In One Way Out, we see early on that Rick Malone is struggling with a form of mental illness. What made you decide to write a series protagonist with bipolar disorder?
One of the things I think readers will connect with about the series is Rick’s authenticity as a character. A lot of my readers know I work as a private investigator, but few of them know that I also have bipolar disorder. It’s not something I talk about publicly very often, in part because I do endure a lot of private struggles through it.
But I wanted to try and capture elements of that internal struggle in Rick, who I first wrote about in a short story called “In For A Penny” (Editor’s Note: you can join the PI tales mailing list below to get that story for FREE), and then, later, through early writings that eventually became One Way Out.
One of the interesting things about the series is that Rick is not always suffering from symptoms of the disorder. There are some stories, like the forthcoming novella Crimson Smile, where the reader can see Rick on top of his game and fully stable. But in others, One Way Out in particular, events trigger Rick’s manic and depressive cycling, and the reader really gets to see how that affects his work.
It doesn’t look the way people might think, in part because no two people struggle the same way with the disorder. I think a lot of people aren’t aware of the confusion that comes with a manic or depressive episode. When Rick is in the throws of these episodes, he can be doing an awful lot of work, but getting very little accomplished.
I really like the idea of Rick working through these challenges, as they are challenges I had to learn to navigate in my own work and life. I think it also humanizes him and provides a unique perspective, though often a flawed one. Rick is a good guy and a really good detective, but sometimes his mind gets the better of him. I can personally relate to this, and I think readers will relate to it, too.
Rick has a unique family life as well, can you talk a little about that?
Oh yeah, for sure. Rick is a loner, and his only real friend or family member is an 82-year-old woman named Vera who lives across the street. Rick was raised by his late grandmother in the house he still lives in, and Vera was her best friend. Now she is Rick’s best friend, and there is a great interplay between the two that readers will see more of as the series progresses. In One Way Out, Rick is on the road working out of town, so you just get a glimpse of their relationship. But Vera is the most important person in his life, that much is clear from the very first pages of One Way Out. She’s cantankerous, she’s hilarious, and she is exactly what Rick needs because she calls him on his BS and he does the same in return.
What is the one thing you want readers to know about Rick?
He’s fair, with a strong sense of justice, and an introspective voice. Rick is a character who will do right as he sees it no matter what the cost, but that doesn’t always mean he sees things correctly. I think Rick has central elements of the “hero” trope, and also has elements of an antihero. But the tenacity with which he works to resolve his cases and the compassion he shows for his clients is unquestionable. Investigation is more than a job for him, it’s a lifestyle, a natural effect of an inquisitive mind.
What’s next for Rick after One Way Out?
I’ve got a Rick Malone “Short Case” novella called Crimson Smile coming out in February 2021. It’s part of the first P.I. Tales “Double Feature,” paired with Hunter Eden’s fantastic novelette The Path of Jackals, which will introduce his Cairo-set series detective, Fennec Suleiman, to the world. I’m super excited about that pairing because I think the Fennec series is one of the most original detective series I’ve seen in a while. Incidentally, it also deals with a potential form of mental illness. I don’t want to give any more away, but readers won’t want to miss that one because of the Egyptian setting and original approach.
I also wrote an installment in Down & Out Books and Frank Zafiro’s A Grifter’s Song series, called Rocky Mountain Lie. It features Rick Malone matching wits with Sam and Rachel, that series’ central characters, who are professional grifters on the con in Vail, Colorado. The story involves a hyper-sexual, sociopathic Texas businessman and a three-way deception that will keep readers on their toes right up to the chaotic and violent finale. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve written, and it was a huge honor to be invited to write in the series.
Anything else you want to mention?
Just, a thousand thanks to you, Isa, for helping me make P.I. Tales a reality. The concept bounced around in my head for a couple years, but I never had the right partner to make it happen until now. I think the detective stories we are telling are as good as any readers will find anywhere. There’s a ton more coming in the next couple of years, so readers should get in on the ground floor now and start reading our first two series, each of which is unique in style and approach!