John Reinhard Dizon is one of my favorite authors and definitely one of the most versatile. His literary repertoire includes thrillers, family sagas, historical settings, steampunk, sports, suspense and techno-horror to name a few. His latest release, Both Sides Now, is a romantic comedy, and I must say that I have a bit of a personal interest in this book since I designed both the interior and the cover plus my daughter is the model on the back. While formatting the interior, I gleaned enough of the story’s basics that I’m looking forward to reading it properly in the near future.
I interviewed John a few years back, but in view of this new release, I thought it was time for a rerun with some specific questions directed at him about this latest work. While he dubs it a romantic comedy, it struck me as much more substantial, especially with its unique setting and situations. So let’s see what he has to say.
MF: The protagonist in your latest novel, “Both Sides Now”, is an intellectual wrestler. You are a highly intelligent person and were a wrestler in a “previous life”, which explains the authentic feel and terminology of the sport. How much of this story is autobiographical?
JRD: Actually it’s far more biographical. Hans “The Great” Mortier was one of my World Wide Wrestling Federation childhood favorites. There was a major roster change when Vince Mc Mahon bought the Company from his father at the end of the Sixties, and the stars from the old regime were swept under the rug. Mortier was not a German professor, so that is all ‘what-if’. However, a large portion of the story is going to be instantly recognizable to fans of the era. The novel is as much a testament to the era as it is to Hans Mortier.
MF: Ray Karpis, quite a shady character from the early 20th Century, has made an appearance in two of your books, this latest one as well as “The Triad.” What do you find most appealing about him? Did you ever meet him?
JRD: As a criminologist, I have to say that Alvin Karpis is my favorite gangster. He was the last of the Public Enemies but was so elusive and shadowy that hardly anyone knows of him. I wrote Both Sides Now before The Triad and paid homage to Karpis by naming the Lou Thesz-based character after him. Outside of his autobiography and the Public Enemies biography and movie, there is almost nothing out there about Karpis. Hence The Triad. I think I did a good job of bringing his personage to life. He was considered a genius, loyal and generous to a fault, and very much in touch with the modern world and technical developments. Like most of the great gangsters, he would have been a tremendous success in society and the real world had he not gone the wrong way.
MF: You do a great job of capturing the flavor of other eras as well as places. You’ve lived through quite a few yourself, but when you get beyond your experience, what’s your favorite research method for your stories?
JRD: The Internet usually helps you find the resources you need to make your story work. Only in this case, as you mentioned, I lived through most of this. Ergo, it was mostly a matter of documenting my recollections. I spent a lot of time in the NYU neighborhood, Soho and Greenwich Village, so most of what I did was pull up addresses. I read hundreds of wrestling magazines so was familiar with the old-time arenas. I was also a paralegal, so that helped me make the courtroom drama all the more realistic.
MF: You’ve certainly held a wide variety of jobs, which undoubtedly contributes to your writing. Authenticity is important if you want to be taken seriously as an author and when you can say, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt” the details bring the story alive. As far as the plot itself, do your stories reveal themselves as you write or do you know what’s going to happen, start to finish, when you first sit down to write them?
JRD: Many times the characters end up helping write the stories, as Sabrina Brooks does in the Nightcrawler series. She just makes things happen around her. In this story, Ray Karpis greatly influenced the conflict in the storyline (pun somewhat intended). He becomes the voice of reason, letting Lucien clearly see all the possibilities if he chose that direction in life along the road to wrestling superstardom. I think it also lets the reader see ‘both sides now’ and will stimulate discussion as to whether or not Lucien makes the right choice.
MF: Ethical dilemmas make great material because the reader is forced to think. You have a huge list of published work. How long does it take you, on average, to finish one of your novels?
JRD: It varies, considering how complex the story is. The action/adventure stories move along pretty quickly as there’s the adrenaline rush that keeps you writing. Historical fiction such as this takes a bit longer because you have to authenticate your work. Getting names, places and events wrong will leave your story dead in the water. The courtroom storyline in this novel took almost as much research as all the wrestling background. It probably took the better part of a year to put it all together.
MF: Wow! That’s so true, though, if you want to be taken seriously as an author. When a reader stops to roll his or her eyes because something is inaccurate it pulls them out of the story, which is the last thing an author wants to do. Of the numerous books you’ve written, do you have one particular character who’s your favorite? Why?
JRD: I’m having to go with Sabrina Brooks, aka the Nightcrawler. Every one of her novels is an adventure in itself. She’s a beautiful woman who moonlights as a crimefighter, who seems to target the Russian Mob. She’s the CEO of a chemical company, which means she doesn’t have to do this but does anyway. She’s very compassionate and is a churchgoer, which makes her all the more unique. Her personal relationships suffer greatly as she gets beat up, and the Nightcrawler’s successes come at the expense of her personal life. I enjoy writing her story as much as people love reading it.
MF: Multi-dimensional characters are essential to a good story. So what’s your favorite part of the writing process? Which part is the most difficult?
JRD: It’s the dialogue. It may be my strong point as a writer, and it helps me develop the characters and give the reader the best insight as to the speaker’s personality and motivation. The reason why reality TV shows get over is because people want to see their heroes behind the scenes. In literature, the author allows readers to listen to the characters giving up their innermost hopes and fears. The most difficult part is bringing it all together, making the story plausible. You do your homework, you authenticate your background, you flesh out your characters, but your audience has to buy your story. That’s the make or break part, and I think I make that happen every time.
MF: Yes, you certainly do! When did you decide you wanted to be an author?
JRD: I was writing dialogue for my stick-figure cartoons when I was six. I was fascinated by TV and the movies and wanted to tell my own stories. Many people will say my entire life was about turning my fantasies into reality.
MF: So obviously you were born to write, which isn’t surprising considering how prolific you are. You’ve worn a variety of hats over the years in a wide variety of jobs and places. What can we expect from you in the future? At what stage is your next novel and when do you expect it to be out?
JRD: The Blight is about a decorated fire team of Navy SEAL commandos working as an elite unit for the St. Louis PD. They are taking on a mass murderer intent on destroying the ‘social blight’ plaguing the city. Kirsten Streicher is a typical JRD bad-ass female protagonist. Only her team is heavily impacted by the madman known as X, and the writing is on the wall as their group is slowly disbanding. Kirsten is forced to move forward with a whirlwind romance beckoning, though she feels compelled to bring the killer to justice before her career comes to an end. As usual, there’s lots of social issues and moral conundrums discussed, and the standard JRD reflections of current-day controversies. I’m hoping to release it by Summer 2016.
MF: Sounds like another winner! Is there any particular author or authors who have inspired you the most?
JRD: Shakespeare, Ian Fleming and Robert E. Howard. The Bard for his conciseness and verbal dynamism, Fleming for his ability to take the reader to a myriad of locations, societies and situations, and Howard for his gift of lurid description and breathtaking action. I hope my readers see my work in a favorable light in comparison.
MF: From what I’ve read, I believe you can rest assured that they will.
You can pick up a copy of Both Sides Now on Amazon here.
Connect with John Reinhard Dizon:
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/John-Reinhard-Dizon/e/B00DU9JNUQ/