Are you ready for another BACKSTAGE Chat? This time we’re joined by John Reinhard Dizon. John has been writing suspense and thrillers for more than two and a half decades! Let’s find out more.
BC: First, tell us what you’re working on currently?
JRD: At this time I’m working on The Storm. It’s set in 1933-34 Germany just before the Night of the Long Knives. Two gangster brothers are trying to stem the tide of Nazi repression by maximizing profits while evading the SS and Gestapo dragnets across Berlin. They operate a cabaret, are involved in blackmarketing with the Bony-Lafont Gang in Paris, and have strong connections with the SA Storm Troopers. Plus there’s a romantic angle with a Hollywood actress connected with the US/UK spy network. Lots of angles that resonate with themes we’re seeing in today’s headlines.
BC: Ah yes, romance! Speaking of…which of your characters would you want to date?
JRD: Sabrina Brooks (aka the Nightcrawler). She’s drop dead gorgeous, sexy but impossibly old-fashioned. Plus she’s highly intelligent (a chemical engineer) and has her own money as a heiress. She’s also in fantastic shape as a notorious vigilante. Personality-wise, she’s a lot like Princess Jennifer of Edinburgh in Tiara, but Bree is far from sheltered and has developed many more skills to ensure her survival on the streets of NYC. She’s the kind of girl you’d never forget on a social basis. Criminals never forget the Nightcrawler either.
BC: What do you feel is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
JRD: The Kindle Unlimited system has a long way to go as far as paying royalties. Though Amazon has evened the playing field as far as unpublished authors having opportunities, Amazon Prime allows readers to get e-books for free. It’s unclear as to how authors can profit from this, and how distribution can be registered if one’s work is being given away for free.
BC: Very good points. Definitely something we all need to be aware of. When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?
JRD: Right after I come up with a concept for a novel I pick the ‘stars of the movie’, the major protagonist. Manx and Rolf Herzberg in The Storm were loosely based on the Krays in England, though Rolf comes across more like Walter White than Ronnie Kray. Ingrid Strasbourg helps develop the subplot with the Propaganda Ministry as well as the romantic angle. After that you bring characters as needed, like enforcers Stuka and Thor, and Manx’s boyhood friend Blitz, a detective with the Berlin Police. As the story progresses one finds that the characters begin helping to write the novel.
BC: I like how you mentioned the word “movie.” My business card says “Creator of Mind Movies.” So what would you say is your writing Kryptonite?
JRD: Writer’s block and lack of sales. I lost motivation for most of this year, then got the fever again this Fall which allowed me to finish up The Blight before starting on this one. If you don’t catch the bug, you end up forcing yourself which results in low quality work. When you get the fever you end up exceeding your own expectations. It becomes hard to stay away from the keyboard.
BC: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
JRD: Interact with people in the industry and find out what works and what doesn’t. Editing is a major part of the process, just as the mixing process in the recording studio is where the most vital (and difficult) work is done. If you don’t know what to rewrite and delete when you’re editing, you’ll end up with a product that won’t sell. I started writing before there was an Internet and literally didn’t have a clue.
BC: So true. I can’t stress enough the importance of editing. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
JRD: I’d have to say Stxeamtown. It’s my only steampunk novel which I sold to Prizm Publishing, an obscure and incompetent company. They don’t even offer it in paperback, so I don’t have a copy. The novel itself is delightful, has a great message and has gotten great reviews. (sigh)
BC: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
JRD: I got burned bad by one publisher on a promotion that yielded not one cent. I also spent a few bucks on a writing contest that seemed to implode once the final result was announced. I suppose that I get the most satisfaction from buying copies of my work. It’s wonderful to see your books in print, and you always have a copy to give someone who may appreciate it.
BC: What do you find is the best way to market your books?
JRD: I rely mostly on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a lot like standing on a street corner. If you can come up with a catchy promo, you’re lucky to make a sale. Plus, if you can get some word-of-mouth going, you can develop a fan base. It just takes that one connection to hit the jackpot.
BC: Where is your favorite place to write?
JRD: I’m in my home office which is my ‘man cave.’ I’ve got my wide screen TV that keeps me in touch with society and culture, my cat Jigsaw and my back yard when I need a break. It’s sad to say that it’s where I spend most of my time these days.
BC: Sad? I think I’m envious! 😉 Any resources you would recommend to other authors or aspiring authors?
JRD: Write, write, write! It’s just like a sport, practice makes perfect. Plus, save everything you write. Half of the works I have published are storylines I developed twenty years ago.
BC: Yes! I’m looking forward to soon going back to some pieces I wrote fifteen years ago. Do you have any unique or quirky writing habits?
JRD: Sometimes I’ll do the Edgar Allen Poe thing and have a few drinks before I begin, especially when I hit a sticking point and feel like brainstorming. The downside is that there’s a whole lot of editing and rewriting required the next day.
BC: “Write Drunk. Edit Sober.” I’ve seen the T-shirt. I need one. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
JRD: I do lots of review swaps, which results in generally good reviews. The only ones I value are those that go into incisive detail, which tell me they actually read the book. I find that the negative reviews result from critics disliking the message of the story. I don’t mind that because most of my books are controversial. The ones I deplore are those where the critic gives one or two stars for one thing they disliked. They do great damage to your overall rating at Amazon, but such is the nature of the game.
BC: And a “game” it definitely is! What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
JRD: I’m at a stage of life right now where there’s not a whole lot left to give up. Privacy? Take mine, please. I’d love to be a famous author.
BC: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
JRD: My cat Jigsaw (Photo on Right). He’s a cranky, personable, explosive and wonderful little thing. He’s got lots of fans on Facebook.
BC: Thank you so much for taking part in a BACKSTAGE Chat. I wish you tons of success going forward, John! Please let me know if there’s anything I can ever do for you.
If you’re familiar with an author you’d like to see featured on BACKSTAGE or if you are an author who’s interested in participating, shoot me a line: brad @ bradcarl.com