Dennis Collins, Author of Nightmare, Talks Writing

My guest today is author Dennis Collins. Dennis was born in Detroit and grew up on the shore of Lake Huron. His background includes a career in automotive engineering as well as pursuing many adventurous pastimes such as flying, skydiving, scuba diving, motorcycle racing, and over thirty years of driving high speed, automotive powered hydroplanes. In recent years, he enjoys the solitude of having the lake just outside his front window as he writes his mystery and suspense novels. Nightmare is his fourth book.

Anne – Welcome to the Muriel Reeves Mysteries, Dennis. When did you first realize you were destined to be a mystery/suspense writer?

Dennis - I started reading the Hardy Boys mysteries when I was about six or seven. I know that I was still quite young because I can recall struggling with some of the words. But I knew even then that I wanted to write cool stories. Why mysteries? Because that was all I read.

Anne – The Hardy Boy mysteries were a favorite of mine as well! Tell us about your latest release.

Dennis - My latest book, Nightmare, was sort of an accident. I had been researching something, can’t even remember what it was, when I came across a report on shark attacks. It seems that most attacks on humans are the work of bull sharks because they hunt in shallow waters and thrive vigorously in fresh water. It was the fresh water part that caught my attention. There is a large shallow bay where I live that would provide an ideal environment for bull sharks. There is also a town nearby that holds a huge summer festival that attracts over a hundred thousand people to the beaches. My imagination supplied the rest; a sociopathic fiend who lives in a secluded waterfront home that used to be a commercial fishery with all of the resources needed to transport nine mature bull sharks to the county park bathing beach at the height of the festival. No one would have suspected the man was up to anything if it weren’t for his twin sister’s “thought concordance” experience.

Anne – What a great concept. Is it part of a series?

Dennis - I guess it would have to be called a series because I have recurring characters in all books. But it’s a bit more complicated than that…I have three protagonists and I allow each one to step forward in a leading role with the other two assuming supporting roles. It varies from book to book. I introduce the trio with equal billing in The Unreal McCoy and in Turn Left at September Detroit Homicide Detective Albert McCoy plays the lead. In The First Domino McCoy’s partner Otis Springfield is the star and in Nightmare the spotlight is on private investigator Michael O’Conner.
Anne - What do you enjoy most about writing a series?  What part do you dislike?

Dennis - I enjoy watching my characters develop and grow. Detectives McCoy and Springfield are both very seasoned cops who have been formed by their experience but Michael O’Conner is a rookie P.I. who is just finding his way under the guidance of his two friends. Each has his own personality complete with strengths and weaknesses which allows me to twist my plot around whichever character I think will handle it best.

Sometimes I feel a little restricted or limited by the values or morals of my heroes, but that’s when I can introduce somebody new.

Anne - Have you ever experienced writer’s block? If so, how did you work through it? 

Dennis - I have to believe that every writer has stared at a blank page at one time or another and wondered, “What’s next?” The actual problem at this point is that you simply don’t know the story. You might have to sit back for a while or maybe even get up and take a walk while you work the story through your mind. Then sit down and write, even if you’re not sure where you’re headed. The key is writing something even if it’s pure dreck. You’ll see that it’s not as bad as you thought and you can always fix it. But you can’t fix… nothing.

Anne – So true! Would you share an excerpt of Nightmare with us?
Dennis - Here we go…    

Shorty realized that it wasn’t Brian out there; it was that jerk, Driller. He must have followed Brian’s Durango home from the bar the other night. Shorty didn’t respond. As a matter of fact he didn’t even breathe. He had no idea why Driller had followed him and no idea why he cared about him but Shorty knew that a creep like that was bad news. He remained totally motionless.
Driller moved slowly down the walkway toward the dock where Shorty was hiding. He had one hand on the wall feeling his way. It was then that the commotion in the water grabbed his attention. “What the hell? You swimmin’ in there Shorty?”

His next step caught the edge of the dock and he splashed into the boat well. At first he attempted to simply tread water while he tried to catch his breath. Then something bumped him hard sending him out to the center of the well. A searing pain shot through his left thigh as he felt his right arm being ripped from his body. They were all on him at once. His shrieks inside the boathouse were deafening and the water around him began to boil.
Shorty couldn’t watch any more, his eyes were tightly shut and his hands pressed hard over his ears. He was crying uncontrollably. He felt as if he had caused Driller’s death although he knew that there was nothing he could have done to prevent it. The screaming stopped and eventually the thrashing in the water began to subside. Shorty still couldn’t move. He was frozen with fear. What had he discovered? Why was this boathouse filled with man-eating fish? They must be sharks. What else could they be? Sharks? In Saginaw Bay? How is that possible? Sharks live in the ocean. Shorty lay on the rough dock for what seemed like hours, drifting in and out of reality trying to understand just what was happening.

Anne – Scary stuff! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on writing and an excerpt from Nightmare, Dennis.

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Until next time, happy reading!

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