Tim Dorsey on Florida, Corrupt Lawyers, and Serial Killers
TSM: Tell us about your latest novel?TD: The foreclosure crisis, drug abuse, serial killers, corrupt lawyers, nude Key West parades, FBI raids of corporate offices. In other words, another Florida documentary.TSM: Did your experiences as a reporter shape your writing?
TD: Actually, my lifelong ambition to write novels shaped my journalism. I decided I needed a job where I had to write every day to build up the muscles of the craft.
TSM: Who are some of the writers you enjoy reading?
TD: The pantheon includes Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Hunter Thompson, and Carl Hiaasen.
TSM: How important is the setting of Florida for your novels?
TD: Absolutely essential. To be a novelist, all you need is a newspaper subscription. As my friend Randy Wayne White says: “It’s a target-rich environment.”
TSM: What are you working on now?
TD: The flapper valve in the bathroom because the toilet won’t stop running.
TSM: How do you manage to create humor in a mystery; you have to admit that must be a tough balancing act.
TD: If you were a newspaper reporter covering crime in Florida, it’s actually a natural balancing act. In a dark way, most crimes down here are laughable.
TSM: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
TD: It’s like real estate: Read, read, read and let the language soak in. If you’re really inspired, you’ll hit the keyboard after closing the last page.
TSM: Do you like to outline when you write?
TD: Yes, and it’s mainly a list of all the real Florida locations—not on any Chamber of Commerce list—that I want to get readers to visit. Then, and only then, do I overlay the crime plot.
TSM: Your titles are crazy; how do you come up with them?
TD: Some come organically from the books, like Hammerhead Ranch, and others I just feel a wild tropical term hit me, like Atomic Lobster.
TSM: You’ve written seventeen, now eighteen, novels. Does it get any easier or is it harder?
TD: The novels get easier (actually the work itself has always been easy because I would do this anyway even if I won the lottery and just stuck the results in a drawer). But as your children get older, the time constraints make it more difficult.
TSM: What’s the best thing about being an author?
TD: Thomas McGuane said it best: “Freedom in capital letters.”
TSM: Will you try a stand-alone novel?
TD: Serge is my franchise player. Can’t risk letting him go until I’m done paying college tuitions.
TSM: When you’re not writing, what are the things you enjoy doing?
TD: I’ll never stop loving to drive the back roads of Florida and make new discoveries.
TSM: What do you think the future holds for the newspaper industry?
TD: Probably conglomeration with other media with a heavy online presence. I spent my entire journalism career when print newspapers thrived. I’m more than a little melancholy to see that old-school, type-and-gripe newsroom culture fading.
TSM: Did you always plan on making a living via journalism, or writing from an early age?
TD: Yes, I decided I wanted to shoot for being a novelist when I was fifteen and figured the best way to get there was to work on newspapers until I got there.
TSM: What is the toughest point for you to overcome when you’re working on a book? TD: Juggling all the time it takes with family life.