AUTHOR INTERVIEW- Ricardo M Fleshman
I have followed the author’s Detective Byone series like a crazy maniac and each book of the series had been one better than the other. One of the impact ful thing about the series is that these books are short, crisp and absolutely engaging.
CATCH THE BRAIN BEHIND THE DETECTIVE BYONE SERIES in a candid chat with Read Watch and Think
Could you share us about your growing up years and what led you to take the writing path?
Certainly! So, I’ve always known I wanted to be an author. Since I picked up my first full length novel, The Hobbit (Tolkien) and it was so good to me that I said this is what I want to do. I must write and tell stories for a living. Of course it has taken me years to build the personal reserve of knowledge and experiences to write the way I do, to be able to have so many touch points to bring this detective series to life. I absolutely love storytelling and I will write until I draw my last breath. (And maybe after!)
In your books, the presence of New Orleans is very stark each of the series has its flavor in some or the other way. Is it because of personal preference or just a backdrop you preferred for the Central Character Byone?
There are so many interesting things about New Orleans- the city’s culture, its rich history; the people. No one of those things stand independent of each other and I chose this city because I have been fascinated by it, and continue to be enthralled with the Vieux Carre (French Quarter). In conducting research for the detective series there are so many incredibly interesting bits of history that I have discovered and these nuggets continue to work their ways into the books. I think it’s important to pay my respects to the good people of the city and indeed the city itself in this way. Moses Byone is born and bred in New Orleans so there is no other logical place where he could be.
Detective Moses Byone is a very unique character in terms that he is not your usual heroic character whose one punch would take out a whole crowd of gangsters. No. Detective Moses Byone appears someone who is very real, who knows the importance of Fight or Flight. So what or who was the inspiration behind such a realistic character?
The thing that draws you as a reader in to Moses and holds you tight is that you know he is real. You can relate to him, aches and pains and all. Personally, I like to see the hero who is strong and defeats the throngs of enemies by barely lifting a finger but I LOVE to see the hero who takes the punches, who presses forward despite his own limitations or the myriad of obstacles thrown in his way- he keeps going to defeat the bad guys and I find a greater sense of reward for him, with him, when that is the case. Besides, Moses needed to be very complex. You want to see him grow, and change, and even in some cases remain stubborn despite the need for change. Those are things that make us all human and when you see those things in Moses- when you see him really struggle (like in The Shiver Men) with his own mortality and mental shortcomings- it affects you as the reader. It heightens your experience in the book, so that you begin to feel deeply for him, for whatever he goes through because then you’re going through it too. He’s witty and sarcastic, brave but appropriately humble at times. He can be a bit of a stubborn ass- which in my opinion makes him an incredible detective. Hmmm, I think I know someone like him….
Over the course of books from this series, there has been a constant referral to our character’s injury that had led him out of the job in the past and had forced to take on this new role of Detective. Is the reference deliberate or the constant pointing towards this an actual demand of the plot and its situations?
So without giving a spoiler here, Moses has a hip injury you’re referring to. It comes up often in the books, particularly when he’s doing something like chasing bad guys or running from them and in The Devil’s Serum we discover where and how he got that injury. It is not just a tool for me as a writer but it is a very real part of him. We understand that it is the injury that sidelined him from the NOPD and caused him to retire, becoming a private investigator in the first place. It is integral to the storyline of the second book and to make it a part of him in such a way requires that he live with it in a very real way.
Voodoo Detective. It’s a brilliant concept and ironically it’s the people around him that are actually involved with the practices and Byone is actually exclusive of it yet finds himself being a part of it all. Why is that? And why chose voodoo as a theme?
Well, that’s the irony isn’t it. Whether you believe voodoo is real or not, it is one of those things that people have some definite feelings about in real life. Either they love it or are disgusted by the very idea because either they don’t know enough about it or it conflicts with their own religious beliefs and identity. I’m drawing upon that sensitive reaction here. Like many organized religions, I’ve visited some real ceremonies, spoken with voodoo priests and priestesses, not just in New Orleans but other places as well and I’m like Moses still very cynical about it all. That’s obviously where his skepticism comes from. But again, mysticism, folklore, voodoo, magik-those are all things associated with the Crescent City and I didn’t so much as choose the theme as pluck it from then numerous things that are at play there.
Lisette St. Germain is another character that I feel has a strong presence in the series in spite of appearing barely in places but those are perfect to make her presence known and one thing peculiar and unique about her is her heritage itself. Creole. Why did you choose this for her and even most of the time she prefers to speak in her language to that of English to communicate? Why is that?
Well another fascinating thing about Louisiana, but especially in New Orleans is the Creole population. They are a culture rich in heritage and if I’m being completely honest, they are a bit exotic to the rest of us American’s aren’t they. But I also think it is a culture that, other than in the small communities dotting their bayous and such, is fading. I think her speaking both languages but preferring English over Creole (whereas her mother speaks predominately Creole) is my reference to that.
Through Armond Fontenot you tend to share a lot of information on art. In fact every book (ever since Armond steps in) had a painting or artifact playing a very important role or at least a strong mention. Is that purposeful or a reflection of your personal art inclination?
Absolutely! Armond is definitely reflective of my love of fine foods, fine clothing, wines and art! But art is another of those things that strike an emotional chord within people. It is my hope that when someone reads the books and they come across the pieces I reference, that they would actually go look up the artwork. It brings such a unique experience to the book when you see the face of the young Creole in Amans Creole in the Red Headdress or when you see the haunting nuns (as I describe them) from the Degas. When you as a reader can see the painting for yourself, you then begin to understand- and on a greater level- the impact it has on the characters in the books. I am a huge fan of art, yes and thankfully Armond is too!
There are a lot of colorful characters in the book that keep appearing in the series. Which one do you think was the difficult to frame or kept you awake at night?
Moses keeps me up nights…and Armond. They have such a special and unique relationship and sometimes their conversations are epic. But you know these two guys are changing in ways that sometimes even they are unsure about. So I have to work out, in my head, what that change means. What are all of these things that are happening around them and to them, what are all of those influences doing to them? How does it change them? Why? And more importantly to the reader, what does that change look like? But then there are characters like Lt. Braden, who may at first glance seem like the stereotypical police lieutenant who is overbearing, always yelling and stomping around. But in The Voodoo Detective he is humanized a bit more too, isn’t he? He’s quite an interesting fellow, if you think about it. And I hope that by the end of that book, readers feel different about him too.
Usually authors prefer writing a series quite later in the writing career. What made you decide to actually initiate your writing career with a full-fledged series based on a central character?
You know I can’t say that I actually chose to write this in a series as much as it chose me. Obviously- and this is one of the things you’ve noted as likely about the series- is that the books are shorter. That is definitely by design. I think there are so many jewels that can go into a book without it being overly complicated or giving way too much description, wearing the reader out. You don’t have to beat someone over the head with an idea for them to get it. It’s quite insulting for intelligent readers, isn’t it? But I think by creating the series I was able to extend some of the storylines into full on novels (and I’m thinking The Devil’s Serum, here) without impacting your ability to enjoy it. Frankly, I’m not certain that this could have been anything but a series. Maybe later in life, I’ll write one-off novels… do it in reverse!
As an author beginning out in this industry, what do you think are the troubles that you had to and still have to face ?
Time and resources. It is about finding the time to write and promote myself and the resources to do so as well. Look, the fact is that the series has now been nominated for two awards, is in every format including e-book, paperback and audio and I’m up most days at 4am-5am to make the happen. There is no monolith behind me doing editing, and content, or marketing for me. There is any number of small businesses and individuals offering their help now in this space.That is great for the independent author today but it’s hard trying to figure out what is useful and what is, well frankly, crap. For example, there is lots of direction given to independent writers that they need to have a website and utilize every form of social media known to man in order to promote themselves and that’s great but there is little guidance given to what that actually means. Does it mean that you post every single piece of inspiration you find? Or every book cover release? Or even every award? Does all of that over saturate readers with your “brand” as opposed to allowing them to focus on what is actually important (e.g. the book you want them to read)? I don’t know and I don’t presume to know. But I do know that in the last month (and in much of a J.D. Salinger- ish move) I swore off social media. No twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and ironically my readership and book sales have increased dramatically in that time. So, I think it is figuring out the universe of it all and still trying to find the time to write at the same time.
What is the toughest phase of writing a book? Coming up with the story or the actual writing or the process after writing when you have to start marketing and letting the audience know about the book?
I hate to write! (Laughing) If I could transpose my thoughts onto the paper, I absolutely would. For me the physical act of writing- sitting down to put the proverbial pen to paper is the hardest part. Finding the words and the phrasing to say what I want to say, or what Moses or Armond needs to say, is difficult. But ultimately, the reward is that you all as readers get to share this wonderful journey with me. (So until that day comes when someone invents a computer to record thought on paper, I will continue to do so with my fingers!)
Next question is for my personal benefit. How much do you think the reviewers and bloggers help or hamper an author? What do you feel about the presence of reviewers and bloggers in the book industry?
You are an integral part of this industry. This is a market that operates essentially now without any regulation- not that it needs regulation- but essentially anyone who has the inclination can write a book and self-publish it. Do they necessarily have the talent to do so? My point is this, reviewer and bloggers provide agnostic criticism. For writers who cannot afford to pay hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of dollars for professional services (editing, reviews, etc) you offer a valuable function. I have benefited from the critiques of reviewers. How else, ego aside for the moment, are we to learn to get better as a writer? There is of course the other side of the coin which is you all bring visibility to independent authors and let me tell you, that is invaluable!
Is there a writing process or a place that you choose for your writing period?
I never stop writing. There is constantly something being formed, or reformed or sculpted in my head. I don’t create an outline per see, but I do have a way to catalogue pictures, notes, quotes, etc that I know are going to find themselves in the story. I also don’t write in a linear way. I may write the last chapter first, or the first chapter last. I have written entire pieces that were supposed to be the middle of end of the book that became the beginning, or vice versa. But I do typically write during the early morning hours…really early!
Apart from writing what else does do you find yourself being drawn into?
I read, still one-two books at a time. I love movies- black and white, drama, and action, foreign, independent, you name it! Cooking, I absolutely have fallen in love with cooking- International and haute cuisine.
Lastly, What is in the future of Ricardo M Fleshman? Can we expect more to the Byone series?
Moses Byone, the Detective Byone series will continue. At the moment I am working on the first installment in the Armond Fontenot Mysteries. That is VERY exciting. Moses and Armond will still be together in these but they are much more focused on Armond’s family history. There is a difference look and feel to these books as well but I cannot wait to get the first one into your hands! That should be in the next few months. We have also drafted the screenplay for the current series and are trying to get that developed into and actual t.v. series! That is incredibly exciting!! So let’s hope we get the chance to see Moses and Armond on the big or small screen! I already know who I want to play them both but I’m not telling!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ricardo is the author of the Detective Byone novels, including The Dying Dance, a Detective Moses Byone novel which is the first in the series that follows the detective through dark and sinister cases set in 1970’s New Orleans. The Dying Dance (2013) is followed by The Devil’s Serum (2014), The Cemetery Paintings (2014), Death on Canal Street (2015), The Shiver Men (2015) and The Voodoo Detective (2016). Ricardo is an avid reader, travels extensively with favorite destinations in the United States South and international locations in South America and Europe. He is a fan of horror books and movies, dark art and “The Blues.” He resides in Northern Virginia with his family where he continues to write more Detective Moses Byone novels.
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