Today's guest is paranormal mystery author M. Ryan Seaver. She's doing a virtual book tour for her novel, No Bad Deed.
During the virtual tour with Goddess Fish Promotions, M. Ryan will be giving away a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner. To be entered to win, use the form below. And to increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too.
Welcome M. Ryan. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was raised in Rochester, New York, in a house that was constantly full of writers. On nights when my parents and their friends were holding court in our living room, I would practice the fine art of evading the little kids in the next room, setting up camp among the grown-ups, and being quiet long enough that they would forget I was there, and that it was past my bedtime. All my best dirty jokes were picked up this way.
I studied theatre performance at Northeastern University, where I spent a little time onstage, and a lot of time reading plays. I fell in love with Sam Shepard, Arthur Miller, and Nicky Silver. Exposed to plays day in and day out, I honed my ear for dialogue, and learned firsthand that if the writing doesn’t ring true, no amount of brilliant acting would make it right. I wrote my first play (terrible, melodramatic, with characters whose names did absolutely nothing to mask the real people they were based on). I showed it to no one. It’s probably still on my computer somewhere.
In my life before Brimstone, I’ve worked as a telemarketer (I’m sorry) administrative assistant, waiter (badly, briefly), clerk and occasional story-time reader in a children’s bookstore, and professional hawker of everything from magazine subscriptions to national television advertising. I was better with magazines. I now live in Chicago with the love of my life, and my snarling, seven-toed demon-cat, Clara. No Bad Deed is the first book in the John Arsenal mystery series.
No Bad Deed is set in Brimstone, a city we know better as Hell. Brimstone is actually a city quite like the cities we are used to, only much, much worse, and it’s inhabited entirely by the worse scum of the earth. In Brimstone, the damned arrive without any memory of who they were before they died, which is a problem for our hero. John Arsenal would like to think of himself as a generally decent person, but of course knows that he must have done something terrible while he was still alive in order to end up in Hell. John is approached by Mireille, a beautiful woman who claims that she can remember her life before Brimstone, and that she and John once knew each other. Mireille offers to tell John about who he once was and what he did, in exchange for his help finding Mireille’s missing sister, Sophie.
What inspired you to write this book?
Believe it or not, it came to me in my sleep! Or rather, I was almost asleep, just starting to drift off, in that place right before you’re really dreaming. And I just thought, “A detective in Hell. Yeah.” I popped out of bed to write it down, and that’s how the prologue was written: In the dark, in my apartment in Boston at 1am. John Arsenal’s voice was right there, fully developed, like I’d been writing him for years. I went back to bed and didn’t think much of it until the next morning when I read what I had, and thought, wow, I might really have something here. Interestingly enough, sleep has been a huge theme throughout this book, and in the next one as well. John, my protagonist, suffers from insomnia and nightmares, and sometimes if I’m really on a roll with John, I’ll pick up a bit of insomnia myself, something that I never really dealt with before this book. I’ll wake up at 3am and not be able to go back to bed until the scene I woke up thinking about gets written, or I’ll have a nightmare, and the next morning think, “That could work in the book.”
Excerpt from No Bad Deed:
I took the car on a drive through downtown Brimstone, watching the sky turn sulfur, then green, as billowing plumes of vapor veiled the light. It was evenings like this I wondered about the geography of our fair city. There was a sky over Hell, that much was obvious. But there was also the sensation that baby-shit green was not a natural color for a sky to be. And of course there was never any sun, just the constant radiating light and heat. When I first got off the boat I used to wonder about the physical location of this place that had a sky and a climate, but no sun and no moon, no seasons. I’ve since learned that worrying about that stuff doesn’t make a damn bit of difference, and that it’s best to do it as little as possible. Still. That sky never failed to put a sick, uncertain feeling into the pit of my stomach.
As I drove, Tent town stretched out alongside me, nothing but bleached-out A-frames draped with sheets and tarps as far as the eye could see. I took a left and found myself in an obnoxiously artsy part of the city called Millville, where the resident frustrated artists and actors had turned the skeletons of ruined industrial buildings into a series of trendy clubs and improvised theater spaces. I pulled up in front of a bar called Virgil’s and killed the motor.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve just finished the first draft of the next book in the John Arsenal series. This one is a serial killer mystery, which is particularly interesting because of course in Brimstone, everyone is already dead. But as it turns out, when you’re killed in Hell, there’s something even worse than death waiting on the other side. It was a lot of fun to be able to follow John into this new chapter, because of course he had to go through so much in No Bad Deed, some of those demons are still hanging around for him, and will be for quite some time.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s such an interesting question, because I feel like a lot of writers suffer from a bit of imposter syndrome. A lot of writers who are very serious about their work but don’t yet do it full-time hesitate to call themselves writers, which I actually think is too bad, because that self-doubt is an impediment to being able to advocate for your own work. For me, I hit a point about halfway through No Bad Deed where I realized I had a plan. I knew where the book was heading, and I knew I could finish it. I was really proud of what I’d already created, and I knew the next thing I had to do was create a game-plan for how to get it out into the world. The moment I had that mission worked out was the moment I started to consider myself a writer. I started telling my husband I was working when I would lock myself away in the office to write, and I feel like owning that word, work, made a really big difference.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I don’t yet write full time, but I’m extremely lucky in my day-job. I work remotely from my home, so if I have a great idea for the book, I don’t have a long commute between finishing my job and being able to sit down and write. I can simply open up my manuscript and go. I’ve found that that’s really important to me, being able to write whenever inspiration strikes. I know a lot of writers swear by a set writing schedule, but I’ve never been able to make that work for me. I need to be able to write whenever it feels good, which sometimes means writing at 3am, or taking 30 minutes in the middle of the day between working on something else. When I’m not writing, you’ll find me in the kitchen. In my other job I work for a cooking magazine, so I’m constantly finding new and exciting recipes I want to try out during my day.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have a tendency to talk about my characters like they’re real people, which can sometimes creep people out if they don’t know me well. My husband will ask me how the writing went that day and I’ll say, “You know, not so great. John just wasn’t talking to me today,” or “Gavett did this crazy thing today that I never even thought of, but now it’s turned the whole book around.” I like to leave some of the movement of the story is in the characters’ hands, almost like I’m more of a stenographer. It’s a fun way to write, because it means that even though I’m writing the story, I can still be surprised by the things that happen.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Not a writer! My mother is actually a novelist as well, so I was constantly asked if I wanted to be a writer too, and I always said no, which I think was more of a kneejerk reaction than anything else. I changed my mind a lot about what I wanted to be as a younger kid, but as a teenager I finally settled on acting. I was in all the school musicals, and did acting camp during the summer. I ended up studying theater in Boston before I discovered that writing was my real love. I feel like I’m still acting, but in a different way. As a writer, I get to play all the parts as I’m writing the story. I get to play roles I would never be able to play in real life, which is a great feeling. I love being able to play some giant thug, or a really sinister bad guy.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
There is light in this world of Brimstone, as well as darkness. Something that became immediately apparent to me when I started writing John Arsenal is that he has a real sense of humor, even in this dark world. I don’t think people would necessarily associate humor with this type of story, and yet more than anything else, the thing that I hear from readers is that they love that John makes them laugh, and they love his friends, who tend to be a quirky, motley crew. It’s not all anguish and torment in Brimstone—there’s levity too.