Today, I am hosting an author interview post with M. Ryan Seaver as part of the No Bad Deed book tour hosted by Goddess Fish Promotions. No Bad Deed is a paranormal mystery available now from Hawkley Books.
The author will be giving away:
- Commenter Prize: $50 Amazon GC plus print or digital copy of book 1 or book 2 in the series
- Runner Up Prizes 15 ebooks of winners’ choice of book 1 or book 2
Be sure to follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. Click on the banner above to see additional tour dates.
Private detective John Arsenal can’t tell you what terrible crime he committed to wind up in a sweltering urban hellscape, surrounded by thieves, drug addicts and murderers—only that it was very bad, and now he’s being punished. That’s because in Hell—or Brimstone, as the damned prefer to call it—your identity, your memories, even your name, are stripped away from you.
John is relatively comfortable in his damnation, working easy cases and making himself at home in the grimy squalor of the afterlife. That is, until a mysterious woman appears in his office, begging him to find her missing sister, and promising him the impossible in return—a glimpse of his old life, before Brimstone.
To track down the enigmatic Sophie, John must delve into Brimstone’s darkest recesses, where murderous children run wild in packs, and a strange and terrifying new drug promises to deliver the user to the heights of ecstasy, but at the risk of being snuffed out of existence altogether. All the while, John must grapple with the vivid nightmares that have haunted him since his arrival in Brimstone, and confront the thing he desires and dreads the most—the truth of what he did to deserve damnation.
I took the car on a drive through downtown Brimstone, watching the sky turn sulfur, then green, as billowing plumes of vapor veiled the light. It was evenings like this I wondered about the geography of our fair city. There was a sky over Hell, that much was obvious. But there was also the sensation that baby-shit green was not a natural color for a sky to be. And of course there was never any sun, just the constant radiating light and heat. When I first got off the boat I used to wonder about the physical location of this place that had a sky and a climate, but no sun and no moon, no seasons. I’ve since learned that worrying about that stuff doesn’t make a damn bit of difference, and that it’s best to do it as little as possible. Still. That sky never failed to put a sick, uncertain feeling into the pit of my stomach.
As I drove, Tent town stretched out alongside me, nothing but bleached-out A-frames draped with sheets and tarps as far as the eye could see. I took a left and found myself in an obnoxiously artsy part of the city called Millville, where the resident frustrated artists and actors had turned the skeletons of ruined industrial buildings into a series of trendy clubs and improvised theater spaces. I pulled up in front of a bar called Virgil’s and killed the motor.
How much of a story did you have in mind before you started writing NO BAD DEED?
I had exactly three words going into No Bad Deed: Detective in Hell. That’s it. It was one of those late night strokes of inspiration, and I jumped out of bed and just started writing as fast as I could, not really knowing where the story was going, or even what the mystery would be. In fact, the prologue of the book was written completely blind, with no other information about the story besides who my hero was, and the idea of the place. The overall plot came to me organically over the next few weeks, and of course things evolved as I got deeper into the book, but John Arsenal and the world of Brimstone itself sort of showed up fully developed, needing to be written, weeks before the mystery itself came together.
What is your favorite scene in the book?
I really enjoyed writing all the scenes with Saul, which is interesting because when I first wrote him, Saul was supposed to have only one scene at the very beginning of the book. Somehow he just kept coming back. Saul is a client and friend of John’s, a dangerous, volatile thug who stalks around with a meat clever on his belt. But he’s also a funny guy, and a dependable guy, the kind of guy you want having your back in a dangerous situation. There’s a scene later in the book where John and Saul get together and capture the henchman of our primary bad guy, trying to threaten him into giving up information. It’s an incredibly tense scene, and John is essentially using Saul as a threat: My buddy is crazy, and he’s dying for a chance to mess you up. I always felt like having Saul in the scene added this giddy, unpredictable energy to what could have become a really heavy moment. John is all business, but you kind of get the feeling that Saul is having fun, so the reader has some fun too.
What about your characters surprised you while writing?
They make me laugh. When people hear that the book is set in Hell, they can come away with this idea that it’s a really dark story, but actually there’s a lot of humor in the book. Saul cracks me up every time he comes into a scene. Another of John’s friends, Mickey Sparks, is very off the wall and zany, almost child-like, and John himself is a very quick-witted, sarcastic guy. There were a lot of moments when I’d be writing, and he would come out with some great one-liner that surprised even me. I wish I could be as quick as John in real life.
If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
I was watching a lot of Justified while I was writing the book. In a perfect world, Timothy Olyphant would be my John Arsenal, no question. His performance on that show was a huge influence for the way John speaks and carries himself—very dry, very charming. Sometimes if I felt stuck I would pull up an episode just to get his speaking rhythm in my head. Mireille has always been Marion Cotillard for me. She has that gorgeous, delicate beauty I wanted for that character, all ivory and charcoal.
Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
I actually have two romance writers in the family, so writing the love scene in No Bad Deed was incredibly intimidating. Of course, a love scene in a romance novel and a love scene in a detective story like this one are going to be different, but I still felt like I had a lot to live up to. I was so relieved during the critique process when both of them came back with positive feedback about that scene. It’s a balancing act, keeping it really sexy without becoming raunchy or graphic. Making sure the scene furthers the story, without being too precious about it.
Characters often find themselves in situations they aren’t sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
I feel like I’m running up against these situations all the time, at least in my writing. Recently I was writing a scene where my character is tied up on his back, on a table, and has to get himself loose within a very small window of time. The problem was, I had done too good a job! I was so worried about raising the stakes and creating a truly hopeless feeling situation for the character, that I completely neglected to build in a way out. I didn’t want to destroy that tension I had built by going back and re-writing, making things easier for my character, so I ended up in the same position he was in—totally paralyzed, searching around desperately for something in the room I could use to fix this situation. In the end I think it worked in my favor though. It let me work through the problem in real time with my character.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you, in any way, either growing up or as an adult?
My dad introduced me to Dennis Lehane novels as a teenager, and he’s been my favorite author ever since. I tore through his Kenzie and Gennaro series when I was in high school, and I’ve probably read each of those books a half a dozen times since then. His way with dialogue was a huge influence on me. There’s no question with his characters where they come from, it’s all right there in how they speak, and each one is unique.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
I feel like the advice we all get a lot is to read a lot, and that is bar none the most important thing. You can’t possibly be a good writer unless you’re also experiencing writing as a consumer. But I also think it’s just as important to expose yourself to other types of storytelling. Watch movies, see plays, watch some of the really smart, entertaining television that’s on right now, and incorporate the things you find there into your writing. If an actor does something that rings really true to you, or if you love the way a certain scene is shot, use that to make your writing better.
What are you working on now? What is your next project?
I just finished book two of the John Arsenal mystery series. This one is a serial killer mystery, which is particularly interesting because of course in Brimstone, everyone is already dead. But as it turns out, when you’re killed in Hell, there’s something even worse than death waiting on the other side. I’m also in the very early stages of plotting out book three…but that’s going to have to be a conversation for another day!
AUTHOR Bio and Links
I was raised in Rochester, New York, in a house that was constantly full of writers. On nights when my parents and their friends were holding court in our living room, I would practice the fine art of evading the little kids in the next room, setting up camp among the grown-ups, and being quiet long enough that they would forget I was there, and that it was past my bedtime. All my best dirty jokes were picked up this way.
I studied theatre performance at Northeastern University, where I spent a little time onstage, and a lot of time reading plays. I fell in love with Sam Shepard, Arthur Miller, and Nicky Silver. Exposed to plays day in and day out, I honed my ear for dialogue, and learned firsthand that if the writing doesn’t ring true, no amount of brilliant acting would make it right. I wrote my first play (terrible, melodramatic, with characters whose names did absolutely nothing to mask the real people they were based on). I showed it to no one. It’s probably still on my computer somewhere.
John Arsenal and Brimstone came to me during a bout of unemployment, in between searching desperately for a job, and baking more bread than was sane or reasonable for my two person household. The idea came to me in my sleep, demanding to be written, and that’s how the prologue of the book came into existence: In my darkened apartment in Boston at one o clock in the morning, my eyes barely able to focus on the computer screen long enough to get the words down. Sleep has continued to be the place where John Arsenal and I meet up to put the pieces of his story together. I’ve never been prone to insomnia, but John, it seems, is, and has never cared much for my sleep schedule.
In my life before Brimstone, I’ve worked as a telemarketer (I’m sorry) administrative assistant, waiter (badly, briefly), clerk and occasional story-time reader in a children’s bookstore, and professional hawker of everything from magazine subscriptions to national television advertising. I was better with magazines. I now live in Chicago with the love of my life, and my snarling, seven-toed demon-cat, Clara. No Bad Deed is the first book in the John Arsenal mystery series.