>My friend John Floyd from Brandon, Mississippi has just published a second book of short stories, Midnight. You can buy it here. I met John at the first Mississippi Writers Guild Conference just over a year ago in Clinton, Mississippi where he critiqued one of my short stories, taught several workshops on various aspects of the craft of writing, and served on the faculty panel for the conference. My first blog interview with John is posted here.
John has agreed to another brief Q & A, so here goes:
Me: Congratulations on the publication of your second book of short stories, John!
Me: Since you chose Midnight as the title of your second volume, and it’s also the title of one of the stories, I’m assuming it’s your favorite? Or just a catchy book title?
John: It is in fact one of my favorites, because that particular story is set in the time and place where I grew up. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), nothing quite as exciting as those characters’ adventures happened to me in real life. As for the title itself, it’s only “catchy” in that it refers to something different from what you might at first think–and it also seemed appropriate for what is essentially a collection of mystery/suspense stories.
Me: You’ve admitted to being a big fan of Hitchcock. Did you watch his shows on TV growing up?
John: You bet I did. I still remember some of them, like the one where Peter Lorre challenged a young Steve McQueen to a terrifying wager, and one where Joseph Cotten (I think it was Joseph Cotten) was paralyzed in an accident and the doctors thought he was dead but he wasn’t . . . I could go on and on. Loved those shows. I’m humming the theme music right now . . .
Me: What mystery writers do you like?
John: Well, if you’re lenient with the term “mystery,” I like Lawrence Block, Martin Cruz Smith, Nelson DeMille, Marcus Sakey, Nevada Barr, Raymond Chandler, James Lee Burke, John Dunning, Greg Iles, John Sandford, Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker, Harlan Coben, Joe R. Lansdale, Janet Evanovich, Thomas Harris, and many others. My current favorites are probably DeMille, Sakey, and Coben.
Me: Your stories, at least in this new volume, are set all over the country. How much research do you do for each story? Are you a natural history buff?
John: I’d love to tell you I spend hours and hours researching every story, but that’s not true. I do a fair amount of study–maps, the library, the Internet–if the story is set in another time, or in a place I’ve not yet visited, or deals with an unfamiliar subject. But I would guess almost half my stories have taken place in the Deep South–a familiar setting, for me–and stories set elsewhere are usually in locations where I’ve been and spent some time. Besides, most of my fiction deals with ordinary people with ordinary lives who happen to find themselves in dangerous or difficult situations. Oddly enough, the stories that do require more research are often the ones that turn out to be the most fun to write. Am I history buff? Not really. I’m fond of stories about the Old West, but that’s probably because I grew up in the 50s and 60s, watching Gunsmoke and Maverick and Wagon Train.
Me: How on earth do you keep coming up with these plots? Are you always thinking about ideas for your stories, or only when you sit down to write? What are your writing habits?
John: I swear I don’t know how I keep coming up with plots. My wife says surely it’s only a matter of time till the idea well runs dry, but so far that’s not happened. Regarding your second question, I’m always dreaming up stories, whether I’m mowing the yard or driving to the post office or watching TV. My wife says sometimes we’ll be sitting at the supper table and my eyes will sort of glaze over and she’ll know I’m off in another world. She’s a patient and forgiving soul, by the way.
As for writing habits, I have no set schedule or regimen for writing. Many of my author friends do–they say they have to sit down to write at a certain time every day, and maybe even in a certain spot. That wouldn’t work for me. I write anytime I feel like it, which is most of the time. Not that I’m actually always putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard–I might just be dreaming up plots in my head. But a great many of my waking hours (sleeping hours too, possibly, I’m not sure) are occupied with characters and storylines.
Me: So, are you already at work on the next group of stories?
John: Believe it or not, I have thirty more stories already picked out for a third book, if my publisher chooses to do another at some point. But I’m always writing new ones as well–I have stories coming up this fall in both Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Woman’s World, and another in the current (June-September) issue of The Strand Magazine. No one should have this much fun!
Me: Thanks for taking time to visit with us today, John. Let me know if you’re ever signing books in Memphis!
John: The pleasure’s mine, Susan. Thank you again. I’ll certainly keep you posted–I signed at Borders in Germantown last year, and I hope to be back up there again soon.
John will be reading and signing at Lemuria Books in Jackson, Mississippi on October 8, so I’m hoping to coordinate that with another visit to my mother. His signing schedule is on the Dogwood Press web site, here.