If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

April Interviews

4/1 Jennifer Chow, Mimi Lee Gets A Clue
4/8 John Gaspard
4/15 Art Taylor, The Boy Detective & The Summer of '74
4/22 Maggie Toussaint, Seas the Day
4/29 Grace Topping, Staging Wars

Saturday Guest Bloggers
4/4 Sasscer Hill
4/18 Jackie Green

WWK Bloggers:
4/11 Paula Gail Benson
4/25 Kait Carson


WWK is proud of our four Agatha nominees. Kaye George for Best Short Story--not her first time to be nominated, Connie Berry and Grace Topping for Best First Mystery Novel (wish they weren't having to compete against each other), and Annette Dashofy for Best Contemporary Novel--her fifth nomination!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Look for Kaye George and Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Kaye's story is "Life and Death on the Road" and Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Kaye George's first novel in the Vintage Sweets mystery series, Revenge is Sweet, will be released on March 10th. Look for the interview here on March 11.

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, will be released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here on April 29th.

Don't miss Shari Randall's "The Queen of Christmas" available on at Amazon. Shari's holiday story for WWK was too long so she published it for our enjoyment. It's available for 99 cents or on Kindle Unlimited for free!

KM Rockwood's "The Society" and "To Die A Free Man; the Story of Joseph Bowers" are included in the BOULD Awards Anthology, which was released on November 19. KM won second place with a cash prize for "The Society." Congratulations, KM! Kaye George's "Meeting on the Funicular" is also in this anthology, which can be bought for 99 cents on Kindle until November 30.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

An Interview With Alan Orloff

by Grace Topping

One of the benefits of attending a writer’s conference is coming away with a large bag of books donated by various publishers—a reader’s goodie bag. Frequently, the bag contains a book by someone I’ve wanted to read but haven’t gotten to yet. Finding a copy of Deadly Campaign gave me the opportunity to read a book by Alan Orloff, a fellow member of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime. I enjoyed discovering that Alan’s dry sense of humor comes across in his writing, and I went on to read several of his short stories and his Agatha Award nominated book for Best First Novel, Diamonds for the Dead. It was fun talking to Alan and learning more about his broad body of work, including his latest book, Pray for the Innocent.

Pray For the Innocent

Can former best-selling novelist Mathias King—now a rumpled, grizzled English professor—save America from a terrorist of his own making?

In the shadow of the Pentagon, a secret DoD brain research experiment goes terribly wrong, and an ex-Special Ops soldier escapes, believing he is Viktor Dragunov, the Russian operative from the 80’s thriller novel, Attack on America. To capture him, the Feds turn to the person uniquely qualified to predict his next moves, the man who created the fictional character, best-selling author Mathias King.

Now a reclusive English professor, King is reluctant to get involved, having sworn off the culture of violence after a deranged fan murdered his wife. But when innocent people start dying, King is thrust back into that dark world. With help from his enthusiastic graduate assistant Emily Phan, King must outsmart his own creation—while outmaneuvering the cover-up-loving Feds—before Dragunov succeeds in his hell-bent mission. 
To destroy America.                www.amazon.com

Welcome, Alan, to Writers Who Kill.

Your short story, “Rule Number One,” was selected for The Best American Mystery Stories 2018, edited by Louise Penny and Otto Penzler. Congratulations, that was quite an honor. Of the many accolades you’ve received, which one made you feel that you had truly arrived?

Alan Orloff
I’m not sure a writer ever truly believes he or she has arrived. Seems like the publishing business is just a series of acceptances and rejections, often with little rhyme or reason. It just proves how subjective reading and writing really is. Having said that, it’s great if I happen to get any notice for my writing, and I’m very appreciative.

Your short stories have appeared in some very respected publications such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Chesapeake Crimes anthologies and other anthologies. Are there publications you’ve yet to be published in that you are aspiring to?

Sure. Tops on my list would be Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, but there are many others I’d love to be published in.

Your story, “Happy Birthday,” was named a 2018 Derringer Award finalist in the Flash category. What is flash fiction? 

Flash fiction is short fiction, usually with a hard cap on the number of words. Often it’s 1000 words, but it varies some depending on the publication. It’s fun to write, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t to give it a try.

If you could point to one short story that you feel most represents you or is your favorite, which one would it be?

I think my favorite is the one most recently published. (Or maybe it’s the one that sold for the most.)

In addition to contributing to short story collections, you served on the editorial panel of the Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays. What’s involved with being on an editorial panel?

The editorial panel is responsible for reading all the submissions and selecting those that best fit the anthology. It’s a fun job, and I learned a ton doing it. I find it very enlightening to see how other writers approach certain situations. It’s a pretty cool feeling “discovering” a new writer.

Have you published a collection of your short stories?

I have not. Actually, I have. Sort of. Earlier this year, Wildside Press published a trilogy consisting of three of my short story reprints. It’s a great way to get a taste of my writing, all in one place, for less than a buck (on Kindle).

In your short story, “World’s Greatest,” which appeared in 50 Shades of Cabernet, you actually started your story with, “It truly was a dark and stormy night.” Starting with a line like that is a pretty good indication that the story is going to have humor. Do most of your short stories and books contain humor?

I try to inject some humor into most of my stories and novels, but it depends on the story, of course. Usually, the humor is not the main point of the story, but I have written a number of stories where it is the focus, including “World’s Greatest,” “Bark Simpson and the Scent of Death” (Fur, Feathers, and Felonies), and “Togas and Toques” (Noir at the Salad Bar). I should point out that I wrote two novels with a stand-up comic as the protagonist, but even in those books, the emphasis was on the mystery/suspense and not the comedy. Maybe that’s why they didn’t sell so well.

What is the most challenging thing about writing with humor?

Humor is tough, really tough, because it’s so subjective. Different things tickle people’s funny bones in different ways, sometimes in wildly different ways. When it comes to book-length fiction, I generally leave writing humor to the professionals (see: Donna Andrews).

Readers of your short stories may not be aware that you’ve also written eight books (three written under the name Zak Allen). Diamonds for the Dead was a finalist for Best First Novel Agatha Award. After receiving that level of recognition, was it harder writing your next novel? 

You know, it’s just plain hard to write a book, period. Some books seem harder to write than others, but I think that’s more a function of the story itself or exogenous factors. (I haven’t used the word exogenous since B-School!) I don’t think it helps anyone’s writing if you also have to bear the weight of expectations based on a previous success.

Do you have a favorite among your books?

I don’t know if it is my favorite, but I sure had a ton of fun writing my horror novel, The Taste. Very cool (if disgusting) premise, and the words just flowed like a rampaging river. I think it’s one of the few books that came out way better than my original vision. (Although I was pleased with how Pray for the Innocent came out, too. Of course, that’s not to say I was displeased with how my other books turned out, but…well, you know what I mean.)

In your Last Laff Mystery series, your main character, Channing Hayes, is a comedy club owner and occasional performer. Have you ever done stand-up comedy yourself? Where did the inspiration for this series come from?

No, I’ve never done stand-up comedy. Mostly I torture my family with dad jokes and elicit groans on Facebook with my *humorous* posts. However, for some Killer Routine  and Deadly Campaign launch events, I thought it would be fun/crazy/different/painful to develop about fifteen minutes of open-mic-night-quality stand-up to perform. And I did. All I can say is I was lucky to have friendly audiences. 

As for the inspiration for the series, I was always fascinated with the fine line between comedy and tragedy many of the famous stand-up comics walked (Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, Robin Williams). I tried to explore some of the challenges and setbacks a comic might face in real life, all while trying to be funny on stage.

Which do you enjoy most, writing short stories or novels? Which one do you find the most challenging?

I enjoy writing novels because it allows me to explore a topic/situation/character arc in depth. I enjoy writing short stories because it allows me to focus on “just one thing.” (Hat tip to Barb Goffman.)

I think I like whichever one I’m not writing at the moment better.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about writing a short story?

As I mentioned above, I got a piece of advice from Barb Goffman about writing a short story: “Concentrate on just one thing.” So whether it’s a plot point, or a particular theme, or a character trait, or a specific situation, just focus on writing about that one thing.

In addition to all the writing you do, I understand that you also conduct writing workshops. Please tell us about that.

When I decided I wanted to try writing fiction, I actually knew nothing about writing fiction (I’m an engineer and a numbers guy—I never took a creative writing class in my life). So I decided I needed to take some workshops to learn what to do. I took my first workshop at The Writer’s Center (Bethesda, Maryland) around 2004 and continued taking more. Those workshops were invaluable. Fast forward some years later, and now I teach workshops at The Writer’s Center. It’s very rewarding (for me, and I hope for the students), and I think I know exactly what many of them are going through—it’s still fresh in my mind.

Ben Boulden in Mystery Scene magazine said your story “Getting Away” was his favorite story in the first issue of Black Cat Mystery Magazine. Being praised by other writers is high praise in deed. Do you ever receive fan mail?

Thanks so much, Ben!! (Your check is in the mail. Don’t tell anybody, ‘k?) Once in a while I do get an email or a tweet telling me how much a reader has liked one of my stories or books and, I have to tell you, it’s a pretty good feeling knowing someone has enjoyed something enough to take a few minutes to contact me. 

What do you have coming out next?

In November, I have a story, “The Quarry,” coming out in Landfall: Best New England Crime Stories 2018 (Level Best Books). I believe I’ll also have a story in an upcoming issue of Black Cat Mystery Magazine. And in 2020, my PI novel, I Know Where You Sleep, will be published by Down & Out Books.

Thank you, Alan.

To learn more about Alan and his books and short stories, visit his web site: www.alanorloff.com.


Barb Goffman said...

Writing a good short story may force an author to focus on just one thing, one tight tale, but an interview that showcases the many sides of a versatile author requires both the interviewer and the interviewee to address a lot of topics in a small amount of space--the very opposite of just one thing. You both have succeeded admirably on that front. Thanks for the shout-out, Alan. I'm looking forward to reading your next short story.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Alan, congratulations on your success. It's great to have you visit WWK!

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Congrats all around! Grace, great interview.

Alan Orloff said...

Thanks, Grace, and all the other great writers here, for inviting me in for an interview! Excellent questions, all around! I happen to have a little gift for your blog readers: THE TASTE was mentioned above, and TODAY ONLY (HALLOWEEN), you can get the Kindle version for FREE. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005ITND66

Jim Jackson said...

Super congratulations on scoring with your story in the Best Mystery Stories anthology. That is super from one of your Kindle Scout fans.

And thanks from all the WWK readers for your generous freebie of The Taste. A perfectly "horror-ific" gift for Halloween.

Grace Topping said...

Thanks, Alan, for the terrific interview responses and for the offer of your story, THE TASTE. Sounds perfect for Halloween.

Shari Randall said...

Hi, Alan, thank you for stopping by WWK. I'm so happy for all your success! Keep the stories coming!

Alan Orloff said...

Thanks for checking out the interview and commenting, Barb, Paula, Margaret, Jim, Grace (thanks again!), and Shari!

MaryAnn Corrigan said...

I enjoyed reading the interview. What a versatile writer you are, Alan. And Grace asks great questions. Thank you both.

KM Rockwood said...

I love Alana's short stories. Looks like it's time to try his longer works.

E. B. Davis said...

I wasn't aware of this series or of the series under the pseudonym. I interviewed Alan about his standup series several years ago. One of my shorts was contained in Homicidal Holidays.

Congratulations on your success, Alan. It's always a pleasure to have you here!

Alan Orloff said...

Thanks for dropping in, Mary Ann! Kathleen and E.B. et al, thanks for letting me invade your blog for the day!

Gloria Alden said...

What a great interview. Now I'll need to go on Amazon and start buying his books.

Sujata in Baltimore, MD said...

Grace, you always have such good questions. Alan, I am inspired by your steady work and good humor in both writing and talking about it. Very best wishes to both of you in creative work!

Alan Orloff said...

Thanks, Gloria! Thanks, Sujata!

Beth said...

Grace, you nailed Alan's personality and writing style perfectly. Thanks for your advice to us newbies, Alan. Looking forward to seeing you both at Malice for more great fun and learning.