Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is Len Boswell, and I’m a very young man, although my mirror claims I’m 74.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I am one of those rare people born in Washington, D.C., but I’m living in the mountains of West Virginia now.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I was born in a hospital that has since been torn down, grew up on a street that has since changed its name, in a house that has since changed its number. Everywhere around me, my life seems to be erasing itself.
Seriously, though, I’m a graduate of the University of Maryland, spent forty years in book and periodical publishing, and am now retired to the writing life with my wife, Ruth, and our two dogs, Shadow and Cinder.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
There’s a lot going on. First of all, my latest novel, A GRAVE MISUNDERSTANDING (A Simon Grave Mystery) has just been published by Black Rose Writing. Reviews have been pretty good. BestThrillers.com called it “a truly hilarious mystery.”
I’m also waiting to hear back from my agent on the first book in a new urban fantasy series that could run to five volumes. In the meantime, I’m about 20,000 words into a new Simon Grave mystery: GRAVEN IMAGES.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. I think the first piece I remember was a short story I wrote when I was eight, on the invention of bingo by bored cavemen.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think I’ve always thought that, but it wasn’t until recently that I received affirmation by an actual publisher.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was a work of creative nonfiction, The Leadership Secrets of Squirrels. I was a publishing executive at a voluntary health association that changed leadership styles about every six months, based on “new thinking” by consultants, usually delivered to us at an off-site workshop. On my drive home from one of these workshops, which featured a particularly bad consultant, I had to break to avoid a squirrel. In that moment, I thought, “I bet that squirrel knows more about leadership than that consultant.” By the next morning, I had thought of ten leadership secrets based on squirrel behavior. By the time I finished, there were more than sixty secrets. The book was not only fun to write, but it taught me how to actually write a book. And then it was on to novels.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
A GRAVE MISUNDERSTANDING is a play on words with the detective’s name, Simon Grave. The misunderstanding part comes from Grave’s loose interpretation of logic. He tends not to use it much, or at least not effectively, to solve crimes, which leads to more than a few misunderstandings, grave and otherwise.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I’m not sure I have a specific writing style. I change it up depending on the genre I’m working on. My fantasy writing style, for example, is lightyears away from my comic mystery style. My biggest challenge is staying within a genre. A GRAVE MISUNDERSTANDING, for example, is a near-future mystery wrapped in a little sci-fi. Yes, there are robots.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The book is as real as it can get for a book involving robots, but yes, certain situations and characters are based on events in my life. For example, one of the characters, Sergeant Barry Blunt, is so nondescript he is almost invisible.
A few years ago, I was walking through a nightclub with a friend of mine, who happens to be square-jawed handsome. I thought all the women we passed were smiling at me, but then it hit me: they’re smiling at my friend. They don’t even know I’m here. I’m completely invisible to them. And that’s how Barry Blunt was born.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
With this book, no, because it is set in a mythical town. My new fantasy, on the other hand, is set in London initially, and future books in the series will be based in Scotland, Tanzania, Iceland, and China, all spots I hope to visit if a publisher picks up the series. As it is, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in London, so the first book was not difficult to write.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The publisher designed the cover based on input from me. I identified several illustrations I thought would work, and they ended up using one of them.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The book is pure fun. The overall message is that life is like a tuna fish sandwich, but you’ll have to read it to find out why.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Strangely, the “new” author who has grabbed my attention is Charles Dickens. He’s one of the characters in my new fantasy, BARNUM’S ANGEL, as is one of his characters, Mr. Bucket, from BLEAK HOUSE, who is based on a real-life detective, Inspector Field of Scotland Yard. To get a sense of Field’s speech patterns, I had to read BLEAK HOUSE. It was a revelation. His sense of character is amazing.
My favorite writer at the moment is Cormac McCarthy, who has an elegantly simple writing style, particularly in THE ROAD.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I was a chemistry major in college, but took as many English courses as possible. One of my English professors pulled me aside and encouraged me to drop chemistry in favor of creative writing. I wish I had followed her advice, but I was only a semester away from graduating, so . . .
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I view it as a lost career finally found. I spent forty years on “the other side” of the publishing equation. Now that I’m retired, I can’t think of doing anything other than writing.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, not a thing.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
A GRAVE MISUNDERSTANDING is my third mystery, but you always learn something new with each book. I think with this book, I perfected how to plant the clues to support the ultimate outcome of the mystery.
And with my fantasy, BARNUM’S ANGEL, I learned that writing about history is hard. So many details. How would the people speak? How would they dress? What else was happening on that particular day in history? It took a lot of research.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
The lead, Simon Grave, requires an actor capable of looking like a completely befuddled idiot, and my choice for that would be George Clooney or maybe Ryan Gosling. Cary Grant could have pulled it off, too.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
I think every writer has to find his/her own path. The one piece of advice would be for them to have fun while they do it and not focus on whether their writing is ever going to be published. I can’t imagine doing anything else, and the words of John Barth have always kept me on the right path: “The key to the treasure IS the treasure.” It’s the writing, not the book.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Only to remember that it is a COMIC mystery and not your typical mystery. They should think of it as a comedy routine wrapped in the clothing of a mystery.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Nothing at the moment. I am one of those writers who doesn’t read when he is in the middle of writing a book. I am too much of a chameleon. If I’m reading Shakespeare, I start writing like Shakespeare, albeit an inferior imitation.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Wow, that goes back a ways, to 1948 or thereabouts. My guess would be FUN WITH DICK AND JANE.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Almost anything makes me laugh, and I’m a closet romantic, so any story where an underdog wins the day is sure to make me shed a tear.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Charlize Theron, but not for the obvious reasons. One of the robots in my forthcoming book, GRAVEN IMAGES, looks exactly like her. It would be good to see her up close and personal, so I could add nuance to my descriptions of her.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I’m a serial collector. I collected 30 vintage fedoras, for example, all the hats of dead men. And now I’m on to something else: knives.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
My favorites at the moment are PEOPLE OF EARTH and MR. MERCEDES, and I’m a sucker for subtitled Scandinavian mysteries and such.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Pizza and chocolate chip cookies: blue; alt rock, grunge, and punk.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
“Folgers Coffee.” It’s cremation for me, all the way.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
No, but you can find me on Facebook as Len Boswell and on Twitter as @simonsilverback
I’m pretty active on both.
And my book is available here: https://tinyurl.com/ya9f259d