I'm reading Reprobate by Martyn Halm. And I'm really happy to have him here today to talk about his books, why he likes to write and what inspires him.
1.) Tell us about yourself - what do you like to write? How long have you written? What prompted you to start writing?
I'm Martyn V. Halm, and I'm a professional liar. No, strike that. The professional part came later. I've always enjoyed telling grandiose stories. However, if you tell grandiose stories and people assume they're true before they find out that they're not, you will be labeled 'liar'. And I'm not. I'm a confabulator (from Latin confabulatus, past participle of confabulari, from com- + fabulari to talk, from fabula story), someone who fill gaps in memory with fabrications. A storyteller, not with the explicit intention to deceive, but to amuse. And because telling stories gives you a dry mouth and a limited audience, I decided to tell my stories through books.
Because I like ambiguous characters, I write about criminal protagonists and, since I live in Amsterdam, I decided to make that the setting, which led to the creation of the Amsterdam Assassin Series, about Katla Sieltjes, a female freelance assassin. The Amsterdam Assassin Series currently features two books and two short stories at the moment, available in e-book only.
During a brief sojourn in unemployment and without the financial means to go out on the town, my friends and I told stories to amuse each other. My stories were praised and people told me I should write a book. Although I'm an avid reader, I didn't really like writing essays at school, so I nixed the idea, but it hovered around in the back of my mind.
A few years later while working long boring night shifts as a security officer, I would often spend six hours out of every eight-hour shift reading and studying. I had an idea for a story and started writing, first in Dutch, later in English. At first I wrote on a typewriter, but when I received my vacationing money, I spend it on an Apple Powerbook 150, which I carried everywhere. From that moment on, I took myself seriously as a writer. As I couldn't follow classes on writing crime fiction in Amsterdam, I bought self-help books for writers and became an autodidact.
2.) What types of books do you like to read?
I'm s voracious reader, there are a few genres I eschew, like romance novels, where I can admire the craft, but not suspend my disbelief enough to enjoy the stories. Favourite authors are Philip K. Dick, Iain (M.) Banks, Vachss, Wiltse, Jim Thompson, Barry Eisler, William Gibson, Ben Elton, Umberto Eco, Pirsig, Chuck Palahniuk, and Philip Jose Farmer, graphic novels and comics by Andre Franquin, Henk Kuypers, Milo Manara and Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud. I used to play the bass guitar and I have an extensive music collection: Freddie Hubbard, John Mayer, Wynton Kelly, James Morrison, Stanley Clarke, Portishead, Tom Waits, Hank Mobley, Radiohead, The Doors, Tony Overwater, Chris Hinze, Talk Talk, Mozart, Miles Davis, Tori Amos, King Crimson, Lou Donaldson, Pink Floyd, Art Farmer, Yes, Lee Morgan, Rammstein, Freddie Redd, Muse, Ludwig Van…
3.) Do you have another author that you model yourself after?
Not really. I did read quite a few books 'on writing', and I value the advice of Sol Stein, Lawrence Block and David Morrell on the craft.
4.) What inspires you to write a story?
Sounds weird, perhaps, but I'm writing the books I was looking for but couldn't find. I always enjoyed stories about assassins, but my opinion on assassins differed from the books I read. Since most fictional assassins are antagonists, they are often warped individuals, with freaky childhoods. However, I've come across mercenaries (basically the same field), who are pretty regular people. Sure their view of the world differs from ordinary citizens, but they’re not ‘warped’. That made me want to write about an assassin who has no deep-seated frustration or abused childhood, but who just realised that killing was what she was good at and who had the appropriate world view and lack of conscience to pull it off.
5.) When a story idea pops into your head, how long does it typically take to write it (from start to finish)?
I find I'm working faster, with less rewrites, as I'm getting more experienced in writing. Still, I can't even put an estimate on the time elapsing between the first inkling of a story and the published book. Some ideas percolate in my mind for years, decades even, others, like backstory on minor characters pop into my head while I'm writing about them and they get inserted into the story immediately. I also find that many characters, like Chang, the sniper in Peccadillo, come to me fully formed. I remember writing the first chapter where he appeared without any rewrites necessary. Likewise, his assistant Ah Sung and the gunsmith Manfred Kiekendief came to me straight like that.
6.) What did you find to be the most difficult part of the writing process? Easiest?
Most difficult… If we're talking about the writing, it's striking a balance between showing and telling. Both are necessary to get the story across, but I've tossed quite a few books where the story was told when she should've been shown and vice versa. If we're talking about publishing, the most difficult thing is promotion. I'm a pretty social guy, but I don't really like to flog my work upon the unsuspecting public. Most of the time, you hope the quality of the writing will draw the readers in, but the readers have to notice you first, which gets hard with 350,000 books being published per year. There's a saying that people have to be reminded three times about something before they notice, so that makes it even more difficult to stick out. You want to tell people, 'Hey, just check out a free sample of my work', but even that is a major imposition on many people. The best thing to happen is that readers who love Reprobate recommend the Amsterdam Assassin Series to other readers. Every writer who talks about their books will be viewed with wariness, but personal recommendations by disinterested parties are the best advertisement you can wish for.
Easiest with writing, for me, is often dialogue, which is also one of the reasons I'd toss a book. If a book has bad dialogue, I'm unable to suspend my disbelief. And I love creating minor characters who, although they appear only briefly, appear to have enough depth to be main characters in another story.
7.) Tell us about your book. Where can readers find it? Do you have a website? Blog?
The Amsterdam Assassin Series by Martyn V. Halm.
The Amsterdam Assassin Series revolves around freelance assassin and corporate troubleshooter Katla Sieltjes. Under the name Loki Enterprises, Katla specialises in disguising homicide and providing permanent solutions for both individuals and corporations.
The first novel in the Amsterdam Assassin Series, Reprobate, marks the first time Katla breaks one of her own rules, and how this affects both her personal and business life. The second novel, Peccadillo, shows what happens when you attempt a hostile takeover of an assassin’s legitimate business cover. The third novel, Rogue, is planned for release in 2013. While the novels can be read out of order, reading them in chronological order might be more enjoyable.
Between the publications of the novels, the Amsterdam Assassin Series also features stand-alone short stories, the Katla KillFiles. The Katla KillFiles chronologically precede the novels in the Amsterdam Assassin Series. Each KillFile features Katla executing one of her contracts before the events in Reprobate, and, while not mandatory reading, each KillFile provides insight both in Katla’s work methods and skill, and additional background information in her character and personal history. The KillFiles can be read out of sequence, as the contracts are random samples from her past. Each KillFile also contains a teaser from the novels in the Amsterdam Assassin Series.
The Amsterdam Assassin Series is available in ebook only, through most major ebook retailers, like Amazon, Kobo, iTunes and Barnes and Noble. I have a blog, http://amsterdamassassin.
The Amsterdam Assassin Series is available on Amazon, iTunes (iPad), Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.
For direct links and the latest news, please visit Martyn's blog http://amsterdamassassin.