I recently had the opportunity to sit down and speak with prolific playwright and author, Dale Fowler. It was a wonderful and insightful conversation. Dale lead me through his complex and intriguing world in his multi-faceted career as a writer and author.
Initially introduced to Dale via an acquaintance on Facebook, Julio Varela (thank you, Julio), I was prepared to gain some perspective into his narrative world. But, I attained more than I bargained for – all in a very good and memorable way.
And I have to say I came away from this interview with a higher degree of respect for those who choose a career in writing. It is a lonely profession and the road is an arduous one; however the rewards, if one has the dogged determination and drive to succeed, do appear in measured steps.
So sit back, relax with a cappuccino or a cup of tea and come along on the Dale Fowler Masterclass Writing Express .
How long have you been writing? Who inspired you to write? Who are your favorite authors?
I started in the screenplay industry twenty years ago, writing scripts to sell under my name and rewriting other scripts that needed help in concept or character development. I’ve worked with some great production companies like MGM, IO Productions, Prelude Pictures, Studio 54 to mention a few. Writing has always been my passion and I have written in every genre imaginable – comedy, science fiction, fiction, thrillers, horror.
My first book was published last August (CrissCross) and my second (The Shroud) will be out in January. In fact, I am working on a horror novel called, Raising Hell, which will be released sometime in late spring of 2014. So I’ve jumped from the frying pan (movies) into the fire (books).
My early inspiration came from watching shows like Twilight Zone (written by Rod Serling) that always kept the viewer/reader walking down one path and then at the end threw in a curve ball that maintained your interest.
Some of my favorite authors include Stephen King, James Patterson, and an old timer: Ernest Hemingway.
I just started dabbling in writing – mainly children’s books – and one has been newly released. I find it challenging to conceptualize ideas. The moment has to be right. How about you? And, when you envision characters or ideas that you want to include in your book, are they drawn from characters or situations that you are acquainted with in real life?
Any writer will grudgingly admit they pull some of their characters from people they have met or have seen in real life (politics, current events, etc.)
In one of my books, “CrissCross” (about a railroad serial killer) one of the characters, Stubby, is based on a real life transient. I was in my early twenties working with my Dad on the railroad going through college and I found Stubby riding a boxcar. Because I was fascinated with the hobo lifestyle, we talked over my shared lunch. He was named Stubby because he had lost three fingers in a coupling accident. Stubby plays a major part in the book helping a railroad bull (cop) run down the killer with information gathered in the underbelly of railroad life.
Speaking of your recent release, CrissCross, this railroad crime thriller was an absolutely enlightening and riveting read. The pacing, plot and character development were wonderfully formulated. Did the fact that you came from a railway family entice you to write this book?
Actually no. It would probably make for a better interview, but the truth is a few years back my agent called and said that a very well-known TV and movie producer needed a screenplay which centered around crime on the rails. It was down to myself and another writer.
The producer asked me: “Dale, do you know anything about railroads”? Well, I couldn’t believe my ears. I grew up and around the rails coming from a railroad working family and had lived the culture, so this screenplay fell easily into my skill set.
Basically, the producer wanted a screenplay about a railroad serial killer – similar to the notorious illegal immigrant from Mexico, Ángel Maturino Reséndiz.
Ángel, known as The Railroad Killer, was a transient and very difficult to track. He didn’t have a cell phone (a hobo would be killed by other hobos if you reported their illegal activities) and was able to commit a crime in Dallas one day and be in Chicago the next. He also bought everything in cash which is untraceable. In the end, after being confronted with law enforcement through the assistance of his sister, Manuela, he surrendered his life of crime, corruption and itineraries to the FBI.
Therefore, I thought: ” What if I created a killer who pretended to be a hobo, someone with a sophistication in forensics and with a motive beyond the norm of everyday transient crime“. And thus evolved CrissCross.
Interesting and exciting premise! Will CrissCross be made into a movie? It should.
I optioned the screenplay, CrissCross, to the producer (it’s in front of several actors now) but kept the book rights. We shall see what happens.
I loved the Columbo – styled art to the manner in which you developed the plot for CrissCross. It is always fun to learn the identity of the murderer at the top of the story and then watch him or her try to evade capture as the plot moves forward. Will you use a similar style in The Shroud or will it totally be a whodunit?
It’s a harder road to walk for the writer when you let the reader know who the killer is right out of the gate. If you are like me, you have probably read too many books and/or seen too many movies where you can basically guess who and why half-way through the reading or movie process. And, chances are, you are correct.
So I find it more challenging and entertaining to unveil the murderer at the top and watch him or her evade capture. There are still surprises along the way and you are not left with a sense of disappointment when you know who the killer is at the outset if the story ending jumps up and grabs the reader from an angle they never saw coming.
I have a general idea about the substance of the plot behind new book – The Shroud – which will be released in January 2014. Can you expand on it or is it best is to keep it “shrouded”? (Sorry. Couldn’t help myself!)
Not at all! A world renown doctor is contacted by the Catholic Church to examine The Shroud of Turin in the mid-eighties (this really did occur) because this holiest of Christan artifacts is rapidly deteriorating.
The doctor wants to facilitate the Second Coming of Christ so he removes blood from The Shroud and artificially inseminates three women with the DNA in his in vitro clinic. He is later murdered but no one has any idea what he has done.
A Private Investigator assigned to the case is a raising hell, non-Christian type of person. He knows nothing about The Shroud of Turin but, over the course of the investigation, he finds one of these three people (descendants to The Shroud) and that person is then killed.
The second person he finds is producing miracles and he realizes what the doctor has done. The book moves along with twists and turns at an exciting pace and the reader discovers whether the doctor has in fact brought heaven back to earth or resurrected hell.
As with CrissCross, I can easily envision The Shroud as a movie. Have you ever approached a major film studio about this book?
Yes, a major film studio was interested in producing a feature film based on The Shroud. In fact, I came incredibly close to signing a deal. However, there was a very, very famous director associated with this film studio- who shall remain nameless – who wished to use a segment in The Shroud for his own agenda and purpose. I was offered a six figure deal to relinquish control and credit for my screenplay in order to appease this director. After careful consideration, I declined. This screenplay was just too important to give away.
It was an incredible disappointment to come so close to achieving a movie deal but I do believe it will land in the right hands for the right price, with full credit given to me.
That is an incredible disappointment indeed. However, I feel that, through it all, you are that much closer to landing that book into the correct hands of another film company.
With that being said, what advice would you impart to aspiring young authors?
My agent once told me: “Dale, you will regret the day if you give up your book rights on your screenplay”. I lost a couple of deals by doing so, but later followed his wise advice over the course of my career. Even if the screenplay is sold, it is imperative that you do not relinquish your hold on the book rights.
Wise words from a very wise and seasoned writer and author. I would like to thank Dale Fowler for taking the time to speak with me and to share with all of us the hard work, perseverance and diligence necessary to becoming a successful author.