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CANDI: What inspired you to take on the heavy topics of domestic violence and drug trafficking in your novel?
DAVID: Right now, and in recent years, New Hampshire and other states have been dealing with a rising heroin epidemic. Young men and women are dying from this drug at an alarming rate and it seems to be getting worse. I wanted to highlight this relevant problem and, as with all my stories, I try and implant my characters smack in the middle of tough situations. It makes for good drama, but bad reality. Violence is weaved throughout Taking on Water and drives certain characters and specific events. Anger and abuse were useful literary tools that helped explain some of the action. We’re all capable of committing vicious acts, but what would it really take to transform a normal human being into a violent person? That’s what I was trying to figure out with this book.
CANDI: Is there anything in your background that helped you thoroughly bring this coastal, fishing community to life?
DAVID: I was raised on the New Hampshire seacoast. (Consult a map dear readers—I swear we have a seacoast.) My parents have a lobster boat, and I grew up fishing and lobstering on their boat during the brief, but beautiful, New England summers.
CANDI: James is a complicated character. What did it take for you to get into his mind?
DAVID: It took years of editing for James to become the character he turned out to be in the novel. In the story, James has a haunted past, but he’s trying to be a good person in his work and his life. I had to really put myself in his head with his history to imagine how he would react to the environment around him. It involved a lot of character sketching and head scratching on my part.
CANDI: As a detective, Maya has to deal with both sexism and racism. What research did you do to understand how to shape her experiences?
DAVID: I did a lot of listening. If you look in the right places you can encounter both sexism and racism, unfortunately. Angry people tend to latch on to these two “isms,” so there’s a start. I’ve also talked to plenty of women, like Maya, who’ve had to deal with some of the same type of crap she puts up with in the story. I think Maya chooses her battles and ignores what suits her, but when she’s committed to something she takes it head on with conviction.
CANDI: Tell us about your writing career and how you came to publish Taking on Water.
DAVID: Taking on Water was my master’s thesis for my MFA in Fiction. The rough manuscript was finished in two years. After that, I put the manuscript in a drawer for a while and chose to write and publish numerous short stories in literary journals and magazines. I eventually took the story out of the drawer and gave it a read with fresh eyes. I did a few more rounds of edits and then found myself rushing into the agent query process before I really had enough beta readers. I queried—no joke—200+ literary agents with the story. Rejection poured into my email daily. I developed thick skin and realized that maybe I had taken the pig to market before it had fully matured. So, over the next couple years, I had some trusted readers go through the story and give me pages of content-edit notes. I took the time and got the book as good as I could get it on my own, and then aimed for small to mid-sized publishers instead of agents and the big publishing houses. I found Red Adept Publishing through my close friend and fellow author, Kelly Stone Gamble. Her amazing book, They Call Me Crazy was published through Red Adept Publishing and it is a similar genre as mine. I sent Red Adept Publishing the book and waited patiently to hear back. The publisher eventually called me and offered me a contract. I was ecstatic! A little over a year later, and after working with a bunch of talented editors and proof-readers, I had my finished book. The process from first word to published novel took six years. Dreams really do come true.
CANDI: Are you working on another novel? If so, give us a brief synopsis. If not, what’s next for you?
DAVID: I am. The next novel is set in Alaska, another place I have lived, and follows a pair of very different men struggling with completely different problems. Both of the men have experiences to offer each other, but they have to find the desire to change themselves. The rugged landscape and the Alaskan way of life lends to the story and provides a great stage for these two characters.
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