My name’s Glen. I’m a native of Seattle who now lives in Southern California – from all the rain to all the sun, though I often miss the green landscape. Like most writers, I juggle my day job and (terrific, supportive) family time with the novelist career. I write mystery thrillers about a man named Van Shaw. Shaw was raised by his career criminal grandfather. After escaping that life and serving as a soldier in our most recent wars, he’s figuring out his own place in the world, which often winds him in trouble. The thrillers have heavy measures of action and adventure, but there’s a special emphasis on characters large and small, and why they do what they do.
Glen Erik Hamilton’s debut PAST CRIMES has been nominated for Best First Novel at the 2016 Edgar Awards. PAST CRIMES was given starred reviews by Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal, and called “an exciting heir to the classic detective novel” by Kirkus. The second book in the Van Shaw series, HARD COLD WINTER, will be published in March by William Morrow (US) and Faber & Faber (UK). A native of Seattle, Glen now lives in California but frequently returns to his hometown to soak up the rain. Follow his wet footprints on Facebook and on Twitter @GlenErikH, and be sure to visit his website glenerikhamilton.com
When did you start writing seriously?
When we moved to California, I had a few months before I had to hunt for a job. I went to the library every day to try writing and see if I liked the hard work of putting sentences together. That eventually led to taking some classes through UCLA Extension, and I got serious-serious a couple of years later, when the various ideas for my first book PAST CRIMES jelled and I got some traction on what I wanted the book to be.
Do you write every day?
I aspire to that level of dedication. Meeting the deadline on my second book required more weeks as a hermit than I would prefer to repeat. Since I have a day job and I love my family, writing every day means learning to write early in the morning versus my previous habit of staying up far too late two or three times each week. I started that morning routine last Monday. So far, so good.
What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
The almost-endlessly delayed gratification. Not for feedback on what I’m writing, but all of the time with family and friends and pop culture that you have to set aside to get words on the page. The price of dreams.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
When somebody you’ve never met before says that they really liked reading your book. Doesn’t matter if it’s a reviewer or another writer or a casual fan. It’s incredibly validating.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Almost certainly stressing out about the fact that I’m not writing. Lawrence Kasdan said it: “Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.”
Describe your latest book to our readers
HARD COLD WINTER is the second in the Van Shaw series. Van has recently mustered out of the Army and is adjusting, with some challenges, to life as a civilian. He welcomes the distraction when an old cohort of his grandfather asks Van to hike up into the Olympic Mountains and check on the cohort’s absent niece, who Van knew as a teenager. Van finds the remote cabin, and discovers a grisly murder scene. One of the victims is the scion of an extremely wealthy Seattle family, and before long Van finds himself in a storm of trouble. Which is where he may be at his best.
How much planning goes into your books before you start writing?
A healthy amount. I puzzle over the primary characters, and about what kind of journey Van should take. I usually have some action scenes and bits of dialogue in mind. The central mystery takes longer. I find that I’m outlining less with each book – chapter by chapter — but I’m putting more time into notes on character backstory and on how the central mystery has a ripple effect on people’s motivations. My process is a work in progress.
What is your greatest fear as a writer?
Well, there’s the classic writer’s terror: That everyone will realize I have no talent, and leap to their feet and point and scream “Fraud!” But the more rational fear is that I’ll get trapped into writing something I don’t like, or a series with which I’ve become bored. Fortunately that’s a pitfall you can see coming a long way off. Writing is like a marriage: If happiness is what you’re after, you have to do it for love, not money.
What was your path to becoming a published writer?
I took the writing classes I mentioned above, and I’ve been part of regular writer’s groups for years, which have been invaluable (more on that below). When the time came to start sending my manuscript to agents in 2013, I wanted some practice at pitching it, so I went to the annual ThrillerFest conference in New York City. The conference dedicates a full afternoon to what they call PitchFest, which is essentially speed-dating with agents and publishers.
That afternoon was a huge one in my life. It led to representation, a two-book deal, and some truly outstanding working relationships with my agent and my editors and publishers. I realize I’m extremely fortunate, but I was also prepared to grab for the brass ring when it came around. I wrote about the experience in greater detail here, as a thank-you to ITW and The ThrillerFest organizers: Thrill Ride
How have you found the marketing side of being a writer?
I enjoy most of it. I always knew it would be fun to meet people at bookstores and conferences, and to participate in panels. Posting silly things on Facebook or Twitter is easy. The most time-consuming work is writing guest articles and interviews (like this one) as part of each book release. It’s very satisfying to do, but can be especially tough if I’m juggling a deadline for a book as well. My best advice for newcomers: Have a detailed conversation with your publisher on expectations, keep a calendar of your commitments (for both of you), and get very good at time management.
One parting piece of advice for those aspiring novelists out there?
Aside from the Big Two – Always be Reading, Always be Writing – I strongly advise joining or forming a writer’s group. Be very pragmatic about it. Is the group made up of serious and talented writers from whom you can learn? Are they forthcoming with helpful and specific critiques? Can you offer them the same? If any of those answers are No, consider whether another group might be better. It’s your time, and your dream.
And one final bit, which I’ve stolen from author and teacher Carolyn See: Celebrate every success. Big milestones are few and far between, so if you just rocked a chapter, then shoot off some metaphorical fireworks. You’re closer today than you were yesterday.
What’s next for you?
Book Three in the Van Shaw series is well underway, and there’s ink on the contract for a fourth book, which might be in the series or possibly a standalone. And I’ll travel to the Edgar Awards ceremony at the end of April, which, regardless of the outcome, will be a wonderful night.
Former Army Ranger and thief Van Shaw is thrust into danger as lethal and unpredictable as the war he left behind in this emotionally powerful and gritty follow up to the acclaimed Past Crimes.
When an old crony of Van Shaw’s late grandfather calls in a favor, the recently-discharged Ranger embarks on a dangerous journey to the Olympic Mountains, in search of a missing girl tied to Van’s own criminal past. What he finds instead is a brutal murder scene, including a victim from one of Seattle’s most influential families.
But the dead bodies are only the start of Van’s troubles. A fellow Ranger from Afghanistan turns up at Van’s doorstep, seeking support from his former sergeant even as Van wrestles with his own reemerging symptoms of PTSD. The murder investigation leads to heavy pressure, with a billionaire businessman on one side and vicious gangsters on the other, each willing to play dirty to get what they want.
The price of his survival may be too high, demanding moral compromises that could destroy Van’s relationship with his iron-willed girlfriend, Luce. And when a trusted friend’s betrayal pushes him to the edge, Van has to enlist help from some unexpected places—including someone he believed was lost forever.
The Ranger will need every ally he can get. A powerful, unseen player is about to unleash a firestorm on Seattle that will burn Van and his people to ashes—and it will take a miracle to stop it.