I am so excited to welcome my Killer Year mate and great friend, Dave White, to the Tao. Dave is a one-of-a-kind writer. His Jackson Donne novels are incredibly cool -- PI novels with heart and sheer drop-off-a-cliff stories. And he's at that amazing time in life where the changes are so abundant--marriage, children, being published, not necessarily in that order--that I can't wait to see what the next decade brings to him. (Did I mention he was published in his twenties?) To have so much talent at such a young age... I guarantee his future will be amazing, and I can't wait to read his new novel, NOT EVEN PAST. Welcome, Dave! It's great to have you here today!
Set your music to shuffle and hit play. What’s the first song that comes up?
“Too Drunk to Dream” by the Magnetic Fields… which, I think, is a song I haven’t ever listened to—or haven’t in a very long time. Seriously, how did that end up in my iTunes?
Now that we’ve set the mood, what are you working on today?
This interview. Heh. That’s so cheating, but it’s true. I’m writing this on a Sunday. I just sent my editor a draft of the next Jackson Donne novel, AN EMPTY HELL, and I’m trying to figure out what I want to write next. I’m also kind of taking a break from writing for a little bit and catching up on reading and Netflix.
What’s your latest book about?
NOT EVEN PAST sees my series character and former private eye, Jackson Donne, returning for his first novel in almost 7 years. He’s finally figured his lift out—gone back to college, got engaged, toned down the drinking—and just before exams, he sits down and checks his email. What he finds takes him to a video of his long-thought-dead finacée Jeanne tied to a chair, but very much alive. Donne has no choice but to find out what happened, how and why she’s alive. And the deeper he digs, the more dangerous the case gets, potentially shattering him and everyone to close to him.
Where do you write, and what tools do you use?
I usually write at home on my couch using my laptop. I write in Word. I’ve tried to use Scrivener, but it’s too complicated for my brain. So I stick with what I’ve always used. I take notes in a separate file and save moments I’ve cut in another file as well.
What was your favorite book as a child?
I loved the Hardy Boys series, but I’m having trouble singling one out. However, I also loved Sherlock Holmes and THE SIGN OF FOUR keeps coming to mind.
What’s your secret talent?
I can wiggle my ears, and I’m a pretty good rebounder in pick-up basketball.
What book are you reading now?
I am almost done with Laura Lippman’s AFTER I’M GONE, which has really drawn me in the past couple of days. Laura’s standalones are so good at spiraling downward, taking ordinary moments and making them full of tension and emotion.
After I finish it, I think I’m going to try Taylor Stevens’ THE INFORMATIONIST.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember, getting a Sherlock Holmes story published in my school paper in elementary school. I wrote and drew my own comic books too—so I’ve always been a storyteller. But I think it was my sophomore year in college, when I wrote a mystery story and my professor told me it was good enough to be published. That’s when things really started igniting for me.
Who is your writing idol? Have you met him/her? If so, did you completely nerd out or keep your cool?
My writing idol was always Robert B. Parker, who I’ve actually never got to meet, unfortunately. I wish I had a really good fanboy story for you, because lord knows I’ve embarrassed myself tons of times in front of people. It used to be a daily occurrence, but I am drawing a blank coming up with any good stories.
What’s your favorite bit of writing advice?
“Ass in chair.” It basically comes down to that, sitting and doing it. Writing as much as you can and following it through.
What do you do if the words aren’t flowing?
I walk away. I go play with my son or play a video game on my iPad or work out… I do something other than writing. Usually when I come back, I’ve unlocked whatever it was that was stopping me up. That said, some days you just have to power through. The words aren’t always going to flow, you’re rarely going to have a day where you get 1000 words done in 45 minutes or whatever. Sometimes it’ll take two or three hours… those days you just have to sit there—ass in chair—and get it done.
Are you creatively satisfied?
Wow. Um. I’ve never thought about it like that. I love the books I’ve written, and I think they’re very good. I am satisfied with them. Am I creatively satisfied though? There is a lot more I’d like to do. I’d like to write a comic book one day. I’m still hoping to write a “big book”—something different. There’s a lot on my checklist that I’d like to get to. But that doesn’t mean I’m unsatisfied…it just means I have goals.
So, yes, I think I’m creatively satisfied with what I’ve done so far and what I have on the schedule. But there is still more I want to do.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Being a good person, a good family man, and someone who made an impact. I’m a writer, and I hope people remember my books, but I’m also a public school teacher and I hope I’ve made some positive impact on people’s lives and they’ll remember me going forward.
Alright, now for the really important questions:
Beach or mountains?
Beach, but probably pool, if I can cheat.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee—multiple times a day
Skydive or bungee jump?
Um. I’ll just stay here if that’s okay, guys. You have fun.
Chocolate or vanilla?
Winter or summer?
Winter, winter, winter. I’m going through cold weather withdrawal and it hasn’t even really started to heat up yet.
Cake or pie?
Cookies. (Fine… cake… unless the pie is pizza.)
Cats or dogs?
Pens or pencils?
Truth or dare?
Print or ebook?
I go through phases, but haven been stuck in print for about a year. I like being able to flip ahead and know how long a chapter is.
Dave White is a Derringer Award-winning mystery author and educator. White, an eighth grade teacher for the Clifton, NJ Public School district, attended Rutgers University and received his MAT from Montclair State University. His 2002 short story, "Closure," won the Derringer Award for Best Short Mystery Story the following year. Publishers Weekly gave the first two novels in his Jackson Donne series, WHEN ONE MAN DIES and THE EVIL THAT MEN DO, starred reviews, calling WHEN ONE MAN DIES an "engrossing, evocative debut novel" and writing that his second novel "fulfills the promise of his debut." He received praise from crime fiction luminaries such as bestselling, Edgar Award-winning Laura Lippman and the legendary James Crumley.
Both WHEN ONE MAN DIES and THE EVIL THAT MEN DO were nominated for the prestigious Shamus Award, and WHEN ONE MAN DIES was nominated for the Strand Critics Award for "Best First Novel". His standalone thriller, WITNESS TO DEATH, was an ebook bestseller upon release and named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. All three books have been reissued by Polis Books and are available wherever ebooks are sold.
And here's a little more about NOT EVEN PAST:
Finally, Jackson Donne has it figured out. After leaving the private investigation business, he's looking toward the future — and getting married to Kate Ellison. Donne is focused on living the good life — planning the wedding, finishing college, and anticipating a Hawaiian honeymoon — until he receives an anonymous email with a link and an old picture of him on the police force. Once Donne clicks the link, nothing else in his life matters. Donne sees a live-stream of the one thing he never expected. Six years ago, his fiancée, Jeanne Baker died in a car accident with a drunk driver. Or so Donne thought. He’s taken to a video of Jeanne bound to a chair, bruised and screaming, but very much alive. He starts to investigate, but quickly finds out he’s lost most of his contacts over the years. The police hold a grudge going back to the days when he turned in his corrupt colleagues, and neither they nor the FBI are willing to believe a dead girl’s been kidnapped. Donne turns to Bill Martin — the only man to love Jeanne as much as he did — for help. And that decision could cost him everything.