Interviewed by Jon Michaelsen © 2014
David, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group.
Let’s start off with, where do you live?
I live in Newton, MA, seven miles west of Boston. It’s actually a fairly large city, but divided into thirteen villages so it’s more like a bunch of small town centers spread out over a large area. We live in Newtonville, which has historically been more working class. Lots of multi-family homes, retirees, and younger families with kids. Very suburban, but with small yards.
Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?
My husband Brian and I have been together for about nine years, married for just over four. We live in a small Arts & Crafts bungalow with our dog, Blue (the real-life model for Blue in the last three Michel Doucette-Sassy Jones books). We’re not entirely shut-ins, but we come close sometimes. On warm evenings you can usually find us on the patio—grilling, having cocktails, and cursing the neighborhood kids for being loud.
When I’m working on a book, I’m typically at my desk by 5 AM and write until 9. Then I walk Blue and start my day job as a graphic designer. I’m self-employed and work at home, so if it’s a slow day, I might be able to fit in a little more writing, but that’s rare except on weekends. I’m very regimented about writing. I treat it like another job…that pays roughly a nickel an hour.
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date?
In terms of writing, just the fact that I’ve written seven books and along the way managed to create characters and a series that some people care about. I mean, how many people get to do that? And I’m proud of myself for resisting the temptation to continue beyond the point I felt the series should end.
That said, the biggest writing-related rush was finding out that Echoes was a Lammy finalist. At that point I’d sold just over 400 books, including literally 37 copies of Echoes, so it was really exciting to get that recognition, especially alongside Richard Stevenson, Garry Ryan, and Greg Herren.
Have you ever had to deal with homophobia after your novels were released, and if so, what forms has it taken?
Not that I’m aware.
The multi-nominated, Lambda Award winning Quarter Boys mystery series is what fans have come to know you for, beginning in early 2010 with the release of the incredible novel, The Quarter Boys. Why did you choose to self-publish your gay mystery series instead of seeking out a publisher?
It wasn’t a choice initially. I wanted to go the traditional publishing route, but didn’t get any interest from agents or publishers, even after Echoes won the Lammy. At that point I decided to just stick with self-publishing. The advantage has been that I control everything and can bring out books quickly. The downside is that I have to handle my own promotion, and I’m pretty clueless and lackadaisical about that part. If Drewey Wayne Gunn and Amos Lassen hadn’t happened across The Quarter Boys, I might never have had a published review. I’ve been very lucky, though, with word-of-mouth publicity.
One can’t help but fall in love with Michel Doucette of the Quarter Boys series; Where did you draw your inspiration for creating such a humble, damaged and broken, “wears his heart on his sleeve” homicide cop?
Thanks, Jon. I wish I could claim that Michel was carefully conceived, but the truth is that he and Sassy were both happy accidents. The writing of The Quarter Boys was like a month-long fever dream. Other than a basic concept and the characters of Joel and Lady Chanel, I made it up as I went along. Michel and Sassy were created on the fly when I decided I needed two secondary cop characters. In the chapter where he first appears, the reader learns that Michel drinks Jack Daniels, is emotionally guarded, and has recently lost his mother. That was just lazy autobiography because I didn’t expect him to play a very large role. It wasn’t until I realized he and Sassy had become the main characters that I went back to figure out how those pieces could be developed. Fortunately there was enough there to work with, and I’ve become a big believer that not all happy accidents are really accidents. Sometimes you just have to trust that your subconscious knows what it’s doing and then figure out how or why something works later.
Why did you choose to end the Quarter Boys series with the sixth and final novel, Fierce?
I prefer mystery series where the main characters are affected by what happens and evolve from book to book, like the Henry Rios and Benjamin Justice books. My series was as much about Michel’s and Sassy’s personal journeys as the mysteries, which usually served as catalysts. Essentially, I completed their personal arcs—or at least took them to the places I’d wanted—and wasn’t interested in just having them solve mysteries, despite the fact that I loved writing them. I think the fans of the series got that. I’ve gotten a number of emails that basically said, “I hated to see the series end but understood why you did it, and I feel satisfied by the conclusion.”
There was also a small element of fear. I was afraid that the longer I continued, the greater the chance I was going to screw things up. If I write a crappy book now, it might diminish my own reputation, such as it is, but it won’t diminish the series.
Have you considered releasing your Quarter Boys series in audiobook?
Yes, though I haven’t done anything about it yet. This is one of those areas where being a one-man band can be a handicap. I can only put so much time into the books, and I’d rather focus on writing. I’d also like to bundle the whole series into a single digital volume at some point.
Your new mystery, DeadFall, is a bit of a departure from The Quarter Boys series; what influenced you to write it?
It actually started as a joke when I told some old friends that I was going to set my next book “on the mean streets” of our hometown, which is about as far from actual mean streets as you can get, but then I became intrigued by the idea of doing something related to my own past. I didn’t have any ideas for the plot until I came across an article about a coma patient waking after a number of years and started wondering what it would be like if you went into a coma as a teenager and came out of it well into adulthood: How much of the past would you remember? Would you be emotionally adolescent or adult? How would you relate to people from the past?
The story built from there, though it took me about a year to crack how to fit the different elements together and make it a mystery.
It’s definitely a different type of mystery for me, and I’ve gotten a few comments that it even seems to have been written by a different person, though I think it links thematically to some of the series’ books.
Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?
I’ve been playing around with a black-humored horror mystery set in South Boston in the mid-1970s, during the period when the city’s public schools were being integrated by court order. I really love the concept, and I’ve had fun developing some characters, but I still haven’t committed mentally or emotionally to writing it. I’m not sure it has legs enough to sustain a whole book, and I don’t know that I want to take a detour into speculative fiction. So I guess technically there is no WIP.
On behalf of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook Group, thank you so much for sharing your time with us and answering questions fans of the genre would like to know.
Thanks, Jon. I appreciate the opportunity to blather about myself.
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