Nov 09

Interview with D. R. Martin, Author of SMOKING RUIN

Title: Smoking Ruin
Author: D. R. Martin
Publisher: Conger Road Press
Publication Date: February 29th 2012
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Women Sleuth
Length: 240 pages
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Minneapolis PI Marta Hjelm failed to prevent a preventable murder. Her guilt has brought her right to the edge of burnout and dropout. But a prize specimen from her ancient past—her cheating ex-husband—appears out of nowhere with a gig too good to turn down. One last job, Marta figures, can’t hurt.

But hurt it does, as Marta tries to make sense of a terrorist plot at a major ad agency. In the dead of a long, bitter Minnesota winter, Marta struggles to survive attempts on her life. To understand her conflicted feelings toward an ex who wants her back and toward the man who healed her when everything was dark. To make peace with the ghost of a victim she should have saved. And to crack open multiple conspiracies that lead to murder and smoking ruin.

What inspired you to write? And how long have you been writing?

As a young reader, I favored animal stories, science fiction, and mysteries. It struck me—while reading Hardy Boys adventures—that Franklin W. Dixon, the author, had stumbled onto a great way to make a living. He undoubtedly wrote with a quill pen in his mahogany-lined study, while wearing a smoking jacket and puffing on a pipe. That is what I wanted for myself. So I decided to be a writer when I grew up. (Good thing I didn’t know that Mr. Dixon was actually a whole bunch of people who outlined and drafted the Hardy Boys books over the decades—both women and men. Probably without a single smoking jacket or pipe between them.)

At any rate, I became a professional writer right out of college—an arts journalist specializing in classical music and fine art. I edited a weekly arts and entertainment newspaper; and later on simply did lots of freelance newspaper and magazine work. Because the freelance money wasn’t that great, I started doing business copywriting. It was during this period that I wrote my first novel, an unpublished fantasy. Then came a historical mystery, published POD. And then the first Smoking Ruin—the book whose updated version I’m currently promoting.

Have you based any of your characters on someone you know, or real events in your own life?

Well, the book is a straight, first-person, private investigator (PI) mystery. Not hard-boiled or noir, but fairly gritty. And the protagonist, Marta Hjelm (pronounced “Helm”), is basically me—if I were female and a lot more gutsy. She shares my taste and sensibilities and generally tired, cynical view of life in the big city. Fortunately, I don’t have to face the professional and personal complications that she does. The story is entirely fictional, but its Minneapolis/St. Paul setting is as true to life as possible. The winter weather is practically a character in the book.

Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book the first in a series?  

Smoking Ruin is the first Marta Hjelm story. I have no plans for a sequel right now. I need some indication that readers would support more books.

What books have most influenced your writing and why?

Smoking Ruin was inspired by some of the great first-person PI mysteries of a generation ago and earlier. I started with Robert Parker’s Spenser. Next, I picked up on Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski and Linda Barnes’ Carlotta Carlyle. Then I discovered my all-time fave first-person crime series—the adventures of Travis McGee, by John D. MacDonald. (I even have a blog devoted to McGee at A word of warning for McGee newbies: The stories are of their 1960s period and not politically correct.)

I simply love getting into the PI’s head as he or she is working through the case or crisis at hand. I’m crazy for good first-person POV. That’s what I wanted to try out. Smoking Ruin is the result.

What can we expect from you in the future? More books in this genre or something different?

Right now, it’s something different. I’m just finishing up a canine cozy called The Karma of King Harald, which will be indie-published in early December under the pen name Richard Audry. And in June I indie-published a middle-grade fantasy-adventure called Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb. I’m currently at work on sequels to both these novels.

Have you ever suffered from “writer’s block”?

No, I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe that you can always write something and sometimes it’s crappy. Then you have to work your way through the crappiness to something good, possibly something great. I spent a year hacking away on the plot of Johnny Graphic. But I eventually arrived at a storyline that worked very well.

Are there any new authors that have seized your interest? If so, why?

The newish author who’s energized me most this year is the science fiction writer Paolo Bacigalupi. His dystopian young adult novels—Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities—are brutal and vivid and brilliant. They’re not for anyone who’s allergic to violence, however. This is the next new genre I’d like to try my hand at.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If you’re young, be glad you’re in on the beginning of the indie publishing tsunami. You will not have to depend on the capricious mainstream publishers and agents. You will be in control. You’ll have many years to get established. And that is probably what it will take. If you do go the mainstream publishing route, sign no contract until an intellectual property attorney reviews it. The contracts have gotten onerous lately. Do not rely on an agent to look after your best interests.

You will almost certainly not be the next J.K. Rowling or Amanda Hocking. So start writing your books now—do not wait. And, as indie book guru Kristine Rusch says: Write and release. Don’t labor over your precious single book for years on end. Write as many books as you can as quickly as you can. Do not give up. Eventually you’ll write good books and eventually they’ll sell. Then you’ll have a career. Read the blogs of Joe Konrath, Ms. Rusch, and Dean Wesley Smith to understand where things are going.

Laptop or desktop for writing?

Right now, something else. I’m writing my novels’ first drafts in pencil on legal tablets. My wife Sue—who’s also my in-house editor—transcribes them into Word as I read my pages aloud. The story just comes more quickly and fluently this way; and Sue is in on it from the get-go. Subsequent drafts are done on the iMac.

What is a movie or TV show that you watched recently and really enjoyed?

For TV, it’s a toss-up between The Wire and Luther. Just brilliant cop shows—one Yank, one Brit. Both of them have Idris Elba in common. That man is going to be a huge star. Best movie I’ve seen lately? Another toss-up. Beasts of the Southern Wild and Moonrise Kingdom.

Other books by D. R. Martin



led tight in the heated basement garage, the ad agency’s Lexus started like a charm. I touched the button on the remote door control, and drove up and out into the brutal January night. I turned right, through the back parking lot, and right again, around the end of the building, into the front parking lot, past my frozen Mercury Marquis.

A minute later I was curving north and east at a good clip, toward Wayzata, feeling like a rally driver. The sky was a deep azure, clear as glass and full of the stars you don’t often see in the city.

It was the first time that day I’d felt relatively on top of the situation. Sure, plenty of things were screwed up.

My boyfriend Rick needed calming down and getting home, where he belonged. I’d had to go to work for people I didn’t like, for a cause that gave pause. And my reaction to seeing my ex Terry again made me a little queasy. What’s up with that? I asked myself. But clear them all up—and I had no doubt that I would—and things looked a lot better.

I tooled over a narrow bridge, went left, then right, the lake only a dozen feet away. The headlights caught the glitter of ice on the road. I lightly tapped the brakes, but didn’t feel them catch. No anti-lock kicking in. Doing something wrong, I thought, as my heart accelerated and my gloved hands squeezed the wheel harder.

I feathered the brakes again—a reflexive, fluttery tapping of my right foot, from teen driving days—as I came onto the ice. I was going way too fast. Again, nothing happened. The Lexus kept rolling. 

Turning the wheel left, I could feel my heart coming up into my mouth.

The tires refused to find a purchase on the ice and the car began to yaw sideways.

I kept feathering the brakes, then pressed hard. The pedal went to the floor with a forbidding “thunk.”

The road curved left again, but the Lexus kept going straight.

A puny steel-cable guard rail came up fast as a shot and the front of the Lexus sheared through it with a percussive roar.

I was briefly airborne over eight feet of steep shoreline, starting to scream, when the car nosed down.

The frozen lake rushed toward me, brilliant in the headlights, like a wall of dirty, corrugated granite.

D.R. Martin is offering one commenter per day a copy of Smoking Ruin either print or Ebook. Ebook only for international. There will also be one grand prize winner throughout the tour. The grand prize is a $25 gift card to Barnes and Noble.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All contest are open through Friday at Midnight and winners will be contacted the following week.

D.R. has been a professional writer for many years. He’s wor
ked as a journalist and editor, a copywriter and photographer, a reviewer and critic, a TV scriptwriter, and, not least, a novelist. His novels include JOHNNY GRAPHIC AND THE ETHERIC BOMB and the adult mystery SMOKING RUIN.

Johnny Graphic | Goodreads | Smashwords | eMail

Tour Schedule for Smoking Ruin by D.R. Martin


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    • pc on November 9th, 2012 at 12:46 am

    Thanks for sharing your writer’s journey and advice! This book sounds intriguing…I’ll check it out!

      • D. R. Martin on November 9th, 2012 at 9:02 am

      PC, thanks for your comment. Let me know what you think of the book…

    • Marie H on November 9th, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Wow that book sounds great! 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing! I loved the post 🙂

    songbird1613 at yahoo dot com

      • D. R. Martin on November 9th, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      Marie, thanks for your kind words. Hope you get a chance to read it…

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