Interview with B.J. Smith

Q. What's the story behind "Blood Solutions"?
This story came from my time in journalism. After college I worked for a couple of daily newspapers in Iowa, then landed at the Register and Tribune Syndicate in Des Moines. As an editor there, one of my responsibilities, and probably my least favorite, was proofreading a weekly crossword puzzle. That’s quite different from working on a puzzle to solve it like most normal people do, figuring out the clues and solutions and then penciling in the answers. Proofreading was more like reading down the columns of clues, looking for typos, and just reading the corresponding solutions. Sometimes you’ll find sequences of words that actually form sentences. They have a subject, verb, object, even if most of them don’t make much sense. But what might happen if some of them spoke to an individual whose mind wasn't like most other people's minds? Could these "sentences" have the effect of what some experience as “voices” in their heads? Those are questions that I asked myself. The conclusion I came to is the novel I called “Blood Solutions.”
Q.Besides the writing and proofreading, what elements of journalism influenced the book?
There were times in both Ottumwa and Clinton, on the daily-newspaper jobs, where I reported on crimes, a manslaughter trial, routine police beat news, in addition to my usual work as a general assignment reporter. I think I absorbed some of the police procedural stuff just by being around it and meeting some of the cops, not to mention loving to read detective stories and watching old TV shows like “Dragnet” and “Mannix.” I’ve also known a lot of physicians, my father and a sister among them, and I’ve dealt with psychiatrists and lawyers and other people who find their way into crime stories. A few criminals, too.
Q. Are any of the characters, like Red Shaw, based on actual people you know?
The short answer is no. A character, or characters, might have mannerisms, or patterns of speech, or a scar or something that I thought about and used in some way, but Red Shaw and the others are really not much like any particular individuals that I’ve ever known or met.
Q. What do you enjoy most about writing fiction?
Writing fiction, just making things up, has been really interesting. Until I started doing this seriously, I did not know that a writer can, in a way, lose control of his own characters. Once you’ve developed them to a certain point, they can go off in a direction that you really didn’t have in mind before you set everything in motion. Red Shaw surprised me a number of times. I didn’t know what he would do next.
Q. What are you working on next?
I'm working on the next Red Shaw story. It should be coming out early in 2016.
Published 2015-12-27.
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