Redux — Here Comes Johnny!!!
September 17, 2012
I’m on a panel with G.B. Pool. Michael Mallory, and Robert Fate–and moderated by Kate Thornton tomorrow (Tuesday!) We’re going to be talking about writing protagonists of the opposite sex. For me that’s Hubert Champion III in Reticence of Ravens. I’ve been on a panel with Michael before, and I know Gayle, and I’ll be meeting Kate and Robert! I’m really excited. Here’s the link to my website page with the particulars about the event– if by chance you’re in the area!
So, in honor of the event, I’m re-posting my lovely talk with G.B. Pool.
Talking with G. B. Pool about her wonderful new release…
Gayle, thanks so much for stopping by. As you know, I’ve been anxiously awaiting Johnny Casino’s arrival, and I’m so pleased to hear Johnny has made his debut into the literary world! To start off, could you tell us how you came up with the Johnny Casino character?
When I started writing short stories to submit to writing contests, his was the first voice I heard in my head. I wrote several Johnny Casino stories and then Sisters-in-Crime/Los Angeles announced their latest anthology. Neither of my previous stories fit the theme, so I wrote a third one and it was accepted in LAndmarked for Murder in 2006.
In the first story, I casually mentioned Johnny Casino was raised in a Mafia family. But as I dug deeper into his life, I discovered his parents were far more connected. Then I met a retired cop who had an interesting relationship with the Mafia. His father was in the Greek Mafia. Those insights into a real person dealing with the same things my fictional character was dealing with, solidified his character. I kept peeling that onion to find hidden layers of his life.
My agent suggested I give Johnny a girlfriend, but the old Noir detectives didn’t have girlfriends, at least not “wife material,” and I didn’t want that for Johnny, either, so I wrote a story explaining why most of the women in Johnny’s life weren’t exactly the marrying kind, in fact, several were downright deadly.
Johnny’s character grew as I wrote. He is like a friend. You don’t know everything at first, but you learn over the years. I have finished three books in the series, so I know a lot about Johnny Casino.
I like that you have three books already in the series, and so interesting Johnny has become a “friend.” Also interesting to me is The Johnny Casino Casebook is a series of short stories, each a different case. Why did you write it in that format?
Maybe it’s the way he talks or his attitude, but Johnny Casino seems like a short story character to me. But I did give him a novel-length backstory. I keep a timeline on him and all the other characters he meets, so I can track every aspect of his life. Even historical facts are included, so I don’t have him using a cell phone before they were invented.
I think of the individual stories like episodes in a TV series, just written in book form. This allows several interesting characters to come back for a “guest appearance.” And there are flashbacks that explain important aspects of his early years. Magnum, P.I. did this in the later years of the series, so I decided to do it, too.
One of my protagonists is male, which caused me to stop and “think” about his actions and thoughts occasionally. In that Johnny is also a male protagonist, did you experience a learning curve in writing from the predominantly male perspective?
The ladies in my writing group mentioned that Johnny probably wouldn’t know much about fabric when I described what one particular woman was wearing. That is so true. Most men recognize a beautiful woman, but wouldn’t know a Jimmy Choo shoe from a Reebok.
Men don’t speak in long, flowery passages unless they’re reading poetry, and tough guys in most books wouldn’t be caught dead reading poetry. Something my husband, Richard, always says: guys settle arguments in the parking lot. Women pout and then talk about it with their girlfriends. Guys don’t pout. They do sulk. For days. But they get over it. Women never forget.
And guys are more often seen as loners. I know some wonderful exceptions to that rule, but more often women have family and friends that must be taken care of. Guys do their job and then move on.
A guy may or may not cook. Johnny doesn’t like to cook. I have read a lot of books where the guy is a gourmet cook.
You mentioned earlier, Johnny was now a “friend.” What is the most interesting thing you discovered about Johnny?
When I dug deeper into Johnny’s Mafia past and his family, I saw him in a different light. I first had his father just on the periphery of the Mafia, but as I kept playing the “what if” card, I discovered things that totally changed my view of this dysfunctional family. During this process I came up with a twist that is revealed in book two (Looking for Johnny Nobody) that even surprised me…and Johnny, too. The revelation opens up new avenues as he goes forward. I can still go back to his past and tell stories of Johnny’s Mafia days, or his early private detective days, and then do some cases in the present. I don’t have to go in a straight line. But I have set up enough backstory to keep the stories honest, yet flexible.
But just like the old Noir detectives in print or on the silver screen, Johnny is a knight-in-shining armor to the ladies, even some of the bad ones. But the coolest thing I discovered in writing these books was that he once worked for the main character in my other detective series, Ginger Caulfield. Gin trained him how to be a detective and then sent him out on his own. Having my characters exist in this parallel universe keeps me honest with their lives and also opens up lots of possibilities for future stories.
Thanks, Madeline, for inviting me to appear on your blog. It has been a blast.
Oh, thank you, Gayle!I’m so pleased you wanted to stop by and talk about Johnny. It’s been a blast for me to. I love the “what if” card, as you call it, and also character crossover. I’ve really enjoyed your visit, especially finding out how Johnny Casino came to “be,” and some of his back-story. Leaving Johnny for a moment, I also find your own background very interesting! Especially your stint as a private detective… For more info about what Gayle has been doing, here’s a link to her bio page on her website http://www.gbpool.com/Biography.htm
Also by Gayle: Media Justice on Kindle, and in Paperback
Click on cover to purchase
A final note: I’m reading Casebook 1 right now, and loving it! I didn’t initially think I’d be captivated by Johnny’s mobster background, but his past/background is so interesting, and he’s such a compelling character, I’m most definitely and quite pleasurably hooked. I’m treating myself to a “case” every night… Thank you, Gayle, for such an enjoyable read!