Tell us about your latest novel:
The Wild Hog Murders will be out from St. Martin’s in July. I’ve been writing about feral pigs in my Sheriff Dan Rhodes series since the beginning back in 1986, and the problems they’re causing in Texas have only gotten worse over the years. So I decided that the pigs needed a book of their own. I had some help deciding, though. While I was thinking about the book, I got a call from my sister, who’d seen an article about feral pigs and thought I might be interested in it. After I read the article, I knew what the book was going to be about.
How is this novel different than your previous novels?
Well, I’ve written 75 or 80 novels (but who’s counting?), so there are a lot of them that are really different from this one. However, since this one is part of the Sheriff Rhodes series, it’s similar to the other books in that series. It’s an old-fashioned series in the sense that the characters don’t change a lot. I mean, look at Nero Wolfe and Archie. Did they change a lot over the course of the years? Nope. Their day-to-day life was a lot the same. That’s the way it is in the Rhodes series. There are some new characters introduced in this one, though, and they might be back.
Do you feel like you ever have to defend yourself for writing genre fiction?
Never. It’s what I like to read, and it’s what I like to write. I’ve never even thought about a defense, though maybe I should. I do have a Ph.D. in English, so I’ve read and studied a lot of great literary fiction. On the other hand, I wrote my dissertation on private-eye fiction, and I never felt a need to defend myself for doing that, either.
Why do you write mysteries?
As I said above, mysteries are what I like to read, and when I started to write, it seemed like the natural thing to do. I’ve written a lot of westerns, though, and some horror novels. And a few kids’ books. I like to write all those things, but I keep coming back to the mysteries.
What was the last good western you read?
I liked Redemption, Kansas, by James Reasoner a lot. I read older westerns, too, and I’m currently interested in catching up with some books I missed by Marvin H. Albert and Richard Jessup.
When did you know you were a writer?
I’ve always liked to write. When I was growing up, I loved poetry and wrote a lot of it. I wrote a few stories, too. I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t a writer, because even when I was in grad school, I was writing papers all the time. When I finished my dissertation, I started writing fiction more seriously, but I didn’t sell anything for a while. I finished a western novel that I never sent out (later reworked into one that I sold). When things started to sell, I kept my day job, and if people asked me what I did for a living, I told them I was a teacher. The writing’s just always been a part of me, and probably always will be.
What’s a work day like for you?
Work? I don’t call it work. Anyway, when I was teaching, I wrote at night. I’d set myself a page quota, and when I got it done, I’d quit. I did that every day for a lot of years. Now that I’m not teaching anymore, I still write at night. I believe the phrase is “creature of habit.”
What’s a day off like for you?
Every day’s a day off for me, since I don’t go in to teach anymore. I hardly ever take a day off from writing something, whether it’s a blog post or part of a book. Only when I’m on vacation do I stop writing completely, and vacations are rare around here.
If you could be anything other than writer, what would it be?
Well, I taught for so long, I guess you’d say that’s what I was and am. I enjoyed it, too. I’d like to play quarter back for the Dallas Cowboys, but I’m afraid that’s out of the question.
How do you define success?
Enjoying what you do. I like to define success that way because it means I’ve been successful.
What’s next for you?
I have a new two-book contract with St. Martin’s for Sheriff Rhodes, so I’ll be continuing that series. I’m working on two e-book ventures, too. One of them is Rancho Diablo, a western series, with James Reasoner and Mel Odom. The other is the Dead Man series, created by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin. I’m excited about the possibilities for both of those ventures.