What’s the deal with Andy Hayes?? (3 questions from Lori Rader-Day…)

I got to meet Lori Rader-Day at Magna Cum Murder mystery writers conference last fall, which was exciting enough. Even more thrilling, I’ll be appearing with her on April 19 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati as she promotes her wonderful new book, The Day I Died. Please mark your calendars for what should be a great event. (To quote Lori, “We are going to have some fun, promise.”) In the meantime, here’s a Q&A I did with her (reproduced below) about private eye Andy Hayes and The Hunt, which arrives in stores and e-book readers this month from Ohio University Press. And as long as you’re taking Sharpie to calendar, remember that the Ohioana Book Festival is this Saturday, April 8, in downtown Columbus. In addition, I’ll be talking mystery writing and signing books at Main Street Books in Mansfield on April 14…

My interview with Lori:

Andrew’s new book is The Hunt, featuring private investigator Andy Hayes. It’s out April 15, just in time for that refund from Uncle Sam. Here’s what Booklist had to say about The Hunt: “The author has crafted a fine procedural based on human trafficking, and it’s a pleasure to watch his PI, Columbus, Ohio–based Andy Hayes, go to work. …Welsh-Huggins has a way with language…[He] is an Associated Press reporter, and the urge to bring the news is an unkillable one.”

Not too shabby, Andrew.

Tell us a bit about The Hunt and how Andy has grown or changed over the series so far.

The Hunt opens with a man hiring Andy to find his sister, a prostitute who’s missing just as a serial killer is stalking human trafficking victims on the streets of Columbus, Ohio. Andy soon realizes he’s not the only one looking for the woman, and the search becomes a race against time as he tries to unravel why so many people have taken an interest in finding her, not to mention doing her harm.

Andy has changed as I’ve gotten to know more about him and added to his back story. I’ve previously established that he’s an ex-Ohio State quarterback with a lot of baggage, which happens when you blow your team’s shot at a national championship by going to jail the week before the Michigan game. Now we’re seeing more of his relationship with his parents and his two sons by two different ex-wives, as well as his ongoing efforts to have positive romantic encounters given a history of not treating women very well.

What do you and Columbus private investigator Andy Hayes have in common?

Hopefully not our approach to relationships! Andy has had a string of women in his life, whereas I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for almost 33 years. That said, he is my alter ego in many ways. We’re both skeptical (but not cynical), we both want answers to the questions we’re posing, we both have a snarky sense of humor, we both like to read nonfiction and work out, and we both have an aversion to guns. I would never recommend naming a series character after yourself, but in this case, probably because we do think alike at times, he just had to be an Andy. Fittingly, I suppose, that’s a nickname I never go by, just as he never goes by Andrew—unless his mom is really mad at him.

How did you come to crime fiction and who are your influences today?

 The short answer is three series of books I read as a child: Encyclopedia Brown by Donald Sobol, the Happy Hollister mysteries by Andrew Svenson (published by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which also published the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy series), and my mom’s Erle Stanley Gardner Perry Mason books, which I snuck off the top shelf beginning when I was about eight. Those books inspired a lifelong love of mysteries that continued through high school, college, and beyond. These days, I try never to miss new books from Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin and Laura Lippman as well as J.K. Rowling in her new guise as private eye novelist, to mention a very few. Going back in time, I was heavily influenced by Rex Stout (the Nero Wolfe mysteries), Robert B. Parker and Spenser, several of Stuart Kaminsky’s series and Ohio’s own Les Roberts, with his Milan Jacovich books set in Cleveland. If I had to describe where Andy Hayes comes from, I’d say he’s a combination of Nero Wolfe’s sidekick, Archie Goodwin (who, at least fictionally, was from Ohio), and Spenser, with a dollop of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee thrown in for good measure. Ultimately, though, I have to credit my mom, Mary Anne, and my late father, Richard, for raising me in a house full of books where reading was encouraged, and for always championing my dream of being a writer.

Has @kenyoncollege become Hogwarts?

When I attended Kenyon College, there were gray days when fog settled in that it was easy, walking past century-plus old buildings and even older trees, to imagine the place as a village someplace in Middle Earth. (Liberal arts major, remember.) Years later, adventures of English children at a boarding school for witches and wizards achieved a certain popularity and the comparison shifted, helped in no small part by the resemblance of Peirce Hall, Kenyon’s oddly spelled dining hall, to the equivalent at Hogwarts. It was still a comparison, however: sometimes, Kenyon seemed similar to J.K. Rowling’s magical world. It wasn’t until our daughter started there that I realized something had shifted. Kenyon wasn’t just like Hogwarts. It had become Hogwarts. Here’s why.

Now you see them…

I’ve just finished “The Magician’s Land,” the third book in Lev Grossman’s triology (after “The Magicians” and “The Magician King”) about a parallel world (or worlds) of magic and magicians existing alongside, or perhaps hidden within, the “real” world. Sound familiar? One of the things I’ve always admired about the series is that Grossman tackled it at the height of Harry Potter mania, with, at least on the surface, a similar conceit: students with magical abilities unbeknownst to themselves are tapped to attend a school for magic, in this case a college, Brakebills, hidden in upstate New York. Grossman combines this Hogwarts-like setting with adventures in Fillory, a Narnia-esque world written about in a series of children’s books that of course call to mind “The Chronicles of Narnia.” But this is no mere pastiche, and similarities with the lands created by J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis end abruptly. Grossman’s prose is sharp, profane and exquisitely descriptive: it’s as if Stephen King and Jonathan Franzen co-wrote the Narnia books. “God, but he loved doing magic,” says protagonist Quentin Coldwater, back at Brakebills at the beginning of “The Magician’s Land” after being expelled from Fillory. “He’d almost forgotten how satisfying it was, even the little things. Doing magic was like finally finding the words you’d been groping for your whole life.”

J.K. Rowling 2.0…

Loose lips sink ships, and these days Twitter makes sure the world knows who did the talking. That’s how we learned that Robert Galbraith, the author of a new mystery, The Cuckoo’s Calling, is actually J.K. Rowling. Yanking the veil off was worth it. It’s a good mystery, square in the private eye tradition, with a dark, time-spanning breadth that echoes P.D. James. I’ve always divided the Harry Potter series in two: the first three books, which are fantasies with hints of danger, followed by the last four, which are increasingly grim and complex. And also, way too long. The Casual Vacancy, Rowling’s first novel for “adults”, was also too long, but left the impression of a writer more than ready to fix her literary gifts on the complexities of modern England. The Cuckoo’s Calling has Potter-like complexities and plotting but is sharper and avoids some of Casual Vacancy’s excesses (chiefly all those parenthetical asides). J.K. Rowling, mystery writer? She said it herself in this interview: “Most of the Harry Potter books are ‘whodunits at heart.’ ”

 

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