Monday, June 15, 2015

Robert Walker - a crime writer (blame it on Huck Finn)

I am  pleased to welcome Robert Walker, an astonishingly prolific and charmingly daring (with a strong self-deprecation streak) crime writer.  His Instinct series alone account for 13 installments.  Today he joins us to discuss the genesis of his writing career.

MJN: Your first novel was a sequel to Huckleberry Finn, something that, in your own words, "only an arrogant youth could have conceived."  Why do you refer to yourself in such terms?  Writing sequels/prequels to classic novels is a very common practice nowadays.  You are not competing with the original author.  In a sense, it's a tribute.  Or do you consider the practice of augmenting the classic blasphemous?

RW: No I simply meant at the age of a high school sophomore I must have been pretty full of myself to believe I could do a sequel for Mr. Mark Twain. Just looking back, I am kind of proud of the fact I completed that job I set for myself. It taught me too the value of research as the novel hinges on the facts surrounding the Underground Railroad.

MJN: In your biography you also say that you turned to fiction to make sense of the chaos in your life.  It's funny, I would've thought the opposite.  People whose lives are too predictable, try to create alternative worlds to add excitement to their existence. 

RW: In my childhood, growing up in inner city Chicago and under the roof of my dad, writing and creating allowed me a world to escape into. Reality was hardly as much fun as make-believe.  Of course, as in any group of people, all writers have differing backgrounds, and I can certainly understand how, for some, it might be a wholly different matter and motivation.

MJN: You have co-authored several thrillers with Ken Rossignol.  Can you tell me about that experience?  I always have a hard time envisioning two people co-authoring a novel. It's like a car having two steering wheels.

RW: Actually I have not co-authored with Ken but rather edited a number of Ken’s books. The only true collaboration I have done was on Cuba Blue with Lyn Polkabla.  She and I worked beautifully together and we truly became of one mind, and from the get-go we both wanted a seamless novel wherein a reader could not possibly tell where one began and the other ended. To do that, we had to establish a voice and maintain that singular voice—one authoritative voice. That is the key. Two people writing a single book who take turns doing scenes and chapters does not work for me. Lyn and I wrote from one voice, one narrative control voice, and we worked very closely by setting aside any ego from either of us. It was a joy and rare.

MJN: You've written a fair amount of crime fiction.  What kind of background knowledge should an author possess in order to write convincing crime thrillers? Is it necessary to have some foundation in law and forensics?

RW: I do a great great deal of research. When I first began writing crime novels, it was hard to find any books on forensics save textbooks used in classes, and many of these are fine and of course the illustrations are eye-popping. At that time, the 80s, only a few actual medical examiners had written up their cases for the general public, but whenever one came out, I grabbed it up and digested it. Any book on evidence gathering, I grabbed. Late 90s and after, more books directed at writers of crime fiction began showing up. So I did a lot of reading and research. I have no legal background, but I also learned that FBI agents are pushed to publish on cases, and some were writing whole books. I gathered in all this as well and just became a student of forensics and crime in general as well as FBI profiling.  

MJN: Some of your novels have rather exotic settings. Have you visited all places that you have written about?

RW: I have been to most every major city depicted in my novels, as I use cityscapes for Noir backdrops a great deal. I have been to Hawaii but not Cuba, and I have been to China but not India or London. When I wished to use settings that I have not traveled to, I do a heavy job of researching the exotic setting. I get many of my best ideas coming out of the process of researching and reading about such a place as Cuba (Cuba Blue) or India (The Serpentine Fire – Flesh Wars 1 and 2). And even when I have visited a place such as Hawaii (Primal Instinct) I load up on books and newspapers published locally to gather in the ‘local color’ so to speak. I did the same when visiting Yellowstone National Park (Extreme Instinct).

Robert W. Walker can be found on the web at Facebook, Twitter, and Rob has 61 books on Kindle shelves. His own blog is known as Dirty Deeds found here:

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