Last week I posted part of an interview with artist and writer Don Dixon, whose artwork graced the covers of my Warner editions of the Nuala books. His art will also be seen on the E-books of the same titles. (Yes, that’s a different Dixon painting for Hidden Fires. Do you recognize it?) Today the interview continues as we talk about his second book idea and current interest, the detective thriller sub-genre.
Where did the second idea come from, the detective thriller?
I love the detective characters created by Robert Crais, Tess Gerritsen, Stephen Cannell, and Gregg Hurwitz because they are as much at war with themselves as with their criminal adversaries. I thought it might be fun to develop a character who doesn’t really want to be a cop, but feels he has no choice.
When Greg Barlow’s father is killed by a random gunshot from a freeway overpass, Barlow abandons his dream of becoming an artist and joins the LAPD, eventually becoming a detective. He has a desperate need to protect others from suffering as he did. His adversaries tend to be extremely smart: software engineers, scientists and the like.
In the first novel, Cerberus, Barlow is ready to dismiss the brutal murder of a young programmer as a routine drug related crime, but a midnight phone call from the victim’s sister ensnares him in a deadly game of cat and mouse that leads from the heart of the animation industry to a remote mountaintop observatory. The sister – brilliant, beautiful, reclusive software magnate Berenice Gaudette – seems completely paranoid, but she knows things only the murderer should know. She’s hiding something but her deductions are usually right and her clues put Barlow on the trail of a ruthless killer determined to guard a secret.
As Barlow closes in, he realizes Berenice’s reckless quest for revenge could endanger everything. He must protect her, even if she doesn’t seem to care whether she lives or dies, because if she is killed, a world-shaking discovery will die with her.
Have you ever used your ability to draw as a way to help prime images in your stories, like priming a pump?
My animation background helps me think in cinematic terms. When writing, I first envision the environment, then the action. It’s amusing how often, after I write a scene, I have to go back and “re-dress the set” so the action makes sense. To paraphrase Chekhov, you have to make sure the rifle is already hanging over the mantlepiece if someone is going to fire it in the third act.
What are you writing at this minute?
A Darker Shade of Green is the second Barlow book. As Barlow investigates the murder of a college student who was working for a climatologist, he explores the surprisingly dangerous world of radical environmentalism and peer-reviewed science. I’m about halfway through the first draft.
Have you tried creating a great cover for the book, and selling the book with a boost from a painting?
My alpha readers hate reading traditional manuscripts, so for both Alexandria and Cerberus I designed covers and printed two quite nice paperback copies through lulu.com. The covers were pretty good, I think. The cover for Alexandria can be viewed here.
I haven’t put up a website for Cerberus yet. Although the paperback manuscript makes alpha-reading much easier, creating cover art doesn’t seem to be a particularly useful marketing tactic; editors only care about pictures when you’re shopping a picture book.
If I write another Nuala story, have you got a great image stashed somewhere for the cover?
Dozens. Hundreds. Feel free to browse my site and see what inspires. I wouldn’t mind taking a second look at some of the original sketches that weren’t picked; those are often my favorites.