I’m excited to be hosting an interview with my friend Dave Edlund today. Up to now, I’ve always tried to keep my posts focused on romance, but I’ve decided it would be a lot more fun to highlight writers of other genres.
So Dave, tell us what genre or genres do you write?
I prefer to write action-thrillers, with a good dose of cutting-edge science and technology—what I like to call “science plausible” to distinguish this from science fiction. Think of Michael Crichton blended with James Rollins or Matthew Riley.
Are you a pantser? (You write by the seat of your pants and the story is all there in your head.)
Not at all. Before I start writing, I have to have a good idea of where I am going with the story line and my characters. Still, the path from start to finish takes unexpected twists and turns—there is a substantial element of evolution, call it organic growth, in the plot and characters as the writing unfolds.
So you prefer to create a plot first?
I rely on outlines—usually heavily revised during the course of writing the novel. When I begin outlining, I already have a good idea of the core plot elements as well as the pivotal characters. Since I am writing a series based on recurring protagonists, there is opportunity to emphasize certain characters in the story. Then I add color to the antagonists (yes, more than one). However, I find that the story unfolds in ways—details—that I did not anticipate when outlining, so evolution occurs during the writing. I suppose that if I put more time and effort into the outline, agonizing over the tiny details, this evolution would be unnecessary and the outline would translate directly to the writing. But, that would be an incredibly detailed outline—certainly stretching the accepted definition of what an outline is.
What method do you use to create your story line?
My personal preference is for fiction that starts out fast and grabs you; I want the reader to be hooked from the first chapter. Heck, I want the reader to be hooked before the first chapter is over! I’ll begin with a prologue that is exciting, suspenseful, and with an emotional element. Sometimes this will be a purely fictional event, other times it will represent a historical event, but with fictional characters and actions. The prologue is very important—it provides the foundation as well as a continuity thread that weaves through the story to the end. Along the way, I strive to make my characters real—I want the reader to empathize with them, to feel their personality flaws, and loath the bad guys, yet understand why they are that way. My belief is that people are shaped and molded by their life experiences, and this belief is manifested in the characters I write about. Sprinkle in some emerging science and technology, and some really cool present-day weaponry, and bake until it’s done.
As a fiction writer, do you write a detailed list of your character’s habits, likes, dislikes and family members?
Not in a formal sense. However, I do keep notes and will refer to those notes when I am adding more to a character’s back story and personality. It really depends on what is needed to make the character interesting and yet move the plot forward. It’s fun to add small details, such as musical preferences, hobbies, foods, etc. Also, as the reader goes from one novel to the next, given that the same main characters are present, I’ll have the characters refer back to past events from previous novels. My goal is to allow the reader to discover more about their virtual friends with every interaction, just as they would their real-life friends.
What do you think today’s readers want and how does it differ from readers of the past?
It’s hard for me to speak for past readers, since I can’t place myself in their minds. Let me try to answer this based on how my reading enjoyment has changed over the years, and I’ll assume there must be at least a few others who feel similarly. I was an early fan of Michael Crichton and Clive Cussler, and quickly found my love for action-thrillers. Later I read many of the Tom Clancy novels, and liked the techno-thriller genre. I also read many James Bond novels, and a long list of other authors. Soon it became apparent that I really wanted the characters to be human. By this, I mean I wanted to be able to relate to them, I wanted them to be believable. I’d pay attention to detail and think, “no, that gadget doesn’t exist and if it did, it wouldn’t work that way.” Or, “now why would the hero do that and not this?” This is why I want to write novels that are “science plausible” and I’d suggest that Crichton did this exceptionally well. If there are too many elements of chance in a plot—where the hero or heroine escapes but by chance events—I feel cheated. So I avoid this in my writing and endeavor to set up situations where skill, cunning, and preparedness prevail.
What book do you want to feature in this post?
The Devil of Darfur. This is the sequel to Unintended Consequences, the first Peter Savage novel.
The Devil of Darfuris an action-thriller, set in the deserts of southern Sudan. This is my tribute to werewolf stories as well as more recent derivatives such as Congo, Hell Island, and Operation Synbat. A brilliant geneticist, named Ming, has learned how to use viruses to insert foreign DNA into human DNA. This is part of the factual science foundation to the plot. Working for the Chinese military, Ming uses this knowledge to insert Neanderthal DNA into test subjects kidnapped from villages in Darfur. The result is a hideous inhuman creature dubbed a Homothal. One morning the protagonist, Peter Savage, receives a voice message from his son Ethan, who has been kidnapped while in Darfur on a humanitarian mission. What unfolds is a breakneck race against time as Peter and friends attempt to rescue Ethan, a race that pits them against the Janjaweed militia, Chinese soldiers, and the Homothals.
Does your book have a message? Please explain.
Yes, the novel attempts to educate the reader about the genocide that transpired in Darfur over many years, while the rest of the world conveniently turned a blind eye to the atrocities carried out by the Sudanese government in Khartoum. The reader will meet Bebe, a young Darfur mother who is old beyond her age, as she tries to explain to Ethan the hardships and horrors of her life—tragedies which she is powerless to prevent. And then there is Hamaad—a rebel who witnessed his entire family brutalized and then murdered by the Janjaweed. In those moments, all of Hamaad’s dreams and ambitions vanished, to be replaced by an insatiable thirst for revenge.
Choose one character from the book and tell us what he/she would say to you if he/she was to meet you.
That would be Peter Savage. He resides in Bend, Oregon, which is also my hometown. I can easily imagine meeting Peter at a “Pub Talk”—a monthly meeting at a local microbrewery focused on networking amongst entrepreneurs. After introductions, we’d talk about our respective jobs—mine in alternative energy and Peter’s in high-tech weapon development. We might even agree to follow-up on mutual interest around small, man-portable fuel-cell power supplies. But before long I’m sure the conversation would shift to the Cascade Mountains just west of Bend. Peter Savage loves visiting Todd Lake, near Broken Top. It’s a location I’ve also spent some time at, camping and hiking, in recent years with my family.
Did you self-publish or query and hope a publisher would accept your work?
I started out seeking an agent and then a publisher. That was a very long and exhausting exercise, but it taught me a lot about the publishing industry as well as my personal goals. Ultimately I decided to self-publish.
How did that work out for you?
The answer to this succinct question could be very, very long. However, the short version is that I eventually signed on with an agent, and my manuscript was submitted to several small publishers. But by this time I had invested over six months and still there was no clear indication if any of the publishers would accept my manuscript. Then my agent explained that a publisher would likely need at least a year to edit and publish the novel. I was stunned. My manuscript was done, it had been edited three times, and I was ready to get it out … no, I needed to get it out. Fans who enjoyed Unintended Consequences were asking when the next book would be available. That’s when I decided to self-publish for the benefit of advancing my career.
What do you do to promote your writing?
That’s the really hard part of this work. I rely on word-of-mouth, Facebook, Twitter, some marketing through Linked In—I steer readers to my web site and blog. But I don’t view any of this as really successful. I’m constantly working to find better ways to market my books, to get them before the national customer base. But this has to be balanced with writing the third book in the series. I think one book helps to promote the others, so getting a new book once every 9 months is my goal.
What advice do you have for your fellow writers/authors?
You must persevere. There are so many new books coming out every day, it is really tough to get your work noticed. So you have to be prepared and ready to accept small victories.
Tell us about your next project.
I’m writing book three in the Peter Savage series, and I have a co-author. It’s been a great experience to share ideas and compare characters. The plot involves atrocities committed in Libya during their recent civil war, hacking into supposedly secure military computer files, and a corrupt French presidential candidate. Commander James Nicolaou will be back, of course, and the reader will get more familiar with Gary Porter, who was introduced in The Devil of Darfur. The target release date is July of this year.
And here’s the burning question — Why should we buy your book?
Readers who like fast-paced thrillers, high on suspense, with threads of breakthrough science and technology plus global political tension, will enjoy this book. The characters are real, just like you and me—no super heroes here.
We’d love to know a little more about you…
I’m a long-time resident of Central Oregon where I currently live with my beautiful wife and son, three dogs, and two cats. By education I am a scientist (Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Oregon) and I have devoted my professional career to developing technology for the hydrogen economy (founded two companies, inventor on 90 US patents). My need to invent and create is the driving force behind by interest in writing. You see, in a novel the author has freedom to do just that—invent and create, within whatever boundaries are self selected. When I’m not working my day job or writing, or providing support and encouragement to my daughter who is attending college, I love to be outdoors and close to nature. My passion is to help those in need—to pay it forward—and, hopefully, inspire my children and others to do the same.
Sounds fantastic, Dave. I wish you the best of luck and hope someone who reads this post will be inspired to read your books.
Follow the links below to find out more and purchase Dave Edlund’s novels.