October 6, 2011


Fred Limberg, Ferris' Bluff

Interview by Hereward L. M. Proops

Booksquawk: Tell us a little bit about the novel, “Ferris' Bluff”.

Fred Limberg:“Ferris’ Bluff” is a thriller. There’s a bit of mystery and whodunit here and there within the story, but in thriller fashion, it’s mostly about the chase and the obstacles the hero has to overcome to find a resolution.

Some folks have likened Ace to the Jack Reacher character in Lee Child’s books, but he’s much more of a reluctant vagabond forced into the situation rather than relishing it.

There’s a bit of a romance in it too, as Ace is drawn to the pretty widow, Annie. He’s a little messed up in the head from the events that sent him into hiding and on the road, not the least of which is his self-image.

I’m trying not to give too much in the way of spoilers here.

Booksquawk: The setting of the book appears to be as important as the plot. Was this a conscious decision or did it come about naturally?

Fred: I’ve written a number of other thrillers and mysteries set in and around the Twin Cities and Stillwater, where I live.  When I started sketching out this book I wanted to place it in a unique setting far from Minnesota. It needed to be in a small town. It needed some geography.

If you use the clues in the book you’ll find that Ferris’ Bluff should be plunked down near Hot Springs Village, a retirement and golfing community near Hot Springs proper. It also gave me the opportunity to bring in the Civil War connection (the bluff, or, if you will—the con), critical to the story.

It’s a really cool area, and the ride down the mountain actually exists, though there is a shoulder on the real road. Not a very wide one, mind you. Mickey’s on Highway 7 does have some of the best barbeque you’ll ever eat, too.

Booksquawk: The novel has a great cast of characters. Do you base them on people you know or rely solely on your imagination?

Fred: On my imagination and the needs of the overall narrative. I make no apologies for them being a bit stereotypical. In small towns like Ferris’ Bluff there often is ‘gossip in the water’ meaning everyone knows, or thinks they know, everything about everyone. So when you place a mysterious, secretive, guarded stranger in their midst from who knows where, it gives the story that much more texture.

I like my villains to be truly evil and a bit depraved. In all my books the bad guys are really really bad. They have no conscience. They’re sociopathic and think nothing of committing vile crimes up to and including murder. Again, a crooked lawyer, a faded drunken beauty queen, and a town tough with the improbable name of Pink are so dark and evil it makes the cheery gossipy side of town seem that much sunnier.

And, when you read the book, you’ll find that even the good guys ain’t all ‘that’ good.

Booksquawk: What has the reception to “Ferris' Bluff” been like so far?

Fred: In all honesty, I have yet to hear a truly negative comment on the book. It’s getting good reviews, some quite thoughtful.  It’s not going to appeal to everyone and it’s not supposed to.  One fellow who critiqued it in its early stages a few years ago said it was like comfort food in book form. It doesn’t seem to challenge you, but rather lets you enjoy the guilty pleasure of spending time with what feel like old friends while offering up enough action and gunplay and romance to keep you turning pages and hoping for a sequel.

As far as sales?  They’re not coming fast and furious, but then, “Ferris’ Bluff” is a debut novel by an unknown author adrift in a virtual ocean of thrillers on the internet. Given time and figuring out how to reach the right readers armed with Kindles and Nooks and what-have you, I have no worries it won’t catch on and have respectable sales.

Booksquawk:  If Hollywood were to come a-calling, who would you like to play the lead characters in a cinematic adaptation of the novel?

Fred: Jim Caviezel

Booksquawk: Which writers influence you?

Fred: A lot of the NYT bestselling thriller writers (who, coincidently hail from this part of the country). John Camp (Sandford), Vince Flynn, William Kent Krueger and David Housewright from the Twin Cities area. I think Baldacci and Connelly and John Lescroart are fine writers too, along with Stephen Hunter, Randy Wayne White, and the late John D. MacDonald and his Travis McGee books.

But keep in mind…while they all influence me, I take great care in writing in a style and voice that does not emulate them, their characters, their ‘schtick’, or anything like that. But I do like the way they craft a yarn and I do study how they do that.

I’d love to start a series with Travis McGee’s long lost bastard son as a lead character.

Booksquawk: What's your writing routine?

Fred: When I’m working on a book that’s all I do. I start early and usually break at lunchtime or after. I used to go for 8 and even 10 hours at a stretch but I’ve learned that’s counter-productive.

What I do now rather than push the actual writing is quit around lunchtime and spend a good bit of the afternoon simply thinking about what I’ve just written and what I’m going to do next. I’ll play scenes and work on dialogue in my head. Then I’m usually a step ahead the next day.

Booksquawk: The publishing industry has been pretty shaken up by the advent of the e-reader and the rise of self-publishing. How do you feel about the rise of the e-book?

Fred: I think if it weren’t for the recent rise of the e-book and the changes in the publishing industry I would have given it up by now…seriously. I was starting to get angry, which is not a good thing—and I was starting to doubt myself, which is worse.

I’ve got files bulging with rejection letters from agents, those with the class and decency to actually respond in whatever cookie-cutter form it may have been in. In the end all it means, now, is that a couple hundred individuals didn’t like the stories I was writing—and the few who liked the stories and my writing just fine but didn’t think they would be able to sell them.

I’m thrilled with the rise of the e-book and the surge in indie publishing. It’s like riding a surfboard at the leading edge of a tsunami speeding through utter chaos these days. No one truly has a grasp on the marketing yet (though many folks will happily take your money and tell you that they do), and that’s the one thing frustrating so many good writers and depriving millions of readers of finding a book they’ll like.

Booksquawk: Are you working on another novel at the moment? Is there any chance of returning to the town of Ferris' Bluff in some form of sequel?

Fred: I am working on a new book, though right now it’s mostly research and notes.

I have a new book, “The Storm Glass”, coming out within the month (I hope). It’s the first of a series I’ll be writing for the next few years following the exploits of Jim Wilson and his alien artifact ring that makes him invisible and allows him to levitate. Lots of guys have wondered about what it would be like to be invisible or be able to fly. The practicality of it, though, takes the reader in surprising directions. The new book is a sequel to “The Storm Glass”, and I have a prequel ‘in inventory’ for the future.

I also have a project starting the first of the year where I’ve teamed up with the publisher of a couple of regional magazines and will be offering a YA oriented thriller in sections over 2012 for free through Smashwords. The concept is that I’ll take a juicy snippet from the section and create a short fiction piece to entice the reader with instructions and a coupon code to download the issue’s chapters for free. At the end of the year the entire book will be offered for free, as each section will include everything published to date.

The book is called “Dodge”, and it’s about a group of teenagers living in a very odd, digitally challenged town in Iowa, who happen across a very valuable old guitar, a ’57 Stratocaster. Little do they realize how valuable, since it was Buddy Holly’s favorite axe, lost to history after he died in a fiery plane-crash.

I have a murder mystery in inventory too, a true whodunit police procedural, that just needs one more run through and I’ll be putting that out in e-book format. I call it “First Murder”, and have the sequel for it fully imagined and about a third written.

Read the Booksquawk review of Ferris' Bluff here.

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