James Reasoner has been a professional writer for more than thirty years and is the author of two cult classic mystery novels, TEXAS WIND and DUST DEVILS. He lives in a small town in Texas with his wife, fellow author Livia J. Washburn.
Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?
DUST DEVILS is a hardboiled crime novel, a road novel, a love story, and a portrait of contemporary Texas.
What was your motivation for writing it?
I wanted to write a novel in which almost nothing is what it seems to be at first glance. I’ve always enjoyed that sort of story.
How much difference does an editor make?
In this book, it made a big difference, because the suggestions made by the editor (one Al Guthrie) improved the book a great deal. Throughout my career I’ve been lucky enough to have some excellent editors, a number of whom were writers themselves. Of course, my first and best editor is my wife Livia, a.k.a. best-selling author Livia J. Washburn or award-winning author L.J. Washburn.
How important is a good title?
I think it’s very important. It’s one of the first things potential readers see. I’ve struggled many times with titles in my career. However, in this case I was lucky because the image that gives the book its title was in my head before I ever started writing. There was never any doubt what the book would be called.
What's your favourite part of the writing process?
Sitting in front of the computer and actually getting the words down, making myself laugh at something funny, surprising myself with a plot twist that I didn’t even see coming, every now and then sitting back and looking at what I’ve just written and saying to myself, “That’s a good line.”
What are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?
Plot, action, and dialogue are my strengths. I really struggle to write descriptions of characters and settings.
Ever tried your hand at screenwriting?
DUST DEVILS started out as a screenplay. I wrote about the first fourth of the story in that form, decided I wasn’t comfortable with it, and turned it into a novel instead. I’ve written a couple of screenplays, one an original and one an adaptation of another author’s novel, but nothing ever came of either of them. However, recently I’ve been working with a screenwriter/director on a feature film version of DUST DEVILS, and that’s stirred up my interest in writing an original screenplay again, if I can find the time. I think it would make a really refreshing change from writing novels.
Ever tried your hand at poetry?
Only when I needed to quote from a fictional poem in the course of a novel, or something similar to that. I’ve also made up some lines from fictional poems (and authors) to use as epigraphs in several books. I find that pretty enjoyable, but the urge to take a serious stab at writing poetry has never struck me.
Do you read outside of the crime genre?
I read almost every genre there is and always have. My favourites have always been mystery, Westerns, and science fiction, but I read quite a bit of horror and fantasy as well.
Do you enjoy writing?
Yes. Like all writers, I bitch and moan about the business, but there’s nothing I’d rather be doing, and I’m thankful every day that I get to sit down and write.
How do you feel about reviews?
I read them. I enjoy the good ones . . . for a little while. The bad ones sting . . . for a little while. Then I go on and don’t worry about it either way, because I have more writing to do.
Do you have any other projects on the go?
I’ve written an original e-book horror/thriller in the series THE DEAD MAN, created by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin. My entry, THE BLOOD MESA, will be out in July [it's out now! – Al]. I’m also writing an original e-book Western series, RANCHO DIABLO, in collaboration with my friends Mel Odom and Bill Crider. The first three books are out now, under the house-name Colby Jackson, with what we hope will be many more to come. I’m doing a Western series in paperback for Berkley called REDEMPTION, KANSAS, under my name. The first book in that one was published earlier this year. Plus I’m staying busy with other Westerns and the occasional thriller under various pseudonyms I can’t reveal. I like to stay busy.
Dust Devils by James Reasoner