I am so very excited to be able to feature an amazing writer today. Dean Fetzer is the author of the Jaared Sen Quartet, a series whose main character is a blind investigator. If you stopped by yesterday, you had a glimpse of his new book, "Death After Midnight", the second book in the quartet. If you missed it, you can read my review here.
It is such a pleasure having you here with us, Dean. As you know, I'm crazy about your main character in The Jaared Sen Quartet. However, before we get started discussing your new book, could you please tell us a little about yourself.
Hmm… where to start. I’m originally from a small town in eastern Colorado (the flat bit) but I’ve lived in London for the best part of 20 years now. I studied Architecture at the University of Colorado in the ‘80s but spent a lot of time in the Art department, the Music building and basically doing technical support for theatre and opera productions. When I graduated, I got to accompany a theatre company to Edinburgh, Scotland, for the “Fringe Festival” as their lighting designer and tech. As I was done with Uni, I stayed in Edinburgh for the best part of the next year. I ended up in Washington, D.C. with my former theatre companions who’d set up a company called Consenting Adults there. So I did the usual theatre thing, and worked during the day and did theatre at night. To cut this long story short, we went back to the Edinburgh Festival and I met a girl, moved to London, got married and went to work for British Telecommunications as a graphic designer. Met a good friend at BT and we set up fancyapint.com, a pub review website. We’ve been doing that for over a decade now and it’s allowed us to do our own things - like writing!
You've led a fascinating life and it sounds like you are one of the lucky ones that gets to do what he loves. Since you brought up writing, please tell us about your latest novel, "Death After Midnight".
Well, the DAM novel (as I call it) is about my hero from the previous book Death in Amber Jaared Sen, a blind detective, and the quest to find the Priory of Sion, which your readers may have heard of if they’ve read Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Along the way, he meets a historian, Stel Chambers and her boss, The Head, a culturally refined criminal kingpin who wants what the Priory is guarding. Set in London and southern France, we also meet Émile Bastien, an antiquities dealer in the southern French town of Limoux, who has an odd leg. It’s a quest novel, it’s just not always clear who the white knight is.
What inspired you to write this novel?
My wife Debra and I go to the south of France regularly and one year I was reading about the Holy Grail and found several references to a tiny, mysterious village called Rennes-le-Château. The place itself is a bit sleepy; the mystery surrounds the priest who took over the tiny church of St Mary Magdalene in the late 1800s. The church was practically falling down when Abbe Bérenger Saunière, born in the area, took it on. He borrowed money from the commune and a wealthy local to start a renovation project which led to him finding “treasure”, so the story goes. Whatever he found, it changed his fortunes and he very quickly seemed to gain wealth and influence, restoring the church and building a guest house and gardens next to it. He and his housekeeper, Marie Denarnaud hosted parties with distinguished guests from Paris, which was even stranger for a rural priest! There are enough oddities in the area to excite the mind, strange carvings on tombstones, hints at a vast hidden treasure left by the Visigoths – enough peculiar events to write several novels! Saunière died suddenly in 1917, providing more grist for the mill!
Visiting the little church of St Mary Magdalene is a strange experience — I don’t think I’ve ever been in a church quite like it. It is tiny, dark and the proliferation of statues, bas reliefs and decoration are quite terrifying. The name’s another flag to the conspiracy theorists, of course, as legend has it Mary Magdalene fled to France after the Crucifixion!
The place sounds fascinating, and the story behind it is amazing. No wonder you wanted to write about it. Now, on to my favorite subject... As you know, I adore, Jaared Sen. How did you come up with such an amazing character?
I’d say Jaared has his roots in my lack of 20/20 vision - I’ve worn glasses since I was six and I guess I’ve got a minor obsession with the idea of going blind. I read Follow my Leader by James Garfield as a kid and the idea of developing other senses in response to blindness stuck with me.
Then I found comic book hero Daredevil , mild mannered lawyer Matt Murdock who fights for the weak through the courts by day and fights crime as his alter-ego Daredevil at night - and he’s blind. That’s the character who really opened up the possibilities for me about what can be done and the potential for heightened senses and other abilities.
Of course, Jaared is also charged with eliminating ‘bad eggs’ where the need arises, what I’d call my latent sympathy with Judge Dredd and his “I AM THE LAW” ideals combined with Trevanian’s super-assassin Nicholai Hel from Shibumi which I read in the ‘80s. I wouldn’t say it was an easy birth - too many fathers!
Brilliant!! All of those characters influences certainly make him complex and intriguing. Are there any characters in The Jaared Sen Quartet that you personally identify with?
It’s hard not to pick Jaared, as I’ve known him the longest and I wish I were that cool!
I think for his vulnerability, I’d have to pick Émile Bastien from the second book. He really doesn’t know what’s going on for a good portion of his life - I think we all feel that way, at sometime in our lives!
Who or what was your biggest influence in your decision to become a writer?
I think reading has been the biggest part of my life for as long as I can remember - I can’t remember not reading! As a kid I would always rather read than do something like homework or mow the lawn.
My Mother tells a story of a parent-teacher conference they had with my teacher, Mrs Stephens, when I was in the sixth grade. Apparently I’d been caught reading a book inside my math book (math’s boring, anyway!). My Mom asked if they should discipline me for it. Mrs Stephen’s response was perhaps telling at a time when “Johnny can’t read” was resurgent. She said, “Oh no, at least he’s reading!”
Having consumed a good portion of the books from various libraries over my school years, I decided one day I could do that. I think my first stories were around Junior High and, inevitably, science fiction as I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. It was only much later that I spent more time reading crime and mystery books and as one of my teachers suggested ‘read what you want to write’, hey presto, I’m writing mystery thrillers with a hint of sci-fi!
What a story. It would be great if there were more teachers like Mrs. Stephens. Now that we are on the topic of influential people, if you could spend one day with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
That’s a tough one. I’d have to pick two: William Gibson, the author and Stevie Ray Vaughan, the musician.
The inventor of the word “cyberspace”, Gibson totally blew my mind out of the water with his award-winning novel Neuromancer - and he stopped a lot of traditional sci-fi dead at one go. I think my reading of the old pulp masters dropped off after the epiphany I had reading his book. I’ve met him a couple of times and he’s another one I’d describe as a “brain the size of the universe” kind of guy. But I’d probably just bore him for a whole day!
Stevie Ray Vaughan is one of my hero guitarists from the Blues tradition. Music’s been important to me for a very long time and I constantly have something on when I’m writing - and it varies widely as my tastes are eclectic to say the least! Stevie was a great guitarist (you’ve heard his work, he played with David Bowie on the album Let’s Dance in 1983) and I love the way he enjoyed himself while he was playing - I can hear it in the music. His early death - he was only 35 - reminds me to always try to live like this could be my last day on earth and squeeze every bit of juice from life. I’d love to have had the chance to just hang out with him, have a few drinks and listen to him play for a day (before I bored him, too).
Bore them? I seriously doubt that. I know some authors have strange rituals when they write. Some have to have a certain food, lock themselves in a room, only work at night, etc. What's yours?
According to my wife, I get up ridiculously early (around five, most days) and sit in front of the computer for a couple of hours before Debs gets up. It’s quiet and I can concentrate, have a cup of coffee and hopefully get a couple thousand words done. This doesn’t work every day, as there’s email to answer, things to edit and proof and blogs to write. I also take my laptop on holiday (vacation) - at least part of the time is spent writing as I guess I don’t need a break from that, it’s the day job that I’m getting away from!
How does writing work with your family life?
*Laughs* Good question! As the English say, they ‘rub along’ fairly well. It’s a bit like having two desks, one for work and one for writing (although mine are combined to save space) and they’re separate for the most part. Well, other than making Debs go to see authors talking about writing, of course! Seriously, most of my writing takes place in early mornings and happens as if by magic!
What things do you enjoy doing when you aren't writing?
As I said, I’m an avid reader and constantly have a book on the go. I got a Kindle after Christmas and it seems like I’m downloading new books all the time!
We try to get to concerts on a regular basis - we saw K.D. Lang a few weeks ago and she was amazing! Or the theatre, I think we’re off to see Richard III at the Old Vic this weekend with Kevin Spacey.
And I guess holidays in the south of France - we’ve been once already this year and it looks like we’re going three more times!
Would you share one thing most people don't about you?
I played trumpet for 15 years, put it down when I moved to Edinburgh and haven’t picked it up since. I keep toying with the idea, as I’d love to play blues, I just haven’t made the time!
Tell us about your next project.
Phew! Once the Quartet is finished, I’ve got a book I started a few years ago about a revival tent preacher during the dust bowl years of the depression. It’s a departure from Jaared’s world, but I’d like to finish it. And then I’ve got a lot of other ideas to choose from!
I will miss Jaared when the Quartet is finished, but the storyline of your next book sounds like something I'd enjoy reading. I'm looking forward to it!
Thank you, Dean, for taking time out of your busy schedule. It has been a real pleasure talking with you.
If you would like to find out more about Dean or his books, you can visit his webpage at: http://www.deanfetzer.com/
You can also find him on twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/deanfetzer/
or become a fan of his Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dean-Fetzer/115015275177271