Thursday, July 07, 2016

A Conversation with Mystery Author Rick Bylina

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Rick Bylina

We are delighted to welcome author Rick Bylina to Omnimystery News today.

Rick has a new cozy mystery titled Kill All Cats (June 2016 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we recently had the chance to catch up with him to talk more about it.

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Omnimystery News: Kill All Cats features night security guard Ron Black. What is it about him that appeals to you as a writer?

Rick Bylina
Photo provided courtesy of
Rick Bylina

Rick Bylina: To be honest, the main character, Ron Black, was the anti-Rick when I wrote about the first 5000 words. The character and the book were very dark, but I'm not Stephen King and can't keep that level of darkness for long. I softened the edges, but kept the main core problems. That is what I liked about Ron. Several people have written that he seems well-developed, and by the end of the story, his character is that of a full person, not a caricature. To me that is a great compliment.

OMN: You write both a series character, the Detective Stark Mysteries, and stand-alone novels. What criteria did you use to decide whether a book will be part of the series or a stand-alone?

RB: The easy answer to the question involves the history of why I chose to write the book. Several authors and I were kvetching about banned books during banned book week, and I wrote that I would write a book that thousands would ban and millions would buy in protest to the ban. A brilliant marketing scheme, or so I thought. At that moment in the on-line conversation, a friend sent me a slew of pictures of her cat. I joked that I was going to kill that cat, and the idea of the story popped into my head. It didn't fit the profile of the stories for Detective Stark so it became a stand-alone set basically where I live in North Carolina. There is a reference to Marshfield, Pennsylvania as Ron Black's hometown, and that just happens to be where the Stark mysteries are set.

OMN: Into which genre would you place this book?

RB: Officially, Kill All Cats is listed as a mystery with the sub-genre of cozy. All of my novels are mysteries. The Detective Stark mysteries are police procedurals; All of Our Secrets comes close to being a literary mystery. Kill All Cats has to be considered a cozy with a hard edge for some of the more intense scenes. If fact, it was pointed out to me that I may have invented a new sub-genre, the anti-cozy. In cozies, the amateur sleuth is usually someone who has a lot of contact with the public, is more often a woman, has a friend or family member on the police force, and many other facets. My protagonist is a loner, knows few people, interacts with almost no one, and is without police allies. The cat lady in the book would have been the protagonist in a cozy, but she's dead on page one in my book.

OMN: Tell us something about Kill All Cats that isn't mentioned in the synopsis.

RB: Easy. It may be the first book ever written in first-person, past-tense that doesn't use the verbs "was" or "were." My ten beta readers didn't know about this when they read the final draft, and they didn't catch it. I'm proud of that deception and the ability to maximize the use of alternative, vibrant verbs.

OMN: How did you go about researching the plot points of the story? What was your most challenging topic to research? And most exciting?

RB: Internet research is fast and cheap, but also rife with errors. I use it to find a resource and then dig deeper. In Kill All Cats the most difficult thing to get correct was actually what happens when a person is stunned via a stun gun versus a TASER. There are so many amateur experts out there that I had to write and rewrite the fight scene with a stun gun and scenes leading up to the stunning scene to eradicate the poor understanding of what happens to someone when they are electrically stunned. I expect some know-it-all to tell me I got it wrong. I'll just have to live with it. The most interesting (not sure it was exciting) topic for research was actually in my novel One Promise Too Many and the state of a body in frigid water after nine months. I started out with the State Bureau of Investigation and eventually spoke directly to the chief forensic doctor for the state. I asked one question; he answered for an hour. I guess he doesn't get to talk to many people about things that excite him, but it helped create a very realistic, if a bit gross, scene.

OMN: What are some of your outside interests? And have any of these found their way into your books?

RB: Principally I garden, both vegetables and flowers. I also like to fish, mostly salt water. I will eat almost anything that comes out of the sea. I like to go on road trips; I've been in forty-seven states. I'm involved in a choir that sings to assisted-living centers, and am involved in my local community. I'm very inquisitive and read anything that catches my eye. And I've taken on a number of temporary jobs in the past decade. These jobs give me insights to work and lives that I wouldn't have otherwise while sitting in my office and pretending I understand what it's like to be a census taker, for example. Sports (softball, volleyball, bowling, running, etc.) have always played a part in my life. And yes, all these activities have made their way in my novels. In All of Our Secrets the protagonist (a pale version of me) notices the flora and fauna around him, adding a level of depth to the story. In Kill All Cats, the bowling scenes, which were difficult to write and maintain the interest of non-bowlers, wouldn't have had that feel of authenticity if I hadn't been a bowler.

OMN: What's next for you?

RB: I have a memoir of my time working as the night cashier in a 24/7 grocery store as an older man, detailing what really happens during the night in and around the store and the surprisingly funny, sad, and mundane things that happen to keep that shelves full and customers serviced. It's called Paper or Plastic — The Grocery Store Chronicles and should be out in the fall. After that, Don't Fear the Reaper, a literary romance. But it wouldn't be a Bylina book without a dead body in it, some humor, and cow bells. As Christopher Walken urged, "Gotta have more cow bells."

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Rick Bylina lives with his wife and Sydney, a 25-year-old cockatiel, near Apex, NC on five wooded acres where his imagination runs free. Ongoing corporate downsizing convinced him to tap into his passion. He scribbled any crazy idea that crossed his mind. After gaining discipline, he wrote his debut mystery novel, One Promise Too Many, the first in a series featuring Detective Roger Stark. Writing happens spontaneously between housework, gardening, cooking, chopping wood, and wrestling alligators.

For more information about the author, please visit his website at RickBylina.com and his author page on Goodreads, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Kill All Cats by Rick Bylina

Kill All Cats by Rick Bylina

A Cozy Mystery

Publisher: Rick Bylina

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)

Ron Black is a 35-year-old night security guard living a moribund existence. Past deeds need to stay buried for him to remain a free man. When the elderly cat lady next-door dies along with her thirty-eight cats, Ron feels the investigative heat from Detectives Moore and Porter. His alibi: "I was at work."

The police disrupt Ron's life, which he shares with Brisbane, his cockatiel. He squawks surprisingly relevant quotes learned from watching crime show reruns 24/7 — some of which don't help Ron's situation. Ron picks up clues about what happened next-door from conflicting comments by his odd neighbors: "She was popped." "Poisoned." "Chopped up." The neighbors include Ron's estranged great-uncle Kirk, a disgruntled scientist, who had worked at the pharmaceutical company where Ron is the night guard.

When Ron's only friend, Jean, disappears, the police double-down on him as a suspect for this crime, too. The next day, the police infer his arrest in twenty-four hours for the crime at his neighbor's house. Despite the pressure to save himself, he is compelled to find his friend.

Kill All Cats by Rick Bylina

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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