I first met Tim Hall at the 2015 Deadly Ink Conference in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where we ended up having a very interesting conversation about telephone psychics. I once interviewed for a position as a telephone psychic and Tim just happens to have one in his novel DEAD STOCK. I have had the pleasure of running into Tim at a variety of mystery related events over the past year, including Noir at the Bar NYC and Malice Domestic. I am thrilled to have him join me here for this month’s CREATIVE MINDS PROFILE!
Tim Hall is the author of the Bert Shambles Mysteries, a New Adult mystery series published by Cozy Cat Press. His crime fiction has appeared in THUGLIT, BIGnews, and Chicago Reader, and a story with S.A. Solomon will be featured in the upcoming Cannibal Cookbook anthology. He appears at industry and fan events throughout the year, including Malice Domestic, Deadly Ink, Noir at the Bar, BEA, KGB reading series, the Brooklyn Book Festival and many others.
Thank you so much for joining me this month on Not Even Joking. When I saw you at Malice Domestic, you read from CHASING THE CODEX, A Mystery by 24 Authors. What an incredible endeavor. What was it like working on that project?
My wonderful publisher, Patricia Rockwell at Cozy Cat Press, came up with the idea as a way to help promote a bunch of her authors, since she can’t afford to promote us individually. We went in alphabetical order, and the book grew exponentially more complicated as it went along, so the people in the early part of the alphabet definitely had it easier! I was on the earlier side and it was still a challenge to decide which of the threads to pick up. I had to look at the overall story arc, try to propel the narrative along, and still leave it off in a way that would give the next author something good to work with. I think I handled it pretty well—I even managed to get in a few funny shots at the pretentious literary pseudo-culture of MFAs. Overall it was a tough challenge, but totally worth it.
If by natural you mean pulling my quickly-thinning hair out, day after day, while sobbing uncontrollably, and generally living in a quasi-fugue state of utter and complete existential despair, then yes! I guess I’m a natural. But really, humor is a coping mechanism, and I need it to get through the day.
The challenge of writing humor is that it has to be funny! Drama is much easier to write. It’s harder to see the humor in bad situations—try it if you don’t believe me.
I’m currently editing a politically-themed cozy. I’m hoping to get that finished soon so I can get back to Bert Shambles #3, which is turning out to be my favorite. Bert gets himself saddled with a babysitting job, and finds himself having to solve a murder at a medieval festival.
What else gets you up in the morning? What are you passionate about? And how does this influence your creative life? (or does it?)
My life is incredibly boring, it’s embarrassing. I like to cook and to listen to music, spend time with my wife and son, watch movies, get to the country or beach once in a while, and that’s about it. I work full-time in addition to writing, and that takes a lot out of me. My new hobby is surround sound, which seems an appropriately dorky interest for a paunchy middle-aged white guy to be into. So I collect music mixed for 5.1 surround systems and read about the pros and cons of different high-resolution music formats.
I think this influences my creative life in a similar way to a lot of comedians: at a certain point you either go funny or go crazy. If I were leading an exciting life I’d probably have nothing to write about.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author who thinks they’d like to write humorous mysteries?
Study timing. It’s all rhythm. Listen to drummers. Tighten your language and find the humor in the juxtapositions. Imbalances are your friend. White-hot passions and “sure things” are funny. Ideologies, dogmas, sacred cows are funny. Humor attempts to restore balance; laughter means you’ve succeeded. But remember that anybody and anything can be made to appear ridiculous, including (especially) you. Don’t be mean, and don’t preach—you can have mean characters or preachy characters, but turn it against them to humorous effect wherever possible.
Most importantly, remember that the true heart and soul of humor is compassion. If you equate compassion with weakness, or just want to score points, belittle or hurt others, you’ll never be funny.
That is really wonderful advice! Thank you so much for joining me here this month! I am definitely a Bert Shambles fan! He is such a delightful mess. I look forward to reading more in the series! And I can’t wait to dive into CHASING THE CODEX. My husband is reading (and enjoying) it right now.