Please join us in welcoming Glen Erik Hamilton to our blog!
Tell us about your new book!
Island of Thieves is the sixth book in my series featuring semi-reformed professional burglar Van Shaw. Shaw was raised by his career criminal grandfather and became a prodigy in the art of purloining others’ goods before he escaped into the Army and served with distinction in the Rangers for most of a decade. Now back home in Seattle, he’s making ends meet however he can.
In Island of Thieves, Van is hired to evaluate security on the island estate of eccentric business magnate Sebastien Rohner. But when one of Rohner’s honored guests turns up dead, Van is soon the prime suspect and on the run from the police and pair of psychopathic hitmen who pursue him from one coast to the next…
Your new book is part of a series. How has your series evolved over time?
In the first few books, Van was an active-duty soldier or fresh out of the Army. The part of him that had accepted that he might die in combat had kept him from imagining life as a civilian. He’s an expert at surviving but an amateur at living. And having grown up burgling everything from mansions to warehouses, Van’s most profitable skills are decidedly illegal.
He adapts. Over time he even acquires an ersatz family, made up of misfits like himself. But a placid life is not in Van’s nature. Even if he stays within his own personal boundaries of right and wrong, he still tends to attract trouble and must deal with the dangerous consequences and moral compromises. And now, maybe for the first time, he’s got something to lose.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
Like my main character, I grew up in the Northwest. When I was about nine years old our family moved aboard a sailboat. From that point on each summer and school holiday found us cruising around the islands and harbors north of Puget Sound. I attended the University of Washington to acquire one bachelor’s degree for vocation and another for avocation. The first degree led to a career in managing software development (valuable), the second to acting in community theater, where I eventually met my wife (invaluable).
In the mid-aughts we got restless. We moved to the Los Angeles area. Everyone in LA is an actor, so doing theater down there seemed more business than fun. I started writing, discovered I liked the hard work of it, and took classes and joined groups to get serious about the learnin’. The writers I met at conventions were incredibly welcoming; some of them are my closest friends now. I eventually served as Treasurer for Sisters in Crime LA and two terms as President of MWA’s Southern California chapter.
Fast forward to the book tour for Mercy River, the fourth in the Van Shaw series. Our family spent a lovely spring day in Seattle with long-time friends. By that evening we knew we wanted to move back. It took another two years–pandemic and all–but this past June we loaded the last of our things into a huge Penske truck and came home.
Have you gone on any literary pilgrimages?
If by pilgrimage you mean hopping a flight from Burbank airport to SeaTac, sure. Seattle had changed so much, and continued to change so rapidly, that I had to make at least two trips a year just for location scouting and fact checking. My fourth book allowed a different trip: my daughter and I drove around Central Oregon, enjoying the amazing scenery of the high plains and wandering around ghost towns. She was nine years old at the time and got a crash course in ’80s pop music as we put a lot of miles on the rental car.
Do you have any must-do writing habits, like needing certain music, or a drink, etc?
Music helps me focus. Especially on first drafts. For whatever reason, having music in the background quiets my inner editor who likes nothing more than to interrupt the flow with his opinions. I like mid-century jazz, classical guitar or piano, the occasional movie score, anything without lyrics. Sometimes I find myself typing to the rhythm.
What’s your favorite book that you’ve read in the past year?
Time for pleasure reading has been tougher to come during the move, but recent reads I’ve loved include Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha, The Bitterroots by C.J. Box, Pretty as a Picture by Elizabeth Little, Caz Frear’s Shed No Tears, and Shooting Columbo, a production history of my favorite TV show. I’m that kind of dork.
It’s not without irony that once my writing career started to take off and deadlines became a regular thing, suddenly I had less time to read for my own enjoyment than ever before. Day job, writing job, reading books requested by my publisher, a young family: it all adds up to scheduling my reading hours and keeping them sacred if I want to have that wonderful mental break of someone else telling a story.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
For working on your own: Read the pages out loud. It might be embarrassing at first but trust me. You’ll catch typos, learn if your characters have distinct voices from one another, and feel how the story and sentences flow for someone reading them for the first time. Patterns will emerge; you’ll figure out what passages can be cut or what needs embellishment. Reading aloud is a bit of magic.
For working with others: Join or form a writers group and (this is the tough part) be selective. Ideally, every person in the group will be at least as committed as you are, be able to politely provide constructive feedback, and be more skilled than you in least one major aspect of writing: dialogue, building tension, etc. Just like improving at a sport, it pays to challenge yourself.
How can people learn more about your book and follow you?
After coming to grips with the fact that I’m terrible at maintaining a blog, I’ve finally started a newsletter to keep readers informed about new developments and fun ephemera of the writing life (and offer the occasional giveaway!). It’s entertaining and I don’t overwhelm fans with e-mail. One letter every month or two is about my speed. Subscribe here, at my website: glenerikhamilton.com/#newsletter. I’m also around on Facebook and Twitter (@glenerikh).
And if you enjoy conventions, look for me at Left Coast Crime, Bouchercon, or ThrillerFest once in-person gatherings become a thing again! After so many hours spent alone at a keyboard, meeting readers and other writers and talking about all manner of mayhem is the best reward.
Thanks so much for inviting me to the MWA NW blog!
About Glen Erik Hamilton:
A native of Seattle, Glen Erik Hamilton was raised aboard a sailboat and grew up around the marinas and commercial docks and islands of the Pacific Northwest. His novels have won the Anthony, Macavity, and Strand Magazine Critics awards, and been nominated for the Edgar®, Barry, and Nero awards. After living for many years in Southern California, he and his family have recently returned to the Emerald City and its beautiful overcast skies.