Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Conversation with Thriller Writer Rio Ramirez

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Rio Ramirez

We are delighted to welcome author Rio Ramirez to Omnimystery News today.

Rio's first in a new crime series featuring small town hitman Tommy Darlington is titled Bloodsmoke (Adagio Press; November 2013 trade paperback) and we recently had the chance to talk with him more about it.

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Omnimystery News: Introduce us to Tommy Darlington. What is it about him that appeals to you as a writer?

Rio Ramirez
Photo provided courtesy of
Rio Ramirez

Rio Ramirez: The male protagonist of my first eight 69-Minute Novels is Tommy Darlington, an Old Florida boy: good-natured, philosophical thinker, who lives in his board shorts, t-shirt and flips in the sleepy Florida Gulf town of North Longboat Key, next door to Sarasota.

He's also laid back to the point of early retirement, and pissed off to no end at high-rises filled with anonymous Big Money invaders from other lands, bad government that neglects the good people of Florida, and corrupt officials who line their pockets with money not their own.

On a personal mission to clean up the town of Sarasota, Tommy encounters all that is evil and crooked, forever trying to bend it into a righteous path. There's just one little hitch: he now works for some of the very people he secretly despises and battles.

Tommy Darlington is a hitman with a twist … he has a heart. Still, you don't ever want to be in his crosshairs …

What I love most about Tommy is that he is still a kid who believes in good, although knee-deep in evil much of the time. He tries to ignore the bad things his bosses are doing, then one day wakes up and sees them for what they really are, and that's when those who cut his very big paychecks start getting nervous.

I also love Tommy because he tries so hard with his impossible love, Rachel, who is super-smart but a consummate pain in the ass. She drives Tommy to distraction and nearly gets him killed, but still he allows her to lasso his good heart and keep it tied to her in an otherworldly knot.

Tommy is probably like most of us: he hates bullies and tries to do something about it. Thing is, when he takes action … heads start to roll … and very important and wealthy people start to feel that dark itch waaaay down inside their trousers, where they can't get at it, and it scares the hell out of them …

OMN: How do you expect him to develop over the course of a series?

RR: My Tommy Darlington novels are about the evolution of Tommy the Human. He is an anxiety-depressive who is getting worse in each book, until at last he crashes horribly. Sorry to unleash that spoiler!

OMN: Into which genre would you place Bloodsmoke?

RR: The Tommy books are fast-paced thrillers: zippy, clever and gripping reads for those who love the taste and smell of Old Florida, and who can never get enough of these unforgettable tough guys with thinking minds and big hearts, plus other powerful stories (titles are kindred books):

-John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee (The Deep Blue Goodbye);
-Randy Wayne White's Doc Ford (Tampa Burn);
-Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone (Stone Cold);
-James W. Hall's Thorn (Tropical Freeze);
-Robert Crais's Elvis Cole (The Monkey's Raincoat);
-Elmore Leonard (Rum Punch);
-Dennis Lehane (A Drink Before the War).

OMN: Tell us something about the book that isn't mentioned in the publisher's synopsis.

RR: This 69-Minute Book is NOT an 18,000-word novella! It was designed to be fat-free, highly nutritious, energy-packed, and fast-paced. Typical novels, say, the 400-page species, these days are filled with fat and fluff. I can remove 80% of it and trim it down to a bite-size read. Novellas also are fatty, with too much crap that makes me turn pages just to get to the good stuff.

OMN: How would you tweet a summary of Bloodsmoke?

RR: Tommy Darlington is a hitman with a heart, forever trying to clean up his beloved Sarasota, and making his wealthy bosses very nervous.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in the book?

RR: I'd get thrown into some deep, dark prison if I answered this question truthfully! Yes, Tommy is an alter-ego of mine. His life is based on real-world situations. Enough.

OMN: Describe your writing process for us.

RR: For Tommy, I started writing a love story after my divorce in 2011. I was so heartbroken that I got drunk every night, wrote whatever was inside the dungeon of my twisted soul, and tried to regain what I'd just lost. But as the characters came to life, Tommy and Rachel smacked me upside my head one night and said, "Shut the fuck up and take dictation, Homeboy." And thereafter, the love story quickly morphed into a series of fast-paced thrillers. What can I say? My characters ride me hard and put me away wet.

OMN: Where do you most often find yourself writing?

RR: The first Tommy novel was written in a tin shack on Siesta Key. A month later, I got evicted I was so broke and spending all my $$$ on Stella and Heineken and Camel cigarettes. I was a mess. My desk was an old wooden door with a roach infestation … my chair was two stacked crates with old pillows thrown over … the light was a buncha candles at night, 'cos I slept during the day. All day.

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your stories?

RR: I am an expert in all things about my novels. I've lived and breathed everything in them, so I am intimately familiar with everything. In some cases where I introduced cool history about Florida, I did research in the local libraries. I love primary-source materials, so I used those. I love working with librarians who do first-rate research!

OMN: How true are you to the setting?

RR: I have painted the Old Florida surrounds pretty accurately, although I don't do much detailed description, because that's unnecessary for this line of novels. The geography isn't a main character. I want the reader to take a few choice words of description and paint her own world around Tommy Darlington.

OMN: If we could send you anywhere in the world to research the setting for a book, where would it be?

RR: Edinburgh, Scotland. My next series of novels after Tommy Darlington is about an anachronistic scientist who lives in two eras: 1920s and present day. Edinburgh has the coolest libraries and research institutions! Plus I love the people (women!) and pubs and weather.

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

RR: I travel a lot. Been to dozens of different countries over the years, so I love meeting new people, sampling the food and drink, hiking all over creation, seeing the museums and spaces where great people once walked and lived and worked. Yes, sometimes I inject my wanderlust into my novels. Tommy would love to go to South Africa … and so he does! Oops, another spoiler. Sorry.

OMN: What is the best advice you've received as an author?

RR: I have never received any advice about writing or being an author. That's why I became my own mentor. I did read William Garner's book, How To Write Your First Book, and got assistance from him, but that's it. I've always done my own thing, and that includes helping myself and learning how to do things by myself. Sometimes, I dream about talking and meeting with ancient people who help me along, teach me new tricks, share their lives.

OMN: Complete this sentence for us: "I am a thriller writer and thus I am also …".

RR: I never label myself. That's for you to do! If I had to, I'd say I'm a writer of zippy thrillers that grab you by the throat and rip it the hell off.

OMN: How did you come up with the title for Bloodsmoke?

RR: Bloodsmoke was from a painting I saw by William Garner. Haunting and beautiful and wildly sensuous. I immediately knew that was Tommy Darlington's first adventure!

OMN: Was it also the working title as you wrote the book?

RR: Yes, Bloodsmoke was always the title, even when it started out as a love story.

OMN: And what about the cover?

RR: It was based on William Garner's painting of the same name. Nothing terribly unusual about it. When we tried to get it into airport bookshops, the lady said, "Boring as hell. Won't sell at all." But when we give it to readers, they go, "Moly hoses! Wow! Cowabunga! Grrrrreat cover! Who designed this!?"

OMN: What kind of feedback have you received from readers?

RR: I originally wrote this for men: guys who hang out in dark dingy dive bars until zero-three, ride loud motorcycles, drink and smoke too much. You get the picture. But when I gave it to some guys to read, their women and girls picked them up and something magical happened: they all fell in love with Tommy Darlington. It was a shock. Now, I just hand it to women and girls when I run into someone who looks the "Tommy type."

OMN: Suppose your series were to be adapted for television or film. Who do you see playing the lead role?

RR: When Tommy came to me in that first dream, he was the Hollywood actor Paul Walker, who was tragically killed in a car crash. I still picture Paul as Tommy …

OMN: What kinds of books did you read when you were young?

RR: I read mountains of Reader's Digest, old books from the 1800s, westerns, mysteries. They all had too much fluff, which helped me see the importance of writing short, fast-paced thrillers.

OMN: Have any specific authors or books influenced how and what you write today?

RR: Many …

-John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series;
-Randy Wayne White's Doc Ford series;
-Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone series (LOVE the Tom Selleck movies!);
-James W. Hall's Thorn series;
-Robert Crais's Elvis Cole series;
-Elmore Leonard (Rum Punch);
-Dennis Lehane (A Drink Before the War).

OMN: When selecting a book today to read for pleasure, what do you look for?

RR: I need to learn something new! So I go for history, religious history, American history, Scottish history, etc.

OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any topic.

RR: My Top 5 Fave Authors:

1. Robert Green;
2. Sun Tzu;
3. Archilochus;
4. Justin Fulton; and
5. Eduardo Galeano.

OMN: What's next for you?

RR: I'm doing poetry on and loving it. Also compiling a new book of poetry and musings called Postcards From Rio, which will be out in July 2015. Still working on a new series of novels featuring a cool character, Oliver Michael-Anthony Goddard, aka OMAGOD! They're sci-fi thrillers set in Key West, Florida, and take place over centuries, where characters tear their way from one time fabric to another. Very cool.

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Rio grew up in the Land of Pancho Villa and Tabasco, where he learned to read before speaking his first word. His Mother's and Aunts' supreme love of great books shaped him from an early age to love the written word and to emulate the world's great authors, especially those from the 1800s. He joined the US Army and did a stint as an Airborne Ranger, then operated overseas rescuing people out of danger zones. Today, he writes poetry and short pieces on, travels a lot, and takes dictation from his favorite character, Tommy Darlington, badboy star of Rio's novels.

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

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Bloodsmoke by Rio Ramirez

Bloodsmoke by Rio Ramirez

A Tommy Darlington Thriller

Publisher: Adagio Press Print/Kindle Format(s)

Tommy Darlington is a small-town hitman who reluctantly climbs the ladder of success in a shady global industry run by well-heeled thugs with infinite resources, and backed by a secret cabal of dynastic men thousands of miles from the action.

Along the way, Darlington discovers the nature and identities of the powerful men behind the black curtain, and begins questioning their methods and motives, leaving a trail of warm bodies in his wake.

The more this sinister cabal tries to control Darlington, the more they lose their grip on him as he gradually reveals and unravels their carefully laid plans.

Bloodsmoke by Rio Ramirez


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