Dustin Stevens - Bestselling Suspense Thrillers that Intrigue Readers
Dustin Stevens is the author of more than 40 novels, the vast majority having become #1 Amazon bestsellers, including the Reed & Billie and Hawk Tate series. He also writes thrillers and assorted other stories under the pseudonym T.R. Kohler. As our Author of the Day, Stevens tells us about his latest book, The Scorekeeper.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Scorekeeper is about.
The Scorekeeper is the sixth book in the Reed and Billie series, which is centered on Columbus Police Department Detective Reed Mattox and his K-9 partner Billie. In this installment, Reed is out on patrol when a call comes into dispatch from a young woman claiming to be sealed inside a box. Having no idea where she is or how she got there, she is equipped with a cell phone that is not her own and nothing more.
Initially thinking that the call is a prank, Reed begins doing his due diligence and fast discovers that that now only is the girl telling the truth, she is being used to draw attention to what someone believes was an incredible wrong done to them years before.
What inspired you to write about someone sealed inside a coffin?
In this book, I really wanted to amplify the sense of urgency attached to everything Reed & Billie went through. Most investigations take at a minimums several days, and in most cases significantly longer. Here, I wanted to place the protagonists in a position where a literal clock was ticking above them at all times. Not one predicated on the time of day, but rather the amount of oxygen the girl had left.
Additionally, I think claustrophobia is one of those fundamental fears that many people have. Alongside maybe drowning or being caught in a fire, it is something that tends to evoke a very visceral response from readers, which was the goal.
Tell us more about Reed & Billie. What makes them such a great team?
This being their sixth story together, we’re now to a point where we can really see how far they’ve evolved. In the beginning, they were both the proverbial misfits. Reed had recently lost his partner on a case she was working while he was away. Billie was previously a Marine bomb detection dog that lost her handler in Afghanistan.
What was initially wariness has now moved into deep trust, the sort of thing that transcends most partnerships. They share a home, both have scars, and cling solely to one another in times of need.
You have authored more than 40 novels, many of which became Amazon bestsellers. What, would you say, is the secret to your success?
While I know it sounds very cliched, the most important thing has been the support of readers. For whatever reason, they have really found something they like in my work, and their support has allowed me to continue pursuing it.
Beyond that, I think it’s a combination of things. I have an amazing manager in Jamie Davis, a great cover designer in Paramita Battacharjee, and have worked with scads of great editors, bloggers, and marketers.
The Scorekeeper is a very fast-paced book. How do you manage to keep readers at the edge of their seats?
I remember a long time ago reading that every story needs the three C’s: characters, conflict, and the crucible. Every story has a different balance of these three, but for this one, I really wanted to push the crucible. I wanted every action to be done almost breathlessly, even as it occasionally careened into recklessness.
Where do your ideas come from?
I often joke with folks that ideas aren’t the hard part…it’s finding the time to get down all the stories I have in my head. :) I have literally had them come from virtually anywhere, be it a line in a song, a poem, a movie, or a television program.
Above all, though, I tend to be most inspired by good writing. If I find an author I really enjoy, it gets my own mind working, and soon I’m diving right back in.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
While I don’t know that the term skills necessarily applies, there are myriad things I love dabbling in when not writing. Living in Hawaii, I got really into water sports, including stand-up paddling and even a bit of surfing. I’m also an avid hiker, love English bulldogs, and am a dyed-in-the-cloth Oklahoma Sooners fan.
Talk to us a bit about your writing habits. Do you write early in the morning, or through the night? Pen or laptop?
I tend to work very, very quickly, so when I begin a story, I tend to average about 35 pages a day. I’m an early riser by nature, head straight to the gym, and then it’s back-and-forth from the computer to whatever else I need to get done throughout the day.
On occasion, I’ve been known to hit as many as 70 pages in a day!
Do you ever have days when writing is a struggle?
Absolutely! And I imagine most writers would say the same. We’re all human, and have distractions/responsibilities/etc. each day. The difference between being a writer and my previous career (healthcare/law) is that I have to find a way to perpetually push those things aside and clear my head to create, which isn’t always easy.
As I often tell people, I truly love what I do, but some days it is a job. And that’s okay. It just makes me appreciate the times when things are really flowing all the more. :)
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I’ve done both. For my series works, I tend to use an outline more, largely because it helps in staying true to the characters and to keep straight all the various people inhabiting those worlds. For standalone books, it’s a little easier to just start with a premise – or even a single scene – and see where it goes.
What genre of books do you like to read? Do you limit yourself to only the genre that you write yourself?
Not at all! I have been fortunate to live all over the country at this point and am a card-carrying member at fourteen different public libraries. I’m rarely without a book on hand, and usually get through one-to-two a week. Thriller/mystery does make up a large chunk, but it certainly isn’t the only thing I’ll read.
Most recently I’ve been delving into what a friend of mine dub’s ‘travel fiction,’ which are novels set in exotic or lesser known locales. In that way, I can meld a good yarn with learning something without even realizing it. (For example, the Peter North or Jo Nesbitt books)
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I have a handful of projects going. Due out next will be the fourth and fifth installments of the My Mira saga, a serial written under my pen name T. R. Kohler. I also have a standalone thriller entitled HAM, and the next in the Reed & Billie series.
Also, I have a line of children’s chapter books entitled Danny the Daydreamer about a little boy that inserts himself into everyday situations and has fantastical adventures therein. The third installment of that, Danny the Daydreamer Goes to the Moon will also be out soon.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
They can always find my work on Amazon or my website, www.dustinstevens.com. They can also connect with me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/dstevens5408) or Twitter, though email is probably the best method for interacting. There I can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].