Interview with Dave Cravens, Author of Mayhem, Murder and the PTA

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author? Looking back can you remember any early signs growing up that suggest you would later put pen to paper?

When I look back at my notebooks in middle school and high school, about 10% of the pages are filled with academic notes, and everything else is a sketch, a cartoon, or outline of some kind of story I was working on when I should have been paying attention in class. As a kid, I was chronically bored out of my mind with real life. Whether I was waiting to see the dentist, trying to take a test or sitting in church, I’d punch things up in my head with crazy scenarios: What if terrorists stormed the dentist’s office? What if my calculator started sending me encoded messages during algebra? What if aliens invaded earth during the sermon? I’ve been writing ever since.

Your two previous novels were SciFi/Fantasy. Why did you decide to switch genres and write a murder mystery this time around?

My interests are pretty vast, but as with most people, I’m heavily influenced by whatever is going on in my life. Crusaders was really about finishing something – anything. The God Thought was about pushing creative boundaries, a reaction to having to play it “safe” in my day job for so long. Mayhem is a direct result of observing my wife’ and kids adventures going into elementary school. There was a particularly frustrating school official one year that prompted me to joke that if the official ever turned up with a knife in its back the murder might prove unsolvable due to the sheer number of parental suspects. The joke was always met with an “OMG, I would soooo read that book!” by fellow parents. That made me wonder – could I write a murder mystery? So I gave it a shot.

Review - HERE!
Where did the inspiration for the storyline in Murder, Mayhem, and the PTA come from? How about the inspiration for its main characters - Parker, her mother Valerie, Joe, Bill, Maddy, etc. Are any inspired by people you know, or do any include parts of yourself?

Every character I write starts with a piece of myself, or someone I know. As I start to write them, they take on a life of their own and become someone else entirely new. Parker and I have a lot in common. We approach things head on, bite off more than we can chew, we both have three kids, she was a journalist, I have a degree in journalism. But Parker is also a mixture of women I highly respect.

My wife, of course, shares various Parker habits, including her stubbornness and hatred for all things minivan. Parker’s love of Bon Jovi comes from a friend on the East Coast. Parker’s foul language was directly inspired by a Scottish lady I’ve worked with for years. 

The name “Monroe” heralds back to my infatuation with Marilyn Monroe as a teenager. I think perhaps the only character in the book who wasn’t based on someone I knew to some degree was Valerie, Parker’s mother. Valerie really needed to be the anti-Parker. Every insecurity that Parker has about herself is amplified when she is with her mother, not because of anything Valerie says, but because of who she is. Nothing seems to phase Valerie. I wish I was more like that.

As a male author, why did you choose to write a story with a female protagonist? What were the challenges as a man in presenting the story from a female point of view?

I like strong women -- I think they are fascinating and often have a lot more depth than most men. The story also seemed better served by a mother’s point of view. But believe me, I was greatly concerned about creating a lead character that mothers could identify with and root for. I’m friends with a lot of women who would cut me down in a heartbeat if they read something that didn’t remotely ring “true” to them. So, I used them as test readers as I wrote each draft so I could track and understand what was working and what wasn’t.

I love my test readers. They chide me when I deserve it, and encourage me when I need it. Without them, I don’t think I would have gained the confidence to tackle a character like Parker Monroe.

Other books by Dave Cravens

How does the writing process work for you? Do you schedule a time every day, work madly when inspiration hits or ? Do you have to do a lot of research? If so what?
There’s a friend of mine I go to coffee with frequently. When I’m thinking of a story, or an idea, I’ll hit him with it on the way over to Starbucks. He’s a great gauge as to whether the idea is interesting or not, because despite the fact that he smiles at everything, his eyes never lie. If it passes the “George test,” I’ll think about the idea more and start forming critical scenes in my head. I’ll start researching related topics. Then I’ll try the idea out on other confidants, depending on the nature of the subject. Feedback is important to me early on. I don’t have a lot of time in my day or night to waste on ideas that aren’t going to work. Eventually, I’ll start writing. I write late at night after the kids have gone to bed. I sit in the dark in my favorite Lazy Boy chair in front of a large window that faces the street and type away.  

What do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore?

I enjoy writing characters that feel real. If you create good characters you can almost sit back and watch the scene write itself. “That’s so Parker. Parker would totally do that.” My outlines are pretty loose to account for spontaneity so the characters can react to the world burning around them. The chore part? I hate editing. It’s so crucial, and yet, when you get to your fifth draft before sending it off to a professional, the luster has dulled.

What would you most like readers to know about you.
I’m a deeply flawed, but genuine person who simply wants to entertain the world with a great story.

What can we look forward to next? Do you have any new titles in the works?

I’ve more ideas than time to write. There will definitely be another Parker Monroe mystery. I’m hoping to get that done in the next year. I miss writing sci/fi stuff, and have a number of ideas for novels in that genre. The God Thought will eventually get its sequel. For fun, I’ve written a Halloween short story The Dead Don’t Date for a friend that I’ll publish later this year. It is VERY different than Parker’s adventures, but just as fun and exponentially more ridiculous.

Connect with the author:   Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  


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