Welcome to the ninety-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with detective/mystery & western writer Wayne Dundee. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hi Wayne. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Wayne: I’m just a blue-collar guy, no formal education beyond high school. I married young, have one daughter, three grandchildren. My beloved wife of 41-plus years, alas, passed away in 2008. I now live in Ogallala, Nebraska, where I recently retired as GM of a small magnetics facility here after having worked my way up through the ranks of the larger corporation of which my plant was a part.
As far as writing, I knew I wanted to tell stories on paper almost as far back as I can remember. I started by doing comic book-style panels with sketches and dialogue balloons and so forth. But, although I continued doing some drawing, by fourth or fifth grade I knew that the story-telling part was where my main interest lay. That continued on and luckily I married a supportive wife who encouraged me to stick with it.
Morgen: And you’re still writing. 🙂 Sorry to hear about your wife, especially as she was so encouraging, some aren’t. 😦 What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Wayne: So far most of my work has been in the detective / mystery genre, featuring my Midwest PI, Joe Hannibal (first operating out of northern Illinois, where I lived when I first created him, and now relocated along with me to west central Nebraska).
Morgen: It’s handy knowing the geography – most of my novels are set around here (East Midlands, UK) or where I grew up (Buckinghamshire, UK).
Wayne: I still enjoy writing about Hannibal and don’t see myself ever abandoning him, but I always knew I wanted to try and stretch my writing into some other areas as well – Westerns, for sure, and maybe some fantasy / adventure. Recently I’ve succeeded in breaking into Westerns, with my first novel having come out just last month and a short story (“This Old Star”) from 2010 having won a Peacemaker Award from the Western Fictioneers writers organization.
Morgen: I love success stories. 🙂 So, what have you had published to-date? Can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Wayne: To-date there have been six novels in the Joe Hannibal series: THE BURNING SEASON; THE SKINTIGHT SHROUD; THE BRUTAL BALLET; AND FLESH AND BLOOD SO CHEAP; THE FIGHT IN THE DOG; and THE DAY AFTER YESTERDAY. All of these are currently being re-issued as eBooks and a seventh, brand new Hannibal—GOSHEN HOLE—is due out in August as an eBook original.
My first Western, DISMAL RIVER, is available now from Oak Tree Press.
Morgen: Ah, Oak Tree Press. I’d not heard of them (sorry about that) until I started doing these interviews and their authors have been popping up all over the place (which is great!). Sorry, you were saying…
Wayne: A second Western novel, HARD TRAIL TO SOCORRO, is due out soon from Western Trail Blazer.
I also have had close to thirty short stories published in various places over the years.
As far as seeing my first book on the shelf it was at a Barnes & Noble at the CherryVale shopping mall just outside Rockford, Illinois. Needless to say, it was a thrill. I wanted to grab every passer-by within reach and point out to them that here was my book!
Morgen: I think I’d be like that. The first time I saw my writing in print was in a Woman’s Weekly magazine in my mum’s local newsagent and I bought three copies (I later bought more from my local) and couldn’t help telling the (humourless) cashier that I had a story in it… he didn’t look impressed. 😦 How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Wayne: Since retiring and with this recent surge of product coming out, I am working harder than I ever on marketing. Which isn’t really saying much since before I hardly did any marketing at all. In the current climate, however, it seems very essential and by virtue of the internet, blogs, etc., it is easy and only takes the time and effort. Toward that end I have a web site and a personal blog and I also do the old stand-bys such as book signings, radio and newspaper interviews, and interviews like this one.
Morgen: For which I’m very grateful. 🙂 You mentioned the Peacemaker Award earlier, have you had any other competition success and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Wayne: My detective / mystery work has been nominated for an Edgar, an Anthony, and six Shamus Awards; no wins there but always an honor to be nominated.
Morgen: And something to put on your CV. Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
Wayne: I’ve never used a pseudonym so far, never had the need. But pseudonyms serve a purpose under the right circumstances. I don’t see where it really makes a difference as long as the writing is good and the author achieves what he or she sets out to do.
Morgen: Absolutely. 🙂 I’d say with your name you don’t need a pseudonym, it’s great! 🙂 Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Wayne: I’ve had agents in the past. Some were very useful, some not so much. If you’re dealing with the big New York houses they probably are vital. With the current trend in eBook publishing and smaller publishing houses, however, I don’t see them as essential.
Morgen: Me neither… so far. 🙂 Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Wayne: I am a big fan of eBooks. I read them and all of my novels will soon be available by that means.
Morgen: Yay! What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Wayne: My first acceptance was for my first Joe Hannibal story, “The Fancy Case”, by the now defunct Spiderweb Magazine. I had the unique experience of having the first story I ever submitted get accepted.
Morgen: So did I (the one in Woman’s Weekly).
Wayne: (Believe me, it didn’t come so easy after that.)
Morgen: I know how that goes. 🙂
Wayne: Getting accepted continues to provide a thrill and a great deal of satisfaction.
Morgen: 🙂 So you’ll have had some rejections along the way? If so, how do you deal with them?
Wayne: Yes, I’ve had rejections. I deal with them the same way I expect most writers, if they’re honest, do: First I feel disappointed, then I pout for a while, then I get pissed off for a while … then I get over it and move on. Perseverance—in life, and in writing—is the name of the game.
Morgen: It is. A successful writer is one who didn’t give up. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Wayne: I’m alternating back and forth on my next Joe Hannibal novel, BLADE OF THE TIGER, and my next Western, RIO MATANZA. Also doing some reviewing and blogging … oh yeah, and I’m working on this interview.
Morgen: 🙂 Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Wayne: Yes, I fit in some amount of writing every day, even if it’s only culling / revising previous passages. When I was holding down a full-time job, etc., I used to always look for large blocks of time—weekends, holidays, vacations—in which to work. But they, of course, often turned out to be busy with other things.
Morgen: They do have a habit of doing that and invariably we feel guilty for it but it’s life. 100 words a day is a healthy novella a year, 500 words a day is a War & Peace (well, almost 182,500 words towards W&P’s 560,000 but who’s counting?) 🙂
Wayne: My first agent impressed on me the importance of writing something every day … “A page a day is a book a year,” he used to preach. I average better than that, especially now, but probably the best I’ve ever done is about twenty pages.
Morgen: A wise agent. 🙂 What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Wayne: I’m not sure if what I occasionally suffer is writer’s block or simply laziness. There are times, though, when the words don’t come very easily. You just have to slug through. I find that having two books going at the same time, such I am doing now, allows you to switch over if I feel stuck on one—so that I am continuing to produce on the other.
Morgen: Almost every other interviewee has said that they go and do something else (usually writing-related or at least thinking about writing) and it works.
Wayne: Also what sometimes helps (me, at least) is to put away the writing for a while and spend some time catching up on my reading … see what my peers are doing, remind myself why I wanted to be a writer in the first place. I consider this “stoking the fire” and when I return to my own writing I find myself re-energized and ready to go.
Morgen: 🙂 Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Wayne: I plot to the extent that I need a premise and then some rough idea of how things are going to conclude (even though it doesn’t always turn out that way). A personal quirk of mine is that I also need to have a title before I start writing—a title, for me, is important to setting the overall tone or mood of the story I am aiming to tell. Once those sketchy bits of framework are in place, yeah, for the rest I just sort of “run with it” to try and get from the premise to the intended conclusion.
Morgen: I don’t need to have titles but I can never understand why pieces of writing are published as ‘Untitled’… OK, fair enough it’s mostly poetry but to me that’s just being lazy. If you don’t know what the piece is about enough to label it then how is your reader supposed to… although with poetry it’s more open to interpretation but it annoys me, although I rarely read poetry anyway so I don’t get annoyed very often. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable? Anyway, where were we?
Wayne: I sometimes “cast” my characters based on a film actor / actress in a certain role I feel suits to the mood of my story. I’m careful never to put in the writing anything as overt as, for example: “Molly Golly reminded me of a young Marilyn Monroe”. But in my mind I see Molly as played by Marilyn so her appearance, voice, mannerisms, etc., are set firmly for me whenever I use Molly in a scene. Names come to me as I need them. What makes a character believable is that they act in keeping with how I—the writer—have painted them.
Morgen: What a great idea (noted). 🙂 Who is your first reader Wayne?
Wayne: I have two pals—Lynn Myers and Randy Stansbery—who see my work first. They’re both insightful in different ways and give me good feedback.
Morgen: Ooh, do they write? Would they like to do one of these interviews? 🙂
Wayne: (I used to read a lot of my stuff to my wife but, sadly, she is no longer available.)
Morgen: 😦 I like the way you put that though. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Wayne: Most of the time my first draft is pretty clean. Sometimes when I’m stuck in “writer’s block” mode I’ll go back with what I’ve already written and make unnecessary changes which I often end up changing back to the original later on. When the work is completed, I let it sit for a bit and then go back and do one more read-through and do a little tweaking during that, but usually nothing too drastic.
Morgen: I find now having written probably more than a million words (which, I think, is what (probably) Ernest Hemmingway said was the prerequisite to being a good writer – mine’s certainly stronger) that I know when I’m waffling (like now :)) or going off at a tangent. OK I’m reeling myself back in now. What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Wayne: Nothing too complicated. I power the computer screen, bring up whatever I’m going to be working on, skim a few recent passages to get back in the flow then begin to write.
Morgen: 🙂 Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Wayne: Write on computer, edit on paper.
Morgen: Snap. 🙂 What sort of music do you listen to when you write?
Wayne: None. I like it quiet.
Morgen: Ah, not snap. 🙂 I like classical. No words but something going on. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
Wayne: The Joe Hannibal stories, which comprise most of my work, have been first person. I’m probably most comfortable with that. My Westerns are third person, though, and I enjoyed using a multiple POV for the large cast.
Morgen: It is probably the easiest when you have more than one person. Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Wayne: I’ve used both, epilogues more than prologues. I think they can be very effective when done right, but I think there are times when they’re used unnecessarily.
Morgen: And I used to skip over them… until I wrote one, now I’m more sympathetic. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Wayne: Oh yeah. Not a lot, but a couple for sure.
Morgen: Well that’s good going. I have loads. Well, old bad stuff that may be resuscitable (my spell checker has red unlined that so I assume I’ve just made up a word – as I do). What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Wayne: My favourite is completing a scene or passage then going back, re-reading it and feeling satisfied that I nailed exactly what I set to do. I don’t really have a least favourite, other maybe than feeling guilty when I’ve wasted time that should have been spent writing.
Morgen: Oh dear. Well, unless you’re watching TV all day every day, I’d say you need a break every now and then. If you’re anything like me your brain will still be working. If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Wayne: When I sometimes get to a scene or point in the story that I’d planned to go a certain way and then finding out when I get there that it suddenly doesn’t feel right, that it won’t work that way at all. I used to read interviews with writers who would say things like “When I got to such-and-such scene, Hardboiled Harry refused to cooperate with what I’d intended to write” … I always thought that sounded sort of artsy-fartsy and I used to think: What a crock—You’re the writer, he’s your character, do it the way you want! While in no way admitting to being artsy-fartsy, I have since found that there are occasions where something like that can happen.
Morgen: I think unless you write, you can’t appreciate how characters can take over… I love it. 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Wayne: The old classic: Apply butt to chair, fingers to keyboard, and WRITE. Write everything you can, any time you can. Also, read—read other writers already published in the genre you aspire to, see how the established pros get it done.
Morgen: Yes, absolutely. Write and read. Read and write. It doesn’t matter which order. What do you like to read?
Wayne: As per above, I read in the genres I write in—to inspire me, to “stoke the fire”, and simply because that’s the stuff I enjoy and what caused me to want to be a writer in the first place.
Morgen: Some budding writers are worried about plagiarism but you’d have to have a good memory to remember enough chunks of it to cause you trouble… one of my writers she writes (amazing) sci-fi because it’s “what came out” but has never read a word of it which always amuses me. 🙂 In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Wayne: I live in a very rural part of the United States. It is a help in capturing the distinct setting I am using for much of my current writing; it is somewhat of a hindrance in promoting my work as far as book signings, personal appearances, etc.
Morgen: But thankfully we have the internet these days… Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Wayne: Not at this time. I suspect they may have some value, but I have never participated so cannot say for certain.
Morgen: They are but incredible time-consuming so you could dip your toe in sometime. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: Yes, please do (it’s a very handsome looking website by the way Wayne). Finally, what do you think the future holds for a writer?
Wayne: Same as always—Write, and find an audience. Actually, with outlets such as internet e-zines and eBook publishing I think it is a very exciting time for writers.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Wayne: Only to say thank you for this opportunity to talk about myself and my writing.
Morgen: You’re very welcome – lovely to meet you Wayne, and all the best with your projects. 🙂
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
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