Monday, December 17, 2012

Interview with Wayne Zurl

Interview with 
Wayne Zurl, Author of 
Heroes and Lovers

Questions by R. Murry

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Shortly after World War Two I was born in Brooklyn, New York. Although I never wanted to leave a community with such an efficient trolley system, I had little to say in my parents’ decision to pick up and move to Long Island where I grew up.

Like most American males of the baby-boomer generation, I spent my adolescence wanting to be a cowboy, soldier, or policeman. Of course, all that was based on movies and later television. The Vietnam War accounted for my time as a soldier.

After returning to the US and separating from active duty, the New York State Employment Service told me I possessed no marketable civilian skills. So, I became a cop. That was as close to military life as I could find. Now that I’m retired from the police service, I still like the cowboy idea, but have interrupted that aspiration with an attempt at being a mystery writer.

Years ago I left the land of the Big Apple, and live in the picturesque foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee with my wife, Barbara.

Do you remember the first story you wrote?

I remember taking an elective English workshop in high school and probably wrote several stories there, but I can’t remember any of them. The first fiction I had published was a novelette called A LABOR DAY MURDER.

I based it on a gambling raid I led at an after-hours club in New York. Like all the Sam Jenkins mysteries, I transplanted the case to Tennessee and gave it a little Smoky Mountain flavor by adding some non taxed moonshine to the illegal card game. The story-worthy problem came after finding a handgun linked to an unsolved homicide.

Were you inspired by someone or something?

Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone mystery series inspired me to develop the Sam Jenkins stories. Stone was a former LAPD detective who took a chief’s job in the small town of Paradise, Massachusetts. I figured I was a cop and Parker wasn't  I could draw from twenty years of war stories and turn them into fiction. How hard could it be to make a retired New York detective a Tennessee police chief? I soon learned getting fiction published wasn't a walk in the park.

What do you like about writing a story?

I’ll always say writing is fun. The post-publication marketing is too much like work. Taking an idea from one or more actual cases or incidents, fictionalizing and embellishing it to a standard of marketable fiction is like making something from raw materials. 

Getting a finished product good enough to be “sold” to a publisher is gratifying. Those finished products satisfy my creative need. And it’s easier to stack up manuscripts or books than model airplanes and oil paintings.

Can you tell us about your book?

HEROES & LOVERS is a composite of real incidents. The initial sting operation used to prosecute a flim-flam artist is the kind of thing cops do all the time. It allowed me to get Sam and TV reporter Rachel Williamson together again and put people in certain places at inopportune times. The more complex problem was based on an assault and attempted rape of someone I knew. 

I used a kidnapping to prolong the incident and add that extra tension readers like. This story shows a darker side of Sam Jenkins atypical from the other books and novelettes. Sometimes cops do things they wouldn't ordinarily do if they become too personally involved with a case.

Here’s the book jacket summary:

Sam Jenkins might say, “Falling in love is like catching a cold.  It’s infectious and involuntary. Just don’t sneeze on any innocent people.” 
Getting kidnapped and becoming infatuated with a married policeman never made Knoxville TV reporter Rachel Williamson’s list of things to do before Christmas. 

Helping her friend, Sam Jenkins, the ex-New York detective and now police chief in Prospect, Tennessee, with a fraud investigation sounded exciting and would get her an exclusive story. 

But Sam’s investigation put Rachel in the wrong place at the wrong time and her abduction by a mentally disturbed fan, ruined several days of her life.

When Jenkins learns Rachel has gone missing he mobilizes all personnel at Prospect PD and enlists his friends from the FBI to help find her.

During the early stages of the investigation, Sam develops several promising leads, but as they begin to fizzle, his prime suspect drops off the planet and all the resources of the FBI isn't helping.

After a little old-fashioned pressure on an informant produces an important clue, the chief leads his team deep into the Smoky Mountains to rescue his friend.  But after Rachel is once again safe at home, he finds their problems are far from over.

And if anyone is in the mood for a short film with some really cool music, here’s the video trailer link:

What genre best fits for the book?

It’s a police mystery with a pinch of thriller tossed in.

Are you working on something new at the moment?

I've just finished revisions and my portion of editing on another full-length novel called PIGEON RIVER BLUES. As soon as my wife proofreads it, I’ll ship it off to the publisher for his editor to take a look. Here’s my idea of a dust jacket summary:
Winter in the Smokies can be a tranquil time of year—unless Sam Jenkins sticks his thumb into the sweet potato pie.

The retired New York detective turned Tennessee police chief is minding his own business one quiet day in February when Mayor Ronnie Shields asks him to act as a bodyguard for a famous country and western star.

C.J. Profitt’s return to her hometown of Prospect receives lots of
publicity . . . and threats from a right-wing group calling themselves The Coalition for American Family Values.

The beautiful, publicity seeking Ms. Proffit never fails to capitalize on her abrasive personality by flaunting her alternative lifestyle—a way of living the Coalition hates.

Reluctantly, Jenkins accepts the assignment of keeping C.J. safe while she performs at a charity benefit. But Sam’s job becomes more difficult when the object of his protection refuses to cooperate. 

During this misadventure, Sam hires a down-on-his-luck ex-New York detective and finds himself thrown back in time, meeting old Army acquaintances who factor into a complicated plot of attempted murder, the destruction of a Dollywood music hall, and other general insurrection on the “peaceful side of the Smokies.”

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

I've learned something very important from having my stories produced as audio books. Listening to what you write gives you a better perspective than just reading it to yourself over and over again. Ending up with a cadence or writing voice that sounds good to a reader is just as important as any other aspect of writing. So, I’d recommend to take what you believe is a finished product, lock yourself in a room or sit in the woods, and read your story aloud. You will pick up little things that need to be rephrased or tightened up every time.

When you’re peddling your work to an agent or publisher, who accepts submissions directly from an author, NEVER GIVE UP. Don’t think that just because one or two dozen people reject you, all is lost.

Where can people go to read your work?

A good place to start is at my website. Readers can find all my published works, a chronology of the stories, summaries and excerpts, reviews and endorsements, and even photos from the areas when the action takes place. Then, all the larger sellers have given me author pages. 

Here’s a list of links:

Author website: 
Mind Wings Audio author page:

Do you have anything to add?

Sure. I’d like to thank you for reading my book and inviting me to your blog to meet your fans and followers. Since I’m writing this on December 17th, I’d like to wish everyone a happy holiday—no matter which one you celebrate, and a healthy New Year.

1 comment:

  1. Roy,
    Thanks for inviting me to your blog and reviewing HEROES & LOVERS. Happy holidays to all.