FQ: Of all the genre types available to write in, why did you pick mystery/crime, especially the noir style reminiscent of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett?
DIAMOND: I like books where things actually happen, where we're not just listening to the self-absorbed thoughts of the main character or following someone through the bland actions of the everyday. While Chandler is more thoughtful, and Hammett is more action-oriented, both write about characters who have seen enough of the world to not be naive, to not be taken in by promises or appearances.
In noir plots, the characters are always facing real-world consequences. They have to look at the most base, fundamental drivers of human action: greed, lust, ambition, revenge. Noir and old-school crime fiction deal with a lot of the same elements as Greek tragedy. The Greeks understood that character was destiny, that your fundamental desires would make or break your fate if you let them rule you. That's really what crime fiction and tragedy are all about.
FQ: How long do you expect to continue the Freddy Ferguson series? Does the next book in the series start to “gel” in your mind as you’re working on the previous book? Or does it take some time once you’ve finished a book, to work out the next plot?
DIAMOND: I never have plans for a next book. I get an idea, and I roll with that. The idea may have nothing to do with the previous series. Claire Chastain, who figures heavily in the current and previous Freddy novels, had two books of her own between the first and second Freddy novels. I didn't plan that, and I don't know why it happened.
At the moment, I don't have a plan for the next Freddy book. If one occurs to me, I'll write it.
FQ: I loved Freddy’s take on technology. Would you say you share his view on email, cell phones, etc.?
DIAMOND: Freddy's only strongly-expressed view on technology has to do with cell phones, and people's addiction to them. I do agree with that, with his comments about cell phones turning people into zombies. In my home town, I see kids crossing the street, walking into traffic, without ever looking up from their screens. Sometimes I think that if an alien race invaded Earth, no one would notice, because everyone's too absorbed in TikTok, Instagram, instant messaging and all that. The aliens would face no resistance. They'd be wondering, "Are we seeing this right? Shouldn't they be alarmed?"
I actually work in the tech field. I'm a software engineer. But I think the world has gotten out of balance. Computers and tablets and phones are machines, like cars and blenders. They should serve us. When we look to them for direction, diversion, constant entertainment and validation, we've lost our way. We've become owned by the machines we invented to serve us.
FQ: So far, you’ve written a series about each of one half of a couple, Claire Chastain and Freddy Ferguson. What gave you the idea to do that, and which character did you dream up first?
DIAMOND: Freddy came first, then Claire. I don't know where either of them came from, and there was no intention in either of their first books to put them together. Freddy worked with Claire in The Reisman Case, which was the second Claire book, and it struck me then that these two were both straight shooters, they were both bright and saw clear through to the heart of the matter. There aren't a lot of people like that in the world, people who don't get distracted by insignificant details. Freddy is a soulful guy. Claire is sharp, intelligent, hot-tempered. She has no patience for a guy who can't keep up with her, and not many can. I thought, why not put them together? They're opposites in some ways and twins in others. They'll challenge each other, keep each other on their toes.
FQ: How much research do you do for each book, or do you only write about what you already know?
DIAMOND: I generally write what I know. I'll research details, but the broad story sticks to the world I know.
FQ: As an indie publisher, do you work with the same production team (editor, designer, marketer) or do you do those tasks yourself?
DIAMOND: Early on, I worked with an excellent developmental editor, Kristin Mehus-Roe, from Girl Friday Productions. They do a lot of editing for Amazon's imprints, including Thomas and Mercer. Kirstin really helped me develop the kind of narrative you need in novels. I was always a good verbal storyteller, but novels demand a deeper level of character development, theme development, and plot detail.
After a few novels, I felt I had a good sense of those requirements and how to manage them. I haven't worked with a developmental editor in a few years, because I trust myself on that front. I do work with beta readers, and I have some who are as opposite as readers can be. With them, I look for common threads of critique. If the thriller reader and the Oprah book-of-the-month fan both tell me that some character or some aspect of the plot is a problem, then it's definitely a problem. When two people with diametrically opposed perspectives point out the same issue, you have to address it.
As for design, my wife does that. She's a graphic designer and painter. She's designed book covers for Amazon's in-house imprints, for me, and for a number of other writers in a number of genres. On one hand, it's nice having a designer in your own home. On the other, it's not. Designers pretty much universally get pissed off when you critique their work. When you hire them, you don't have to live with their resentment of your critique. When you marry them, you do.
On the marketing front, I do all the work. I don't really like it, and I'm not that good at it, but for now, it's all on me. I had a little bit of a Facebook following for a while, until I quit the platform. Philosophically, I didn't agree with what they were doing, surveilling users across the internet and selling their details. I took a big hit in sales after leaving Facebook, but I just don't want to be a part of that.
I don't do any other social media at this point, though I should if I want to increase sales. I just don't go for those shallow digital interactions. I'm not into posting photos or memes or making clever comments about whatever's trending on social media. At the moment, I have a blog and a Goodreads presence, and that's it.
FQ: As you note in your biography, occasionally you take a break from your mystery/crime writing to write a comedy. Do you find it a refreshing break? Does it help clear your mind before starting a new book or series? Or is it just plain fun?
DIAMOND: It's a break, and it's fun. Crime novels are heavy by nature. Even when they contain humor, it's dark humor. I'm deeply tuned in to the darkness of the world, and I don't like to dwell there for too long.
Good comedy acknowledges the darkness without succumbing to it. The book I'm working on now is a comedy/satire inspired by a comment on an online forum. A reader, annoyed with bad mystery novels, remarked, "I think the best punishment for a bad mystery author would be to have to live as a character inside the novel of an even worse mystery author."
I thought that was a brilliant idea, so I decided to write the book myself. That's what I'm working on now. Joe McElwee, author of crappy mystery novels, wakes up one day to find himself inside the novel of his hated rival, who writes even worse mysteries. It's a funny book, and it's nice for me to have a lighthearted release after writing some dark crime novels. The satire part is also fun, making fun of all the common mystery/crime/thriller tropes.
FQ: You’re very active on your blog. From a marketing perspective, do you find it helps sell books? Or is it more of a branding tool? Would you recommend other authors start actively blogging?
DIAMOND: At this point, very few people read the blog. It's not a big sales tool, but it's a great exercise as both a thinker and a writer. Imagine forcing yourself to sit down after every book you read to try to spell out in a compelling way what the book you just read was about, and why it was a good read. What was unique about it? Why would anyone like it?
Forcing yourself to do that is the antidote to mindless consumption. You not only have to think through what you just read, you have to explain it.
FQ: Are you working on the next Freddy Ferguson book now? If so, would you give our readers a little peek into the story?
DIAMOND: I'm not working on a Freddy book right now. I actually don't know where he and Claire are headed. When an idea for a book comes to me, it sort of brews in the background of my mind, and by the time I sit down to write it, I don't really know what will come out. I know the general outline, but not the details. Those just happen as I write, and I trust myself to let them happen.
My father, who is 94, was an engineer. Not a literary type at all, but he was always fascinated by artists. His first wife, back in New York in the late 1940s and early 50s, was a friend of the poet W.H. Auden. When I was a kid, my dad told me of a conversation he'd had with Auden at a bar in Manhattan. He asked Auden why he wrote. The poet thought for a long moment and then replied, "Because I never know what I have to say until I've said it."
I feel the same way.
In answer to your question, if there is another Freddy book coming, I won't know until it happens. And when it does, I'll be just as surprised by it as you are.