“With a hero full of grit and determination, this action-packed, timely tale is required reading for any thriller aficionado.” —Steve Berry, New York Times and #1 international bestselling author.
I met with my good friend and fellow writer, Dave Edlund, for lunch in Bend, Oregon, and we chatted about his upcoming novel, Hunting Savage, to be released April 25th. Dave is the author of the award-winning Peter Savage action/political thrillers.
Q: You’ve had a long history with writing. Tell us a little about your professional background.
A: I have a doctoral degree in chemistry from the University of Oregon, and have worked my entire professional career developing clean and alternative energy. From an early age, I was drawn to creative endeavors, which includes science. That may surprise some, but in fact, I think there is a lot of similarity between creating within the boundaries of science and engineering, and creating within the boundaries an artistic medium (fiction, painting, sculpture, music, etc.).
Q: What inspired you to write your first novel?
A: It was 2007, and my job had taken us to Massachusetts. My son’s 9th birthday was approaching, so I decided to write my first story for him—it was his birthday gift. I still have that spiral-bound copy.
Q: Hunting Savage is your newest release. You have a lot of technical detail. How do you create intricate plots while managing to build a sharp element of suspense?
A: I strive to write stories filled with suspenseful plots and reality—science, engineering, weapons and tactics, geopolitics—what I like to refer to as plausible fiction. My inspiration comes from some of the great authors of suspense thrillers including Michael Crichton. His work with Jurassic Park was (and still is) an excellent example of how a masterful author can take known science and extrapolate just a little bit, then weave fiction and fact into a cohesive plot that reads as if everything was factual. I want to blur the line between reality and fiction (in regards to geopolitics and science/engineering) in such a way that the reader will have a difficult time distinguishing between them.
Q: What are the most important parts of your books?
A: The most important part to me is how the characters interact. I strive to place Peter Savage and other characters in impossible situations, and then see how they find a way out, a resolution. In keeping with the real world, that resolution isn’t always a happy ending. Still, my stories are intended to offer escapism and thoughtful entertainment. I avoid graphic violence, sex, and vulgar language as unnecessary to telling the story. True, this aspect is not in keeping with the real world, but I want a product that anyone may read and not be offended.
Q: Your characters are finely crafted. Who are your recurring characters and how do they come to you?
A: Peter Savage, of course, and James Nicolaou along with his team of military analysts and operators. Also, readers will become familiar with Gary Porter, a wizard at all things related to computers and software. Gary is a bohemian character, and I really enjoy when he appears in the plot. By the way, the character of Gary Porter is based on one of my longest and dearest friends, one who played no small role in encouraging me to pursue this dream of writing novels.
Q: How do you maintain reader identification with Peter Savage?
A: From the outset, my goal with Peter Savage was to make him real. In other words, the type of person anyone may know as a colleague at work or a neighbor. He is the antithesis to James Bond and Jason Bourne. Peter is flawed, he has self-doubt (don’t we all?), is haunted by indecision, and still grieves for the death of his wife. Despite these “shortcomings”, Peter has a strong sense of right and wrong, and will go to the mat to defend those who are persecuted or victimized. And yet he isn’t endowed with superhero qualities. He’s just a guy.
Q: Out of all your books, do you have a favorite, or a plot you can’t get out of your head?
A: An interesting question. Hmmm. My favorite novel is the most recent one, because that plot is fresh. In Hunting Savage, I really wanted to bring to light the unresolved tragedy of the attack on the USS Liberty during the Six-Day War (June 1967). This event, in which scores of U.S. seamen were killed and many times more were wounded, has still not been fully explained. For different reasons, all the plots I’ve used in Peter Savage novels have been bouncing around between my ears for quite some time. There are more to come—I just need to hang by my feet and shake a little to let them out.
Q: If someone unfamiliar with your work wanted to read your books, which one would you recommend starting with?
A: Truly, each novel is written to be stand-alone, so readers may pick up the series at any point and read forward or backward. However, from an author’s perspective, I’d suggest reading the books in the order they were published so that the reader sees how the characters (and writing) evolve. Just like meeting and getting to know a good friend, it doesn’t happen in one day. And so the characters are revealed more and more in each book.
Q: What is your process for constructing a novel? Are you a planner, or a free form writer.
A: I like to start with the kernel of an idea; a hook. For example, I’m currently working on the fifth Peter Savage novel, and the plot spins from a historical event, the brutal and inhuman occupation of Nanking by the Japanese Imperial Army in 1939. It was a tragedy of historic proportions, and I’ve wanted to use this as the motive for a novel for years. At the outset, I’ll also decide how I want to end the story, more or less. In between, the plot and characters evolve. The story essential grows and fills the space between beginning and end. I don’t know at the outset what form that will take—it’s a process of discovery.
Q: Do you ever face writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
A: Oh yes, I get writer’s block from time to time. It’s easily recognized—the plot just won’t move along, and my characters are flat. To get over this I need to stimulate my emotions and avoid distractions. Music is a good stimulus, so is a good story or movie. When all else fails, there’s always whiskey!
Q: What is the greatest challenge you have had to overcome in your writing career?
A: That’s easy… self-doubt. It’s still my biggest challenge. Of course, everyone’s a critic, and when a writer puts his/her work—creation—out there, it won’t appeal to everyone. That’s only natural, but negative reviews may further feed self-doubt. I’ve trained myself to acknowledge reality. That’s to say, not everyone who reads my books will like them. I accept that and move on.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: Currently I’m working on a short story and another full-length Peter Savage novel. The short story revolves around a female assassin introduced in Hunting Savage. This character goes through a major evolution as she comes to the realization that the assignments formerly given her by her government may not have been for the greater good. The next Peter Savage novel is placed in Asia, and has Peter teamed up with a body guard to rescue a kidnapped nephew of the Sultan of Brunei. But doing so draws Peter into an international crisis—U.S. and allied naval ships are sunk by a hypersonic weapon. The Chinese are known to possess this weapon; they call it the “ship killer” and there is no defense. The American government is given an ultimatum to withdraw from the Western Pacific or face annihilation. This sets the stage for a show-down between the U.S. and China, and pits Peter Savage against a very secretive and determined adversary.
Q: What is your advice to aspiring writers?
A: Never, never, never quit. Don’t listen to anyone who says you cannot write and get your work published. When you hear that (and you will) turn a deaf ear and move on. If you have the fire in your belly, and you really want—correction, need—to write, then do so. They are many avenues to publication, so this is not the barrier it was even ten years ago. Oh, did I mention never quit?
Q: When you’re not working, what are some of your favorite ways to relax and have fun?
A: I enjoy being with my family—and my dogs, all four of them. That is my sanctuary. I also love being in the forest on a hike, camping, hunting. And when the weather is decent, I will steal away a few hours for target shooting. Of course, the next plot is never far from my thoughts.