Denver author Mark Stevens has just released TRAPLINE (Midnight Ink), the third in his mystery series featuring hunting guide Allison Coil. Kirkus Reviews praised its “all-too-believable conspiracy that could have been ripped from today’s headlines,” and author David Freed (the Cordell Logan mysteries) called it “a work of enviable achievement, the embodiment of an immensely skilled author in full stride.”
I’ve long been a fan, both of Stevens’ persistence and work ethic (he wrote several novels before one was published) and of his work, starting with his first novel, ANTLER DUST. Stevens recently took time from his book tour to answer some questions about TRAPLINE and other topics.
Can you handle the truth? The Flat Tops chose me. I met the woman who inspired Allison Coil—a real-life female hunting guide—in the Flat Tops Wilderness. The character and the setting arrived in tandem. A package. They were inseparable in my mind. She was rugged and smart. At the same time, the Flat Tops blew me away as a very different corner of Colorado. The mountains are all chopped-off (and flat) and that changes the whole feeling of the landscape. It’s quite serene and also quite lush, at least by Colorado standards. There are a 140-plus small lakes in the Flat Tops and it’s full of wildlife. It’s also smack in the middle of all the ripe New West – Old West issues in Western Colorado so the area just pulled me in as an interesting setting.
There was a three-year gap between your second novel, BURIED BY THE ROAN, and TRAPLINE. What’s that about?
The short answer is this: a switch in publishers. The very fine folks at People’s Press in Aspen closed shop. They published BURIED BY THE ROAN and the trade paperback version of ANTLER DUST in 2011. I was writing the third book when BURIED BY… came out but when People’s Press pulled the plug, I had to look for a new publisher. Through relentless networking and endless querying (actually, a friend of mine left a draft copy of TRAPLINE on her kitchen counter when the acquisitions editor from Midnight Ink was in town for a book launch) I was fortunate enough to find a new home. However, the offer to publish TRAPLINE didn’t come for another year and then it took a year to launch, based on their publishing schedule.
With all due respect to those first very, very good books, TRAPLINE feels like a leap to a higher plane. I think my early reaction was “just so damn smooth.” How did you accomplish that?
Well, first, thanks. The editing team at Midnight Ink is fantastic. I was also fortunate to have the chance to work with book editor Shana Kelly. She lives in Denver now but she’s from the big world of New York publishing circles and she is very, very good with both content and line-by-line stuff. So—lots of editing. I’d also like to think that the practice is paying off. So, practice too.
In addition to writing your own novels, you and your former Denver Post colleague Mike Keefe also publish the late Gary Reilly’s ASPHALT WARRIOR novels featuring cabbie Brendan “Murph” Murphy – six books in two years. You also have a full-time job. Do you sleep at all? Seriously, how do you get all of this done? Some advice for us mere mortals, please.
Next question, please.
OK, if you insist.
The quick version is this: a little bit every day. Gary left behind 25 novels and they were in very good shape, editing-wise. All the other publishing-related work for his books involves many more details than I would have ever imagined, but it’s so much fun to see his stuff get out there that it doesn’t feel like work at all. I know the definition of the phrase, “labor of love.” It means there is no labor involved. When Gary draws rave reviews like the ones from the Vietnam Veterans of America (link: http://vvabooks.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/dark-night-of-the-soul-by-gary-reilly/) it makes working his books a snap. My own writing happens early in the morning and then it’s off to work. I’m very fortunate now to have a good self-employed situation and that allows for lots of flexibility, which is helpful.
What’s next for Allison Coil?
Last I heard Midnight Ink is bringing out the fourth book, LAKE OF FIRE, next September. And I’m about to start writing a fifth. See that last sentence there? That means I’ve put it in black and white and now I can’t go back. Anyway, LAKE OF FIRE leaves Allison Coil in a situation that you might say is not exactly closure. So I have to pick up the story and keep it (her) moving.