Today we welcome Daniel J. Hale.
Book ‘Em: Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.
Daniel J. Hale: I wear a lot of hats – literally and figuratively.
I hang those hats in Dallas, Texas the bulk of the time. It’s where I write and also teach – I’m a creative writing instructor with The Writer’s Path at Southern Methodist University. Being an attorney and for an Arkansas-based timber business occupies most of my working hours. I spend 5-10 days per month there at my small second home. Arkansas is also where I do the vast majority of my aerial/UAV photography, which I show professionally under the banner “Aerialographic.” I spend a good bit of time in France as well as the San Diego area.
Book ‘Em: Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?
Daniel J. Hale: Together with my nephew, Matthew LaBrot, I wrote the middle-grade Zeke Armstrong mystery series. The first of the books won the Agatha Award while the second was nominated for the award. We started writing the series (on a fluke, actually) when Matthew was twelve years old. To the best of my knowledge, he’s the youngest-ever recipient of the Agatha as well as the youngest person ever to gain Active Status with Mystery Writers of America. He and I have finished the manuscript of the first book in a reboot of the series, which our agent is shopping now.
I also write adult short stories, which have appeared in a variety of publications, most recently Dallas Noir (Akashic).
Book ‘Em: Do you have a work in progress?
Daniel J. Hale: I have four, actually. One novel is set in the timberlands of southwest Arkansas (where I grew up), the other in Paris, France (where I lived a number of years). I’m also working on a nonfiction book on novel structure as well as another on the revelation of long-hidden family secrets. I’ve been pressed for time the last couple of years, but I’m almost ready to get back to the keyboard on one of those.
Book ‘Em: What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?
Daniel J. Hale: The final scene in my Dallas Noir story, “In the Air,” was set at the top of the 200-foot-tall Texas Star, a Ferris Wheel at the Great State Fair of Texas. I’m relatively fear-free, but I have a strange phobia. I can ride an open chairlift at a ski resort without a thought to my safety, but if you put me in the enclosed aerial gondola to ride to the top of the same slope, and I’m terrified. The same applies for New York’s Roosevelt Island Tram (where the climax of Green Streak, the second Zeke Armstrong mystery took place). Back to Dallas Noir, on the Texas Star, passengers ride in gondolas. I rode it multiple times – as I did the Roosevelt Island Tram – to get the scene right, but the whole time, I just knew I would plunge to my death at any moment.
Book ‘Em: What sort of research do you do for your work?
Daniel J. Hale: In addition to riding in aerial gondolas that terrify me, I like to visit scene sites and take a lot of photos. I also read a lot of nonfiction to get a good base of knowledge. The last thing I want is someone writing to tell me I got some important detail wrong.
Book ‘Em: Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?
Daniel J. Hale: I served as Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America in 2007 and again in 2013. I’m also a two-time General Awards Chair for the Edgar® Awards. After all that, I have a lot of friends in the crime fiction community, and I wouldn’t want to offend any of them through omission. I can say that I’ve gotten something out of every book I’ve ever read.
Book ‘Em: Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
Daniel J. Hale: There are two who stand out most in my mind:
Dodie Smith. I read her The Hundred and One Dalmatians when I was eight years old, and I started writing short stories then. Richard Thaler. I’d gotten far away from writing by the time I enrolled in the MBA program at Cornell University in my late twenties. During my last semester, I took a behavioral economics class from my favorite professor, Richard Thaler; it quickly became my favorite class of all time. In lieu of a final exam, Professor Thaler asked us to write a story encorporating all the elements of Behavioral Decision Theory (the name of the class). I wrote a story about a guy who drove an AMC Pacer. After I turned it in, I got called to his office. I was sure I’d gone too far with the story and that he was going to fail me in the class. Instead, he gave me an A and asked why I wasn’t writing at least as an avocation. In addition to inspiring me, Richard Thaler has also recently won the Nobel Prize in Economics.
Book ‘Em: What would you say are your strengths as an author?
Daniel J. Hale: Pacing. I hear it time and again.
Book ‘Em: How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
Daniel J. Hale: When I am writing, I’m up and on the keyboard at 5:00 a.m., and with a break to walk my dog, I work until noon. I’m itching to get back to that.
Book ‘Em: Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
Daniel J. Hale: As an author with at least three more publications under his belt.
Book ‘Em: If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Daniel J. Hale: Keep reading, keep writing, don’t give up.
Book ‘Em: What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?
Daniel J. Hale: Nothing makes me more proud than to hear someone tell me they couldn’t put down my work.
Book ‘Em: Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.
Daniel J. Hale: Texas Monthly selected this as the best opening line from Dallas Noir: “Diego Smith woke up in an empty bed with a head full of hurt.” It’s the beginning of my story, “In The Air.”
Daniel J. Hale’s author website (under revision, but a holding page with links is live):
Daniel J. Hale’s photography website:
The Writer’s Path at SMU (where Daniel J. Hale teaches):
http://facebook.com/danieljhale (link doesn’t work for those not on Facebook)