Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Doug Danielson

As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Doug Danielson is visiting my blog today. To read his bio and see his photo, please page down to yesterday's post. The cover art above is from his latest release, Sea-duction, the second in his Jake Mortensen mystery series.

In the book, Jake Mortensen's best friend is threatened by a mysterious assassin—someone who may have served with him during the Vietnam War—and now he’s scared and can’t remember who might want him dead. Next, Jake’s boss wants him to look into the disappearance of a friend’s beautiful daughter. She has been missing for over a month and may be mixed up with dangerous blackmailers posing as an entertainment group called the Hedonist Society.

To make matters worse, Jake is on the outs with his exotic Chinese-American girlfriend. Her paranoia is destroying their relationship. And at the ocean, the waves are enormous—monster surf—with an undercurrent that can kill you, if you let it. It’s almost too much for a young man to endure, and there isn’t enough Pepto-Bismol in all of San Diego to calm Jake’s queasy stomach.

Sounds like Jake's sailing into dangerous waters to me! Below are Doug's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment, and if you have a question of your own for Doug, ask it!

1. Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?

I guess I’ve been writing all my life in one form or another—journaling, keeping a ship’s log of my travels. I was in a hurricane in 1997, bringing a boat down the outside of the Baja Peninsula; had to put the vessel on the beach in Turtle Bay to save it. Kitty James, then editor of Santana Magazine, asked me to write the story, I did, she liked it, decided to publish it, and my nautical free-lancing and writing career was launched.

2. What tools and process do you use to “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?

I interview them. Sure I have a “cheat sheet” to refer back to for a complete description of who they are, history, likes and dislikes—but interviewing them puts me in a different frame of mind. I learn what they are thinking NOW, Here is an EXAMPLE.

3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”? 

I’m an outliner. I have to know where the main plot and sub plots are going—the story arc, how it all fits together, Of course the characters take on a life of their own as I’m writing. When that happens, I go back and modify the outline to be true to the story—but my original story plan stays the same. 

4. In the age-old question of character versus plot, which one do you think is most important in a murder mystery and which one do you emphasize in your writing? Why?

Both! I don’t think it is possible to tell a good story without a good plot supported by interesting characters to flesh out tension, reveal human motivation, character flaws/strengths and fears.

5. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

Finding time to write. My life is so interesting. At 73, I want to continue to take it all in; not just be a voyeur. (It is the best materiel I can use as a resource for my writing—all the unique people and places and situations.) 

6. What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?

Every day is devoted to some form of reading or writing. Being on the water as a yacht delivery captain, I get a lot of time to think and jot down notes to myself. The laptop doesn’t always work and I’m isolated from the Internet at times; but that is good. Sometimes the best ideas come on the late watch, with only the light of the stars and noises from the sea for inspiration.

7. What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

If you really want it—keep after it. Continually try to improve your craft. For me it was writing short stories or feature articles, and getting comments back from good editors. The turn-around time was much quicker than writing a novel, and I was able to cover a lot of ground quickly. I still like to write the short stuff; it keeps my writing tight. 

8. Now here’s a zinger. Tell us something about yourself that you have not revealed in another interview yet. Something as simple as your favorite TV show or food will do.

I was a “greaser” in high school. Worked at an auto parts store and raced a ’40 Buick coupe in I-Stock on Sundays. Air-brushed hot rods on t-shirts to make extra money at the car shows and feed my racing habit.

9. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

I'm trying to finish two more manuscripts in the Jake Mortensen series and some more non-fiction projects/articles about boating in Mexico and Latin America. 

10. Is there anything else you would like to tell my blog readers?

Sure. Thanks for this opportunity to visit your blog, Beth. You may not know it, but you are a great inspiration to writers like me. Thank you for the way you encourage other writers and give them the tools to become better. I encourage your blog readers to please check out my blog and website.

Thanks, Doug! Now, who has a comment or question for Doug Danielson?And please make a note of Doug's blog location. We'll turn the tables and he'll interview me there tomorrow!


Unknown said...

Thanks, Beth. Looking forward to interviewing you tomorrow on the Nautical Muse!

Anonymous said...

Hey Doug Nice to see you here, and nice interview. I can picture you late at night on your boat, and getting tons of ideas for your next manuscript. And who knew you were a 'greaser' back in your youth? I love it!

Maureen Fisher said...

Stupid screen. Last comment was from me. This time I'll enter my name.

Christinekling said...

Doug - I'm always pleased to discover another author of nautical crime fiction. I'm looking forward to reading your work.

In that vein of loving to find new authors, could you name the authors who most influenced you or those you most admired?

Unknown said...

My all time favorite author is John D. MacDonald, and not just for his Travis McGee series. He knew how to get into the heads of his characters.

For contemporary Nautical mysteries, I like Clyde Ford. I did a book signing with him a couple of years ago. He lives on his boat up in the northwest.

Sally Carpenter said...

I'm late getting to this, but great interview! Are you really 76? Wished I had even half of your energy! And floating out on the seas alone at night sounds heavenly. Good luck on the new book.