As you all know by now, November is a special time for writers. It typically starts off with National Author’s Day, which is followed by National Novel and Memoir Writing Month. So, I reached out to an old friend and published thriller author, Dean Kutzler, in the hopes of snagging an interview with him. Having just released his Amazon best seller, Brownstone, in September, I reasoned that he’d be the perfect one to shed a little light on the writing process. He graciously agreed to take time out of his busy schedule and answer five questions for me.
Here’s what he had to say:
GA Library Friend: We all know that writing is challenging at times. So tell us, what was the biggest obstacle that you faced and how did you overcome it?
Kutzler: Finding my process was the most difficult thing in my writing career that I had to overcome. I was unable to finish my novel until I found “my way.” Every writer has their own process, whether that is one of a highly detailed, outlining nature or one of what we call seat-of-the-pantsters, where the writer just sits in front of a blank page, with no prior outlining, and types away until a first draft is produced.
I feel it needs mentioning, for the sake of my answer, that my parents were a little bit of polar opposites. My father was very logical and detail oriented, whereas my mother was very creative and free flowing. My first attempt at a novel, I had tried the seat-of-the-pants method.
I sat down, buckled up and started writing. It was wonderful! I wrote 88,000 words! The only problem was the novel went nowhere. Beautiful imagery and wonderfully interesting prose all leading to naught! Back to the drawing board…
I did a little research and then decided to completely outline my entire story this time around. That process took forever and once I was finished with the outline and started the actual writing of the story part, I found myself veering too heavily off the path. I never got past the first chapter! Again, for all of my efforts it went nowhere. I had tried both methods and I was at a loss. So, back to researching I went!
I armed myself with all the writing advice I could get my hands on. I read interviews, articles, watched podcasts—everything the internet had to offer! And what I discovered was that every writer has his or her own journey of discovery in finding an individual process. That’s what’s so wonderful about this career. No two writers are alike! We’re individual little snowflakes in a sea of literary pages, all writing our own, individual novels.
I had an epiphany. I realized that I was trying to fit my unique experiences into one defined process; a process that wasn’t built for me. So, then, I tried something different, or, at least, different for me. I dissected the novel into twelve chapters. I picked the number twelve for the simple fact that I find any more in a given novel a little extraneous. But, that’s just me! There is a little reason as to why writers use so many chapters, but I’ll leave that little secret hidden.
As for my process, I then wrote a very barebones–and I stress barebones—outline for each chapter, wherein individually, they each gave me a direction to follow, so I wasn’t sitting there, staring at a totally blank page. Well, I still was staring at a blank screen, but in the back of my head was planted the path in which it was to go. So, in each of those scarcely outlined chapters I’d included interesting ideas that I’d found while researching my topic, where I thought readers would find the material interesting.
I made those ideas into goals that the characters had to reach. Once that minimal outline was done (quite quickly, I might add,) I discovered that I’d left myself the creative license within each chapter to write (seat-of-the-pants) them with free-flowing ease. I had a direction and an empty highway to fill with attainable goals! I’d found my process! It’s as simple as a very loosely outlined path and then creatively writing within that simple structure.
GA Library Friend: What part of the novel writing process delighted you the most and why?
Kutzler: Research….Definitely research. I actually have to limit the time I spend on research when writing a new novel. I get lost in it because I find learning new things fascinating. As an added bonus, a lot of the ideas for my books are also found this way. It fills up my well of creativity. For example, there is a part in Brownstone, the 1st book in the Jack Elliot series, where I’d found an interesting passage in the bible about how Adam and Eve were kept out of the Garden of Eden:
Genesis 3:24: So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
Let me be clear—my novel isn’t a religious novel or Christian novel. It just has biblical facts and that flaming sword which turned every way fascinated me so entirely, that I needed to include it, in some way into the book. Let’s face it. The people of biblical times had seen the world through younger eyes. What could it possibly have been; a flaming sword that turned every way? Intriguing, right? Do you know what I think it was? Read the book and find out! J
GA Library Friend: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self about launching a writing career, what would it be?
Kutzler: START NOW! That would definitely be the biggest advice I could give my younger self. It’s self-evident in any career that the more you do it, the better you become. Writing every day has certainly improved my craft. But I truly believe that all things happen for a reason. I don’t think my younger self was ready to become a writer. A lifetime of experiences does make for better novel writing.
GA Library Friend: Your series’ protagonist has already had quite an adventure! Give us a hint. What can we expect from Jack Elliot in the future?
Kutzler: Jack Elliot has had a taste for saving the world and since he’s basically an amateur at this sort of thing, a team is in definite order. Now, that would be a big, BORING hint, so, I’ll give you something a little juicier. Right now, Jack and Calvin are in the Congo and they’ve stumbled across something that will devastate churchgoers around the globe. They discovered that Jesus Christ wasn’t quite the man everyone thought he was and even what’s more interesting is that it’s based on actual fact. If that isn’t juicy enough, there is also something they discover about Jesus’ DNA that just might topple over DaVinci Code fans everywhere!
GA Library Friend: This last question is just for fun. If Jack Elliot could have dinner with any 5 people, living or dead, whom would he choose and what would be on the menu?
Kutzler: Oh, I love this one! It’s as if you’ve outlined a chapter for me and have given me the full creative license in which to write it! Wink-wink… Jack would invite his father (or is that uncle), and definitely NOT his mother; so, we’re still at one.
Hmmm. Harold Poytner, the Cabbie Affair, would most certainly be at that table since if it weren’t for him, Jack wouldn’t have made it into the second novel. Oh, how could I forget the nice nurse, Julie? She made his journey a little easier. And finally, he would invite Adam and Lilith, so he could investigate the true story.
Now for the menu…Jack is a big fan of Thai cuisine. Jack loves Starbucks, but when it comes to fine Thai dining it’s Thai Iced Tea all the way! For starters, we’ll be serving up some Tom Kha Gai, one of Jack and Calvin’s favorite soups. It’s loaded with sliced chicken, ginger, lemon grass and coconut milk.
The entrée would be Pad Kra Prow Moo Krob or Crispy Pork Belly with Chili and Thai Basil—one of Calvin’s favorite dishes. Jack loves all Thai. And for dessert, Jack’s least favorite course, believe it or not, we’ll be having Khao Niaow Ma Muang or simply put: Mango Sticky Rice Pudding. It’s to die for! And don’t forget the handful of those licorice tasting seeds and spices Thai places usually have on the counter on the way out!
There you have it folks, my interview with one of Amazon’s bestselling authors, Dean Kutzler. And before we close, I just wanted to say, “Thank you Dean.” We appreciate you taking the time to be interviewed. Until next time, Happy Writing Y’all!
Interviewer’s Notes: Dean Kutzler’s book, “Brownstone”, is already available for purchase online. He is expected to release The Harrowing of Hell, the second book in his Jack Elliot Series, sometime in February of 2017. Find Philadelphia’s Thriller Author, Dean Kutzler at his website, Facebook or Twitter accounts. Stay tuned!