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Between the pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

Rick Blechta

I first encountered Rick Blechta at a writer's conference in Ontario, Canada. On a whim I purchased his book A Case of You (which I reviewed on ) and was truly impressed with his writing. Over the years we've stayed loosely in touch.

Rick has two passions in life: music and writing (or as some wag put it, “Music and Mayhem” – although the reference may have been directed more at Rick’s behavior than his crime writing). He has seven novels published, most recently Orchestrated Murder. Next up in fall 2012 will be The Fallen One from Dundurn Press. Rick can also be found on the first Monday of every month playing trumpet for The Advocats at People’s Chicken in Toronto. Visit his website at He also contributes weekly to two blogs: and (which is a blog devoted to baseball).

Here's our interview...

Dennis: How long have you been writing?

Rick: Pretty well all my life I’ve been a storyteller. It’s really hard for me to relate much of anything without at least feeling the urge to embellish it, and often, I can’t resist that urge. As for how long I’ve been writing these stories down, well you’d have to go back to 1990 for that.

I’ve been a musician since I was seven and began playing professionally when I was thirteen. By the late eighties I’d been doing it a long time, and back then it was seven days a week. The result was, I got completely burned out. Since music brought in my daily bread, I couldn’t stop doing it (teaching and playing), but I began to cast about for some other creative outlet that wasn’t music-driven. I liked writing – in fact, I have a minor in English and took creative writing – so I thought, Why not?

Well, it didn’t work out quite as planned. Music was too engrained in my psyche and it just popped into my writing unbidden. Now, seven novels later, I’m still having fun trying to figure out how to put words together to make something that’s interesting, and hopefully, thought-provoking while also being entertaining.


Dennis: How/why did you choose your genre?

Rick: It chose me. I had always enjoyed crime fiction, starting with Agatha Christie and Rex Stout when I was a kid, and then branching out all over the place. In reading a Dick Francis novel one time, I noticed that he completely blew the musical aspects of his story. It was only a sidebar to the plot, but it really rankled with me. That suddenly made me think, though. What if I did a similar thing to Dick, but with music instead of horses? My first novel, Knock on Wood, was the result.


Dennis: Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?

Rick: A year ago, I would have jumped up and answered, “Seat of my pants!” for sure. Then I got asked to write a short novel for adult readers with poor literacy skills and the publisher wanted a complete plot outline before offering a contract. I found it way too much like doing homework, but they must have liked what they saw because the story was bought (Orchestrated Murder) and I managed to craft a respectable story – even though I knew pretty well what was going to happen at every turn.

So, to answer the question exactly, I’d now have to just say, “Yes!”


Dennis: What do you know now that you are published that you didn't know pre-published that you wish you knew?

Rick: How tough this “game” is! Since the advent of home computers, writing has exploded. Now authors can easily put out their own works without a huge outlay of money and energy and have fun doing it. Unfortunately, this sort of proliferation has seriously diluted the publishing “pool”. Even if you manage to find a publisher, how do you get heard above the din? It does get discouraging at times.

Would any of this have stopped me? No. I’ve found I really enjoy the process of writing. Even well into writing my ninth novel, I find I can’t wait to get back at it every morning. This week I have been going over the edit to my next novel, The Fallen One, which is coming out this fall. I worked five twelve-hour days in a row and could have kept going. I find writing energizing, and I love hanging out with my characters, as it were. Being a musician, I’m also an inveterate tinkerer, so I really enjoy the aspect of polishing my prose. Going through a manuscript four or five times is no big deal for me.

Overall, I would say to anyone starting out: get to know the business aspects of being an author. Learn the terms so you understand what people in publishing are talking about. Talk to authors, editors, cover designers, anyone who can help you come to grips with what books are all about. I’ve done that and it’s only helped me


Dennis: If you have a day job, what is it?

Rick: I still do music as much as I can. I play trumpet in an 18-piece Toronto big band and I’m the leader and music director of a 14-piece soul band in the NYC area. I also occasionally get hired for other gigs. I teach a couple of students, too. A large part of my income is derived from doing graphic design. I grew up in my dad’s photo engraving plant so you could say that it was in my blood. Once I stopped teaching school, it was a good fit. One has to eat, after all.


Dennis: What do you consider your strengths in terms of your writing?

Rick: I’ve been told I write really strong and sympathetic characters. I suppose that’s because I really like people (in general) and I’m also empathetic. I’ve worked very hard at dialogue and that’s something that’s also often commented on. Finally, I seem to come up with offbeat but engaging plots. I have no clear idea where they come from, though. They just appear. Finally, the ability to write convincingly about something “exotic” like the music world is something my readers really seem to enjoy.


Dennis: What authors do you admire?

Rick: Boy, is that a loaded question. I still really enjoy rereading Rex Stout now and then, same for Dick Francis. For new books, top of the list for me is Michael Connelly, Peter Robinson, Barbara Fradkin and Denise Mina. I used to read a ton of SF, but now confine myself to Robert Sawyer whose books I always read as soon as they’re released. Past that, I’ve recently begun to enjoy reading history. If you’d told me that would happen when I was fourteen, I would have killed myself laughing!


Dennis: This is your space to say anything you like.

Rick: I’d like to encourage everyone to try one of my novels. There are hundreds of millions of people on this planet who have yet to discover the joy of reading Blechta! Seriously though, my stories are engaging, interesting and a little off the beaten path. The Fallen One , for instance is about an opera singer who may or may not be seeing dead people. Like all of my novels, you don’t have to know a damn thing about music, just like a good story. Music is just the background on which I present it. Also, I don’t write about the same thing all the time. I cover the musical waterfront! If you haven’t read me yet, I urge you to buy one of my novels, and if it’s not the best novel by me you’ve ever read, I’ll refund the purchase price.

2012 Past Columns