So there I was trying to figure out how to write a crime in my novel and while I found a brilliant forensic expert to help me, I was getting stuck on the gun details. What kind of gun would be used in 1970? What would the crime look like? I googled. I called a cop or two. I emailed people. No one was particularly helpful and I was beginning to panic. I googled some more and came across a link that talked about how "writers could avoid shooting themselves in the foot when they write about guns." I clicked on it and was instantly fascinated. Matthew Bayan is both an author and an expert about what guns can and can't do. (I was fascinated that a silencer on a gun isn't, contrary to every film we've seen, actually silent.) He writes a series of articles (soon to be a book) on firearms in fiction for Mulholland Books/Little Brown and also lectures on the topic and advises writers. Even more amazing, he had a heart attack and managed to reverse his heart disease without surgery, detailing the process in a book that the Dallas Morning News said, "read like a thriller."
Since Matt helps writers get their fiction accurate, I emailed him for help. There is always a moment when you are on the phone, and you hear yourself say, "But would the blood be gooey or pooling?" that you realize you are happily lost in story world. Matt not only solved my plot issue, he gave me details that were specific, surprising, and oh so real. I was so fascinated by him (he's also hilariously funny), that I insisted I had to interview him here. I've ordered his new novel, and will report back when I'm finished with it. Thank you so, so much, Matt.
Your novel The Firecracker King is funny, whip-smart, and you've been compared to Stephen King. What sparked you to write this novel? Did anything surprise you in the writing?
You produce articles for the mystery imprint of Little Brown. You're also the author of a series of articles (and soon to be a book) all swirling around Firearms in Fiction: Myths, Mistakes, and How to Avoid Shooting Yourself in The Foot--and you are available for hire to help writers get their manuscripts right. How do you know what you know about guns? What things do writers most often get wrong when they are writing about firearms? What drives you the most crazy?
Long answer: My father was a police officer and competed on the police pistol team. I was shooting at the police pistol range by the time I was five. Those many hours spent with my father taught me respect for firearms and made me want to excel at marksmanship. I later got fascinated with the science of what bullets can and cannot do by testing their effects on materials.
Among target shooters there's a natural curiosity about what other shooters are shooting, so we frequently trade weapons at the range, discuss the pros and cons of different pistols and ammunitions. Over a fifty year span, I've fired hundreds of different handguns and learned a lot about their applications in different situations. Being a writer morphed that information into something usable by other writers.
What drives me crazy about other writers? I think most of them have never fired a gun or even touched one. When I do public speaking on the topic, I ask the writers in the audience how many have fired a gun. Fewer than half raise their hands.
Big mistakes? The worst is that writers frequently misuse "silencers." First, it's a suppressor. The device can drastically reduce the sound of the bullet explosion, but it doesn't silence it. However, when I see George Clooney in a movie with a sniper rifle, I want to laugh. A bullet from a high-powered rifle travels at two to three times the speed of sound. It breaks the sound barrier. It creates a sonic boom that sounds like a firecracker. That sonic boom travels behind the bullet until the bullet drops below the speed of sound. There is no way to silence that sound which is almost as loud as the gunpowder explosion.
What's obsessing you now and why?
What question didn't I ask that I should have?