Fatal Destiny is the first in a series I’ve started featuring a bounty hunter named Grace deHaviland who operates out of Columbus, Ohio. In Fatal Destiny, Grace is assigned to track down Barry Keegan, a white-collar defendant in a corporate embezzlement scandal who’s been arrested, but has jumped bail.
At first, Grace thinks the case will be a piece of cake—tracking down a corporate accountant, how hard can that be? But, the case turns deadly when Keegan’s co-defendant is murdered and Grace’s best friend, sheriff’s deputy Suzie Jensen, is nearly killed. Drawn into a web of deception involving stolen mob money, old scores, and ruthless hit men, Grace must track down the elusive Keegan—a man who is more dangerous than anyone could have guessed—while she has to protect his wife and son from a past they thought was dead and buried.
Tell us about your protagonist, Grace deHaviland? How did the idea for a female bounty hunter come about?
Grace deHaviland comes from a pretty dark past, full of guilt and anger and regret. She’s bi-racial; Latina and Irish, street smart, and is just plain kick-ass. Her father, a man she barely knew, abandoned her and her mother when Grace was only seven years old. He disappeared one day, without a word. Grace’s mother, a single parent doing her best to raise an angry, rebellious, troubled daughter—was brutally raped and murdered when Grace was eighteen. Left to fend for herself, alone except for her best friend, Suzie Jensen, Grace first became a cop—and was fired two years later—then a bounty hunter, partly so she could track down the young man who raped and murdered her mother, a man Grace brought into their lives, and who jumped bail after his arrest and has been free ever since. For fifteen years.
When I started, I knew I wanted to create a character that I could base a series on; someone complex, with a troubled past, someone who had a mission in life, and someone who could believably be involved in a lot of criminal cases, but who was not a criminal.
So I took some time to think about who was involved regularly in the criminal justice system other than cops and PI’s. There were a lot of choices, but I settled on a bounty hunter. I figured, they deal with all kinds of criminals for a living, they could go outside of their state of operation to chase down criminals and in fiction, for the most part, they were usually depicted as heavies, or criminals themselves, so there aren’t that many out there as series regulars.
Do your characters ever take on a life of their own?
No, I’m too much of a planner for that. But, often my characters will demand more “screen time” from me than I first intend. For instance, Grace’s best friend, sheriff’s deputy Suzie Jensen, who plays a small—but crucial—part in Fatal Destiny, was originally conceived to be Grace’s go-to person in the sheriff’s department, someone who could get inside information for her, but as I delved deeper into their relationship and developed their back story, I realized Suzie was too important a person in Grace’s life to appear only sporadically as a walk-on. In fact, she grew into a fascinating character in her own right, so much so, that she is featured prominently in all but one of the Grace deHaviland short stories I’ve written so far, and the novella, A Cold Wind. And, she even stars in her own short story, Discreet Fling.
You say you’re a planner. What is your writing routine like?
When I begin a project, I start out thinking about the broad scope of the story, what’s the story going to be about. Then, I sit down and write out a quick three paragraph summary; the book’s beginning, the middle, and the end.
From there, I expand each of the sections by making a list a list of what happens in each section, outlining what happens next, then what, then what, until I have a flow of the story’s events, or its plot points. After that, I flesh out each plot point, jotting down a sentence or two detailing the reasons why each event occurs, writing out what are the emotional and logistical reasons for each event. What led to the next event, caused it to occur and why, then the next, and the next, and the next…
By then, I have a list of scenes (in the order they occur) and expand each one into what I call a scene synopsis; a one-page outline for each scene in the book. In each synopsis I write out a short paragraph describing the setting for where the scene takes place, a listing of what characters are present in the scene, what is the POV characters goal—what is he/she trying to accomplish—a quick list of actions taking place, and finally, what key elements do I need to write the scene; what details do I have to research, what do I need to know happened before, or leading up to the scene, who in the scene knew these things, and who didn’t.
For a 90,000+ word novel, I’ll have about fifty or sixty of the scene synopsizes which makes a pretty detailed outline for everything in the book. Then, I sit down and write each scene using the synopsis I’ve created as a guide. I’m always free to change things (and I frequently do) as I go along.
It sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but if I put the time in upfront, planning, it saves me tons of time later, not getting sidetracked, not putting in conflicting things, and not knowing where I’m going as I write.
Who most influenced your own work?
Like many boys, I grew up reading The Hardy Boys and, if anyone remembers it, a series called Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators. But, honestly, mostly my teen years were spent reading comic books. Later, two writers who most captured my imagination were Ross MacDonald with his private detective series, Lew Archer, and Alistair MacLean, with his international spy thrillers like The Guns of Navarone, Ice Station Zebra and When Eight Bells Toll. Over the years, I’ve become a big fan of Clive Cussler, Robert Crais, T. Jefferson Parker, Tess Gerritsen, Jeffery Deaver and the late Robert B. Parker, and many, many others, too numerous to name.
Do you have any advice for fledgling writers?
Don’t stop. Don’t stop learning, don’t stop practicing, don’t stop trying new and different ways to write, or different genres. Don’t stop writing, of course, but especially, don’t stop believing in yourself.
What are you working on now?
First up, I’m putting the finishing touches on a new, standalone novel called Crystal White. I’m hoping to have it released by spring. Then it’s the second Grace deHaviland novel. This one is called Fatal Deception. It’s finished, but I’m deep in the revising and rewriting stage now. Also, a few more short stories that will be released over the year.
Where can we find out more about your work?
From my publisher; Dark Road Publishing. The website is – http://www.darkroadpub.com
Also, from my author’s page at amazon.com
Fatal Destiny is available in e-format and in print from Amazon.com & BN.com.
Here are the links:
As well as at my author’s bookstore here:
David DeLee is a native New Yorker. He holds a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice and is a former licensed private investigator. He is the author of the Grace deHaviland, bounty hunter series, including the short stories, First Impressions, Fatal Tryst and Family Matters.
His other short stories have appeared in Daw’s Cosmic Cocktails, in three consecutive volumes of Pocket Book’s Strange New Worlds, and the Mystery Writers of America anthology, The Rich and the Dead, released in 2011.
David is an active member of the Mystery Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers Association. He currently lives in New Hampshire with his family where he’s at work on his next novel to feature Columbus, Ohio-based bounty hunter, Grace deHaviland.