I’m delighted to be hosting Dwayne Clayden today who is chatting to us about his thriller, 13 Days of Terror.
Monday morning. A man drops dead in the parking lot of a car dealership in downtown Calgary. No one knows where the shot came from. No one knows why the victim was targeted. The shooter? Invisible.
An hour later, another body hits the ground. Random victim, random location.
A sniper is terrorizing Calgary.
Detective Brad Coulter has just returned to work after a long leave of absence. He is thrown directly into the fire and tasked with stopping what is rapidly becoming one of the city’s deadliest killers. The shooter leaves no evidence behind but taunts Brad with notes addressed directly to him. As the death count rises, city-wide panic ensues.
It is a race against time. But how can Brad hunt a ghost?
Hi Dwaye, welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise 13 Days of Terror in 20 words or less.
13 Days of Terror: A sniper is terrorizing Calgary. It is a race against time. But how can Brad hunt a ghost?
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
I was a police officer for three years, then a paramedic for over thirty-seven years. The premise for the Brad Coulter Thrillers was, ‘What could my career look like if I’d stayed a cop and not switched to being a paramedic.’
In the first novel, Crisis Point, most of the subplots are actual incidents that I responded to and things that happened to me. The main plot is the creation of the Calgary Police Tactical Unit. The antagonists are ex-military robbing banks and Brinks trucks. Both based on actual events in Calgary’s police/crime history.
Was there anything about your protagonist that surprised you Dwayne?
The big surprise came in the second novel, OutlawMC, when Brad Coulter stopped being me and became his own character. A couple of interesting things happened.
First, I felt like the scribe and that Brad was telling me ‘HIS’ story. The second thing was I had to get to know this new Brad Coulter, and understand his motivations, his responses to situation and his motives, because they were no longer my own.
I hope he is a more well rounded and interesting character now that he has revealed himself.
What scene did you most enjoy writing?
I enjoy writing the banter scenes between partners. Whatever it is, police partners, or paramedic partners, so much can be learned about them when they are not under fire.
You spend 10-14 hours a shift with your partner—more time than you spend with your spouse and kids. You learn almost everything about them. Best of all you learn what their ‘buttons’ are and you ‘punch’ that button every chance. Nothing is sacred in the vehicle and sarcasm and dark humor rule. But also the emotional side, the burdens of their professions, realizing you can’t help everyone, second guessing what you did. I think some of the best character building comes from those scenes where the partners are driving around and talking.
I work to make those scenes matter, to give the reader a feel of what it is like in the police cruiser or ambulance, to be right there with the characters.
… and the hardest
The hardest scene I have written is the final chapters of my third novel, Wolfman is BACK.
I had written an ending but wasn’t happy with it. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted, but I couldn’t put into words what I wanted. I sweated over that for more than a month. We were on holiday in Las Vegas and at the pool I took a notebook, waiting for inspiration. It didn’t come. As we sat in our seats in the plane for the trip home, I got a spark. I grabbed my pen and notebook and started writing.
I wrote for over three hours, finishing as we touched down in Calgary. For the last hour I cried as I wrote. The pages were covered in wet salt/water spots. The next day I typed those chapters into the manuscript and cried again.
Most readers who have read Wolfman is Back, have shared that they cried.
My hardest chapters to write, but likely the most powerful.
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your book were optioned for a movie?
These two questions fit together. I have cast everyone of my novels. As a reader, I’m very visual, I see characters, settings, weather, everything. So, as I first started creating my characters, I looked for actors that fit my vision. That also helped me when describing them since I had a consistent person in the role. I didn’t let time (their age) interfere with my casting.
For example, if I needed a tough, sarcastic, burnt out cop, and I thought of Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, then that was who I cast. Making that work would be difficult if the Thriller became a movie or TV series, but that was my process. Most main characters, however, are based on age appropriate actors. Other characters are composites of police officers and paramedics I worked with. Below are a few of the characters and their actor.
- Brad Coulter—Jesse Lee Sofer.
- Maggie Grey—Sara Orlesky
- Sadie Andrus—Anna Kendrick
- Deputy Chief Archer—Tommy Lee Jones
- Detective Don Griffin—Matthew Lilliard
A few of the characters are actual people who I asked to be in the series. Bill Sturgeon is a police academy classmate of mine and retired as an expert in forensics. So, he is the Sergeant of the Crime Scene Unit. Another classmate, Randy Ames, wanted to be a sniper, so that’s his role in three of the novels.
Each character has a biography, which I add to for each novel. It is shared between my editor, Taija Morgan, and I. Heading into the sixth Coulter Thriller, it is a challenge at times to remember what happened where. How old the character is now? Do they have a tattoo, or scars and especially for Brad, when did he get the scars?
Pantster or a plotter?
I started out like most writers and didn’t know what a pantster or plotter was!
By fluke, on my own, I decided to use index cards and wrote out possible chapters. Then when I had about fifty cards, I laid them out on the kitchen table and organized them. Little did I know I was a plotter. For the next two novels, OutlawMC and Wolfman is Back, I plotted heavily, probably spending too much time trying to make my excel spreadsheet plot perfect. I used colors for different characters, listed Points Of View, characters in the scene, everything I could think of except actually writing the manuscript.
For 13 Days of Terror, I had a good idea of the story and I sat down and wrote it over three months without plotting. It was far from perfect, but certainly no worse than the first novels I’d plotted. There was freedom in writing without a net and letting the characters drive the story— I listened to the voices in my head, and I believe I got to know the characters better, to the point of not having to think about how they’d react to a situation, I knew how they’d react and just kept writing.
I have now written myself into a corner in my Work In Progress, which did not have an outline. So, I have backtracked, created the outline based on the writing I have done. I hope that process will fire my brain to get me out of the mess I created!
If your book is part of a series, what is in the future Dwayne?
As long as readers still enjoy Brad Coulter and the trouble he gets in, I’ll keep the series going.
The original plan was to show his career over thirty years, with a novel every two-three years in his career—ten novels. While it seemed like a good idea in 2010, I soon realized that there were continuity problems with three years between novels. Even two years apart was too much. So, based on advice from a number of readers, I slowed the timeline.
The series, starting with Wolfman is back, 13 Days of Terror, and The fifth Brad Coulter Thriller, Goddess of Justice (due of in March 2021) are all set novels set in 1980. So, Brad and cast can age gracefully!
Brad Coulter Thriller Seven is planned and set in April 1981. Coulter eight, will be a prequel of Brad in the year before Crisis Point where he is partnered with Curtis Young.
I have written about 20,000 words in what would be the final Brad Coulter novel. I know exactly how his career will end, and as he slides into retirement, nothing will be easy. In the current novels, troubles find him, and it will be no different in his final adventure, whenever that might be.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
Joseph Wambaugh was a pioneer for not only crime procedural novels, but television as well. His gritty, dark side of policing was a huge change from the sanitized 60s TV shows like 1 Adam 12 and Dragnet. Hill Street Blues was possible because of the novels of Joseph Wambaugh.
He brought realism to the printed page. I work very hard to ensure that I am accurate in police and paramedic procedures. I don’t hold back on the dark side of the human race, or the challenges emergency services personnel face because of the events they witness.
Robert B. Parker—the Jesse Stone Series. I loved Parkers writing style, and he had the biggest influence on my style. I like the multiple point of view—protagonist and antagonist. As a reader you can see what is coming, but don’t know how the two plots will come together.
Finally, can you share with us what has been the best and the worst part of your writing journey so far?
A year and thirty-seven rejections later I was full of self doubt and at a crossroads. I had started writing later in my life, and I felt my biological writing clock ticking. Would I ever have a published novel? Decision time—stop writing and find a new hobby, or keep at it. I decided to Indie Publish Crisis Point. Readers loved it, and as a writer with a fragile disposition, that validation was so important. Now I have readers chastise me for posting on social media—they think I should be writing all the time!
The excitement of having Crisis Point a finalist for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis awards in 2015 was a highlight. From that an agent approached me. Even bigger thrill. Over the next nine months we worked to improve the manuscript and then sent it out.
Thank you for being my guest today Dwayne. Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
Dwayne Clayden combines his knowledge and experience as a police officer and paramedic to write realistic crime thrillers.
Crisis Point, Dwayne’s first novel, was a finalist for the 2015 Crime Writers of Canada, Arthur Ellis Awards.
OutlawMC and Wolfman is Back are the second and third novels in the Brad Coulter Thriller Series.
The Brad Coulter Series will continue in 2020 with 13 Days of Terror.
In August 2020 Dwayne released the first novel in a new crime thriller series, Speargrass-Opioid.
In his 42 year career, Dwayne served as a police officer, paramedic, tactical paramedic, firefighter, emergency medical services (EMS) chief, educator, and academic chair.
Dwayne is a popular speaker at conferences and to writing groups presenting on realistic police, medical, and paramedic procedures.
The co-author of four paramedic textbooks, he has spoken internationally at EMS conferences for the past three decades.