Showing posts with label Dietrich Kalteis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dietrich Kalteis. Show all posts

15 October 2019

Call Down the Thunder – with Deitrich Kalteis


Today I’d like to welcome Dietrich Kalteis to SleuthSayers. Dietrich is the award-winning author of Ride the Lightning (bronze medal winner, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best regional fiction), The Deadbeat Club, Triggerfish, House of Blazes (silver medal winner, 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best historical fiction), Zero Avenue and Poughkeepsie Shuffle. 50 of his short stories have been published internationally, and his next novel Call Down the Thunder will be released October 2019. He lives with his family on Canada’s west coast.

Take it away Dietrich.


Paul D. Marks: Call Down the Thunder is your seventh book by my count. It takes place in Kansas in the 1930s. You’re Canadian—what made you choose 1930s Kansas?

Dietrich Kalteis: Being a time of great hardship, the dust bowl of the thirties seemed the right setting for the story. The initial idea started off with a couple at odds with each other while trying to survive on their desolate farm, and the drought and dust storms added a layer to their desperation and struggle.


How did you do research for that long-gone era? And did you learn anything that surprised you or that you never knew before?

I went through years of archived newspapers, historical accounts, personal memoirs, and I viewed hundreds of images of the damage inflicted by the dusters and drought. The Kansas Historical Society along with several websites were great resources. I enjoyed the digging, learning about the people and how they survived and adapted to whatever came.

How did you come up with the characters of Sonny and Clara Meyers? Are they based on anyone you know or knew?

Sonny and Clara simply started as a young couple at odds with each other, and their characters and backstories just evolved through the first draft. And no, they weren’t based on anyone I’ve ever known.

What’s your method? Do you get the idea first, the characters, some neat plot twist? How does the story all come together?

It started with a single scene where Sonny is alone splitting firewood in his yard, and he gets to wonder about his supper, and why Clara isn’t home yet from the general store fixing it like she always does. And he gets a feeling that maybe she isn’t coming back. The story grew from that scene, and I switched back and forth from his and her POVs. One scene led to the next, and subplots and backstory just filled in as I kept writing that first draft. When I started I had a different outcome in mind, and a better one came along as I got into the second draft.

You don’t write a series character. Is there a reason for that? Any plans to do one in the future?

So far when I’ve finished a story, all the ends have gotten tied up. Sometimes key characters aren’t with us anymore, or they’ve achieved their goal, learned a life’s lesson, and there’s just no more story to tell.

By the time I’ve finished one story, I usually have ideas for the next one, and so far they’ve been unrelated to the ones before. Who knows, maybe the right character(s) will show up, and I’ll have them stick around for a while.

And your books are set in a variety of different places and deal with a variety of characters. Which I think is kind of cool in that you’re not limited to a certain set of characters or locales. Is there a reason you chose to go this way instead of writing a series or staying in one or two locations?

I come up with what I feel is the best setting for each story. Sometimes the setting is familiar to me, places I’ve lived, and sometimes I have to take a trip and do some research until I feel like I know the time and place.

Often the settings add a character-like feel. For instance, the fires in House of Blazes started to feel like an antagonist, and really drove the pace. And the dusters helped create the feeling of isolation in Call Down the Thunder. I don’t think either of these stories would have worked as well set anywhere else.

When I think up a scene for a story I just add the character(s) I’d like to see handle the situation, and they just take shape from there.


You’ve won several awards, which is really cool. Do you think it’s made a difference in the way you write, what you write, how your writing is received, etc.?

I don’t know if it’s made a difference in the way my writing is received, but I can tell you it’s encouraging and gives me the feeling I’m on the right track.

What’s your background? Do you have a day job? Or did you—what is/was it? And does it come to play in your writing?

For years I worked as a commercial artist, but not much of my former career has come into my writing.

You could say writing is my day job, except it never feels like a job. That would seem restrictive, too nine to five. I don’t have any set rules about it. Usually the mornings are the best time, so I write until around noon, then maybe again for an hour in the evening.

Does your Canadian background make your books different than books from American crime writers? If so, what do you think the difference is and why?

I don’t think my background really comes into it. If I’m writing a story set in Canada, then I have to play to regional customs, dialects, that sort of thing. The same goes for a story set somewhere in the States. All that matters is that the story is convincing to the reader.

Who do you like reading? And who’s inspired you?

In the crime genre I like reading George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, Carl Hiaasen, S.J. Rozan, Don Winslow, James Lee Burke and James Ellroy. And I’ve been inspired and have read just about everything by past-masters like Elmore Leonard, George V. Higgins, James Crumley, and Charles Willeford.

Do you read outside of your genre?

Outside of the genre I enjoy reading Patti Smith, Margaret Atwood, Hunter S. Thompson, J. K. Rowling, Charles Bukowski, and from time to time I like to revisit the classics by Harper Lee, John Steinbeck, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger—some books I can’t read too often.

Is it hard for you to write characters who aren’t like yourself. Women, for instance, like Clara in Call Down the Thunder. Or Frankie del Rey in Zero Avenue. How do you get inside a character’s head when they’re completely different from yourself?

I think if a character were hard to write, I’d have to abandon that one. As each individual’s personality and backstory takes shape through the early stages, that character becomes real and believable. Gender or how different they are from me doesn’t matter. I write from their perspective and just turn them loose on the page and follow their actions, letting them stay true to their own nature.

Do you edit your own work? Hire a professional? Writing group? Friend?

I write three or four drafts without anybody looking at it. I want each story as polished as I can make it before I send it off to my publisher. From there, it’s in the hands of the professionals. I’ve been fortunate to be teamed with a great editor ( and a wonderful author) Emily Schultz. She’s edited all seven books with ECW Press, and she’s always spot-on and just amazing to work with.

What’s next?

The next two novels are in queue with my publisher. The first one is set in present-day Vancouver and involves a cheating couple being pursued by a gangster husband who’ll stop at nothing to catch them. It takes readers through northern BC and up into Alaska. The one after that is based on a pair of lesser-known, real-life bank robbers who were at large in the central States in the late 1930s. I don’t have release dates for either story yet.

Currently, I’m working on one set in present-day Vancouver involving a retiree, a runaway, a couple of casino crooks and one killer motor home.

Where can people find you and your books?

My website is http://www.dietrichkalteis.com/, and my publisher’s site is www.ecwpress.com.

My blog is Off the Cuff: http://www.dietrichkalteis.blogspot.ca/

And I regularly contribute at 7 Criminal Minds: http://www.7criminalminds.blogspot.ca/

You can also find me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dietrich.kalteis/

and Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dietrichkalteis/

And I’d like to thank you Paul for having me as a guest on SleuthSayers. It’s been a real pleasure.

It’s my pleasure, Dietrich.
~.~.~

And now for the usual BSP:

Check out my Duke Rogers Series:





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10 October 2017

Dietrich Kalteis and the Process of Writing


by Paul D. Marks

One of the things I really enjoy in the writing game is the process of writing. Both my own and other people’s. Everyone seems to do it just a little bit differently. Of course, there’s the big stuff like pantsters vs. outliners, but there’s also things like whether you try to write a specific number of words a day. And, whether I’m on a panel or reading a blog, I always find these little subtleties in the way various writers work interesting. I also often pick up pointers, so I might change how I do something or at least try something new. If it works fine, if not that’s fine too. But there’s always room to learn and grow.

To that end, I thought I’d talk to Canadian author Dietrich Kalteis about his process and his new book. Dieter’s fourth novel House of Blazes won this year’s silver medal for historical fiction in the Independent Publishers Awards. Kirkus Reviews hailed it a cinematic adventure. And Publishers Weekly called his third novel Triggerfish high-octane action that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. Crimespree Magazine said it satisfies the need for all things dark and leaves the reader breathless. The National Post called The Deadbeat Club a breakout for Kalteis, and his debut novel Ride the Lightning won a bronze medal for best regional fiction in the Independent Publishers Awards, and was hailed as one of Vancouver’s best crime novels. Nearly fifty of his short stories have been published internationally, and his screenplay Between Jobs is a past-finalist in the Los Angeles Screenplay Festival. He lives with his family in West Vancouver, British Columbia, and is currently working on his next novel. His upcoming novel Zero Avenue was released just this week through ECW Press.

So here goes, and maybe there’s something new here that will help your writing too:


Paul D. Marks: Did your new novel Zero Avenue end up as the book you anticipated writing from the start?

Dietrich Kalteis: I started with an early scene where the main character Frankie del Rey walks into Johnny Falco’s club. We learn she’s an aspiring rock star who runs dope for a dealer named Marty Sayles, and that Johnny’s club’s in financial trouble. Sparks fly between Johnny and Frankie which leads to a major conflict between them and Marty Sayles. From there, the first draft just flowed out scene by scene.

I don’t plot a story out ahead of time, so during the early chapters I never know where the whole thing will end up. As I’m writing and the story takes shape, ideas drift in for what’s ahead, and those ideas are better than anything I could come up with if I plotted the whole story ahead of time. Working this way makes writing more of an organic process for me. And these ideas can come from something I’ve experienced, or something I read or saw somewhere, and with just the right twist they find their way into the story.

It’s not the only way to write a story, but it works for me. Once I’m through a first draft, I create a timeline to make sure the sequence of events makes sense. I guess it’s a little like outlining in reverse.


Zero Avenue is your fifth standalone novel. Have you ever considered writing a series?

I love a good series, but I haven’t come up with one that I want to write. Right now I’m working on a story set in the dustbowl days of Kansas, and I have a first draft for the one after that: a present-day story about a guy on the run up in the Yukon. Usually by the time I finish one novel, I have the next one in my head, ready to go. I love creating new characters and dropping them in different settings and situations. Having said that, I did borrow a minor character from my first novel, and she became a main character for my second story, The Deadbeat Club, although I wouldn’t call that a series.


Your characters often come from the wrong side of the tracks, do you like taking an outlaw’s perspective? 

My characters have been bounty hunters, cops, ex-cops, criminals, ex-cons and then some. They often end up in that gray area — not all good and not all bad  — no matter what side of the tracks they’re from. Some don’t follow any rules while others bend them to get what they want, or catch who they’re after. I find this helps make the characters less predictable and somewhat more realistic.

Just like in real life, nobody is all one thing. And when I drop characters in a scene, I let them take their own course and develop as the story progresses, and I try not to interfere by imposing my own values or principles.


Being a prolific writer, do you set a daily word count?

I never have a word count in mind. Typically, I pick up where I left off the day before. Sometimes I back up and rework some of the chapter I was working on the previous day, and by the end of it I may only have written a couple hundred new words. Other days I charge through a couple thousand words. The only thing that matters is that the words that end up on the page are good ones.


Do you cut and save your unpublished gems? 

I used to keep a file for scenes and ideas I cut, thinking I might be able to use them down the road. That’s never happened so far, so I stopped keeping the file. Sometimes when I’m doing a second or third pass through a story, I find something that isn’t working and needs to be cut, and it’s not always easy to throw something out, but I’ve come to realize there are always fresh ideas coming.


You’ve written crime novels set in present time and some that are historical. What determines the setting?   

It comes down to what suits the story. For Zero Avenue I liked the anger of the punk rock scene, and Vancouver was this sleepy backwater town back in the late seventies. And that combination just seemed the perfect setting for the story I had in mind. Also the late seventies was a time before Google Earth and satellite imagery, making it easier to hide some pot fields, which was necessary to the story.

I’ve written stories set in present-day Vancouver, and I like the setting since it hasn’t been overused in crime fiction. Also, the city’s a major seaport sitting on the U.S. border, and that’s just begging for a crime story.

For House of Blazes I set the story in San Francisco in 1906 at the time of the big earthquake. It was a time of debauchery and corruption, and it also had a wild west meets a modern city feel to it. Some people rode into town on horseback carrying sidearms while others drove cars wearing three-piece suits. After the earthquake hit, the fires that swept the city for three days took on a character feel as they raged and forced people to run for their lives.


What’s coming next?

I’m pleased to have a story included in the upcoming Vancouver Noir, part of Akashic Books’ Noir Series, edited by Sam Wiebe.

The next novel to be released is Poughkeepsie Shuffle, due out next year from ECW Press. It’s set in Toronto in the mid-eighties and centers on Jeff Nichols, a guy just released from the Don Jail. When he lands a job at a used-car lot, he finds himself mixed up in a smuggling ring bringing guns in from Upstate New York. Jeff’s a guy willing to break a few rules on the road to riches, a guy who lives by the motto ‘why let the mistakes of the past get in the way of a good score in the future.’

Thanks for stopping by, Dieter. And good luck with the new book.

***

And now for the usual BSP:

Please check out the interview Laura Brennan, writer, producer and consultant, did with me for her podcast, where we talk about everything from Raymond Chandler and John Fante to the time I pulled a gun on the LAPD and lived to tell about it. Find it here: http://destinationmystery.com/episode-52-paul-d-marks/