PRO-FILE Dana King
Bio: Dana King has published three e-books, Wild Bill, Worst Enemies, and A Small Sacrifice. Grind Joint, the second book in the series begun by Worst Enemies, will be published in paper by Stark House in November of 2013. His short fiction has appeared in Thuglit, Powder Burn Flash, New Mystery Reader, and Mysterical-E, as well as the anthology, Blood, Guts, and Whisky.
1. Tell us about your current novel or project.
Grind Joint is a story about a small, economically depressed town in Western Pennsylvania. The economy went south when the mills in the Pittsburgh area started closing in the early 70s. Pittsburgh and some surrounding towns recovered; Penns River did not. City government is promised a windfall when a developer wants to build an inexpensive, slots-only casino (aka a grind joint) in an abandoned shopping center, and they don’t look as closely at the unintended consequences as they should. There’s more to this casino than meets the eye—an indirect connection to the Russian mob, for instance—and a town of thirty or so cops isn’t equipped to handle it.
2. Can you give us a sense of what you’re working on now?
Resurrection Mall picks up several months after Grind Joint leaves off. A small television minister with a growing audience wants to take advantage of the bad publicity generated by the casino fiasco by expanding his ministry into another abandoned shopping center in a more urban part of Penn River; he plans to use the rest of the space for Christian-themed businesses. The casino brought problems to its part of town; Resurrection Mall is moving into an area with plenty of problems of its own. The results are no prettier.
3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?
I don’t have a contract beyond Grind Joint, so I can safely say the greatest pleasure is writing whatever I want without deadlines, then looking to see what kind of reception it gets. I self-published three e-books before Grind Joint. They sold into the dozens, but the feedback I received from people I respect was gratifying and has given me the confidence to believe there may be an audience for my stories, after all. I’ve always loved telling stories. Writing novels allows me to broaden the scope and detail in which I can tell them.
4. The greatest displeasure?
The frustration that goes with a fluctuating market and no set standards. People who make their livings based on their abilities in this area can’t tell you what will sell, only what won’t. I was close to quitting a few years ago after receiving conflicting reasons for rejections and receiving suggestions to write books I wouldn’t read if I wanted to be published. (That’s not how they phrased it, but that’s how it would have come out.) I was talked out of it and returned to writing whatever the hell I wanted. All I can control is the writing; everything else is pretty much out of my hands.
5. Advice to the publishing world?
Your traditional business model doesn’t work anymore; change it. Some of this is happening now. The pace is glacial, but once glaciers get moving they’re impossible to stop.
The other big thing would be not to focus so exclusively on blockbuster best-sellers. Those books are important, but having a good list of steady, if unspectacular earners will provide cash flow that should be able to tide a company over when a book that received a huge advance and marketing budget flops, as some inevitably will.
6. Are there any forgotten writers you’d like to see in print again?
This is an embarrassing answer, but my deep involvement in crime fiction is relatively recent, in the past fifteen to twenty years; writers we’d consider to be forgotten were already forgotten when I got into it. There are writers from the past I don’t think receive their due, but are still in print.
Maybe my perception is skewed because I’m just now getting recognition myself, but I focus more on writers who are working today who I think are exceptional and don’t receive their due. The list is voluminous, and I apologize for leaving out many names, but writers like Declan Burke, John McFetridge, Adrian McKinty, and Charlie Stella are writing great stuff. Other writers and hard core fans are aware of them, but they haven’t been given the opportunities they deserve with the broader public. Terrence McCauley is doing great things with a series that takes place in New York near the end of Prohibition that deserves more notice. I apologize to at least that many people I didn’t mention.
7. Tell us about selling your first novel.
A lot of that is your fault, Ed. It’s my understanding it was you who encouraged Stark House to do more than re-issues. Charlie Stella was the first author whose originals they published. Charlie and I had become friends and he asked to see some of what I’d written. He liked Worst Enemies, the e-book I self-pubbed that opens the Penns River series, and I sent him a draft of Grind Joint. He asked what I planned to do with it; I told him probably give it a few more drafts, then release it as an e-book. Charlie told me not to mess with it, send it to publishers. I’d pretty much given up on traditional publishing, because of the frustrations I mentioned earlier, and hemmed and hawed about it. I think you know Charlie; he’s a force of nature. He kept after me and Rick Ollerman, his editor at Stark House, until Rick and I agreed I’d send him a copy and he’d read if Charlie would—well, if he’d leave us alone about it. Rick liked the book and Stark House bought it. So, I have you to thank, but the debt I owe Charlie Stella is beyond measure. I would never have sent the book to any publisher were it not for his…”encouragement” isn’t strong enough a word.
FROM SANDRA BALZO