Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Q&A with D.A. Keeley!

This week, we sat down with D.A. Keeley, author of the Peyton Cote Novels. His most recent, Fallen Sparrow, was released in early June.

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
D.A. Keeley: I wrote my first “book” when I was six. I wrote a story one weekend, bound it with string, and told the librarian at Readfield Elementary School I wanted her to put it on the shelf. She did, God bless her. I sold my first novel when I was 29. My first five were under my own name (John R Corrigan), my sixth was under KA Delaney, and now I’m DA Keeley writing about Peyton Cote, a US Border Patrol agent and a single mom.

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
DAK: As a dyslexic, reading never came easy. I had a great middle-school teacher who told me to read “something” every day. I read The Hockey News cover to cover every week. In high school, my mother handed me Robert B. Parker’s Ceremony. I remember hitting the passage “It’s a way to live. The rest is confusion” and thinking, What a great summary of detective fiction. I read everything Parker wrote, then moved to Chandler, and Connelly, and Hemingway, and—you get the idea. A highlight (along with being a finalist for a Maine Literary Award this year) was having Mr. Parker blurb my first novel Cut Shot. I learned so much about writing by reading the Spenser novels and listening to them on audio. It impacted not only what I write by how I write: I listen to every word I write using text-to-speech as part of my editing process.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Toni Morrison, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Hemingway, and Philip Levine are all writers I adore.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
DAK: I turned down a minor league hockey tryout to go to grad school. Maybe I’d be kicking around a rink sharpening skates.

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
DAK: I teach and chair the English department at Northfield Mount Hermon School, and I’m probably the only crime writer on the planet who is a dorm parent to 60 teenage girls.

MI: What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not writing or working?
DAK: Anything with my three daughters and wife. We spend as much time as a family as we can at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, body surfing and playing on the beach.

D.A. Keeley's daughter Audrey with Schnoodle Edie

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
DAK: Spenser is probably tops. Although, that’s like asking a little kid what his favorite sport is—my answer changes depending on who I’m reading right now (which, by the way, is Naomi Hirahara).

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
DAK: I love true crimes. I was a newspaper reporter during and after college. I’m a news junky.  

MI: What was your inspiration for this series? Tell us about Peyton Cote.
DAK: When I lived in Presque Isle, Maine, I played hockey on Sunday nights with Customs and Border Protection agents. That led to ride-alongs with a CBP agent. I learned so much from those—details that I hope add authenticity to the novels. I got a call from the CBP last summer saying these ride-alongs were no longer allowed, so I am indeed lucky to have had the opportunity. At the same time, I was teaching at Northern Maine Community College. And I was blown away by the will and determination I saw in the single mothers who attended my classes. I tried to create, in Peyton Cote, a woman with these attributes. Peyton is an accomplished agent and a single mom who struggles to balance both of those worlds. She's got an ex-husband who drives us all crazy, and a highly traditional mother who thinks she failed because she raised a daughter who carries a gun. As the series progresses, Peyton's love life gets more interesting, and her homelife more complicated, two aspects of the series I love writing.

MI: How does this series compare to your past works?
DAK: The “procedural” qualities are similar to my Jack Austin PGA Tour novels, in that I research my butt off to make sure things are authentic. I am VERY lucky to have Kevin Steven, former deputy chief of the CBP, serve as something of a technical consultant. He has answered emails for three years, telling me everything from whether or not agents tuck their pants into their boots, to his philosophy on the Texas border crisis. I've always strived to make my books authentic, and Kevin (and his wife and daughter, who read them) have been great resources.

I love writing series, seeing how the characters grow and change or time. But Jack is a lot like me. Peyton Cote, for obvious reasons, is not. But the books are similar in that I like to deal with the human condition. For instance, Fallen Sparrow is—to me—much more a book about lost friendship than a thriller.

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
DAK: Edie (like the ice cream) is a two-year-old Schnoodle. I got her in Pennsylvania. Left a 2 a.m., arrived at an Amish farm a 9 a.m., paid, stayed 30 minutes, and drove home. Got back at 2:30 that afternoon and had her at the bus stop to surprise my daughters by 3. I highly recommend the book The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skeet. This book makes me look like a much better dog trainer than I am.


MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
DAK: Sandwiches. Red Hook beer.

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
DAK: Garlic steak.

MI: What’s your favorite part about being an Inker?

DAK: I LOVE working with Nicole and Terri. I’ve been on this treadmill for nearing 20 years, so I know how lucky I am to work with an editor and publisher who treats my books as if they were their own.

Fallen Sparrow is available online and in bookstores now!

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