by John Dwaine McKenna
We have an exciting author interview this week with an author whom we’ve admired since his work was first brought to our attention by the folks at Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Book Shop in New York City a few years ago. His name is Rob Hart, and it’s one to remember because he’s going to be a monster in the crime fiction arena if he keeps producing the volume of quality material he’s done in just the past three years. Rob, welcome to the Mysterious Book Report . . . thanks for taking the time to talk with us and share your insights. You’re that rare combination of talent and really nice guy which is so hard to find these days . . . so . . . thanks again and here’s our first question.
- When do you write?
I write when I have the time—I have a kid and a wife and I work some part-time gigs and sometimes I also like to do things like go to the gym or see a movie. I’ve never been a ritual guy—X amount of words before breakfast, etc. I tend to write in long bursts when I can find the time, and I’ll go days without writing. Really, I hate that piece of “advice” people give that you need to write every day in order to be successful. It’s simply not true. As with most things, you have to find a process that works for you.
- Do you plot-outline or wing it?
I learned long ago I need an outline. I tend to diverge from them, or change them a bit as I go along, but I need some sort of roadmap. I need to know the beginning and the end and the big set pieces in the middle. Otherwise, I’m out to sea.
- Are you more comfortable writing in the first, or third person POV?
I wrote all five Ash McKenna books in first person, and I really enjoyed that, and felt like it was my default style. But for The Warehouse, which is coming out next year from Crown, I wanted to change things up, because there are three narrative voices—one is first, but the other two are third. It was a little weird at first—like driving a new car you’re not really used to—bit I got used to it pretty quickly. There’s a part of me that will always love first because there’s an immediacy you get that doesn’t come with third, but still, it’s fun to jump around.
- Does luck play into success?
Luck is good, sure. So is pedigree and having an MFA. None of those things hurt. But they aren’t the be-all, end-all either. I don’t have an MFA and I’ve done okay. There are ways I’ve been lucky, sure, but I’ve also put in the work. I think there’s some truth to the saying “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” And as for pedigree—working in the publishing industry has certainly helped me, but mostly in the sense that I have a passingly decent understanding of how things work. Which, with enough time and effort, anyone can acquire that knowledge.
- How did your book first get published?
My first novel, New Yorked, was picked up by Exhibit A… which folded and cancelled my contract a few months later. It was a miserable feeling and a dark few weeks, but then Polis swooped in and picked up the book, along with a second. It took me five years to actually write it, then months of being in limbo, which made it especially exciting when it finally came out.
- What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
The single best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten is from Amy Hempel, one of my favorite writers: The biggest mistake young writers make is wanting to publish more than wanting to write well.
- Do you have any other comments, suggestions, tips, anecdotes, quotes or inspirational material you’d like to share?
In terms of tips, suggestions, material, etc.—I just started writing a craft column at my website, called Writing Advice Sucks. I feel like a lot of writing advice is offered as a binary (do this or you’re wrong) when really, it’s more a spectrum. Something that works for me might not work for someone else. But still, I really enjoy talking about craft and process, because that’s how I cut my teeth, so I thought it would be a fun semi-regular column to write. So… maybe check that out? You can find them all here: https://robwhart.com/category/writing-advice-sucks/.
Wow! Is all we can think of to say. All best wishes for continued success, and please, keep ‘em coming!
Bio: Rob Hart is the author of the Ash McKenna series—the final entry, Potter’s Field, is available now. His next book, Take-Out, a collection of culinary noir stories, will be released by Polis Books in January. And in summer 2019, Crown will release The Warehouse, which has sold in 19 countries outside the US and been optioned for film by Ron Howard. Find him online at www.robwhart.com.