D.J. Swykert’s short fiction and poetry have been published in The Tampa Review, Monarch Review, Sand Canyon Review, Zodiac Review, Scissors and Spackle, spittoon, Barbaric Yawp and BULL. His novel, Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, won a literary competition with The LitWest Group in Los Angeles in 2002. Alpha Wolves, D.J.’s Noble Publishing’s bestselling novel, was released in April, 2012. Children of the Enemy, D.J.’s OmniLit’s bestselling novel, was published for the first time in 2009 and a third edition published in September 2012 by Cambridge Books.
Hi D.J., Please tell everyone a bit about yourself.
D.J.: I’m a blue collar person from Detroit. I’ve worked as a truck driver, dispatcher, logistics analyst, operations manager, and ten years as a 911 operator, which was the very best job of all of them. I write stories like you’d watch a movie and put them down on paper. I have written in different genres; crime, romance, and even a little bit in literary fiction. The last sentence in my writing bio is always: He is a wolf expert. I am not a biologist. I raised two arctic hybrids, had them for eleven years, and have written two books in which they join the other protagonists.
When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
D.J.: The first thing I ever wrote was a poem to impress my art student girlfriend. That was right after high school. It wasn’t very good, but she was impressed with my effort. I’ve been scribbling things ever since.
When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
D.J.: I’ve always wanted a career that I enjoyed. I looked at writing as a possible means to that end. I’ve had some small success, enough to be encouraging, but I’ve always worked for a living. If there’s a central theme to my writing it’s that all life has value. My characters tend to question norms. I tend to question what is considered normal. I like animals, I have empathy for the hardships they endure and my protagonists usually do as well.
Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?
D.J.: The Death of Anyone is essentially a mystery/suspense story with romance and a little science in it. The story centers on homicide detective Bonnie Benham’s search for the killer of young girls.
This book has a couple of the same characters from an earlier unpublished novel I hold the rights to titled Sweat Street, but I wouldn’t consider it a sequel. If I have some success with The Death of Anyone I may look to publish the first book. And perhaps consider another story with Detective Bonnie Benham. This is not the first time I’ve written from a female POV, but it’s the first time for a female police detective.
What’s the hook for the book?
D.J.: The book introduces readers to a DNA search technique not in common use here in the U.S., Familial DNA. A lot will be written on this subject as the real life trial of Lonnie David Franklin, The Grim Sleeper unfolds in California this year. The trial will set precedence for future use of this DNA search technique and I suspect will eventually lead to a Supreme Court decision on it’s admissibility as evidence. The defense is going to severely question LAPD investigating Lonnie Franklin in the first place as there was no direct evidence linking him to the crime.
How do you develop characters? Setting?
D.J.: They say write what you know, so I set my story in Detroit, where I grew up and lived for a long time and can authentically describe the city and places for the scenes in my story. When I make up a character I usually visualize someone in my head and then give them the characteristics I believe suits the character in my story. I wrote a story about a thirteen year old girl trying to save a pack of young wolves from a bounty hunter. In my mind I visualized Maggie Harrington as Jodie Foster in an old film, Taxi Driver, where she played a thirteen year old prostitute. I used Jodie’s image to describe the girl and my own feelings for animals to impart her emotions concerning the wolves. This is how I generally develop a character.
Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?
D.J.: I think Bonnie Benham is both unusual and likeable. She was originally in narcotics, but washed out. In her own words she became more “narcotic” than “narc.” As she investigates the murders of adolescent girls she is trying to resurrect herself as well as seek justice for the victims. This makes Bonnie a very edgy homicide cop. The story contains several suspects who are both likeable and unlikeable.
Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
D.J.: I’m a ponderer. I do a lot of thinking about my character and the story in my head before I begin to write. I usually have figured out how I wish to end the story. When I begin to write I put my character into a situation and from there the chapters all point towards the ending. It doesn’t always work out quite as simply as this sounds, but this is how I begin.
Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?
D.J.: I think my best writing is in first person. But The Death of Anyone and Children of the Enemy are in third person past tense, which most readers I think prefer. First person works good as a narrative for a strong character in a short book, but since it can only get into the one character’s head it can get a bit tedious.
How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
D.J.: I grew up in Detroit, so, for crime or mystery stories I’ve set them in Detroit, which unfortunately has held the Murder Capital of the World title several times. I have also written stories set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where I lived on the Keweenaw Peninsula for a decade. Love it up there, a true wilderness much like Alaska only with smaller mountains. But the winter is extremely long, turbulent and prohibitive.
Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.
D.J.: I liked this review left on Amazon:
The Death of Anyone by David Swykert, reads like a Jessie Stone movie, was a true page turner for me. His subject is close to our hearts and the viewpoint is an eye opener. He has interwoven the personal problems of some of his Characters making them real. He also has a flair for writing some romantic scenes that most ladies will find endearing. If you enjoy a mystery, some anxiety and a little romance I would recommend you read The Death of Anyone.
What are your current projects?
D.J.: I have an offbeat/quirky romantic tale titled The Pool Boy’s Beatitude. The book will publish this summer by a small Indie press out of Detroit, Rebel e Publishing. They do have a book distributor and a small print run will be done. It’s the story of an alcoholic physicist who drops out and is cleaning swimming pools to earn a living, skimming what he refers to as the “Infinite Pond.” The story follows the human orbit of Jack Joseph and his trail of broken relationships until he ultimately lands himself in a county jail.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
D.J.: I have a page on an artistic collective called: www.magicmasterminds.com You can find information about my work, and me on the site, and see a host of other amazing artists, musicians and writers.
Thanks for joining us today, D.J.!
D.J.: Thanks so much for the opportunity.