Deadrise, One Draft at a Time

January 16, 2013

The following was originally posted on My Life In Stories. Read the original post here.

Writing Deadrise was one of the most gritty, arduous, transformational experiences of my life so far, in a class with marriage, fatherhood, working on an ambulance, and getting my private pilot license.  It was a tremendous, long term effort, with a wonderful result.  I looked for my bride, Mary, for more than forty years, and had actually given up hope many times I would ever meet her.  Two weeks after our first date, I proposed.  When you know, you know.  Thank God she said yes, which led to the birth of our son, Beau.  What a gift these two human beings are to me.  Learning to serve others on the ambulance in the worst ten minutes of their lives?  I will always be proud of that effort.  Flying off into the wild blue yonder by myself, and then with friends, makes for a profound perspective on the world and my place in it.  And then came Deadrise.

For good or ill, screen and television writing was coming easily for me at the moment when my agent, Matthew Bialer, at Sanford J. Greenburger, suggested I write a novel.  After a couple more years mulling a subject for the book, I got to work.  After finishing the first draft a number of months later (a large number of months), I realized Matthew meant for me to write a thriller, and not literary fiction.  You, dear reader, can be glad he intervened.

It took me some time to climb out of the dumps.  I had gotten used to receiving awards for early drafts of feature film scripts.  I was spoiled.  Then I got real.  And that’s when the rewrites began.  Matthew Bialer was full of excellent advice on every new draft.  I am forever in his debt.  My textbooks in this time of apprenticeship were the works of Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Scott Smith, Carl Hiaasen, and James Lee Burke among others.  Eventually I got the thriller voice correctly, and there was a story.  An award-winning story  (Conversations Book Club Top 100 Books of 2012).

Readers are genuinely digging Deadrise.  I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.  The real unsought treasure in this experience, the part that makes it so enriching for me, is hearing from actual readers personally, whether through emails, at signings, or during the Q&A a panels and talks.  It delights me to have moved from the writing phase, where my audience had no face or voice, to the post-published time when I can hear and learn from you directly.  You are full of good ideas, insights, and encouraging responses to the work.  With every email and review, I know I am blessed.  You can always catch up with me at  Writing back to you is a pleasure for me.  I look forward to the opportunity of replying personally.  Writing Nitro Express, the next book in the Ben Blackshaw series, for you, a real, non-imaginary you this time around, is inspiring.  In the meantime, thank you for being such thoughtful, generous, creative people!  You made all the sweat and hardship worth it.