Today I posted a review for "Motive" by Dustin Stevens. As part of the review process, I also had the opportunity to do a brief interview with the author I wanted to share.
MTG: I posted a review for your book yesterday; tell us something about the book that is not in the summary. (About the book, character you particularly enjoyed writing etc.)
Dustin: In my day job, I work as a healthcare attorney in downtown Honolulu. During the first half of each calendar year, a large part of what I do consists of going the state legislature, sitting in hearings regarding bills, testifying on said bills, etc.
Often between hearings, a great deal of the actual work that goes on at the capitol is conducted standing along the open-air railing encasing the interior of the building. It was during one such encounter that I happened to look down and somebody had thrown a towel across the mosaic in the center of the floor.
It was that single image that become the opening scene for the book.
MTG: Do you have a favorite book(s) and why? I know it’s often impossible to narrow it down to one, so just pick one (or a few) that is a new favorite or consistent “go-to”.
Dustin: I actually tend to gravitate more towards authors than individual books. For the most part, the great writers consistently produce solid material, meaning that if something isn’t necessarily their best work, it is still very entertaining.
For me, the two standby’s are the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child and the Joe Pickett novels by C.J. Box. I am a big proponent of my local library system and I often reserve new releases weeks or even months in advance.
The reasons they appeal to me so much is I like the way both authors have created compelling, enduring character lines that exist outside traditional conventions. Reacher is a man that was a part of the military system for thirteen years and broke free, a conscious, free-choosing drifter, who still manages to find himself in tight situations. Pickett is a Game Warden in Wyoming that encounters much different adventures from the typical government employee.
MTG: What books are you reading now?
Dustin: At the moment I am on a Robert Crais kick. I just finished “Suspect”, which was fantastic (my being a huge dog person didn’t hurt at all), and am moving into “Taken”. Unless I’m neck-deep in my own writing I tend to go through a couple books a week, so it changes frequently.
MTG: Where do you find inspiration for your writing? Is anything inspired by real-life or do you typically let your imagination run wild?
Dustin: It is a combination of the two. Most of every book has at least a shred of real-life in them, if for no other reason than the settings. I have been fortunate to live in fifteen different cities (thus far), and every one of my novels is set in one of them, allowing me to mix in my own experiences. (Unless it is absolutely necessary for a plot line, I try to depict things exactly as I have found them)
As far as the major through-lines for my stories, the sources are varied. Many of my friends and family now know to keep an active ear for interesting nuggets that I might be able to work with, the two most notable examples being “Dead Peasants” (my mama saw a television show on the abominable insurance practice) and now “Motive” (my best friend is a med student that tipped me off about what becomes the backbone for this one).
MTG: Where do you usually find yourself writing?
Dustin: I’m a bit different from most writers in that I don’t need a particular space, privacy, or even complete silence. I find myself writing a great deal on my lanai overlooking Waikiki, but I’ve been known to write on planes, in airports, etc.
MTG: It’s unusual for authors to write across many genres. Has this presented any specific challenges or interesting results?
Dustin: I’ve never actually considered myself a writer of any particular genre…I just like to write stories as they come to me.
For me, the writing process begins with a nugget, a scene, a character, and from there I build a skeleton outline. Once that is in place I let it marinate for a while until I figure out the best voice for that particular story to be written in. That’s why looking at the style of something like “Motive” is so vastly different from the Zoo Crew novels.
MTG: What has been the biggest reward to your writing so far?
Dustin: Far and away, it has been the response to “Be My Eyes”. That story began as a screenplay that so many people seemed to really respond to I decided to reverse-adapt into a novel.
I knew when writing it that Ruby was the favorite character I’ve ever created, but due to the underlying melancholy of the story and her in particular, I wasn’t sure how people would react to her. Much to my surprise/relief, it has been overwhelmingly positive, with many people telling me her story is one that will stay with them for a long time.
That’s ultimately why many of us do this, to create something that truly resonates with people.
MTG: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Dustin: The two big ones that have been said so many times by so many people, I will actually borrow quotes from people far more talented than I to explain.
The first is read. Anything and everything. Stephen King once said, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time, or the tools, to write.” He is absolutely right.
The second, obviously, is write. Even on days when it feels like work, even on projects that don’t seem to be going well. I once read an interview with Lisa Gardner who said, “It’s a lot easier to edit a bad page than a blank one.”
MTG: Give us three “Good to Know” facts. Be creative: first job, likes/dislikes, hobbies, favorite way to unwind – whatever comes to mind.
- English bulldogs pop up in a couple of my novels, and each time they are based on my own bullie, Nodia, who has been with me for nine years.
- As mentioned before, I am now on my fifteenth city in the last dozen years, including Boston, Washington D.C., Nashville, Missoula, Portland, and now Honolulu. (Yes, I do surf…no, it’s not especially pretty)
- Halloween is far and away my favorite holiday of the year. The picture that pops up most often (as well as here) is from last year with my niece, Maddie. Every year, wherever I’m living, I go back and we all carve pumpkins and go trick-or-treating together.
MTG: Do you have any upcoming projects?
Dustin: At the moment I have three different projects in various states. The fourth Zoo Crew novel “Fracked” will be released around Thanksgiving, and is another legal-ish thriller set in Montana.
In addition, “The Boat Man” and “The Lam”, both standalone thrillers, will be released in the first couple months of 2015.
MTG: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Dustin: As terribly cheesy and clichéd as it sounds, I would just like to say thank you, both to bloggers such as yourself that have been so kind in helping get the word out about my work, and to the readers who have been nothing short of incredible.
All feedback I get, whether it be from reviews, emails, etc., I read and pay attention to. I am thankful for the generous words many offer, but also for the constructive criticism along the way. My main goal in all this is to tell stories people want to read, so any help I can get in achieving that is always welcomed.
About the Author:
I originally hail from the midwest, growing up in the heart of farm country, and still consider it, along with West Tennessee, my co-home. Between the two, I have a firm belief that football is the greatest of all past-times, sweet tea is really the only acceptable beverage for any occasion, there is not an event on earth that either gym shorts or boots can't be worn to, and that Dairy Queen is the best restaurant on the planet. Further, southern accents are a highly likeable feature on most everybody, English bulldogs sit atop the critter hierarchy, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with a Saturday night spent catfishing at the lake.
Since leaving the midwest I've been to college in New England, grad school in the Rockies, and lived in over a dozen different cities ranging from DC to Honolulu along the way. Each and every one of these experiences has shaped who I am at this point, a fact I hope is expressed in my writing. I have developed enormous affinity for locales and people of every size and shape, and even if I never figure out a way to properly convey them on paper, I am very much grateful for their presence in my life. [From website listed below]