After a long career in 9-to-5 jobs – caseworker, teacher, Probation Officer, urban planner, copywriter, and even aircraft carrier tour guide – Sid became a published author at the age of seventy-one. Whether or not he makes a dime from his thrillers, that alone is an accomplishment he’s proud of.
Two of his past jobs were particularly helpful when he began writing crime novels. As a Probation Officer, he learned to see things from a criminal’s point of view and to tip-toe past their minds’ many dark alleys. As a copywriter, he learned how to craft stories that draw readers in and keep them wanting more.
Murderer from Moscow is the sequel to his debut Kim Barbieri thriller, Unwitting Accomplice. The Russian mafia has to stop reporter Kim Barbieri from exposing their money laundering in NY—and they’re going to use the world’s most lethal poison to shut her up.
Will they succeed in killing her? Or will she succeed in putting them out of business for good?
What brought you to writing? As a copywriter for many years, I convinced customers to buy what my clients were selling. That was my job, and I was pretty good at it – according to the lawyers, suits, and clients who approved my work. When I retired, I decided to write to please a whole new audience – readers of crime novels like myself. I knew three things going in: Crime fiction readers could be a tough audience, I had a compelling story idea, and I was up to the task.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? The challenge is making my characters of the opposite sex credible and relatable to my readers of the opposite sex. Rightly or wrongly, male writers have a reputation among women readers for not doing female characters well. My protagonist, Kim Barbieri, is both a strong, tough woman unfazed by violence and a very human person dealing with everyday issues faced by women of a certain age in our society. I was determined to do right by her—and several female readers have told me I’d succeeded.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? That’s not an either/or question, as far as I’m concerned. I do an outline, of course, to make sure all the moving parts conform to the story arc. But as I develop my characters, they often seem to take on a life of their own. They grow. They change. I then find myself becoming a pantser, letting them make decisions I hadn’t planned on. How does she react when she stumbles upon a crime scene? How does she deal with a crisis? Those become her decisions as much as mine. And her actions sometimes change the plot I’d so carefully laid out in the outline – for the better!
What kind of research do you do? They say, ‘Write what you know’. But when I develop an idea for a novel, I make it a point to include topics I know nothing about. For instance, to write my first thriller, Unwitting Accomplice, I learned the pros and cons of using specific weapons—knife, gun, poison, vehicle—to end a victim’s life without getting caught by the police. And for my second thriller, Murderer from Moscow, I learned all I could about one lethal weapon: poison. How many there are, how each enters the body, which organs each one attacks, and how long each takes to kill. For both books, there was a lot of physiology and chemistry jargon to master, and my challenge was to write everything I’d learned in an easily understood way that wouldn’t kill the desire of the average reader to go on to the next chapter.
Where do you place your characters? Real or fictional settings? My two thrillers take place in New York, a vibrant, dynamic, ever-changing metropolis with many unique neighborhoods and ethnic communities. I grew up there and found that if described well, a neighborhood, a street, or even a particular shop can become an interesting character.
The settings for my two thrillers are in neighborhoods I know especially well from my days as a New York State Probation Officer – Fort Greene in Unwitting Accomplice and Williamsburg in Murderer from Moscow. They’re both fully gentrified now, with upstanding citizens and excellent schools, and they both are a good place for my protagonist to come home to. But back in the day, they were both “bad” neighborhoods, with drug addicts, muggings, poverty, bad schools, high unemployment, etc.
Groups where you can find Sid:
Mystery Writers of America NY
Sisters in Crime, NY
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You can read more about my thrillers at Sidmeltzer.com.
You can email me at email@example.com.
You can order Murderer from Moscow on Amazon at tinyurl.com/5b3fjnyh or from Black Rose Writing.
You can order Unwitting Accomplice on Amazon at tinyurl.com/pjjs4v7t or from Rogue Phoenix Press.