Due to a technical issue I’m unable to feature the photo Dan sent with this magnificent interview.
Hello everyone and welcome back to my Guest Author of the Week column.
Last week we opened the series up with author blogger Sally Cronin. Sally chose to take my questionnaire and use the questions within as prompts and write a delightful and well received essay about herself.
This week, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you bestselling author blogger Dan Alatorre.
Dan has chosen to do a magnificent interview so, without further ado, we begin…
First, in your own words tell us a little about you.
Hmm. I’m not sure the witness relocation program will like that, but for you, okay.
I write books you can’t put down.
I’m a mystery writer. I have 27 published titles in numerous genres, and I’ve been published in over a dozen languages; I’m read in over 120 countries around the world. My stories are always fast paced and gripping, with characters you’d want to hang out with.
My latest book is The Gamma Sequence, a medical thriller where deaths are being disguised as accidents, because a killer is systematically eliminating people at a genetics research firm they used to work at, and the main character’s name is next on the list. The early reviews are fantastic. People can’t put it down.
I also have a new release called Double Blind, a murder mystery where two detectives are hunting a serial killer but the killer’s hunting them. Double Blind is the first book in the new 5-book series I’m writing. The second book, Primary Target, is due for a fall 2019 release.
Where do you live?
In the Tampa Florida area. I love me some sunshine, and I try to center a few books around the Tampa area, because why not? Every interesting thing doesn’t happen in New York or LA. For example, in The Gamma Sequence, my new medical thriller, it takes place at Christmastime in Tampa - so it’s warm, and plants are blooming… That’s a nice switch for a lot of people who are dealing with snow at that time of year. I got the idea from the Bruce Willis movie Die Hard, which takes place in LA at Christmas. I’ve set other books in Tampa, too, like Double Blind. Having the story take place here makes it a little different for the reader, and I think more fun.
Who are the special people in your life?
My wife, my daughter, our dog – and currently a squirrel that’s trying to live in our grill. He’s special for a different reason. He’s Get Out Of My Freaking Grill special. Might be the plot of my next book – the case of the missing squirrel. He’s gotta go.
Do you have any pets?
One dog (and one uninvited squirrel).
What keeps you going? I mean, like what inspires you and keeps you moving forward in your work?
Money. There are other things; writing is fun and I’m compelled to do it, but I really like the money.
I have to admit, though, I absolutely LOVE IT when I write a twist in a story and readers don’t see it coming. It’s so cool. You know it’s there, and they start reading, and you wait and you wait… and then BOOM. And they are like WOW and you’re smiling from ear to ear. Learning how to do that is fun, and seeing it happen is awesome. Fans send emails: “I did NOT see that coming!” Double Blind has that, and so does The Gamma Sequence. Readers love a well-designed surprise that works. Mystery readers especially love to be surprised. They think they have everything figured out, but they don’t. It’s like a game with them, and we all see to enjoy playing it. So far, nobody as seen the end of The Gamma Sequence coming OR Double Blind.
What is your favorite song?
Hmm, that’s a toughie. I’m a rock and roll guy, but there are lots of songs that will come on that can get me going – in a pumped up way or a sad way. Like, Flirting With Disaster by Molly Hatchet – that’s fun old tune. Ave Maria makes me cry. I absolutely love Ode To Joy by Beethoven, and love Apollo 100’s version of it. Pitt Bull has some awesome stuff, and Sean Combs, but I suppose I listen to Taylor Swift the most because my daughter likes her best.
What is your favorite movie?
Jurassic Park. It’s great storytelling.
For me a good movie has to stand the test of time (and I can watch Jurassic Park over and over) so I will usually choose older stuff as my faves, but I like lots of movies. It’s hard to pick one as my favorite, but I’ll stick with that one.
Other faves include: Rain Man (people knock Tom Cruise but he is brilliant in that), Zodiac (a storytelling tour de force), The Godfather, Used Cars (Kurt Russell is brilliant), Dances With Wolves, Last Of The Mohicans, Schindler’s List, American Hustle, The Sting… The first two Harry Potter movies are great. I love Goodfellas, the opening of Saving Private Ryan, all of Dangerous Liaisons… Contact, It’s A Wonderful Life, Braveheart (another epic and great storytelling), Bun Hur, Gladiator, Vacation, Basic Instinct, JFK, Top Gun, The Right Stuff, The Hunt for Red October, Pulp Fiction, Scarface, 2001 A Space Odyssey. The Sound of Music. The Incredibles. Finding Nemo. The first Indiana Jones movie. Live and Let Die (best Bond movie for 50 years and best Bond soundtrack). The first Star Wars movie. Centennial, the 1970’s TV miniseries. Get Shorty is a great portrayal of a really suave character.
Thanks to Netflix and cable TV, you can find really good old stuff.
All of these are great examples of great storytelling. I learn things every time I watch them. Zodiac, with Robert Downey, Jr., Jake Gyllenhall, and Mark Ruffalo, may be the best murder mystery of all time. I’ve probably seen it ten times.
What is your favorite book?
I have a few but I’ll pick a number one.
I love different books for different reasons. I loved Stephen King’s Different Seasons. The short story The Body absolutely made me a Stephen King fan, and there’s a lesson to be learned from King and from Stephen Spielberg, which is: One, not every book (or movie) is for every reader; and Two, don’t give up. LOTS of Stephen King stuff is awful; lots is brilliant. Spielberg made Hook, a godawful movie that flopped and nearly tanked his career, but he followed it with Jurassic Park, the biggest movie ever and my all time favorite movie. There’s a lesson there. Looking back, it all seems like these big creative people always had the confidence to see things through, but the creative person wasn’t so sure at the time – and stuck it out anyway. That’s huge. Many times Spielberg thought he’d get fired off Jaws, the movie that ended up making him a household name - and he thought his career would be over several times after that. He says this in interviews and it’s hard to believe. Remember this, too: he never went to film school. He learned the things, but he didn’t go to school to do it. Keep that in mind the next time you are struggling.
Okay, back to fave books.
Catch-22. We had to read it in school, but it’s a great story and a lesson in how to keep a reader on their toes.
Jaws, by Peter Benchley. It gripped a nation. Gotta love storytelling like that.
Number one: The Other by Thomas Tryon. It scared the crap out of me, but it was completely brilliant how he told that story. (Tied for number one is Mark Twain, whose essays and certain books are completely brilliant. Suspense and comedy are cousins. Learning one teaches you how to do the other.)
What is your favorite food?
Pizza, without a doubt. We make it from scratch every Friday night at my house. The dough, the sauce, all of it, from scratch. It’s absolutely the best pizza in the world.
What is your favorite quote?
A quote by U. S. President Calvin Coolidge. I don’t know much about him as a president, but he kept lion cubs as pets, so there’s that. The quote is:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Man, that cuts me to the core every time, for several reasons. I have a great intellect and it reminds me to stay humble and keep working hard because the literary gods have decided my success in this business will not come easily just because I’m smart, and neither will anything else.
What is your favorite affirmation?
I’m not sure I have one. I know I’m a really good writer. Strangers tell me that all the time, and pay money to read words I write. Other bestselling authors that I respect tell me I’m a great writer. Writing groups ask me to come speak to them. But it’s easily forgotten when you’re having a tough time, because writing can be a solitary activity, so I try to stay up active with a few writing friends. Having other writer types to talk to makes a big difference. They get it.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
People who are late and people who drive slow. Now that I think about it, a lot of those are probably the same people.
What do you think your best strengths are, and how do they help you in your work as a writer?
First, I’m impatient as a reader, so I write fast paced stuff that readers can’t put down. James Patterson said put something interesting one every page. Absolutely right, and my axiom is: What’s interesting in this chapter and how fast can we get to it?
Second, I’m fearless as a writer. Tooooooo many writers are afraid to write something their mom might see, or that might hurt someone’s feelings, or that’s not politically correct, or might embarrass them. They’re not bold in their writing and as a result, their writing is dull. Me, I will try anything. But more than that, I’m not afraid to go outside my comfort zone and push the envelope. How does that manifest itself in my writing? It makes me want to turn the tables on characters I like, or have a good guy secretly be a bad guy, things like that. But it also allows me to create on a grand scale and make it real for the reader. The Gamma Sequence is a medical thriller that starts in Tampa with a murder, but that murder is linked to others around the country, and soon the characters are headed to Atlanta and then Canada and then Indonesia, trying to unravel the mystery and stay one step ahead of the killer - and nobody ever said, hey, this is too much action and excitement.
Third, I edit my stuff ruthlessly to make a story tight, with interesting characters and a compelling plot. I demand the same from anyone whose work I edit or who edits me.
A great lesson for writers is, write your piece, a chapter or whatever, let it rest a while (a day or more) without looking at it, and read it with fresh eyes. Anything that holds your interest 100%, highlight in green. Anything you want to skim, highlight in yellow and edit it to half of what you wrote. Anything you DO skim, highlight in pink and cut it to a few sentences or a few words. If you don’t want to read something, neither does anyone else.
When readers start The Gamma Sequence, they are immediately pulled in. First chapter, first paragraph, first sentence. That’s not by accident. Same with Double Blind. It’s hard work to do that, but it hooks the reader and sets the stage.
What are your weaknesses, and how are you making them stronger?
I’m arrogant. I work hard to create something that’s really amazing, and I deliver, but I’ll think it’s awesome while it’s still got typos and crutch words in it. Luckily there are these things called editors, and I have some amazing beta readers.
Remember, no one was born a great writer. It’s all learned, and if Hemingway can learn it, so can you. Just don’t be afraid to do what Hemingway said: write clear and hard about what hurts. To me that means: Go where the pain is, and the joy, and the fun, and the fear, and the falling in love - go there unabashedly and put your soul on the page. Be an actor, naked on the stage, prepared to be ridiculed but brave enough to go back out onstage again the next day. Be bold in your writing. Great writing isn’t safe.
What is your dream for the future, and how does it relate to your work as a writer?
I’m living the dream. I write, and people know I’m a full time author. That’s still considered cool to most people. I’m finally caving in to the demand for follow ups (a series) to some of my best books, so my goal is to do finish writing the series while expanding my Young Authors Clubs for grade school kids and spending time with my daughter while she still likes to spend time with me.
What is your preferred way of communicating, and how can someone reach you if they wish to buy from or work with you in some way?
Join my Readers Club to reach me, and go to Amazon to buy my books.
I send communicate with my followers through my Readers Club, and they can reply and ask me anything. I reply to every message. Facebook Messenger is fun if I’m chatting with an author friend; I dislike Twitter for anything but basic communication. Same with Instagram and all the rest. But that’s just for now. Things change. I used to blog a TON and I replied to every comment, had writing contests there and did critiques and editing, but not anymore. Now I blog about once a month and fans interact with me through my Readers Club.
Before you go, is there anything you’d like to add about yourself, or your work that I’ve not asked?
I really appreciate the chance to be interviewed. It’s always necessary and it’s always going to be a bit strange to talk about stuff like I’m important or something, but I try to help new authors with my insights while also entertaining readers who aren’t interested in writing. Writers of all skill levels should learn to do interviews, and you learn by practicing. You need to get used to doing them because it helps market your stuff. Some are even fun, like this one!
I’d like your readers to check out my new books!
The Gamma Sequence
If you’d like to join my Readers Club and get new releases before anyone else, go to DanAlatorre.com and click the tab that says Join My Readers Club. If you join right now, mention you learned about me from this interview and I might give you an e-copy of one of these books for free.
*** Patty back to say…
WOW! Was that a great interview or what? I love how open and honest Dan chose to answer my questions.
I’d like to thank Dan for dropping into campbellsworld to hang out today and all you readers too.
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Want to join in on the fun and be a guest author of the week? If so, it’s easy to do. Just drop me a line at: email@example.com and I’ll hook you up.
Thanks again for stopping by and be sure to come back again because we’ve got more great authors and lots more coming up real soon.