Thursday, March 04, 2010

Pro-File: Kevin O'Brien

1. Tell us about your current novel (or project).

VICIOUS is how you could describe Mama's Boy, a serial killer who kept
Seattle in the grip of fear for two years back in the late 90's. He
abducted women right in front of their sons, and later strangled them.
Mama's Boy was never caught, but the killings suddenly stopped in 2001-at
least in the Seattle area. Now it's ten years later, and Susan Blanchette,
a beautiful widow, is taking a weekend getaway in a resort town north of
Seattle with her toddler son and her fiancé, Allen. But something isn't
quite right about the lakeside house they've rented, and Susan discovers
that two women went missing in the area within the last year. Then Allen
vanishes without a trace. But the worst discovery of all may come too late
for Susan: Mama's Boy is back. You can get VICIOUS in May!

2. Can you give a sense of what you're working on now?

The working title for my thriller-in-the-works is DISTURBED. It's about a
scandal at a Seattle high school that leads to the suicide of one student
and the firing of a beloved guidance counselor. Molly Dennehy is the
stepmother of a student indirectly involved in that scandal. After the
guidance counselor is slain in what appears to be a hold up, bizarre
occurrences-including a few untimely, gruesome deaths-begin to plague
Molly's neighbors in an isolated suburban cul-de-sac. That's all I'm
saying for now. I don't want to give too much away!

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

Having my own hours, not having to go into an office, getting a rush from
something I write-those are some of the perks. The greatest pleasure is
hearing from readers who enjoy my books. It's especially terrific to learn
that I've gotten someone hooked on reading-or when someone tells me that a
character in my fiction really touches a cord with them. But I also love
hearing that one of my books simply kept a reader entertained during a
snowed-in weekend or a long airplane ride.

4. What is the greatest DISpleasure?

The solitude, the deadlines, and the occasional nasty reviews on
(I can have nine glowing reviews, and one lousy review-and I'll obsess over
the lousy one).

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

Quit giving huge, million-plus advances to politicians and celebrities for
their ghost-written memoirs, and put that money toward paying the working
writer something resembling a living wage. I know Bestselling authors who
still need other part-time jobs to pay the bills.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in
print again?

Several of Edgar Award winner Margaret Millar's mystery-thrillers are out of
print. Also-J.B. Dickey at Seattle Mystery Bookshop knows I'm from Chicago,
and he was telling me about Max Allen Collins' Nathan Heller books that
blend true events (the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the assassination attempt
on Roosevelt, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, and many more) with a
fictional detective from the Windy City. They sound incredible-and right
up my alley. And most of them are out of print.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that

Back in college, I made a goal for myself to get published by the time I was
thirty. I wrote two Hitchcock-rip-off screenplays that never sold, and
about a dozen short stories that no one would publish. I started writing my
first novel, ACTORS, in a creative writing night class. I found an agent
for it, but after two years and one major rewrite, she started to lose her
enthusiasm for the book. By the time my thirtieth birthday rolled around,
only one publishing house, St, Martin's Press, had ACTORS, and they'd
rejected an earlier draft of it a year before. My agent wasn't returning
my calls. Things didn't look very good on my 30th birthday. The following
morning, the phone rang at 7 AM. I thought it was one of my bosses calling
from the east coast (I was working for the railroads at the time). Who
else would call so early in the morning? I let my answering machine pick it
up (this was before the days of Caller ID), and I heard my agent on the
other end, singing Happy Birthday-the way Marilyn sang it to JFK. "For your
birthday," she said. "I'd like to tell you that you sold your book...and
you have, honey. Call me..."

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