Kindle Author Interview: Dan Spencer

Dan Spencer, author of Going to the Sun, discusses his book, his journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Going to the Sun?

DAN SPENCER: It's the story of Craig and Trina Boddicker, a childless couple from America's heartland. They take an unannounced vacation, which alarms Trina's relatives; she's in the advanced stages of ALS. A psychic senses danger. The family worries but authorities won't intervene. So a retired FBI agent, Mo Choate, is called on to investigate. He's curiously indebted to the psychic. As doubts grow, Mo tracks the Boddickers on a macabre journey across the American Midwest.

Unlike most mysteries, it's not a whodunit. The question in this story is not who but why. Also unlike most mysteries, the tale begins with no crime yet committed. Yet suspicions run high, mainly because a central character is in the late stages of a fatal disorder. Going to the Sun deals with such diverse themes as euthanasia, skyrocketing medical costs, and even our love for pets.

DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

DAN SPENCER: First, I assign a predominant emotion to a character. That becomes the basis of that character's persona. However, since I strive for realism, I add something incongruous to round out the character. For instance, Going to the Sun features a grieving widower who is a retired FBI agent, but he also sees a psychic to communicate with his deceased wife. Even in plot-driven stories, I feel character development is essential.

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

DAN SPENCER: My ideal reader enjoys an unconventional, thought-provoking mystery. Going to the Sun is not a typical crime novel. It could be argued that the bad guy in the story is not a bad person but just an unfortunate soul. My ideal reader is also unafraid of weighty issues like how society deals with the terminally ill.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

DAN SPENCER: My first novel, which was released ten years ago, was based on my research about the first men to drive automobiles across the United States in 1903. I plan to release that novel, Four Wheels Good, on Kindle later this year. Since then, I've independently published several other novels, all of which are available on Kindle. My focus had been 20th Century Americana, and I previously wrote and published five works of historical fiction. Going to the Sun is my first foray into the mystery genre. 

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

DAN SPENCER: First comes the spark of imagination. Then comes the outline. Then the characters get fleshed out. Then comes page one. When the rough draft is finished, then comes the rewrite. Followed by another rewrite. Then another rewrite and another and another, etc. Then comes a fresh set of eyes, i.e., an editor. Then comes more rewriting. Essentially, the polish never stops until I'm too tired to rewrite another word.

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

DAN SPENCER: I prefer authors who can combine characters with plot. Some writers excel only in developing characters but lose me with meandering plots. Many writers present thrilling plots but create characters as shallow as a petri dish. I admire authors who can do both effortlessly.

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?

DAN SPENCER: This will seem like an odd choice given the nature and style of my novels, but I'd have to say I wish I'd written Watchmen by Alan Moore. That redefined the entire comic book experience. Got to admire a game-changer.

DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

DAN SPENCER: Ten years ago, Facebook and Twitter did not exist, so I had to promote hand-to-hand, via chat rooms and email, and by word of mouth. Now I blog, have a website, a Facebook Fan page, and I use Twitter. I've even created YouTube marketing videos for two of my books. But nothing beats word of mouth.

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?

DAN SPENCER: Because the future we were promised has finally arrived. The innovative potential of ebooks was first discussed in the late 1990s, and I've waited a long time for it to materialize. Now that it has, I'm excited. Any author would be foolish to dismiss the new medium.

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

DAN SPENCER: Self-publishing is like being in an indie rock band. It's an opportunity to develop skills as well as an audience. Just like with indie bands, you might get signed to a major contract. Big publishers are in financial dire straits, but they're not going to roll up their tents and go home. However, their current stable of bankable authors aren't going to live forever. So the Big Publishers will eventually comb the Internet for the Next Big Thing. If you develop a following via Kindle publishing, that might be you.

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.


Dan Spencer writes compelling fiction noted for rich characters, detailed plots, and thorough research. He lives in Northern California with his wife and pets.

Visit his website.

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