A few thoughts on Writing Mysteries and Living in Columbus …

Check out my interview with David Weaver, executive director of the Ohioana Library, out today on CiTYpulse, and reproduced below in full. And don’t forget to mark your calendars for the Ohioana Book Festival on April 8 in downtown Columbus!

David: You’ve had a very successful career as a reporter for the Associated Press in Columbus, covering everything from politics to the drug trade. What made you decide to turn to fiction, and particularly mystery?
I’ve been a mystery fan my entire life, dating back to the day when I was eight years old and pulled one of my mom’s Erle Stanley Gardner Perry Mason paperbacks off the top shelf. It had always been a goal of mine to write some of my own. It just took a lot of living, including getting married and becoming a parent, moving several times and establishing myself professionally, to reach a point where I was ready.

David: How did Andy Hayes come in to being? Was there a particular book or writer that served as an inspiration?
I’ve always been attracted to the private eye novel, and as a younger man inhaled the works of Rex Stout, Robert B. Parker, Loren Estleman, Stuart Kaminsky and Ohio’s own Les Roberts, all of whom created iconic fictional private eyes. More recently, I’ve been delving into the classic trio of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, with some of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee thrown in for fun. I knew I wanted my private eye to follow in that tradition: the wounded warrior with the world on his shoulders, trying against the odds to do his best. Since I was writing about Columbus, there was no question my character’s backstory would involve Ohio State. That’s why I made him an ex-OSU quarterback who disgraced himself and his team his senior year, and now two decades later is still trying to live that episode down in-between his investigative adventures.

David: Has your training and experience as a journalist been a help in writing fiction?
The discipline of writing for a living has helped enormously: there’s no such thing as writer’s block when your family’s depending on you. I also rip many plotlines from my own headlines, since much of what I cover involves criminal justice. The types of writing, though, are very different; the analogy I use is that working for the AP is like running track, with constant sprinting and stopping and starting, whereas writing novels is like training for a marathon.

David: When you’re not busy working, what do you do to relax? If Andy Hayes was taking you and your wife out for a night on the town – or vice versa – where would you go?
We relax by bike riding, seeing movies or plays, listening to jazz at Brothers Drake or just having a night of Netflix. We love places like Land-Grant in Franklinton or the Thurber Bar downtown, and any food truck festival. If Andy was buying it would probably be beers and sauerkraut balls at the Hey Hey Bar & Grille on Whittier, which is fine by us.

David: You’ve appeared at many of the past Ohioana Book Festivals and will do so again on April 8. What do you enjoy about this event? And what’s in it for the young professionals who may be interested in attending?
Ohioana is special because of what ties it together: writers who make Ohio their home or write about it, or both. That, plus the diversity of authors and genres, from poetry to literary fiction to cooking to sports to mysteries and beyond. It’s a wonderful place to meet and greet authors, with all of us happy to talk to visitors about their own interests, personal and professional.

David: What advice would you give someone thinking about writing her first mystery novel?
The most important thing you can do is develop a strategy for how you’re going to write, and then focus on what you’re writing. In other words, first commit to writing daily at a specific time—before work, on your lunch hour, after the kids are in bed—and stick to it as closely as possible. This is especially important if you’re also working full-time, but it’s true regardless of your schedule. Once you’ve given yourself permission to write every day, then you can start focusing on your characters and plot.

David: Finally, you’ve written so much about Columbus. How long have you lived here? What do you like most about the city? And what, if anything, would you change?
I’ve been visiting Columbus since my wife, Pam, and I attended Kenyon College in the early 1980s. After living elsewhere for several years, we moved here permanently in 1998. We like the city’s vibrancy, cultural diversity, affordability and growing reputation as a cool American city as demonstrated by Columbus’ appearance on just about every Top 10 list you can think of, from food to fashion to music to sports. As Pam says, Columbus now is “the edge of the middle.” If I could change anything it would be to put light rail back on the table; add some more independent bookstores (Ann Arbor clobbers us in this regard, though The Book Loft in German Village is great and Gramercy Books in Bexley is a fantastic newcomer); and bring in another pro sports franchise: a WNBA team, anyone?

Meet Andrew Welsh-Huggins at the The 2017 Ohioana Book Festival, taking place Saturday, April 8, from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Sheraton Columbus at Capitol Square, 75 E. State St., in downtown Columbus. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.ohioana.org

What happens in Nashville . . . #mysteries #crimefiction #thrillers #killernashville

After spending much of your time alone in front of a screen–or typewriter, or pad of paper, or clay tablet, etc.–there’s a kid in the candy shop delight in attending writers’ conferences. Or is it more akin to parole? Either way, last weekend’s Killer Nashville conference (my first) was no exception. I heard presentations from novelists I admire, like William Kent Krueger and Janet Evanovich, got mistaken for thriller writer Kevin O’Brien multiple times–what an honor!–and met lots of like-minded people doing cool things, like fellow private eye author Elena Hartwell, who writes the Eddie Shoes series set in Bellingham, Washington. I introduced several folks to my series from Swallow Press about Columbus private eye Andy Hayes, and talked about a standalone thriller I’ve written–more on that soon. To steal a line from Hartwell: who knew murder could be so much fun? Next up: the Ohio Library Council convention in late September. Stay tuned for details . . .

My doppelganger?

Kevin O’Brien: my doppelganger?

With Elena Hartwell, August 2016

With Elena Hartwell on the “Blurring the Line Between Fact & Fiction” panel at Killer Nashville

Thank God It’s Monday! #mysteries #writing #crimefiction

Today’s TGIM kick-off-the-week quote comes from Shadows of Sin, a Jessie Drake mystery, by Rochelle Krich. We who are about to begin the work week salute you!

“In some ways police work was like fishing, Jessie thought. You cast several lines into the water, and then you waited. Sometimes you got a nibble but came up empty. Sometimes a piece of old tire or seaweed. Still, you waited. Sometimes you’d land a small fish–not enough to make you happy, but a sign that there were bigger fish in the seas. So you’d wait again, because sometimes you reeled in the big one, and sometimes he got away.”

How a pack of hyenas inspired a mystery series. . . #fridayinterview #crimefiction @crifilover @detectivekubu

“Of course, sometimes we do have disagreements. The most serious are usually over a word or two; we both know what we want the sentence to mean, but each of us has a slightly different formulation that he thinks is better. We call these ‘heated agreements’. Eventually if we really can’t agree, the one who wrote it first keeps his version, and we say we’ll leave it to the editor. Our editors have never changed one of these sentences!” That’s Michael Stanley, AKA Stanley Trollip and Michael Seers, the writing team behind Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Police mystery series, talking to Crime Fiction Lover, and it’s this week’s #fridayinterview



Just toying around? Judge didn’t think so . . . #weirdwednesday #mysteries #crimefiction

Bliss was it in that dawn to come around to another #Weirdwednesday. But to do so on June 1 was very heaven. This tawdry tale out of Pittsburgh involves a bank robbery committed to recoup money meant for a honeymoon. Our story also includes a fake bomb with a component that might better have been saved for the night of the wedding  . . .


Thank God It’s Tuesday (this week’s Monday)! #tgim #mysteries #writing #crimefiction @edgarawards

Today’s TGITTWM kick-off-the-week quote comes from Lillian de la Torre, the late historical mystery writer, from a 1974 essay reprinted in the Edgar Awards annual magazine following this year’s 70th anniversary ceremony. In it, de la Torre describes the attributes of a successful true-crime book . . .

“I don’t forget that shibboleth of today, ‘relevance,’ but I don’t confuse timeliness with relevance. I think that any book is relevant which lays bare the well-springs of the human soul, as a competent study of a crime, whenever it happened, must do.”

From the Crypt to the Cupola–the May 21, 2016 “Capitol Punishment” Statehouse Tour

With poster created by Statehouse gift shop

Book display (with Ohio wines) at Statehouse gift shop

Reading from “Capitol Punishment” in the Atrium at the Ohio Statehouse

With my cousin, Amanda, at the book signing table in the Statehouse map room

Chatting with Gillian Berchowitz, director of Ohio University Press

Chatting with Gillian Berchowitz, director of Ohio University Press