Monday, 14 March 2011

Interview with Dixon Rice

Happy Monday, Blogosprites. Things have been hectic lately, but I'm hoping that the lion that March came in as will soon show its more lamb-like qualities. Once things settle down, I'm really going to try to have something cool for my followers in honor of my one-year blogoversary that just passed at the end of February. If I can pull it off, it just might be legen...wait for it...dary! (Okay, yeah, I've been watching too much How I Met Your Mother.)

But for now, I've got an interview with an author who's legendary himself. Let's chat with the fabulous Dixon Rice.

Welcome, Dixon. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a novelist living in Kalispell, Montana, deep in the glory of the Rocky Mountains. Besides eight years in Army Intelligence, I’ve been a funeral director, investigator, office manager, payroll manager, shipping clerk, insurance salesman, and done retail sales. I’ve jumped out of perfectly good aircraft. I’ve gone into jails for Literacy Volunteers and have also been on the wrong side of the bars.

That's quite some bio. How long have you been writing?

I started telling bedtime stories to my children (now young adults) and they asked me to write them down. A few got published in local and regional pubs, and a nasty addiction was born. Then I turned to book-length adult literature, and the habit spun totally out of control.

Tell us about MONTANA IS BURNING. What's the story about?

This thriller takes place in a small town in NW Montana in 1975, the same week in which heiress Patricia Hearst is captured. An abortion clinic serving wealthy out-of-towners is firebombed, with fatalities. In the middle of hotly contested election between the incumbent sheriff and the chief of detectives, Paul Longo, the brand new detective, is the only neutral guy in the department. He must confront vicious local politics, a small group of religious fanatics, federal agencies trying to take over the investigation, a newly-formed militia group trying to blockade the county, and jealous local cops. Pretty much his only supporter in the department is Janet Barefoot, a member of a tiny Native American tribe. An outsider herself, she appreciates the barriers Paul faces. When a peace march is bombed, quick thinking by Paul keeps the death tally down, but can he solve this terrorist spree before more lives are lost?

Suzanne of Unruly Guides is slaving away on a book cover and ways to improve my writers platform, and I’m guessing MONTANA will be released on Kindle and serial podcasts before all the snow melts from my back yard. Of course, that might be August of 2014…

Right, lol. How did the idea of the story come to you?

The idea of Paul Longo – a fish out of water – came to mind first, and then putting him into an unmanageable situation such as Ruby Ridge or the stand-off with the Branch Davidians in Waco, where the federal agencies assumed jurisdiction and pushed local law enforcement aside.


It also takes place in Montana during the 1970s, but that’s the main similarity.
A likable young Montanan named Ty “accidentally” becomes a serial killer when he’s targeted by a family of brutal rednecks. Every time he kills to protect himself, he feels like he’s done the community a favor – and he enjoys the rush it gives him. Alternating chapters present a bearded, thirtyish man who emerges nude from the ocean near Ensenada, Mexico. He meets a woman walking along the beach. Startled, she blurts out, “Jesus! You’re naked.” He thinks to himself, “So that’s who I am” before killing her and taking her white beach robe. Jesus walks up the coast, killing when it pleases him, and gathers a Manson-like tribe of weak-minded followers. He follows the voices in his head until he reaches Montana. He meets Ty but who will survive the encounter?

Do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?

My mantra is “I can’t find my own mistakes.” Once I had part of MONTANA IS BURNING drafted, I looked around for a local critique group, but there wasn’t one with an opening. So I gathered some friends together and started one. We meet for an evening every two weeks, and the group has been tremendously helpful. We’ve had memoirists, poets and YA writers, and tellers of western, romance and SciFi tales. The genre doesn’t seem to matter – good writing is good writing.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Writing a synopsis. It’s the worst, barely ahead of rewriting.

I have to agree with you there. Hate's not a strong enough word for how I feel about writing a synopsis. So, got any tips you’ve learned about writing you’d like to share?

When your characters are faced with a choice, help them to choose the unexpected route – if the choice is compatible with the character’s core personality.

Let’s get to know you on a deeper level. What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

I need to get away from my house to create my first draft, to avoid the many domestic distractions. I’ve discovered that if I get up early, the critical editor in the back of my head is still asleep, and I can write page after page of crap. Later, I can tidy up the crap and fix the mistakes, and even move big chunks of prose around – with the help of that critical editor who’s now alert and helpful.

Other than the above, I can write in silence, with music playing, in front of the TV, on a park bench, in a car between Kalispell and Fargo, whatever.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

I would wish for the longevity of Methuselah because I feel I’m just now hitting my stride as a writer, and I am absolutely green with envy at the young writers who will grind out 40 or 50 books by the time they reach my age.

Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: binoculars, tango, and starfish.

Before leaving for the Vatican to commit the crime of the century, Tango Smith flipped open his Starfish brand laptop and ordered a pair of sniper binoculars online.

Tricky! Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.

My wife Mitzi will surely be considered for sainthood, and my kids have been tremendously supportive. The members of my critique group, along with writing instructor Dennis Foley and the Authors of the Flathead, have helped me develop my craft. Laura of Writers Etc, Suzanne of Unruly Guides, and Roxanne McHenry have pushed me out of my comfort zone, with the result that I expect to be Kindlated and podcasterized later this spring. And over 2,900 helpful writers, poets, editors and agents on Facebook have been generous with their time, experience and advice.

And finally, where can people find you online?

I blog every day of the year at alternating inspirational and not-so-much literary sayings with tips on improving our writing craft and getting published – many of the tips contributed by my FB network of writers and book lovers. On my FB page (Dixon Rice Novelist), I post a thought-provoking country song title every day of the year; often the only thought being provoked is “what on earth were they thinking when they wrote that song?” I’m nearly finished posting my Top 20 song titles, and am thinking about going through the entire list in alphabetical order – I can easily keep it going through Christmas.

It was great getting to know you and your book, Dixon. Thank you so much for chatting with us, and I wish you heaps of success with your writing!


Stella said...

I love Dixon. He's a truly wonderful person. Very funny, very helpful and just a generally lovely man.

Great interview and I wish him all the best with his books and life.

Gina said...

Quite the varied career there....but I'm certain all the life experience helps with the writing process. Lots to draw from. Definitely feel the pain on the synopsis...though only from a review standpoint, it's still hard to encapsulate all that a book is in so many odd words or less. As for the super power wish....hey, authors through their written words live forever. ^_^ Thanks for sharing!