A Conversation with Canada’s Premier Noir Crime Author, Dietrich Kalteis

Welcome everyone and thank you for joining me in this highly anticipated conversation with one of Canada’s premier noir crime writers, Dietrich Kalteis.

If you enjoy fast-paced, raw, unadulterated, thrill a minute violent crime novels then this award winning author will give you everything you crave and then some. His novel, The Deadbeat Club, has been translated to German, and fifty of his short stories have also been published internationally.

Dietrich writes with a singular high-octane style and is a master noir crime wordsmith, creating well drawn and edgy characters up against seemingly impossible odds and authentic sounding dialogue.

Please join me in giving a warm welcome to the author of Independent Publisher Book Award medal winners: Ride the Lightning and House of Blazes as well as The Deadbeat Club, Triggerfish and Zero Avenue, Dietrich Kalteis.

James:                  In preparation for our interview I’ve scanned many interviews, read your bio on your website and other places and googled you only to find that your life is a bit of a mystery. I’ve searched high and low and can find very little about your personal life. Is this by design?

Dietrich:              Believe me, I’m not much of a mystery. When I’m asked, the focus is usually on my work.

James:                  Do your books give us any clues or insight into Dietrich Kalteis?

Dietrich:              Absolutely. I have a dark sense of humour, and my stories are often peppered with it. Also, the what-if of life has always sparked my imagination, so writing is one of the ways I explore and express this inclination.

James:                  Where did you grow up?

Dietrich:              I grew up in Toronto, then visited Vancouver about 25 years ago and ended up staying.

James:                  When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Dietrich:              When I was in my teens, I penned a draft for a novel in longhand on lined pages, and I kept the whole thing in a shoebox under the bed. It didn’t go past that first rough draft, and I can’t remember if I gave it a title, but it was the start of a lifetime of wanting to be a storyteller.

James:                  Do you still have the shoebox novel? What was it about?

Dietrich:              I remember it was about a teenager escaping a bad life, making his way to California, where things looked a lot more promising. I’m not sure where it ended up, although I wish I still did have it.

James:                  Does your family life play a role in shaping your writings?

Dietrich:              My wife and son, Xander, are both very creative, so we are often bouncing ideas off one another. They are supportive and a great sounding board. Naturally, this influences my work on many levels.

James:                  Do you have any other children?

Dietrich:              Yes, two, in the shape of cats.

James:                  That’s funny because my next question was going to be: “Do you own any pets?”

Dietrich:              They would say no one owns them.

James:                  What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Dietrich:              I think trying to rush is a trap for writers starting out that desire to get a story published before the author’s really found his or her voice. If one rushes to get a work out there before it’s really ready, then I think they could be setting themselves up.

James:                  Thank you, Dietrich, for that very wise advice.

                                Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

Dietrich:              We all have an ego; although I think it’s a good thing to keep it on a leash. A big ego can make us competitive and feel superior; it doesn’t deal well with criticism, and it’s what makes us think it’s us or them. And who needs that? A thick skin and a good attitude will go a lot farther.

James:                  Spoken like a true sage, thank you Dietrich.

                                What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

Dietrich:              I think on a whole the industry is quite ethical. Things around the industry that I don’t like to see are plagiarism and copyright infringement. 

James:                  What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

Dietrich:              There were stories I read as a kid, and I can still recall some of those powerful images from classics like after Ahab’s demise when the Pequod went down, and only Ishmael survived the wreck. And the adventures of Huckleberry revered by the town’s children and dreaded by its mothers. Also the adventures of Alice, and of Oliver, and the travels of Gulliver. And there were so many more books that I remember when I was a kid that showed the power of words and language.

James:                  What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Dietrich:              Aside from a good computer and my studio set-up, I have a website which I update with news, upcoming releases and events, and that’s been worth the money: dietrichkalteis.com. I’m not big on spending money on self-promotion, so I usually keep it to bookmarks for each new release. When my debut novel, Ride the Lightning, came out, I went to my first Bouchercon, that one in Albany, NY. It was great opportunity to meet other authors and some readers too. And that was well worth the money.

James:                  How do you select the names of your characters?

Dietrich:              A character often has to grow into his or her name. Sometimes a name comes right away, and other times I change them as the story and character evolves. It can take until the second or third draft before a character’s name feels right. The same can go for the title of the book. The trick is to know when I’ve got it right — call it a feeling.

James:                  It is always interesting and sometimes a little frightening to get a glimpse into how the mind of an author.

                                Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Dietrich:              Not on purpose. Sometimes when I’m working on a story and likely because I don’t have the story tightly plotted and planned, I’ll come across something in the news or hear something someone says that I incorporate into the story or sub-story. And that can add an interesting and unexpected turn.

James:                  How long were you a part-time writer before you became full-time?

Dietrich:              I wrote some short stories years before I started writing full-time, but it was now and then and whenever I found the spare time. When I started writing full-time I kept writing short stories, experimenting with genres and styles, trying to find what worked best for me before tackling a novel. Writing short stories taught me to be economical with words, and I still love writing them, although mostly I focus on novels now.

James:                  What are some day jobs that you have held?  If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.

Dietrich:              I was a commercial artist for many years. It was a creative job, so in that respect I liked it because it let me visualize, create and tap into that side of the brain.

James:                  If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?

Dietrich:              Well, I’d probably pick some place quiet and sunny like Bora Bora. I know I’d end up with a great tan and be very relaxed, although I’m not sure a tropical resort would be my first choice for a setting for a crime novel.

James:                  I would imagine there are dark sides in sunny climates too. It might be interesting to do a little research on the dark side of Papeete, Bora Bora.

                                What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?

Dietrich:              I don’t know if it would really surprise anybody, but I never watch horror films; they scare the hell out of me — been that way since I was a kid.

James:                  That does surprise me, Dietrich. I guess we all have things we dread.

                                What was the hardest part of writing your author bio?

Dietrich:              I can’t say that I ever found writing a bio difficult; maybe it feels a little weird writing about myself in third person. I think one of the hardest things for a writer to come up with is a really good synopsis and to have a solid pitch ready for when someone asks, “So, what’s your book about?” 

James:                  I couldn’t agree more, Dietrich.

                               What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Dietrich:              I walk a lot and love to get out of the city. Being in nature clears the cobwebs. And I like playing guitar no matter how much I suck at it. And I’d call myself an avid reader.

James:                  Pick one excerpt from one of your books you would like to share with readers.

Dietrich:              This is the first paragraph from my upcoming novel Call Down the Thunder, set for release from ECW Press this October 15th: Sonny Myers narrowed his eyes against the gust, felt the rush of cold, the air crackling: static electricity churning and hellfire flashing inside the mass of black looming high over the flat land. The yard a frenzy of whipping sand and debris by the time he got his mule and car in the barn. Felt like the end of times coming. Through the boiling wall of sand Sonny made out two sets of headlights approaching on the county road. Could be coming for shelter from the duster, but something told him no. Going to the house, reaching inside the door, he took the shotgun and stepped off the porch.