Friday, November 12, 2021

Steve Dunne; Rising to the Challenge.


A while ago - quite a few years actually! - I was chairing a panel at Crimefest in Bristol. It was a debut author panel, and one that sticks in my mind well.  In the interim period of time to the present, I have noticed  'my' authors on other panels,  on Facebook, events here and there, like some benign stalker.
They all did really well with their first book. One then disappeared off the face of the writing planet to resurface a couple of years ago in a totally different genre. One sold well for two books then has had a quiet writing career but has gone from strength to strength with his crime writing related career ( bet that has you wondering ). The other disappeared all together and the fourth is the subject of our blog today.

And I think it's his birthday!

 Happy Birthday Steven Dunne.

1)      We met on a new authors panel at some point close to the dawn of time. What has been the highest  up and lowest down since then?


A)      The biggest up is always releasing a new book and getting in the first reviews which, because fans are usually the first to read and respond, are generally spectacularly good. Fortunately, my books don’t attract too many negative reviews and usually have a high average rating on Amazon which is very flattering. My latest thriller, Blood Summer, even has a high rating on Goodreads which can be a bit of an unforgiving arena for authors.

My biggest low since we met is undoubtedly having my books completely ignored by British market makers and critics in the national newspapers and trade journals. I don’t know why but since my first novel for Headline - Deity - was released with high expectations in 2012 to a resounding silence, my books have been notable by their absence in review sections. In fact, I’ve had far more critical acceptance in the Irish papers than in my own country. Strange but true. The upside to that has been that whenever my latest thriller is ignored, I roll up my sleeves and write a better one. Blood Summer, my eighth and latest, is my best yet. My opinion obviously.


2)      “The reaper trilogy” if I may call them that (still one of the top three scary first chapters I have ever read) were published to critical acclaim. What happened after that? Another trilogy? A longer series? What are you working on now?


A)      I’m thrilled that you found the opening to Reaper so scary, Caro, and I remember you saying so at the time. I hope the other two openings were The Unquiet Grave and A Killing Moon, both of which I found scarier to write. If not, you’ll have to let me know. Yes, The Reaper arrived with quite a splash and it’s still my most successful book in terms of sales. After its success, I wrote a sequel called The Disciple, also featuring DI Damen Brook, and had intended to follow up with the concluding part of the trilogy but events got in the way when I changed publisher from Avon to Headline.

Headline loved the first two parts but couldn’t commission the third part of a trilogy when they had no control over the first two instalments, so I wrote book four in the series, Deity, for them. It was about teenage children going missing then turning up on a website apparently having committed ritual suicide. I wrote three more DI Brook standalones for Headline - The Unquiet Grave, the award-winning A Killing Moon and Death Do Us Part - before amicably parting company with them. I then began working on finishing the Reaper trilogy and released The Ressurection on ebook and as paperback this year. Fans of the first two books tell me that it’s a satisfying and fitting conclusion to the Reaper’s story.

I’m now working on a sequel to my latest thriller, Blood Summer.


3)            You’ve been on  Facebook recently explaining that you have a sore face after battering your head against the wall of self publishing? Or were you independently published? Or e published?  By choice or necessity?


A)      Caro, I’m ridiculously untechy and even formatting my novels is something I’d always left to the professionals at my publisher. When I left Headline, I wanted to finish the Reaper trilogy and knew no publisher would want The Resurrection (see reasons above) so I knew I’d have to self-publish. But the tribulations of preparing a novel to publish on KDP were hard for a computer dunce like me to surmount. Turning a kindle into a paperback was a step up again and I couldn’t have managed it without help from the wonderfully obliging and talented Ed James.


4)       You joked it took you longer to get the book online, than it took you to write it! What was the main hurdle?


A)      The main hurdle, Caro, was ME. Still, I learned a lot during the process which I’ve now predictably forgotten.


5)      I still ‘run’ (using the term loosely) a writers’ group and it has been known for members to write a book and put out as an e book. Unedited. Unproofed. What would be your advice for those going down that avenue of publishing.


A)      Unedited and unproofed? My personal advice would be DON’T do it. For me, it shows an arrogance and disrespect for readers and I know as an English teacher that mistakes in spelling and grammar are a distraction from the quality of the story. If you don’t want to put in the work then pay someone to do it. It won’t be expensive. I always proofed and checked my work extensively before submitting it to a publisher, believing that it could be published the next day. I was usually wrong BUT for a self-publisher the care taken needs to go up several notches, not down. My rule? If I read through and change ANYTHING then the chapter or even whole manuscript must be read again until you change absolutely nothing. Obsessive but necessary. Just me.


6)      Tell us what you are up to now, starting a new book I believe.  And where are your back catalogue? For those that have not read The Reaper series, where do we find them now? I wonder if your books are bad for the environment as after reading them,  one does tend to sleep with all the lights on. Not only are they great stories, they are very, very creepy.


A)      I’m always working on a book, Caro, as I’m sure you are. I’m writing a sequel to Blood Summer about a crack investigator who operates on the Riviera, Commandant Serge Benoit. In Blood Summer, he is called out to investigate the baffling murders of two unidentified people left floating in a swimming pool, minus their heads and hands. I’m also working on a DI Brook novella because I had the idea recently and want to get the basic idea down while the idea is fresh. The seven books in the Reaper series are ALL available on Amazon as paperbacks or extremely good value eBooks on my Amazon author page. The three instalments of the Reaper trilogy itself can be had for less than £3 on kindle at this moment.


7)      I know you do some teaching courses for creative writing – you were a teacher in a former life weren’t you?  What’s the best piece of advice you have? And the daftest question you’ve been asked (don’t say one I asked you on that panel!)


A)      The best advice. With the kernel of an idea, you have enough to sit down and write to see where the thing goes. I know some writers like to plan out most of their plot which is fine if that can be done quickly. Otherwise get sat down and start because planning often happens best when you’re writing. So, I have a vague idea when I set off but know a better idea or direction will always come along and when your book is finished, you’ll be surprised how different it is to your original plans.

The daftest request I had was being asked to sign my autograph on somebody’s kindle screen. Could never get my head round that one. And I do remember that question you asked the panel in Bristol very well. It was a perfectly fair question. Same answer from me. LOL.

Caro Ramsay hosting Steven Dunne

If you haven't read him, your TBR pile is soon to grow/


  1. Oh to have been at that panel to watch the two of you perform LIVE. WAIT, WAIT, I think I was there! You were terrific. Both then and now. Happy Birthday, fellow seat-of-the-pantser.

  2. A happy birthday from me too! You're so right about the notch level for self-published authors.