Welcome: Dustin Stevens
Author of multiple books including 21 Hours.
Thank you so much for having me!
21 Hours, and most of my work, is written under my own name, Dustin Stevens. Earlier this year I began also writing under the pseudonym T.R. Kohler, providing a second platform for new stories/series/characters, as well as allowing me to publish more frequently.
(Links to all books are at the end of this interview.)
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I guess the single biggest term a lot of folks would use is nomadic. I’m originally from southern Ohio and later relocated to west Tennessee, went to college in Boston, grad school in Montana, and have lived in a dozen different places since, stretching from Washington D.C. to Honolulu.
As for what some may consider fun facts, I played college football, raise English bulldogs, still have a southern drawl, stand six and a half feet tall, and am a terrible surfer. 😊
What first inspired you to write?
My mother and I share what one might call the storyteller bug. Over time – and through an intense love of reading – it just sort of started. From there it snowballed to the point that now I can’t imagine doing anything else.
In what genre(s) do you prefer to write?
To flip through my back list, one would find a little bit of everything. Far and away I prefer to wright thrillers – books that compel someone to keep turning pages, while at the same time giving them glimpses into the character’s psyches.
Having attended law school and working in the health field, I like to intersperse those topics into my work, though I love to ground my stories in anything that gives me an excuse to do research and really dig into a new topic.
How/Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
Most anywhere. I can point to particular works that were inspired by songs, movies, even commercials. My favorite place to mine for new ideas is from good writing by authors.
For the most part, stories start with some small snippet, a particular scene or character trait I really like. From there, I’ll work to flesh it out, putting the necessary infrastructure in around it, before sitting down to begin writing.
Are you working on another book?
At the moment I have two that are completed and awaiting release, two that are done and will begin editing soon, and two more that I am in various stages of writing.
If your books have required research: What do you consider the best resources?
As I mentioned before, having worked in both the legal and medical sectors, I try to draw on those experiences extensively. Also, having lived in so many places, I try to set my novels somewhere that I’ve been, so as to add an extra layer of authenticity.
Beyond that, it really depends on the type of research necessary. For simple matters, such as how many bullets a particular magazine might hold, I go to Google. For others, as when writing Scars and Stars, I’ll hit the public library extensively or find experts to talk to.
Do you consider your books convey messages to readers?
No, and at the same time, a resounding absolutely!
What I mean by that is, sometimes I am merely trying to write a good yarn, and hopefully provide some escapism for folks. Others, as with the Zoo Crew novels or Shoot to Wound, I try to illuminate something I think others might also find fascinating/surprising/appalling/etc.
Never do I get preachy though, as I think freedom of opinion is the greatest unstated right we have in this country. I’m just more hoping to provoke some thought.
What advice would you give to authors who are just starting out?
The two biggest things are, without question, read and write. Stephen King said it best when he stated, “if one doesn’t have the time to read, they have neither the time nor the tools to write.” As for the second part, write, and continue writing. Try new things, points of view, genres, whatever. Like anything, it is a learned skill, and it only gets better with time.
Do you self-edit or do you think a book should only be professionally edited?
If I were to have added a third piece to the answer above, it would undoubtedly be: EDIT. And keep editing, even after you think you’re done. This is one place where readers are merciless, and with good reason. (To this day it gives me fits.)
I do a combination of self-editing and professional editing, going through each work three times before handing it off to an editor. It is still far from a perfect system, but hopefully it’s improved tremendously.
How do you go about marketing your books?
This too has been a long and circuitous road. Starting out, with a very limited budget, I was almost entirely dependent on Amazon, KDP, free day promotions, etc, to try and get my name out there.
In recent years, I’ve been able to expand a bit, finding Facebook ads, BookBub, Ereader News Today, and a host of other sites to be excellent. Also, the single biggest tool an author can have is an email list with an engaged reader base.
How important do you think reviews are?
Vital! So much so that at the end of each of my books, I write a letter to readers thanking them for reading my work and asking for their feedback, either through reviews or emails.
Unlike most authors, I read them all, finding it invaluable.
Do you have a preferred genre for when you read?
I tend to gravitate more toward particular authors than genres. Writers like Robert Crais, Clive Cussler, John Sandford, C.J. Box, can write just about anything and I’ll read it.
This is an age old question but one I consider of interest. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you like to have with you?
Oh, wow. This is actually a tough one for me, as I tend to read very fast and rarely reread anything. If given only three, I would say:
Any of the Jack Reacher novels, by Lee Child.
Any of the Joe Pickett novels, by C.J. Box.
Any of the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels, by Robert Crais.
Please share with us links to where readers may obtain more information and insight into who you are.
Thanks again for including me!
Thank you Dustin for sharing your knowledge, insights and experiences with us.
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