About the author: Best known for his work in mysteries, Hy was one of the original writers for the groundbreaking series, Monk. He worked on the show for all eight seasons, the final two as Co-Executive Producer, and received three Edgar Nominations from the Mystery Writers of America for “Best TV Episode.” In a related project, Hy was Executive Producer and head writer of Little Monk, a series of short films featuring Adrian Monk as a ten-year-old. His latest TV work was as writer and Consulting Producer for White Collar.
Hy is also the author of hundreds of short stories and ten books of short whodunits, which have been sold around the world in fourteen languages. Hy’s first full-length comedy/mystery play, Home Exchange, premiered at the Waterfront Playhouse in Key West in May 2012. He recently authored a humor book called Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know. Visit the author's website right here.
You can read my review of Rally 'Round the Corpse. It's a pretty great book, you can buy it here.
And, I hope you read and enjoy this interview as much as I did!
Thank you, Hy, for this great interview.
1. What inspired you to write Rally ‘Round the Corpse? What led you to the idea of the Abel Adventures Mystery series? (Also, how long can we expect the series to be?)
Hy: A lot of my early mysteries were created for platforms and electronic devices that no longer exist, including Clue VCR, a popular game back in the mid-80s.
When the Internet came around, no one knew what kind of content would be successful. I was asked by Prodigy (an early version of AOL) to write a mystery serial with a different chapter every day and a different mystery every month. The result was “Abel Adventures”, with Tom Abel, a character similar to Amy Abel, who led adventure tours around the world. This idea always stayed with me, even though the original stories have been lost to time – and a few computer crashes.
I’m on my way to finishing book two in the series, “If I Die Before the Wake”. I would love to continue the concept. But of course it all depends on the popularity of the first two.
2. Which are your most memorable writing experiences? On the other hand, what is your worst experience as a writer?
Hy: One of my favorite experiences, writing or not, was my time spent on “Monk”. To be with great, funny writers every day and churning out a hit TV show… There’s nothing better.
My least favorite was when a network, which shall remain nameless, hired me to turn one of their teenage sitcoms into a TV movie. Their style was to ignore all my sincere requests for feedback and then suddenly micromanage. “No, that’s not what we wanted. What made you think that?” I quit, the only time I quit a job, and went to work for “White Collar” instead.
Later I heard from the writer who took my place. He was put through hell for over a year before it finally got filmed.
3. Do you have any advice for budding writers, any “five things to remember” when writing a mystery? What is the biggest mistake, according to you, that a mystery writer could make?
Hy: Okay. Five quick rules.
- Pay attention to logic. Mystery fans want it to all make sense.
- Action isn’t as important in a book as it is in a movie, e.g. don’t spend ten pages describing a fight or a car chase.
- Don’t be afraid of atmosphere. There’s a reason why Swedish mysteries are popular.
- Give your characters different voices. They shouldn’t all talk like you.
- As Elmore Leonard said, “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” How did Cary Grant get off Mount Rushmore at the end of “North by Northwest”? We don’t know and we don’t care.
The biggest mistake of new writers is to create a detailed outline before starting. If your story has good bones to begin with, it will tell you where to go next.
4. Having written mysteries for a long time, how do you think the genre has evolved over the years?
Hy: I think the best mysteries are a lot better than they used to be, with great characters and great atmosphere. The detectives are darker and the crimes more imaginative and gruesome. With the exception of cozies, it takes itself much more seriously than it used to.
On the other hand, the worst mysteries are a lot worse. With the advent of self-publishing and e-publishing, anyone with a murderous thought has a book out there, competing for the same eyeballs and wallets. Remember, a free e-book is not free. You pay for it with wasted hours and annoyance.
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