An Interview with Dennis E. Smirl
Why did you want to participate in the Community Novel Project?
I was invited to do so, and considered the invitation an honor.
What do you like about the premise and characters of this year’s Community Novel Project Speak Easy?
I was particularly taken by the premise because my maternal grandparents had lived in Chicago during the Prohibition Era, and had seen and feared mob activities in real life.
What was your first reaction when you saw the chapter before yours?
I thought it was well-written, very interesting, and saw a real opportunity for an action scene in my chapter that was foreshadowed in chapter 10.
What is your favorite and least favorite addition that you contributed to this novel in your chapter?
I can’t really make that kind of judgment call this close to the experience. As me in a couple years.
What do you hope happens or doesn’t happen in the chapters that come after yours?
I’d enjoy seeing the character I invented appear in the next chapter, but I tried to set my chapter up so that the next writer could use or not use him as he or she sees fit.
How did you write your chapter – in a burst of inspiration or carefully outlined?
I read earlier chapters, went out and mowed my lawn. In the time it took me, I had examined several story lines, and chose one. Then I came back into the house, sat down at my computer, and wrote the chapter.
Any memorable stories to share about your writing experience?
After considerable searching the Internet, I am convinced that there are only two Dennis Smirls in the English-speaking world. I live in Topeka, the other Dennis (Dennis P. Smirl) lives in Oregon. Both of us have books listed on Amazon. What are the odds?
What have you learned about writing fiction from participating in this project?
Everyone has a different approach to the task. Some are fast, some are slow. Some write a single draft, self-edit, and call it good. Some will write, and re-write several times. I think each method is equally valid, depending on the writer.
What is your writing background? What do you usually write? How was this project different?
I’ve been a writer most of my life. Once I retired, I had more time for it. I enjoy writing mysteries and science fiction. Just writing a chapter, rather than a short story or a novel, required a different type of writing discipline.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned about writing?
Write fast, write tight, and write lots of dialogue. Stories are propelled by the physical and verbal interactions of the characters, not by static descriptions of the scenery surrounding the characters… In other words, Show, don’t Tell.
Dennis E. Smirl has been an Air Force officer, a salesman for a Fortune 500 company, a school psychologist, a computer science instructor at several community colleges, and a business owner. Married to his college sweetheart for almost half a century, he has spent time in Mexico, Japan, and South Vietnam, but prefers to take family vacations in the USA and Canada. A writer for as long as he can remember—he attempted a first novel at age ten—his first taste of national publication was a race report written and published in 1965. Beyond his interest in writing science fiction and mysteries, he has had a lifetime interest in horseback riding, auto racing (as a driver), golf, photography, computers and information processing. He has written nine novels and more than seventy short stories and novellas, and hopes to have all nine novels—and perhaps a couple more—available through Amazon print and Amazon Kindle within the next two years.