By Sean Tuohy
Action, adventure, and good times. Those are all things you'll find whenever you crack open an adventure novel by David Woods. You will most likely find yourself reading a Dane Maddock tale since he's Woods' main hero in an ongoing series.
Woods took a few minutes away from writing to sit down and chat about his work, where his love the adventure story stems from, and what writers need to do to stay ahead of their worst enemy: them-selves.
Sean Tuohy: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
David Woods: I started reading at an early age and working as an author was a dream of mine since childhood, but I thought of it as an unrealistic fantasy, like being a rock star or professional athlete. Looking back, I wish I had pursued my dream much earlier in life instead of waiting until my 30s.
ST: What books captured you as a young reader?
DW: Early on, childrens' mystery series like The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, but it was the classic adventure stories like The Lost World and the Doc Savage books that truly captivated me and fueled my imagination.
ST: Who were your early influences?
DW: Aside from the books mentioned above, Clive Cussler's early books had a big impact on me. When I was a pizza delivery guy in college, I'd listen to his books on tape (yes, I'm old) and concoct my own adventure stories in my head.
ST: How long did it take to complete your first novel?
DW: After years of procrastination, I took part in National Novel Writing Month, in which writers are challenged to write a short novel in a month. I knocked out most of my first book, Dourado, during that month, and then spent about three more months working on it. I don't recommend working that fast on a first novel. I eventually wound up going back, doing more work on it, and republishing it to address issues with the manuscript. It didn't hurt my career in the long run, but as an inexperienced writer, I should have taken a more measured pace.
ST: Where did your hero, Dane Maddock, come from?
DW: Personality-wise, he's a little bit Dirk Pitt and a little bit Indiana Jones, but I wanted to avoid the "too perfect" action hero, so he's got shortcomings, many of which are balanced out by his partner, "Bones" Bonebrake. Some readers don't like it when the hero makes mistakes or struggles with indecision or her/his conscience, but most of the readers I hear from feel that these qualities make him more believable.
As far as what he does, Dane is a manifestation of my fascination with mysteries and legends. I can't find the Ark of the Covenant, solve the riddle of Oak Island, or find Atlantis, so he does it for me!
ST: What does the future hold for Dane Maddock?
DW: Whenever I get a question about the future of my characters, I usually reply "everybody dies," but this earns me threatening looks from my wife, so I'm trying to stop. In his next adventure, Dane will head off in search of Noah's ark, and readers can count on the usual twists in the story so it will hopefully feel like a new and fresh tale despite the well-covered subject matter.
ST: What is your writing process?
DW: I start out with an ancient mystery for Dane and Bones to solve, a few cool locations for them to visit, and (usually) a creature out of legend, like the chupacabra, to work in to the story. I make a very loose outline, and then plan out five or so chapters at a time. I write those chapters, do more research and plotting, and do it all over again until the first draft is finished. Along the way, I take notes about changes I want to make, but I always finish the first draft before making any changes to what I've already written. The last thing I do is go back and write the historical prologue. This might seem backward, but because I always apply twists to the "mystery from history" my characters are solving, I like to find out how the story ends before crafting the prologue.
ST: Do you do a lot research for your books?
DW: I do a lot of research on whatever mystery provides the book's back-story. This includes visiting some really whacked-out forums where people share some truly far-fetched theories, because these places often provide inspiration for the twists at the story's end. I also do a lot of research on the various settings, because it's important to me that the reader feels he is really there while reading. Most of my research doesn't make it into the story, and it's always a bit of a bummer when I finish the book because I wish I could share everything I learned.
ST: What advice do you give to first time writers?
DW: Write fast so you can outrun your doubts and insecurities. Write the kinds of stories you love to read. Join a critique group and seek out podcasts and websites that will help you refine your craft.
ST: Can you tell us one random fact about yourself?
DW: Only one? Hmmm... I'm a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo.