Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Toe the Line by Dick Hannah *PLUS author interview*

About the Book

This pacy novel is a modern day whodunnit starring Wynn Johnston and his ex-fiancée, Madison, who are trying to find out who killed Wynn's friend and business partner, Wheeler. Along with trying to track down Wheeler's killer, there are business complications due to having to stay in Seattle (when his business is in Austin) and added to that are the feelings Wynn has for Madison. 

About the Author

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself 

Probably like most writers you interview, I grew up loving to read and write. My first story, written in first grade, read like a Rex Stout pulp thriller but with less direction and absolutely no structure. I have since progressed and enjoy writing thrillers in the mould of Dick Francis and Diane Mott Davidson, but with adventure racing as a theme instead of horse racing or catering. I hope to eventually develop into a techno/thriller writer and leverage my background in the Airborne Ranger Special Operations units. 

2. Tell us a little bit about Toe the Line
I wrote Toe the Line shortly after moving back to Texas from Washington. I loved the Pacific Northwest and sorely wanted to stay up there. I had raced in several triathlons, marathons and adventure races and thought that Toe the Line offered me the perfect platform to provide an outlet for understanding racing and racers and to set it in Seattle as an homage to my time there. It is my first novel, and it took me several years to find my voice and writing style. I look back at the rough draft and it is unrecognizable from the final edition. 

3. What are you working on at the moment?
I am writing a novel that focuses on adventure racing in West Texas. A lot of Toe the Line focuses on imagery of water, swimming, and the rain that is persistent in the Pacific Northwest. I wanted to try the opposite approach with On the Edge and have the story focus on the West Texas desert. I think it will prove that I have developed as a writer. It has more engaging characters, more subtleties, and far more developed major and minor plot lines. 

4. Have you always considered yourself a creative person? 
No, I don't think of myself as creative. I am driven and enjoy writing. My brother is far more creative than I. Thankfully he doesn't mind sending me ideas. He's the dreamer . . . I'm the doer. If I could keep up with his idea generation I'd be on novel thirty or forty. Also, writing helps me deal with my own life. There's a lot of my own life and challenges in my novels. It's a catharsis for me. That might seem selfish, but I suppose readers like reading about my problems. 

Dick Hannah with his brothers after a recent triathlon
5. Do you have a ‘day job’ as well as writing? How do you find/make the time? 
I started out as a technical writer and after eight hours writing manuals a mind tends to crave writing something less dry and to the point. I would come home and write long flowing sentences as if to spite my boss. I spent several years in marketing, writing and training and these jobs helped me find ways to connect with audiences and talk to people. Now, I'm a business analyst for a company with dozens of locations all over the United States. With all the flying around that I do I've never had so much time to write. Airports make wonderful writing enclaves. 

6. How do you write? 
I write in big chunks, followed by little nibbles. I fell in love with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) back in 2001. I've completed a rough draft of a novel each year since. After the rough draft I rewrite, rewrite and rewrite again. I don't even have an outline when I write the rough draft, all of that, the outline, the plotting, intrigue, characterization all comes in the rewrites. It might be a lot of extra work but I look at my backlog now and I have dozen of novels to work on. When I finish one I pick another rough draft and start rewriting again.

7. What, if anything, influences your writing?
My fitness life and the friends I've developed in that realm have done more to influence my writing than anything else. I know a lot of writers who develop friendships and support through writing groups. This has never been an attractive avenue for me. I see my writing style much like my running. I like to do it alone. It's when I'm alone and running that I think about my writing and where I should take a story. I like to try and bring that out in my writing. Just like a run, I want readers who pick up my book to have to slog through some sections, speed through others and hopefully sprint to the finish line cause they can't wait to know the ending.

8. Who, if anyone, has influenced your writing?
At this point I don't have a definitive answer to the question of who has influenced my writing. My brother helps me with his interesting ideas, my wife is a glowing and avid supporter, but for the most part the biggest influencers in my writing are all of the books and authors I have read over the years. Like most writers I love to read and am rarely without a book. I'm influenced by any author who has taken the time to write a story and try to glean the positive features that lead their books to be a success. 

Hannah with a "trusted" reader (left) and his wife (right)
9. Can you name three things you’d like to achieve in life?
I like to read two types of books. I call them fun books and commitment books. Fun books are Dick Francis novels, Agatha Christie mysteries, or Barry Eisler's John Rain series. Commitment books are like Lonesome Dove, Shogun, Red Storm Rising, Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky. These are stories that are deep with characters, plot and story. I think I write fun books right now. I'd like to get to a point where I write a commitment book. That's a long answer to one of the three things I'd like to achieve so I'll pare down the rest of the answer. I'd like for my writing to be able to support my family, and I'd like to continue writing well into my golden years. I have a lot of stories in my head. I would like to get them all out there and make them worthwhile enough that people pay for them.

10. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
My advice would be; don't wait too long to start writing. I spent a lot of time on a fruitless quest to get my MFA in Creative Writing. I thought that with an MFA I would have the credibility and curriculum vitae to become a serious writer. My time would have been better spent actually laying pen to paper and writing, writing, writing. I didn't get serious until I was in my thirties and I'm only just now getting to a point where I'm comfortable with allowing the public to see it. I wish I had written more in my twenties so that I could have been a more developed and professional writer at this point in my life. 


  1. I enjoyed reading your review of Toe the Line followed by the author's answers to your questions. Story and author sound interesting, thank you.

    1. Glad you enjoyed reading the review and interview!

  2. Did you like the book? I read it also and thought it was pretty good?

    1. Yes, I did like it. It took a couple of chapters, but once it got going, I was hooked! Read it in only a couple of days. Good to hear that you liked it too! :)


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