CSI is all the rage on television, and forensic science has become one of the most popular fields of college study. What piqued your interest in forensic entomology? Have you always loved bugs? Never been squeamish? Please share!
Several years ago I read an article in a science magazine about the emerging science of forensic entomology. I remember think two things at the same time: “This is fascinating!” and “This is gross!” That’s when I realized I had the makings of a good story. What really fascinated me was forensic entomologists themselves. They don’t “belong” at a crime scene—they’re not cops or private investigators—they’re outsiders. They’re just scientists, really, and I realized that “outsider” status could make for a quirky and unusual character. I have no special love for bugs and no background at all in entomology; I just do a lot of research—some of it hands-on. As for squeamish, well, I like to think I’m as tough as the next guy—but I’m nothing compared to real forensic specialists. Talk about thick skin!
I’m new to your work, and I understand you were a well-know cartoonist. Do you still do any work in that field or do you now work primarily with words? For you, where did the transition from pictures to words begin? Which is easier for you?
I spent eleven years writing and drawing a daily comic strip—so I was already into words. Actually, I think writing my comic strip was great preparation for writing the kind of dialogue I write: offbeat and humorous. I haven’t done any cartooning for quite a while, but I’m finding all the creative outlet I need in writing right now. By the way, I did draw a series of cartoons for the first chapter of my novel Head Game—readers who enjoy cartooning might want to look for that.
Many authors have said they write the type of novels they like to read. Is this true for you? What is your draw to suspense fiction? Favorite book in this genre? (other than your own!)
I think all writers write books they like to read. You have to; if you don’t, the four-to-six months it take to write your novel would get awfully tedious. The only real reason to write is for personal enjoyment, so you need to write what piques your own interest—and hope that somebody else out there shares the same interests you do. I like suspense fiction just because it moves so quickly, but I could enjoy writing all kinds of stories. I hope I get a chance to branch out a little.
In Less Than Dead you create a unique mix between bugs and dogs. Do you own a dog? What kind of research was necessary to make this connection? Does it work in reality – one helping the other?
Yes, we own a dog—a cocker-poo named Bailee that I describe as half-cocker spaniel, half-human. I did a good bit of research on dogs and dog training to write Less than Dead, including a visit to the Canine Enforcement Training Center in Front Royal, Virginia—that’s where U.S. Customs & Border Protection trains its drug-sniffing dogs. I was struck by how similar dogs and insects are in their ability to detect odors that human beings can’t—including the scent of death.
Will we see Nick and Alena working together in the future? They were the perfect match, don’t you think? Can you share a bit more about that? Your next project, perhaps?
My next book is another Bug Man story entitled “Bug the Dead.” Nick is back, and yes, so is Alena—but so is another female character from my very first Bug Man novel: Kathryn Guilford from Shoofly Pie. This time two women are interested in Nick and he finds himself in the middle of a love triangle. Is Alena the perfect match for Nick? Maybe, maybe not—you decide. Bug the Dead is scheduled for release in early July of ’09.
What exciting things is God doing in your life right now? Any words of encouragement you’d like to share with your readers?
God is giving me the opportunity to use the gifts He gave me in my own attempt to serve and honor Him. It doesn’t get any better than that, and I think he offers that same freedom to everyone—to explore their own gifts and to figure out how to use them in His service.