Scene: a sun-drenched patio in Playa Flamenca, Spain..
Hi Dale, Welcome to Spain and Chez Lennick. May I ask you a few questions?
Dale: Fire away!
Me: First off, would you like a cold beer?
Dale: It would be rude not to…Thanks.
Me: Would you tell us a few relevant facts about yourself: where you were born, lived and work/worked, and have you travelled much?
Dale: I was born in Summit, New Jersey in August of 1948. We moved around a bit when I was young. Actually I moved very five or six years until I landed in London, England where I lived for sixteen years. We lived in New Jersey, Washington D.C., and Ohio when I was young. I went to college in Ohio and then moved to Montana followed by California. They were both great places to live. In 1987 I moved to Great Britain where I stayed for almost thirty years. Now I’m in Seattle, Washington. I’ve been here a year and a few days and am doing my best adjusting to life back in the United States. I must confess, it’s not easy.
You asked if I have traveled much. The last time I counted I have been to 67 countries. For about ten years I was putting in about 100,000 miles a year in the air. I’ve been fortunate in this regard. I loved it, but it was tiring and now I’m settled here in Seattle.
Me: Wow! You’ve certainly burnt up some shoe leather…and clocked up some air miles! How interesting. Now, about the kernel in the shell: your writing… What inspired you to write in the first place?
Dale: A desire to write began when was in high school. I actually started writing a sci fi book then – it was crap! I never had the discipline to write and work full time, that is to write fiction. Much of my work demanded some writing of various kinds. But I retired early – around 62 – in part to begin writing in earnest and to create a website to post my writing and to provide a place for other people to publish their writing. I’m happy to say that I’m doing both of those things and enjoying it.
Me: I know everyone asks this question, but have you a specific routine or are you a more spontaneous writer?
Dale: I have a kind of routine. I’m a real night person so most of my creative time is late at night and early in the morning. I usually spend a couple of hours in the afternoon on whatever project I’m working on. That doesn’t mean I necessarily write, though I might. But more than not I reread what I wrote the day before, work on my flow charts – I keep flow charts of the narrative so I can quickly find scenes I want to look back on. I also may do some research. That sort of thing. At about 10:30 pm I go up to my study and begin writing. I’ll work until about 2:30 am, run the spell check, and then go off to bed. I love working like that. The world is quiet and it seems peaceful. And if it’s raining, I crack the window open a bit. The sound of the rain is great.
Me: Do you edit as you write or map out a rough draft/s first? And are you meticulous as regards to research?
Dale: I edit some when I write, but I’m a lousy editor of my own work – not unusual for writers. When I’ve completed a book, I print out that first draft for editing. When I’m done it goes to my wife who will go through it twice. Then it goes to a professional editor I use through the publisher. That edit is great and necessary, as far as I’m concerned. The professional editor not only makes sure the book is in the proper grammatical style demanded by the publishers, she (mine is a she) also finds plot holes, etc.
I don’t create a detailed outline or synopsis of the book before I begin. I do have a general outline, mostly in my head, but some on paper. That outline will change as I write. Those flow charts I mentioned allow me to keep a hold of the narrative structure as I write so I can see what is happening. They allow me to keep some control of the story. If I were made to write a detailed outline first, I’d never begin the writing.
I do a lot of research for both my fiction and nonfiction writing. A lot of that research is done before I begin writing, but not all. I often click on Google when I’m writing, look something up, do the research, and then return to the writing. It works for me. If you were to look at my word count each night, those nights with less words are also the nights I did a lot of research. I don’t lose the flow of my writing when I do that. And I enjoy the research as well.
Me: I have just finished your recently published book ‘The Woman in White Marble’ and I must say I was very impressed at the way the story-line just zipped along. Your writing flows really well. Do you have a clear idea of the way the complete story should go or do you let your characters lead you?
Dale: Well, as I said, I start with a general outline, but when I sit down to write, while I know in general what I will write about each evening, I often have no idea what the details will be or what the characters will do and say. Sometimes, however, a future scene will come to me in detail, so I pause and write that down in its detail so I don’t lose it. For example, I always discover the ending of my books at the beginning only a few days into the writing. I stop and write it down, either in my notebook or in a computer file. When I actually get to the end, it will change some, but I’m surprised how accurate that first imagining was.
Me: What inspired ‘The Woman in White Marble’?
Dale: You’ll notice that the book is dedicated to Peter Crook. Peter was a dear friend of mine. He died suddenly and I participated in his memorial service. A couple days after that service I was lying on the couch supposedly watching TV. What I was actually doing was remembering my times with Peter. Something happened on the TV that sparked with my thoughts and a general outline for the story just appeared in my mind’s eye. I laid there for a few minutes thinking about it, then got up, went upstairs to my study, and started writing. The book is interesting and fun because Peter was interesting and fun. It was really written for his wife and two daughters, my good friends.
Me: At roughly what age did you start writing seriously?
Dale: Depends what kind of writing we are talking about. Nonfiction probably in my early thirties. Fiction when I was 62.
Me: Now for the three W’s – Where do you write? What do you have a preference for: fact or fiction? And When is your favorite time to write?
Dale: I write in my upstairs study. Where ever we live, one of the bedrooms becomes my study. It’s filled with books, photos from around the world, and items I brought back from my travels.
I now prefer fiction, though I do nonfiction writing for my website almost every week.
My best time for writing is between 10:30 pm and 3:00 am.
Me: Have you a favourite writing tip you can share with us?
Dale: Not sure I do, except to find what works for you. I’ve read a few “how to write” book by successful authors. I enjoyed them and got some tips. But those book are really “how I write” books which have authority because they are written by successful authors. But how they write may not be how you write. I think Stephen King said you should first create a detailed outline. On the other hand, Ian Rankin doesn’t even know “who done it” when he begins writing his mysteries. They are both very successful authors, but you can’t take advice from them both.
I did read in one “how to write” books that if you never actually get down to writing something, and not just thinking about writing something, then you are probably not a writer and should go on to something else. Seemed like good advice.
Me: Who is your favorite writer/s?
Dale: To name a few: Philip Roth, Toni Morrison, Chuck Palahniuk, Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers, Kurt Vonnegut, Barbara Kingsolver, Roberto Bolaňo, Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, and Joyce Carol Oates.
Me: What’s next, Dale? Do you plan writing anything specific, or does your Muse surprise you?
Dale: I’m currently writing a second Drake Ramsey mystery – Drake is the protagonist in The Woman in White Marble. This one takes place in New Orleans so the city is a character in the book as well. I’m enjoying it very much.
Ideas are never a problem for me. I have another novel sitting in my computer – well, 4000 words of it – which I will return to when I’m done with good old Drake Ramsey.
Me: I feel I have taken up enough of your time! It’s been fascinating talking to you. Thank you for the interview. I’m looking forward to your next book!
Dale: Thank you.
You can find Dale at The Back Road Café