Continuing our series on Peace, Love, and Crime author interviews, this week we feature another talented and prolific short story writer, John M. Floyd.
Meet John M. Floyd
CAM: “Suspicious Minds” is a great title for a mystery or crime-based story. And Elvis’ 1969 release of that name gives one pause … It’s as if the roles are reversed and instead of seeing suspicion in the other’s eyes, your main character, Eddie, is the suspicious one. Can you talk a little about how that idea germinated as you wrote the story?
JMF: Actually, Eddie becomes suspicious himself, of the old girlfriend who cooked up this scheme—so there’s plenty of suspicion to go around, on the part of the would-be criminals, the real criminals, the cops, etc.
CAM: Eddie starts the story on a mistrustful note, even though he used to date the woman he doesn’t trust. He seems to trust his friend, Dexter. Is the trust between friends different from trust with the one you’re dating?
JF: In this case, the bond between Eddie and Dex is stronger, because they’re old friends and even roommates. I tried to give readers the impression that Eddie and his old girlfriend probably had a few unresolved issues in the past.
CAM: Was Peace, Love, and Crime the first music-themed anthology you’ve written to? Did you play the song, and/or others, while writing? Any advice for others writing to a theme?
JMF: Yes, I believe this was the first music-themed anthology I’ve contributed to, though I do have stories in current and upcoming anthologies about the music of Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Buffett, and Billy Joel. And yes, I did play the song a few times before the writing began. As for advice on writing to a theme, just try to match the subject as close as possible and make the story interesting.
. . . the key to anyone’s success in writingJohn M. Floyd
is his or her commitment not to give up . . .
CAM: You have hundreds of stories and articles published in more than 300 publications, including nine short story collections and seven “series” with recurring characters. What’s it like to have these recurring characters with you all the time. Do they ever demand equal time with the other series’ characters. Or do you have them all pretty well under control?
JMF: They DO sometimes vie for equal time–but I think I have them under control. The hardest thing about writing stories with different ongoing characters is making sure you keep the individual locations, restaurants, landmarks, friends, and relatives straight. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught myself writing a scene set in a café or business that belongs to a different series (!?!).
CAM: That’s not surprising. I read an article you wrote on why you focus on short stories over novels. Would you like to share a few tidbits on that or anything else with our readers?
JMF: I write mostly shorts because I think they’re more fun to write than novels. For one thing, I love the freedom of being about to create and finish a story in a fairy short time, write “The End,” and then write a story the next day about something completely different. Short stories also make it easier to write in a lot of different genres.
CAM: Well, with four Derringer Awards, the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s award for best short story, plus many other accolades noted in your bio, you certainly have staying power. What is your key to success in the short story market?
JMF: I think the key to anyone’s success in writing is his or her commitment not to give up. Writers must keep writing no matter what, and no matter how many rejections they might receive in the process. I was incredibly fortunate to sell several stories right away, when I first started out, so I think I had an easier time of it than some—but we must keep writing regardless of how hard it seems to be. I once heard someone say, “There’s a lot of attrition among writers—so don’t attrit.”
CAM: What other talents do you have up your sleeve? I know poetry is one. Are there others? Feel free to let us in on your creative side a little more.
JMF: First, I’m not sure my poetry is a talent—but it’s a lot of fun. I love to play both the piano and the guitar, though I’m better at playing the radio, and I’m really good at flipping cards into a hat from a distance of ten or twelve feet. As for sports, I’m not great at tennis but I’m really bad at golf.
CAM: Do you get asked to contribute to some markets—write to spec—or are all your works done by regular submission where you are in the slush pile with everyone else?
JMF: Over the past few years I’ve indeed received a lot more requests to contribute to magazines and anthologies. I’m truly grateful for that, and I try hard to put together good stories when those opportunities come up. But many of my submissions still go straight to the slush pile like everyone else’s.
CAM: What’s a typical workday for you? And are there any special routines you follow, or a favorite writing shirt or cap you wear when you write?
JMF: I absolutely do not have set routines. I spent four years in the Air Force, and that was enough structure to last me the rest of my life. I write anytime I want to, for as long as I want to, which turns out to be a lot. I do usually write in front of the computer, though now and then I’ll take notes in longhand while someplace else, like outside in the backyard swing.
CAM: What is your greatest challenge as an author?
JMF: The business side of writing. I know it’s necessary to market your work, and to keep accurate records, and pay the taxes you owe, etc., but all of those are challenges for me because they’re not fun. The writing part—dreaming up plots, creating characters and dialogue and twists, and even rewriting—is what’s fun.
CAM: If you could go somewhere to just write, for about a week, where would it be? What would you need to take with you?
JMF: I’ll stay right here in my home office, which is where I’m more comfortable writing than anywhere else in the world. It would also save a lot of time in packing the things I’d need to take with me.
CAM: What’s next for you? What new stories or books are in the pipeline?
JMF: I have stories coming up in the March/April issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, the March/April print edition of The Saturday Evening Post, and several more magazines and anthologies. My next book will be another collection of my short fiction, this one a bilingual edition of my past Saturday Evening Post stories, by a publishing house in Moscow.
BIO: John M. Floyd’s short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Strand Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, three editions of The Best American Mystery Stories, and many other publications. A former Air Force captain and IBM systems engineer, John is also an Edgar Award finalist, a four-time Derringer Award winner, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, the 2018 recipient of the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for lifetime achievement, and the author of nine books. He and his wife Carolyn live in Mississippi.
Coming Next Week
Next week we’ll have another interview, perhaps two, with more authors from Peace, Love, and Crime: Crime Stories Inspired by the Songs of the ’60s. You can get your paperback copy direct from Untreed Reads here, or from your favorite retailer in paperback or ebook .