Mike Faricy – Mr. Softee

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

My most recent book is Mr. Softee, just out the last week of June. The eBook is available on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble as well as a number of other sites. For the first time, for me anyway, it’s also available as an ink on paper book from Amazon. So all my friends who’ve told me they aren’t comfortable with an eReader will have to find a new excuse.

Mr. Softee is my second book featuring skirt chasing, wise cracking, dysfunctional PI Dev Haskell. Dev climbs off his usual stool at the Spot Bar to take on a cakewalk gig, providing protection for Mr. Softee. Turns out Mr. Softee is anything but… He’s a ruthless ‘entrepreneur’ with a flash temper, a mean streak a mile wide, a long list of people who want to do him in and a sex crazed girlfriend named Lola.

In Dev’s usual fashion things quickly go from bad to worse until he enlists the help of former client, felon, and sometime friend, Tony “Dog” Colli. Murder, mayhem, double cross and bodies follow in their wake. It’s the slice of life your mother warned you about, served up with a healthy portion of the bizarre.

Tell us something about yourself.

I was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. All my books take place in Minnesota, with one exception, Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick. That refers to a dance step, by the way. That book begins and ends in Minnesota but has two guys messing things up down in St. Petersburg, Florida.
I had a great time growing up. We lived in one of those neighborhoods where you just opened the back door and there were fifty kids running around, all with ideas of what to do. My mom was a librarian and my dad an attorney, books were always a big part of my life, Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel and George the Pig were two of my early favorites.

I was the kind of kid who spent a good deal of the school year out in the hallway. Teachers cringed when they saw my name on their class roster. I just got an email the other day from a woman who went to grammar school with me. She was a very good student, I was, well, me. I kept poking her with a pencil in class and she finally screamed which got the two of us held after school to write some penance on the black board. Some sentence like I will not scream in class. I had cleverly figured out that you could cram two pieces of chalk in the eraser and then write the penance in half the time.

I was one of those guys in high school that was shy, maybe a bit frightened by girls. I’ve since made up for lost time. I was in the Army, I’ve been a bartender, sold designer cakes, owned a small painting and decorating company. I worked for years in the lithographic trade, in sales, and loved it. But, the things we used to do by hand and charge a lot of money for, today any ten year old can do in a photo-shop program. In 1990 I had thirty lithographic competitors in our metro area, not one of those businesses exists today.

My wife is Irish and lives in Dublin, we go back and forth. I live there about six months out of every year, anywhere from a week to three months at a time. We met in Dublin, dated for a number of years, then married three years ago.

I’ve always told stories and written, ever since I was a kid, but she was the one who had the faith in me and encouraged me. At the end of the day writing is a solitary undertaking and she is very patient. She never complains. She encourages, she is good to me and good for me. On the other hand, we’ll go for a walk, I’ll seem preoccupied and she’ll ask what I’m thinking. Of course I reply I’ve got a guy tunneling into a bank, or with a gun to his head in a bar or a girlfriend has just slit all his car tires. She just shakes her head and wonders what she’s gotten herself into.

How did you choose the title?

It’s sort of funny. Usually I hear a story or I’m involved in something and it serves as a sort of germ of an idea. Mr. Softee was different. We live on the north side of Dublin in an estate, a neighborhood, near Dublin City University (DCU) for anyone familiar with Dublin. It’s a standard middle class area, two story stucco homes, attached in blocks of four or six. Everyone has a three foot garden wall in front, we have nice neighbors.

Anyway, there’s this ice cream truck that drives through the estate, plays a chime and kids buy treats. The name Mr. Softee is written all over the truck, my wife and I always chuckled about the name and one morning I just woke up and I began writing the first chapter of Mr. Softee. Usually when I write I have a story percolating and the title sort of evolves, but that wasn’t the case here. I had the title and the story evolved. That said, it is my second Dev Haskell story and that sort of allowed a prescription for format. Along with liking women and being a wise guy, Dev under estimates, over analyzes, and just plain guesses wrong.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

Let me go back a bit. I had written five books and submitted them to agents and publishers or sent query letters over the years. As far as I can tell no one really looked at the query letters or the submissions. I paid for the privilege to get back hundreds of rejections in my self addressed stamped envelopes. Quite often the rejection was preprinted with a line about the ‘dismal state of the publishing industry’. One day I received my query letter, unopened, with a crooked purple stamp across the front that read RETURN TO SENDER. This was from a top ten New York publisher. Hand written on the back of the envelope was a note that said simply, ‘this does not fit our needs at this time.’

Even thick headed me got the message. I didn’t have a snowballs chance in hell with these people. That got me off the dime and I went electronic and haven’t looked back. And you know what? If that publisher contacted me today with a big contract, I think I’d tell them… Thank you, I’ll crawl right over!

But, because I publish electronically and Amazon has this great on demand service a lot of the traditional problems are eliminated. I determine the time frame, I develop the cover, I have the final say in content, etc. That said, I’m really pushing to get three books released this year. So I crack the whip on myself. I write a lot of my books in the dark, before 7:30 AM and after 7:00 PM. I begin every day editing what I wrote the day before. When the book is complete, I re-edit. Then I let it sit a month. Re-edit again. Then if goes off to my editor and she probably pulls her hair out and screams that my manuscript should be written in color crayon.

I probably go with about 95% of the suggestions she makes, certainly all of the punctuation and spelling. Once in a while I have this great funny line, that suddenly isn’t so funny to everyone else, so that goes out. She offers good advice and I like to think I’m usually smart enough to take it. In the interim I have a lot of eyes that read the book and give honest input. I once had two women, almost on the exact same page, each wrote a comment in the margin. One said, she ‘wasn’t wild about the women jumping into bed all the time’, and the other wrote; ‘150 pages and this is all the sex? I’m unsatisfied!’ So there you go, two opposite opinions on the same thing.

Getting the ink on paper version was a bit more complicated, primarily because it was the first time through the process. I had a friend help me, we had to resize the Mr. Softee cover, add a spine and a back cover. By the way, that’s my chalk outline and my daughter’s slutty leopard skin shoes with the red heels in the foreground. It all takes time, there’s always a learning curve, and it will be a bit easier next time through.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I’ve always written, I have always been a story teller and perhaps economical with the truth when it served. I’m one of those people when folks get together someone says ‘tell them about…’ Of course there would be no embellishment involved. I was writing, essentially just for me and then I got a job with a catalog company. I had to write a clever line or two for maybe a thousand different products in an annual catalog. By the time I left, eight years later, we were producing that catalog quarterly plus a seventy-two page catalog every two weeks, all loaded with my clever copy.

From there, I started writing free lance, wrote a number of pieces for a media network that had newspapers around the country. All the while writing stories and building up my collection of rejection slips. Then one day I was complaining, imagine, to my brother out in Boise who finally said, “You been saying you’re going to do something for four or five years, figure another way.” He was really right, and the way, electronic publishing, was so close if it had jumped out it could have bit me.

I might add local author William Kent Krueger, who’s very successful internationally, was gracious enough to have lunch with me one day. He told me every author has at least one book hidden under the bed that’s just not going to see the light of day, that’s where I keep my first book.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Yes, I write everyday. When I’m writing that’s what I do. I don’t have music on, I don’t take phone calls, I don’t jump over to face book or email. I write. I often get lost in the work. One time the clock stopped at three in the afternoon, I kept writing. My wife came home, an hour late, at six. I asked her why she was home so early. I probably looked at the clock a dozen times but it never registered as stopped, I just thought I had a lot more time before I got dinner on.

If I’m writing I can’t have alcohol, much as I would love a glass of wine at dinner or a beer on a hot day I get sleepy at eight or I’m more useless than usual by nine thirty. I usually write until midnight.

I mentioned before, the first thing I do is sit down and edit what I wrote the previous day. I read it out loud. By the time I’ve read and edited the 8-12 pages I’m into the swing of what’s happening.

I try to be accurate, I have a friend at the Bureau of Criminal Affairs (BCA) he processes crime scenes, and does lab work. I’ll present a scenario as I’ve written it, he sets me straight. The same with a pal who is a PI and a number of other folks in the criminal justice system and some police officers.

No mater where I am, I’m within reach of a pen and notebook. Whether it’s a name or scene or event someone mentions, I record it. Then I spend the next week trying to determine what my abbreviations stand for.

How do you come up with the names of your characters?

I have a number of characters with different or unusual names. I do a couple of things. I have a list of male, female and last names that I’m constantly adding to. I read the obituaries and garner a lot of names there, certainly last names. It’s also a great place for first names from earlier generations. You don’t run into a lot of young girls with the name Earleen, or boys named Spaulding, today.

Obviously the face of the United States is changing and I like ethnic names but I don’t want them to be too stereotypical nor an obstacle for the reader. I’ve written an entire book and than upon reflection decided that a specific name doesn’t work and needs to be changed.

I wrote one book where the name I used for a character in Atlanta, was the name of an Atlanta judge who was murdered in his courtroom a week before I released the title. It was a strange coincidence, but I didn’t feel comfortable using the name.

I met an author on line, Deb Stover, she’s written a number of Romance books. She has a title, Some Like it Hotter, and her romantic hero is Mike Faricy. Obviously she had me in mind although we’ve never met. We’ve had some great emails back and forth, I bought a copy of her book for my wife as a stocking stuffer at Christmas, but I’m not sure I live up to Deb’s descriptions.

Sometimes, the names just fit the crime. I have a book titled Merlot. In it are three really low rent thugs, the Ditschler brothers, Mendel, Lucerne and Elvis. There was also an exotic dancer named Serpentina, who was a woman I casually knew as a young soldier at Fort Bragg. I’m not saying any more on that note.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book?

Yes, I always learn a lot. The major thing is my writing, with every book, has become a lot tighter. My story has become a lot more dialogue driven. That does two things, it makes the page appear less daunting, which is important and it moves the reader along. My books are enjoyed, hopefully, for their entertainment. I don’t want people to be paging ahead wondering when the chapter ends so they can put the book down. I’d rather they enjoy themselves and put the coffee on to stay up and finish or rush home from wherever they are to get back to my book. The other thing, I’ve learned to be more economical in my description. Many great writers don’t have a lot of description. They use verbs rather than adjectives. If people are moving and doing you’re more apt to be caught up in the action. To me, that makes for a much more enjoyable read.

Mr. Softee is my second book in the Dev Haskell series, although they can be read in any order there were a number of little things I had to keep track of to remain consistent. Dev hangs out at the Spot Bar, things like the bartender’s names, Thursday night is Jameson night. His ‘friend’ with girlfriend benefits, Heidi, doesn’t cook. Dev has a couple of friends on the police force and a couple of guys who aren’t that fond of him. It was an interesting exercise keeping things straight and now that Mr. Softee is published I’m sure there will be some obvious something that I missed staring me right in the face. That’s a lesson, too.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

I’m not really sure. If the creative process went a bit faster or smoother that would be just fine. I don’t know if that can happen, it’s the reason they call it creative. I’m not sure I would do it differently but I was really tempted to have Dev become more involved with Mr. Softee’s girlfriend. He makes such bad decisions it would be a natural, although the way things worked out are more true to the way he seems to operate. He’s a great guy for laughs, but you wouldn’t want him dating your sister or daughter.

I would love to do a whole campaign to announce the release of the book, something up on youtube, the eBook, printed version and an audio all released at the same time, but I’ve just described months I don’t have. Plus, I’ve another tale I’m working on right now that’s rattling around inside my thick skull.

Every time I reread Mr. Softee or any of my other books there is always something I could fine tune, at some point you’re just fiddling and I’m pretty sure it does absolutely nothing to improve the reading experience, so why screw it up?

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

I read a lot. History and mystery are the two broad categories. I seem to inhale everything an author has written and then wait for the next release. I love Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard, Carl Hiaasen, Vince Flynn, Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride, Ken Bruen, William Kent Krueger, John Sanford, Randy Wayne White, Ed McBain. I’ve read all or most of Cormac McCarthy but I have to take a break every once in a while, the character I like in his books never seems to make it in the end.

I’ve read most if not all of Stephen E. Ambrose. The thing I like about Ambrose is he takes large historical events, the Second World War, The Lewis and Clark expedition and distills them down to mostly average people, thrust into major events, doing things one step at a time. Jeff Shaara, Bruce Catton, Shelby Foote, and David McCullough are also great authors for that.

I read these authors because I find them interesting, and enjoyable. I’ve read books from highly regarded, very successful authors and I didn’t really enjoy them or, I had to really slug through to the end. That’s not a reflection on the author, it’s just wasn’t for me. I’ve had very expensive bottles of wine that were wasted on me, no, not because I drank too much. It just, for whatever reason, didn’t appeal to me.

My books have no redeeming social value. My books are not about the Special Forces guy who just wants to be left alone but get’s pushed too far, now he’s back with a vengeance. My books are not about the kung fu expert who speaks a dozen languages fluently and holds an Olympic record for the hundred yard dash. I find those books entertaining, enjoyable, I read them, but I don’t want to write them.

I like to think I have a handle on the individual thrust into some event. I write about a pool of people, male and female, lurking below the surface of polite society. They suddenly find themselves in some sort of situation that is not good. The reason they are in this situation is usually due to their own bad decisions. But then, bad decisions make for interesting stories.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I’m working on my next book as we speak. It’s another Dev Haskell tale. The title, or at least the working title as of now, is Bite Me. Yeah, I know, I’m still coming up with ideas for a cover shot. As is usually the case with Dev, one bad decision leads to another, suddenly he’s in over his head. If you were Dev’s parents you would probably yell ‘What were you thinking?’ When you know all along that’s exactly the problem, he wasn’t thinking. I expect Bite Me to be released in late August, just like Mr. Softee it will be available electronically at a number of locations and ink on paper at Amazon.com.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Keep at it. The publishing world is experiencing a sea change. I groveled for years sending out query letters looking for an agent or a publisher. I couldn’t even get them to open the envelope. I think what’s happening is fantastic, it gives a guy like me a shot. Will I make the NY Times best seller list? Probably not, but then they don’t look at electronic sales anyway. Short of marrying Hugh Hefner (that ain’t happening) or committing some heinous crime, traditional publishers are never going to look at Mike Faricy from St. Paul, Minnesota. The electronic option gives me a shot through the side gate.

That said, there is a lot of lousy stuff out there available electronically, poor spelling, typos, tangled plot line. I see a bit of it in most printed books but not to the same extent. Keep writing. Produce the very best product you can. That means listening to advice, you may not take it, but you should at least evaluate. We all have to work to continually improve and continually deliver a quality product.

Who is the perfect reader for you book?

It’s a bit funny. I was writing with a male audience in mind but most of the people I hear from are women. I went back and looked after I got a couple of emails from women suggesting in my books, ultimately, the day is saved by a woman and she comes out the winner. Now, part of that winning may consist of getting Dev Haskell or some other idiot out her life and starting over, but a lot of people would consider that a positive move. Conversely, a bit of a fling with Dev, just to walk on the wild side and get it out of your system, well…

Now, my readers are from all around the world, but the situations my characters face are the same problems we all have; relationships, bad decisions, wishful thinking despite the facts, someone just being a jerk. I think that’s one of the reasons my books resonate. If you could get away with it, don’t we all have someone you’d just like to knee cap? There’s an old Irish prayer, “God bless those who love us, and God bless those who don’t. May God hold those who love us in his hand, and for those who don’t love us, may he turn their hearts. But, if he can’t turn their hearts, let him turn their ankle, so they walk forever with a limp and we recognize them from a distance.” My books take bad situations, add a sense of humor and make for an interesting tale.

Thanks to your readers for making it this far in my rant, I’d like to offer anyone who posts a comment a free download of my latest eBook, Mr. Softee. I think it’s the least we can do for being so patient. All the best and many thanks. If you want to find out more about me please visit my web site at www.Mikefaricy.com or please feel free to email me directly at mikefaricyauthor@gmail.com Thanks again and happy reading.