As outrageous as the blockbuster film The Hangover (if not more so), Deborah Buell Coonts’ novel Wanna Get Lucky? was the most fun I’ve had turning pages this year. This book is a mystery, though. There’s no mistaking that from the first page when a woman takes a death plunge out of a helicopter into the Treasure Island Hotel’s lagoon. Along side the killer helo blazes the name of the casino that our main character Lucky O’Toole works for—the Babylon. Great name, huh? And why does Lucky care? She’s the head of security for the hotel.
Before Lucky can even get started investigating as to why her chopper dropped human cargo, she has to deal with a naked man who is sleeping under a stair well in her casino. It turns out that he’s a preacher. And he’s being blackmailed. His name is Jeep. Deliciously sordid.
I particularly loved a scene where Lucky stops to pick up XXX tapes to take to her mother’s chicken ranch. Inside the adult video store, a midwife is waiting outside a booth while her client watches a special feature. Can’t say anymore. You got to read it for yourself.
Lucky’s love interest, Teddie, is one of the most unique characters I’ve seen-à la the personalities from a Coen brothers film.
Ms. Coonts is teaching a Write Brain Workshop for Pike’s Peak Writers on August 17th in Colorado Springs , CO. I was lucky enough to get some of her time and deal her a few questions.
CIR: Considering your talent with humor, was it your first choice to write a mystery/thriller?
DBC: Humor. I've always been a rose-colored glasses kind of gal, but humor is tough to write. So subjective. And something that fractures my funny bone, might not do the same to others. As a beginning writer, I followed the advice we so often here: write what you read. So, I wrote this international intrigue, romantic suspense thing that was wretched. I think I've managed to destroy all copies of it. I would rather see naked pictures of myself on the internet than have anyone read that first effort. Humor came later--as we all tend to do, we don't see our natural proclivities. While working at fiction, I was offered the opportunity to quite a column for a national women's aviation magazine (no, there are no oxymorons in there). That was where the humor came through. After all, I was writing about flying with my then husband--it was either laugh or push him out of the plane at altitude. Believe me, there is a reason the prevailing wisdom states that husbands and wives should never try to teach one another anything. But, I got lots of grist for the writing mill out if it--and I didn't end up in jail. I also fell in love with funny. There is nothing quite like making people laugh. Now I've been told I write "comedic thrillers" (yes, it strikes me that there is an oxymoron in there). I never knew such a genre existed:)
CIR: Did your law degree help to shorten the learning curve of fiction writing?
DBC: Being a lawyer does focus one on details. I would say that the legal profession is a great training ground for fiction writers, but you might get the wrong impression. Simply writing, consistently and with purpose, shortens the learning curve, but I do believe that Malcolm Gladwell is right, we all have to put in our ten thousand hours (or a million words) to gain commercial proficiency. I know there are savants in this field, but I am not one of them. After one acquires the craft, then the hard part begins--we all need our special story. I found mine when I let my fifteen-year-old male child pick where we were to live. Vegas, baby! Who knew? See a couple of wrongs can make a right!
CIR: When’s the movie coming out? I’d go see it.
DBC: Me too! It's funny, many people who have read Lucky, want to know the same thing. The book is vey visual and episodic, I think. Alas, Hollywood has yet to call. Which might be okay. I have no idea how I would feel about seeing someone else's vision of Lucky, Teddie, Mona, the Big Boss, not to mention the Beautiful Jeremy Whitlock. I feel very very proprietary about them all. They are my imaginary friends. I've been told that that alone would qualify me to be annuity to some psychologist. But, I am happy in my delusions.
CIR: Will Lucky be back? Or more importantly, Teddie?
DBC: Absolutely! Forge Books has committed to the first three books in the series. Luckily, they are all already written and turned in. The second installment, LUCKY STIFF, is scheduled for a February release. The third one, SO DAMN LUCKY, should follow nine months later. All the gang returns along with a new cast of characters for new adventure.
CIR: As much as I love writing, I believe all authors must brave pitfalls of some kind and I pass this on to writers who are just getting into the submission game. Can you tell us about a setback?
DBC: My largest hurdle was finding an agent, well, the right agent. I sent the manuscript to a couple who had asked for it. One wrote me back, calling the book a "caper" novel. Apparently, she hadn't read the story, at least, not enough of it. The second agent wrote me a scathing letter telling me the whole thing needed to be rewritten. This person called the characters by the wrong names, got the story line all wrong, then told me that if I did everything he told me to, there was no guarantee he would even look at the thing again. Nice. So, there was this very nice, independent agent, I had meet at the Southwest Writers Workshop fifteen years before. We had kept in touch through the years and she had been very kind, encouraging and helpful. She agreed to read the manuscript (the whole thing), laughed herself silly, and sold it a few days later. You never know who you are going to rub elbows with, how much time will pass. And that one person could make a huge difference in your life and career. Network. Pay attention to the people you meet and the ones you like. They will get you, and get your story. Stay in touch. Don't worry about "bugging" them. Believe me, without writers there would be no agents, no publishers. Remember that! In this business, if you aren't working with people who have unbridled enthusiasm for you and your work, find someone else who does. They need you!
CIR: My standard goofy question: Do you gamble?
DBC: I gamble in love. I gamble in life. But I only gamble in a casino for pure entertainment-- or with house money. And, given my career, I guess I am bucking the odds. So, perhaps that is a gamble as well.