Prolific scribe Tim Dorsey entered the world by way of Indiana, moved to the Sunshine state at the age of 1, and grew up in a small town about an hour north of Miami called Riviera Beach. While attending Auburn University, Dorsey was editor of the student newspaper, The Plainsman.
From 1983 to 1987, Dorsey served as a police and courts reporter for The Alabama Journal, the now-defunct evening newspaper in Montgomery. He joined The Tampa Tribune in 1987 as a general assignment reporter. He also worked as a political reporter in the Tribune’s Tallahassee bureau and a copy desk editor. From 1994 to 1999, he was the Tribune’s night metro editor. In August 1999, Dorsey bid adieu to the paper to write full time.
Dorsey has since published 15 novels in several languages: Florida Roadkill, Hammerhead Ranch Motel, Orange Crush, Triggerfish Twist, The Stingray Shuffle, Cadillac Beach, Torpedo Juice, The Big Bamboo, Hurricane Punch, Atomic Lobster, Nuclear Jellyfish, Gator A-Go-Go, Electric Barracuda, When Elves Attack and Pineapple Grenade.
He currently resides in Tampa with his family.
Tim was gracious enough to take time out of his busy touring schedule to give me an exclusive.
Warning: Due to its laugh-out-loud moments, drinking or eating while reading this interview may be hazardous to your health.
What was the most memorable research trip you’ve made?
Everglades, down the isolated 25-mile “Loop Road,” which you can only drive a month a year during the dry season because the swamp washed out the gravel excuse of a road. And weird hermits creep in the brush and fire warning shots, and I found the foundation of Al Capone’s burnt-down old speakeasy
Please share with us the most interesting stories law enforcement or forensic professionals have told you.
In one Florida county, the entire night shift of deputies showed up at an apartment swimming pool to watch as paramedics rescued a man who, uh, got stuck in an intake valve
Are there any stories that have made you cry, laugh, stunned you, or rendered you speechless when you heard it, that you had to incorporate them in your fiction?
Virtually all the things I watch firsthand in the Florida capital of Tallahassee that I covered as a reporter for the Tampa Tribune, and made their way into Orange Crush.
What is the most hilarious fact you’ve woven a story around?
“The difference between genius and stupidity is genius has its limits”
How would you say you have evolved as a writer over time?
I’m too inside the process to tell — and that’s a good thing. I heard an established writer once say, “Keep your head down,” meaning just write with your gut and don’t self-analyze
When you’re not writing, what are your favorite ways to relax and have some fun?
Drive around Florida and work on my photography.
Of all the books you have written, do you have a favorite? If so, which one and why?
A lot of writers have said this because it’s human nature, but you hope your latest is the best because you want to be improving. So I guess that negative my answer above on evolving.
Have you ever had an embarrassing moment at a book signing?
Yeah, while standing at a urinal just before going out to start talking, some guy walked up from behind and asked: “If you haven’t started yet, can I shake your hand?”
Do you listen to music or is it something that is distracting to you?
Not while actually writing, but I like to daydream about outlines while driving and listening to a variety of music
Do you ever fear writer’s block or that you’ll let your audience down?
No, I love writing too much. … And I wrote for newspapers for 16 years. You’d never eat if you blocked
Do you belong to any writers groups and what do you feel you have gained from the social sites?
A. I am a non-joiner. B. Lots of friends.
Are there any characters in your books that represent you?
The serial killer, Serge.
How much of the characters and storylines come from people you know and your own experiences versus your imagination?
Half are from people I know; the other half from people I’m aware of from journalism.
How do you keep your characters fresh and the plot exciting?
I make sure I have an absolute blast writing. If that’s not happening, I go another direction
What kind of research did you do for this book?
A thousand miles of travel, just as many photographs, and lots of informal interviews with locals
Did you know the full direction of this book?
It has direction?
Did you let the story develop as you wrote it?
I came up with the outlines, but there’s a degree where you have to be flexible and let it develop as opportunities arise that you couldn’t have seen until you were actually writing that passage
What makes a good thriller?
Being a merciless editor on yourself and cutting absolutely everything that you love but will slow the reader from turning the page
Is your passion for writing as strong as before?
Even more, now that all the people at the signings are egging me on.
What do you enjoy more, writing or discovering other people’s works?
Let me put it this way: Do you enjoy sex or hearing about other people have sex?