Morgen: Hello again, Deb. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Debra: I currently live in Seattle and have been here for about ten years. Before that I lived in Chicago, but most of my life was spent in small town Illinois. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I remember even binding a small book using cardboard, construction paper and a typewriter when I was in junior high. I chose not to go to college because I knew I wanted to be a writer and what did a writer need with a college degree? I know better now, but to my 17-year-old mind it made sense at the time. I wrote all through my marriage and that was when I started submitting things. I concentrated on novels at first, but nothing worked until I started writing and submitting a few short stories. Getting a few of those accepted–for pay even!–gave me the confidence I needed to keep working on my novels. As an inspiration for Painted Black, I spent four years living in Chicago and volunteering with Chicago’s homeless, youth in particular. I got to know a few on a personal level that made me want to become a voice for them.
Morgen: I’m always in awe of authors who said that they always knew they wanted to be a writer. I didn’t know until I went to evening classes in my late thirties and then it took me another four years to consider it as a profession (I’m still working on that actually). What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Debra: While I have written spec fic and literary stories, suspense and mystery seem to be my niche. Painted Black is a suspense novel, but because it’s so character driven, it doesn’t fit neatly into a genre. Straight whodunits were never as interesting to me as something that got me into the mind of the character as much or more than the actual plotline. If you care about the main characters, the puzzle they are solving seems less important than what might happen to them while they are following the clues.
If there is one unifying theme to my work now, it is an attempt to see the real world for what it really is, the good and the bad, and keep going no matter what. Like the character in one of my short stories says, “It’s how you deal with the darkness that counts.”
I read a wide variety of books myself (my favorite all time author is historical novelist Dorothy Dunnett) but mystery / suspense has always been my favorite. It started with the Bobbsey Twins and Hardy Boy books when I was a kid and continues through Stephen King and Dean Koontz, et al. My favorite authors always have a certain something that makes them rise above the genre, however.
Morgen: I’ve never read Dean Koontz but I was a big Stephen King fan in my teens and read everything as it came out, until somewhere after Misery (which I loved) when I lost interest and switched to softer reads (like Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected :)). What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?