Born in Levittown, Long Island, the birthplace of mass-produced housing, Michael Simon is a former actor, playwright, and Texas probation officer. He has taught at Brooklyn College and New York University.In 2004, Viking published his first novel, Dirty Sally, which introduced Dan Reles, a half-Jewish, New York Mafia-born Texas homicide detective. Dirty Sally was lauded by The Chicago Tribune as “A bloody and intriguing delight for noir aficionados.” The Seattle Times called it “the finest crime-novel debut since Dennis Lehane’s A Drink Before the War in 1994.” It was named one of the Top Ten Thrillers and Mysteries of the Year by Amazon.com.
In 2005, the second book in Simon’s Texas series, Body Scissors, was published, also to critical acclaim. The Rocky Mountain News called it, “Fast paced and suspenseful from start to finish.” Viking signed on for two more Dan Reles thrillers, Little Faith (2006) and Last Jew Standing (2007). To date, Simon’s works have appeared in Swedish, French, Italian, Japanese, and on audio tape.
Welcome to Paperback Writer
Glad to be here.
Can you tell us about a little about the character of Lieutenant Dan Reles?
Dan was raised in Elmira, New York, in the shadow of a major prison. His father was an ex-boxer turned mob flunky, and his mother was a slumming “glamour gal” who thought she was marrying a major mob player until she saw his apartment. Dan’s mother coddled him until the day Dan’s father came home from prison when Dan was ten, then called a cab and disappeared forever, leaving Dan in the hands of his father, a stranger to him. When Dan was fifteen, they fled the mob and landed in Austin, Texas, where Dan grew up and eventually joined the police force. He blames his father and himself for his mother’s leaving. And as a New Yorker and a half-Jew, he lives in Texas as a perpetual immigrant.
Do you have a process for developing your characters?
It varies. I based Dan’s supervisor on a colleague of mine from the probation office in Austin. I knew Dan needed a love interest. She was originally based on a female friend of mine, but the character, named Caitlin, was too likeable and there was no antagonism, no heat, between her and Dan. So I created Rachel, who would have what Caitlin lacked, including a chip on her shoulder.In other cases, I took one quality of someone I knew, or in other cases, I took a famous actor’s appearance, and built the character around it. Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it? I always outline. This allows me to make as many mistakes as possible and catch them before I begin drafting.
Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?
I know there has to be a solution to each story line. If there’s a murder, I know the murder will be resolved, though the killer may not be caught. I have a hint of how each plot will end, maybe more than a hint, and I learn more as I outline. It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be? Dan has elements of me, but it’s easier to point out the differences. He’s large, tough and humorless. The idea is not to let one character be too much of you or of anyone you know. In that case you’re likely to leave out crucial elements of character.
What is your most favorite part about this book?
I like that Dan’s father comes back after an absence of twenty years and they go on an adventure together. They start as strangers. It’s a fascinating arc to me.
When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?
In this case, the book had been sold to a publisher long before I wrote it, as the fourth book in a series.
What struggles have you had on the road to being published?
The hardest part was writing a book worthy of a publisher’s attention. I wrote a total of 18 drafts of my first book, each time handing one over to some writer or editor friend and hoping for useful feedback. I got tons of feedback, useful and otherwise, but eventually sifted through that for a plan as to how to proceed. The earlier revisions were radical, often involving me cutting and replacing hundreds of pages. After that, finding an agent and letting him submit the book was a breeze.
What has been the best part about being published?
I enjoy being able to tell people about it, and I enjoy their response. But the best part is knowing that the books will be around long after I’m gone. They’re launched into the universe and nothing can take that back.
What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?
Dan struggles to make a good life for himself and his new family (his wife and son) until his old family (his father) threatens all that. That he goes on a journey that takes him through his past and helps him make sense out of his life, gives me a sense of joy, something I hope to pass on to readers.
Do you have plans to write another book?
Yes, but I have several outlines. I’m not sure what’s going to be next. I can only say that after ten years with one character, I’m not leaping into another author/hero “relationship” too quickly. Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been for you?It’s been great fun. I hope it helps me reach a vast audience.
Where can readers find a copy of your book?
Do you have a website for readers to go to?
http://www.michaelsimon.infoYou can read excerpts, see reviews, and write to me.
Thank you, Michael for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure and I wish you success with the rest of your virtual book tour.
It’s been my pleasure.