Q: How did you come up with the idea for Body Broker, and for your character Jack Dixon?
A: I haven't read as much detective fiction as I have fantasy, but I'd read a fair bit, and I felt like I could maybe tackle it.
Jack was a pretty easy character to come up with; I took some things about myself (I go to the gym a lot, I eat a lot of peanut butter, I count calories) and dialed them up to 11. Then I gave him the kind of background that might lead someone to becoming a private investigator (the military, a brief stint as a cop) with the requisite problems for a lead character in the genre
I was very consciously trying to enter into the tradition of characters like Marlowe, Spenser, McGee, or Longmire, while also trying to make him, hopefully, a little more of a 21st century man than some of those examples.
So I knew I wanted to start with some sort of shady rehab operation, and how there really are people who look for vulnerable people with good insurance so they can be bilked by shady rehab operations. The rest emerged as I wrote.
Q: This is your first detective story after writing several fantasy novels--why did you decide to focus on detective fiction this time, and is your writing process similar despite the shift in genre?
A: I felt that I needed to get sharply away from Paladin and related works, and eventually from fantasy entirely. I had a few fits and starts writing fantasy short stories that didn't get anywhere. So I knew I had to get away from it.
I had been kicking around a couple different ideas in either detective fiction or “pulp adventure.” I also knew that regardless of what I did next, I didn't want to spend a lot of time world-building and worrying about creating new geography, so I wanted to set it in an area I knew well; near the Chesapeake Bay.
My writing process hasn't changed at all. I try to write as close to every day as possible, at least five days a week. I work at night, usually isolated in a room by myself, with the internet shut off via focus-enhancing software.
Q: Can you say more about how important setting is to you in your writing?
A: Extremely. Like I said above, both of the ideas I was considering involved a waterfront life along the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding waterways. I grew up in Maryland, in the same area as Jack Dixon did (though I'm reasonably sure he went to a rival high school). I work in the county he lives in, I live in part of the area he covers while pursuing his investigation.
I wanted to avoid major cities and put Jack in a place where a reader normally doesn't think about encountering a private detective.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: First and foremost, I want them to be entertained. I want them to enjoy spending time in Jack's head, to be intrigued to learn more about him, to enjoy the other characters and his interactions with them. I want them to be satisfied but also hungry for more.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: The line-by-line edit of the ARC of Cheap Heat, the next Jack Dixon novel. The first two books of a proposed sequel series to The Paladin Trilogy. Assorted fantasy short stories, and another fantasy series.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Every cocktail Jack makes in any book is guaranteed to have been one I have tested extensively, whether at home or in a bar. Readers who are interested in recipes should feel free to hit me up on Twitter @soundingline and I am happy to share.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb