Name Dave Zeltserman
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
A bunch of stuff. My crime thriller, Outsourced was recently reviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air, where among other things they called it “a dark gem of a story…a macabre delight to read”. My last book, A Killer’s Essence, was released last October, and I’ve since signed a film deal for it with Braven Films. I’ve also heard from the producers working on the film based on my novel, Outsourced, that they are expecting to go into production soon. And finally, my next novel, ‘Monster: A Novel of Frankenstein’ will be released Aug. 2nd by Overlook Press.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing short stories when I was a teenager, and it was something I was always drawn to.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I sold ‘Small Crimes’ to Serpent’s Tail in 2006. I had previously sold short stories to magazines, including Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and my first novel to an Italian publisher, but Serpent’s Tail is one of the pickiest and most prestigious publishers of crime fiction, and to break in with them was really quite something. Small Crimes ended up being picked by National Public Radio as one of the best 5 crime and mystery novels of 2008, and also by the Washington Post as one of the best books of the year.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was Fast Lane, which was first sold to an Italian publisher, and later made its way to a small US publisher. Fast Lane started off as a Ross Macdonald-like PI novel, then I discovered Jim Thompson and his great psycho noir novels, and I saw a different way of writing it. The initial inspiration for Fast Lane was listening to a PI on a radio talk show talking about how badly a case went when a young girl hired him to find her birth parents.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My writing tends to be sparse, with lots of twists, and strong endings.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title for Small Crimes?
That title seemed like a perfect for the novel, which is a crime noir thriller showing how small sins and lesser crimes can lead to a downward path where there’s no chance of rescue.
Fiona: Is there a message in Small Crimes that you want readers to grasp?
At it’s core it’s a very moralistic tale, and in some ways it’s about how a person’s inability to accept responsibility can cause severe damage to himself and to society.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Well, no matter what you write, it should feel realistic, right? But it’s all fiction, all stuff that exists only in my head, although Small Crimes was inspired by two different true crime stories.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life in any of your books?
Pariah is based loosely on the South Boston mobster, Whitey Bulger, but I never met the man. Killer is also based loosely on the notorious Boston hitman, John Martarano, but I never met him either. The only book of mine that is remotely autobiographical is my bank heist book, Outsource, which has a group of out-of-work software engineers coming up with what they think is a perfect plan to rob a bank. I had spent over twenty years working as a software engineer, and the characters in this book will seem very real to anyone who ever worked in an office, and especially to any fellow software engineers.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Influenced my life? That’s a tough question. I’ve read thousands, and I’m sure some of them have an subtle influences on the way I think and perceive life. In a way, Jim Thompson’s noir novels had the largest influence, because that’s what convinced me I could write, and led me down this path.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Reading Jim Thompson’s crime noir novels helped me the most in finding my voice in that they opened my eyes to different ways of writing crime fiction, and also showed me that you can break any rule as long as you can make it work. But Dashiell Hammett made me want to write crime fiction more than any other writer.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’ve been going through Richard Stark’s Parker books, and right now I’m in the middle of The Green Eagle Score.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
A few terrific writers I’ve discovered recently are Paul Tremblay, Roger Smith and Nic Pizzolatto. These are some of the best new thriller, horror and crime writers out there.
Fiona: What about your next book, Monster?
This is a retelling of Frankenstein, and is a book I’m very excited about, as is my publisher. The premise of the book is what if everything Victor Frankenstein related to Captain Walton were lies that told to protect his name and reputation, and that instead of creating the monster out of a misguided youthful obsession, that he had far more sinister reasons. That in this true telling, the monster is a heroic and tragic figure, while Victor Frankenstein is in league with the Marquis de Sade to bring hell to earth.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My editors, my publishers, my readers, the critics who’ve fallen in love with my books. Several very generous writers at the beginning when I was struggling to break in, including Ken Bruen, Ed Gorman, Steve Hamilton, Vicki Hendricks and Bill Crider.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’m trying. I’ve gotten tremendous critical acclaim from NPR and major newspapers from around the world, and I’ve now got two books under film option, and I’m close to a 3rd film deal. I’m getting closer everyday to making this a career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book,
Not a thing. Actually there’s little I’d change in any of my books, except maybe smooth out some of the writing in my first book, Fast Lane. But I’m mostly a perfectionist, and I only turn my books over to my publishers when I’m completely happy with them, and because of that there’s only been minor editing done with any of them.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
This was something I always had. Even as a kid I was drawn to writing short stories.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’m currently working on a series of heist novellas with a very similar feel as Stark’s Parker books. I just think novellas are the perfect size for Kindle reading, and while my publishers publish my print books, I’d like to put these out myself.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The business side of things. That’s it. The writing side is fun as hell.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Dashiell Hammett. For the most part he invented the crime genre, and he’s the best there ever was at it. I love his sparse writing, his characters, and the way his plots flows.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Occasionally. I’m getting published quite a bit in foreign markets, and am hoping for some festivals and other trips to these markets, especially Italy.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Whoever my publisher hires. I’ve had 13 books professionally published, and with those I’ve had little control over the covers. I’ve put out 2 ebooks on my own, and a friend, Laurie Pzena, did the cover for my Julius Katz and Archie novel, as well as for Julius Katz Mysteries, which is a reprint of two award-winning Julius Katz stories. I’ve hired Jeroen Ten Berge to design the covers for my upcoming novella series.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your books?
Nothing. Seriously, the best part of my life is when I’m writing.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book Small Crimes and what was it?
Small Crimes was one of my earlier books, and my original version was very much in your face noir. My early feedback was from noir lovers, and they mostly fell in love with the book. But when I showed it to more general readers, it was too much for them—and I learned then that I needed to be more conscious of writing my books to appeal to larger audiences, and I used that feedback to make Small Crimes more accessible to a larger group of crime fiction readers.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Hell if I know what to say. E-books have changed everything as far as marketing and selling your books, as well as author expectations. I’m learning my way as everyone else in this new landscape.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Because of my Julius Katz stories and novel, I feel the need to warn readers that my writing covers a wide spectrum from light and comical (Julius Katz) to intensely dark and violent (Pariah), and every shade in between. So read my book descriptions and review blurbs carefully.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done ?
I worked as a software engineer for 20 years. If I didn’t do software engineering, maybe I’d open up a martial arts studio.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? if so what is it?