INVESTIGATIVE INTERVIEW WITH A TRUE INVESTIGATOR.
Author: WAYNE ZURL
Wayne is a real life police investigator turned author. If you like to read Mystery this is the Author you SHOULD read!
I like to use the cases I investigated or supervised as a basis for my stories, but most true crime needs embellishment to make a good marketable story.
Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.
Fifteen (15) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. Ten (10) of these novelettes are now available in print under the titles of A MURDER IN KNOXVILLE and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries and REENACTING A MURDER and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries. Zurl’s first full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards, chosen as 1st Runner-Up from all Commercial Fiction at the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Awards, and was a finalist for a Montaigne Medal and First Horizon Book Award. His other novels are: A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT and HEROES & LOVERS.
I hooked up with Wayne through our mutual association with our publisher. I was excited that he wanted me to do an interview with me. Here is our interview:
Q: Looks like you have been a very productive author since 2006. Is that when you began writing?
In 2006, I started writing fiction, but it took me until January of 2011 to get my first full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, published. In 2009, I struck up a business agreement with Mind Wings Audio who produce novelettes as audio books and simultaneously published them as eBooks. So far they’ve bought fifteen Sam Jenkins mysteries from me.
Prior to 2006, I’d been writing non-fiction magazine articles dealing with colonial American history and the fiction of James Fenimore Cooper. I got lucky and had twenty-six of those published in ten years.
Q: Do you consider writing an enjoyable hobby or a desire to essentially write your memoirs or do you want the whole dream – being a popular bestselling author?
When I ran out of steam with the non-fiction, I looked at fiction as a creative outlet, and with the misconception that getting a good novel published would be as easy as getting a magazine article accepted.
In the beginning, I thought I’d be content just to create a novel or two for my own enjoyment. Now, after a smidgeon of success, I’d love to become a household word. But realistically, I don’t have the backing or the marketing skills to make that happen.
Note: to any of you Agents, Publishers and Marketing people. What do you think?
Q: I have to admit, as an author, I love to hear back from readers. What kind of feedback have you received? Anything in particular that you really liked?
I have a pretty large ego, so positive feedback is a great stimulant. I love to hear readers or reviewers praise my protagonist. Some call him a smartass or that “he has a wise-cracking style akin to Philip Marlowe.” I take those comments as compliments. Others really make me happy when they say they laughed out loud at some of his humor. And it’s great to hear the ladies say he’s lovable, but the best compliment comes from those who mention his honesty and integrity.
In addition to all the mental massage, I love to hear from those readers who zero in on my intended message(s) or point of a story or book. That makes me think I did something right.
Q: I can see that you write about what you know (great advice to any author). How much of your own experiences did you put into your stories?
I like to use the cases I investigated or supervised as a basis for my stories, but most true crime needs embellishment to make a good marketable story. So, they’re really not memoirs or autobiographical sketches. I use the basic storylines for almost all of my work. Most often one incident isn’t enough to make good fiction. So, I composite two or more, or just toss in interesting or humorous vignettes at some opportune spots. In HEROES & LOVERS, for instance, I used am true anecdote about delivering a baby that might have made a good short story, but it worked better to break up a long stretch of investigation by putting Sam Jenkins and another cop in the right place at the right time to observe something that ultimately furthers their main focus solution and the story.
Letting Sam speak as I would, helps me write realistic dialogue. With all my characters, I try and envision real people talking to duplicate their delivery and get unique voices for each character.
Q: You seem like someone who lived your stories. How important do you feel that is for an author?
It depends on how vivid the writer’s imagination is. For someone like me who has more of a memory than an imagination, it’s very important. I’m not void of creative thinking, but I freely admit I couldn’t write about something very far from my personal experience. I’d be lost with sci-fi or anything within the current paranormal-vampire-zombie crazes. That shortcoming might limit me to cop fiction or a military drama, although I think I could pull off a western. I started a novel about the Vietnam War once, but after five chapters I saw that the language was so flagrant (atrocious, actually) that I wouldn’t want my mother to read it.
Now that I have more experience with creative writing, I’ve done a few things based on recent events that I wanted to capitalize on—sort of how the writers from LAW & ORDER produced scripts “ripped from the headlines.”
Q: Do you find yourself in any of the characters in your stories.
Sure. Sam Jenkins and I share many similarities and personal history. My wife says he must have joined the Army on the same day and years later, sat next to me in the police academy. I say, Sam’s wife, Kate, isn’t too different from my Barbara.
Q: Do you write every day?
That’s not logistically or inspirationally possible. I don’t have a real job any longer, but living on five acres in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains means there are plenty of chores to be done. Cranking out a few novelettes and at least one novel a year creates a need for lots of post-publication promoting and marketing which, because I’m only a step above computer illiterate, takes me much longer than the average eleven-year-old. And we like to travel. Our vacations never involve relaxing under a beach umbrella, so writing while we’re away has never worked.
When the inspiration strikes me, I sort of hideaway and write until the ideas fade or I need a break.
Q: What do you have coming out in the near future?
Three new novelettes are under contract and on the coming soon list at Mind Wings. They’re called: GYPSIES, TRAMPS & THIEVES; HEAVEN’S GATE; and NOTHING FITZ. And I’ve just signed a contract and sent the manuscript of a fourth novel to my editor. I hope my proposed dust jacket summary for PIGEON RIVER BLUES will give you the basic idea of that story.
Q: Can you give us brief summary of it?
Winter in the Smokies can be a tranquil time of year—unless Sam Jenkins sticks his thumb into the sweet potato pie.
The retired New York detective turned Tennessee police chief is minding his own business one quiet day in February when Mayor Ronnie Shields asks him to act as a bodyguard for a famous country and western star.
C.J. Profitt’s return to her hometown of Prospect receives lots of publicity . . . and threats from a rightwing group calling themselves The Coalition for American Family Values.
The beautiful, publicity seeking Ms. Proffit never fails to capitalize on her abrasive personality by flaunting her alternative lifestyle—a way of living the Coalition hates.
Reluctantly, Jenkins accepts the assignment of keeping C.J. safe while she performs at a charity benefit. But Sam’s job becomes more difficult when the object of his protection refuses to cooperate.
During this misadventure, Sam hires a down-on-his-luck ex-New York detective and finds himself thrown back in time, meeting old Army acquaintances who factor into a complicated plot of attempted murder, the destruction of a Dollywood music hall, and other general insurrection on the “peaceful side of the Smokies.”
And in my spare time, I’ll be working on my final revisions for a novel called A TOUCH OF MORNING CALM, a story about Korean organized crime in east Tennessee, and two new novelettes.
Q: Do you have a particular system you like to follow with your writing, terms of plotting your work and following guidelines?
For a guy who spent more than twenty years concurrently working in military or para-military organizations, I’m a fairly undisciplined and unstructured writer. When I get an idea I just grab a pad and pen and run with the idea. Outlining feels too much like work. I guess my rough draft is a form of outline. I pay a lot of attention to continuity and plausibility when I revise anything and always go back and ad all the little descriptions and the “flashing out” that keeps a story alive.
Q: As an author how do you promote yourself and your work? I.e. how can readers find you?
By necessity, I do many of the electronic media things to promote me and my books. I’ve tried to find a happy medium between non-involvement and being an annoying spammer. I might post my ‘advertisements’ once or twice a week and keep my face shown with other more passive promotions whenever possible. Here’s a menu of links where someone bopping around the Internet can find me:
Author website: http://www.waynezurlbooks.net
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/waynezurl
B&N author page: http://barnesandnoble.com/s/wayne-zurl
Mind Wings Audio author page: http://mindwingsaudio.com/?s=wayne+zurl
Most recent novel, HEROES & LOVERS
Barnes & Noble direct link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/heroes-and-lovers-wayne-zurl/1111849688?ean=978098513889 http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Heroes-Lovers/Wayne-Zurl/9780985138899?id=55137888500979
Books-A-Million direct link: http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Heroes-Lovers/Wayne-Zurl/9780985138899?id=5513788850097
Q: How do you feel about the whole Social Media boom? Is it something you engage in?
When we first bought a PC in 2002, it was the first computer I worked on since they stood seven-feet-tall. I attended classes to learn the basics, but still found myself dangerously close to throwing that sucker from our second floor window more than a few times. I’m not crazy about social media and probably wouldn’t engage in things like Facebook were it not for my writing. But because of the books, I do show my face in an electronic fashion.
Q: I have to admit I haven’t read your novels. What can you tell me (and the public) to get me excited about reading you novels/novelettes?
If you’re a fan of the over-the-top, improbable fantasy police work novel easily found in any book store, you may want to look elsewhere for your literary enjoyment. But if you’d like to experience what it might be like to ride along in a patrol car on a busy four-to-twelve tour or get called out at one in the morning to investigate a suspicious death, read something about ex-New York Detective Sam Jenkins, who now finds himself the police chief for a small city in east Tennessee.
I’m a pain in the neck when it comes to authentic procedure and the detail that would make a cop or ex-cop say these books/stories are the real deal.
I’ve felt the emotion, the lack of emotion, (by necessity) the frustration, excitement, satisfaction, and humor that fills a cop’s day.
I can talk you through a shootout from the moment you align your sights on a human target until the shot goes off. Then I’ll jumble your mind with the myriad things necessary after the gun confrontations and up until you sit before a grand jury hoping they agree that your use of deadly force was necessary and justified.
Give one of my stories a try. eBook prices start at only ninety-nine cents.
Thanks a lot Wayne.
Thank you, Jim, for inviting me to your blog to meet your fans and followers. And thanks for taking so much of your time to structure these questions specifically for me. Not many interviewers do that.
For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see www.waynezurlbooks.net. You can read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and see photos of the area where the stories take place.