The Word Nerds are excited to welcome Tom Schreck to the blog today. Tom has been the emcee at Murder and Mayhem both years we attended, keeping things lively for the audience with boxing lessons and his overall enthusiasm. Today he’s talking writing and a mistaken identity.
WN: Tell us about Duffy — if a reader’s never been introduced to your character before, what should he or she know?
SCHRECK: Duffy is low level counselor at a human services agency. He moonlights as a professional boxer with as many losses as wins. Somewhere along the way he adopted Al, the basset hound, when one of the women on his caseload got sent to jail and then murdered.
Duff winds up getting involved protecting the vulnerable people on his caseload. He’s no Alan Alda liberal, he’s a tough guy, who is realistic but who works with people who are often their own worst enemies.
He goes against type—a guy who understands emotion all too well but can also beat the shit out of someone who pisses him off.
WN: Every year at Murder and Mayhem you lead the audience in boxing lessons and you are also an official at world championship boxing matches. How did you get involved with boxing?
SCHRECK: Well, I used to be a black belt karate instructor and I tried boxing and found it a far more realistic, demanding and useful martial art. I left the karate world behind and threw myself into boxing.
I got involved judging amateur boxing and have been at it awhile. Now, I do a lot of world title fights—which is pretty cool…and stressful.
WN: You have a background in social work and counseling. How has that shaped your characters?
SCHRECK: It completely shaped my characters. I used to direct a clinic just like the one Duffy works at. I learned a lot about real life counseling, real life desperation and just how shitty life can be for some people.
I also learned that people in bad situations often have a lot of the responsibility for how they got there. The tough part in real life is balancing empathy and discipline.
I’m pretty good at understanding psychology and how people think and feel. Isn’t that what writing is all about?
WN: If one searches “Tom Schreck” on Amazon, a CD from The University of Notre Dame Glee Club appears and your bio say you attended there. Do you have hidden musical talents?
SCHRECK: Okay, this is funny.
I’ve been playing the guitar for 30 years—or at least trying to play the guitar. I’m tone deaf. Musicians who hear me ask if they can tune the guitar for me.
I did go to Notre Dame…but I graduated in 1983.
The glee club guy is no relation. He graduated a few years back and he’s a pretty accomplished musician. We just have the same name.
We talked on the phone once. He got a short story published and asked if needed to use a pen name. I told him that if we both had the name James Patterson we might have to go that route.
WN: You’ve earned an award from the Cat Writers of America and you are the owner of several dogs. Have you successfully bridged the “cat-person v dog-person” divide?
SCHRECK: My wife and I have three of each. I have to be very careful how I answer questions like these…
WN: Writing, judging championship boxing matches, caring for dogs… how do you make balance all three?
SCHRECK: I am an excellent non-perfectionist. I’m also pretty good at not worrying about failing. I also try hard to leave my comfort zone.
These aren’t all good things.
I’m often stressed, worried and harried but I’m rarely bored.
I would be better if I had a better attention to detail, if I was better at going over things more and if I had a little more perfectionism.
My sister has a saying. She says she has “a bias toward completion.” I do too but it isn’t always a good thing.
I love the different things I do. I wish they don’t all converge at the same time like they often do.
WN: What’s next for you as a writer?
SCHRECK: I’m desperately trying to finish the fifth Duffy where TJ, from my standalone thriller, GETTING DUNN, joins Duffy. Maybe, just maybe Duffy will find some love.
The backdrop is a sex scandal at a prestigious private high school during the week of the championship football game.
WN: What books have captured your attention lately?
SCHRECK: The last few books I’ve loved have been all of Reed Farrel Coleman’s Moe Prager books, Megan Abbott’s Dare Me, John Connolley’s Every Dead Thing and Ace Atkins’s take on Spenser. I love everything Sean Chercover, Marcus Sakey, Jamie Freveletti and JA Konrath write as well.