Author of Deadly Lullaby, Robert McClure answers 10 questions.
What is your writing process?
In a word, boring. I rise as early as I can to write, usually at 5:00 a.m. but often earlier. Don’t get me wrong, a lot is going on in my head when I write that’s interesting, weird even, but only to me. The mechanics of the process is boring to watch: I just sit at the computer and stroke the keyboard. That’s the one thing about writing that doesn’t beat being a trial lawyer: No one ever admires you while they watch you work, and why would they?
Describe your journey as an author so far
I had a few so-called scholarly articles published while serving on my law school’s law journal—the one titled Thy Shalt Not Kill (Thy Spouse): A Recent Exception to the ERISA Pre-emption Doctrine, should have given me a clue where it was all headed, but didn’t—and got a real charge writing a piece that someone else deemed worthy to print and sell. Combine that with my lifelong love for crime fiction and my overactive imagination (one my editor at Random House lovingly describes as “sick”), and my path to fiction writing was a natural one.
My first experimentation with fiction writing probably started in the mid-nineties, when I was an impossibly busy trial attorney with a big law firm and would write a scene every now and then, just for chuckles. I quickly became hooked, and after years of struggling to fit fiction writing into my crazy trial schedule, my beautiful wife, lover, and friend, Kathie, sat me down, looked me dead in the eye as only she can do and told me—no, ordered me—to quit practicing law fulltime and concentrate on learning to write crime fiction. Six months after that, in mid-2003 or so, Hardboiled magazine accepted my first story for publication—Leon’s Way, a story about a death row inmate awaiting execution for a murder his wife committed. I’m still in the law game solely to make ends meet, and fiction writing is my professional priority. I’ve had five short stories published in MudRock Stories & Tales, Hardboiled, the ezinew Thug Lit, and PlotsWithGuns.
My biggest break came shortly after the publication of the short story My Son in Thug Lit. The story caught the eye of uber-agent Nat Sobel and he contacted me, said he was a fan (the mere thought of this compliment still blows my mind) and offered representation. No one in human history has accepted an offer any faster. Nat read some of my other published shorts and urged me to write a novel. Shortly thereafter, “My Son” was selected for republication in Best American Mystery Stories 2009, so we settled on expanding that into a book. Before the BAMS edition was published, Sony Pictures & Entertainment contacted me and, to make a long story very short, purchased a nice five figure pption on the book. Sony extended the option once, let it expire than purchased a new option. After purchasing one extension of the last option, Sony let it expire last month. My agents wouldn’t be surprised if Sony negotiated another option yet again. That’s Hollywood, or at least seems to be in my case.
How do you stay motivated?
It’s all about the fiction writing process to me. I’m always striving to find the fundamental truth—the truth of the characters, the truth of the circumstances in which I’ve placed them inside the scene I’m crafting. If what I’ve written doesn’t ring true, I cut it and search some more. Crafting a scene that not only rings absolutely true but also blends into the mosaic of the rest of the novel is challenging, and often frustrating, but the thrill of getting it right once in a while keeps me coming back. Actually, the quest is downright addictive.
What has been your biggest obstacle while writing and how have you overcome it?
Getting my arms around the shear breadth of a novel. I don’t mean to imply that writing short stories was easy for me, but structuring them to build to a satisfying ending came naturally for me. Not so much for novels. I had to really study novel structure before I finally got it right; then I learned I’d ben structuring short stories correctly all the time.
Why did you write this book?
I enjoyed some success writing short stories, and moving on to the novel form seemed to be the natural next step. As I’ve mentioned, my literary agent Nat Sobel encouraged me to write a book based on “My Son,” and Nat is a very difficult man to turn down.
What do you hope readers would take away from this book?
Babe Crucci, one of my two protagonists, poses the life theme very early on in the book, something he says he “knows beyond all else”: “A son is the product of his father’s labors—or the lack thereof—and for that reason a father’s love for his son depends on nothing except that his son is his son.”
What’s next for you?
I’m in the dreaded middle of the sequel to Deadly Lullaby, what I’m now calling The Slow Dawn. The sequel is the next phase in the evolution of Deadly Lullaby’s protagonists, Babe and Leo Crucci. I envision the characters lasting through a trilogy, but that’s not written in stone.
What do you know now that you wish you knew as a teenager?
How to study. I didn’t really become academically accomplished until law school. Better late than never, I guess, and potential employers didn’t give a damn how well I performed in high school or college after seeing my performance in law school laid out on my resume. It would have been nice to have buckled down and won some scholarships, though (but, damn, then I would’ve missed out on all those good times!).
What is your absolute favorite book and why?
In terms of the impact a book had on me, I would have to say James Ellroy’s American Tabloid. My general rule is to not mention living writers who have influenced me because there are so many of them that I know I’d leave someone out. I just decided to make an exception for Mr. Ellroy’s American Tabloid. The book came along at a time in my life when I was struggling to decide whether I wanted to devote the time and energy it took to even attempt writing fiction. The plot of American Tabloid was so damn dense and compelling, the voice so gnarly and fresh, the characters so gritty and fully realized, that when I finished it I knew beyond doubt I’d never write a book that good. But the book made me realize how much I loved the crime fiction genre, how much I wanted to immerse myself in it. So I remember thinking, What the hell. I’m gonna give it a shot and started writing my first short story the next day.
Title: Deadly Lullaby by Robert McClure
Genre: Thriller / Suspense
For readers of Harlan Coben and Robert Crais, Robert McClure’s rollicking crime novel of family and felony takes readers on a relentless thrill ride through the L.A. underworld.
Fresh off a nine-year stint in San Quentin, career hitman Babe Crucci plans to finally go straight and enjoy all life has to offer—after he pulls one or two more jobs to shore up his retirement fund. More than anything, Babe is dead set on making up for lost time with his estranged son, Leo, who just so happens to be a rising star in the LAPD.
The road to reconciliation starts with tickets to a Dodgers game. But first, Leo needs a little help settling a beef over some gambling debts owed to a local mobster. This kind of thing is child’s play for Babe–until a sudden twist in the negotiations leads to a string of corpses and a titanic power shift in gangland politics. With the sins of his father piling up and dragging him down, Leo throws himself into the investigation of a young prostitute’s murder, a case that makes him some unlikely friends—and some brutally unpredictable enemies.
Caught up in a clash of crime lords, weaving past thugs with flamethrowers who expend lives like pocket change, Babe and Leo have one last chance to face the ghosts of their past—if they want to live long enough to see their future.
Add Deadly Lullaby to your Goodreads shelf.
About the Author
Robert McClure read pulp fiction as a kid when he should have been studying, but ultimately cracked down enough to obtain a bachelor’s in criminology from Murray State University and a law degree from the University of Louisville. He is now an attorney and crime fiction writer who lives and works in Louisville, Kentucky. His story “My Son” appeared in The Best American Mystery Stories, and he has had other works published in MudRock: Stories & Tales, Hardboiled, Thug Lit, and Plots with Guns.