Whew! Long time, no blog!
Don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned this on the blog before, but I’m a caretaker for my two elderly parents. My Dad had a bit of a health crisis about six months ago, and dealing with it really ate up a lot of my time.
Things are settling down a little, and I’d really like to get this thing going again. So …
Two of my favorite things in the world are martial arts and stories about con artists. So when Kevin Smith incorporated both topics into his novel “Human Chess,” I guess it was inevitable that I was going to like the results.
And I’m sure you’ll share my opinion — whether you’re a fan of mixed martial arts, old-school hard-boiled stories about tough-guy schemers, or just entertaining stories.
Kevin agreed to answer a few questions about his book, so here goes:
Q: Where did you get the idea for the story?
A: Different pieces came from different areas.
The main push was my wife’s cousin is a very successful MMA fighter and was the face of his organization.
He asked to buy into the organization to secure his future in retirement. He was rejected and when he completed his contract they sued to keep him from fighting somewhere else. Someone asked me what would I do to get even for this if the courts didn’t side for him. My con man brain started planning and here you have it
Q: The book has a lot of details about MMA training and tactics. What did you do in the way of research?
A: I have been a fan of the sport since ’94 when law school classmates had me join them to watch Royce Gracie (at the time I thought these were like those “Toughman Competitions”.) Before that I had embarrassed my coaches with Judo and have since embarrassed future instructors in both Hapkido and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Mostly I watch and figure where the punch is going next.
Q: I liked the way you drew parallels between fight techniques and con games. Could you talk about that a little?
A: Again, I watch and know where the punch is going. This is invaluable to both sets of life. Watching Royce move in a different way than he does using the same technique but with a different fighter due to body types and all made me realize that you tailor to your mark. Just like you do with a confidence game. Then I watched confidence games and realized how they lead you into your move just like I was supposed to in Martial Arts. To me they became the peanut butter and chocolate of my existence to see how I could intertwine where I was good into where I was lacking.
Q: You seem to have a fondness for old-school hardboiled fiction. Who are some of your influences?
A: I LOVE FILM NOIR! Authors of that age are great. The classics (Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett). I was born in Kensington Philadelphia, because of the area you learn noir early in life and the importance of whom you can trust. So current authors I love because they give you the neighborhood as characters (Dennis Lehane and my all-time favorite author William Lashner).
Q: Could you tell us something about yourself?
A: I am a blunt instrument. I believe in not sugar coating or passive aggressive statements because as an instructor I want to use every moment teaching and learning. Most do not find this as good a thing as I would hope in today’s sensitive climate. I am blessed with some of the greatest and truest friends a guy like me doesn’t deserve.
Q: Do you have any new projects in the works?
A: My agent insisted we do a sequel in case “Human Chess” gets a big enough following so “Smash and Grab” has been written and moving along in the production line. I have two other ideas currently processing out of outlines into character designs and should be started by summer’s end. I wanted to make sure that the stories were different enough to avoid feeling like it was the same story just in a different hat without changing the voice I found in this book.
Q: What advice would you give a writer getting started on his or her first novel?
A: Write! Read everything and write all the time. Find your voice and let it belt loud and proud. Don’t give yourself excuses or listen to naysayers. Write. Everyone will tell you (“A” is easy, “B” is the worst part) every step along the way. Shut out the voices during your first write through. Find professionals that understand your voice in the second stage (first rewrites) and let them tell you where your baby is ugly. No one wants to hear it, but it’s better to hear when you can fix. Don’t do it as a career at first. Writing costs too much of yourself to be entwined to your paycheck. They always tell you that your job won’t be there at your deathbed, so write because you love it and when the audience wants more then decide if you can live off of what you love.