Monday, December 8, 2008

An Interlude With Albert Tucher

Albert Tucher is the creator of prostitute Diana Andrews, the subject of eighteen short stories and four as-of-yet unpublished novels. I can't understand what any editor/publishing house is holding back for, though Al does have a bit of an explanation.

I've told Al what I'm about to tell you and that is that I think Diana Andrews is one of the strongest characters, male or female, in the crime/noir fiction game today.

Just go read Dying For A Smoke and tell me I'm wrong.

This weekend, I had an interview with Al.

It was Al's first interview. Guess what? It was also the first that I've conducted that I've ever shared. There are more to come, though, be sure of that.

I hope you find it to be both informative and entertaining.

Christopher Grant: I guess I'll ask you first about process.

Albert Tucher: I have a backlog of story ideas that come from all over the place--news stories, books I've read (there are a lot of prostitute memoirs out there, and they have been useful). I also had a "technical consultant" for a couple of years, a young woman in the escort business who talked about her life and gave me excellent material.

I do most of my writing at the local Barnes and Noble, where I am known as "the hooker guy." At least to some!

I like the comings and goings and commotion around me while I'm there. It helps me concentrate, believe it or not. I can write at home, but I prefer a more public venue.

Although, there is one guy who doesn't know when to stop talking.

I have a friend who steals writing time in the parking lot of the supermarket. She has a family.

CG: If it ain't broke... How did you come to create Diana Andrews?

AT: I took a fiction writing class at the local county college in 2000. Our assignment was an action story. I started with a mental picture of a man and a woman confronting each other on the shoulder of a deserted road. Somehow I decided that she was a hooker and he was a cop, and she was the good guy. That story became the opening chapter of The February Core, the first novel. (The cop became a woman along the way.)

I didn't write short stories until about 2005, when I decided that I needed to build a resume. I have grown to like writing them a lot, though.

CG: Well, they're short, so you don't have to think too far ahead and pray that you don't lose a reader along the way.

AT: True. And they helped me work out Diana's earlier life. The novels start late in her hooking career and follow her in retirement--which is no less strenuous.

CG: Do you work with a character file? Do you have a card somewhere with Diana's vitals on it and anyone else that she might have encountered so you can just pull them out and say, "Here's a story"?

AT: I probably should do that, but I haven't. Sometimes I have to rummage through the novels and stories to remind myself of some detail.

CG: How do you know when a story isn't working?

AT: I usually grind to a halt. And that usually happens when I'm working on a stand-alone. I have only a few of those that work, none published yet.

CG: Did anything like that ever happen with the novels?

AT: Yes, in the fifth one. I put it aside for several months and found that my back brain had figured it out.

At this point the fifth book looks like the last, unless I fit another one into the series before it.

CG: And none of the novels have been published yet, correct?

AT: That's correct, unfortunately. I hear a lot of "It's not marketable," which seems to mean that Walmart won't carry it.

CG: Fucking Walmart.

Are they still being shopped?

AT: As far as I know. I never go there.

As for the novels, yes, I'm still sending queries out.

CG: Why do you like or love crime fiction?

I can tell you exactly why I love the genre and why I write in it more than anything else and that is because there's such a broad base of where you can go with any given story. Even if you wanted to, you could toss zombies and vampires into a story and, as long as it had some kind of crime in it, it would still be some kind of crime story.

You can tell a story about a bank robbery or about a husband that accidently kills his wife or, in your case, an observant prostitute who does the job of a detective better than the detectives themselves.

The range of stories to be told are my favorite thing about this genre and why I continue to work in it.

AT: Why do I love crime fiction? Someone once said about music, "The devil gets the best tunes." In fiction the bad guys get the best stories. And if I put Diana near a colorful bad guy, right away I have a story about an extreme situation that she might or might not be equal to.

My question is, why would anyone write about anything but crime?

CG: Good answer and an equally good question.

What about influences on your writing?

AT: Influences on my work would be anyone who has written a successful series, from Rex Stout to Michael Connelly, among others. I love it when the writer and I share years of experience with a deep and fascinating character.

CG: Thanks for the interview, Al.

AT: Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Christopher, thank you for this insightful conversation with Albert Tucher. It's a great help to read the thoughts of other writers on "the process." Good job, and I look forward to more.

Anonymous said...

Great interview!

Christopher Grant said...

Thank you to both of you.

Look for more interviews to come in the near future.