual murder of a socialite…one of those drive-by shootings that occur with desensitizing frequency around Miami. The police are plodding through the details. There are dark forces in the family pressing the Coroner to release the body. And then an envelope arrives at the mail of a retired judge. It is the murder victim’s suicide letter and postmarked hours before the murder! After that, nothing is, as it seems.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I wish I could say that writing is predictable. It is not. We are humans enduring challenges no different than anyone else. We are the banker and the baker and the lawyer and the cop.  Our circumstances change constantly. We fall in love, we divorce, phones ring, children need us, bills always outnumber the checks in the mail… And writing requires the three most elusive things of all.  Utter belief in what you’re doing. Quelling the doubts. Quiet Mind.

Before one can start to make the magic, they must first forget about everyone and everything else. Forget about their loved ones, their ailing family members, any joys or pleasures or fears or sadness. You must be able to let yourself go down into the Rabbit’s Hole. If you’ve ever written a piece that you know was true and from the heart, you know too that you were not functioning at the level of the keyboard and screen. You have gone down way beneath the surface. You have entered your story. Writing is not a passive thing. Writing requires work and I would submit that anyone who is not exhausted after four hours of doing it was not doing their job.

Do you have to travel much to do research for your books?

18 Seconds was highly influenced by childhood vacations on the New Jersey Seashore.

Some of my other novels are set in places I have never been. And I find it wonderful that so much of the world is at our fingertips now with the Internet and Google Earth. That we can now write confidently about places we have never visited and things we have never seen. I often visit the streets and back alleys of foreign countries on my laptop, snatching mental images as I tour. And Oh I love to research in real time and along the way, finding everything interesting, getting sidetracked for days. I’m sure it’s not the best formula for how to write a book, but it’s my way.

I would also say that I begin each of my novels with some primary location in mind. I give much thought to what it looks like and how it feels. Add the benefit of some personal experience (anywhere) and I can drop in my characters and see what they will do. Rattleman is set entirely in the Appalachian Mountains, a fact that shouldn’t have surprised me since I grew up on an extension of the Appalachian chain. But in truth I didn’t realize that I came from the mountains until well after I had written the novel. I thought I was writing about mountain life down in West Virginia…

Coming home to live in Pennsylvania after so many years in the city and on an island in the ocean, it was if I was just seeing it for the first time. It suddenly dawned on me I was one of those mountain boys myself.

Another book is set predominantly in Haiti. I know Jamaica rather well, so it wasn’t a stretch, but I spent days traveling Haiti on Google Earth.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Listen to your head. Use your own very unique imagination. If you force any of this stuff it won’t work. If you think you have a formula or a gimmick your wrong. And no you cannot replicate someone’s style through thirty chapters. You might as well underline it all in red.

What matters to the reader is the author’s ability to articulate universal truths. What captivates a reader more than truth? More than a character or phrase or image of something they can honestly identify with?  And you just can’t write someone else’s truth. Not unless you’re Anne Rule, or at least not in my opinion. You see that words are curious things, so completely inanimate and a pile of them is just a pile of them. They are nothing more or less than things like bricks or apples or twigs.  Arrange them in specific order however and a message can begin to emerge. Most people can do that well. But in concert with the imagination (and yes some personal experience) it is possible to give them life. To arrange them in such a way that they will quicken your heartbeat and send shivers down your spine. Who couldn’t enjoy the magic and power of words?

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February 20 Interview
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February 21 Interview and review
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February 21 Spotlight
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February 25 Spotlight
Sapphyria's Book Blog

February 26 review

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February 28 Spotlight and review

March feature in Bewitching Book Tours Magazine

March 1 Interview
Roxanne’s Realm

March 2 Spotlight
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March 3 Spotlight
Regina May Ross's Blog

March 4 Spotlight/Guest blog
Fang-tastic Books

George D Shuman

From George D. Shuman who served twenty years with the Metropolitan Police Department, Washington DC, and whose international bestseller, '18 Seconds', is currently in production as a major Hollywood motion picture. 

Better still, 'Rattleman' is George D. Shuman's most gripping crime thriller yet.

The Rattleman knows every crevice, every creek, every cave, every ravine, every inch of his remote hunting grounds in the Appalachian Mountains.

He is a determined serial killer, always waiting for his next victim to cross his path.

When Park Ranger Jane Cameron literally stumbles across the remains of two of his victims, she discovers that she too has been caught in his trap.

And when the 'Rattleman's prey is at his mercy, she’s dead.

About George D. Shuman

George Shuman is the international bestselling author of the Sherry Moore series about a blind woman who can see 18 seconds from a dead person's life, using her innate ability to track down their killers.

George's first four Sherry Moore books are published by Simon & Schuster. '!8 Seconds' is currently in production for a major Hollywood motion picture.

'Rattleman' is the first of George's books to be published by Taylor Street. It too will be a major Hollywood motion picture.