Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Conversation with Thriller Writer Glen Erik Hamilton

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Glen Erik Hamilton

We are delighted to welcome author Glen Erik Hamilton to Omnimystery News today.

We called Glen's first Van Shaw mystery, Past Crimes, "one of the year's best books" and now the second in the series has been published, Hard Cold Winter (William Morrow; March 2016 hardcover, audiobook and ebook formats). We recently had the opportunity to spend some time with Glen to talk more about his work.

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Omnimystery News: What is it about your series character, Van Shaw, that appeals to you as a writer?

Glen Erik Hamilton
Photo provided courtesy of
Glen Erik Hamilton

Glen Erik Hamilton: Van Shaw is a man of extremes. He was raised by his career criminal grandfather to be a professional thief, and after escaping that environment he has served with distinction as an Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now back home in Seattle, he finds himself facing the rest of his life, with those two very different points on the moral compass to guide himself. He has a wide range of skills, and friends in unusual places. Ultimately, he walks an increasingly fine line between right and wrong. It's that tension which impels me to write more about him, because with each book I learn more about who he is, and the person he wants to become.

OMN: Into which genre would you place this series?

GEH: I love to mix different elements from different brands of mysteries and thrillers. If we liken the books to one of those jawbreaker candies that change color and flavor, it would probably have a thriller at the very heart — because I always want the readers to be desperate to turn the page and find out what happens next — but there are layers of action-adventure, of whodunit, of noir, and of course crime and caper stories.

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

GEH: In Hard Cold Winter Van becomes involved with people his own age, but from a vastly higher social strata. He gets a taste of their lives. While he has almost nothing in common with these wealthy and college-educated twenty-somethings, he can't deny that their world offers opportunities beyond his reach. His own choices come into stark relief, and he starts giving some thought to a future he never expected to have.

OMN: When starting a new book, which comes first: the characters or the storyline?

GEH: Almost always the characters. I might have ideas for scenes or settings that I'd like to work into a new book, but most often an intriguing person comes to mind. It might be what they look like — there's a particular killer in Hard Cold Winter who is based on someone I spied on a street outside a Galway casino — or it might be someone who has a specific role to play in Van's life. I figure out who these people are and what they care about, and then I set them spinning like tops to see how they bounce off one another.

OMN: Tell us a little more about your writing process.

GEH: I'm only on my third book, so my process is still a work in progress. I always have notecards with specific story beats or dialogue I'd like to use. I also did a lot of outlining for my first and second books, and that was useful, but I did find myself deviating from the outline whenever the story demanded. What I'm experimenting with this time around is writing out the backstory for each of the major players, and how that drives events in the main story. That way, if things take a different turn, I'll still know what's left to cover.

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

GEH: I've always wanted to see Florence. Van's been to Italy — he had some reconstructive surgery there at one point in his military career — so there might be an excuse to have him running around Italy, stirring up trouble for the Guardia and likely the Mafia as well.

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

GEH: I am a thriller writer and thus I am also a troublemaker. Or perhaps troublefaker. Thriller writers look at situations, real and fictional, and ask themselves: "What's the worst that could happen? Yeah, let's do that."

OMN: How did Hard Cold Winter come to be titled?

GEH: It came from talking with veterans of the war in Afghanistan, Army Rangers and others, about operations in the mountainous regions. Winter is a dangerous time. Weather is erratic, and movement can be very slow. The enemy will hunker down and fight instead of fleeing into the cold. Air support is limited or even nonexistent. And the job has to be done despite all of that.

Van is experiencing a tough season himself. There's emotional uncertainty with his new life as a civilian, and few job prospects. But his burden is light compared to his buddy Leo Pak, who served in Van's platoon. Leo is struggling with PTSD — which Van has wrestled with as well — and he needs help. He might be a strong ally to Van. Or his troubles might drag both of them all the way down.

OMN: How involved are you with the cover designs of your books?

GEH: Generally, I'm shown the initial images or options, and my agent and I will discuss feedback before we talk to the publisher. We might have a couple of tweaks in mind. But across the board, we were all very pleased with how the cover of my first book Past Crimes shaped up. When it came to Hard Cold Winter, we wanted that same kind of feel without just repeating ourselves. The designer at William Morrow, Richard Aquan, just knocked it out of the park. Completely independently, Luke Bird at my UK publisher Faber & Faber came up with a design which also featured a cabin, and a lovely haunted sort of vibe.

OMN: What kinds of films or television programs do you enjoy watching?

GEH: I enjoy a pretty wide range — when time allows, which isn't often — from action films to documentaries. I'll watch a Jane Austen adaptation just as quick as I'll watch Penny Dreadful. Mostly, if something has a great script, it'll pull me in. Recently I've re-watched Miller's Crossing and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the late lamented FX series Terriers, and couple of Columbo episodes from the early '70s. You can't go wrong with Columbo.

OMN: What's next for you?

GEH: I'm ecstatic to say that we've signed a new book deal, so there will be at least one more Van Shaw novel, which I'm writing now. After that, I have some notions for a stand-alone, as well as new directions for Van in mind. The more I write, the more excited I get about the chance to tell the next story. If I'm very lucky, that feeling will never change, no matter where my career leads.

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A native of Seattle, Glen Erik Hamilton grew up aboard a sailboat, and spent his youth finding trouble around the marinas and commercial docks and islands of the Pacific Northwest. He now lives in California with his family, punctuated by frequent visits to his hometown to soak up the rain.

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

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Hard Cold Winter by Glen Erik Hamilton

Hard Cold Winter by Glen Erik Hamilton

A Van Shaw Mystery

Publisher: William Morrow

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)iTunes iBook FormatKobo eBook Format

When an old crony of Van Shaw's late grandfather calls in a favor, the recently-discharged Ranger embarks on a dangerous journey to the Olympic Mountains, in search of a missing girl tied to Van's own criminal past. What he finds instead is a brutal murder scene, including a victim from one of Seattle's most influential families.

But the dead bodies are only the start of Van's troubles. A fellow Ranger from Afghanistan turns up at Van's doorstep, seeking support from his former sergeant even as Van wrestles with his own reemerging symptoms of PTSD. The murder investigation leads to heavy pressure, with a billionaire businessman on one side and vicious gangsters on the other, each willing to play dirty to get what they want.

The price of his survival may be too high, demanding moral compromises that could destroy Van's relationship with his iron-willed girlfriend, Luce. And when a trusted friend's betrayal pushes him to the edge, Van has to enlist help from some unexpected places — including someone he believed was lost forever.

The Ranger will need every ally he can get. A powerful, unseen player is about to unleash a firestorm on Seattle that will burn Van and his people to ashes — and it will take a miracle to stop it.

Hard Cold Winter by Glen Erik Hamilton. Click here to take a Look Inside the book.


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