Thursday 23 June 2011

Roger Smith interview: Dust Devils

Dust Devils by Roger Smith

Roger Smith was born in Johannesburg and now lives in Cape Town. His thrillers Mixed Blood and Wake Up Dead have been published in six countries and both are in development as feature films in the US. His third book, Dust Devils, is out now on Kindle and Nook and will be published internationally in 2011.

Can you sum up Dust Devils in no more than 25 words?

When the South African State frames an ex-activist for murdering his family, his only ally is his oldest enemy: his father, a onetime CIA hitman.

What was your motivation for writing it?

With Dust Devils I set out to write a bloody, amped-up page-turner, but I wanted it to be fuelled by the things that anger me about South Africa.

When apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela came to power, there was a period in South Africa where we went from being the pariah of the world, to a role-model for transformation. A giddy time. Then Mandela moved on, and the rulers of the country became ever more self-serving and corrupt, as politicians tend to do.

Apartheid is over, but a violent crime epidemic, poverty and the highest incidence of HIV/ AIDS in the world present new challenges that are left largely unaddressed. Our constitution is glowing testament to enlightenment and individual freedom, but teenage girls are sold into slave marriages in the name of tradition and some men believe that raping virgins (often children) will cure them of AIDS.  The South African commissioner of police has been sentenced to fifteen years in prison for corruption, and a trail of cover-ups leads straight to the presidency.

This is the background against which Dust Devils is set, and what I’ve written is no love letter.

Is Dust Devils being published only as an eBook?

In the US, yes. I decided it was a good book for me to test the ePub waters with. But it will be published in the UK in September by Serpent’s Tail in both print and electronic formats and it’s out in Germany in print (getting great reviews, happily) and has been bought by a number of other countries for translation.

Who designed your eBook cover?

I did. So if it sucks, I’m the one to blame!

What are your views on eBook pricing?

I’ve gone in at $3.99 with Dust Devils. I know many of the pundits will say this is too expensive, but given the “hybrid” nature of book’s publication in different territories (the mix of print and electronic) the price seems right.

I agree that eBooks should be inexpensive but I’m not sure that this bargain basement frenzy is doing authors (or readers, for that matter) a favour. When the emphasis is on price rather than content, I get worried. It’s my feeling that people are clogging their eReaders with elcheapos and freebies they won’t end up reading. But it’ll all settle down in the next year or so, I suspect.

What aspects of marketing your book do you enjoy?

Getting in touch with readers and other writers via Facebook and Twitter is always a pleasure and I have a movie background, so I like making book trailers. Who knows if they help drive sales, but they’re fun to do. Here’s the one I made for Dust Devils.

How do you feel about awards?

Oh, they’re great, of course, if you don’t take them too seriously. But any recognition of one’s work is fantastic. I won the Deutscher Krimi Preis (German Crime Award) for Mixed Blood, and Wake Up Dead has been short listed for awards in Germany and a Spinetingler Award in the US. It’s also won a couple of reader-driven awards for the best first line in a novel published in 2010, which I’ve enjoyed.

As a writer, how would you describe your ideal reader's taste in crime fiction?

Well, people who enjoy cozies and conventional mystery fare are usually shocked by my work. Readers familiar with the dark stuff  (Thompson, Stark, early Leonard) and who aren’t looking for feelgood endings will be more comfortable with my books.

Dust Devils by Roger Smith

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