Monday, October 31, 2011

Manic Monday with Bob Stewart

Today I have the pleasure of talking with Bob Stewart. Bob is the author of four nonfiction books and has reported news events for popular magazines like PEOPLE, TIME, LIFE and LATINA. He worked such national stories for PEOPLE as the Oklahoma City bombing, the Branch Davidian standoff, the murder of Tejano singer Selena, the murder of students at schools in Pearl, Mississippi, Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Columbine in Denver, Colorado and the execution of Karla Faye Tucker. And now, he has his first fiction title with Novel Concept Publishing.

JET: Can you tell us about why you wrote your most recent book – Hidden Evil?

Bob: Reared in Texas I had heard rumblings of occult power, but generally it was the superstition generated by well-meaning people who want to insure good health, happiness or wealth; a rather benign practice that involves candles, herbs or ritual. It wasn’t until People Magazine assigned me to report on the sacrifice/murder of a college student on Spring Break on the South Texas border that I came into contact with the evil side of the occult. I had never heard the words Santeria or Palo Mayombe, until then. As I stood amid a number of fly-covered graves, when I visited the death shack on a desolate rancho in Mexico, I discovered an evil as ancient as any practice during Biblical times. Hidden Evil is my way of drawing attention to this culture flourishing in the halls of the rich and the powerful as well as humble adobe shacks. While it is fiction, many of the incidents and rituals used in the book are based on fact.

JET: What drew you to the thrillers/horror genre?

Bob: That’s simple. Two authors – Dean Koontz and James Patterson, who not only write beautifully but tell spellbinding stories. One of these days, I’d like to shake their hands. Perhaps Koontz’ incredible book, The Watchers, influenced me the most. As to why thrillers? I’m a sucker for the “stranger in a strange land” theme of a man or woman being thrown into circumstances beyond their abilities to control, but somehow they discover the strength to fight on.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

Bob: Retaining belief in myself. No one ever told me I couldn’t write or deliberately tried to discourage me (that I know of), but agent rejections that pile up or no answer at all, tend to wear on your soul and sometimes self-doubt creeps in. I subscribe to the old saying: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And finally, my favorite story about perseverance is one about Academy Award winner George C. Scott. When approached by a young actor who inquired if he should continue to try to break into acting, the feisty Scott replied, “No!” Stunned, the actor stammered when asking why that was Scott’s answer; obviously, he was looking for a warm fuzzy. “If you have to ask me, then you shouldn’t do it. Acting is something you do because you have to.” I think his advice applies to writing.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

Bob: The hours spent in rewrite. That’s when the creative juices flow and the tenor of the piece is shaped. Each word is tested, each definition considered, each scene polished until it’s a sparkling gem. I know many writers like the original creation of the piece. That’s hard work and not my favorite. One other moment I savor is the reaction of Beta readers as they critique my writing.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

Bob: Richard Halliburton, a great travel writer who disappeared in the 1930s trying to sail a

Chinese junk across the Pacific Ocean. He wrote Royal Roads to Romance, one of my favorite books. I read all of his works as a teen. There are too many to name them all, but Walter Farley’s Black Stallion’s series was filled with glorious adventure, (Mrs. Childs read us a chapter each day in third grade), Richard S. Prather’s cynical Miami detective Shell Scott and Mickey Spillane’s tough guy Mike Hammer were my introduction to the detective “noir” style of writing. I didn’t read many of the classics, with the exception of Alexander Dumas. Classics have little action, and adventure is what this country boy desired.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

Bob: After studying for the ministry three years I realized I wasn’t cut from the right cloth. I like writing English essays, so I went to work at the college newspaper and discovered my real love. I went to work in a rough and tumble time when a kid green behind the ears could mix it up with the pros and learn more in the school of hard knocks than the halls of academia. You can no longer do that. Also, it taught me to ask for the most difficult assignments.

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

Bob: A lot of my research was on the job. I was on the site at the parade shoot-out used in the beginning of the book. I visited the killing shack of a Palo group. I once found a ritual for Ochosi in a cemetery and mentioned it in the book. Like a character out of a book I’ve met people at midnight by the railroad tracks and once, when covering a mob-related story, a DA told me to carry a gun and I checked my automobile for bombs each morning.

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite? Why?

Bob: Well my favorite will always be the one I wrote about my wife. The reason it’s my favorite is rather obvious. Hidden Evil comes in second.

JET: Any advice for the novices out there?

Bob: Not much really. Just write. Get in that chair, turn on the computer and write. It’s best to set a time each day and if the muse has abandoned you that day, then write your name over and over and eventually the words will flow. As a journalist I had to write something every day whether I was sick, depressed, or worried. Don’t use the excuse of writer’s block. As for me. When I’m writing on a project I get up about five and work for three or so hours. For my first book – while I was employed at a newspaper --- I’d go to bed at 9 p. m. and get up at three a.m. so I could get in the three hours before going to work.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with: Paper or Plastic?

Bob: Plastic – it’s reusable

JET: Steak or Tofu?

Bob: Steak – Seriously, you ask a Texan that?

JET: Beach or Mountains?

Bob: Beach

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

Bob: Country, but my favorite is classical which I play when writing.

JET: Angels or Demons?

Bob: Angels

JET: Paper or Digital?

Bob: Digital

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

Bob: Neither; okay, then the Cheesy B

JET: Salty or Sweet?

Bob: Salty – I’m a diabetic so I can’t choose sweet.

JET: Top 10 best seller or Unknown Back Shelf Find?

Bob: Top 10. Don’t have time to search the back shelf

JET: Sword wielding ninja or Gun toting momma?

Bob: Sword wielding ninja

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

Bob: A couple of projects.

A good friend and I plan to tackle a novel about the Texas border. Tentative title is Border Town and tells the story of a Texas Ranger, a deputy sheriff and a commander on the Mexican side of the border.

I’m working on a rather tough project – untitled as of now – about a pedophile who matches wits with a special woman whose daughter disappeared several years prior to the opening of the story. The mother is now a victims’ rights advocate for the City of San Antonio. (Much of the material comes from a ‘how-to’ manuscript discovered in a pedophile’s cell in Louisiana in which he outlines how to kidnap and torture a child.) He stalks funeral homes looking for victims.

JET: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Bob Stewart and his work at the following places:

Until next time,




J. R. Tomlin said...

Wow. Quite an interview. It's not what I normally consider my genre, but that sounds like an intense novel. And I also read Dumas because I love action. :-)

JETaylor said...

Thank you for commenting J.R. - I'll get in touch with you via email regarding the kindle copy of Hidden Evil now that I have my internet back. :)