ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bruce has been a writer his entire adult life, spending most of his days in a small office in front of a computer (a typewriter before that, just to date himself). Not exactly dramatic, though he hopes the stories he creates are exciting to readers. He made a living as a freelance writer, writing fiction on the side. His articles appeared in Parade, TV Guide, American Way, Popular Mechanics, and other magazines. He also illustrated some of the articles with his own photography. He ghosted a self-help book and wrote over 1,000 articles on financial planning topics for the Financial Planning Association.
Catch the author at these sites
Twitter handle: @BruceWMost
Amazon Author Central: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/profile
SP: What does your typical writing day look like? How do you work in your writing and promoting?
BM: I devote some of my mornings promoting my fiction (such as answering this Q&A) and afternoons researching and writing my fiction. Brainstorming occurs anytime I’m awake—and sometimes when I’m not awake.
SP: Tell me how and why you got into writing fiction? How long have you been doing it? And how do you go about creating a story? Elaborate here.
BM: I can point to no epiphany inspiring me to purse writing fiction, other than I loved stories from the time I was a kid and wanted to tell my own. I began writing bad short stories (and a never-finished novel) in my late teens and I have a box of colorful rejection slips to prove it. (This was back in pre-email days.)
As for how I create my novels and short stories, that’s a big question. Ideas come from everywhere: things I read and see, research, personal experiences, even hobbies. For example, my first two published Ruby Dark mystery novels grew out of a local article on women bail bond agents. Another mystery (Rope Burn), set in contemporary Wyoming involving cattle rustling and murder, grew from having in-laws who work ranches and my having written magazine articles about modern-day cattle rustling (yep, it still goes on). I recently published two short crime stories based on a famous 1930s crime photographer (Weegee) due to my interest in photography.
As for my writing process, I fall between being a pantser and a plotter. Starting with the germ of an idea, I do enough research and brainstorming (and continue both as I go along) so I have at least a rudimentary idea of plot and characters. But I don’t exhaustively plot every scene and character in advance. I don’t like to lock myself into an outline because I prefer to discover characters or plot elements in the act of drafting. It feels more life-like. In fact, in two of my mysteries, minor characters walked into a scene and completely changed the plot of the books.
SP: Tell me about the protagonist and antagonist of your latest book. What are their goals in the story?
BM: My latest mystery is The Big Dive, the sequel to my award-winning Murder on the Tracks (published by Black Opal Books). The protagonist is Joe Stryker, a street cop in 1951 Denver. For the second time in Joe’s headline-grabbing police career, a partner is brutally slain in the line of duty, almost in front of Joe’s eyes. How did the killer pull off such a brazen murder and escape? And why was Joe’s “choir boy” partner murdered while burglarizing a pawnshop? As in his debut novel, Joe investigates clandestinely outside of official police oversight. Which creates plenty of antagonists beyond the killer. To protect his dead partner’s reputation and save his own career while trying to solve a series of murders, Joe conceals his investigation from his new partner, his superiors, even his wife, who hates his being a cop. His investigation leads him to a ring of dirty cops—and a dark secret that goes back to the shameful internment of Japanese-American citizens in relocation camps during World War II. All while dodging a homicide detective hell-bent to pin the crimes on Joe.
SP: Which do you prefer, character driven stories or plot driven stories and why should readers care? Which do you write?
BM: To me, this is not be an either/or question. A book that is not both character and plot driven is likely a boring book. Granted, my books are murder mysteries. Genres generally lean heavily toward plot. I stack up bodies and tense plot moments, to be sure. But my protagonists are amateur sleuths sucked into the mystery, often reluctantly, for deeply personal reasons. (My street cop is not a homicide detective and thus operates well out of his assigned patrol duties.) Consequently, my protagonists’ motives and decisions drive the plot. As for whether character or plot comes first in the creative process, it varies from book to book. I’ve started with the germ of a character (a woman bail bond agent) and with the germ of a plot (cattle rustling). Regardless, in the end character and plot both serve the story.
SP: Tell me about your story point of view preferences, tense preferences, and any other thing of interest to you along these lines as we delve further into the mechanics of creating a story.
BM: My books are either in first-person POV or close third, depending on what feels right for that character, the tone I want to convey, and plot demands. Occasionally, out of plot necessity, I’ll do a scene or two in third-person POV from a secondary character. I always write in past tense.
SP: What are your all-time favorite books – top three? Why? Don’t skimp here. Explore it with us? Tell us what genre they are. Who is your favorite author, if different from your favorite book?
BM: Tough question. While I’ve long read mysteries, I’ve been most inspired by one of the founders of hard-boiled detective fiction, Raymond Chandler, particularly Farewell, My Lovely. I love his imagery, characterization, and tone of writing. My Joe Stryker novels are homages to him. J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (actually written as one book) is my favorite fantasy book. It remains a powerful story about good, evil, and how we as humans are caught between them. As for looking into the darkest elements of our soul, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness has stuck with me since I read it in college.
SP: What do you find is the most difficult thing about writing fiction? The easiest thing? Elaborate.
BM: Not sure I would ever use any word resembling “easy” when it comes to writing fiction. The most frustrating is that I’m a slow writer. It’s rare I crank out page after page in an hour or even an afternoon. I’m not a perfectionist in early drafts, but it’s difficult to just splash down words from beginning to end without looking back and fiddling as I go along. I need to get off to a good start or the rest of the story will veer off into no-man’s land, never to be seen again. I’m an obsessive rewriter as well. I believe my books are better for it, but the process can be painful. If anything does come easy, it’s writing dialogue. Writing description is agony. Despite the challenges, I look forward every day to writing.
SP: Tell me about your travels. Where is an interesting place you’ve been? Do you travel to research your stories, or is research important to you for your stories?
BM: I’ve traveled across much of the world, from Asia to Europe, mostly for pleasure. I even met my future wife while traveling. Because most of my novels are set in Denver, Colorado, my research is mostly local. For Rope Burn I traveled to Wyoming ranch country. I’ve done research in New York City for my Weegee stories. I have an idea for a Vietnam War mystery and would travel to Vietnam if I get to the book (remember that slow writer challenge?). Research is vital to my stories, not only for authenticity but as inspiration for plot and characters.
SP: What kind of stories do you refuse to read?
BM: Romance, though I must shamefully confess my wife coerced me into reading The Bridges of Madison County (I could feel the steam coming off the pages).
SP: Finally, the most important question – DC or Marvel? Or does that even matter to you? What is your favorite comic book character ever? If none, just make something up!
BM: Marvel, for producing better movies than DC. Batman is my favorite comic book character. I love his dark side.
THE BIG DIVE
“Benedict,” I said loudly.
No sounds. Even the mice weren’t moving.
I held my flashlight out at arm’s length and flicked it on. No shots rang out.
I was in a backroom. A desk with ledgers. Pawn tickets pinned to a wall along with a pinup calendar two years out of date. Shelves cluttered with hocked items not ready for sale. A small workbench for repairing pawn. A wall clock ticked 10:44. A whiff of cleaning solvents and scorched coffee mixed with the smell of my own sweat.
I crept to the open doorway between the backroom and the showroom. An exterior neon sign at the front of the pawnshop flickered red and green off two scratched glass cases of jewelry running down the center of the room. Guns, musical instruments, army surplus, toasters, sewing machines, radios and record players, brass table lamps, clocks, leather jackets, and a mish-mash of other pawn crammed the narrow aisles and cluttered the walls. A car passed on Curtis, headlights momentarily brightening the interior, highlighting a shattered side case.
“Benedict!” Only my raw breathing answered.
The cold heaviness of my gun filled my hand.
My flashlight combed the shadows for the slightest movement. My ears alert for the faintest of sounds, for breathing, for any hint Benedict was okay—or someone lying in wait.
I sucked in another deep breath and stepped into the room, ducking behind the end of one of the center cases. I panned my flashlight across the side case with the broken glass. The beam caught a small pile of watches scattered on the linoleum floor, spotted with a dark liquid.
My flashlight moved, then froze. The sole of a heavy shoe stared at me several feet beyond the watches. I inched the light. A second sole, this one worn unevenly along one side of the shoe. My hand shook as I panned the light up the legs. The body lay sprawled on its back. A uniformed body. Something long and wicked protruded from the middle of the chest.
I scrambled to his side and touched his neck for a pulse. A sticky wetness clung to my fingers. I jerked my hand back and shined my flashlight on his neck.
Someone—someone hateful and ugly—had slashed my partner’s throat.
I focused my flashlight on his chest. The killer had buried a large, black-handled knife in it. I pressed a wrist with my fingertips, holding no hope of finding a pulse. Blood drained in all directions, even under the glass case. I put my ear to his mouth and my hand on his chest, avoiding the knife sticking out of it, straining to hear a sound, feel a beat.
Nothing but my own desperate breathing.
I felt his dime-store notebook in his breast pocket, the one he’d scribbled in earlier in the evening. I tugged it out. The knife had narrowly missed piercing it. Blood stained the edges of the pages. I slipped it into my pocket next to my own notebook, and slumped against the glass case. The backroom clock ticked distantly, slightly out of rhythm.
It was happening again.
Dear god, it was happening again!