Please welcome author Dave White to My Bookish Ways! He’s here to talk beer, New Jersey, and, oh yeah…the third book in his Jackson Donne series, Not Even Past.
Angel Luis Colón: Think fast: give me a ten word pitch for your latest, Not Even Past. Go!
Dave White: Jackson Donne’s long-thought-dead fiancée is very much alive. He has to find out why, which might destroy him.
That’s um, 18 words, but YAY MATH!
ALC: So it’s been about seven years since you’ve revisited your character, Jackson Donne. What made you come back? Did you think that you would get back to this series after so long?
DW: What made me come back was the pitch. That Donne’s fiancée, Jeanne, isn’t actually dead? As a writer, that blew my mind and really got me excited to go back into the series. There were so many new angles to explore with the characters, and added so many new dimensions to Donne that I didn’t always know were there. I couldn’t wait to get back to the keyboard each day and write some more.
As far as getting back to the series? I went through ebbs and flows. If you’d asked me back in the fall of 2008, I would have said no way. Between there and 2012 when I started plotting Not Even Past, I had started and stopped a few different ideas with him that just never stuck. I did know that for Donne to make it back to the page the story had to be a big one—one that shook him to the core, and Not Even Past certainly does that.
ALC: Now, you’re no stranger to crime fiction. You’ve been at this awhile; even been nominated for a few awards some people may have heard of (the Shamus). What draws you to this genre and what keeps you here?
DW: Crime fiction is so great because you really see people at their best and at their worst. The stakes of these stores (and when I say stakes, I usually mean emotional) are so high and people risk so much that it’s always exciting. There’s an adrenaline rush to reading the kind of books I like and I find that hard to put down. I love seeing people succeed (or fail) at the most important moments of their lives, and crime fiction usually offers that in some way or another.
ALC: Not Even Past seems to bleed New Jersey. It does strike me as a great place to set a series like Donne’s, but why not use New York City or Philadelphia (since they’re a stone’s throw away). What is it about New Jersey that draws you to it (aside from being a resident)?
DW: Man, I’ve dabbled a little bit in New York City in both The Evil That Men Do and Witness to Death because when you write about this area (mainly North and Central Jersey), ignoring New York is like ignoring Taylor Ham. You just don’t do it.
And, to be honest, I don’t know Philadelphia all that well, beyond the Grey Lodge Pub, the Phillies, and a big ol’ bell.
But, New Jersey is my home, and it’s got a seediness to it all of its own. I love it, and all it’s dark little secrets. And if Jackson Donne is returning, so does NJ and in a big, big way. I mean this book takes place right after some major sea changes in the state. Chris Christie takes office, Rutgers and the state’s medical school merge, and Hurricane Sandy slammed this state. And that’s just something I had to write about, had to tackle. This book is my love letter to New Jersey–especially the Jersey Shore. Warts and all.
ALC: You also happen to be a middle-school teacher, which might be a more dangerous job than being a cop or a private investigator. Do you pull any inspiration from there? Do you ever worry about parents or kids finding out about the books?
DW: I pull lots of inspiration from teaching. In Witness to Death, the main character is a teacher. And in Not Even Past, I try to deal with some of the educational changes New Jersey is going through. I mean being a teacher, just like being a Rutgers fan, is a part of me and if part of you doesn’t bleed somehow into every character and every page on the book, you’re not doing it right. So, yeah, there’s lot of education stuff in my books.
As for worrying about the students and parents finding out–no, I don’t worry. I’m very upfront about it. I think if I was a student, and one of my teachers was a novelist, I’d want to learn more about writing (that sounds way egotistical of me, but hey, sorry. I re-wrote that sentence four or five times and it still came out all braggy like). Secondly, I’ve never had an issue. I tell the students who want to read my books they need to clear it with their parents, and it goes well from there.
ALC: You’re a known craft-beer lover. What’s a current favorite? What about Jackson, what would he be enjoying these days?
DW: I’m currently enjoying (not at this very minute, but in the grand scheme of things) Carton Brewery 077XX. It’s a Double IPA out of central Jersey and truly one of the best beers out there. We’re not all corruption and hurricanes in Jersey, we make some good beer too. And that’s what Jackson Donne has been drinking—usually New Jersey beers. He also loves Kane Head High and all the Carton brews.
But, and not to give away any spoilers, but the Alchemist’s Heady Topper plays a key role in this and the next book—and that’s not an easy beer to find here in New Jersey.
ALC: If you could experience one book again for the first time, what would it be?
DW: Shutter Island. It’s one of my all-time favorite crime novels, even though I saw the twist coming from a mile away. But the chapter after the twist is revealed? Just blew my mind and stuck with me emotionally for weeks after I read it.
ALC: What’s next for you?
DW: I just sent my publisher my latest Jackson Donne title—An Empty Hell. It also introduces a new private investigator, Matt Herrick–who’s sort of Bob Hurley, Sr. if he was a PI along with a high school basketball coach (See? Education in everything).
ALC: Are there any projects you’re looking forward to coming from other writers this year?
DW: What Jason Pinter is publishing at Polis Books like Bryon Quertermous, Rob Hart, and Patti Abbott are all very, very exciting and coming soon! But the book I really can’t wait for is Terrance McCauley’s Sympathy for the Devil, which seems like it’s right up my ally.
As for some other stuff, I loved Duane Swierczynski’s Canary, which just came out. I can’t wait to read Laura Lippman’s Hush Hush. And Robert Crais’ next Elvis Cole book—I’m intrigued. And, usually, something I don’t expect catches my eye and becomes my favorite book of the year—happened with Todd Robinson’s The Hard Bounce recently.
About Not Even Past
Finally, Jackson Donne has it figured out. After leaving the private investigation business, he’s looking toward the future — and getting married to Kate Ellison. Donne is focused on living the good life — planning the wedding, finishing college, and anticipating a Hawaiian honeymoon — until he receives an anonymous email with a link and an old picture of him on the police force. Once Donne clicks the link, nothing else in his life matters. Donne sees a live-stream of the one thing he never expected. Six years ago, his fiancée, Jeanne Baker died in a car accident with a drunk driver. Or so Donne thought. He’s taken to a video of Jeanne bound to a chair, bruised and screaming, but very much alive. He starts to investigate, but quickly finds out he’s lost most of his contacts over the years. The police hold a grudge going back to the days when he turned in his corrupt colleagues, and neither they nor the FBI are willing to believe a dead girl’s been kidnapped. Donne turns to Bill Martin — the only man to love Jeanne as much as he did — for help. And that decision could cost him everything.