D. H. Schleicher
Dave H. Schleicher, author of The Thief Maker (available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com), currently resides in New Jersey. He is the author of three earlier books, Crematorium and Carabolia (both iUniverse 2002, and both no longer available for sale), and An Accidental House (Xlibris 2003, available only direct through the publisher). I have not read or reviewed these first three books, so we shall concentrate on the fourth book in this interview. Note: the links to Amazon from the book covers above are to be used for information only. The author has stated that these can no longer be ordered from Amazon.
Tabitha: What inspired you to write The Thief Maker?
Dave: The Thief Maker was unique for me as I had the title before anything else. A “thief maker” refers to a medieval bounty hunter who conned other people into committing a crime and then turned them in. As soon as I heard this term used in a criminal justice class I took in college, I knew it would be a great title for a novel. From a later class I took on the psychology of aging, I knew I wanted to set a story in a nursing home where a con man was taking advantage of the residents. Then 9/11 happened, and I knew I wanted to create a psychologically complex novel of intertwining stories that revolved around this type of tragic backdrop. Later ideas and stories combined over the years and the novel was born.
Tabitha: What sort of educational experience do you have, and is it relevant to your writing or the subject matter you have chosen?
Dave: I have a BA in Psychology and minored in Criminal Justice at Elon University in North Carolina. This background provided me with endless story ideas and a plethora of research materials. I also took multiple courses in philosophy, literature, and film that influenced the type of ideas and themes I wanted to address in my writing. One philosophy course I took discussed looking at the cyclical nature of life in terms of the four seasons-each with unique themes and issues to work out. That inspired me to write The Thief Maker non-sequentially in a thematic chronology divided into four seasons.
Tabitha: What about your work career? Has your choice of profession influenced your writing?
Dave: Not in the least bit. My “other job” in the corporate world has no bearing on my writing, at least not yet. Ideas can bloom anywhere.
Tabitha: Are there particular, actual persons who inspired your lead characters?
Dave: No. My characters are occasionally inspired by people I know or have read about in psychological case studies, but I usually combine so many different aspects from so many different people into the fiction that the character becomes totally unrelated to the inspiration.
Tabitha: I understand that a few of the subplots of The Thief Maker were based on real-crime events you discovered. Would you like to elaborate?
Dave: This is not entirely true in the case of The Thief Maker. Some of the character details, like Billie Tolliver losing her sense of proprioception, were based on actual case studies I read about, but none of the events or crimes depicted in the novel were based on anything in particular from the real world spare for the obvious 9/11 terrorist attack backdrop. The basic premise of my previous novel, An Accidental House, however, was directly inspired by an actual unsolved mystery surrounding a missing girl from my hometown of Burlington, NJ that haunted me as a child.
Tabitha: The single most impressive element of The Thief Maker is the plotting of the unusual and unexpected relationships among the characters. What exactly provided the inspiration for the intricate storyline?
Dave: I always loved episodic stories with multiple POV’s and subplots where story arcs were developed and sometimes not directly related. I wanted to create a story like this where secrets would be revealed and all the plot lines would slowly intertwine building into a crescendo of suspense ending in a monumental tragedy.
Tabitha: The interplay of characters reminds me of William Castle’s 1961 movie, Homicidal and the more modern epic, Lawrence Kasdan’s Grand Canyon of 1991. Have you envisioned what a movie version of The Thief Maker would be like?
Dave: I am a huge movie lover and amateur film critic. It is a dream of mine to see my novels adapted for the big screen. I imagine The Thief Maker could translate well into a film similar to 21 Grams (told non-sequentially and emotionally nihilistic) or perhaps be translated in the mosaic, hot-button-issue style of a film like the Oscar-winning Crash.
Tabitha: The characters in your book come to life in my mind as I read their conversations. Have you envisioned certain actors playing the lead parts?
Dave: Naomi Watts is my favorite actress, and I always seem to write a role for her: Catherine Fowler would be a great character for her to play. Though the physical description doesn’t quite match, I always saw Don Cheadle as Frank Morrison. I imagined a Halle Berry or Thandie Newton type as Felice Morrison. I could see a Ryan Gosling type playing William Donovan, though I never had anyone in particular in mind for him. As someone who loves movies as much as I love books, it’s always fun to fantasize about this type of thing and create a picture in your mind of the character you created.
Tabitha: The Thief Maker reminds me of Grand Canyon in the way seemingly unrelated characters bring their stories together. It reminds me of Bonfire of the Vanities in the darkness of its morality play and the psychodrama of the characters. What sort of impressions were you trying to present with The Thief Maker?
Dave: I wanted to juxtapose personal tragedy with communal tragedy. I wanted to show the raw intimacy of human interactions in the wake of these horrific events and how crimes can leave scars that last generations. People are often connected with others in ways they never imagined when these tragedies occur, and crimes can bring some people together while tearing others apart.
Tabitha: I saw on your website that you are a fan of David Lynch. The obvious omission in my previous mentions is Twin Peaks, which I found just a bit too strange and dark to offer as a comparison to The Thief Maker, although I loved that television series. Were you influenced by Twin Peaks, or by other Lynch favorites such as Blue Velvet or Eraserhead?
Dave: Most definitely. Thematically and tonally, Lynch is a huge inspiration. There’s always a sense of decay or evil bubbling underneath picture-perfect settings in his work. This is a powerful theme most people can relate to and are in tune with in some way. I’m not sure if anything in The Thief Maker was presented in an idealistic way, but the idea of everything falling apart after uncovering some dark secret is played out many times during the course of the novel. I also think I touch on the idea of corrupting innocence in the book, though I would make the argument that no one is innocent in The Thief Maker, not even young Rex Thomas Gail.
Tabitha: I know that you previously released two books with iUniverse and one with Xlibris prior to The Thief Maker. What would you like to tell us about your Xlibris experience? How did it compare with your experience with iUniverse?
Dave: Xlibris is very similar to iUniverse in terms of the services provided, contracts and royalty rates. The major difference is the pricing of the books. They overprice the books out of the market. They also have questionable interactions with distribution channels. People had trouble ordering the title I published with Xlibris through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. iUniverse titles have no such issues.
Tabitha: In my reviews of The Thief Maker, I mentioned a few reservations about the cover design, particularly the nondescript look and the small red text on the back. Who designed the cover? Did iUniverse create it strictly from your ideas, or did you supply the artwork or other elements? Are you satisfied with the cover?
Dave: I see your point, and I’m not a fan or red text either. iUniverse designed the cover based on my ideas and their recommendations. Though it is rather vague and nondescript, I think it looks comparable to any book out there on the new release shelves. Honestly, I’m rarely impressed by any cover design for any book I scan on the shelves, so I was just pleased it looked professional.
Tabitha: How satisfying has your experience with iUniverse been? You have previously indicated that some of your interaction with iU has been less than stellar. Would you care to enlighten us?
Dave: I don’t mean to bad mouth iUniverse. I think they do a great job of providing exactly what they say they will provide in their agreements. If you know what you are paying for and know what to expect, they do a commendable job. However, to be more specific, I was not pleased with their proofreading/editing services. Overall, I would still recommend them to people thinking of using a POD outfit as they provide the best distribution and widest breadth of services when compared with other companies.
Tabitha: What is the most significant thing you have learned as a POD author? Do you have any advice to offer to new or prospective POD authors?
Dave: Be realistic. Do your homework. Don’t plan on making a profit. Know exactly what you are paying for. Don’t expect miracles. And no matter what path you take for publishing, make sure your writing has reached a certain level of quality. I can honestly say that the quality of the writing was not there with my first three “experiments” in self-publishing. But I had to write those novels and fail miserably so I could learn how to write something truly compelling and worthwhile. I think the quality is there with The Thief Maker. Write something you will be proud of and don’t publish something through a POD outfit just because you can.
Tabitha: I understand that you reeaaally want to leave Print On Demand behind and find a traditional publisher for your work. Have your efforts produced any results in this quest?
Dave: I’m just focused on my writing for now. I’m knee deep in my next novel with no end in sight. I will focus my efforts when this project is completed and polished and ready for submission. It’s an arduous struggle on the road to traditional publishing, but I hope to stick it out and avoid the POD route in the future. However, I would be a fool to say I would never ever do it again. The quick turnaround time and level of control is always alluring when considering using a POD publisher.
Tabitha: Have you expended much effort seeking out an agent, and have you had much success in that regard?
Dave: Again, I am totally focused on my writing. I have this crazy notion that an agent will someday find me… but I know that will never happen, so I’m prepared to search and do my homework and find someone when the time comes.
Tabitha: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What genres do you like to read?
Dave: I love historical non-fiction, especially anything dealing with the World War II era. I enjoy harvesting ideas from collections of psychological case studies. In terms of fiction, I enjoy reading suspense thrillers, spy novels, historical fiction, literary fiction, and mysteries. My favorite novel of late was Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. My favorite writer is Graham Greene: I love the crisis of faith, moral ambiguities, and deep psychological complexities he displays in his characters and stories, and he’s equally good at literary fiction and suspenseful entertainments.
Tabitha: What have you been reading lately?
Dave: I tackled three of William Faulkner’s novels this summer. It was a grueling but rewarding task, and he’s someone every fiction writer should read. I’ve also been reading more Graham Greene and the short stories of Kurt Vonnegut.
Tabitha: Do you have any further books in the pipeline?
Dave: As I stated earlier, I am totally lost right now in a new novel, and I have two very strong ideas plotted for when I am done with this one. It’s always good to have at least three book ideas in the pipeline, so if one doesn’t work out, you know you have some fresh ideas to turn to and play with. I like to let my ideas gestate and evolve in my mind for years before hashing them out and turning them into a novel.
Tabitha: What’s next for Dave Schleicher, the writer?
Dave: Who knows? I feel my style is finally coming into its own with this new novel: it’s as twisty and convoluted as The Thief Maker, but more disciplined and evocative, I hope. I think the key to becoming a successful writer is reading as much great writing as you can, and writing as much as you can until something finally clicks and you know yourself as a writer. I think something definitely clicked when writing The Thief Maker, and I hope to continue to build and improve on that in the future.
Tabitha: Do you have any final remarks to address to our audience?
Dave: If you want to be a writer: Read, read, read. Then write, write, write. Don’t be afraid to fail. Make mistakes, lots of mistakes, and learn from them. If you plan to publish: HIRE A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR. One day, I will.