Last October, I released a marvelous anthology of thriller stories titled, Breakneck. Since then, it has continued to rank near the top of several categories on Amazon and garner good reviews. I’m delighted that so many readers are discovering and enjoying the book.
One of the stories in the collection is from Steve Dickinson, author of Confession, a riveting novel set in Budapest. So this month on my website, I’m sharing the fascinating interview I did with Steve. I hope to get the word out and help readers discover this very talented storyteller.
Read on, check out Steve’s website, and sample his stories. You’ll be glad you did!
Welcoming Steve Dickinson
Welcome, Steve! I’m so happy to be doing this interview with you. I want to let readers know right up front that you write terrific stories backed by lots of historical research and that your lead character, Erika Kelemen, is a strong female detective working in a man’s world.
Joslyn: Please tell us a few things about yourself.
Steve: I was born in Liverpool, England in 1957, just too late to become the fifth Beatle. I’m married and we have one daughter and two grandsons.
I’m a building engineer by profession, and have run engineering businesses in large multi-national organisations, which led me to work around the world, visit many fabulous places and meet some incredible people.
Joslyn: Do you read much, and who are your favorite authors?
Steve: My mother taught me to read well before I went to school. I have therefore been an avid reader for over sixty years. These days, I have more time for reading both fiction and non-fiction.
With crime fiction, I love the work of my fellow Liverpudlian, Lynda La Plante, as well as Val McDermid and Ian Rankin. For thrillers: James Patterson, Tom Clancy, John Grisham and Dan Brown.
My favourite non-fiction author is Bill Bryson. If I only had one book to take onto a desert island, it would be Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything.
Tell us more about your latest book
Joslyn: What inspired you to write Confession?
Steve: For the last three decades, we have lived in Harrogate, which is home to the UK’s largest and best Crime Writers Festival. I’ve seen authors on the Festival stage like Dan Brown, John Grisham, Lynda La Plante, Val McDermid and Michael Connelly. If they can’t inspire you to write, no-one will.
I aspired to writing crime thrillers, once I’d retired from my day job. For material, I draw inspiration from the people I have met and the places I have spent time in.
My protagonist, Detective Erika Kelemen, is a strong woman working in a man’s world. I’ve known many strong women, including my grandma, Monica Ellis. She painted warships during the second world war and was bombed out of three houses during the blitz on Liverpool. I’ve also witnessed plenty of the misogyny faced by the strongest of women in my life, and I’ve seen how they dealt with it.
In terms of location, Confession is set in Budapest, a city I’ve spent a lot of time in, as a Director of a business located there. I’m fascinated by the Cold War history of Hungary, and indeed of the whole of Central Europe. Writing gave the opportunity to explore that history and relate it to current affairs.
My short story, “House of Terror,” is a prequel to Confession. It is set in 1956, at the time of the Hungarian uprising, and features two characters who will appear in Confession.
A few of Steve’s thoughts about writing
Joslyn: What is the most important thing about a book?
Steve: Whether we know it or not, our desire to write comes from the urge to not just be creative, it comes from the need to help others. A well-told story is a gift to the reader, because it teaches them how to confront their own problems.
Storytelling really can change the world, and being good at it can change you too.
Joslyn: What is your writing process like?
Steve: I am an engineer by profession. I like a plan.
Early on, I came across the ‘Snowflake Method’ by Randy Ingermanson. www.ingermanson.com which taught me how to summarise my storyline in one sentence and build out from there, until I have a scene-by-scene outline, together with a ‘bible’ describing each of my major characters.
For those successful writers (like Stephen King) who write by the seat of their pants, it may seem like a lot of unnecessary upfront work. It ensures I have a coherent plot, yet with the freedom to change things as better ideas crop up and the story develops.
I try to write every day, but with a growing family to look after, things don’t always go to plan. Having my own adapted Snowflake/Story-Grid outline to hand helps me keep track of things until I’m done with my first draft.
Joslyn: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Steve: Write about what you know, but be prepared to stretch the boundaries of your knowledge through research, to explore conflict situations for your characters you may not have experienced.
I initially did not know how to structure my story, or what was expected by readers of my chosen genre. Once I discovered The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, at www.storygrid.com, so much fell into place.
Shawn comes at writing from the perspective of an experienced copy editor. He taught me how to break my story into a three-act play, and describe it on a single sheet of A4. Through his work, I have gained a far greater understanding of genre and of the ‘obligatory scenes’ readers expect to find in their chosen genre.
What’s more, knowing the rules allows you to break them.
Wrapping it up
Joslyn: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Steve: Confession was research-heavy, in terms of locations, characters and historical accuracy. I had a good understanding of the layout of Budapest from my many visits there on business. However, I’d never been to the Police Headquarters, nor the Military Hospital, the Psychiatric hospital or the ‘House of Terror’ where the Communist Party tortured its political prisoners in the fifties. These required further research trips.
Thank goodness for Google Maps, which allowed me to research the crime scene locations and many other details.
Joslyn: When can readers expect more wonderful books from you?
Steve: Erika Kelemen’s second book in the series is entitled Killing Order. It’s currently a work in progress, and I hope it will be published early this year.
Joslyn: Fabulous! Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Happy writing to you, and all the best with your books, Steve.
I hope you enjoyed the interview and decide to take a closer look at Steve and his Erika Kelemen series. Thanks for reading!
How about you? Have you picked up your copy of Breakneck? Grab it today and strap in for thriller fun. Then share your thoughts in the comments.