Marshall Karp, the author of Flipping Out, is an award winning former advertising executive, a playwright, a screenwriter, and a novelist. He has also written, produced, and executive produced TV shows for all the major networks.
Bertram: I enjoyed reading Flipping Out. I must admit, you do know how to turn a phrase. You have a marvelous ear for dialogue, and a knack for one-liners. One, especially, sticks out as being memorable. The cops, Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs, are ready to enter a house owned by a murdered celebrity. Terry looks up at the towering stucco columns and says, “Rather phallic. I think they’re art dicko.”
Marshall: Thank you for the kind words about my ear. That would be the left one. The right one is even more amazing. It can actually hear a tree falling in the forest even if I’m not there. Funny thing about art dicko. In my first draft, as they’re about to bust through the door, I wrote something that my editor felt was too close to what Terry had said the first time he saw that house. She told me to come up with something better. Who knew it would turn out to be one of the more memorable lines in the book. I just don’t want it on my tombstone. Marshall Karp, that guy who wrote art dicko.
Bertram: Is there anything in particular you’d like me to say my review of Flipping Out? Any particular passage you’re particularly proud of?
Marshall: Gosh, blurbers have asked me that, but never a reviewer. For sure, don’t mention art dicko. I wouldn’t want Terry’s lapse into sophomoric humor to define me. In fact, few lines from books do justice to the entire book, although an advance reviewer on Amazon picked up an exchange between Terry and Marilyn that tickled me.
My favorite reviews are those that capture what I hope to do best. My goal is to develop characters you just want to be with over and over again. Some authors have had success with worn down, burned out cynical cops, but I wanted real people. I hang out with real cops, and they are incredibly funny – in that business they have to be – it keeps them sane. So I made Mike and Terry human before I made them cops.
I write for people who want three-dimensional characters, real laugh-out-loud humor that is organic to the situation, and plot twists right up to the final pages. And while I make no guarantees, I’d say that a steady diet of my books can also help you lose weight, double your income, and improve your sex life.
I hope that helps.
Bertram: I’m going to use the last paragraph to finish of my review, if you don’t mind. It’s a great quote.
I am so sick of the stereotypical cynical, burned out cop that it’s refreshing to meet some fictional ones who aren’t.
Marshall: I’ve been reading some of your 100 word stories. They’re terrific. How do you do it? It’s an art form (literary form?) I had never heard of before. I was talking to JA Konrath today and saying that I’m not sure I know how to write a short story. I used to write 30-second commercials, but now I’m stuck in the long form. Plus once you wind me up, I tend to get going. That’s probably why my first book was 632 pages.
Bertram: I can’t write regular short stories, maybe because I don’t like to read them, but for some reason I can do the 100-word ones. They are called drabbles, and stemmed from sci-fi conventions where they developed from a novel writing contest.
With a drabble, you have to find the essence — which is why there are so few stories on my Mini Fiction blog. It’s hard to do. And then you have to have a beginning, a middle, an end and a change in the life of a character.
I think of it as a prose haiku.
Marshall: Well, you got me with prose haiku. Here’s an exercise I did at a conference. I don’t know if it fits the drabble parameters — the challenge was slightly different — but it’s only 95 words. So humor me, and tell me if you think it does.
When you work homicide in Southern California you see your fair share of dead celebrities, but this… this is the first one that ever really got to me.
There were deep ligature marks on his white skin, and his once perfect body had been gracelessly dragged to the side of his private pool and left to be further ravaged by an unwilling accomplice 93 million miles away.
“Who,” I sputtered, as the hot Pacific breeze greeted me with the aroma of my first morning cup of death, “who the hell would want to murder Shamu?”
Bertram: It is an excellent blurb that caught my attention, but it’s more of a scenario than a story.
We don’t know who Shamu is, so the last sentence isn’t much of a punch line. And drabbles seem to need a punch line at the end.
Marshall: Shamu is a pretty famous whale. You’re forgiven for not knowing. Damn those pop culture references. They don’t always work.
Bertram: Then I stand corrected. Your story works for a drabble. In fact, it’s very good. But use those extra five words to show that it’s a whale for us ignorant people. Thank you for talking to me. It’s been a pleasure.
Marshall: And thank you for helping support my life of crime.