If you follow this blog you know that every now and then I am honored and excited to host guest bloggers who are gracious enough to answer my (often bizarre) questions. Today my guest is Rob Brunet, the author of the non-supernatural mystery Stinking Rich. Rob is from Canada, he’s pretty much the nicest guy there (which is saying something), and his work reminds me of Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry’s fiction, although I didn’t clear that comparison with him so no one tell him I said that.
1. You have some hilariously creative names in “Stinking Rich” –”Perko Ratwick” was a particular favorite. Tell me about how these names came about.
When your novel lampoons bikers, BONUS! You get to name them. Perko Ratwick was pure inspiration. I liked the way it sounded—like a striver, but one who’d regularly be foiled. Ratwick actually grew out of a nickname we had for a teenage friend, Ratbags. The name connected to his own in no discernible way. I never knew where it came from and I’m fairly certain I never called David—his real name—anything else. You didn’t even think about it. A nickname just stuck, and you used it. Like Marty “Mongoose” Muldoon and Jersey “Hawk” Hawkins, both of whom go by their nicknames through the whole novel. Ironically, Danny, the protagonist, was originally meant as a placeholder. But when I went to rebaptize him in rewrite, I found I couldn’t. He’d become Danny to me, and no other name felt right.
2. Les Edgerton called “Stinking Rich” “one of the wildest romps you’ll ever go on.” He’s kind of a big deal. How did that quote happen?
I first got to know Les through his blog, reading his posts a few years ago. His voice resonated and I picked up Just Like That. When I posted a review, Les offered me a copy of The Bitch, and I ate it up. We corresponded a handful of times and he was generous with his time, attention, and introductions. In 2013, he saw me read a piece on Youtube. He caught me crying at the end of it, and asked me at Bouchercon if it was a true story. It isn’t, as it turns out, but “The Hunt”, which I eventually sold to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, still mists me up no matter how many times I read it—and I wrote the damn thing.
When I sold Stinking Rich to Down & Out Books at Bouchercon, I only knew a handful of people to ask for blurbs. Les was kind enough to offer one, as did Todd Robinson of Thuglit and Owen Laukkanen. Pretty quick, I learned just how big-hearted the people in this industry can be.
3. The featured pet in “Stinking Rich” is an iguana who inadvertently gets high while his owner smokes pot. Is a stoned iguana funnier than a stoned tortoise? Stoned kitten? Why or why not?
I’m not entirely sure Iggy ever got high. Couldn’t I get in trouble with the animal rights issue people if that were the case? Besides, given his naturally reptilian passivity, how could we even tell if he was high? As for cats, turtles, dogs, or pet ferrets, I dunno. I think their natural states are kinda in the clouds, aren’t they? For what it’s worth, when I had a cat, we always kept catnip in the house. It only seemed fair.
4. We both have connections to TV—I had a very brief career at NBC-Universal and WB, and you used to produce web content that supported major network programs. Would you ever go back? Do you miss it?
I ran a Web boutique for about twenty years, and the work we did for LA studios came about as a result of a former employee moving there and hiring us to build custom Web solutions. We had a good run, some of the most fun we had as a company. I’d like my next foray into film and TV to be on the creative end—screenwriting—rather than marketing. It’s not so much a been-there-done-that thing. More that-was-then-this-is-now.
5. I’ve only written long fiction until last spring, when I had my first short story, but you’re going in the other direction, at least in terms of publication. Which came first, the stories or the novel? Which format do you prefer?
I wrote stories like a hundred years ago and actually got a handful published in my youth, most notably a dystopic sci-fi piece for an environmental magazine. The novels I started back then never got past 15,000 words or so. But when I started writing seriously, I focused on Stinking Rich. The short stories came after, and I try to write one every month or so. It’s freeing to deal with a couple characters and a setting in just a handful of pages. And the flash pieces are an interesting challenge unto themselves. Squeezing a complete piece into something that can be read in under five minutes and still be satisfying forces me to focus on the most tangible bits. (Here are the pieces I have up on Shotgun Honey.) I hope that translates back into the longer form work, resulting in something denser.
6. If you could blatantly steal the career of any author, whose would you pick?
Why, yours, of course, Melissa! I’m really impressed with the number of books you’ve written, with your obvious commitment to both craft and career. When I met you in Madison, you described how you’ve always treated it as real work. I think that’s critical for anyone who wants to make it as a writer. I remember hearing or reading interviews of both Mordecai Richler and Leonard Cohen, being asked late in their careers what drove them to keep writing, books and songs, respectively. Because there are bills to pay, they both answered.
Since I want to earn my living doing this, the approach you’ve taken is an inspiration.
7. That was both suspiciously shameless and very kind of you. What are you working on next?
I’m rewriting a handful of short stories for a collection and working on a sequel to Stinking Rich, the theme being Bible Camp Gone Bad. I’m also fleshing out something a few shades darker. It’s good to be busy.
Rob Brunet’s crime fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, Noir Nation, and numerous anthologies. He loves beaches, bush, and bonfires, and lives in Toronto with his wife, son, and daughter. Follow Rob’s blog, events, news, and reviews at www.robbrunet.com. Or catch him on Twitter at @RRBrunet.