We interviewed Max Everhart in January, 2016.
Quick facts about Max: Mystery novelist (Camel Press, Seattle); blogger and reviewer of fine writing; writing instructor; lives in South Carolina. Has a sense of humor and an excellent command of the English language.
R&R: Why do you write about baseball?
I grew up playing baseball. I could hit a curveball and turn a double play long before I could read or write, so the sport was bled into me, almost entirely by my dad. I like baseball now, all these years later, for some of the same reasons I like writing: it’s difficult, and time-consuming, and frustrating, but rewarding, too.
R&R: Would you layout your technique for writing a novel?
I write a very generalized summary of the novel’s action first, about a page purely about plot, and that gets the ball rolling. Then I write detailed character sketches of all the major and minor characters. There’s always way more information in these than I will ever use, but I have to do it. Then, I get poster board and write out descriptions of every scene in the book; I number these as if they were going to be shot for a movie. Then comes the important part: I panic. I think, why bother? You’ll never finish this, you suck as a writer, a person, and you deserve to die alone. Then, I pull my head out of my ass and start writing. As you can probably guess, I’m a lot of fun at dinner parties.
R&R: Tell us about your education.
Spotty, is the word I would use to describe my formal education. I earned a tennis scholarship to the University of North Carolina, Asheville, and after two semesters, I had a .03 GPA and my scholarship was revoked. Memory serves, I had a few non-academic university violations on my “record” as well, so the writing was on the wall. . .but I was too stoned, drunk, and angry to notice or care. From there, I tucked my tail between my legs and did several reasonably successful and moderately sober semesters at Asheville-Buncombe Tech, where I took my first creative writing course, which, despite its merits, had zero effect on me. Next, I got into the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and I discovered reading (no, I didn’t really read much before) and writing (no, I only pretended to write before) and earned an English degree with a pretty good GPA. I started writing short stories around this time, one of which caught the eye of my future wife, and I always say, half-seriously, that I’d most certainly be a bachelor if I couldn’t write well. After UNCG, I was rejected from six or so MFA programs, and they were right to reject me, but the University of Alabama, Birmingham, accepted me on a probationary basis. Working and going to school full-time, I managed to eke out a Master’s in creative writing, but more importantly, Dr. Wharton, my thesis advisor, introduced me to the noir-private eye genre, and the rest is very obscure history.
Quick aside regarding education/being a student: I am a terrible student, and I’ve always disliked school. I have a sometimes destructive disdain for authority and structure. Basically, if I didn’t write the rules I shouldn’t have to follow them. Did I mention I’ve been nominated for the Liz Taylor Emotional Maturity Award?
R&R: Do you write the endings of your books first or do you just let them happen?
I write a general description of the ending of the book as well as everything else that happens, but then I only end up using 20%-30% of what was planned. The fun part is the process, how the story and the characters evolve as you write and revise. You should always allow your writing to surprise you. Don’t be such a control freak. Chances are, your original ideas weren’t that good, anyway. Or maybe I’m projecting. No, strike that. All my ideas are good, nah, great!
R&R: Tell us how you got Eli Sharpe.
That’s easy; I stole him. At least, his various parts.
Sharpe’s five ex fiancées: I stole that from James Crumley’s character C.W. Sugrue, who had two or three exes.
Sharpe’s sarcasm: I stole that from Jim Rockford of the Rockford Files and Fletch from the books and films of the same name. . . and pretty much every noir private eye, like, ever.
Sharpe’s obsession with Nixon and complicated relationship with his father: well, that’s me on both accounts. I collect Nixon memorabilia. I’ve read dozens of books about him, and I think he’s fascinating as a “character.” Too, my old man is a die-hard liberal, and it pisses him off when I wear my Nixon in ’78 T-shirt, so I enjoy that. Fun fact: I wrote a research paper about Nixon for a friend of mine, while I was drinking in a bar. Just a pen, paper, and Jack Daniels. No other resources. Only took me an hour or so. My friend got an A-.
The other aspects of Sharpe’s character are pure wish fulfillment. He’s tall and handsome and women respond to him. He has a cool job and lives in a cool place (Asheville) and travels a lot, and he used to play my favorite sport.
R&R: What are your plans for Eli in the future?
Depends on the response to Ed, Not Eddie (Eli Sharpe #3). If more readers materialize, then I’ll keep writing. Sharpe may or may not team up with a former fiancée, who may or may not be a ball-busting investigative TV reporter. Who knows? Certainly not me. (Note: I’m not being cagey here. I literally don’t know what I’m going to do with Sharpe.)
R&R: What is style?
A pair of comfy jeans, Wilco T-shirt, seersucker jacket, and cheap sunglasses. If it’s cold out, a knit cap and a pea coat. I loathe cold weather.
R&R: We think of writing in terms of the three S’s: Story, Structure, Style. Would you care to comment on that?
Sure. I like it. Here are my three B’s of parenting: Broccoli, Baths, Books.
(for more on Story, Structure, Style, check out the pages on this blog. We have nothing to add to Broccoli, Baths, and Books however.)