MysteryPeople Q&A with Mark Pryor

Mark Pryor is one of our favorites here at MysteryPeople – we’ve followed his Hugo Marston series from the very beginning, and we’re happy to welcome The Sorbonne Affairthe seventh volume of the series, to our shelves. Mark joins us to speak and sign his latest on Saturday, August 26th, at 6 PM, along with James W. Ziskin and Traci Lambrecht of P.J. Tracy. Ahead of the event, our Meike Alana sat down with Mark to ask him about the book, Paris, his busy schedule, and what’s next. 

 

  • Interview by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

Meike Alana: Your love of books (which you share with your protagonist, Hugo Marston) is on full display in the series (titles include The Bookseller and The Paris Librarian). Your latest, The Sorbonne Affair, deals with a best-selling American romance writer who discovers a hidden camera in her room at Paris’ Sorbonne hotel. You poke some fun at the romance genre–Hugo is slightly disdainful towards romance, and is incredulous to discover that many of his accomplished, intelligent friends are fans of the author. Do you care to elaborate on your own views?

Mark Pryor: Absolutely—my position is that a good book is a good book. As such, I hope it comes across as people poking fun at Hugo for being a book snob. I know for a fact some of my readers are also lovers of the romance genre, and just last month I gave a talk to a crowded and enthusiastic room of romance writers.

Ha, but you’re wondering if I read romance, though, aren’t you? Yes, I have and I would. My problem is that I don’t have time to read much, and almost all my reading time these days seems to be taken up blurbing books for other people. That means I have to prioritize, which in turn means I have a giant stack of unread books in my bedroom!

But again, what I’m trying to point out in a playful way is that if a book is good, its subject or genre shouldn’t matter, and yet there are some people who insist their reading or writing are more… let’s say elevated and don’t include one genre or another.

MA: This is the 7th installment of your series featuring the Paris-based Hugo, although Hugo has traveled to London (The Button Man) and Barcelona (The Reluctant Matador). For anyone planning a visit to Paris I always recommend they read one of your books–you so aptly capture the Parisian energy and mystique. Yet you’re a Brit who lives in Austin, Texas. How do you manage to capture the spirit of the City of Light so perfectly? And what’s your favorite spot in Paris?

MP: Thank you for the kind words, I try hard to bring Paris to my readers. To do so, and I know it’s tough, but I try to make myself go there as often as possible. Choke down a croissant or two, suffer through a dozen garlic snails, drag myself along the city’s boulevards on crisp autumn evenings. We all know artists suffer, and as you can see, I suffer as much as any of them…

As for my favorite spot, well, I have several. I always visit the bookstore Shakespeare & Co., and a walk in front of Notre Dame is a must. Other than that, I try to find new places to explore and share. There are always undiscovered cafes and restaurants, little parks and squares and churches.

MA: Previous Hugo novels have hinted at his previous FBI career but we’ve never learned the details about why he left that agency. We learn more about that in The Sorbonne Affair. What made you decide it was time for the reader to learn about the events leading up that his career change?

MP: Your boss. Seriously. That marvelous bookseller Scott Montgomery has said to me since the very first novel that he was sure there was a story behind Hugo and Tom leaving the FBI. I assured him on multiple occasions that no, there really wasn’t.
Turns out he was right.

As for why, I think it’s because I’m always trying to show a new side to Hugo. He’s a hard man to get to know so this particular event gives us a really good look at his psyche, and why his friendship with Tom means so much—to both of them. I better stop there before I give too much away.

MA: Given the complexity of your plots, the evocative Paris setting, the well-developed characters many readers would be surprised to know that you don’t write full-time; in fact, you balance your writing with a challenging legal career and a full family life including 3 young children. How in the world do you find time to write? Do you have to be very disciplined and organized, or do you just randomly throw words on the page when you can carve out a few free minutes?

MP: It’s all about the discipline, filling every spare moment with either writing or something book-related. The way I explain it is to say that I never, ever, have a moment in my life when I think, “Oh, nothing going on today, what should I do?” Ever. Even on July 4 I had to take time to write a couple thousand words in between pool trips and burger-making.

That said, I have no complaints at all. I have a fascinating job, books I love to write, and hugely supportive family and friends (and readers!). So, yes, I’m crazy busy but in all the best ways.

MA: What’s next for Hugo?

MP: I have a few ideas rolling around in my head but so far it’s all a little hazy. More than likely he’ll be paying a visit to Lake Como in Italy, which won’t be too much of a hardship I suspect (for him or me!). I want to develop the secondary plot like from The Sorbonne Affair a little more, the new threat to Hugo and Tom. And I think I want a princess in the book. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

MA: In addition to the Hugo series, you wrote the outstanding psychological thriller Hollow Man. (For anyone who hasn’t read it, the book tells the story of Dominic, a psychopath British district attorney who lives in Austin. Pryor is a British district attorney who lives in Austin. He assures us the work is “completely fiction.” Hmm….) Any plans for another book about Dominic?

MP: Dang it Meike, you know what a sweet, kind, non-psychopathic chappie I am! I haven’t killed anyone for ages and ages, I promise!

Actually, on January 30, 2018, the sequel to Hollow Man will be published by Seventh Street Books. It’s called Dominic, which is suitably ego-centric for that character. This time around he’s set his sights on a judgeship that he would like, but to get there he has to deal with two significant problems: a colleague going for that same position, and a detective who still has questions about Dominic’s role in a murder that someone else went to prison for.

MA: We always like to ask for reading recommendations from our favorite writers. Read anything lately that you want to tell us about?

MP: Oh, good, this lets me have a quick rave about Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, which is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in years. I’m also about to delve into Unsub by Meg Gardiner and Blame by Jeff Abbott. Oh, and the new James Ziskin, Cast The First Stone. Love that series. As you can see, my TBR pile is greater than my recently-finished stack, but to be fair it’s because I’m reading some manuscripts for blurb purposes, and not so much published work.

You can find copies of The Sorbonne Affair on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Mark Pryor joins us Saturday, August 26th at 6 PM to speak and sign his latest. He’ll be appearing with fellow crime writers Traci Lambrecht (of P.J. Tracy) and James W. Ziskin. 

Advertisements

MysteryPeople Review: CAST THE FIRST STONE by James W. Ziskin

  • Review by MysteryPeople Contributor and Mystery Maven Meike Alana

9781633882812Cast the First Stone is the latest installment in James Ziskin’s Ellie Stone mystery series featuring newspaper reporter Ellie Stone.  Ziskin joins us here at the store to speak and sign his new installment in the series on August 26th, when he’ll be appearing with another favorite from Seventh Street Books, Mark Pryor. 

Ellie’s bosses may sometimes assign her the fluff pieces, but as Ziskin’s latest begins, Ellie lands an assignment sure to be interesting throughout. For once the paper’s publisher has a meaty story for her to cover—the New Holland Republic is going to send her to Los Angeles to profile local hero Tony Eberle; the actor has just landed his first starring movie role in the latest beach-themed Hollywood blockbuster.  But when Ellie arrives on the studio set to interview her subject, he doesn’t show up for filming and is promptly fired from the production.   

Read More »

Humor and Horror: MysteryPeople Q&A with Adrian McKinty

  • Interview by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

I’ve followed Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy series for years now, ever since I flew through his Troubles Trilogy, only to jump up and down with happiness when I realized he planned to continue the series. With the release of McKinty’s latest, Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, I found an opportunity to interview the man himself, rather than just talking to the internet about how much I love his books. Thanks to Seventh Street Books for bringing his works to the states, and thanks to Adrian for letting me ask him a series of rather long questions. 

Molly Odintz: So the idea that Sean Duffy can quit smoking is rather laughable to me. Will he ever get his health together in the context of life in such a stressful position? 

Adrian McKinty: I seriously doubt it. I knew many coppers in that era and all of them were huge social drinkers and chain smokers that you would be foolish to try and keep up with. But there’s always hope. I think he’s probably off the cocaine for good now which is nice.

MO: In your latest, you show how entrenched and mafia-like the paramilitaries have become by the late 80s, especially when it comes to drug crimes. By the late 80s, do you think more paramilitaries were motivated by power and money than politics? 

AM: By the early 80s it was obvious that the Troubles were not going to end anytime soon so the smarter/more cynical ones diversified into protect rackets and drugs. At a famous meeting in Belfast in 1985 supposedly mortal enemies the IRA and UVF met to divide Belfast into drug territories. And that is still the case to this very day.

Read More »

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: A WELCOME MURDER by Robin Yocum

  • Post by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

9781633882638Johnny Earl was once a great high school athlete—perhaps the greatest in the storied history of Steubenville High School, home of the Big Red.  But in 8 short years his star has risen and spectacularly fallen—after a brief stint as a Pittsburgh Pirate (the highlight of which was a triple hit off Nolan Ryan and which ended when he blew out his knee), his second career as a cocaine dealer ended with a spell in the federal penitentiary.

As A Welcome Murder begins, Johnny has been released from prison and has returned to his hometown of Steubenville.  He plans to stay just long enough to retrieve the drug money he hid before his incarceration, then head out for parts unknown– but just moments before he’s ready to hit the road he’s picked up for questioning in the murder of Rayce Daubner, the FBI informant who set him up on drug charges in the first place.  While he’s spending the night in jail, his former cellmate shows up—the white supremacist who wants Johnny’s drug money to help fund the Aryan nation he’s founded somewhere in the wilds of Idaho or Nevada (he’s not quite sure of the location).  He already has a pair of wives waiting for Johnny so he can do his part to further the cause.

Read More »

MysteryPeople Q&A with James W. Ziskin

Heart Of Stone is the latest in James Ziskin’s series featuring early 1960s “girl reporter” Ellie Stone. James will be joining his fellow Seventh Street author Mark Pryor at a BookPeople signing this Saturday, August 20th at 6PM. Our Meike Alana got some early questions in.

 

  • Interview by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

Meike Alana: The Ellie Stone novels are written in the first person, and you write a very convincing female in her early 20’s. How did you develop that voice?

James W. Ziskin: I try to imagine a fully developed character in Ellie. Her thoughts, aspirations, loves, hates. Her joys and pains. Simply describing what she’s doing from chapter to chapter doesn’t cut it, even if her behavior happens to be believable to the reader. That makes for a cardboard-thin character, flat and, ultimately, uninteresting. Instead, I want to climb inside Ellie’s head and create a fully formed character and, by extension, a voice. So how do I get inside Ellie? I mine those emotions I mentioned above. I imagine how she would feel and react in certain situations. Would she keep quiet, mouth off, or feel defeated? What would she say to a man dismissing her as “just a girl”? What would she do if he patted her rear end? What kind of man would she find attractive? Irresistible? Contemptible? It’s hard to do, of course. If you’re truly going to hang flesh on the bones of your character, be she a woman or a man, you need more than just a physical description and a couple of quirks or mannerisms. You need to empathize with your characters. Understand them, think them through. Make them complex, multidimensional, dense, and deep. Give them weight. And once you’ve done that, the voice will come.

“If you’re truly going to hang flesh on the bones of your character, be she a woman or a man, you need more than just a physical description and a couple of quirks or mannerisms. You need to empathize with your characters. Understand them, think them through. Make them complex, multidimensional, dense, and deep. Give them weight. And once you’ve done that, the voice will come.”

 

Read More »

Beautiful women, French food, and rare books: MysteryPeople reviews THE PARIS LIBRARIAN by Mark Pryor

Come by BookPeople on Saturday, August 20th, at 6 PM, for a panel discussion with two fantastic authors from Seventh Street Books! Mark Pryor will be speaking and signing his latest Hugo Marston novel, The Paris Librarianreviewed below. He’ll be joined by James Ziskin, author of the Ellie Stone series, speaking and signing Heart of Stone. 

  • Post by MysteryPeople Contributor and Character in the Novel Meike Alana

9781633881778The Paris Librarian is the latest installment in Mark Pryor’s series featuring Hugo Marston, the cowboy-boot wearing former FBI profiler from Texas who now heads up security at the American Embassy in Paris. It has something for everyone—booze, guns, action, beautiful women, history, humor, danger, fantastic French food, and BOOKS!  

The novel finds Hugo, an avid collector of rare books, negotiating a potential addition to his collection—his friend Paul Rogers, the director of the American Library, is arranging the sale of some books to raise funds for the library.  Hugo and Paul set up a meeting for the next morning, but when Hugo arrives at the library he finds Paul dead, the victim of an apparent heart attack.  Paul had been inside a locked room so it doesn’t appear that foul play was involved, but Hugo has a tingling in the back of his neck which suggests there may be more at play—and years of experience have proven that tingling is rarely wrong.

Read More »

On Hollywood and Hemingway: MysteryPeople Q&A with Shaun Harris

In The Hemingway Thief, the recently released debut crime novel from author Shaun Harris, a writer of popular vampire novels is on the trail of the suitcase containing Hemingway’s original draft of A Movable Feast, with a cast of questionable characters. Our Meike Alana got to ask Shaun some questions about the book and the writing process.

  • Interview by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

“As I started to do some research I realized that I hate Hemingway as both a writer and a man. At the prospect of having to read more of his work and then aping it, I decided to go in a different direction.”

Meike Alana: How did the legend of Hemingway’s lost suitcase become the inspiration for your novel?

Shaun Harris: A number of years back I was watching the movie Wonder Boys for the 8 billionth time and Michael Douglas’s character mentioned the lost suitcase in a throwaway line. I looked it up and thought it was an intriguing idea. At first I went for the obvious idea of having the protagonist find the suitcase and pass it off as his own. As I started to do some research I realized that I hate Hemingway as both a writer and a man. At the prospect of having to read more of his work and then aping it, I decided to go in a different direction. So the idea sat in my brain for a while until I came up with what that direction would be. And that will be answered in a later question.

Read More »