Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tim Maleeny Chats About Dangling Participles, Dragons, and Dangerous Euphemisms

Hi, Tim! Thanks for chatting with me. Your name is Irish, but your book, Stealing the Dragon, is set in China, on Alcatraz, and in San Francisco. You didn’t want to do an homage to the family turf by setting it in Galway or Donegal or somewhere?
I suppose I could have written a novel called Stealing The Shamrock, but that didn’t occur to me. I’ve always been fascinated by China and fell in love with Hong Kong when I was there, so writing Stealing The Dragon was a way to mentally return whenever I wanted, through my characters.

Your website ( is fabulous. Did you design it? If so, will you design mine?
My web designer is Heidi Mack of (, an insanely talented woman who works with a lot of crime writers, including Lee Child, Ken Bruen, David Corbett, Cornelia Read, Barry Eisler, and Louise Ure, to name a few. What I love is how every website she creates reflects the unique style of that particular writer, no two alike. She’s amazing.

How did you come to write mystery novels?
I wanted to write the kind of book that I like to read, and most of my favorite authors are crime novelists. And now that I’ve met some of the writers I’ve admired for so long, I’m glad I chose this genre. Though it might be counter-intuitive, mystery writers are the nicest people you’ll ever meet – I think they get all their aggressions out of their system and onto the pages of their novels. Maybe the world would be a better place if everyone wrote stories about murder and mayhem.

Your second book has the intriguing title of Beating the Babushka. My Hungarian Grandma wore a babushka every time she went out. Is this a mystery about a Hungarian grandma?
Babushka actually means “grandmother” in Russian, but the headscarves often worn by old Russian women are sometimes referred to as babushka in English, but in Russia they would never call them that. Beating The Babushka deals with the Russian mob and their involvement in the movie business, and the title comes from a pivotal scene with a retired Russian gangster living in Brighton Beach. But since another writer recently asked me if Beating The Babushka was another euphemism for masturbation, I’m relieved it just made you think of head scarves.

Well, NOW it makes me think of masturbation. Regarding your exciting titles: I notice you use the present participle for a more active feel. Are you afraid you’ll run out of present participles? Or are they infinite, like space?
As long as my participles don’t dangle, I’m good.

Stealing the Dragon comes out next month. Are you excited? How are you promoting the book? Do you still work a day job?
I work in the sordid world of advertising, an industry that involves enough irrational behavior to make you want to kill someone, which might be the real reason I chose to write crime fiction.

For Stealing The Dragon I’ll be visiting as many bookstores as possible, getting the word out online, and appearing at a number of writers’ conferences over the coming months. And, of course, doing interviews on influential blogs like this one.

Thanks. I am incredibly influential--in Bizarro World. When do you write, and what sort of writer’s environment works best for you?
I have a wife and two daughters at home, so between my day job and wanting to spend time with my family, I have to steal time to write whenever I can. Writing professionally for so many years has made me pretty fast on the keyboard, so while I try to write every morning, sometimes I write late at night when everyone’s asleep, and I’ve written more than a few chapters on airplanes or in restaurants while traveling.

How long do you want to continue the Cape Weathers series? More importantly, how did you come up with the name Cape Weathers? Was that your name when you played cops as a kid?
I didn’t really play cops as a kid. Superheroes were big, and I always dreamed of writing comic books. It’s great to see accomplished mystery writers like Denise Mina, Gary Phillips and Ian Rankin writing graphic novels, people who were obviously comic fans growing up and still are.

As for Cape’s name, it came to me as I was grocery shopping, out of the blue. I liked the sound of it, and the character has some fun inventing a plausible backstory for his name.

You have a book coming out in 2008 called Jump. Why no present participle? And is this also a Cape tale?

This reveals the temptation and the risk of having a website, since even my publisher doesn’t know this book exists yet. The title is different because it’s a stand alone novel, featuring a couple of characters I developed for a short story that’s running in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine later this year, a San Francisco cop and his retired ex-partner.

Cool. Your website says that your first Cape Weathers mystery involves “the aid of two neurotic cops, a drug lord, an autistic computer genius, a mayoral candidate, and a reporter with sentient hair.”

--First, what is sentient hair?
There is a character named Linda Katz, an investigative reporter for one of the San Francisco papers, whose hair has major attitude. I describe her hair as a reflection of her mood, sort of a Medusa-style expression of her subconscious. If Linda is pissed, her hair will let you know.

--Second, don’t they weed out the neurotic cops in the training sessions? :)
The two cops, Beau and Vinnie, share that dynamic you see in two people that have been together so long they finish each other’s sentences, get on each other’s nerves, but trust each other implicitly. Sort of like an old married couple with guns.

That perfectly describes my husband and me. What are you writing now?
Trying to finish the third Cape Weathers Investigation, which will take place in San Francisco and Mexico. The title is Greasing The Piñata, which is my favorite title yet. (If you smiled when you read that title, then we’re off to a good start.)

When you sell the movie rights to Book One and head off to Hollywood (and we know it’s just a matter of time, what with your exciting plot and setting), will you let me be the Key Grip?
I’m not sure what a Key Grip does – it sounds like something I’d put in the title of one of my books – but if my wife doesn’t object, consider yourself hired.

What sort of books do you like to read?

Mystery, science fiction, some historical novels, and nonfiction related to a book I’m researching. In the mystery genre, anything by Loren Estleman, Carl Hiassen, Robert Crais, Lee Child, Joe Landsdale, Laura Lippman or SJ Rozan, but that’s a small subset of the crime writers I enjoy. If only I could read (and write) faster!

Here are some suggestions for your future titles. Let me know what you think:

Eating the Cookie Dough
Strangling the Dog
Taking out the Garbage
Falling Asleep

Oh, wait—that’s just my to-do list for today. :)
Mine, too.

We have so much in common, Tim. How can readers find out more about you and your soon-to-be released Stealing the Dragon?
Visit my website,, and then visit your local bookstore. If they have a copy on the shelf, please buy it, but if not, they can order it. After you’ve finished, send me a note and tell me what you think. And if you enjoy the book, I’d recommend buying one for a friend. But if you don’t enjoy it, then buy several for your enemies.

Thanks for playing, Tim.

Thank you.


Louise Ure said...

"Greasing the Piñata" is definitely masturbatory.

Great interview, guys.

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks for visiting, Louise! I agree about the pinata thing, although Tim has selected, in all innocence, sort of a "make your own euphemism for sex" formula. When he's rich and famous it will cause drinking games and things to be named in his honor.

Bill Cameron said...

I'm ready to start playing that drinking game right now. Tim, you're already famous to me -- Stealing the Dragon is GREAT!

Julia Buckley said...

What's your drink of choice, Bill? I'm guessing beer? I'm looking forward to reading Tim's book and buying yours, Bill--and Louise, I've been reading your website, and now I want to read yours, too!

Cornelia Read said...

I'm worried I'm going to get confused and do something stupid like stealing the pinata when I'm supposed to be greasing the dragon...

Tim's book is AWESOME!!! So is Tim!!!! So is Julia!!!!!!

Bill Cameron said...

Oh it's beer beer beer
That makes me want to cheer
In the halls!
In the halls!

Julia Buckley said...

See, Bill, I knew that about you.

Cornelia, you are awesome for reading our books. We are all so awesome I'm surprised we can walk down the street without being accosted. :)

And as for Stealing the Pinata, you must now read this: Skippyjohn Jones. It is much lighter reading than all these murder mysteries.

Cornelia Read said...

B double E double R U-N
Beer run...

Julia Buckley said...

I gotta tell you, I'm German and I used to drink the foam off of Opa's beer, but I just don't like it. I know, I'll be kicked out of the Germany club.

Can I have a pina colada instead?

Bill Cameron said...

A pina colada is just fine. I promise I won't tell Germany.

Julia Buckley said...

It's good to know you and Germany are on speaking terms. I'm really not with Deutschland, but Denmark and I are like this.

Robert Fate said...

Tim - Terrrific titles! Marvelous covers! Dy-no-mite writing! Where you goin' from here, man?

Julia Buckley said...

Hi, Robert. I'd like to know where I'm going, too. Such a philosophical question . . .

Anonymous said...

Where are we going from here...hmm...Robert, I was hoping we could all go to your place for a beer! Thanks for the kind words, everybody. Now I have to return to writing the fourth book, tentatively titled Mixing The Mojito...

Sandra Ruttan said...

I'm still really cracking up over the idea of an old married couple with guns.

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