Author Interview: Richard Doetsch

The 13th Hour

I was recently able to interview Richard Doetsch, author of The 13th Hour, reviewed here. Which also made my top picks of 2009.

The 13th Hour takes a different spin on time travel. How did you come up with the idea of doing a novel in reverse?

I had never seen a novel written backwards before and thought it would be a great challenge. I think we all have a moment in life that we would like to change be it a decision at work, something we said to a girlfriend or boyfriend, or sometimes something greater like expressing our true feelings for a friend or family member before they slipped out of our lives or saving someone from a tragedy if we could only reach out our hand in that one fateful moment. I think it is something universal, something everyone thinks about at some point, something that bridges languages and cultures. How great would it be to act on hindsight?

If you could go back in time to change some event in your past, would you?

No, I think we are the sum of our failures and successes, our missteps and achievements. Our character, our lives are shaped by the unchartered lives we lead for better or for worse and it’s really the obstacles and tragedies we face that form us and give us the tools and abilities to tackle the future.

What obstacles did you face in writing such a complex story?

Writing the thirteenth hours was like playing five games of chess in my head at the same time. I wrote the story backwards in the same way the reader experiences it. In so doing, I had to remember the future and the past. It was difficult but fun as it was like a giant puzzle whose every move reverberated throughout the story.

While the element of science fiction is there with time travel, The 13th Hour is more of a mystery thriller. What section do you think your novel should be shelved?

Without question, in the thriller and mystery section. My stories are really thrillers with heart along with a very slight dash of fantasy. All of my stories have a very slight bit of fantasy in them while remaining firmly routed in reality. That little bit of the impossible helps to give a bit of a sense of wonder and is part of my signature. Most of the people who have read and enjoyed it are thrillers readers who picked it up without thinking of it as sci-fi.

I read that New Line Cinema bought the film rights. Any further news on that?

Mike Brandt and Derek Hass, the screenwriters responsible for Wanted and 3:10 to Yuma have already finished the script and they did a terrific job. It’s a rare day when an author is happy with the film adaptation but, in my case, they really captured the essence, action, and heart of the story. The studio is nearing the hiring of a director and lead actor both of which should be announced shortly.

Which actors could you see playing your characters in the film?

I’m fearful of pinning it on anyone. The main characters in all of my books including The 13th Hour are generally based on myself (with maybe one or two enhancements) and my wife who needs no enhancement though I will change her name and hair color from book to book.. Friends who read my stories are very quick to pick this up whether it be the dialogue, the way they think, certain appearances or experiences.

As a result I don’t think of any actor as I’m writing but if I was to go out on a limb, you would need someone who could not only handle the action but the emotional core. Someone in the vein of Matt Damon for Nick and Diane Kruger for Julia.

What’s next for you? Any other stories on the horizon?

My next novel The Thieves of Darkness comes out the end of August and continues the story of Michael St. Pierre a reluctant thief. I actually think it is one of the best things I have written and will surely excite and satisfy the readers of The 13th Hour and the first two book in The Thieves series and then early next year, my novel, Half Past Dawn will be released, it’s a fast paced thriller with heart that will surprise the readers of The 13th Hour and take them on a whole new roller coaster ride.

Will Half Past Dawn be a sequel to The 13th Hour, or a standalone novel?

No, it an entirely knew story, with a completely different premise and characters though it has that same sense of urgency, action, love and thrill that races towards a twisting and utterly surprising climax. I try not to repeat myself and dig deep for stories that are fresh and different but always in my style. Though I should mention, I have my short outline for a sequel to The 13th Hour which I think will blow people away.

Can you tell us more about your Thieves series and Michael St. Pierre?

Eight out of ten thrillers revolve around a cop, an ex-special forces/military type, a private investigator, attorney, or an academic fish out of water. It was important for my main character to be unique. I have always been a fan of the anti-hero whose deeds came about as moral compromise. It makes the character deeper and far more interesting. There are the rules of society, the rules of man, the rules of God but sometimes, to do the right thing, you have to violate those rules, compromise even your own beliefs. It makes for a richer, more conflicted character who has to not only battle outside forces but the moral compass within himself. Michael St. Pierre is a reformed thief forced back into the world he left behind in order to save those he loves. His greatest skills were as a thief and if he is to succeed he must resurrect not only his former skills but his former self all the while facing the risk of prison, death, and, worst of all, if he fails, the loss of those he loves.

The Thieves books are a globe trotting series taking Michael St. Pierre everywhere from Rome to Russia, Israel, to England and in the upcoming The Thieves of Darkness, Amsterdam, Istanbul and the mountains of India. As big and thrilling as the books are they are always very personal and filled with heart which not only draws the reader in but makes for a richer story. I actually think The Thieves of Darkness is better than The 13th Hour from the point of view that it still has the same type of action, cliff hangers, twists, and heart but it gets to do it on a global scale.

One point of note, Michael St. Pierre and his partner Paul Busch live in the same town as Nick Quinn from the 13th Hour, the town of Byram Hills with several of the characters popping up in each others stories.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience in writing.

I came to writing a bit later in life, in fact, the first thing I wrote (and longer than five pages) since High school was my first novel, The Thieves of Heaven. I never took a writing class but found that my voracious appetite for reading served as the ultimate school. I actually consider myself a story teller first and a writer second as my job is to tap my imagination so as not to repeat what others have done. I really have a passion for writing and consider myself lucky that I found it. Some people drink to forget, play golf to get away, watch TV to escape, I get all of that plus much more when I sit down to write.

Do you have a method when writing novels? How do you keep organized?

I consider myself a story teller first and writer second and so I think, just like writing everyday, we need to keep the imagination sharp creating fresh, original stories. I have what I call the every day idea file where I force myself to dream up a new story each and every day. It has grown rather thick over time and is filled with ideas that go in every direction, some terrible, some good, and some completely original, wild, and great. As to my regimen. I write every day in usually three shifts: 8:30 until noon., 1 to 5 and then 10 pm to 3 AM. Of course, I do live life so when I’m out or have plans those times can shift around but I still find the time to get it all in and endeavor to write 3,000 words a day.

Who are some of your favorite authors? What books do you love?

Dickens, Hemingway, HG Wells, Jules Verne, Ludlum, Crichton, Alistair Maclean, Alexander Dumas, Ian Fleming. I love the Count of Monte Cristo, To Kill a Mockingbird, The List of Seven, Sherlock Holmes; I love so many books it would take too long to list them.

What do you do when you’re not writing? In your spare time?

I compete in triathlons, I’m a wreck diver, I love skiing, extreme sports, anything that gets the blood pumping. I love family, friends and parties; I’m extremely social which is rare for a writer, but serves my imagination well as I meet and see some interesting situations. Music is always on whether I’m writing, running, working out. I connect to all types of music and I find the rhythm of it influences the flow of my writing.

Thanks for your time! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks to you and your readers for taking the time to read The 13th Hour. Of all the forms of entertainment—film, television, music—reading requires the solitary, undivided attention of the audience and a considerable commitment of time on their part. I’m grateful to be allowed to entertain them and will always feel the responsibility to exceed their expectation. Thanks again!

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