The reviews are in and there's been quite a lot of praise for the debut novel by this week's author, Sean Chercover. A new mystery suspense writer from Chicago, Chercover's first book "Big City, Bad Blood" came out earlier this month.
WN: “Big City, Bad Blood” just hit shelves – what kind of reader would really enjoy it and why?
CHERCOVER: So far, the reaction has been great, and from a much wider variety of readers that I'd expected. P.I. readers like the hardboiled detective Ray Dudgeon, while thriller readers like the plot, which is more like a thriller, and not a puzzle-mystery. Noir readers have said they like the darkness, the moral complexity, and the dry humor. Readers of urban fiction like the realistic and gritty portrayal of Chicago and the way the book peels away the glamor from Hollywood. And one group I really wasn't counting on - fans of political conspiracy thrillers, because the plot involves corrupt politicians and a cover-up that goes all the way to Washington.
WN: “Big City, Bad Blood” involves Chicago and the mob. With so many books involving those two elements, how do you keep it fresh?
CHERCOVER: Some of the characters in BIG CITY, BAD BLOOD happen to work in organized crime, while others work as cops or private detectives or Hollywood film producers or Chicago aldermen or US Senators or pimps or prostitutes or cab drivers. But they're people. They aren't "bad guys" and "good guys". I think that's the key, for me. Make them real. The reader can label them as good and bad, but as a writer, I approach them as people, some of whom are more psychologically damaged and antisocial than others. If you write them as types, they'll be stale imitations of characters from earlier books, but if you approach them as real people, they'll be fresh - and so will the plot, because plot is just character in motion.
WN: Your bio says you worked as a private eye for a while… does that make it harder or easier to write a novel with a main character who’s a private eye?
CHERCOVER: Both. It's great having the experience and it helps when it comes to getting details right and reflecting the relationships and dialogue between PIs and cops and lawyers. But at the end of the day, I'm writing fiction, and the needs of the story come first. I can't let realism get in the way of that.
WN: You’re a part of Killer Year; how has that group helped you? What’s been fun/exciting/encouraging about being part of that group?
CHERCOVER: For me, it's about the camaraderie. We're all a bunch of newbie authors, and it's great to be able to share the joys of a good review and to cheer each other on.
WN: What’s the best part of being a writer to you? What’s the most challenging part of writing for you?
CHERCOVER: The best part and the most challenging part are the same thing: Writing. Everything else is tangential to the writing.
WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
CHERCOVER: I have many favorite books, and I've never tried to rank them, so I don't have an official "best" book. To Kill A Mockingbird is right up there. So is The Man With The Golden Arm. And The Stranger. And Light In August. Strangely (or perhaps not so strangely) in addition to being the finest of literature, all of those books could be labeled "crime fiction".
WN: What is your favorite word and why?
CHERCOVER: Egregious. I'm not sure why. It's fun to say.
WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
CHERCOVER: Ken Bruen - my Killer Year mentor and one of my all-time favorite crime fiction authors - recently reminded me to lighten up and have fun. That was truly helpful advice, right when I needed it.