Interview with Graham Dodge

When did you first start writing?
I drew cartoon strips for my own amusement in primary school, then I moved onto movie scripts in High School (I still have the movies). When I was studying Law at Macquarie University the idea for 'Pearson's Paper' came to me and it nagged me for over thirty years until I finished the book. In the meantime I completed an extremely forgettable science fiction novel that I never published and a bunch of other scripts/musicals/blog posts.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
Not sure I ever did grow up, or that I ever want to.
Who are your favorite authors?
C.S. Forrester for his Hornblower series.
Isaac Asimov for his breadth of vision.
Tom Clancy for action.
Some of John Grisham's work - his quality varies.
Describe your desk
I write at an old leather-topped wooden desk positioned at a window that overlooks a National Park. Since I'm up and working by 5am every day I often see the sunrise coming up between the trees in the valley, and if I'm tempted to step out on my balcony I can hear the gurgling stream fighting it's way down to join the river. On some days my (pure white) cat hops onto the desk and curls up next to my coffeepot. It doesn't get better than this.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Over 100 rejection letters from mainstream agents
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My addiction to coffee
What is your writing process?
I believe C.S. Forester wrote all of his stories (e.g. African Queen, Horatio Hornblower) by starting at page one and then working sequentially through the story until he reached The End. That seems so strange to me.
I start with individual scenes, or in the case of Book Three, just one line of dialog. I then build out from both ends of the scene until it bumps up against another scene, just like a gardener might plant little isolated tufts of grass on a patch of dirt and then nurture them until they all join up into a lawn. If Cut & Paste cost money then I'd be bankrupted a thousand times over.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Making the plot fit together in a believable fashion. I hate stories where the author waves a magic wand every few pages and sacrifices reality in order to save the hero. That should happen no more than once or twice in the story .
What's the story behind your latest book?
Pearson's Paper? It's a murder mystery set in Civil War Washington. What sets it apart from my other writing is the fact that the underlying 'what-if' question of the book is not fiction. There's extensive social, historical and legal research behind the novel and I'm still fascinated by the possibility of what would have happened if the Confederacy had tried to win the war in the manner I described. The scenario has been provided to a number of subject matter experts, all of whom said "They would never have done that", but no-one has suggested that the strategy was impossible, and no-one can tell me what would have happened if the secessionists had tried.
How do you approach cover design?
I love to create artistically in many mediums, so I'll always do a rough design of my own cover and then send it to a graphic artist to add the finishing touches. In My Humble Opinion the cover should always reflect the contents, so I create a list of the major themes within the story and then toss that around in my head until the answer appears. The answer for Pearson's Paper came to me quite unexpectedly. I'd already decided on the White House as a background and Matthew Brady's Civil War photograph was perfect, especially once I added the blue wash. Fitting the newspaper onto the page took a bit more work until a lightbulb went off in my head and said to make it transparent and then layer it across the whole page.
Here's a hint for graphic artists - keep your name on your work. The internet showed me a perfect image of flags to use as the focus point of the page, but there was no artists name on the graphic so I couldn't use it. In the end I paid another artist to do a similar piece.
What are you working on next?
The third book in the series, which is a bit strange given that I haven't yet written the second book yet. However the plot for book number three is quite clear to me so book two will have to wait.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Working in I.T. - there's two kids and a cat at home and unfortunately writing novels doesn't pay all of the bills
Published 2015-06-16.
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