Monday, December 26, 2011

Interview with RP Dahlke

Dead Red Cadillac

My guest is Rebecca Dahlke. I read Dead Red Cadillac and loved it, so I asked if I could interview her. She's fun!
How did your ex-model heroine, Lalla Baines, get to be a crop duster? That's quite a switch.
A: When Lalla got her Aero Ag certificate at 18, a local newspaper article got picked up nationally which led to attention from a modeling agent, and the rest is history. (The afore mentioned is entirely fiction, you know… ain’t this fun?)

Have you done crop dusting? Are you a pilot?
A: My dad taught me how to fly, but I was never enamored enough with the process to get my license. Ironically, I ran his crop-dusting business for several years, and that was a hoot.  And yes, a lot of the fun parts in my Lalla Bains’ books are from this time—me, as boss lady telling a pilot that if he wanted a potty break he could pee off the wing—all true. Some of the characters were also from my experience in running the business, but a lot of it was from my son, John Shanahan, who was also an Aero-Ag pilot. Unfortunately, he died in a work related accident in 2005.  I struggled through five years of not writing, which was purgatory for someone who wrote every day of her life until… well, it just wasn’t there anymore.
I picked it up again just last year, did some rewrites on both A DEAD RED CADILLAC & A DEAD RED HEART and published the first in March of 2011 and the second in July of 2011. I’m presently working on A DEAD RED OLEANDER, the third, and final Lalla Bains book. Then, I’ll start a new series that I’m excited about, based on a fun, fictional town in Southern Arizona. It will again have a mystery in every book along with the romance, humor and family dynamics that my fans tell me they love so much about the Dead Red series.

Your new book, A Dangerous Harbor, features a new character, Katy Hunter. How did you come up with her? Will we be seeing more of her?
A: I’m absolutely thrilled to see that readers are telling me how much they enjoyed A Dangerous Harbor. I bill it as a romantic mystery, but Amazon has it up under Romantic Suspense… and it’s quickly climbing in the rankings on Amazon!
This story was the result of my experiences sailing in Mexican waters with my husband aboard our 47ft. Cutter Rigged Hylas sailboat.  I loved sailing, loved the ocean, loved writing this story, loved Mexico and its people, and yes, I can honestly say that this was one of the best times of my life.
Though I treat this book as a stand-alone, I have another romantic sailing mystery in the works.  “Hurricane Hole” will pick up where it left off at the end of “A Dangerous Harbor” and will feature Katy’s glamorous TV star sister, Leila Standiford. And, just for fun, Gabe Alexander will continue to be part of that soup.

Tell us about your most exciting sailing adventure.
A: Triston Jones, the legendary sailor, is said to have quipped, “It’s not the deep blue ocean that worries me, it’s the hard stuff around the edges.”
Here’s one we experienced:
Dead Red Heart
The aftermath of a Pacific hurricane sends rollers crashing onto shore along the Mexican coastline for days afterwards. It also plays havoc with private boats trying to enter the narrow estuary into the Matzatlan marina.  So, after a night sail to get there, we were disappointed to be refused same day entry. But the next day brought sunshine and calmer waters… well, sort of. Yesterday’s crashing surf along the beach was now somewhat abated, but there were still rollers grumbling up and over the rock entrance of the estuary. We decided to do donuts outside, circling while we counted the rollers, waiting for a calm spot and then we’d make a run for it.
 Onesies, twosies and three… and then the sea is quiet then back to onsies, twosies…  and we’re pushing the throttle hard as we aim straight for the entrance and the clear and calm water beyond the rock wall. Then a rollers slides a hand under us, picks up the middle, our prop and rudder now useless appendages hanging-ten over the back side of this wave. Now we’re sideways, 47 tons of sailboat hurled into the estuary where one Mexican panga with wide-eyed fishermen stare in disbelief while my husband whistles tunelessly (he does that when he’s nervous, or happy… I couldn’t tell which as by then I was hyperventilating and squeaking).
 And then, just as quickly, prop and rudder catch hold and our boat rights herself and we’re straight again, gliding silently past the panga full of fishermen crossing themselves again and again and again.

Where do you work?
In my last and final “real job” before retiring to go sailing, I was a licensed contractor working with hospitals. I’ve been blessed to be able to remain retired so that I can finally do full time what I love to do—write lies for a living.

What's your favorite beverage?
A: I love my one cup of coffee at 6a.m. every morning, then I switch to tea, cold in the summer, and hot in the winter months. I love a very good wine, especially if it’s served on a veranda, in Italy, in late summer.

Do you write in silence? To music? TV?
A: I have to write in absolute silence as I’m prone to distractions. “Hi doggy, would you like to go for a walk? Me, too!”

Describe your writing process. What's the hardest part for you to write?
A Dangerous Harbor
A: Full time writing is for the insane, or soon to be, or at least should be. It’s love and hate and butt in the chair work and I can’t imagine anything I’d rather do with my life. Add a fan e-mail from someone who says, “I’ve read all your books, and love them! When’s the next one coming out?” and I’m on cloud nine. That said, BIG chunks of time pass before I come up for air… and… is that winter out there? Already? What happened to summer?
The hardest part for me is the first chapter and then the ability to leave it alone until I’m completely done with the first draft. I wanna tweak it, make it better, make it pretty, but first chapters can change, and in some instances should change, as the story unfolds.
First lines in a book are my favorite thing to create. I think this is where readers decide… buy me, or not.

Do you require an orderly space to write in?
A: I work in an office converted from a guest bedroom. On one wall, I have a huge white board where I write notes about the book I’m working on. On another wall is a bank of cork boards with very important e-mail addresses, websites, book clubs, book fairs, author associations, contests that I need to join, attend, enter (or not) and sales records for the day/week/month, a picture of my dad, mom, son, daughter, some coupons for free taco shells, a few ribbons won from painting.
 I also have two calendars (invariably I forget to write on one and lose the other).
Computer and copy machine are on a table under the flapping line up of paper tacked to said corkboards.
That was what you meant by orderly, wasn’t it?

What comes first, cleaning house or writing?
A: Cleaning house? Surely, you jest… okay, just kidding. My book sales check comes in, I pay the housekeeper. She tells everyone she makes money from books… hey, it works for us.

What are your favorite activities? Any sports? Are you able to use them in your books?
A: Working my way through my “Bucket List” having checked off sailing on the deep blue ocean, I went river rafting this summer. Glad I did it and lived to tell the tale. Check that one off the list. I’ve decided hang-gliding, bungy jumping, and free climbing the face of Half-Dome in Yosemite, sadly, is going to have to be deleted from that list. Too old.

How far do you go when researching for a book? Assuming you haven't murdered anyone, what do you do?
RP Dahlke
A:  I love asking questions of experts. I’ve met all sorts. One very nice man who knew a lot about what I wanted to write but had had a bad experience with someone who took too many liberties with the interview, finally agreed to give me the info but wouldn’t allow me to use his name.  I sent him a nice box of See’s Candy as a thank you. Good Karma.
You also might be surprised what you can get out of experts if you promise to make them taller, thinner, and/or better looking in your book.  Then there are some who simply want nothing to do with fiction writers, in which case, you move on to the next one. I was once desperate, in a pinch and tempted to say that I was James North Patterson’s researcher, but nixed that at the last minute. Bad Karma.

I'm also impressed with your artwork. You mention plein air black and gold frames. Are you a plein air painter?
A: What a nice thing for you to say! I love to paint, almost as much as I love to write, and the plein air refers to the kind of simple frame that I use on my painting, but painting plein-aire?
Okay, so picture this: You’ve found the perfect spot next to this picturesque creek. Everything is green and the water is gently burbling along and you’re so happy to be there. You set up your primed canvas on the portable easel, and sketch out the scene then start painting. But, wait, the light has changed in the time it took for you to set up so your composition is now wrong. Pick up the easel and move it two feet over and, oh, wait, now it’s dropped in hole and your wet canvas has fallen into the grass, and oh crap! there’s grass to pick off the wet paint, and the wind comes up and blows down your easel, your can of thinner, the ants are carrying off your lunch and your patience with painting en-plein-aire is now gone! As far as I’m concerned, that’s why cameras were invented.
I paint for enjoyment and the mission statement on my painting page, says, “Most artists strive for a fresh improvisational kinetic stasis in an attempt to balance the chaos of creativity. My philosophy tilts more towards Larry the Cable Guy — “Get’er done!”
I consider myself an entertainer. John Steinbeck, I’m not. He’s down the hall, two doors to the left.
            Thanks for having me here.

Rebecca aka RP Dahlke


E. B. Davis said...

Wow, awed by your life experiences, Rebecca. It's no wonder that you write. I like that you consider yourself an entertainer because I think that attitude is a key to success. Many writers don't "get" that perspective on themselves and their writing.

Polly Iyer said...

Wonderful interview, Rebecca and Ellis. What interesting experiences. You forgot to mention your All Mystery E-newsletter where you give authors a platform to promote their books. You've helped indie authors like me. That takes time away from your writing, so I thank you for everyone who has benefited from your generosity.

Marilyn Levinson said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this interview, Ellis and Rebecca.
Rebecca, you sure have led an interesting life, and your books sound very appealing. I, for one, am grateful to you for the e-mystery Yahoo group you've set up for authors.

Jinx Schwartz said...

Nice interview. Rebecca and I shared some boating experiences in Mexico, and I, too, appreciate the e-mystery Yahoo group where we writers can plug our books, meet new readers and other writers.

Lesley A. Diehl said...

Too old to bungee jump? Bah! Ican't see Rebecca as too old to do anything. What an interesting life you've led and still lead. I love your protagonists, so keep 'em coming.


Ellis Vidler said...

I benefited from the newsletter too, and now from the group. It was fun, and I found many good books from the reviews there.

When do you expect A Dead Red Oleander to be out? I'm looking forward to it.

RP Dahlke said...

Hi Ellis, and I see my writting buddies here dropping in to say howdy! Ain't this fun? As for A Dead Red Oleander, I'm working on it. Thanks again Ellis for inviting me to your blog!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Ellis and Rebecca,

What an interesting life! If the novels are half as fascinating as your background, you've got a bestseller! Wishing you every success.

Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

Thank you for introducing me to this marvelously interesting author.

I am pleased to meet you, Rebecca! I love your comment about paying the housekeeper who says she earns money from books.

I will start with A Dead Red Cadillac at your recommendation, Ellis.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2012 to both of you and your families.