Terry Cronin is a man who wears many hats. A derematologist by day, he spends most of his down time writing -- something. It may be a comic book. It may be a movie script. Or, it may be the latest installment in his Skinvestigator series of novels, about a dermatologist who uses his knowledge of the human skin and skin conditions to solve crimes.
We first met Terry at Comic-Con last year, but that interview was wiped out during the great audio recorder purge of '11. With 2012 Comic-Con beginning in, literally, moments, we decided there was no better time to make good on our missed interview than right now -- especially since Cronin will be selling "Sun Burn", the third installment in the Skinvestigator series.
Here are highlights from our wide-ranging chat with Cronin in the latest installment of our "That's What He Said" interview series.
Q: What’s your main focus right now?
CRONIN: I’d like to think of myself as a writer. Somebody who’s coming up with creative ideas that are not a re-hash of something that’s been done in the past. Take old ideas and fuse them with some new ideas and make something totally new. … We keep going because now, Students of the Unusual (a comic Cronin writes) is featured in Indie Comics Magazine. Every issue there’s a new story there and that takes a lot of the hassle of publishing and self publishing away from it. You’re able to get the story out and be with a bunch of creative, independent people. The Skinvestigator really just sort of, it was sort of my homage to John D. McDonald. I was a big fan of the Travis McGee books. I really liked to read detective fiction and I thought maybe I could fuse the medical thriller and the hard-boiled detective novel together.
Q: It seems like the setting and general tone of your books is reminiscent of writers like Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey.
CRONIN: Yeah, they call it Florida Noir. … thankfully the Dkinvestigator falls into that category too because there’s a lot of people who just love that genre. I try to make it authentic. There’s a rule … I believe it was Hemingway, the way you live life is what you write about. That's an old adage. Write what you know … and it has an authenticity you can’t make up. It’s not always true, but certainly I know Florida, and I can speak aboiut Florida with some authenticity.
Q: Is there some portion of Terry Cronin’s day to day life in these books?
CRONIN: I think so. But some people ask me, is the main character really me. I say, my life’s not that exciting.
Q: I want to get into the name of the series.
CRONIN: That title, when I came up with the title, I knew that I had something. I knew that it would be a pun, it was sort of silly and would seem sort of sexy. We have sexy covers on the book. When I do shows, sometimes I get some gawking looks, sometimes I get some dirty looks like we’re selling something that is lowbrow. Really it’s sort of a retro blast of the past look at the detective fiction from the 60s and 70s where you have a lurid cover. And the idea is to get the readers hooked to pick it up. Pick it up and take a look at it. Then when you get into it, you realize there’s some things that you can learn here … abnout Florida, about dermatology, about human nature and things. Clues on the skin you can use to make decisions on what people do. You may not have really contemplated it, but they’re in there. My hope is that even though the covers asre lurid and it seems like it’s going to be some sort of exploitation, it’s actually a much deeper story. People will tell me, they really enjoyed it, and I’ve spoken to senior citizen groups, women’s groups, comic fans, it seems a lot more people enjoy it than I originally thought would.
Q: Are you surprised at that?
CRONIN: I’m always hoping that something I’m gonna do really connects with people. Skinvestigator really connects with people and fans who read it are pretty rabid. They've been asking when the next book comes out. That makes me feel like I’m doing something right and gets me really pumped up. I guess I’m surprised, sure. Pleasantly surprised. A lot of Hollywood people want to option it. They have different thoughts about it. They see it as this fusion between something like Castle and House, or Grey’s Anatomy and the Mentalist. There’s a lot of good humor in it as well. It may be hard boiled but it’s not depressing.
Q: Do your dermatology patients read the books?
CRONIN: Absolutely. That’s a very nice thing. A lot of my patients give a lot of information. They see a different perspective on their own skin problems when they read these books. A lot of it has to do with skin cancer and sun protection and how ravaged everybody in Florida is getting by the sun. That’s kind of a recurring theme.
Q: You’re a dermatologist, you’re involved in comics, you’re involved I movies, you’ve got the books. So ho do you find the time to work on new stuff with everything else that you do? What is your writing regimen?
CRONIN: I usually work in the morning to the evening, have dinner with my family, get everybody ready for bed and then we’ll watch some TV and my wife usually falls asleep around 20 o’clock. And I’m usually a night owl so I have a couple hours usually I can work on my little projects. A lot of people have different hobbies like golf or tennis or fishing that they devote a lot of their extra time to. That’s not that interesting to me. So I think I have that tendency toward fishing and direct it toward nerdy stuff like writing and comic books.
Q: What’s harder: writing a comic or writing a novel?
CRONIN: I think writing a novel is much harder. … it takes just so much more time. Writing for a comic book is very much like writing a screenplay. They’re so similar; it’s visual storyltelling. You describe the panel and then what people say in the panel. You can knock it out depending on how long it is pretty quickly. We were writing mostly short stories so you might have a six- to eight-page story. He may just have a really good idea and wanna tell a quick story. You want to tell a full 24 to 48-page story, that’s a much bigger investment in time. And then writing a novel that’s 180 pages or, god forbid, 350 pages, that’s going to take you some time.
Q: The stuff that used to the be the province of the nerds and the geeks, you look at the Avengers movie and some of the other stuff that’s out there. What do you think about the homogenization of what was more of a fringe thing?
CRONIN: I had someone tell me at Comic Con (last year) that the readership of comic books is at an all-time low. What, we're 300-plus million population in our country? Comic readers are like 150,000. Think about that, that’s a very small minority … but the people who are reading comics are the creative people and they’re the people who are getting things done in Hollywood, getting things done across the country. The comic book nerds are the power brokers when it coimes to creative output. The people working for a movie studio mread your comic book and wanna do something with you, then by golly, you’re a success. It doesn’t matter if you’re a best seller.
Q: The DC reboot. What’s your opinion on that?
CRONIN: Well, it seems to work for them. I’m always disheartened when people take the history of a character and throw it away as if it didn’t atter. All that time you spent reading, it’s like it didn’t matter, and it mattered to you when you read it. You always feel like you’ve been disregarded … I don’t always like it and I didn’t think it would be a good idea but you can’t mess with success and everybody’s excited about it. You just ca’t get too emotional about it. … DC can always play games with you. They can have an Elseworld or a different Earth if they wanted to play around and change. This is Earth X Batman. And then Marvel did the same thing when they added the Ultimates.
Q: We like to ask everybody, and this may be an unfair question for you, but the tagline of our website is that everyone is a geek abiout something. It seems like I’m shooting fish in a barrel when I ask this, but what is Terry Cronin a geek about?
CRONIN: (Chuckles) I’m a comic book geek. I’m a detective novel geek. And I’m a food geek. Anything else, I certainly like Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, I guess I’m pretty much a dyed-in-the-wool geek right?