Friday, November 13, 2009

INTERVIEW: Shamus Award-Nominated Author JD Rhoades

Welcome to “Up Close and Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing his views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.

Today’s interview is with JD Rhoades. He is an attorney in Carthage, North Carolina, newspaper columnist, a radio news reporter and was once a television cameraman. His weekly column in the Southern Pines, North Carolina “Pilot”.

He is a Shamus Award-nominated author of the critically acclaimed Jack Keller southern crime series. He is a writer of the genre known as "Redneck noir".

His first novel, The Devil's Right Hand, was released in 2005; Good Day in Hell, his second novel featuring North Carolina bail bondsman Jack Keller, was released in March 2006. His third book, Safe and Sound, was published in 2007, and Breaking cover was published in 2008.

E.I. Would you share some early insight into who you were as a teenager? What were you like? Please tell us more about JD Rhoades -- the man behind the newspaper columnist, attorney and now an author of southern crime series.

JD Rhoades I was pretty wild as a teenager (after a brief period where I was, if you can believe it, a fundamentalist Christian). I discovered and fell in love with the books of Hunter S. Thompson early on, and decided that's who I wanted to be. Unfortunately, I soon found out it wasn't enough just to stay wild and loaded all the time, you actually had to write something. And, you had to make a living, thus law school. I didn't actually start writing again until about 1996, when I started writing the newspaper column as a sideline.

E.I. What is it about the art form of southern crime writing that enchants you the most?

J.D. Rhoades The places that I see in my head, and the voices that I hear, are usually Southern ones. It's not like I chose it.

E.I. How do you imagine audience as you are writing? Do you try to do character development, chapter outlines, various novel-related brainstorming? Do you have sheets of newsprint covered in a story boards all over your walls?

J.D. Rhoades I really don't think of any particular audience as I'm in the act of writing the first draft. I think that would hang me up. In a way, I'm the audience; it's as if I'm seeing the story unfold in my head and I'm just writing it down. I do a lot of brainstorming, but no, no storyboards on the walls. Lots of notes in my notebook, though. Some of them are actually legible.

E.I. What was your biggest challenge in developing the character, Undercover FBI agent Tony Wolf in your book “Breaking Cover”? Did you work them out in advance, or did they evolve as you wrote the story? How did you overcome these challenges?

J.D. Rhoades The biggest challenge in developing Tony Wolf's character was to try to separate him from the protagonist of my previous series, Jack Keller. There are some distinct similarities; both, of course, are tough guys, and both loners to an extent. But Tony's a lot more cautious than Jack. Keller can be insanely reckless, while Wolf lives in a state of almost constant (and well-justified) paranoia. So as the story went on, the characters naturally diverged.

E.I. How much of Tony Wolf’s life is planned out in your head in spite of the great dark mystery of the story?* How did you decide what level of details your reader will accept?

J.D. Rhoades I generally have an idea of who the character is when I start. As I write, I am thinking ahead about what the next few scenes are going to be, and where I want the book to end up, but that's about all the pre-planning I do. I've been known to do an outline at the publisher's
request, but I feel free to depart from it as soon as the contract's signed.

E.I. If you were asked to read a page from “Breaking Cover” is there one that you would personally select to share with your fans?

J.D. Rhoades I've posted an MP3 of me reading the first few pages of the book on my website,

E.I. How do you weave so much suspense and elements of information into your stories and yet you keep them so fast-paced?

J.D. Rhoades First off, thank you for that. I find that I tend to write very slowly, so as a scene or sequence of scenes go on, I start fretting a bit about how long it's taking and wondering if it's getting too long winded or boring. So I try to move things along as fast as I can. But then, when I
go back and read it, what took me hours to write goes by in minutes on the page.

E.I. What do you find to be the hardest part of writing “Breaking Cover” How do you know where you will go next?

J.D. Rhoades The hardest part of writing any book for me is actually sitting down and writing it. Once I can force myself to do that, things start to flow--usually. When I'm stuck for where to go next, I start asking “okay, what does each character want, what's his or her goal, and what would they do next to go after it?” If you know your character, usually something presents itself. *

E.I. You are well known in the writing community as the *writer of the genre known as "Redneck noir” *Do you ever feel pressure or insecure, or are you able to separate all that from your own creative process? *

J.D. Rhoades Oh, I feel insecure all the time. I'm sure most writers would tell you the same. There are a lot of times when you're thinking “Is this really any good, is this gong anywhere, etc.” You just have to press on and try to keep up your faith in the story and your ability to tell it. *

E.I. What would you tell those authors considering applying to an M.F.A. program? In your opinion how important is it for a writer to have a writing degree?*

J.D. Rhoades I don't have an advanced degree in writing, and as far as I know, none of my friends who are successful writers do either. I don't think it's vital, although I suppose the contacts you might make in an MFA program
would be helpful in getting published in the arena of literary fiction. Genre fiction, the sort of stuff I write, not so much. *

To learn more about JD Rhoades, please visit his site
To purchase his books, please visit AMAZON and Barnes & Noble

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