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

Good Roots, Great Festival: It’s almost @ohioana time

The first Ohioana Book Festival was built around one book, Good Roots: Writers Reflect On Growing Up In Ohio, published by Ohio University Press, which also publishes my mystery series. The festival holds its 10th outing Saturday, having grown from ten authors to more than 120, and from 600 attendees to nearly 3,500. Join me and many other authors for this FREE daylong event at the downtown Sheraton Columbus at Capitol Square beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday. I’ll be easy to find: I’m at Table No. 1. Also, stop by our panel, Mystery, Thrills, and Suspense I, at 10:15 a.m. in the Legislative Room. Hope to see you there!

In the meantime, from the introduction to Good Roots by Lisa Watts:

“It’s a rich literary tradition, but it’s a quiet one. Ohioans aren’t much for blowing their own horns. We suffer a low-level inferiority complex, caught in the middle as we are–Ohio isn’t quiet east enough to be East Coast, north enough to fit in with Michigan, south enough to be genteel, or west enough to be the true heartland. We know that Ohio doesn’t show up on many lists for top 10 vacation spots. We’re well aware that most people living on either coast couldn’t pick our state out from Iowa or Wisconsin. And we’re all too familiar with gray clouds hanging over the northern half of our little piece of the Midwest from November until April…”

A mystery in the Ohio Statehouse? Capital idea. Even better? “Capitol Punishment” is out TODAY from @ohiounivpress #mysteries

“I think there is only one thing in the world I can’t understand, and that is Ohio politics.” So spake Teddy Roosevelt, and it appears to be as true today as a century ago. The comment is also a central theme in Capitol Punishment, the third in my Andy Hayes private eye series, whose official publication date is today! The book revolves around a murder in the Ohio Statehouse during a presidential election year with all eyes on the perennial swing state. What a bargain: you can pay your taxes by midnight, then read a mystery about the people who levy those charming obligations. Want to know more about mystery writing, murder and maybe even taxes? Stop by one of the upcoming events associated with the series and the new book . . .

_ Westerville Library, April 21, 7 to 8:30 p.m. I’ll be appearing with fellow Columbus mystery writer Yolonda Tonette Sanders to talk about the process of writing mysteries.

_ Ohioana Book Festival, April 23, Sheraton Columbus on Capitol Square, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Stop by Table 1 to see me, and don’t miss the “Mystery, Thrills, and Suspense” panel at I0:15 a.m. in Legislative Room B (is that perfect for Capitol Punishment or what?) where I’ll discuss mystery writing along with Dan Andriacco, Shelley Costa, Yolonda Tonette Sanders and Sam Thomas.

_ Statehouse tour, May 21, 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., beginning in the Statehouse map room. A tour of sites in the Statehouse that play a role in Capitol Punishment, followed by a signing at the museum shop.

It’s no joke–“Capitol Punishment” is out THIS month from @ohiounivpress #mysteries #crimefiction #andyhayes

I’ve attempted some so-so April Fool’s jokes in my day, such as purporting that our very male and very fixed dog Mikey had puppies, which I’m proud to say fooled a couple of people for a couple of seconds. I’ve also witnessed some amazing pranks, like the time a college classmate called home from London (this was 1984, when that meant something) and told his father he’d been arrested for smoking marijuana. I’m pretty sure his father forgave him eventually.

But this is no trick: the official release date of Capitol Punishment, the third in my Andy Hayes private eye series, is this month, on April 15. Here’s some of my upcoming events associated with the series and the new book:

_ Westerville Library, April 21, 7 to 8:30 p.m., appearing with fellow Columbus mystery writer Yolonda Tonette Sanders to talk about the process of writing mysteries.

_ Ohioana Book Festival, April 23, Sheraton Columbus on Capitol Square, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This is a must visit event for book lovers with dozens of authors available for conversation and book signings. Added bonus: in addition to being the day we celebrate Shakespeare’s birth, it’s also Sant Jordi day in Catalonia, when lovers traditionally give each other books and roses.

_ Statehouse tour, May 21, 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., beginning in the Statehouse map room. A tour of sites in the Statehouse that play a role in Capitol Punishment, followed by a signing at the museum shop. More details soon!


Shakespeare, St. George and the @Ohioana book festival . . .

Excited to be included in this year’s line-up of authors at the Ohioana Book Festival, at the downtown Columbus Sheraton on April 23 beginning at 10 a.m. A book festival on the date that we remember both Shakespeare’s birth and death is always a great idea, but this year there’s an even better twist. That’s also the feast day of St. George, or as it’s known in Catalonia, La Diada de Sant Jordi, when it’s traditional to give a rose and a book to a loved one.