Please welcome Bryon Quertermous to the blog! His debut novel, Murder Boy, just came out and he kindly answered a few of my questions!
Will you give us the scoop on your brand new book, Murder Boy?
Murder Boy is about Dominick Prince, a student in a Detroit creative writing program who has wasted a lot of great opportunities in his life but is determined not to waste his latest opportunity for a chance to live and write in New York City. The only thing standing in his way is his elitist thesis advisor who refuses to sign off on his final project because he thinks crime fiction is beneath a good writer. So, like any normal person would do, Dominick hires a bounty hunter to kidnap the professor and things go very, very wrong. But, as with the other book I mentioned, what it’s REALLY about is my own struggle with writing and wasted opportunities and failure to reach my stated life goals in an appropriate time frame.
Dominick Prince is an unusual protagonist. Why do you think readers will root for him?
Because he has heart. In know it sounds silly to say, but I’ve been so happy with early reviews and blurbs that have talked about this being a dark comedy with heart. This is based a lot on my experiences of being a writer in my 20s and I was kind of an awful person. I was selfish, narcissistic, whiny, and obsessive but I also had a lot of great friends, many of whom I’m still friends with today who stuck around and rooted for me because I was genuinely enthusiastic and optimistic and so, so naïve that it was hard to really hate me. I hope I translated that successfully enough to Dominick for readers to love him like my friends loved me.
Why crime fiction?
Mostly because it’s what I love to read. While my early genre reading was science fiction and fantasy, it wasn’t until I started reading crime fiction as a teenage that I really started thinking about what I had to offer as a writer. I love writing about myself and writing about what I’m going through at any given point in my life and crime fiction was the first place I saw that potential. I came to crime fiction during the golden age of series characters, particularly PIs, and I saw these authors taking their own personal issues and their social commentary and filtering it through these great characters and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
Who are some of your biggest literary influences?
Robert B. Parker is a huge one. My oldest kid is named Spenser for crying out loud. Reading his interviews and then reading his books was that first spark of finding a way to work my own shit out through fictional characters and fictional stories. It’s tough to narrow down specific influences though because this book is such a meat grinder. It’s quite literally the result of every conversations I’ve had, every book I’ve read, every movie I’ve seen, every painting I’ve looked at, every play I’ve been in the audience of and every news story I’ve read. But I do need to point out two more specific influences on Murder Boy and that’s Duane Swierczynski and Victor Gischler. I struggled for a long time to find my way out of writing PI novels which, though I loved them, I didn’t seem to be very good at writing and telling the story I wanted to tell in a different style. And in one great weekend I read Duane’s The Wheelman and Victor’s Pistol Poets and I was blown away. I saw how to do the kind of wild, over-the-top plotting I loved while still grounding it in genuine emotion and personal experience.
You’ve been writing since you were young. What’s one of the first thing you can remember writing?
I remember writing a story in 2nd grade about super hero candy bars. I was never much of a star as a student and that was the first time a teacher ever singled me out for doing something right in class and it stuck with me. I still crave that kind of validation with my writing despite how harmful it can be.
If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Oh, wow. This is a rough one. I very rarely am blown away with a book the first time. Most of my favorite books I came to over multiple readings. Even still I love re-reading and I have several books I read every year or every other year.
What do you like to see in a good story? Is there anything that will make you put a book down, unfinished?
I’m a sucker for voice. I love a great narrator and a unique style. I’m usually drawn more to style over substance, if you will. So obviously first person is my favorite POV or third person that feels like first person. Boredom is what will usually make me put a book down. Sometimes that boredom comes from it being a bad book but others it comes from me just not being in the right mood for whatever I’m reading. Since my reading time is limited, I’m very careful about what I choose to read and I’m very rarely disappointed. The times I run into trouble are when I either get in a mood to try something on a lark or when I decide I need to read one of the Big Books everyone is talking about.
What are you currently reading? Is there anything you’re looking forward to digging into this year?
I’m currently reading Lou Berney’s new one The Long and Faraway Gone and it’s one of the rare books that is blowing me away right away. It’s really amazing. I’ve been a big fan of Lou’s for a while and was really looking forward to this book. Other books I’m looking forward to digging into this year Laura Lippman’s Hush Hush, Victor Gischler’s Stay, and about a hundred other books I can’t think of right now.
What’s next for you?
I’m trying to finish the second book on my contract (man, that is fun to write) called Riot Load. On the surface the book is about a sperm bank robbery and a writer trying on a new career as a private detective, but at its core it’s about adjusting to fatherhood and dealing with real life after that one big dream in your life comes true. I’ve been working on it here and there for almost a year trying to figure out what kind of story I want to tell with it and it’s time now to really dig in and get a draft finished. I’m also starting to think about what I want to do next with my career. I have more Dominick books I want to write but I’m also thinking about an urban fantasy project I’ve been wanting to write as well to really just let my imagination loose.
About Murder Boy:
Dominick Prince is out of options. He’s lived in Detroit long enough to use his experiences of crime and poverty to fuel his writing, but he’s ready to move on to bigger and better things. Dominick’s thesis advisor, the elitist Parker Farmington, refuses to let Dominick pass his class, thinking the genre of potboilers beneath him. Which means rather than becoming the next literary sensation, Dominick will spend his life asking customers if they’d like fries with that. And if that’s the only plan, kidnapping doesn’t seem like such a bad plan B.
So if Farmington won’t pass him willfully, Dominick will make him do it forcefully. And once he has Farmington’s signature, fame and fortune are within Dominick’s grasp. But while Dominick may have a devious and brilliant mind on the page, in reality he’s more Betty White than Walter White. And before he can write ’the plot thickens,’ Dominick’s plan begins to go horribly wrong. Teaming with Farmington’s jilted mistress and her loose-cannon bounty hunter brother, Dominick finds that if even the best laid plans go awry, then his doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. And being a great writer won’t matter much if he’s six feet under.