ABOUT RICK MOFINA
Rick Mofina is a former reporter and the award-winning author of crime fiction and thrillers published in 17 countries. He's reported from the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Africa, and Kuwait's border with Iraq. The International Thriller Writers, Private Eye Writers of America and The Crime Writers of Canada, have cited his novels as being among the best in the genre. His latest, THE BURNING EDGE, will be released December 27, 2011.
You include your personal and professional experiences in all of your work. From the novel you wrote after hitchhiking to California to the protagonists in your several series who are journalists. What inspires your stories more, your journalism career, or your personal adventures? Why did you decide to write a journalist rather than explore a different world?
I've been writing since I was maybe seven years old. It is an affliction. When I was 18, I wrote my first novel, a horrible monster that must remain in darkness. Other books followed. It wasn’t until some twenty years later that I became a published novelist. My path became clearer when I started in news in the 1980s, first as a student at The Toronto Star, the same paper where Ernest Hemingway once worked. After The Star I worked for several news organizations before leaving business.
During my time in news, I was a journalist by day and a fiction writer by night. It took me several years to understand what I wanted, or needed, to write about as fiction writer. I had written and abandoned a few novels. Supernatural, straight literary types and other genres. Then one day, reluctantly, I was assigned to my newspaper’s police beat. Unless you’ve done this kind of work, nothing prepares you for it. You see what cops, paramedics, fire-fighters, emergency experts see. For me, as a reporter by day, novelist by night, a light had been switched on. Covering human tragedies and dramas up close was overwhelming. But on another level, having a university degree in English Literature and Journalism, and having studied religious responses to death and American Detective Fiction, I felt I was equipped to try to make sense of what I was experiencing. To try to convey through fiction the truths I’d learned. That’s how I came to write my first Reed–Sydowski book, IF ANGELS FALL.
As I said, a larger part of my news reporting experience involved working the police beat. It put me face-to-face with the best and worst of the human condition. I was expected to write about it. I was expected to derive some sense out of horrible incidents that made no sense at all then present it to readers on deadline.
Sadly, the true horrors that happen everywhere everyday seldom end well. If they end at all. This is something I bear in mind in writing crime fiction. I try to apply the fundamental code of most crime fiction, which is the restoration of order to chaos. And I try to start with a ‘grain of truth’, to build on a solid foundation for a compelling story.
Novels allow you to drill deeper. To probe a person’s thoughts. Journalistic objectivity, in that sense, goes out the window. Journalism still allows you to convey many things against impossible deadlines. Still, some of the best writers, and copy editors who help them, are found in newspapers. But crime fiction allows you to go deeper into characters, themes, and the actual soul of a story. And maybe on that level you do get closer to some universal truths. For example, a news story in good hands can convey quite powerfully how sickened a homicide detective is, say, over a child murder. But the novelist can take you further. The novelist can take you into the detective’s heart, make you feel what he or she feels witnessing an autopsy, or informing an inconsolable parent, or questioning a lying suspect, or grappling with their own anguish at night when their head touches the pillow and sleep is a fugitive.
Your reporting has taken you all over the world, and has led you to situations which many of us can only find in fiction - patrolling the Arctic, visiting murderers on death row, and armored car heists, to name a few. What is the strangest thing that has happened to you on a story? What was the most frightening or dangerous situation in which you found yourself as a result of reporting?
The most frightening or dangerous situation? There were a few. Going into a Jamaican prison to interview a criminal was unforgettable. Or having a member of Hell's Angels offering to "take you for a ride" across the Rocky Mountains to ensure I got my reporting straight. I visited the site of a serial killing case in California, that was unnerving, especially since the found more victims there after I left. I was detained by police in Kuwait - that was unsettling, as was riding across the desert near the Iraqi border in a speeding jeep over areas with live land-mines.
One scary moment? One quiet night I was working alone in the newsroom on the cop beat when a call came in for me. It was a convicted murderer who was calling from prison. From the psych ward. I didn’t know him, but I had written about him. That night he confessed to me how he tricked his way to get access to a telephone because he needed to talk to somebody outside the institution. So, I said, talk. He then went into every detail, every vile, disgusting detail, of how he abducted two young women then held them hostage in a suburban home. Then he told me exactly how he murdered one but decided to let the other live. He was not remorseful, or even emotional. He just wanted me to have a clear accounting. Then he hung up. My spine rattled for hours after. I had trouble sleeping that night. Those are a few experiences from the beat.
What experiences did you have writing a stand alone - SIX SECONDS - after focusing on series? Will we ever see you venture back into stand alone territory?
I enjoy doing stand alones, giving you a bit of a break. My next one, THEY DISAPPEARED will be released October 2012. I am open to doing other stand alones.
Tell us a little about the story Jack Gannon is chasing down in THE BURNING EDGE, out Dec. 27.
In THE BURNING EDGE, single mom Lisa Palmer has barely recovered from the sudden death of her husband when she is drawn into a new nightmare. On her way home from upstate New York, Lisa stops at a service center minutes before an armored car heist. Four men are executed before her eyes -- one of them an off-duty FBI agent Lisa tried to help. Lisa becomes the FBI's secret witness and the key to finding the fugitive killers. FBI agent Frank Morrow leads the investigation of the high-profile case. Hiding a personal secret, Frank knows this assignment will be like no other he's ever faced because it could could be his last. Reporter Jack Gannon is being pressured to land an exclusive. He chases down the elusive thread of an anonymous tipster. With every instinct telling Jack the story is within his grasp, he gambles everything in his frantic race to reveal the truth before the killers can enact the next stage of their vengeful mission.
What's coming next for you? Any new adventures on the horizon?
Well, I have a project with my daughter that we've been working at off and on when we have the time. She'll graduate next year from university with a degree in art. When she was a toddler I used to tell her a story called THE GIRL IN THE PUMPKIN. I wrote the text for it and my daughter's working on the art and we're hoping to have a picture book proposal to shop in 2012. The story is about a little girl who after visiting a country flea market with her parents is present with special seeds that she plants in her backyard. The seeds develop into a large pumpkin, big enough for her to live in.
I am also kicking around an idea for a screenplay - a dark, dark thriller.
What's the best advice you can give a new writer or what do you wish you had known when you started? Do you have any tips or tricks for marketing books? How do you feel about using social media to promote your work?
It’s a tough business but above all it is a business whereby you aim to sell your product, your talent to craft a story. There are no magic beans, no secrets. You first of all must be honest with yourself and know whether you possess the intelligence, confidence, discipline and the talent to craft a story worthy of investment; investment of a publisher and readers in terms of their money and time.
When it comes to writing a book, the only person standing in your way to reaching your goal is you. Be disciplined and write every day. Don't talk about doing it, do it. If the next word you think after reading this is "but" as in, "but I don't have the time, or I have this or that going on" fine. Guess you don't have what it takes. There is never “a good time” to sit down and write that book. That is an excuse, a rationale for failure. Don't make excuses. Create sentences. Read who you like and study them. All the while ask yourself if you know the difference between "being" a writer and "wanting to be" a writer? It's the difference between dreaming and doing.
As for marketing, well that's obvious. No one can buy your book if they don't know about it. Do all you can within reason and budget to ensure that they do.
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QUICKIES WITH RICK:
Writing ambience: II use a pen and notebook to plot my books on a city bus during my commute to and from my day job as a communications advisor. I turn the notes into draft on weekends.
Reading now: TRUE GRIT by Charles Portis.
Book or eReader? Book.
Who should play his protagonists onscreen: Ryan Gosling, Ethan Hawke.
Favorite protagonist (other than his own): Tie: Vanka Zhukov in the short story by Anton Chekhov. Willie in the short story Two Soldiers by William Faulkner
Favorite big or small screen detective: Kinderman in The Exorcist and Legion.
Where he hasn’t been that he’d like to travel: Paris or Rio de Janeiro.
Cats or dogs: Dogs.
Favorite online resource: New York Public Library. If you go to NYC anyone (I believe this is still true) can become a card carrying member and use their resources online.
Favorite independent bookstore: All of them, because of what they mean to the industry.
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