Mystery fans, you’ll definitely want to pay attention to this spotlight. We had a chance to talk to author Ricardo Sanchez and go behind the scenes of his new mystery, Elvis Sightings. Keep reading to find out more!
There are a lot of interesting characters in this book that you don’t usually see in mystery stories. How do you go about creating your characters?
The original premise for the story was a PI looking for Elvis in a town that would be too weird even for a Weekly World News reader to accept. The initial result was too much for anyone to accept. So I honed down the core of the story to a PI looking for Elvis. But I needed to create an environment where Elvis could hide, if he were still alive. And I needed obstacles for the PI to overcome. So I took what was best from the initial idea and brought that back. I won’t give too much away by saying there are three groups exerting influence over the town were Floyd, the PI, is looking for Elvis: The descendants of a group of Dutch immigrants, a group of circus performers who have tried to settle down for a nice bucolic life, and men in black. Each group has an agenda and a use for Floyd that is at odds with his agenda. So to complicate things as much as possible for our hero, I set out to create characters that he would naturally feel sympathetic to, or in a few cases, very antagonistic towards. That all sounds pretty calculated, but there was also a fair amount of serendipity involved. But when you think about the possibilities of ex-circus performers, militant Dutch-Americans, and some sort of government agency, it’s hard not to come up with some characters that were pure joy to bring to life. And hopefully to read.
Lots of main characters, especially in detective stories, have some kind of hook. They have perfect memory. They drive a cab. They are a little old lady that people don’t watch their tongue around. For Floyd, it’s being a Lifestyle Elvis – he lives his life the way he thinks Elvis would want him to. When in doubt, ask yourself, “What would Elvis do?” Part of the reason for this was to connect him more intimately to the search for Elvis, but also to set readers up for the type of book they’re about to get into.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of writing advice, what would it be?
Forget about it! Take up knitting.
I’m kidding. But writing is hard work. So I think if I were to give myself, or any writer, advice, it would be to find a way to eliminate distractions and give yourself time and a place to focus because you will shock yourself how much you can get written when there is nothing else for you to do. Despite the fact that I quite literally feel a compulsion to create things (mainly by writing) and am miserable when I’m not creating things, I will go out of my way to come up with other things I have to do before I can do any writing. In fact, answering this very question is something I’m doing instead of finishing a short story that I need to hand off in a few days.
There is a writer I know who built a small shack in his back yard. It has reference books, electricity, and a good climate control system. It has no windows, no internet and a computer with nothing on it except the program he uses to write in. He’s a lot more productive than me. And I hate him. Just a little. But if I tried to replicate that shack, it would be because I was probably putting off writing.
What drew you to the mystery genre?
My mother. She loves mysteries. Especially Agatha Christie. I was always more of a Sci-Fi and fantasy reader with some hard boiled stuff thrown in like Chandler and Hammett. There are a few good Sci-Fi mysteries that I absolutely loved, but in my head they were still science fiction books. So I’m at my mom’s house one day and picked up Christie’s Nemesis. I loved it. I hated that there was pretty much no way on Earth for me to finger the killer in advance (or at least not by more than accident) but I really enjoyed the way she constructed the whodunnit. Now, Elvis Sightings bears almost no similarity to an Agatha Christie story, but that was what started me on a binge read of a bunch of mystery stuff from Christie to a dozen other writers including Elmore Leonard and Stephen J. Cannell.
While writing characters like acrobats and bearded ladies, did you ever think what role you’d like to take in a circus and why?
We’re assuming I suddenly have super powers instead of being a total klutz? Actually, I don’t need super powers for the gig I’d want – Ringmaster! Even as a kid, when I went to circus the Ringmaster was the most fascinating person in the show. He or she is the only person you get to know at all, and the Ringmaster ties together the experience from the first tumbler to spring out onto the sawdust to the last clown to taunt him before the closing bit. A bad Ringmaster can totally ruin a circus experience even when the performers are great. A great Ringmaster, on the other hand, turns it into an event.
Then again, the Ringmaster has a lot of pressure, so maybe a clown instead.
Last but certainly not least… favorite Elvis song?
The answer changes from time to time. I’ve cycled through some of the classics like “Long Tall Sally” and “Viva Las Vegas,” but right now it’s a song called “Such a Night.” It’s a cover of a song performed by the Drifters that Elvis released on the Elvis is Back album in 1960.
I’m Floyd—no last name needed, thanks—and I’m a P.I. The only other thing you need to know about me is that I’m not an Elvis impersonator. I live my life fast and hard and yes, in sequined jumpsuits, but more importantly I live my life the way Elvis would have wanted me to. Honestly. With integrity.
It was a tip that the King was still alive and living under an assumed name that brought me to Kresge, Wyoming. But there’s something bigger than Elvis happening out here. I’ve been beaten bloody by an acrobatic bartender, roped into the search for a missing councilman, fallen for a bearded lady, and threatened by men in black who really don’t want me poking my nose into the town’s business. Half of my leads look like dead celebrities. The other half are either refugees from a broken-down circus or spear-holding Viking wannabes.
I’m in Crazytown, USA, but I can’t leave. Not yet. If I don’t find the missing councilman soon, Kresge will be turned into a Danish-themed amusement park. I’ve never been so close to finding Elvis. And I need to know if my new self-appointed sidekick James Morrison is really who he claims to be…
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