Mike Dellosso is the author of four thrillers, his latest being the just-released Darkness Follows. Mike also teaches and speaks about writing and the writing life at conferences, schools, and to homeschool groups. Originally from Baltimore, MD, he now lives in Hanover, PA with his wife and four daughters. For more info, visit his website.
Let the conversation begin!
How many words do you write each day?
I write first thing in the morning, seven days a week. I’m usually up before sunrise and before anyone else in the house is awake so I have the time all to myself. I usually have about an hour to an hour and a half before I have to get ready for my full-time job and in that time I shoot for 1,000 quality words, but if I’m on a role I can do 1,500.
Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?
Seat-of-the-pants all the way. I don’t have the patience to outline. When I get a story idea in my head I ponder it for a while, mull it over, testing different plot lines and characters. Then when I think I’m ready, I dive in. I basically know where the story is going to start and have the climax in my head but everything in-between develops as the story unwinds itself.
When are you the most productive?
My ideal time for writing is between 8 am and 2 pm but since that’s right in the middle of my work day I have to squeeze it in early mornings. I love mornings, though.
What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
Mostly, listen to music. And what kind depends on where I am in the story and what kind of story it is. For The Hunted it was all about hard rock, for Scream it was country, Darlington Woods, inspirational and classical. Darkness Follows was country and inspirational. I know, it’s weird but each story carries a certain mood to it and that mood corresponds to a certain kind of music. At least in my head it does.
Was it easier to write before or after you were published?
Much harder after being published. Before being published there was no real pressure. I was just writing a story I loved, could take my time, tweak here, sharpen there. Since being published it’s all about deadlines and pressure. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure (applied by myself) to make each book better than the previous ones. And sometimes writing under deadline really robs the creative freedom
Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people?
My full-time job is in home care physical therapy so I meet all kinds of interesting people with interesting backgrounds and stories. A lot of my characters are collages of people I’ve met, mostly through my job. And each character has a little bit of me in it too.
What advice would you give young writers?
Never give up. Do the two things that make writers better: read and write. Those two things can never be overestimated.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Never give up. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to decide right up front that you’re in it for the long haul. When you start out to write a book and know it’s going to mean early mornings, seven days a week, for three months or more . . . that takes persistence, drive, and dedication. And when you finish and those rejections start rolling in, press on, don’t falter, keep submitting, keep knocking on doors. Sooner or later you’ll find someone to champion your work.
Tell us about the book you’re working on.
Well, right now I’m working on promoting my newest thriller, Darkness Follows. It’s about Sam Travis, a man on the brink of despair and destruction, driven there by a series of cryptic journal entries from a Civil War soldier. The only thing that can save Sam is the unconditional love of his daughter.
Describe your dream vacation.
I’d love to go to either New Zealand or Scotland. Southern Italy would be great too.