The Northwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce our new column, Writer Spotlight Wednesday! We’re kicking things off with the one and only Dana Haynes.
Tell us about your new book!
SIROCCO is the second book in the “St. Nicholas Salvage & Wrecking” series about an illegal, under-the-radar globetrotting operation based in Cyprus that is tasked with finding extra-legal means when traditional law enforcement won’t do. The publisher is Blackstone Publishing, whom I’m nuts about. The third book, THE SAINT OF THIEVES, is scheduled for release in fall 2022.
Your new book is part of a series. How has your series evolved?
I’m a newspaper editor. While researching a story, I discovered that the International Criminal Court has no law enforcement arm. The court basically asks politely if criminals can be extradited to stand trial. The process takes decades. So I thought: What if someone had a gig, tracking down the worst of the world’s worst criminals and delivering them, tied in a pretty bow, to the court?
The second thing I wanted to accomplish is an action/adventure mystery with two co-equal protagonists, a man and a woman, who are not love interests. They’re great friends. They have differing skill sets (Finnigan was a New York cop; Fiero was a Spanish spook and assassin for King and country). There is no one protagonist plus a sidekick — they’re both the protagonist. I hadn’t seen that before and really love the dynamic.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve always lived in the Pacific Northwest. I went to school at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City and Lewis & Clark College. I’ve worked in newspaper journalism most of my adult life, with a quick stint as comms director for Portland Community College and the mayor of Portland. I’m currently editor in chief of the Portland Tribune and I live in Portland with my wife, Katy King, and our cat, Violet.
What was your journey to publication like with this title?
My literary agent, Janet Reid, really wanted me at Blackstone because she liked the people there and thought I’d be a good fit. So early on, that was her focus. And I have to say, Blackstone’s been a true joy. They’re amazing.
Have you gone on any literary pilgrimages?
Well, I’ve done the Sherlock Holmes tour in London, which is fun (as well as the Haunted London tour; also grand fun).
Did you do any unusual research while writing this book?
I’ve been lucky to travel for the research for these books, including journeys to Cyprus, the former Yugoslavia, France, Spain and (for the third book), Venice, Italy. In fact, We’re on our way to Venice again this fall to “choreograph” some chase and fight scenes! Katy are I are vaxed, we wear masks, and by the gods, we’re going!
Do you have any must-do writing habits, like needing certain music, or a drink, etc.?
Because of my background in print journalism, I write first drafts longhand, in Steno pads. Then translate the story into my computer. That helps me set pace and rhythm, and it slows down my brain, which often races too fast for good writing.
Also, I write action/adventure novels, and the best way to get into the right groove is to listen to the soundtracks of such movies! John Powell’s score for the “Bourne” movies; Michael Giacchino’s music from the “Alias” TV show; Brian Tyler’s music for “The Fast and the Furious” franchise — they all get the creative juices pumping.
What’s your favorite book that you’ve read in the past year?
Oh man, that’s tough. Gregg Hurwitz’s “Nowhere Man” series is great, as is T. Jefferson Parker’s Roland Ford series. John Altman’s “The Korean Woman” was great. Holly Watts’s “To the Lions” is intense and awesome. Some of my favorite writers are between books, so I haven’t had a “hit” this year of Meg Gardiner (“UnSub” series) or Robert Crais (Elvis Cole and Joe Pike) or Steve Hamilton (Nick Mason; “The Lock Artist”). And of course Lee Child (Jack Reacher) retired.
If you could go back in time and give your younger author self advice, what you tell him?
“The huge number of hours you spent as a pre-teen and teenager reading comic books were not a waste of time. Those guys are amazing storytellers, and they set you up well. Your time as a theater geek will be immensely helpful for choreographing action sequences and for writing dialogue. Oh, and you’re going to marry a woman who’s way-hot and, like, 347% smarter than you are. Mozel tov.”
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Anyone who ever tells you “all writers must…” or “no writers must ever…” is full of it. Every writer has a different “zone.” I’m a very fast writer; I can write 300 to 400 pages in three months, longhand, listening to movie soundtracks. But that doesn’t make my way right, it just makes it “my way.” When you find your “zone,” don’t let anyone tell you it’s the wrong way to write.
How can people learn more about your book and follow you?
My website is danahaynesmystery.com, and people can follow me on Twitter @danahaynes. Plus: I’ll have two books released in 2022 and one slated for 2023. Stay tuned….