Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
Hello everyone! I’m W.E. DeVore, a musician, audio engineer, and author of a series of neo-noir detective novels set in my adopted home of New Orleans. The Clementine Toledano Mysteries centers around Clementine “Q” Toledano, a musician with a bad habit of stumbling over dead bodies. Teaming up with a raucous group of fellow musicians and Greek gangsters, Q helps her best friend, NOPD Homicide Detective Aaron Sanger, solve the mysteries she uncovers with a lot of humor, heart, and great tunes along the way.
What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)?
Life as a musician often walks a knife edge between misadventure and tragedy, this is where the Clementine Toledano Mysteries live. Some of the stories in my novels are loosely based on experiences I had on the road or those of my fellow musicians, embellished of course to be much more exciting. As an author, I wanted to strip away the glamour and mystique that people sometimes ascribe to the life of a musician and show what it’s really like to be a professional musician with all the struggles and frustrations that entails.
How do you deal with creative block?
I find that when I’m blocked on a new Clementine Toledano Mystery, it’s because I’m not being true to the characters and their story. While each book is a stand-alone story, there is an over-arching plotline that evolves from the first through the final book. It’s very important that each of the core characters not only maintains their unique voice, but also be given the opportunity to evolve naturally as the events of the series impact their personalities.
Usually, I sit and have a chat with the character in question. When I was working on the third book in the series, Chasing Those Devil Bones, I wrote several journal entries as Detective Aaron Sanger to really find his voice and uncover what made him tick. It made all the difference in telling his story.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
My two biggest pet peeves are style over substance and ill-defined, one-dimensional characters. I think there is a tendency in modern literature to get caught up in the poetry of language and a theme, rather than telling a good story. You can use all the pretty words you like, but if you don’t have a good story, you don’t have a good book. The same goes with characters. Your characters have to breathe and live and make mistakes. Human beings exist in a world of greys; a fictional character should as well.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
I worked for a very famous musician when I was younger and I asked him this same question once. His advice has served me ever since: If you believe all the praise, then you’ll believe all the criticism as well, so you should just believe in yourself.
Because of his advice, I look at bad reviews or negative feedback the same way that I look at good reviews and positive feedback. If I can learn something from it, like what not to do, or what to continue to do, I absorb that. But at the end of the day, I like my body of work and am very proud of it, so that’s what matters. The one type of review that really gets me excited is when a reader tells me they can’t wait to read the next book in the series. Those are what help me to keep going when I’m blocked or tired: to know that there are people out there waiting to read what I’ve written.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
Really the best, worst, and most surprising things are all the same: how real the characters in my books are to me. I know what their voices sound like, what they smell like, what kinds of things they’d find funny. It makes it difficult when I have to put them through the wringer. I feel like I’m actually hurting a friend sometimes. When I had to kill off one of my characters, I actually felt like I was in mourning for a week or two. At first, I thought that maybe there was something wrong with me, but after speaking with some fellow writers, I learned that this is a very normal phenomenon, albeit a little disturbing from time to time.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I have a story to tell and it’s a story that I’d like to read. To paraphrase Toni Morrison, that story hadn’t yet been written, so I wrote it. Of course, I worry how a necessary plot point will impact my readership. I was terribly concerned about potential fall-out over Until the Devil Weeps. But I’m lucky in that I have a core group of beta readers who’ve been with me since my first novel, That Old Devil Sin, was just a draft. They help me through those worries. When one of them texted me after starting Until the Devil Weeps and told me she was crying and gutted but couldn’t stop reading, I knew I was still on the right path to telling Q Toledano’s story the way it needed to be told.
What are your plans for future books?
I’m currently working on the sixth book in the Clementine Toledano Mysteries (working title: Devil in Exile). The first draft is about halfway complete. There will be a seventh and most likely final book as well. Both should come out in the next year.
After Q’s story is done, I have an urban fantasy trilogy planned based on one of the ancillary characters in the Clementine Toledano Mysteries, Derek Sharp. He’s a great character with a much deeper story that I’d like to explore.
I’m also working on a spy thriller that I just love.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
In addition to being an audio engineer, I was in an industrial band called Hadji for most of my twenties. I’ve written two film scores and have wired several professional studios. My record collection is larger than my library (which is saying something) and I prowl the vinyl bins of every thrift store I walk into looking for a copy of Bonnie Raitt’s Taking My Time and Bryan Ferry’s Mamouna.
Where can we buy your books?
Books 1-5 of the Clementine Toledano Mysteries are available in Kindle and Paperback on Amazon.com:
In order, they are:
- That Old Devil Sin
- Devil Take Me Down
- Chasing Those Devil Bones
- The Devil’s Luck
- Until the Devil Weeps