Derrick Ferguson: Who is Andrew Salmon?
Andrew Salmon: Andrew Salmon is a pop culture junkie with occasional deep thoughts. He loves his wife, football, hockey, great movies, books and comics, nature and writing.
DF: Where do you live and what do you tell the IRS you do for a living?
AS: I currently live in Vancouver, BC. Hey, I'm Canadian! I don't have to tell the IRS anything. Ha! Seriously though, I work as an extra in the film industry here as well as being a full-time writer.
DF: Tell us a little something about your background.
AS: I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, which is not a good thing if you're English. They've got a few hang ups about French there and the discrimination is palpable. I graduated from Loyola High School, an all boys school and, yeah, that sucked. Got a BA in Creative Writing from Concordia University, which allowed me to work in a cabinet factory (because I didn't speak French) where I somehow managed to become head of my department. With no desirable future in Quebec, the wife and I went West for greener pastures, no winter, and plenty of opportunity.
DF: What are your influences?
AS: My Holy Trinity of writing influences consists of Charles Dickens, Rod Serling and John D. MacDonald. Great TV like the original Star Trek, Babylon 5, 24, The Shield, The Wire, The Twilight Zone all push me to create. Classic literature helps as well as dozens of great writers past and present. Crime fiction, hardboiled fiction, pulp - these are my reading passions.
DF: How long have you been writing?
AS: I began writing before I knew I was a writer. Back in grade school, we'd be asked to write a half-page story based on an image or idea and I'd write 12 pages without batting an eye! I didn't know I was a writer until June, 1982 when I went into Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as a fan and came out a writer. The movie changed my life as, for the first time, I saw the machinery that drove storytelling. I got a glimpse behind the curtain and instantly understood how it was done. Of course learning to do it oneself takes a little bit longer. But that day in '82 was the day I became a writer so we're looking at 32 years! Yikes!
DF: What’s your philosophy of writing?
AS: Make it good. Know the clichés and don't use them. Drop into the text what John D. MacDonald called a little unobtrusive poetry so that the prose is a pleasure to read. Create interesting characters or if you're using someone else's, do so with respect.
DF: You a plotter or a pantser?
AS: Bit of both. I'll start out with the overall plot concept, then just wing it on that first draft to see what happens. I don't know what any of my stories are about until I've finished that first draft. This is why I suffer the woes of Job when I have to pitch. "So, what's your story about?" "I don't know! I haven't written it yet!" Just letting it happen for that first draft works well for me because the story is at a point where it can go anywhere. Revising the first draft, the story and its meaning slowly rise out of the mire and I shape the revised versions of the work accordingly. I wrote once from a detailed outline and, I have to tell you, it was boring as hell! Each day was, okay, I have to do this, then this, then this. Ack! I went nuts!
DF: You write in a variety of genres. Which one is your favorite?
AS: I love writing historical action. I'm a research guy. Hey, I'm nuts for research! I love digging into the past for those entertaining, thought-provoking or just downright fun elements of yesteryear and weaving those into my tales across genres ranging from detective, hardboiled and hero pulp. Detective fiction seems to be my meat and potatoes these days, which makes sense since I've been reading classic hardboiled fiction for decades. So, yeah, it's detective fiction for me.
DF: What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Andrew Salmon?
AS: I hope so or I'm out of a job! I'm trying to reach an audience who likes a good tale. Historical fiction really strikes a chord with many readers and I'm with them so that seems like a good enough answer so far as an audience goes. Of course historical fiction must resonate with today's reader and that's a challenge I find invigorating. As for a specific audience for what I do, I don't think I've done enough stand alone work to determine that. I've been so busy working on classic, public domain characters that I haven't had a chance to create enough of my own work. That's going to change though, soon.
DF: You've had Sherlock Holmes stories in Volumes 1 to 5 of airship 27’s SHERLOCK HOLMES-CONSULTING DETECTIVE anthology series. And you've written a FIGHT CARD novel featuring Sherlock Holmes. Obviously you like the character. What is it about Sherlock Holmes that fascinates you?
AS: That I'm able to write him! Seriously, that fascinates and mystifies me. When Airship 27 first tossed out their offer, I said no simply because I hadn't read the tales and had seen the bare minimum of the endless adaptations on TV and for the movies over the years. I knew only what had seeped down through pop culture so who was I to write a Holmes tale? Only thinking about it later, did I realize that I couldn't pass up the chance to write, arguably, the most popular character in the history of pop culture so I grabbed the last opening for that first anthology, then tried to figure out how the hell I was going to write the story. Bring on the research!
When that first tale won an award, I knew I was on to something. What came out of that first experience was a fondness for Watson and now, with 7 Holmes tales under my belt to date (multiple nominations and two awards), that fascination hasn't faltered. I like Watson and his voice. From that my obsessive research into Victorian times and trying to get at the heart of Holmes keeps me on my toes. Doyle created characters for the ages and doing them justice is important to me. Holmes and I seemed to have found each other - and things are getting freaky. Fooling around with those stupid online quizzes recently, I learned that I'm Arthur Conan Doyle (What Famous Classic Author Are You?) and that Doyle should be writing my biography (Which Author Should Write Your Biography?) so things are getting a bit weird.
DF: For those reading this who may want to write a Sherlock Holmes story of their own: how do you construct a proper Sherlock Holmes mystery true to the character and his method of solving mysteries?
AS: For me, it begins and ends with the canon and getting the characters right. This is the foundation on which to build. Read through the canon, and only the canon, to get a handle on Holmes and Watson, how they think, how they speak, the whole nine yards. Once you have an understanding of who they are - and that will grow with time - then you have to come up with something to get Holmes off his butt. There are examples of his solving cases Nero Wolfe style. It takes something of great interest to get him on his feet and working. And here's where the understanding of the characters comes into it. This 'something' can't just be of interest to you, the writer. No, it's got to be something that piques the interest of the greatest fictional brain that ever lived. For me, that's the hardest part of writing a Holmes tale.
I've gotten to the point where Holmes and Watson will have discussions in my head when I'm not writing so I've developed an understanding of who they are. It's the damned case that's the challenge. What can be so important, mysterious or challenging that Holmes would want to look into it? You've got to impress Holmes! That ain't easy. This is why it takes me longer and longer to write my Holmes tales. After that, you've got to make the detecting difficult, throw in things that only Holmes could uncover. If your reader has it figured out before Holmes does, you're in trouble.
DF: Did you have much of a problem selling the idea of a FIGHT CARD novel featuring Sherlock Holmes to Paul Bishop and Mel Odom?
AS: Actually it was the reverse. Fight Card came to me. The way I heard it, it went like this: Paul Bishop was at the Pulp Ark convention and a bunch of the creators in attendance were sitting around shooting the bull when someone mentioned doing a Fight Card Sherlock Holmes. The assembled liked the idea and the question of who to approach to write it came up. My name was thrown out there and was met with some enthusiasm so when Paul returned home, he got in touch. The funny thing was that I had been thinking for awhile that I'd like to be part of the Fight Card team and was going to approach them when I'd finished the tale I was working on at the time. So Paul's call to me was met with considerable excitement. I said yes right off and was honored that the folks at the con gave me the thumbs up. Of course after we'd ended the call, I was left trying to think how to write the thing. Ha!
DF: Are you working on a sequel to SHERLOCK HOLMES: WORK CAPITOL?
AS: Yup. The working title is Sherlock Holmes: Blood to the Bone and it's for a December release. Unlike Work Capitol, this one won't be a Christmas tale but will still make a great stocking stuffer regardless! The going has been tough this summer as the last few months have been marred by personal tragedy but the work progresses. The idea was to top the first one, which was very well received. So far so good but there's still a long row to hoe.
DF: Tell us about THE DARK LAND.
AS: The novel was a long time coming. I got the idea during the Clone Saga in the Spider-Man comics back in the 90s. The name of the lead, C-Peter Reilly, should be a tip-off there. The first Clone Saga, from the 70s, was and still is my favorite Spider-Man story and I loved the conundrum of how do you prove you're you? Then, during the terrorist attacks in 2001, I was struck by the tragic loss of so many police- and firemen who were killed en masse while doing their jobs. Taking this a step further, I wondered what would happen if disasters killed these first responders on a global scale? Who would be left to maintain order? This lead to the idea of gifted police officers having their DNA and minds preserved for future catastrophes where billions of people perished and chaos resulted.
The idea that a ready-for-the-street police force could be produced quickly via cloning with digital mindfiles inserted into the new-grown clones seemed like a strong premise. Instant experienced law enforcement rather than rookies overwhelmed by what was going on around them. When a clone dies or is killed, you just grow another one and insert the updated mindfile if it can be recovered. For the novel, the disasters have already happened, and C-Peter Reilly is grown to do his part.
In this world, clones are given computer-generated, random names and all of the personal memories of the original officers have been deleted from the mindfiles. So why does C-Peter Reilly have the memories of his Source? His search for the truth while hunting a killer in the ruins ensues. Although this one tells a complete story, THE DARK LAND is the first of a series. The next two books are mapped out. I've already written a short story that is the last C-Peter Reilly adventure, jumping 100 years into the future. I want to return to the world again. However a certain Victorian consulting detective is taking up a lot of my times these days...
DF: How come we haven't seen a sequel to GHOST SQUAD: RISE OF THE BLACK LEGION yet?
AS: Ask Ron Fortier. I had a lot of fun working on the first one. Ron's the plot-master here and he's been kicking around an idea for a few years. And it's a good one. But he's a busy guy. When he's got it locked up, I'll get an email, I'm sure. Hey, if there are any Ghost Squad fans out there, start a sequel campaign and we'll make it happen. I'm game.
DF: THE LIGHT OF MEN is probably your best reviewed book and one you obviously invested much of yourself in. What was the initial idea that spurred you to write the book?
AS: Well, that horrible chapter of human history has always fascinated me as much as it repelled. Reading through the history, I found I was more overcome with anger than sadness. I would become furious that such a abominable situation would ever arise and that no one could do anything about it. Then while reading an account of people who had visited Auschwitz, I learned that visitors tended to burst into tears upon first passing through the gates, as if the very ground was steeped in sadness but, upon leaving, they were angry, furious. I had never visited any of the camps still standing but shared the same feelings towards them as those who had. So I decided to channel that, empower the powerless while trying to come to some personal understanding of how and why these camps happened and the effect they had on survivors.
DF: THE LIGHT OF MEN is a unique book. Was the writing of it equally unique?
AS: Thanks! I lived with this book for 12 years. Researching/writing the novel while working on other things. I started out on the novel having barely written anything and one reason the book took so long to write was because I wasn't a good enough writer to write it. There was so much I wanted to do with the story. It was beyond my abilities. So I kept researching while I wrote other things, kept honing the plot. Then when the time came to sit down and do it, I still didn't know if I was up to the task. The novel kept changing and evolving. The last chapter, set in stone for 12 years, suddenly had a new ending WHILE I WAS WRITING IT! 12 years of getting to this point just flew out the window and what took its place was infinitely better. The writing process was difficult as well because I had to reconcile whether or not to present the history or shape it and tone it down for fiction. I decided to go for accuracy because it seemed to me that the camps have faded into history. People know the basics of course, but the details have been glossed over by time. Believing that nothing about the camps should be sugar-coated, I set out to place the reader in one so they could experience it first hand and KNOW what such a camp was like. But did I pull it off? Even after the novel had been accepted for publication and was released, I still didn't know.
It was only after reading positive reader reviews, receiving thanks from the 761st Tank Battalion (the African-American unit that had liberated a camp only to have their name scrubbed from history), having the book included in the Holocaust Memorial Museum Library, a nibble of interest from the film industry and seeing the novel become the subject of book club readings/discussions that I was assured I had done the material and the history some justice. Sadly the book has yet to find a wider audience but I'm hoping the Kindle version will encourage readers to give it a try without breaking their wallets. It's not for the squeamish but it'll stick with you. I guarantee it.
DF: I’m fascinated with your BERLIN NOIR website. For those who are unfamiliar with the genre, explain what Berlin Noir is and what you accomplish with your website.
AS: Berlin Noir began with Philip Kerr's initial trilogy of books: MARCH VIOLETS, THE PALE CRIMINAL and A GERMAN REQUIEM. These were released as separate novels before being collected in an omnibus entitled BERLIN NOIR:
The genius of the set up was to have the novels follow a police detective, Bernie Gunther, from the early days of Nazi rule (March Violets) when Germans had just begun to learn and deal with the fact that the Nazis weren't a joke, then move on to 1938 for THE PALE CRIMINAL when the Nazis had a stranglehold on Berlin, and the rest of the Germany as war loomed before jumping to REQUIEM where it's 1947 and Germany is a graveyard. The collection proved so successful that the title became the name for this type of fiction. Kerr went on to write more successful Bernie Gunther novels, which inspired others to write tales of crime and espionage with this fascinating historical setting and a new genre was born. From series to stand alone novels set during the Nazi regime, the books kept piling up.
But when you google Berlin Noir or punch it in at Amazon, you get Kerr's collection for the most part and it's hard to find the others entries in this burgeoning genre. As a fan, I thought a one-stop place to learn about the books would be a great help. I read the books anyway, so why not review then for the blog? This way fans, new and old, can see what's out there, read reviews, see the cover art on the various editions and from there, hopefully, decide what their next Berlin Noir fix will be. I've heard from visitors to the blog who were unaware there were so many Berlin Noir books (29 reviews to date) and have been grateful for the blog. More than 9000 visits later and the blog is still going strong.
I have had to cut back on the reviews because I'm running out of books! Ha! Turns out reviewing them takes less time than writing them. Who knew? So to give the various authors time to add to the genre, I've slowed things down to once a month or so. That seems to be working and it gives readers time to find the blog and read the reviews before the next one comes along.
DF: What are your future plans for your writing career?
AS: More Holmes! The idea is to do one more Fight Card Holmes after this year's to make three entries overall. After that, unless I get an idea for a fourth, it'll be time to move on. Ultimately it'll depend on the readers. If they really like the books, that fourth idea might come a little more easily. We'll see. I've got a Holmes book to do for Pro Se Press as well as a Moon Man story for them. I've got an idea for a Holmes novel I've been toying with and I hope that will come together. There's also my own Berlin Noir entry that's been simmering for a few years now and looks to be about ready to serve. Other than the above, I'll see what comes along. Earlier this year, I was offered a chance to contribute to a different type of Holmes anthology and that was a lot of fun. Can't say more about it just now but the news will be breaking soon. That invite was out of the blue so I'll keep my eyes and ears open for more of those should they come down the pike.
Hint to publishers: I'm always open to hear what's cooking so don't be shy. I've got a Secret Agent X idea I'm going to develop once more of the stuff mentioned above is in the can. And I want to give Mack Bolan a try. There's more but who wants to hear about vague stuff in the works? I'll be keeping myself busy at any rate.
DF: What’s a Day In The Life of Andrew Salmon like?
AS: Just the typical glitz and glamour of a writer's life. I run errands in the morning to get the blood going, then it's keyboard time followed up by research then more keyboard time and revisions. Added to that is beating the drum online to get readers interested in what I do. And all this between film gigs. Not terribly exciting stuff. Unless you're a writer, and then you know just how exciting all this can be. I love what I do.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
Andrew Salmon: Well, I think it's all about covered. If anyone's interested in my stuff, they can look me up on Amazon. And the BERLIN NOIR blog can be found here Thanks for getting this far, dear readers. And thanks to everyone who has tried something I've written. I hope you enjoyed it. Much appreciated!