Interview with mystery/suspense author Bruce Hartman

Mystery/suspense author Bruce Hartman is here today to talk a bit about himself, as well as his novel The Rules of Dreaming, which is now out from Swallow Tail

Bruce will award a
$50 Amazon or gift card (winner’s choice) to one randomly drawn
commenter. For a chance to win, leave a comment below. And to increase your chances of winning, visit other tour stops and leave comments there.

Hartman lives with his wife in Philadelphia. He has worked as a pianist, music
teacher, bookseller and attorney and has been writing fiction for many years.
His first novel, Perfectly Healthy Man
Drops Dead
, won the Salvo Press Mystery Novel Award and was published by
Salvo Press in 2008. If all goes well, a steady stream of new books will be
coming out over the next few years.
Welcome, Bruce. Please tell us about
your current release.
The Rules of Dreaming is a literary mystery that takes
place in and around the Palmer Institute, a private mental hospital in upstate
New York. A
beautiful opera singer who lived nearby hanged herself on the eve of
her debut at the Met. Now, seven years later, strange things begin to happen:
The singer’s 21-year-old schizophrenic son, who has never had any musical training, sits down at the piano and plays
a fiendishly difficult piece of classical music;
A beautiful graduate student,
struggling with her thesis, suspects that her psychiatrist is ruled by the
fantasies of a poet who’s been dead for two hundred years;
A young doctor’s life spins out
of control as he falls under the spell of three irresistible women;
A blackmailer stumbles on an
isolated town with more crimes on its conscience than he could have imagined…
Until all
enmeshed in a world of deception and
delusion, of madness and ultimately of evil and death.
What inspired you to write this book?
Years ago I imagined a story about a
patient in a mental hospital who sits down at the piano in the patient lounge
and flawlessly plays a difficult piece of classical music. Although this
usually requires years of instruction and practice, the patient’s psychiatrist
discovers that he has no musical training or experience. So the question I
started with is: Where did this music come from? Where does any music come
from? Does music come to you as a kind of inspired madness, or does it come
from outside the human mind?
The troubled graduate student, Nicole,
is the female hero of the book. I identify with her
preoccupations, her compassion for the schizophrenic twins, and the sense of
bewilderment that leads her to play such a significant role in the story.
Here’s an excerpt
about Nicole arriving back at her apartment after being discharged from the
mental hospital, where she has spent two weeks after a brief mental breakdown:
had mixed feelings about going home after two weeks at the Institute. She
occupied a dingy garret in a dark rambling house that had been converted to
apartments, overseen by a nosy landlady named Mrs. Gruber who owned several
cats but never seemed to feed them. One bright spot: the computer was still on,
waiting faithfully for her return. The screen was blank but all she had to do
was touch the space bar and a magic technicolor world rose up before her. Out
of habit she opened her “Things To Do” folder. Most of it was out of date
now—unminded reminders, dead deadlines, pointless appointments. With one sweep
of the mouse she consigned the entire contents of the folder to the trash bin. It
was a grand feeling, having nothing to do, but it was short lived. Now the
computer stared at her with a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun. Tentatively
she started typing:
milk, eggs, corn flakes.
Pick up
dry cleaning.
Find a
thesis topic.
Keep from
going crazy.
Let’s put
that one on top and keep it there. Thing To Do Numero Uno: Keep from going
crazy. But how? Much as she liked Dr. Hoffmann, she wanted to accomplish that
particular Thing To Do in her own way, without any help from the pharmaceutical
industry. She reached in her purse and found the pills he’d given her, and
without thinking very much about it she ran into the bathroom and flushed them
down the toilet.
Now, she
thought, I’m on my own.
What exciting story are you working on
My next
book will be coming out this Fall. I’m putting the finishing touches on it
right now.
When did you first consider yourself a
I don’t
know if I’ve ever actually considered myself a “writer.” I’ve been writing since
I graduated from college. In the meantime I’ve had a few other careers that
enabled me to raise a family and live a fairly normal life.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
I am now
writing full time. I can’t say that I get up very early in the morning or keep
very regular writing hours, but since writing is my preferred activity I don’t
have any trouble squeezing it in. I’m usually writing at the expense of all the
other things I’m supposed to be doing.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
My only
writing quirk is that I don’t have any. I’m a fast typist, so I like to work at
a computer with a regular keyboard, not a laptop; I can’t stand the sound of ringing
telephones, barking dogs or loud music, and I don’t like to be interrupted; I
surround myself with dictionaries and other reference books and have papers
piled up around me until it’s almost a fire hazard; I can’t do anything in the
morning until I’ve had about four cups of coffee and sometimes I get so
engrossed in my work that I sit in front of the computer for hours until I’m famished
and barely able to stand up—but no, I don’t have any writing quirks.
As a child, what did you want to be
when you grew up?

I aspired
to be a writer from an early age—I don’t know why; it certainly wasn’t anything
my parents encouraged—but I knew nothing about what being a writer really
entailed. I realized later that it’s a solitary activity, which can be
depressing for a gregarious person like myself. So I’ve pursued a number of
more social occupations and now I’m happy enough sitting at my desk writing. I
have enough other things going on in my life to keep me from getting too

Thanks, Bruce. Readers, don’t forget: Bruce will award a $50 Amazon or gift card (winner’s choice) to one randomly drawn commenter. For a chance to win, leave a comment below. And to increase your chances of winning, visit other tour stops and leave comments there.

8 thoughts on “Interview with mystery/suspense author Bruce Hartman

  1. Unknown says:

    Bruce…Do you think you're a fast typist because you were a pianist? I wonder if they're related? LOL. You've had an interesting work history and now you get to add novelist to the resume.
    catherinelee100 at gmail dot com

  2. MomJane says:

    This excerpt seems to indicate that there are a lot of twists and turns in this story. Perhaps a little paranormal?

  3. Karen H says:

    Sorry for the late post. I’m playing catch-up here so I’m just popping in to say HI and sorry I missed visiting with you on party day! Hope you all had a good time!
    kareninnc at gmail dot com

  4. Andra Lyn says:

    Thanks for the interview Bruce! It's been fun following the tour so far and I feel like I'm getting to know you so well!

    andralynn7 AT gmail DOT com

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