Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mike Dennis Interview

1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?
I generally get up, go to the gym, shower, check my email, have lunch somewhere with two newspapers, then return home to write. Usually around 12:30 or 1:00. From then until early evening, I can almost always be found in front of my laptop.

2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?
Way back when I wrote my first novel, I didn't have a computer or even a typewriter, so I wrote it in longhand with a pencil, on plain white paper from Walgreen's. It didn't take me that long to write and frankly, I felt a lot closer to my characters than I have in any of the subsequent novels that I've written on a computer. I've been very tempted to try it again. I've just started a new novel, so maybe I'll switch back to longhand. I do think about it with each novel I write.

3: What do you draw inspiration from?
Inspiration, of course, can come from anywhere and it can (and usually does) hit you when you least expect it. My current novel, The Take, stemmed from one verse in the Marty Robbins song El Paso. The ending of The Take was inspired by a film noir classic—to avoid spoilers, I won't say which one. I had a verse from a song and the ending from a movie, and from that came the novel.

4: Do you set goals for yourself when you sit down to write such as word count?
Not really. If I can do 1200-1500 words a day, though, I feel like I've accomplished something, but I don't drive myself to pile up words. It's more a matter of crafting scenes and sufficiently propelling the story line.

5: Are you a published or a self published author and how do you come up with your cover art?
The Take is traditionally-published, so the publisher did the cover.
My latest effort, a collection of three short stories called Bloodstains On The Wall, is self-published. The cover was designed by Ronnell Porter, who I think did a superb job. I'm waiting right now for the final corrections in the formatting, so it should be on Kindle et al by the time this interview is published.

6: What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?
You know, I'm the only writer I know who never aspired to writing. Years ago, when I was living in New Orleans, I took trips to Africa and Central America where I had some, shall we say, unnerving experiences. I was urged to write them down, so I did, then showed the 125-page account to a friend of mine who was herself a writer. She told me I should "try fiction", but of course, I laughed it off. Fiction? That was for real writers.
Well, anyway, she hounded me nonstop until one day I sat down with that 79¢ sheaf of white paper from Walgreen's and a box of pencils. After looking at that blank sheet of paper for about two hours, I was ready to give up and go tell her that I couldn't write fiction.
But then, an opening line came to me. I wrote it down and looked at it for the longest time, marveling over it. The first line of a novel! And I had written it! I couldn't quit now.
A central character suggested herself, plot developments unfolded themselves in front of me, and the novel took flight. Believe me, there's no greater sensation than that. I was hooked from that moment on.

7: Do you own an ebook reading device?
I bought an iPad a couple of months ago and I'm reading my first book on it right now.

8: Who are some of your favorite authors and What are you reading now?
Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Gil Brewer, Lawrence Block, Vicki Hendricks, many others. Right now I'm reading One Lonely Night by the great Mickey Spillane on my iPad. A couple of months ago, I read White Shadow by Ace Atkins. What a terrific book!

9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any?
I'm not sure book trailers really work. I've seen some very good ones, with extremely high production values. Most of the ones I've seen, though, are lacking. I would think you'd need good production to have it be impact your sales, just like a good movie trailer. Problem is, books don't sell as well as movies, so a quality trailer might not be cost effective.

10: How did you come up with the title of your latest book?
I had this title (The Take) in mind years ago when I was thinking about the book. I honestly don't remember where it came from. I know I wanted a terse title, so maybe that was it.

11: What are you working on now that you can talk about?
Well, as I mentioned earlier, I've just started a new novel. Since I don't work from an outline, I have no idea what's going to happen yet. No title, either.
I've got three other novels, however, that are essentially ready to go right now. I've been working on editing and polishing them for the last year, reading them in front of critique groups, tightening them up, and so on. They're three standalone books of Key West noir, set way back in the shadows and the alleys of that island city where the tourists never go. The first one is called The Ghosts Of Havana, and I'm torn between self-publishing it or seeking a bigger print deal than the one I have now. I think if Bloodstains On The Wall, my short story collection, does well, then I'll self-publish it, but we'll have to wait and see.
Oh, and speaking of critique groups, I'd like to take a moment to urge every writer who is reading this to join a critique group. From 2006-2010, I lived in Las Vegas and was a member of the Henderson Writers Group. I can say without reservation that belonging to that group made me a much better writer, and it will do the same for you. Not just getting your stuff critiqued, but doing the critiquing yourself of other people's material…these two activities work like a tongue-in-groove to improve your writing skills.
Now that I've moved back to Key West, I belong to two such groups and I attend every meeting.


  1. I thought noir was dead--in some lonely back alley probably--until I found Mike Dennis! This guy is for real. Do yourself a favor and get "The Take."

  2. It is sitting on my Kindle to read next I love Noir reading Ed Lacy right now