Author Interview: Dave Dobson

Dave Dobson

We’ll skip the “tell us about yourself” because coming up with something on the spot is, truly, the bane of an author’s existence. So, let’s start with something a little easier! Tell me what you’re working on at the moment.*

Two books. One is another in my Inquisitors’ Guild series, and the other is a thriller with light sci fi elements. Also, I’m putting together another sequel to my puzzle card game, Doctor Esker’s Notebook. And last but not least, I’m trying to Rule the Universe again on my Attack from Mars pinball machine. Got to do that at least once a year.

In as much detail as you would like, tell me about your book(s) that are already out/on the way.*

My Inquisitors’ Guild series tells the stories of a set of detectives in a medieval city, sort of a cross between epic fantasy adventure and a mystery or crime novel. Or maybe Princess Bride meets CSI. Each story is a separate adventure, and I change narrators between them, so the books all stand on their own and follow different people in the Inquisitors’ Guild and the world of Frosthelm. I also try to make them funny and warm and exciting, with magic and mayhem and bravery and loss. I’ve got a fourth story done and in the editing process. These are really fun for me to write.

My sci fi book, Daros, is more of a space opera, although it happens on one planet rather than many. It’s set in the far future after humanity has expanded to the stars and then suffered through a destructive interplanetary war. All of that is in the past, though, and the few remaining colonies are prospering. The first main character, Brecca, is the daughter of a trader who’s always a little bit on the wrong side of the law. They end up making a stop at nondescript planet, but suddenly it’s invaded by unknown aliens, and they get caught up in that. The second main character is one of the aliens, a member of the invading fleet, but she’s a secret rebel in their midst. We see the story from both sides as the meaning and purpose of the invasion comes to light.

As far as the writing process goes—including such things as conception of idea all the way through to money in the bank—what is the least favourite bit? (Everyone has one!)*

The editing process is the hardest for me. I always love my first drafts, and it’s hard for me to cut parts out, especially if I need to lose a joke I liked. But in the end, it will make the book stronger. Or so I keep telling myself as I murder innocent paragraphs.

Conversely, what is the bit of the writing process that gets your writery brain grinning?*

When I start a book, I tend to write without much of an outline and sometimes without an idea of exactly where the story is headed. There’s usually a point about halfway through, plus or minus, when I start to see the end and to figure out how it’s going to resolve. At that point, I love finding elements (plot points, characters, objects) that I threw in earlier that were cool but didn’t have a point, and then weaving them into the bigger story that I now recognize.

Another favorite bit is when I am going along and expecting a chapter or section to end one way, and then I think of an awesome twist for it to take. This often leads to one of those elements I need to weave in better later, but it’s great fun.

If you could steal any author’s ability to improve your own work, who would you steal from and why? (e.g. Tolkien’s language skills, Douglas Adams’ humour, etc.)*

That’s a tough one! So many choices. George R.R. Martin for complexity, drama and world building, L. Frank Baum for whimsical magic and adventure, Robert E. Howard for fight scenes, Edgar Rice Burroughs for stirring adventure. If I had to pick one, I think I might go for William Goldman for wit, humor, and dialogue.

Now for some fun! The main character of the book you’re working on (or have recently finished) has kidnapped you for ruining their life. How will you explain that what you’re doing is for the best?

Heh. That would be Glynnis Cary, the main character of my thriller. I would only be one in a long line of people trying to ruin her life, and hardly the most important. She definitely wouldn’t believe whatever cockamamie story I came up with, and she’d never kidnap anybody regardless, so it’s difficult to work the hypothetical there.

Actually, I guess I spent much of the book trying to ruin her life, so this isn’t entirely hypothetical. Looked at that way, I really have no excuse, other than it made for a fun story.

You, your main character(s), and the protagonist of the last book you read are playing poker. What are the stakes? Who will win and why?

For my characters, let’s go with Gueran Declais and Urret Milton, the main characters of The Woeling Lass, my upcoming Inquisitors’ Guild novel. Gueran is a minor noble who’s joined the Inquisitors’ Guild to make a name for himself outside the dreary and backbiting world of the court, and Urret is the daughter of a tavern keeper who’s an apprentice in the Guild program.

The last book I read was actually a novel by a good friend and fellow professor, one she’s shopping around to agents. It’s a romance novel, and the main character is Olive, a mid-career theater professor. Olive has an unexpected dalliance with a former boy band star who’s aged out of the limelight. We read each other’s drafts and had a great time talking about them, and she helped me a lot with Glynnis in my thriller.

I would lose the poker game, because I’ve been losing at poker since junior high in 1983. I even lost the $50 I was supposed to be saving for our school ski trip. This was not popular with my parents. $50 was real money in those days, especially for an 8th grader.

Urret would bet small and fold early, so she wouldn’t win, but she’d be watching everybody play and looking for tells. She’d probably win her next game.

Between Olive and Gueran, that’s hard to say. Both are very smart, and both are wise-asses. Gueran is very good at spotting lies and at schmoozing, while Olive knows people, is deeply analytical, and can speak at least five languages. I don’t know who’d win, but it would be a delight to watch.

Let’s face it, writing is hard. What do you think are some traps to avoid in your particular area of expertise? (Whether that be your genre, your knowledge of plot, your character building, your world building, etc.)*

As a geologist, I get a little steamed when natural objects and systems don’t behave the way they should. I’m looking at you, quicksand-on-top-of-air in Rise of Skywalker and not-very-hot-at-all-lava in The Mandalorian. I’m fine if you break natural rules if you acknowledge it and offer at least a teeny explanation. They did not. It was cheesy.

In terms of writing dialogue, my improv comedy background really helps. Put yourself in the mind of your character and say what they’d really say in response to what happened, even if it complicates the scene or the plot. That makes your dialogue real, and lively, and funnier than it would otherwise be.

Anything else you’d like to add? Plots to take over the world, for example. Upcoming release dates, links and things, maybe even your favourite chocolate cake recipe.

My fourth Inquisitors’ Guild book will be out probably by the end of February, and the thriller with Glynnis should be coming later this year. I’ll be doing a box set with the Inquisitors’ Guild series on Amazon, so Kindle Unlimited folks (or people with a few bucks to rub together, less than a hamburger costs, even) will be able to pick up the whole series.

When my kids were small, I often asked them if they had an evil plan to rule the world. They gave different answers through the years, but the most common one was Blues Clues. They’re still working on implementation, I guess. Maybe that’s what Steve is up to now. Playing the long game.