Interview: Lorne Oliver, Author of The Cistern

OliverTheCisternPlease welcome Lorne Oliver, author of The Cistern, Red Island, and Red Serge. We have a chat about promoting one’s work, favorite T.V. detectives, tasty food, and more. Sit back and be entertained!

How does modern pop culture influence your work? Do modern cultural references date a piece or add touchstones for the reader?

I don’t see a problem putting cultural references into a novel. It gives readers the chance to go, hey I know that show or song or what have you. If I’m describing a room that has books on a table I will put authors that I like or respect. In 2 of my books I have named characters after songs by the Canadian music group Barenaked Ladies. My books take place in a certain time, so putting in those familiar bits just helps the reader relate.

While working on my current manuscript I fell in love with the TV show Firefly, so of course I had to put in a few references.

Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

In my Sgt. Reid Series reality, for me, is what makes the fictional stories seem real. One of my most used email contacts is to a real sergeant in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I love other police procedural books and TV shows, but seeing a detective walk through a crime scene in spiked heels makes me cringe. I love Rizzoli & Isles and I love Castle, but no cop would ever where 4 inch heels. Not in the RCMP at least. At my crime scenes the police put on full body suits to stop the risk of contaminating the scene. It’s a big deal when an RCMP member tells me I got that part right.

In Red Island and Red Serge I will admit that I put too much of the travel into the story. They take place on Prince Edward Island and I wanted to show some of the island, but at least one or two parts I might cross the line of travel brochure. The cussing…I swear. In my books the characters swear. I had one review complain about it and she gave me a 1 star review, so I came back with The Cistern. It takes place mostly in and around a restaurant. I work in a restaurant and you can’t have a sentence without a foul word. It’s really bugging me right now not to throw some profanity out there. I am working on making the “bad language” more creative and colourful so that the reader may see some humor in it. That’s how I write and I won’t apologize for it. Bathroom breaks is something that I haven’t written yet.

I always tell anyone asking me how to write that you have to put in reality. Even fantasy and sci-fi have reality. The real things – smells, sights, sounds – those are the things people can relate to and what will keep them coming back.

Over the years, are the changes in society reflected in today’s villains and heroes?

I think so. Years ago villains were these outrageously bad characters with beady eyes and a scar across their face. They had to be the villain because there was nothing left for them. I think in modern time we are more aware that the boy kicking the ball on the sidewalk, the mom driving kids to soccer could all easily be a villain. In my books I try to emphasize that the nice quiet people are the ones you really have to watch. Heroes that I remember from the past never had any flaws. Really, did James Bond have a wife who hated his work like my Sgt. Reid? Heroes now seem to be tainted in some way.

OliverRedIslandIn writing your bad guys, do you want the reader to enjoy hating on him/her, or do you want the reader to be waiting for that magical moment when they redeem themselves?

In Red Island I wrote how the bad guy becomes a serial killer. I start him at age 8 being bullied and show through the years how he becomes walking evil. I was hoping readers would hate him, but for some reason they like him.

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

I’ve always been a really shy person, so self-promotion and getting out there in peoples faces is really hard. This past weekend I was at the Saskatoon Comic & Entertainment Expo. My booth was put right beside a small publisher that had a lot of sci-fi books. The lady there was a great sales person. She started talking to people and offering them free bookmarks. Once they had one of those most of the people took a look at the books. I’m quiet and shy. I had to force myself to talk to people. I find the whole thing challenging. I’m also very competitive, so if I see some other author selling something I start wondering what I’m doing wrong. It’s all a confidence thing.

If you could go enjoy a meal in a fictional world, where would that be, and what would you eat?

I’m a chef. I started my career in an Italian restaurant. (the same restaurant The Alcrest Gastropub in The Alcrest Mysteries is based on). If I could go into a fictional world for a meal it would be to go into the world of Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles series to have a huge Italian supper with Rizzoli’s family.

OliverRedSergeHow did you celebrate that first time experience of having a piece accepted for publication?

I don’t really remember. It was a long time ago. I know that I have been paid with a $25 hunters seat, a pair of hunting pants, a $25 cheque, and a cheque for $500.

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

I’m more of a TV guy, so some of these are going to be from there. Castle from Castle, Chrys from my own book The Cistern (I just really love her character), Dexter from Dexter, Dirk Pitt from the Clive Cussler novels, and Gordie LaChance from the Stephen King story The Body.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I’m currently working on THE MENU which is the next Alcrest Mystery. After that comes the next novel in the Sgt. Reid Series.

Places to Stalk Lorne Oliver

Facebook page for The Alcrest Mysteries
The Cistern on Amazon (my latest book)
Red Island on Amazon (first book / 1st in Sgt. Reid Series)
Red Serge on Amazon (2nd in Sgt. Reid Series)

Comments are always appreciated, so don't be shy!