Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Author Interview - Harry Dolan (Bad Things Happen and Very Bad Men)

I would like to welcome Harry Dolan to Tea Time with Marce and thank him for taking the time to interview with me.  I loved his book Bad Things Happen, it is the book that I think more around the blogosphere should be reading.  Bloggers that have also read Very Bad Men think that is even better, wow.

Well today you get to meet Harry and also have the opportunity to win one of his books.  Harry will be giving away his newest release Very Bad Men and I will give away Bad Things Happen. 

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Marce – When did you decide to become an author, was it a childhood dream/goal?

Harry – I can tell you when I decided to get serious about becoming a writer: it was in 1999 when I quit a full-time editing job that I’d held for eight years and decided to try my hand at writing a novel. But I had been interested in writing for a long time before that. I grew up in a family of readers, and I started writing at a young age. I can remember writing stories in spiral notebooks when I was seven. One of them began, “Once upon a time, a boy killed a man. Then he went home.” -- which is not a bad hook. So as a child, I had the idea that I might become a writer, but it was one interest among many. I was also interested in science -- especially astronomy -- and in art and design. I wrote some stories as a teenager, and I started writing a novel in college -- I was majoring in philosophy at Colgate University, but I was also studying fiction writing with the novelist Frederick Busch. He saw something in my work and encouraged me to keep at it. When I left my job in 1999, I set out to finish that first novel that I had started in college. It was a strange hybrid: part crime novel, part romance, part coming-of-age story; it was never published, probably because it wound up being 850 pages long. But I learned a lot from writing it, and those lessons helped me with the two books that came after it: Bad Things Happen and Very Bad Men.

Marce - How did you come up with the titles of your books?

Harry – I went through several titles for the first book, including The Bad Editor and The Bad Murderer, before settling on Bad Things Happen. There’s a scene near the end of The Maltese Falcon where everyone is gathered in Sam Spade’s apartment: Spade and Casper Gutman and Joel Cairo and the rest. They’re waiting for Spade’s secretary to deliver the falcon. Spade asks Brigid O’Shaughnessy how she feels, and she says she’s frightened. “Don’t be,” he says. “Nothing very bad’s going to happen.” And soon after, of course, something bad does happen: he turns her over to the police for Miles Archer’s murder. I don’t think I consciously drew the title of Bad Things Happen from that scene, but I remembered it later. I think I must have gotten it by osmosis.

Marce – I loved the sarcasm in Bad Things Happen. Are you sarcastic, did this come naturally or did you want that to be a feel in the book?

Harry – People sometimes ask me how much of David Loogan, my protagonist, is based on me, and my standard response is that we’re about the same age and we’ve both worked as editors, and there, fortunately or unfortunately, the similarities end. But our sense of humor is definitely the same. Long stretches of the books are driven by dialogue, and I wanted to make it as entertaining as I could, and sarcastic humor is certainly part of that. My second book, Very Bad Men, is largely written in first person in David Loogan’s voice, so hopefully even more of his humor comes through.

Marce – What is your usual response when you see the cover? What is your opinion of UK and foreign covers of your book?

Harry – The cover of Bad Things Happen features a fountain pen with blood dripping from the tip. I was ambivalent about it at first, but it’s grown on me over time. Some of the foreign editions used variants of the same image, but others went in their own direction. I like the UK cover a lot: it has two men walking down a country lane, one of them carrying a shovel. (A shovel, of course, plays a big part in the opening of the book.) The Dutch edition has a rather odd, retro scene, with a man in a smoking jacket being held at gunpoint and a woman in lingerie looking on. It doesn’t remotely resemble any actual scene in the novel, but it’s very colorful and certainly eye-catching. The cover of Very Bad Men has an ace of diamonds on the cover, with blood dripping from one corner of the card, so you can see a pattern emerging here. I like it, and the ace of diamonds does play a role in the book. But I’m looking forward to seeing what the foreign publishers come up with.

Marce – Who are your favourite authors? Recommend a book to my followers that you think is a must read.

Harry – Some of my favorites are Lawrence Block, Tana French, Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver, Karin Slaughter, Peter Abrahams, Thomas Perry, and Donna Tartt. Tana French has written three crime novels set in and around Dublin, and my favorite is The Likeness. That would be my must-read pick. The voice of the narrator, Cassie Maddox, is just wonderful.   Marce - Thrill Week participants, do you see some consistency......... Looks like I need to read Tana French and Jeffery Deaver soon.

Marce – What is on your bookshelf/ereader now?

Harry – I’ve got a lot of Robert Crais books on the shelf right now. I discovered him recently and have been reading his Elvis Cole/Joe Pike books, which are terrific. I’ve also got some more eclectic stuff on my “to read” pile: The Interrogative Mood by Padgett Powell; The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup by Susan Orlean; Coronado by Dennis Lehane; and Sleepless by Charlie Huston.

Marce – Any upcoming events that you would like to share with us?

Harry – On Sunday, October 16th, I’ll be on a mystery panel at the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association trade show in Dearborn, Michigan ( And on Sunday, November 13th, I’ll be at Writers on the River at the Monroe County Library in Monroe, Michigan. You can find more information on my website:

Marce – How do you deal with social networking, bloggers, interaction with fans, etc?

Harry – I don’t have a blog myself, but I’ve been fortunate to have a number of bloggers take an interest in my books and post reviews. I’m on Facebook ( and Twitter (@HarryCDolan), and I like communicating with readers on both those sites. But most of my interaction with readers has been on book tours and through email. My email address is readily available on my website (, and it’s always great to hear from people who enjoy the books. The best messages are the ones from people who stayed up long into the night because they couldn’t put the book down; that’s about the highest compliment you can get. Occasionally I get friendly notes letting me know about mistakes I’ve made. For example, there’s a scene in Bad Things Happen where two of the characters are looking up at the night-time sky, and they see the constellation Orion’s Belt. More than one reader has written in to let me know that they wouldn’t be able to see that particular constellation at the time of year when the scene takes place. To take another example, there’s a scene in Very Bad Men in which some characters pick up a turtle to save it from being run over in the street, and then without washing their hands they eat bagels. I got an email from a reader who wanted to let me know that handling a turtle that way is an invitation to salmonella poisoning -- something I’d never thought of. So those kinds of emails are always fun to get.

Marce – Do you feel pressure on writing a book that could become a movie?

Harry – I find that you can’t think about that while you’re writing. There’s already enough pressure to make the book as good as it can be on its own terms, without worrying about whether it might eventually be made into a movie. As it turns out, Bad Things Happen has been optioned by a screenwriter who loved the book and is working on a screenplay. It’s an exciting development, but I’m trying to take a realistic view of the whole process. The option is just a first step, and there’s a long road to be traveled from book to screen. And the fact is that most books that are optioned are never made into films; it’s very challenging to get a film made. But it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Thank you so much Harry, it was great to get to know you and I look forward to reading Very Bad Men soon.  You are already one of my favourite Mystery/Thriller authors.

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  1. Thank you very much for this very interesting interview. I've read and reviewed both of these books on my blog. Loved them. I need another... I love David, he's a great character. I listened to the audio version of Bad Things Happen, and it was good too. I'd take either book, and I'll put them in my high school library. I have some teens that would love these!

    annettesspot (at) gmail (dot) com

  2. I would love to read these books and feature them on my blog page..


  3. I also want to say off topic, I have found Annette and Orsayor's blogs now through Thrill Week as well as a couple of others, so it has been good for me. Rae

  4. Thank you, Mr. Dolan for doing this interview; your books intrigue me and I plan on picking them up soon. If Marce enjoys them, then they must be good! Rae, Best O' Books

  5. Great interview! I'll have to check out this book if protagonist is sarcastic.

  6. Great interview - I haven't heard of these books but they sound good and I like the covers - stand out well.

    Start with the first one is probably the best idea!

  7. Great Q&A! I haven't read this yet... would love to start with the 1st one!

    cytljjb @ gmail com

  8. I've added these to my TBR - they sound terrific!

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out


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