Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
I’m Dana King and I’m 62 years old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
The States. Born and raised near Pittsburgh and now live about halfway between Baltimore and Washington DC.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
Sixty-two years covers a lot of ground. Let’s say my Master’s degree in Music has prepared me well for my day job as a computer system administrator. I’m married to The Beloved Spouse and my daughter, The Sole Heir, is finishing up her third year of medical school.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My latest book is the fifth instalment of my Nick Forte private detective series, titled Bad Samaritan. The book launched in January with little support from me due to a family emergency. I’m playing catch-up now.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
About twenty-five years ago I started noodling around with stories after my trumpet “career” bottomed out and I needed a creative outlet. I wrote a few stories with friends of mine as characters that were well received, which just encouraged me.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I finished a semester at George Washington University’s Jenny McKean Moore writers’ workshop led by John McNally and found I could hold my own with the more literary types.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The Jon Benet Ramsey case was still in the news when I decided to write a novel. The parents were on TV every night and their story just didn’t hold water. Everyone I knew assumed they were lying because they did it, so I took a different angle: what if they’re lying to cover for someone outside the family, and why would they do that?
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Trial and error. A Small Sacrifice was the third or fourth title I tried.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
My writing style has been described as “documentary,” though the Forte novels owe a little more to the classic PI stories. I strive for an economy of words and would rather leave something to the reader’s imagination than risk explaining too much. My plots aren’t overly complicated, which allows me to get away with that and not confuse everyone. The biggest challenge to me is to maintain a style that keeps the pace moving without it sounding like an affectation.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
All of the Forte novels have scenes between him and his daughter, Caroline. Almost all of those scenes are at least inspired by things my daughter and I did when she was an appropriate age. For example, in Bad Samaritan, the scene in Taco Bell where they order two small drinks and the counterperson says, “Ain’t no small” actually happened to us, as did the scene at the miniature golf course where they see the young woman watching her boyfriend hitting balls at the range.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Not too much. I lived in Chicago for several years and have a good idea of what’s where for the Forte books. My Penns River series is easy: I grew up there and went back to visit my parents every couple of months until my father died last fall and Mom came to live near us. I expect I’ll still make trips back up there once a year or so to do “location research.”
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Eric Beetner designs all the covers for the books Down and Out Books has published for me and does a wonderful job. I had a general idea of what I wanted and he made all of them not only beyond my most enthusiastic expectations, he’s tied them together thematically. The cover he did for Bad Samaritan is unlike any of the Penns River covers, yet perfect for the Chicago setting.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Not so much a message as things I’d like folks to think about when they’re finished. How men treat woman is in the news now with the #metoo and #timesup. Both of these movements are long overdue, but we have to be careful not to paint with too broad a brush. Bad Samaritan has four women treated horribly at different levels and different ways and not all of their situations resolve as everyone would like. More than anything I want readers to think of each situation as something that could have happened to them or someone they’re close to and let how their reactions inform their opinions about what happens to others.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
“New” writers is tough for me. Not because there aren’t any, but because by the time I usually get around to reading people they aren’t all that new anymore. The writers I seek out to read early in their careers are most often friends of mine and as soon as I mention one I know I’ve left out five. I used to always think authors were evasive when they gave answers like that, but here I am.
My personal favorite? This changes over time, but right now I’d have to say it’s a toss-up between Dennis Lehane and Joseph Wambaugh. Both tell entertaining stories that leave you with things to think about forever, and both have a deft touch with humor to leaven the weight.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Charlie Stella. I wouldn’t be published today if not for his efforts on my behalf. Any recognition I have today I owe to Charlie, as I might well have packed it in had that contract not come in around the time it did.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
No. With retirement looming I’d like to hope it can supplement my Social Security a little, but that’s it. I don’t have the personality to be a good full-time writer. I need to know when that next pay check is coming if I plan to sleep well at night.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Sure. Every book has things I wish I’d done better. I think any author who doesn’t say that is being disingenuous, at best. Now, am I going to tell you what I’d change if I were writing Bad Sam over? Not a chance.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Way more than I wanted to. The subject matter led me to do research on men’s rights advocates, who have usurped legitimate grievances in areas of child custody and other family matters and use it to churn out their own detestable version of gender relations. It’s hard to imagine a more contemptable and cowardly group. I didn’t do as much research as I originally planned because I couldn’t bear to read it. Turned out I didn’t need it. I reached a point where what I leaned from verifiable sources had no place in the book lest readers would think I jumped the shark. For anyone who reads the book and wonders, check out the Southern Poverty Law Center. They’re best known for race relations, but they keep tabs on hate groups of all sorts. The blog We Hunted the Mammoth is also a good resource.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Liev Schreiber, hands down. He’s best known now as Ray Donovan, but he’s so solidly in my head as Nick Forte I have to be careful not to write the character too much like my perception of him, which says a lot, as Forte’s original inspiration was me.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Write. I read a blog just this morning that warned about getting the cart before the horse with promotion and building a platform. That’s not unimportant, but it only sells one book. People only come back if the writing is there.
Beyond that, read like a writer. You want to be good, all the text books and lessons you’d ever want are resting on bookshelves. Read a lot and digest what you like best to suit your own talent.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
This will sound corny but it’s true: Thank you. Hell, bless you. I used to write only for myself, and I still do in many ways. I’m the first person I have to please. Having been to conferences and met readers makes me appreciate how much more rewarding it is to have pleased someone else, as well.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
An advance copy of The Fairfax Incident by Terrence McCauley. No one can put a reader into a period—in this case the Prohibition era—better than him.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Do you have any idea how long ago that was? Probably The Little Engine That Could—I know it was a favorite of mine—but the first novel might have been The Call of the Wild. Or Tarzan. Hound of the Baskerville, maybe
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I have an eclectic sense of humor and might laugh at just about anything, good taste be damned. Alec Guinness broke me up in The Lavender Hill Mob when I was a kid, and I still regularly revisit The Big Lebowski, Blazing Saddles, Animal House, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
What makes me cry is a little up for grabs right now. I helped out as I could with my father’s last few weeks of home hospice care and it’s still a little surprising at what might choke me up.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Many, depending on my mood. Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, James Ellroy, Dennis Lehane. Dashiell Hammett, Thomas Jefferson are the ones who pop to mind most commonly. If I had to pick one right now it would probably be Joseph Wambaugh.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I play cards and dice sports simulation games when I just need to get away from the world a bit.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
The Beloved Spouse™ and I are re-watcingThe Wire. Started Season Five tonight, in fact. Other favorites are Justified, Deadwood, The Sopranos, The Shield. The BBC did a brilliant six-part series called River a few years ago. The Jack Taylor movies based on Ken Bruen’s books are also very good.
I mentioned the comedies above. I obviously love crime stories and regularly watch L.A. Confidential, The French Connection, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, The Maltese Falcon, and The Usual Suspects. A sorely underrated crime gem is Confidence, with Edward Burns and Dustin Hoffman.
A good Western will also hold my attention. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Lonesome Dove, Unforgiven, and Appaloosa are favorites. Tombstone, of course. The recent series Godless was outstanding.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I grew up in a bar, almost literally. My aunt ran a tavern and my mother worked for her.They kept a bassinet behind the bar for those times when Mom had to get to work before Dad got home. So bar food rules with me: chicken wings, French fries with gravy, bacon cheeseburgers, hot dogs. Sausage is a food group.
Relaxing and cheerful colors. Blues and yellows. The green of a baseball outfield.
Music, anything from classical to rhythm and blues to country to jazz.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Read. A lot.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
He paid for his share of the drinks.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
The web site is under construction, but the blog is nearing its 800th post. It’s https://danaking.blogspot.com/ and I make every effort to post three times every two weeks, on Monday, Fridays, and Wednesdays.
My Amazon author page is https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B005J5BU5K
My blog is http://danaking.blogspot.com/