Author Interview: Patrick Whitehurst

Patrick Whitehurst interview

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I originally wanted to be Ultraman, then a marine biologist (grew up on the California coast), and then an author when I was seventeen. Never looked back.

Have pets ever gotten in the way of your writing?

They do even now. We have four chihuahua mixes and they love laps. They also love barking. Just recently I found a palm-sized keyboard at TYPO that allows me to write from my recliner with yappers in my lap. I simply open an email and send drafts to myself in short chunks. Problem sorta kinda solved.

Have you listened to any audiobooks? Which did you enjoy the most?

Just recently got into it! My favorite has been Santa Cruz Noir edited by Susie Bright. I’m hardcore for the Akashic Press Noir books and this one, as well as Palm Springs Noir edited by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, is one of my favorites.

What risks have you taken with your writing that have paid off?

One risk I opted for (because I read both) was to write nonfiction and fiction. I sort of trade off on projects and occasionally work on them at the same time. My writing voice is choppy and fast, which sometimes takes effort. There’s no telling if those have paid off, but they have gotten me published, which is always cause for celebration.

How do you celebrate when you finish your book?

I tend to fret more than celebrate, but I will take book cover pictures and send them to family members, and I occasionally go out for dinner when I have a story or book out. Otherwise, I stick to the advice another writer once gave me, which is to turn around and start the next project. I did celebrate a bit over seeing my first script commissioned by Adrenaline Shot Comics for their Mistress Morphine web series. I’ve always been a huge Creepshow, Tales from the Crypt, and Shudder Magazine fan, so I was stoked.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Five nonfiction books, two of which include Murder & Mayhem in Tucson and Haunted Monterey County. Two mystery novellas and one horror novel (recently released from Strange Particle Press), titled Berge Manor. The latter I wrote in my 20s (long ago) and recently re-worked for re-release! It’s expected to arrive in paperback soon. My favorite hasn’t been written yet.

If you could be mentored by a famous author, who would it be?

This week that would be Erle Stanley Gardner as I am reading him now and I love the Perry Mason series. How he could be so prolific is beyond me. I’d love for a chance to hang out with Clive Barker as well, Gary Phillips, or Kathe Koja for that matter!

Name an underappreciated novel that you love.

Devolution by Max Brooks. When I heard he was the son of Mel, I chalked him up as a lucky recipient of cool-as-hell nepotism, but I learned I should never judge a person based on their parents. We don’t judge books by their covers. Devolution wowed me to no end, and I still get goosebumps when I think about how brilliant it is. Another that doesn’t get the love it deserves is Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw. When I first read it, I remember thinking “what the hell was that all about?” I kept thinking about it, and thinking, and realized the book is nothing short of a literary hurricane. I’ll stand in line to read Khaw’s recipes at this point.

What are the essential characteristics of a hero you can root for?

I like this question because I can drag out my dusty soapbox and get up on it. I’m a little burned out on the anti-hero fad. There are people who do good and terrible things but celebrating those who kill can be a bit problematic, such as the Joker and Hannibal Lecter. It’s increasingly difficult to romanticize it since real world killers have become so dominant in our culture. I adore those fictional characters but wince a bit at their popularity. I prefer my Batmans and Perry Masons, those who protect the innocent and won’t cross that murder line. I’ve written of hit people and thugs, my character Sam has appeared in many stories at this point, but the one thing they have in common is a conscience. Sam refuses to kill.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

I’ll touch on Sam the Thug since I just mentioned him. I developed him with few traits and then cooked up short, energetic stories he could bludgeon with his no nonsense manner. Plots drive the energy, which can spark reader interest. The character develops as the story engages. Sam wears flannels, Dockers, slip on shoes, is an avid Kerouac junkie and has a daughter. I never reveal his daughter or her name. He simply refers to her as Little Sam. Readers never learn Sam’s last name either, sort of a nod to both Columbo (we never learned his first name) and Sam’s desire for secrecy.

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