MLC: Do you remember the first mystery you ever read? If so, what was it, and what pulled you into it?
AUTHOR: It was one of the Hardy Boys mysteries. Can’t remember which one. But what pulled me into it was the intrigue and puzzle. I identified with Frank, the leader, and I cherished the books, still have them today.
MLC: When did you first decide you wanted to write a mystery, and what led you to that decision?
AUTHOR: I wrote my first one, a Hardy Boys mystery set in mountains when I was eleven. It was two or three chapters long. Still have it somewhere. I was fascinated with mysteries and thought the Bobsey Twins were boring. And my father liked mysteries, too. He was an avid reader. As I grew, we’d read the same books and discuss them. This grew to be a desire on both our parts to write them together. Alas, he died at a young age.
MLC: Do you write in any other genres? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: Just mysteries and thrillers. As Stephen King says in On Writing: “Write what you read.”
MLC: Which comes first for you, the plot or the characters?
AUTHOR: The plot, if you mean what do I focus on first. The characters make or break the book, but you have to put them in a predicament. Watching them develop as they cope or react to that predicament is where the fun is. While I usually start with a general plotline in my head, it changes as the characters evolve. You’ve gotta have both plot and characters, but between the two, I’d say the characters are more important.
MLC: When you are all wrapped up in the story, do you feel like you could solve the crime, or maybe even solve all the world’s mysteries?
AUTHOR: Well, of course, I know how it’s going to end, so that’s cheating, perhaps. But no, I don’t feel I could solve all the world’s mysteries. I only get that feeling when I solve somebody else’s mystery before the solution is revealed. Like most mystery readers, I like to do that whenever possible. And woe to the author who cheats and drops a fact on me that wasn’t previously revealed.
MLC: Do you write every day, or what kind of a schedule do you have? Do you write fulltime, or do you have a “day job”?
AUTHOR: No. I write when I feel like it. I’m retired now and have grandchildren and other outside interests. But I tend to write in binges, where I’ll get in a stream of consciousness and just go with it. It’s usually intense and may involve staying up all night, sleeping and then going at it again. I tend toward insomnia, so writing late at night is when I’m best. Through college, law school and trial work, I got used to this schedule, and now it’s hard to change. So when a new idea hits, I go with it and tend to put everything else aside. Then I’ll stop for some time, mull everything over and then maybe go back and change something, and start off again. I often blog, though, during afternoons if I’m bored. I’ll do some in advance, so I don’t get distracted when I’m on a writing binge.
MLC: Other than your writing, what do you enjoy doing? What is the most important thing to you in your day-to-day life?
AUTHOR: Spending time with my wife. We swim almost daily, and I work out, hike and bicycle ride. I love mountain climbing, but most of it is scrambling, not the technical stuff. I’ve never rappelled anything in my life, except maybe a bad story. But I love the outdoors, the sounds and smells of nature. And I spend way too much time on my computer.
MLC: Who are your favorite mystery authors? Do you try to emulate them in your own writing?
AUTHOR: Lawrence Sanders. The guy was a master. A.A. Fair, although not Earl Stanley Gardner. Never got into Perry Mason. John Sandford, Jeff Deaver, Michael Connelly, Vince Flynn, DeMille, Elizabeth George. I read everything those folks put out. And I occasionally read James Patterson, Lisa Scottoline and a few others. I do try to emulate Patterson’s pacing, and some of John Sandford’s character mannerisms or speech patterns.
MLC: In your present book, is this part of a series, or is it a standalone book?
AUTHOR: If by “present” you mean The Olive Horseshoe, yes, it’s the first of a series. I’m working on a sequel now, and there will be more. My first book, Alibi On Ice, was originally intended as a standalone, but I’ve received many requests for a sequel, and if I can get back up to Mount Rainier again, I may do one. But my main focus now is on Denton Wright and his adventures following The Olive Horseshoe.
MLC: If you are doing a series, do you see an end to it sometime, or do you plan to go on for several years with it?
AUTHOR: I plan to go for several years with the Denton Wright series, although some installments may focus on other characters developed during his adventures. But Denton will always be in the stories, perhaps always the protagonist, I don’t know. He’s a rich enough character to build a series on, so I’ll have to see where his adventures take me and the others.
MLC: Do your characters ever drive you a bit crazy by going off in their own direction? If so, how do you rein them in, or do you just let them run off on their own?
AUTHOR: Absolutely. They have to or they wouldn’t be realistic, would they? Reining them in is sometimes difficult, and sometimes I let them run, but usually another character or an event will bring them back to the plot course.
MLC: Do you pattern your sleuths after yourself or someone you know? If so, do you let that person know they were your “pattern”?
AUTHOR: Denton is a combination, part me, part nobody. The part that is me is being a Hoosier basketball fan. I grew up there, where basketball almost takes a religious stature, and I graduated from Indiana University, which has five national championships, so I’m still a big fan of the sport today, although I don’t like what money has done to it. But that’s about the only connection between Denton and me. Mandy, I pulled out of a fashion magazine, spotted a picture and said, “There’s Mandy.” I made up her personality, as I made up Denton’s. I can’t compare either of their personalities to anybody else I know; they’re unique.
MLC: How long did it take you to get published? How many rejections did you have to suffer through first? Were you ever tempted to give up? What do you think made the difference when it was accepted?
AUTHOR: Two years, and hundreds of rejections. I just kept working at it, and my brother-in-law, a published author himself, James Zagel, helped a bunch with his analysis of my first book’s strong and weak points. I made changes and found interest.
MLC: Do you ever attend any conferences? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I go to Men of Mystery every year. It’s a different format from other conferences I’ve attended, one I really like because you’re in contact with readers one-on-one all day long. I’ve also attended The Rainier Mountain Festival, Bouchercon and Nashville Killers, and perhaps the largest one, the Tucson Festival of Books. The turnout for that one was amazing, about fifty thousand folks.
MLC: Do you have to promote your own work, or does your publisher do that for you?
AUTHOR: Have to do my own, mostly. Get some ideas from my publisher, but that’s about all. But I enjoy meeting people, so I don’t mind.
MLC: If you have to do marketing, what methods have worked the best for you?
AUTHOR: From thirty years in industry, I have a vast email network. And I blog (Murderous Musings; Make Mine Mystery) and do Facebook. I do radio interviews, book signings and some festivals. As to what works best? I’m still working on that one. Book clubs are a very good target, and many bookstores have them, so I try to meet as many book store managers as I can and attempt to set up conference calls or meetings. And of course, libraries. When I travel, I like to stop at libraries and give away a book. Robert Fate taught me the benefit of doing that.
MLC: Do you have any idea how your book is selling?
AUTHOR: I’ve sold out at nearly every book signing I’ve done, and I’ve done many of them. One Borders manager in South Central flood-hit Indiana told me last year that I sold more books than any author in his store’s history, which made me feel very good, as that store has been there a long time. And I sold over sixty books at a bookstore in Carmel, Indiana. But I don’t check the figures, nor do I check the direct deposits. My wife handles all that, and I tell her I don’t want to know. But my e-mail feedback tells me both books are doing well.
MLC: What has been the best review you have gotten, and why?
AUTHOR: While my books have received many favorable reviews, what brings me the most pride is that I was able to get a copy of The Olive Horseshoe to Vince Flynn, and he loved the book. I mean, he read it, and he really enjoyed it. To thrill an author like Vince, that really meant something to me. Vince said the following: “Fast and hard, with terrific characters and gripping suspense. The Olive Horseshoe. I couldn’t put it down.”
Just blew me away.
Crimespree also led off its Buzz Box column with very favorable comments about The Olive Horseshoe, and Midwest Book Reviews highly recommended it.
MLC: Have you won any awards, either as an author or for your books? Please tell us about them.
AUTHOR: Not sure if finishing seventh in the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll qualifies, but that’s where The Olive Horseshoe landed. I’ll accept any awards provided, but my publisher is a small press, and I’m not sure how many awards submissions they make.
MLC: Is there any one certain thing that a reader has written to you that made you just want to jump up and shout “Yes!!!!”?
AUTHOR: Well, I mentioned Vince Flynn. But there was one reader who wrote and told me she’d called in sick because she had to finish The Olive Horseshoe. I felt a little guilty, I have to admit, because she said she was a college literature professor in North Carolina. Still, I showed that one to my friends.
MLC: What is your next project, and when will it be out?
AUTHOR: It’s untitled, as yet. Alibi On Ice, I titled after it was done; The Olive Horseshoe was titled before it started. Go figure. Haven’t had a good title pop into my head yet for the third one. But it will start with Denton and crew feeling some post traumatic stress trauma from their Moroccan and Spanish adventures, and resisting being thrust into Witness Protection. Denton, wanting to get away, visits his ex-wife in the Tucson region. She’s a pecan farmer and horse rancher, who’s threatened by mining interests and smuggling activities. Denton discovers he’s moved from the pan to the fire in more ways than just the desert sun.
I’m hoping to have it out early next year.
MLC: If you could write anything at all, ignoring what editors and publishers say they want, what would it be?
AUTHOR: A comedy. I have a wicked sense of humor. Or at least I think I’m funny. But it would have to be something other than a mystery, because I don’t think it’s realistic for a sleuth to be cracking jokes while solving a crime. Murder is serious business. But that’s the problem with humor; timing is everything.
MLC: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring mystery authors?
AUTHOR: Write what you read, and show don’t tell. Be subtle, don’t overdue; give your reader some credit. And kill most adverbs.
MLC: Do you have any teasers for your readers and fans about the next book?
AUTHOR: Keep your eye on the ex-wife. :<0
MLC: If a genie suddenly appeared and said they would grant you just one wish for your books, what would you wish for?
AUTHOR: To be remembered.
MMLC: Please give us your website url and your email address where people can contact you.
MLC: Thank you so much for giving us a little glimpse into your books and your life. We look forward to a lot more books from you.