PAUL DALZELL-Interview with the Author
The Reading Cafe would like to welcome the author of THE LAST DREAM BEFORE YOU DIE-Paul Dalzell
TRC: Hi Paul and welcome to The Reading Café. We would like to start with some background information. Would you please tell us something about yourself?
Paul: I’m originally from England, and am now a US citizen, as is my wife who is from Papua New Guinea. I am a fisheries scientist and work for a federal organization that develops fishery management policy for Hawaii and other US Pacific Islands like Guam and American Samoa.
TRC: Your author information states that you are originally from the UK, have travelled extensively through the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, and now reside in Hawaii. Wow. Were your travels for business or pleasure? And what was your decision to settle in Hawaii?
Paul: My fascination for the South Seas and Pacific islands stems from an early age and the great Victorian novel, ‘The Coral Island’ by R. M. Ballantyne. I’ve been very lucky that my career has taken me to so many different places in the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia. I have lived in Papua New Guinea, Philippines, New Caledonia and now Hawaii. I loved working in New Caledonia (a French territory) where I would travel all over the South Pacific assisting fisheries managers and scientists with their work. However, I was always a contractual employee and it was the lure of a permanent job in Hawaii that made me apply to work here. I had also been to Hawaii several times and really liked the place for its diverse cultures and I knew my wife would be happy here also where Pacific Islands and Asian cultures intermingle.
TRC: What challenges have you faced as an author?
Paul: Learning a whole new trade! I have authored numerous scientific papers and reports, but fiction was a whole new ball game with its own rules and conventions, and whole new community of authors, agents and publishers. I was lucky to take a fiction writers workshop with the author William Bernhardt, who besides being an accomplished writer, is also a great teacher. Bill’s lessons and guidance were instrumental in my being able to develop as a fiction writer. I tend not to suffer too much from writers block, but I can be very indolent, sometimes preferring to mess around with my guitars. The toughest thing for me to write about was the female characters in the book and their relationships with each other and with the male characters. Getting this right was crucially important since at the core of the book are Jack Bone and the three Nosferatu girls.
TRC: THE LAST DREAM BEFORE YOU DIE is your first novel in the Jack Bone Detective series. Would you please tell us something about the premise of this novel?
Paul: It’s no secret that vampires have been such a strong element of pop culture for quite a while with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Twilight Saga, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Underworld. I could probably spend all day listing examples! The chauvinistic Englishmen in me wanted to repatriate the story to England, where much of Dracula took place and also to set it in and around my home town of Leeds which is not far from the Brontë parsonage at Haworth. I wanted to pitch an ordinary guy into extraordinary circumstances over which he had little control. The scientist in me also wanted to explore the back story to vampirism, relating it as much as possible to real natural phenomena. I also wanted to use the term ‘Nosferatu’ as an homage to the eponymous film with the great Max Schreck, which still creeps me out today. And, as in the book, I am amazed at why this small, damp overcrowded island at Europe’s edge continues to be a magnet for so many immigrants, many of whom are smuggled in illegally and at great risk to themselves.
TRC: How much research was involved in the writing of this series?
Paul: Thank God for the internet! I spent a great deal of time in researching the historical characters that appear in the book and researching all of the various vampire myths. I even unearthed a master’s thesis on the vampire in detective fiction. Google Earth and Google maps were invaluable in getting the geography of the book right. I don’t think you can do too much research, but also be constantly on the alert for anything that might fit in with or improve the story. The village of Eyam for example was the feature of a PBS documentary and was aired just when I was beginning the story and so was a perfect fit for the story.
TRC: Did you have to travel back to the UK for any of the local flavor added to the storyline?
Paul: I go back to England every 3-4 years and my last trip back to England was in 2008, a year before I began work on this story. I have several books about Leeds and its surroundings that helped, and I speak to my mother in Leeds every week so I could fact check with her on local detail. It also helped that as a student I’d worked in factories not too dissimilar to the mill in the book so I could draw on these experiences for background.
TRC: Many different characters are introduced in The Last Dream Before You Die, including the Laughton’s and their extended family. Will the Laughton’s figure prominently in the continuing series of novels?
Paul: Yes, in the next book I plan to explore the Laughton and the Lucard families further, and the core characters from these families plus Alice Perkins will continue to feature prominently.
TRC: Will we see a love interest develop more thoroughly for Jack Bone in the upcoming storylines?
Paul: Good question! Still thinking about it! It’s got so many angles, a late middle aged man and a teenage girl has a strong icky factor (shades of Lolita), but then the Nosferatu girl is almost two centuries old so she’s the elder and he the younger despite the physical appearances to the contrary. That’s a fascinating theme. Plus lovers’ tiffs and squabbles take on a new meaning when your lover can literally tear you limb from limb. But in any case Bone and his relationship to Alice will continue to develop.
TRC: You have used many Nosferatu references from various storylines and lore. Why did you choose to link the Laughton’s and their family to some of the more famous and infamous literary characters (real or undead)?
Paul: This occurred through a mix of geography, literature and inspiration. Geography in that the plot takes place in the Peninne hills and near Haworth, so the Brontë’s almost wrote themselves into the book. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is of course the most famous vampire novel and it was while researching Stoker I found out about his day job as Henry Irving’s acting and business manager. Irving’s company travelled widely and that they would have played big cities
Like Leeds and Bradford and this presented an opportunity to work Stoker into the story and connect Wolftson with the Dracula novel. Having a Russian people smuggling gang in the book and thinking about the Nosferatu hypnotic powers sparked a link in my head that led to Rasputin.
TRC: Would you please tell us something about the premise of the next novel in the Jack Bone Detective series? Do you have an anticipated date of release?
Paul: I don’t have an anticipated release date for the next book. I have a working title, ‘Everything Hurts’, and it involves the hunt for a pedophile serial killer who may be a Nosferatu.
TRC: What difficulties did you face getting your novel published e.g. research? Logistics?
Paul: I went the self publishing route because I spent about two years trying to go the traditional route of getting an agent and eventually being published. Friends of mine from the writer’s workshop took the self publishing route which convinced me to follow their lead. Once I was on that path I realized it’s more expensive than it first appears, however, I have no regrets. The research was fun; I write for a living with fish and fisheries, so it was great to branch out and explore a whole range of new disciplines and ideas.
TRC: What or who inspired you to write your first novel? Do you have a specific style of writing?
Paul: I am really inspired by my two writing classmates Heather McCorkle (Secret of Spruce Knoll; To Ride a Pύca) and Karlene Petitt (Flight for Control) who have published their books and shown me the way forward. I think my day job, which requires writing technical documents that formulate arguments in favor of a policy direction or interpretation of scientific results, has been helpful in developing my writing style. With respect to fiction writing I have read widely and like mystery and thriller writers like Dick Francis and Robert Parker. If I had to pick one author that I find continually inspirational it would be Ian Fleming and the James Bond novels. I love his clear, lucid prose style, and the economy with which he can describe a character or set a scene. Further, the Bond of the novels, despite the glamour and heroics, is actually rather a sad lonely character and to be able to convey that in these thrillers is to me the mark of a very skilled writer. Although he was a non-fiction writer and journalist, I am also a great admirer of the later Christopher Hitchens who again has a wonderfully eloquent writing style that I would recommend to authors of either fiction or non-fiction.
TRC: Many authors bounce information and ideas with each other and family members or friends. With whom do you bounce ideas?
Paul: I have a friend in Canada with whom I have collaborated on a full length comic thriller and some short stories, and with whom I discuss a few ideas. Another friend in Hawaii is an expert on military history and weapons so I pick his brain from time to time to make sure I’m not getting any arms and ammunition facts wrong. I also sent Last Dream out for a professional review which was massively helpful and revealed key story weaknesses. Apart from that I don’t generally bounce ideas of friends for fear of boring them!
TRC: On what are you currently working?
Paul: I have five or six completed short stories and novella length tales which need revisiting. I have a few chapters of the Last Dream sequel drafted, and I’ve drafted a few chapters of a potential virtual history/steam punk novel with a working title ‘Pax Britannica.’ There’s also a jointly authored manuscript with my Canadian friend called ‘The Friends of Eddy Relish’, which I’d like to see out in print. It’s a dark comic thriller with what we thought at the time were outlandish plots and scenarios, but many of which have come true.
TRC: Would you like to add anything else?
Paul: As this is my first book I can only repeat what I have experienced which is you can never have too many revisions and reviews of your work, and if are serious about writing a thriller/mystery novel then sign up for a writers workshop with Bill Bernhardt, it will be money well spent!
Steak and salad
Favorite TV Show
House, Dr Who, South Park, UK Top Gear
Citizen Kane, Night of the Hunter, The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Last Movie you saw
Abraham Lincoln vampire hunter, but looking forward to seeing Moonrise Kingdom (I’m a huge Wes Anderson fan)
Dark or Milk Chocolate
Don’t drive, but as a small kid growing up in England I always loved the over-the-top late 50s Cadillacs, fins and all.
Do you have any pets?
Sadly no, we live in a small condo apartment.
TRC:Thank you Paul for taking the time to answer our questions. It is always a pleasure to meet the person behind the author and the book. Good luck with your writing career. We wish you all the best.
Paul is offering TWO lucky members at The Reading Cafe the opportunity to win a copy of his new release THE LAST DREAM BEFORE YOU DIE.
ONE paper copy and ONE e-copy (international) to be awarded
1. You MUST be a member at The Reading Cafe. If you are not a member, please join by using the log-in at the top of the page, or by using one of the social log-ins.
2. If you are using one of the social log-ins, please post your email address with your comment, as Twitter etc does not allow for email information and we will contact all potential winners via email.
3. PLEASE ANSWER ONE OF THE LIGHTNING ROUND QUESTIONS
4. ONE e-copy will be available internationally. ONE paper copy will be available to continental USA and Canada only.
5. The contest runs from August 13 to August 16, 2012.