Thursday, October 28, 2010
Q&A with author David Poyer
Hi, David. Thanks for joining us for a Q&A. You've received some very nice early praise for your November release, Ghosting. Congratulations! Can you tell us a bit about your main character, Dr. Jack Scales, and his story?
Well, Lori, Jack has a lot to do with some real surgeons I've come in contact with! Not to say all surgeons are like this - some are regular people, among them the ones who helped me with this book - but others seem to feel that since they can do one difficult thing well, they're qualified to do just about anything else with no necessity for learning or training whatsoever. This sometimes arrives mixed with not a little arrogance. So I searched for what natural arrogance I own, mixed it with my observations, and came out with Jack. A guy who means well and loves his family, who is ambitious and hardworking and very competent in one area, neurosurgery, but who has some very unlovable traits - which end up carrying a heavy price, both for him, his wife, his son, and his daughter, when he's put to the test.
Ghosting is quite different from your Dan Lenson thrillers. What drew you to this particular story?
This happens very seldom, but the idea of a sailing thriller was suggested to me by someone else - in this case Sally Richardson and George Witte at St. Martin's. I guess I'd mentioned my sailing to them over the years enough times that when I said I wanted to do a shorter book than the Lensons, to gain a little respite for additional research on the next big one, they said, "Why not do a sailing book?" I respect them enough that instead of dismissing the idea out of hand, which I usually do with plot suggestions from others, I went away and thought about it. I did know that this time I wanted to try all new characters, in fact a whole family, to write about family dynamics, which I had never done before. And once the ideas of arrogance and pride and a family in danger tied in with one of my perennial topics - the need for competence at sea - GHOSTING began to take shape. When I added a few of my own most harrowing sailing experiences, like the lightning storm, the outline was practically complete. (The lightning storm and strike depicted in the book actually took place off Cape Hatteras about three years ago - I had to change very little about it!)
You admit to being in a bad mood when you had to kill off some "good" characters from Ghosting. How attached do you get to your characters in draft form? How does this affect your editing process?
Oh, I get very attached! I would not make a good Buddhist. So when bad things started to happen to Arlen and Jack and Haley and Ric, and some terrible things indeed do, it wrecked me. As if they were my own family. It made it hard to edit, yes, but after thirty plus novels, there's enough professional detachment from the prose after the first draft's white heat that I can view a passage dispassionately, and turn it into finished work.
Is Ghosting planned as a stand-alone title or will you be developing Scales' story into a series?
This is definitely a one-off. However, I'm discussing another sailing novel with St. Martin's now. It will really depend on how many fans buy GHOSTING. So if you want to see more, buy this one - for yourself, or as a holiday gift for someone you know who loves boating and the sea!
Is Dan Lenson's series to be continued? What can readers look forward to since The Crisis, your December 2009 release?
I've just completed the first draft of a huge 9/11 novel, tentatively titled THE TOWERS, that will be published in August 2011. When I started to think about a 9/11 book, I realized that each of my major continuing Modern Navy characters - Dan, Blair, Aisha, and Teddy - might well have been in a location that would directly involve them in the shocking events of those days. So it begins at the Pentagon and in New York, and goes from there to Oman and then Afghanistan.
What else are you up to in your writing life? How has this year been for you in the Wilkes University MFA program where you teach?
I have some great students at the low-residency program at Wilkes. We are now the largest low-res writing program in the US! And it's due to our stellar faculty and administration. My current students are writing supernatural stories, ecothrillers, horror, high fantasy, sea novels, and middle grade fiction. One of my recent grads, Kevin Voglino, was nominated for the Lambda Prize. I don't think there's a better way to get started for someone who hopes to write. You work one on one with an established author, from planning the book through to final text and marketing. I wish such a program had been around when I was starting, in the 1970's - it would have saved me years of false starts and wasted effort. In today's market, you just can't afford not to know what you're doing. There's no way anymore to learn on the job. You have to be perfect the moment you step out on the field.
Do you have any upcoming appearances you care to mention?
I don't do that many; the ones coming up are listed on my website. I'm a big supporter of rural libraries, so many of my appearances are there, including the Chesapeake Public Library on Nov. 12. I'll be at the Mariner's Museum early next year discussing the Civil War at Sea books, and at Wilkes in January and June for residencies. I might go to the Savannah Book Festival with Lenore when THE RAVEN'S BRIDE comes out; she's been invited to headline there.
Where can readers learn more about your books, events, and other writing news?
Take a look at my site, http://www.poyer.com/. There's more about GHOSTING and the other books as well, plus some good info on writing.
Many thanks to all my fans, and to you, Lori!