Re: RARA-AVIS: D. Lynds: Work habits

From: Dennis Lynds (
Date: 29 May 2005

----- Original Message ----- From: "Karin Montin" <> To: <> Sent: Sunday, May 29, 2005 6:53 AM Subject: RARA-AVIS: D. Lynds: Work habits

>Dear Karin,
    I'll take your questions a few at a time.

> Since you don't mind answering questions, here are a few more before the
month ends. First I should say that I had never read any of your books, but because of your visit here I read Cassandra in Red, featuring Dan Fortune, and Cadillac Cowboy, featuring Ford Morgan. I really liked the character of Dan Fortune; I especially liked the details of his home life (the PI as normal human being). The ecological concerns of Cadillac Cowboy struck a chord with me. I will be looking for books under some of your other names.

    Thanks for reading Cassandra and Cowboy. Now, let me ask YOU a question. These books were published at least ten years ago. I'd like to know what you thought of my innovations to the detective novel in those books? (If ecology is your thing, try my Mark Sadler novel CIRCLE OF FIRE, written back in the early Seventies.)

> My questions have to do with your approach to writing as work: Do you work
certain hours every day? Do you take a regular vacation? Or are you always on the job?
    I published my first work of fiction outside a college lit mag in 1948. It was a poem. That's a long time ago. Which means I have changed my approach to writing more than once. At first, of course, I wrote largely at night after work (I was an editor of trade magazines in the chemical industry in New York). I wrote damn near every night, poems and short stories. It probably cost me my first wife. I wrote my first three novels at night working a full-time job. During this period I wrote whenever I could while having a rather hectic social life in New York. (The world and life are always battling with the time to write.)
    After publishing my first two novels, I quit my day job, married my third wife, and became a more-or-less full time writer. When that happened, writing became my job and I worked at it as close to 24/7 as is humanly possible (the world and life again.) from then until today.
    The last true vacation I had, or wanted, was in 1964. I use Bouchercons, Left Coasts, festivals in Europe---writing festivals, that is--- as vacations. The last few years I have had health problems, but I still write at every possible moment. It's all I ever wanted to do with my life---in addition, of course, to the general human needs.

    (John D. MacDonald once said he wrote seven days a week until 5 P.M because it was the only thing he could think of worth doing before five P.M. After 5 P.M. he knew exactly what to do.)

When you get story ideas, do you immediately have your protaganist in mind, or do you ever change it as you go along? Do you write successive drafts, or do you polish as you write?

    Obviously when writing series novels I have my protagonist before I start. If you mean the protagonist other than the detective, I know that too. I am primarily a theme writer---I write my stories because they say something to me, and I hope to the reader, about the human condition in its many forms. So I know my major characters and what is going to happen to them from the start. Minor characters appear as they are needed, and tell me who and what they are as I write them. Do my major characters ever change as I write? Sure, sometimes. The book will tell me. Again, as a theme writer I know the ending, but exactly how it plays out reveals itself to me as I write.
    When I started out in the hardboiled field all the books were written in one draft, edited, polished, changed, and published in a single draft, with, of course, editorial input from the publisher, sometimes extensive, but usually minor. Since I stopped writing anything but Michael Collins and Dennis Lynds, I have written at least two drafts of each book, sometimes more. In a very real way a book isn't written it's rewritten. Rewriting is my favorite part of writing. My short stories go through at least two drafts, often many more than that.
    The thriller I finished a few months ago, THE CEO, went through so many drafts and took so many years I can fill a shed with the various rewrites. That was because the thriller style wasn't and isn't natural to me, I had to learn painfully as I went along. That was NOT fun. (Of course, all that time I was also cowriting big works-for-hire because we needed the money.)

    Hope that answers all your questions, and thanks for asking. I'd still like to know what you thought of all in innovations in the two books you read.



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