ONE OF THE great things about attending writers’ conferences is meeting great authors. One of the many authors I’ve met is David Walker, the author of eleven published mystery/suspense novels. He is a past president of the Midwest Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and lives with his wife, Ellen, just north of Chicago. He has been a parish priest, an investigator for the Chicago Police Department, and a lawyer. Now he says, “I mostly sit around and do my best to think positive thoughts about the future of the planet. Oh...and I write nearly every day.” David also was kind enough to review my latest book, End of the Line, and gave me a “blurb” for the book cover.
Mike: Welcome David, I’m happy to have you here today. Can you tell me a little bit about the two series you write? And if you can, tell me how you got the “Wild Onion” name.
David: My “Wild Onion, Ltd.” series features a female private detective named Kirsten, and her husband, Dugan. The word "Chicago" is derived from a native American word for "wild onion,” and when Kirsten, a former Chicago police investigator, opened up her private detective agency she called it "Wild Onion, Ltd." Kirsten's husband, Dugan, is a former prosecutor, now a personal injury lawyer. He is not thrilled with the practice of law and finds himself drawn into her cases. Though he may feign a reluctance to help, Dugan is actually far more intrigued with Kirsten's work than with his own.
My “Mal Foley” series features Chicago private investigator Malachy P. Foley. Mal was once a lawyer, but lost his license when he refused to obey a court order to reveal what a client had told him. His license was suspended "until further order of Court" and, since he'll have to "demonstrate remorse for his misconduct" before he gets his license back, it is questionable whether he will ever practice law again. Mal has a mentor of sorts, "the Lady," an older woman who runs shelters for abused women and is something of a mystic.
M: I think your latest book is Too Many Clients, can you give us a short synopsis of it?
D: I love to talk about Too Many Clients, but it came out in 2010, and now I have a new book, The Towman’s Daughters. This one is the sixth in the Wild Onion, Ltd. series. It has just been released in Great Britain and will shortly be released in the U.S. (Actually, I just checked and found that The Towman’s Daughters is already available on Amazon. Oh, and I also see that it has garnered a great review from E.B. Loan, a novelist whose book reviews appear on numerous literary websites.)
The Towman’s Daughters opens with Dugan stumbling across a crime in progress. His Sir Galahad instincts kick in and he rescues the beautiful young Isobel Cho from an armed abductor…except she doesn’t seem all that happy to be saved. Soon Isobel goes missing, and it’s up to Kirsten and Dugan to find out what’s happened. Isobel’s father, a thuggish tow company owner, wants her to end her relationship with the son of a U.S. senator, and the senator herself wants that even more badly. But there are things afoot here beyond a romance between “star-cross’d lovers.” Things like greed and betrayal, politics and murder…and how far a father’s love for his daughters will drive him.
M: In addition to the two series, you have a stand alone, Saving Paulo, and an upcoming one, Bad Company. Can you tell us a bit about each?
D: lthough while writing Saving Paulo I hadn’t thought of it in quite this way, this book is actually a coming-of-age story. Three people—a young man going nowhere, a young woman with everything, and a self-proclaimed “seer”—are drawn together in a struggle to save a strange, silent little boy, Paulo, from murderous kidnappers. The story moves from the alleys of downtown Chicago, to the mansions of Lake Forest, to the depths of the Amazon jungle . . . and then back again.
As to Bad Company, I’ll hold off on that one because it’s in the process of revision.
M: As a writer, what is more important: Plot or Character?
D: I have often thought that this writing mysteries gig would be a hell of a lot easier if you didn’t have to have a plot. I find creating characters—especially quirky characters—much more fun. But since I don’t write “literary fiction,” I need a plot. So I try to apply the maxim that plot and characters are equally important and are, in fact, inseparable. “Plot” is simply what “characters” do. Of course you have to dream up tricky situations for characters to run into, but then you sit back and let them show you how they work their ways out (or don’t).
M: What started you writing?
D: I have never taken a writing class (beyond high school English), and have not attended any big-time writers' workshops. As a kid, though, I used to read "all the time." In high school I enjoyed writing the essays we were often required to write, and I was told by various English teachers that I was a good writer. One even suggested that I should write an article and get it published in a magazine. That seemed pretty outlandish, and I never seriously entertained the idea.
When I was a priest, of course, I wrote lots of sermons, did a lot of teaching, and read lots of mysteries. I also "moonlighted" as a free-lance writer for a nationally distributed "Sunday Bulletin" service. I wrote articles that were usually centered around the scripture readings used in the Sunday services.
When I left the priesthood I toyed with the idea of making a living writing. I had no money, though, and paying the rent seemed pretty important at the time, so I opted for a "real job." Meanwhile, I had (blindly and rather foolishly) enrolled in law school. I became a lawyer, and could never find any time or energy for writing. For relaxation, though, I read fiction, again mostly mysteries. After about a decade of practicing law I knew I had to change my career or lose my mind, so I became a part-time lawyer and started a mystery novel. I gradually eased the law out of my life entirely (practicing law, that is; I mostly still follow it).
M: Believe me, I know what being a lawyer can do to a person. Let me ask you about your writing habits. Do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?
D: I am most definitely a morning person, and my ordinary procedure is to write every day (although I’m a little less compulsive than I used to be), and always in the mornings. I may rewrite in the afternoons or evenings, and these days marketing takes up a lot of post mid-day time.
M: Do you have anything upcoming?
D: In addition to a little revision of my stand-alone, Bad Company—which may soon be rechristened as Uninvited Company—I have started a new Wild Onion, Ltd. book.
M: Any hobbies, etc. for your spare time?
D: I am getting back to playing the piano (for personal consumption—mine—only) which I pretty much gave up when I first started writing. I also practice yoga just about every day, and promise my doctor twice a year that I will upgrade my cardio-vascular workout practices.
My wife and I have recently become “mentors” (“facilitators?” “helpers?” “life coaches?”) for a family of newly arrived (well, they’ve been here a year and a half now, I guess) refugees from Nepal. They are a husband, a wife, and two kids (now nine and four), and they arrived in Chicago with no possessions beyond a few clothes and a pressure cooker (don’t ask). They had no money, no job skills, virtually no English, and high hopes. This adventure has turned out to be great fun, a lot of work, and a significant time investment.
M: Thank you for joining us today.
Here is David’s contact information:
Finally, Saving Paulo and Too Many Clients are available on Kindle and NOOKbooks; and The Towman’s Daughters soon will be.