JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
George Wier, author of The Last Call – A Bill Travis Mystery
The Last Call is the first in an action/adventure mystery series called The Bill Travis Mysteries. In this first book, Bill Travis – an investment counselor rapidly approaching his 40s – assists Julie Simmons in her flight from the henchmen of quarterhorse racer and illicit liquor baron, Archie Carpin.
Carpin’s men are as ruthless as they are stupid, and their penchant for high-powered firearms and rigged explosives is matched only by their doggedness in either capturing or killing Julie. Enter Bill and his good friend Hank – also no slouch in the explosives department.
But what did Julie do to get all this attention? And how can Bill save her? Fortunately for the reader, this book is free on Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Nobles Nook, as well as other ebook readers. To quote Bill Crider: “Get it before last call!”
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the inspiration to write The Last Call – A Bill Travis Mystery?
George Wier: When I moved to Austin, Texas, in 2002, I did a great deal of reading. I didn’t know a lot of people and books were very much my constant companion. I looked around, however, for a book or a series of books that personified my new home town. Also, I looked for a character I could not only identify with, but one that could give me a clue as to how to act, or basically, how to be. Finding none, I sat down and began writing.
I didn’t know what was going to come of it; I just knew I would be creating the character and the situations I wanted to read about. And that, I believe, is the chief ingredient in any good story. Is the character true, not only to himself and his ideals, but to everyone and everything around him? Just how authentic could he be? So, that’s where Bill came from. And in those early days, I already had the titles for the first 10 or so books picked out, and very largely, I have stuck with those titles and those first story ideas.
Thus far, there are 7 completed books and more on the way. But the writing of them… That has gotten better. And Bill, he’s gotten a great deal better as well. His wit, like mine, is perhaps a little more wry. His predilection for action, like mine, is the highest it could be. (It may surprise you to know that I have lived some of these adventures – and maybe that’s why I’m prematurely gray).
I am still, however, gaining inspiration for this character, his friends and family, and even his enemies. It’s around me every day here, and like Bill, I’ve never stopped observing. I suppose a real writer must always be willing to look and experience. A real writer must be willing to get his feet wet or his hands dirty. And if he’s not ready and willing to do those things, why, I don’t believe the inspiration will ever come.
Ultimately, I guess you could say that my inspiration comes from life. But that sounds a bit trite. Maybe I could say it better by saying that if you plug in the other definition for life there (not the thing that means “what goes on around one”, but instead “one’s own existence”) then possibly it makes a little more sense.
People forget sometimes that THEY are life. I guess that’s what I mean. That’s a little bit truer, too, as far as this protagonist is concerned. George is not now the Bill he could have been. Not that he’s really me. Just that we’ve had some shared experiences, that’s all. Yes, I’ve had people point guns at me. Yes, I’ve had some high-speed chases. All that stuff.
It’s far better, though, to write about them than to have them, let me tell you. But sometimes… well, there’s just no substitute. There’s a definite ringing-in-the-ears that one gets after having fired a high-powered rifle. Try describing it without having experienced it. Shoot, I can smell the gunpowder in my nose right now.
JP: What sets The Last Call – A Bill Travis Mystery apart from other books in the same genre?
GW: Well, it sort of is a “genre” book, and it sort of isn’t. As a good friend of mine, Joe Prentis, said, there are too many protagonists that are too… (fill in the blank). Meaning, they’ve got a problem with alcohol, or they’ve got problems with women, or they’ve got this or they’ve got that… yada yada yada.
Bill is different. He’s Everyman. And in The Last Call, I’ve done my best to paint him as indistinctly as I can, yet at the same time I made it easy to get to know him – how he thinks, how he reacts, what his dreams are like. And in the final analysis, that’s what identifies us all – not what we look like, but who we are.
I wanted no less for Bill Travis. I wanted him real, just as you are, just as I am. Also, I wanted him in a completely impossible situation. I wanted to test his mettle and at the same time push the reader to the edge, if not over it. I don’t, however, find many other books that do this. “Of course,” I’m probably hearing you say, “you’re touting your book here, buddy.” Well, you got me there. But, please find for me a character or a book like this?
The closest I can come to that is John Dunning’s “booked” character in his classic Booked to Die, and its sequels. And Dunning is a true master. There are a few I strive to do better than, and he’s one of them. But there’s one last element I’d like to call your attention to: it’s the action. When I was a young fellow (I was once, you know – really!) I read a lot of action and adventure books. Most of them were a bit campy – I know because I’ve tried to go back and re-read them, and I just can’t get myself through one these days. But back then I had a white-knuckle grip on the page and the story would grab me and I’d read until two or four in the morning!
That’s what I wanted with these books, and particularly this first one. I wanted that white-knuckle/on-the-edge-of-your-seat feel. I wanted to give that to my readers. And I’ve had more than a few tell me that I succeeded. So, I suppose I did well. I that way, this book (and its sequels) is decidedly different.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that led to The Last Call – A Bill Travis Mystery getting out to the public?
GW: First, I never took no for an answer. Many, many times I was told that I should stop, that “we don’t accept this kind of manuscript” (which I took to mean: “you scare us kid. Nobody should write like this.”) I’ve heard it all. Not once did I ever give up.
As my wife, Sallie, says, no matter what is going on with me – death close by, taxes, 12-hour shifts, whatever – I’m always writing and I always will be (and I think it’s one of the reasons I think she married me: I’m always handing her something to read!). I can’t stop writing, so if I’m going to write, I might as well write what I want to read and what some other people will want to read.
So I made the break when my good friend, Milton Burton, suggested to Bobby Byrd over at Cinco Puntos Press that he should get a short story from George Wier for his upcoming Lone Star Noir anthology. So, in about thirty minutes I took a former Bill Travis story that seemed to be going nowhere, chopped it off around page 30 or so, changed the character names and the ending a bit, fleshed it out a little, and fired it off.
And those were the most well-spent thirty minutes of my life! I then went on the book tour around Texas promoting the book (I was the only author in that anthology that went to ALL the book signings, no matter how far-flung, and I took Sallie with me to boot!). You can say that I got lucky, and you’d be right about that. But it’s my belief that people make their own luck. You have to be a bit of a mule, you know. You have to make up your mind and NOT CHANGE IT when the wind blows the wrong way. That’s pretty much it.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take you to start and finish The Last Call – A Bill Travis Mystery?
GW: For my writing process, I take Stephen King’s advice in his wonderful book On Writing: I sit down and write. I let a hole open up in my computer screen and I see this other world and I report what goes on there. I just do that and only that.
And really, all along I have maintained (and still do so) that I have very little to do with the whole process. You just write. The story either comes or it doesn’t. It’s sort of a silly illusionist trick, you know? When you know the secret to it, it’s sort of spoiled. But, you asked.
With regard to how long this one took me, I’d say about a month, start to finish, maybe a little more. I didn’t clock myself on this one. I did on Arrowmoon, Book 8 in the series. That one took 29 days, start to finish. And all the while, I was taking classes and working a 40-hour week job. So when people say “I don’t have time to write,” and give me this sad look, I think to myself “Just keep thinking that and that’s what you’ll get: a lot of blank paper!” Sorry to sound so harsh, that’s just the reality of it, at least from my point-of-view.
JP: What’s next for George Wier?
GW: Well, finish this series, for starters. I just sent off a manuscript to a traditional publisher after he said he was interested in publishing it. Fortunately, I know the guy. I’ve got a number of other completed novels waiting in the wings. They’re not dusty or anything – they’re all fairly fresh and pretty much ready to go.
And when I say “finish this series”, I’m talking about 16, 17 more books. I can do no less, actually. It’s been the plan pretty much all along. I do hope that this body has from 50 to 70 more books in it. I’m 47 now, and I plan on a long run. Hopefully, you’ll be there interviewing me at the far end, and we’ll look back on that little interview we did once, and we’ll laugh. Okay, is that it? Say, thanks!
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