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Between the pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

Interview with Dave Vizard

Dave Vizard is the retired editor of the Bay City Times, mid-Michigan’s leading newspaper. I have read and reviewed his debut novel A Formula for Murder and can tell you that Dave is headed for a very satisfying second career.


Dennis: Your novel, A Formula for Murder has been available for a little while now. Are you satisfied with how it’s been received?

Dave: My novel came out last fall. It took five years to put together. To say that I was apprehensive about how it would be received is an understatement. I was absolutely scared to death. I had five associates with writing and editing backgrounds proofread the final manuscript. Each said they thoroughly enjoyed the story and would recommend it. Those kinds of comments relieved some of my stress, but I was still very unsure of how it would be viewed by the general public. Since then, I’ve gotten dozens of notes, letters, and emails from people who bought and read the book. One question I always ask folks is this: Do you think it was worth $14.95? So far, no one has asked for a refund. Most want to know when the sequel is coming out.


Dennis: What made you decide to write mysteries?

Dave: I decided to write mysteries because that’s one of the kinds of books I like to read. Mystery, intrigue, suspense. I love a good page burner and readers tell me that’s what I’ve produced. When I hear folks say, “I couldn’t put it down,” or “I stayed up all night to finish it,” that’s very satisfying. That means they’re captivated by the story, which means I’ve succeeded – at least to some degree – in the art of storytelling.


Dennis: Do you write from an outline or do you just wing it?

Dave: Neither. What seems to work for me is what I call the road map approach. I need to know what direction I’m heading in when I sit down to write. I want to know where I’m going to end up. The route between the beginning and end can vary – lots of side streets, dusty paths, and even two-track trails – but I can’t just wing it. I know that works for some writers, but I waste too much time wandering if I don’t have a map.


Dennis: Has your background as a journalist helped?

Dave: Definitely. When I was a young news reporter, I learned to write on the clock. We all had hard deadlines to meet. If I had told one of my editors that I had writer’s block or wasn’t in the mood to write, I would have been booted out the door. My training as a journalist also taught me to think critically. I think that’s very important when developing the storyline for a novel. The story and characters have to be believable. It all has to make sense and be plausible. Readers are generally very smart people. You can’t fool them or dazzle them with B.S.


Dennis: Is there any particular writer who influenced you?

Dave: I have really enjoyed the novels of two writers who are at opposite ends of the spectrum. John Grisham and Jim Harrison. Both are great storytellers who know their subject matter so well. Grisham’s courtroom dramas, which are generally set in the South, are great page burners. Most of Harrison ’s novels are set in Northern Michigan . I’m finishing “True North” right now, and it’s set in the Upper Peninsula . Additionally, I love the way they work humor into their stories, which is what I try to do. Humor breaks the tension in the story. Readers need occasional relief from a gripping story, and a good laugh or a chuckle can do that.


Dennis: Your main character, Nick Steele is both strong and likable. Will we see him again?

Dave: When I wrote A Formula for Murder, I thought it was going to be a one-trick pony, but so many have asked for a sequel that I’m writing one now as fast as I can. So, yes. Nick Steele, and his sidekicks – Tanya Johnson and Dave Balz – will ride high again. By the way, Nick Steele is a real name. I went to high school with a really good guy named Nick Steele. I just liked the sound of it. Plus, it makes a great byline. Nick is the consummate reporter. He has all the positive attributes of the very good reporters I have known and worked with, and he also has some of their very human flaws.


Dennis: What do you do when you’re not writing?

Dave: Writing and editing have been my life’s work. Even if I were not publishing, I would still be doing both at some level. I volunteer in my community to help others and make it a better place to live. I think giving back is something every good citizen should do. I also helped establish a very good and active writer’s group in Huron County . But to keep the wolves from gathering at my door, I sell real estate, which has been more fun and rewarding than I had imagined. I have two adult sons – Mickey and Mack – who I am very proud of. I try to spend as much time with them, and my wife Barbara, as I can.


Dennis: This is your space to talk about anything you’d like.

Dave: The novel I’m working on now picks up several months after where A Formula for Murder ends. It is more of a “whodunit” story with lots of plot twists and turns. The murder takes place in Michigan ’s resort paradise: Mackinac Island . I’m hoping to finish it this fall. It will be better than the first one.

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