by Lorie Lewis Ham
This week we are interviewing author Douglas Quinn, who has written mysteries, and a fun new children’s series, the first book of which is called The Undercover Beagle: The Egg Thief. The Egg Thief is an adorable book which is illustrated by Donna Higgins Collins. Details on how to win a copy of The Egg Thief at the end of this post.
KRL: How long have you been writing? When did your first novel come out?
DQ: I started working on my first novel, The Catalan Gambit, a suspense/thriller, in 1997, but it wasn’t published until 2004. There are many sub-plots (characters with their own agendas at play), but the tag line is “What would you do to save your children?” I’m sure I’m not the first to use this phrase. In fact, a movie that is ready for release is using this tag line. So, let’s be clear. I was ten years ahead of them. The Catalan Gambit is about a father who puts his twin teenagers, a boy and a girl, on a plane to Madrid as part of a school system-sponsored summer trip. In Madrid, their plane is hijacked by Palestinian terrorists (they were the bad actors in the early 1990s). Henry Ellis, the father, doesn’t think the U. S. or Spanish governments are doing enough to rescue the hostages and he takes his own actions, including offering himself up in exchange for the twins, Jennie and Theo.
KRL: What different types of books have you written?
DQ: I generally write mystery and suspense novels, but in 2009 began writing children’s books. I have 18 published books: three suspense thrillers, three mysteries, one historical fiction/Adventure and edited/contributed to a mystery/suspense anthology. I also have published 10 children’s chapter books.
KRL: Can you tell us a little more about your mystery writing, and your other writing?
DQ: Expanding on the previous questions, the suspense/thrillers, beginning with The Catalan Gambit, turned out to be a trilogy I call The Ellis Family Novels. While the father, Henry Ellis, is the main protagonist in The Catalan Gambit, in the second book, The Spanish Game (2006), it’s six years later. In this one, the daughter, Jennifer Ellis, now 24, becomes the protagonist and takes on an assassin who has a most unusual method for killing. Both books are set in Washington D.C. and Spain. The final book in this series The Capablanca Variation: The End Game (2010) again features Jennifer Ellis. In this one, Jennie is recruited by the CIA to help track down the second most wanted terrorist in the world, who is hiding out in Morocco.
The Webb Sawyer Mysteries are set in the Outer Banks and Albemarle Sound areas of northeast North Carolina. The protagonist, Webb Sawyer, lives on the Outer Banks in a stilt-house at Blue Heron Marsh, on Roanoke Sound. I would describe Webb, an ex-Army NCO as a reluctant investigator who is loyal to his friends and gets himself involved (usually roped in) to their problems and troubles. The first three books in the series are Blue Heron Marsh (2007), Pelican Point (2009) and Swan’s Landing (2012). Book four, Egret’s Cove is schedule for publication in 2015. This is a continuing series. Webb is a beer snob (he only likes Grolsch but will grin and bear it if a Heineken is offered), a coffee snob (he prefers Snickerdoodle and, in desperation will try to doctor a regular brew to satisfy his palate), and had an inauspicious ending to his military career after he shot a Serbian Death Squad leader in the face as the man sat in his jail cell. One reviewer called Webb Sawyer a cross between James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux and Robert B. Parker’s Spencer. With Webb, there is plenty of angst and anger to go around.
Cornelius The Orphan (2010) is the first novel in a four-book historical fiction/adventure series based on the actual research I’ve done on my own ancestors. The second book in the series Samuel The Pioneer is scheduled for release the end of May this year. I, of course, picked the most interesting and colorful “characters” in my ancestry to portray their lives.
I currently have four children’s chapter book series in publication. I began with The Adventures of Quinn Higgins: Boy Detective series aimed at boys 8-12, which includes The Case of the Missing Homework (2009), The Case of Bigfoot on the Loose (2010), The Case of the Haunted House (2011), The Case of Blackbeard’s Treasure (2012) and The Case of the Lost U-boat (2013)The sixth book in the series The Case of the Gray Ghost’s Belt Buckle is completed and in editing.
A spin-off series from The Case of Blackbeard’s Treasure, The Adventures of Summer McPhee of Ocracoke Island, aimed at girls 8-12, came next, and includes The Midnight Skulker (2012) and Kilroy Was Here! (2013), with soon-to-be released The Pink Lady in June of this year.
In between these two series, I’m also writing The Purple Dragon Charles and Hero fantasy books, aimed at readers 8-12. Book one was Charles of Colshire Castle–The Purple Dragon (2011), and book two Isle of Mists (2013). Book three in the series, The Dreadmen, is scheduled for release later this year.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
DQ: Both, actually. I certainly want my readers to be entertained so they will purchase and read my other books. That said, particularly with the children’s books, I do work in themes about things like bullying, life isn’t always fair, family relationships and other matters that help children navigate their world. Even in the Gracie book, the ending is about forgiveness and mercy.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can? If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
DQ: Actually both. I’m not a morning person, so unless I have a conflicting appointment time, I generally write Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. On Friday mornings I spend three hours at a Muddy Waters Coffee House editing what I’ve written during the week. Otherwise, I’ll catch an hour or two here and there as other commitments allow to either write or edit my work. I generally write or edit thirty hours or more a week.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
DQ: Generally, I do a minimum amount of research before I start the book. I’m always thinking about the plot line, settings and characters for some time—sometimes years. I’m not a writer who agonizes over every word, sentence and paragraph. For me, doing that would make the writing stiff and contrived. I access the narrative and dialogue I’ve already stored in my mind and write very quickly. I iron everything out in the editing process. As I’ve said many times, the writing is the fun and easy part of writing a book; it’s the editing process that’s work.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
DQ: Before I started writing novels and later, children’s books I had experience in publishing and editing, so I had a slight advantage of knowledge and contacts.
KRL: Writing heroes?
DQ: I wouldn’t call them heroes, but there are writers who had a definite influence when I went from being simply a reader to becoming a writer. I grew up reading Edgar Rice Burroughs and, to this day, his story-telling skills have had a profound effect on my writing. From EBB I moved on to Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, Rudyard Kipling and Edgar Allan Poe. For a while I was into reading science fiction and in that genre my favorites were Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert and Larry Niven. Once I turned my attention to mystery and suspense, I first read Agatha Christie, Earl Stanley Gardner, John D. MacDonald and Rex Stout. My current favorite reads are by James Lee Burke, Jonathan Kellerman, Kathy Reichs and John Sandford, They and others have all influence the way I tell stories, design plots and develop characters.
KRL: Future writing goals?
DQ: While I’m done with the Ellis Family thrillers, I am toying with the idea of a spin off with three of the female characters in those books. I intend to continue with the Webb Sawyer mysteries until I run out of idea (not likely), and I, of course, want to finish the final two of my “Ancestor” series. I also have a couple of stand-alone novels that have been rattling around in my brain for some time.
As for the children’s chapter books, I intend to keep writing them until no one wants to read them anymore. I also have a couple of children’s picture books in mind with the help of artist and illustrator, Donna Higgins Colson.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
DQ: I would like to refer your readers to the three other authors who participated in my mystery/suspense anthology Four of a Kind, namely, J. R. Lindermuth, Carol Culver Rzadkiewicz and Sara Williams. And, by the way, Sara Williams, a writer with whom I believe your writers are familiar, has just come out with a collection of short fiction of her own entitled Millie McCall’s Full Moon Poker Night: Tales from the San Juan Islands.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
DQ: That, after all these years (actually decades), I still enjoy watching the old Tarzan movies. In fact, just recently I found the full length version on You Tube of the first Tarzan movie ever made, a silent film entitled Tarzan of the Apes with Elmo Lincoln as (a chunky)Tarzan and Enid Markey as (an oft swooning) Jane.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of The Egg Thief, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Thief,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 10, 2014. U.S. residents only.