Erik Storey's no-holds-barred thrill ride of a novel, Nothing Short of Dying, was November 2nd's Book of the Day and I'm so excited to now be able to bring you an interview with the author. Read on!
Steph Post: One of the first things I noticed when reading Nothing Short of Dying is its incredible pace. By the second page, literally, the plot has been kicked into motion when Clyde Barr receives a desperate phone call from his sister. This breakneck speed never lets up and while there are a few strategically placed moments for the reader to breathe, overall your novel is one high-octane ride. When writing, did this sort of speed come naturally or is this the result of a lot of revision and editing to craft such a pace?
Erik Storey: This is a definite result of rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. I think there were at least fifty different versions of the manuscript, if you count the small revisions and micro-edits. I like a fast pace in a book, but it’s almost impossible to do when I write the first draft. I’m usually feeling my way through, trying to nail down who the characters are and what they want. I’m telling myself the story, as they say. The second draft is where I add layers of detail, and work on the dialog. The rest of the drafts are for cutting and paring it down to make a smooth, fast, and hopefully effortless read.
SP: When you do have those more calm moments of exposition, you devote space in the novel to developing your settings, which, in a way, are such an extension of your characters. How essential was the backdrop of Colorado, particularly its wilderness, to the core of your story?
ES: I think that setting is just as important as any of the characters, and if done well, can become almost a character itself. The idea for the book actually started with the setting, when I was driving down a two-track in the middle of nowhere in Colorado, and I started wondering why we didn’t have more books written about the rugged area I was travelling through.
Wilderness is definitely core to the story, and to Clyde. It’s what makes him different from other main characters, both because he’s spent so much time out in the boonies, but also because he excels at it and has the skills to survive almost anywhere. His love of the outdoors comes directly from me. I grew up spending every summer either in the Flattops Wilderness or at my family’s ranch that my great-grandfather homesteaded. Neither of those spots had electricity nor running water, and that’s where I learned to ride a horse before I learned to ride a bike. Later I became a guide and took people on trips into the mountains that I loved and got to share that with people. Hopefully my descriptions in the book convey some of that love.
SP: Family, and threats to a character’s family, are often a jumping off point for thrillers, but I really felt the struggle and connection between Clyde and his sister, Jen. Perhaps this is because of the harrowing childhood they shared, and the way you depicted it, but it seemed that the family element in Nothing Short of Dying went beyond the cliché. Was the story of Clyde and Jen always at the heart of the novel? Or did it develop more to support the high-action of the plot?
ES: The family drama developed separately, and it was indeed to support the action. My editor and I knew that it needed to be there to make Clyde more of a human, and less of a brute, and to explain how and why he did the things he did. So I wrote all of the backstory separately, then put it in the book in small doses scattered through the book.
As a side note, it’s important to mention that all of the family violence and trouble came straight from the imagination. I had a wonderful childhood, so I had to research and be creative to come up with the hell that Clyde and his sister went through.
SP: Lee Child blurbed Nothing Short of Dying and many readers have made the comparison between Nothing Short of Dying and the Jack Reacher novels. Before you began your novel, were you a fan of the types of thrillers that you are now compared to?
ES: I am a huge fan, yes. I’ve read all of Lee Child’s books, for two reasons. One, because they are fun and fantastic reads. Two, because I wanted my characters to be different from his, so I read to make sure Clyde is not Jack Reacher. There are similarities, yes, but I think there are just as many differences.
I wasn’t always a fan of thrillers, however. When I was younger, I read mostly Westerns, Science Fiction, and Fantasy. It wasn’t until after college that I started reading authors like Child, and Crais, and C.J. Box.
SP: Finally, will we be seeing more of Clyde Barr?
ES: Yes we will. A Promise To Kill will be out sometime next year. In that book, we find Clyde wandering through a Native American reservation that has been taken over by outlaw bikers, and there is talk of terror activities in the area. Hopefully, if people like the books, I will be able to write more adventures for Clyde.