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Interview with Pete O’Donnell

I am very excited to host debut author Pete O’Donnell on the blog today. Having read Pete’s Death in the Diamond Lane, I must say the book is a refreshing change from your usual mystery novel.

Hello, Pete and welcome to my blog, The Book Decoder. Please tell me and my readers about yourself.

Thanks very much for having me on The Book Decoder! I’m a recently-retired California native who’s fled the high cost of living near the coast and now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  My wife’s the real reader in the family, and if I know what’s good for me I run anything I try to write by her before hitting “send”. This has saved me no end of grief.  

What is Death in the Diamond Lane is all about?

Death in the Diamond Lane is a story about a limo driver in the Silicon Valley who, in the course of his day, overhears the unguarded conversations of a lot of very well-connected clients. As it turns out, a lot of people with less-than-good intentions will go to great lengths to get their hands on some of that “insider” information.

What is the inspiration behind Death in the Diamond Lane?

I drove a limousine in the Silicon Valley for seven years and overheard many things I probably shouldn’t have.  Some of the information in the book I heard first hand, some things are greatly embellished, and some I don’t feel safe repeating.  That said, most of Death in the Diamond Lane is a book of fiction.

The chauffeur on the page is a lot smarter than I am, and certainly has a much greater tolerance for physical danger. The passengers my colleagues and I drove were almost all fantastically successful in their respective fields. Some were more interesting than others. Some seemed to have no filter at all, while others took a while to drop their guard. Pretty much everyone started blabbing away at some point after you’d driven them enough times – tending to forget you were even there. And ironically, for such high-flying types, many were quite uneasy fliers, and often admitted as such. Picking up a slightly soused big shot at the foot of his plane after a long time in the air almost always elicited the oversharing of information.   

But Death in the Diamond Lane is not a “kiss-and-tell”. I don’t have the guts for that book. On one occasion, I let my curiosity get the better of me and asked a client with a household name and a reliably stern disposition a slightly too-probing question. After an uncomfortable silence he actually said, “I could tell you, but then…” And I’m pretty sure he meant it.

How long did it take you to write Death in the Diamond Lane?

For the most part I wrote Death in the Diamond Lane in fits and starts on my phone sitting behind the wheel between passenger pickups – in airport parking lots, or outside offices, homes, restaurants, safe houses, or plastic surgery clinics curiously disguised to look like they’d been part of the neighborhood forever. That part took a couple of years. After I stopped driving full-time I put it all together in about 8 months.

This is my first go at a novel. I was used to reading much shorter-form pieces (mostly online) and really needed the counsel of experts. Stephen King’s book on writing was helpful. But I came to realize that there’s really no template for writing the “right” way. I think it was Henning Mankell who was once quoted in an interview that he always plotted his full course before he started to write a story. Another successful author (who, regrettably I can’t remember) said that she never knew where her plot was headed before she set out – she just followed wherever her own characters would lead her. And still somebody else maybe a bit more practical said thinking of your audience is what really matters – that a writer without a reader is like a pitcher without a catcher – there’s not much point without both.   Here’s to catchers, wherever they may be!

Are you currently working on your next book? Can you tell us more about it?

I’m either working on something completely new or I have writer’s block. If what they say about “write what you know” is true, I’m sunk.

What does a day in Pete O’Donnell’s life look like? 

Now that I’m not working full-time, there’s a lot of puttering, a little writing, hopefully some exercise, and the occasional home improvement project leading to disfigurement.

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