Monday, February 28, 2011

INTERVIEW: Jochem Steen

Jochem Steen is a Dutch writer with a deep interest in the PI genre. This is evidenced by the entertaining and informative Sons of Spade web site that he maintains, plus the one novel (so far) and numerous short stories he has written about his own PI hero, Noah Milano. Additionally, Jochem is a family man with a relatively new addition, works a full time IT gig, and is a rock critic. Busy fellow. But he still found time to grant my request for the following Q&A interview which I think you will find interesting.

WD:   Sons of Spade is a terrific web site, Jochem, packed with news, interviews, the occasional short story, and book reviews. Capturing and presenting all of that clearly must take a lot of time and effort. Can you tell us what prompted you to start the site and how it is working out as far as the work you put in versus the rewards you get in return?

JS:   I wanted to promote my work, so I created the blog. When I discovered a lot of writers were more than happy to work with me it really took off. It’s a very rewarding way to get to know fellow PI-lovers. As for promoting my work, it hasn’t generated the sales I’d want for my novel. But there’s always hope ;-).

WD:   You have said elsewhere that you first became interested in crime fiction and particularly the PI genre from watching Philip Marlowe and Spenser on TV. This, I presume, led to reading the older classics in the genre like the aforementioned Marlowe and, obviously, Sam Spade whom you implicate as the "father" of your site … on through to the current work being done in the genre, which you showcase so thoroughly. What about these "tarnished knights" going down their various "mean streets" appeals so strongly to you?

JS:   I think it’s the superhero aspect of it to a large degree. I’ve loved superheroes since I was a kid. PIs seem to be the more mature variant of the hero who stands up for what’s right, outside the law. Also, most PI novels follow a certain logic, certain plot elements that I like. That means I can pick up most PI novels blindly and know for sure I’ll like them.

WD:   Your first Noah Milano novel is entitled The White Knight Syndrome—was that a homage to the long-established "knight" theme, or was it something more personal relating to Noah himself and the things you are hoping to incorporate into your writings about him?

JS: It’s very much so a homage to the knight theme, it also reflects how Noah has the urge to be a hero, as difficult as it may be for him.

WD:  What made you choose LA as a setting for you Milano stories? You seem to capture the locale quite accurately. Considering that you are writing from Holland, what kind of research do you do to maintain that feel and sense of place?

JS:   The internet is a great invention for writers like me. Also, I’ve visited the USA several times and read a lot about LA.

WD:   Please tell us a little about yourself and your background.

JS: I’m 36 years old, married, a father and an IT-professional. I love comics, crime and rock music.

WD:   Many series writers tend to invest part of themselves into their protagonist. Is that true of you and, if so, what are some of those traits? Also, what do you feel sets Milano apart from other PIs?
JS: The sense of humor, the things he likes and dislikes are all me. I haven’t beaten up that many people though. What sets Milano apart from the rest is that he’s a very modern guy. He likes current music, is still young. And of course there’s the important aspect that he used to be a mobster but now tries to atone for the sins of his past.

WD:   What does the future hold, writing-wise, for Jochem Steen? In recent years some very powerful and acclaimed crime writers have emerged from Europe, primarily Ireland and England—any chance we will be seeing some new crime stories (or a new PI, perhaps) written by you but set in Holland?

JS: I’m writing some stuff in Dutch but right now there’s no plans for any Dutch PI fiction. I am working on some short stories involving a new character, a bouncer and unlicensed PI called Danko Flynn. I hope you’ll see him appear soon enough. Also, I hope to feature some of my work in anthologies, so editors, don’t be afraid to contact me.

Thank you for your time and candor, Jochem.We'll keep an eye on Sons of Spade for more of its interesting features and articles, and we'll also be on the lookout for your byline on more exciting stories. Here's wishing you continued success with all of your undertakings.

Persevere --- WD