Episode 125B – Steve Leshin – Developing a Series

Overview

Steve attributes the success of his series to his great character, Joshua Oates. He had the idea for the series because he had the character so well developed.

We discuss how focusing on the character helped him to create the series as a whole.

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Transcript

All right. So let’s talk some author stuff.

Before we talk about writing your series based on your character let’s a few other things you’ve been writing for a while. What are some things you’ve learned that you’re doing different now than you did from at the beginning?

[00:26:41] Steve: Yeah. One thing get a comfortable chair. Because you’re gonna be on that keyboard or writing on a notebook or whatever, but you’re gonna be sitting down and you’re gonna be writing.

And that’s a task that if you have a comfortable chair, that helps a lot. What else can I tell you? The things that I did yes, be compact. Be economical. What I mean by that is. You can be writing and you have rambling sentences that people, don’t we really wanna read. You really wanna get to the action.

What’s taking place, the dialogue is something you learn as you go, I think and you want crisp short dialogue that goes with the story that, makes it go. You can have reflective dialogue, but I find that when two people are talking to each other two characters are talking to each other.

You wanna get to the point,

[00:27:38] Stephen: right? Yep. Okay. Now, I picture with that hat and talking about the 1920s, I picture you sitting there at an old Remington steel typewriter taking away at it, but I assume you don’t do that. What, so what what do you do when you write, is there any software or services that you particularly like?

Yeah,

[00:27:58] Steve: I tried different ones. First I tried a Microsoft word, which is good. And then I went to Google docs, which I use now. There are many others out there that I’ll probably experiment and try different ones. But right now the Google docs seem to work. One of the things it has is that if I misspell a word it tells me, Hey, this word does not spell like that.

Okay. all right, then. I’ll correct it. And. And I can I can use that and you can actually convert Google docs to either a PDF file or a Microsoft word file. So yeah. So you can have the best of both worlds,

[00:28:41] Stephen: okay. All right. And you had also mentioned earlier about marketing and that, so what are you doing to market?

Do you have any interesting marketing you’re doing.

[00:28:50] Steve: I’m doing I’m doing podcast, which I’m thankful on. Thank you. Thank you for having me by the way. And I’m also doing some book signings. I also do some what would I call it? The library has different author days, my local library.

So I do those. And I also get on as many websites as I can to try to promote my book. I do have the Amazon author page. I do have the Facebook page. I not on Instagram and I don’t do Twitter. It’s probably, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing for an author. But that’s what I’m trying to do that.

And also there’s book fairs too, that I enter to try to do it that way.

[00:29:37] Stephen: So how are you finding like the book fairs and things to go to? Are you just Google searching or do you hear about ’em from other places?

[00:29:45] Steve: Yeah. A little both. And then I have author friends that tell me about. and I read about it in the newspaper and yes, I still read a paper newspaper that comes in.

[00:29:58] Stephen: With that hat, you have to, ,

[00:29:59] Steve: You gotta do, you gotta go for it. Yeah and I get and word of mouth, I hear about. From different people that you have contact with. And I think that that helps authors if you have contact with other people that like to write and and you hear things and you exchange ideas,

[00:30:18] Stephen: Right.

Okay. And so now for our discussion, you brought up an interesting topic of choosing or writing your series around your character. So what exactly did you mean by that and what are you doing to make that happen?

[00:30:34] Steve: Yeah Joshua oats. Is the primary character in my, the Joshua and venture series, but, and he came as he was a, like a secondary character in vengeance of the ripper cause was all about white, urban bat Masterson and and Jack ripper.

And then some other characters that take part in the novel and he was. In the background as this police captain. And he was very young at the time and I thought to make a sequel, let’s flesh him out. Let’s flesh this character out, make him more three dimensional. And we did that by saying that he was divorced and then he started drinking.

And that led to his leaving the police force. And then he wandered the country for a while. Then he entered the great war, which was world war I, and he he was actually a Lieutenant in the war that lost his men in a battle in France. And of course that led to. What they call shell shock, cuz he experiences the horrible things that happen in war.

And he got as far away from his old job in California as he could. And he sets up his detective. Office, because that’s what he knows. He knows being a former policeman. That’s all he knows. So he becomes a private investigator in Boston, Massachusetts, which is where Spencer was in the Robert V. Parker movies, but only it’s 19, 19, almost the beginning of the roaring twenties.

And I saw, and I started typing. I started banging in the keyboard. And I came up with a complicated, but interesting story about this ex-police captain who becomes a down and out private investigator and gets involved with somebody from the past that happened inventions of the ripper. And from there.

Different things happened. He met Angela Lang, which is his girlfriend who happens to be a police detective in training in 19, 19, and later becomes a full detective. And the two of them get in different adventures in my stories that happened after that. And it was, it just one thing led to another and it led to a series.

[00:33:13] Stephen: Do you think if you hadn’t developed the character, that your series would not have happened or would’ve been completely different if it had been some other character, it

[00:33:22] Steve: wouldn’t have happened. okay. Cuz was I going to do a sequel will with wire, for example? I don’t know about that because at that point in the 19.

Twenties. He was in well in his seventies. He couldn’t be doing too much other than, trying to enjoy life in sunny, California. So I said how about this young police captain? I said let’s give him this backstory. And I said you know what? After I wrote the sequel, which is target of fear, Couple years later, fans, some fans who actually bought the book and read, it said, are is there any more adventures with him any more adventures with Joshua and said yeah, I have some ideas.

And then I began writing. And soon I came up with my third book which is a darker shade of greed, which took an idea ahead from my grandfather who was a tailor in Springfield. Back in the 1930s or forties, but I had him in the 1920s and he told me a story years ago when I was a young kid, he told me a story, or I heard a story that he used to take trips into Washington, DC from Springfield, mass, something about gambling.

I said, So then my relative said no maybe it did happen, but we don’t know. So they said that wouldn’t make an interesting story a tailor that has to go into, but I didn’t make it Washington DC. I made him going into New York city cuz that’s where Joshua Oz has his adventures mostly. And so I had him going into New York city and he’s carrying something in a suit that he made.

And this led to something else and something else. And it’s a really good adventure. And then after that people said, oh how about another book? So I wrote the killer’s code, which was my fourth book in the series. And this led to something about what if Joshua oats went back to California, where he left the police force in disgrace 10 years ago, this would make an interesting.

[00:35:34] Stephen: So he did that. And mystery stories are very much plot driven. You’ve got the whole thing, figuring out the, whatever the mystery is usually murder. It seems. But a lot of ’em like what you’re talking about are very character, too, that main central character has to be bigger than life.

Something that people can glom onto. Whether it’s because they’re a heavy drunk drinker and they’re struggling, or they’re an ex cop because they killed their partner. There’s some something that draws people in, you gotta have both from a murderer series that people get into Spencer being a great example.

[00:36:08] Steve: Yeah. Some of the reviews I got back said Joshua OTZ is an endearing character because of his struggles and because of how he tries to do the right thing. He’s not like a Sam spade where he is gotta solve the mystery or a Mike hammer where he just goes in. But he’s more of a a little more complicated character that does a lot of self-reflection, but gets in on the action because he he gets in a lot of fights when he tries to do these investigations and he learned how to fight.

When back when he was a police captain. He gets in the fist fights a lot. I dunno why ,

[00:36:47] Stephen: when you mentioned that dialogue, that’s super important for developing a character. It helps not, you get their thoughts and stuff throughout the book usually, but the dialogue is how they interact with everyone else is how it not.

Propels the plot, but you get a lot of that character in dialogue, right? So

[00:37:06] Steve: when he’s when Joshua is confronted by these these hoods that he meets these mob bosses and stuff, he’s more of a wise cracking guy, like Spencer in his novels. So Josh was you. Getting threatened by these mob bosses.

And then he goes he says something sardonic and just, witty. And it goes over the head of the bad guy and , but he yeah, so that’s the way he he reacts to that and I got that from the Robert B. Parker novels. Yes. So I

[00:37:38] Stephen: borrowed, but so have you been. Working on a character arc for your main character or is he pretty much the same character in every book?

[00:37:47] Steve: No, he grows he grows from book to book. He each story is like an arc, although you can read the book as a standalone novel because each book has its own. Sort of characters, but also it it does rely on some information about the past novels, which I incorporate in a sentence or two that tells you a little bit about the background of a certain character that, if you didn’t read book number two, you wouldn’t necessarily know who this person was that Joshua was referring to.

But if I give a little background in a paragraph that sets up the next story,

[00:38:35] Stephen: so good. And. I can think of a lot of series that like Mac boon, the executioner, there’s 300 of those. So he doesn’t really change. There’s not a lot of arc growth in his character. And Spencer himself there’s a little bit, but he’s, he stays pretty constant throughout the series.

Yeah. Yeah.

[00:38:54] Steve: Josh was sorta like that but he’s a little wiser with each book. Okay. Uh, Yeah I think that’s the best way to express

[00:39:03] Stephen: it. Do you think in this type of story series mystery, do you think that character growth from start to finishes important? Or do you think the, that people are reading it?

Cuz they like the character the way he is and they want more adventures?

[00:39:16] Steve: I think a little of both. Okay. Uh, You don’t wanna be like stagnant. You don’t want your character be too stagnant? Let’s take, I don’t know. I guess James Bond would be a good example. You want James Bond to, be sophisticated and, have, drink the, his martini shaken, not stirred and having liaisons with different, beautiful women and be a spy, and act like a spy.

Tark would be the same. He’d be in the jungle of Dan Jane and, but Joshua basically the same, but he grows a little bit with each novel. He cuz he re he’s a reflective type of detective, but he also is

[00:39:59] Stephen: an action figure too. And James, Bond’s a good example, cuz I think the latest James Bond movies, which the books are one thing, I mean there’s a certain amount of books as are done.

He doesn’t change a lot there. And a lot of the early movies, it was pretty much same character and that’s what people wanted. But the Daniel Craig movies, I think they tried to give him a much deeper art with this boyhood home Skyfall and

[00:40:21] Steve: everything. Exactly. And there’s good and bad in that.

Should I do a ? No I shouldn’t give away the plot in the last movie, but it was different than it was something that out of the ordinary. Yeah. You don’t do that to James Bond.

[00:40:35] Stephen: right. No, there was, his whole art, he quit for a while because he felt betrayed. Yeah.

Yeah. And he got shot by his own people. And then he went to his boyhood home to save M and and then the last one, definitely an art completion. Unless

[00:40:52] Steve: this is a multiverse James Bond from another dimension.

[00:40:56] Stephen: Arguably it could be that there’s a, we keep getting different faces and he’s been around for 60, 70 years.

So there’s something going on there, is it just, is it’s the dread pirate Roberts? Yeah, exactly. Passing on that’s

[00:41:10] Steve: right. That’s right. You have different actors, but it’s the same character basical.

[00:41:14] Stephen: Which honestly I’ve said for a while, I wouldn’t mind seeing that with Indiana Jones. I could take a, another actor being a young Indiana Jones to get the adventures because right.

I like Indian. I like terrorism Ford, obviously. But I think more Indiana Jones movies would be awesome. Kind of James Bond. Like I, I personally would be okay with that. I’m not with everything. I don’t wanna. Star wars redone with all new actors. I, with the, in this old time period, but I, I think some things I’m okay with.

Yeah. Yeah.

[00:41:47] Steve: Trying to think Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford. I don’t know. I don’t know. Would it work? I think the adventures would work. And we’ll have to see Indiana Jones five. What comes out of that? The rumor is that the the person that’s helping him becomes the new Indiana Jones, but

[00:42:06] Stephen: I don’t know.

Yeah. We’ll see different people have different opinions, different thoughts, all steve I think this has been great. You got any last comments on characters and series? Yeah.

[00:42:16] Steve: Know your character for you because I’m my own worst critic and you want it. You want it to be, yeah, you want it to be good.

You want it to be a good read, something that somebody’s gonna get, write from, start to finish, that they don’t wanna put down. And you want it to be fun too.

[00:42:37] Stephen: All right. Steve, it’s been really great talking to you about your book and writing your series around the character. So I wish you luck on that.

And as soon as this goes live, I’ll let you know.

[00:42:47] Steve: Thank you for having me. I enjoyed it. It’s a

[00:42:49] Stephen: lot of fun. Yeah. Great. And I look forward to seeing more from you. Thank you.

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