Interview with Bill Fitts

Why are you starting your interview with a reference to cats?
My cat Hawk, model for The Black in the Needed Killing Series, was sitting in my lap while I reviewed the answers for this interview. (He often sits in my lap while I'm writing and is pictured on my Smashwords author page and on the back of the paperback copies of the books.)

He noted that there was no mention in my Q&A about cats. More to the point, there was no mention of him. I promised to rectify the situation before publishing the interview.

Satisfied, Hawk?
Why do you write murder mysteries?
When Robert B. Parker and Dick Francis, two prolific and very popular mystery writers, died within a month of each other, I thought their deaths would open up some room in the field. I didn’t realize that another writer was going to take over the Spenser series and Francis’s son Felix was going to take up the family business.

Seriously, I had tried writing other fiction. I finished one book—a fantasy intended as part of a three-book series—actually got an agent for it, but never found a publisher. Then I tried writing a mystery novel. I discovered that mysteries were easier for me to write and—as a bonus—I’m pretty good at it.
Why write a murder mystery series?
My first book is titled "He Needed Killing." Whenever I mentioned to people that I was writing a book about a man who “needed killing,” they almost always said that if I ran out of folks who needed killing they had some suggestions. Thus, the Needed Killing Series was born.

In addition to the first book, I have published "He Needed Killing Too" and "She Needed Killing." The fourth in the series, "The Deacon Needed Killing," should be available in January 2014.
Have you suffered from writer’s block?
My wife has a T-shirt that says, “Writer’s block—when your imaginary friends won't talk to you.”

Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of luck with my imaginary friends. When my writing bogs down, the scene gets tedious to write, words don’t sound right—I’ve learned that it’s the characters refusing to cooperate with what I’d planned on their doing or saying.

They turn into sullen children who pout and hold their breath. Once I let them do it their way—use their own words and gestures the writing goes a lot smoother.

I’ve got one character, Rufus George, who was supposed to be a walk-on character—say a few words and then exit stage left. But he refused to leave. And he was right. I did need him and he’s been very helpful. He’s the provost of the university and has been in all three of my books. So far, he hasn’t shown up in book four but the book’s not finished yet.
How do you create characters?
People ask if I base my characters on real people and the answer is no—mostly. My characters are amalgams—bits and pieces of people I’ve met and some I’ve made up. Sometimes things that real people do and say end up in my books.

My hero, James F. Crawford, for instance, is retired from the university where he worked as a computer geek in their department of information services until he took early retirement. Other than a tour of duty in the navy reserve, he worked for the university his entire life until he started a career as private investigator.

I’ve worked as a newspaper collator, darkroom guy, farm hand, plywood factory worker, communications technician, group insurance salesman, underwriter, manager, accountant, help-desk employee, system administrator, and learning systems admin. The last couple of jobs were at a local university. I worked for the university until I took early retirement after which I started my career writing murder mysteries.

Other than my main characters, I create characters to provide some specific information, to do something specific, to be the murderer, or the person who is murdered. Since I write in the first person, all the characters have to relate to my hero and vice versa.
What are you working on now?
"The Deacon Needed Killing" (aka NK4) will be the fourth book in the Needed Killing Series. The victim is, pretty obviously, a deacon. As with all the victims in my books, he is the sort of individual about whom people say, "He needs killing." But unlike in real life, someone acts on this assertion to rid the world of the mean-spirited and exceedingly unpleasant deacon.

Though many of the recurring characters make an appearance, there are also some new (and I hope engaging) people on the scene.

In a departure from the first three Needed Killing books, the primary location for NK4 is not the environs of Shelbyville, Alabama. Crawford travels to Tennessee for a wedding and finds himself once again in the middle of a murder investigation.

And, as we used to say at the conclusion of our fourth-grade book reviews, if you want to know what happens next, you'll have to read the book. It should be available early next year.
Published 2013-10-11.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Deacon Needed Killing: Book 4 in the Needed Killing Series
Series: Needed Killing, book 4. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 85,450. Language: English. Published: February 25, 2014. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
Alone with a corpse on a back road, Crawford is glad to see the police. “It was actually a deputy sheriff's car but any law enforcement officer was like a gift from heaven. The car stopped and I started toward it. The siren yelped and the headlights flashed. I froze in place. That was not a come-hither signal." This time, Crawford must establish his own innocence before he can help anyone else.
She Needed Killing
Series: Needed Killing, book 3. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 106,240. Language: English. Published: July 17, 2013. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
Book 3 in the Needed Killing Series. Newly licensed PI James F. Crawford had never considered taking his cat to the local folk festival. But when a friend wants The Black for a photo shoot, Crawford obliges. That a snake will be part of the shoot is just the first surprise in store for Crawford. Snakes, arson, blackmail . . . this festival will be unlike any other in the history of Jemison County.
He Needed Killing Too
Series: Needed Killing, book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 74,060. Language: English. Published: October 18, 2012. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
Book 2 in the Needed Killing series. Dr. Douglas was often described as a man who “needed killing.” When someone takes the description literally and puts a bullet through his head, the provost calls in James Crawford. As Crawford tackles his second case as a private eye, he also wrangles with the particulars of becoming a licensed detective, including the burning question of business cards.
He Needed Killing
Series: Needed Killing, book 1. Price: Free! Words: 66,620. Language: English. Published: October 18, 2012. Category: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
Book 1 in the Needed Killing series. When several employees get ill from tainted potato salad and one actually dies, the university issues condolences and goes on with business as usual. But another death cannot be ignored, and university retiree James Crawford is thrust into the role of private eye. Murder, he finds, begets murder. Can he expose the killer before someone else is killed?