Dietrich has taken his turn answering a few questions for me.
Is the writing a full-time or a sideline-passion-hobby? If not, whatʼs the day job?
I write every day, and for me, itʼs the best job in the world. Five years ago, my wife convinced me it was time to close my graphics business and start writing full time, something Iʼd talked about for a long time. And thatʼs what I did.
Whatʼs been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?
Coming home one day two years ago and finding out I had a book deal. After I finished my first novel Ride the Lightning, I sent several queries to agents and publishers that accepted submissions over the transom. A few weeks later I heard from Jack David at ECW Press, and he liked the story and offered me a contract. As far as high points in my life, that was right up there.
From start to finish how long did “Ride the Lightning” take from conception to completion?
I started with a single scene and just started writing. That first draft was finished in about three months. After a short break, I went back over it with fresh eyes and started editing, taking out anything that didnʼt work and adding in some new details. I ended up going back over it three/four times over the next nine months before I was satisfied that everything flowed the way I wanted.
How close was the end result to the book you envisaged writing at the beginning? Did you have a beginning and end in mind before you started, or is it a case of making it up as you go along?
I write by the seat of my pants. For Ride the Lightning, I started with the spark of an idea based on an article I read a few years ago, and it set the overall theme for the story. The article talked about the incredible number of illegal grow-ops here in British Columbia: an industry generating billions annually. It claimed our pot industry was bigger than fishing or lumber or tourism. It fascinated me, and so I started putting scenes together and forming ideas for the story. I borrowed my lead character, Karl Morgen from a short story I wrote a couple of years earlier about a process server who tries to serve up divorce papers on the manager of a travel agency. He has a hard time getting past the
guyʼs pretty receptionist, and I liked the way the dialogue between the two sizzled. Dropping Karl into a scene, I just started writing, letting his character develop along with the story. I didnʼt work to a tight outline, rather letting the story unfold.
Whatʼs your typical writing schedule?
Itʼs very simple: Walk dog, eat, write. Repeat. I do throw in some strong coffee and loud music, writing every morning until noon, often coming back to it later in the day, but morning is the best time for me. Iʼm sharp, focused and more energetic then.
Do you insert family, friends and colleagues into your characters? Would they recognise themselves?
I havenʼt modeled characters after family members, friends or colleagues, although I may have borrowed a trait here and there. The characters are pure fiction, true Frankensteins in the sense that theyʼre a little of this and a little of that.
Are there any subjects off limits as far as your writing is concerned?
I write the kind of books I like to read, and for me, crime fiction with elements of dark humour fits the bill. I donʼt think I could write something I consider morbid, depressing or completely horrifying. Something the length of a novel takes many months to complete, so I have to feel fully committed in order to stay enthused for that length of time.
What are the last five books youʼve read?
I just finished Tourist Season by Carl Hiassen. Before that, my summer readings
included Black Rock by John McFetridge, White Jazz by James Ellroy, American
Detective by Walter Mosley, Forty Lashes Less One by Elmore Leonard (the only book of his that I hadnʼt read at least once).
Who do you read and enjoy?
I read a lot, both fiction as well as non-fiction, and enjoy anything that is well written, with a lean toward crime fiction. Old favorites in the genre are Elmore Leonard, James Ellroy, George V. Higgins and Robert B. Parker. Thereʼs also a whole sea of great contemporary crime-fiction writers: Robert Crais, Carl Hiaasen, John McFetridge, Peter Leonard, just to throw a few names around.
Outside the genre, I like anything by Hunter S. Thompson, Patti Smith, Jack Kerouac, Leonard Cohen, William Burroughs, Charles Bukowski, Tom Wolfe, Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg, as well as classics by Hemmingway, Salinger, Steinbeck, Twain …
Is there any one book you wish you had written?
I canʼt say thereʼs any one book I wish Iʼd written. But there are many great books that I admire, writers with jaw-dropping voices that inspire and leave me in awe.
Favourite activity when not working?
I like to paint, play with cameras and guitars, watch football (soccer) and go for long walks and longer trips. And, of course, I read a lot.
Whatʼs the current work in progress? Howʼs it going?
I just handed over the final edits for my second novel, due out next year: itʼs a crime story called The Deadbeat Club, set in Whistler, BC. The story was never intended to be
part of a series, but it does borrow a minor character from Ride the Lightning. Dara Addie becomes a main character in the new story. Sheʼs a year older, just as edgy and ready for the deep end. I also have a third crime novel complete and am presently working on some historical fiction.
Have you done much meeting and greeting in an effort to get the book in front of people? Do you enjoy that aspect of being an author? (Me - I can think of few things worse, TBH)
Iʼve attended conferences, been on panels and taken part in interviews and readings. Along with several local writers, we put on a Noir at the Bar, Vancouver-style, and are getting ready for our next one in November. Itʼs all a lot of fun.
If I check back in a couple of yearʼs time, where do you hope to be with the writing?
Book ten – still getting up every morning, keeping to my schedule: walk the dog, eat, write and repeat.
And lastly, I want to thank you for inviting me to be your guest, Col. I wish you and your readers all the best.
Many thanks to Dietrich for his time. You can catch up with him here on his website or over on Facebook here.