An Interview with Eric Beetner

Kate and Dan: Congratulations on the release of your novel THE DEVIL DOESN’T WANT ME! There is a nice buzz going around the Internet about this one. Tell our readers what they need to know about aging hit man Lars, young punk replacement hit-man Trent, and the object of their search, Mitch.

Eric Beetner: Oh, there’s so much more, but I am loath to give any spoilers. What you need to know is that Lars is reevaluating his career now that he has reached middle age. He’s been on the hunt for Mitch for 17 years now and has lost the desire to kill his target. Trent is out to prove himself, but still has so much to learn. Mitch is less important than Shaine, his teenage daughter, who is an innocent in all of this and who Lars is forced to protect at all costs.

And you need to know the book is part thriller, part gritty crime novel and part coming-of-middle-age drama. With a lot of blood and a kick-ass hard rock soundtrack.

K&D: So many of the authors we interview have embraced social media, like Twitter. In fact, Twitter is how Dan heard of the release of your book in the first place. Please tell us how you feel about social media, and how it has impacted your life and writing.

Eric: I like social media for the community it provides. I use it as a way to let people know about any book news I may have, and that’s great, but as a sales tool I think it is highly overrated. I have, however, met so many people online that have either helped my career, become good friends (or both) and have turned me on to so much good writing that it has been invaluable to me. With the demise of so many bookstores I find out about what books to read next primarily through social media and recommendations of online friends.

As far as my writing, I know there are many people who would never have had a chance in the world of discovering my work without social media. I started out, and still work with, some very small indie presses which can only get their message out through social media.

Dan hearing about The Devil Doesn’t Want Me through other people talking about it on Twitter (Thanks Keith Rawson!) is a perfect example of the serendipitous good fortune I’ve had through social media.

K&D: Literature seems to be at a major crossroads today, with the battles between Amazon and big-box stores like Barnes and Noble, and the independent book sellers doing whatever they have to do to survive. THE DEVIL DOESN’T WANT ME is only available as an e-book. How is the decision reached on whether a book is published in print or e-book? And will DEVIL ever be available in print?

Eric: The decision to do an eBook original was never up to me. It is the model behind the relaunch of Dutton’s Guilt Edged Mysteries and I support it. I’m not very much of an e-reader myself, but I don’t fight it in any way. Guilt Edged was set up in the 1940s to be a smaller, more nimble division of Dutton to publish some books that were a little outside (read: too hardboiled) the regular Dutton brand. The new Guilt Edged only takes that one step further into eBook only publishing.

Now, the carrot they have dangling for me is if a book takes off and sells well enough they will do or at least consider a print run. So, um, if everyone could make that happen, please? Yeah, that’d be great. Get right on that.

Seriously though, I do prefer a print book in my hands and there is nothing more satisfying to an author than a hard copy to have and hold. I hope it happens, but if it doesn’t I’m totally fine with it. One thing I do miss is being able to get out to bookstores and do signings. That’s one thing eBooks haven’t been able to find a digital equivalent to.

K&D: You are the winner of the 2012 Stalker Award For Most Underrated Author. Does this mean that 2013 is poised to be the year we see Beetner on every shelf in every bookstore and supermarket magazine shelf? What do you see coming down the highway for you in the next year?

Eric: If 2013 is one tenth of that lovely vision I’d be happy. I assume my Crimespree cover story is forthcoming, right? Should I book the photo shoot?

Getting that award was so very gratifying. People have been so kind to me with reviews and in my face-to-face interactions with other writers. I’ve gotten some fantastic blurbs from writers I have no business getting praise from. In short – I’m a lucky, lucky man. And yet there is always a next step, always more to strive for.

I’m a fairly prolific writer and have several completed manuscripts ready to be shopped around. I’m impatient and would love all of them to be available by the end of 2013, but that’s not the way publishing works, and I have no plans to self publish anything as of now. My goal is to go for the underrated author award two years in a row! But I’d always rather be underrated than overrated. Of course, being overrated is my long-term goal. I want people who read and enjoy my books today to be able to say years from now, “He used to be good. You should really check out the early stuff. So much better before he sold out.”

But right now you can barely find my books in even the most ardent indie bookstore so I think it’s a long way off before I’m at the airport kiosk. It doesn’t discourage me though. I got a million ideas and a good day job. I’m gonna be here typing until that day.

K&D: Oh, and between you, us, and the interwebs? The dedication page of DEVIL did NOT make Dan tear up. Much. Please tell our readers about Maybel.

Eric: That’s great you enjoyed the author’s note. Those are something Guilt Edged asks of all the authors to give readers a little bit about the person they are about to read, since most of us are fairly new to most readers.

So yes, I dedicated this book to my late dog, Maybel, who we lost one year ago. Without restating everything in the intro, she was a great dog who sat up with me many nights while I wrote. Well, not sat up as in awake, more like she lay down snoring by my feet, usually hogging the portable heater in my tiny converted garage I used as a writing office. (I’ve since moved and have a nice little cave carved out of, um, the garage in the new place. But it’s a perfect space for me)

Outside of my agent and whatever editor I work with on a particular book, I work on sort of an island. I don’t share my work in peer groups, don’t send anything out for early readership, don’t solicit any opinions. So I have a very short list of thanks or acknowledgements specific to any book. I knew I wanted to dedicate the book to Maybel because she was such a great dog, and she was there for more of the creation of this book than anyone else in the world. I felt I needed to credit her for that. And for the record, my letter made my wife cry too.

K&D: In the spirit of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” and the Bernard Pivot questions asked of every guest, we have our own set of questions we ask of every interviewee.

When did you finally say, “Yeah… I’m gonna write stuff for a living. And it will be AWESOME.”

Eric: I have never said anything like that. I don’t make a living at writing, yet. And I have been writing for so long it is just a constant, not something I decided to start one day or not something I waited to pursue. I’ve changed from writing screenplays to writing novels, but I’ve been putting ideas down on paper for more than half my life now. But I don’t think I’ve ever had the confidence to think what I was doing was awesome. I’m proud of what I’ve done, but I don’t get cocky about it.

Part of that comes from being in L.A. where everyone you meet has a screenplay in their pocket and they’re this close to getting it made with Brad Pitt in the lead. I want every time I talk about my writing to be in realistic terms.

K&D: What was your favorite moment in mystery writing? The moment that when you read it on the page, you smiled and said, “That was so cool!”

Eric: I’ve had several times when I’m reading back work and I come across something I don’t remember writing and I can look at it objectively and think, “Hey, if I read that in a book I’d think it was pretty good”

I cherish the moment when my first novel, One Too Many Blows To The Head which I co-wrote with JB Kohl, was published and I had it in my hand. You always remember your first time, I guess.

K&D: What was the moment that made you say, “Writing books is amazing”?

Eric: I haven’t had one yet. (I know all these answers are such let downs) I try not to think of writing as any great achievement. I don’t adhere to the notion that it is a torturous slog through the depths of the human soul. Nor do I think it is all that impressive to put seventy-five or a hundred thousand words down on paper. All you have to do is look at a library and see how many people have done it before to realize it’s not all that difficult. Too many people treat it like climbing Mount Everest.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it. I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t. We’d all do it for free, and most of us do. Storytelling is a noble profession, and one that is a deep part of the human experience. That sounds hoity-toity, but it’s true. And yes, I suppose I do find moments of amazement along the way. I just never want to elevate writing to such heights as some people do. It’s a craft like many others. It’s amazing in the same way a well-made table is amazing. Or eating a really great meal prepared by a talented chef.

K&D: Our standard Beatles or Rolling Stones question: Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett?

Eric: I’ll have to go Chandler, but for his short stories more than his novels. In both cases I prefer their shorts over the books. And it’s a razor thin line between the two. I like that Chandler is a little more seedy, a little less refined. And I still think I’d take Woolrich over either of them.

K&D: Parting thoughts?

Eric: I’m glad The Devil Doesn’t Want Me is the book that will introduce me to a whole new group of readers. I think it’s a good example of what I do best. It’s been great to hear that people are entertained by the bursts of action and violence, but they are hooked in my the surprising amount of heart and genuine emotion at the core of the book. I could write mayhem and carnage all day, but finding the human side to a story like this is the challenge.

And much the same way I’m honored to be alongside such greats as a part of Guilt Edged Mysteries, I’m humbled to be included in Crimespree. I wear my underrated badge with pride, but it is so nice to be included in the conversation along with so many writers I admire and respect. So thank you for having me.