DL: What’s the inspiration for writing your book?
KDP: MISSING is about a boy named Calvin Crane who accidentally gets involved in the case of a girl who’s been abducted and believes he’s become the kidnapper’s next target. The search for the girl is paralleled by his search for self-acceptance.
I wrote MISSING because I wanted to share my main character, Calvin Crane—in all of his irreverence, dark humor, imperfections and inner turmoil—with the world. At the same time, I wanted to make his story known—his struggle to accept his brown skin and to learn to live fearlessly. What’s unique about the story is that protagonists like Calvin are not common in today’s mainstream upper middle-grade and young adult literature. There’s a myth that black boys don’t read, and as a result there aren’t many black boys featured as viewpoint characters. While I didn’t write the novel for the sole purpose of dispelling that myth, I’m hoping that I contribute to its demise. Although a black boy is the lead character in MISSING, it’s a story that I believe will greatly resonate with girls, and even adults—regardless of race.
DL: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
KDP: Yes. The Queen of Suspense, Mary Higgins Clark. She’s a master of raising nagging questions that the reader MUST have answered, and so they keep turning the pages. She builds suspense like an architect, and she is so good at keeping you guessing. You can identify the characters who you love, but there will be plenty of iffy ones and shady ones in the mix. Her cast of characters and their complicated lives are so well written and weaved so seamlessly that you never doubt their authenticity for a second. I especially love her high-powered New Yorkers.
DL: How long did it take to write your book?
KDP: It took about one year to write MISSING, from conception to a complete and polished manuscript.
DL: Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically?
KDP: I don’t use outlines in the typical sense. Maybe for a particular chapter here or there, but not throughout the book. I start out with a story idea that excites me and I decide whether or not I can develop it into a strong narrative that thrills readers.
From there I start writing. During each writing session, I have a general sense of where I want to go with the story, and I let it flow naturally. I write like I’m a reader—enjoying twists and turns in the story that I may not have anticipated when I started out. That’s what makes it exciting for me.
DL: Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book?
KDP: Here’s the thing. When I’m writing a first draft, I can listen to music, or have the TV on, or tolerate loud conversations. BUT, when I have to go back and edit, I need dead silence. So, if I’m in an environment where I can’t escape noise, I’ll plug in my earphones and listen to loud “white noise” on YouTube. I know it sounds contradictory, but for me the consistency of that noise drowns out the other noises and it becomes its own silence. You should try it.
Nevertheless, if I could pick a theme song for MISSING—since it’s a humorous mystery that takes place during a family summer road trip—it would be “Holiday Road” by Lyndsay Buckingham, from the Chevy Chase movie, Vacation.
DL: What are the keys to success in marketing your book(s)?
KDP: That’s the million-dollar question. First, before your book goes to print, find influential authors and folks with publishing industry clout who like your book and are willing to give you a great quote to include on the cover, or inside the book.
I was thrilled when Lambda Literary Award-winning author Larry Duplechan, whose novel BLACKBIRD was adapted into a 2014 feature film starring Oscar-winning actress Mo'Nique, likened MISSING to a "present-day Hardy Boys" novel and said, "Calvin Crane is a Black urban Henry Huggins." He happened to read my book after it was published, but I was on cloud nine nonetheless.
Also, never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth. There’s nothing more convincing than seeing the excitement in someone’s eyes, or hearing the change in their voice when they talk about a book they love.
Writers should try to participate in book fairs, book festivals, and community events where they can interact with people who want to buy books—don’t go to bake sales and flea markets and try to sale books. I’ve tried it. Another very important thing to remember is to keep adapting to new methods and technologies to reach readers. You can’t be unwilling to change with the times.
DL: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
KDP: Here are my thoughts:
a) Write what you know. If you’re a nurse, write a story set within a hospital or a medical environment. If you’re a bank teller, write about a bank heist. If you’re a homemaker, write about an unusual event in your neighborhood, or with your family. If you do choose to write outside of your scope, do tons of research. Do research either way.
b) Start writing. Lots of people feel that they have a novel lurking somewhere within their psyche, and they probably do, but they never put pen to paper. Some wait for ideal conditions: “When the kids are older I’ll have more time.” Or, “Once I quit my job I’ll be able to focus.” There will always be a reason to put it off, but when you really want something, you’ll find a way. Also, once your start—finish. Most people who start writing never see it through to completion.
When Mary Higgins Clark was a widow with five small kids at age 37, she would get up at 5 a.m. to write before she got them off to school, and then she commuted to her full-time job. That was her routine as she wrote her first four published books. And it wasn’t until she was 43 that she had a novel that sold well, her book WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN? Not only did she make the time to write, she persevered, which is so important.
DL: How about sharing an excerpt from MISSING?
KDP: Sure, this excerpt is from Chapter 3, pages 75 - 76:
Inside the gift shop were all types of souvenirs and books about Mr. Rushmore. I picked up one and flipped the pages when it caught my eye. Something told me to look down.
That small voice people usually ignore.
I couldn’t ignore my voices.
I glanced at the feet of the person across from me, their scuffed-up Reeboks. What was it about those shoes?
I had seen them somewhere before. I remembered them specifically because of the paint. What looked like black spots of paint dripped across the tops.
I had flipped halfway through the book when my hand went to my mouth.
A wave of heat covered me. My armpits moistened. My heart pounded.
That guy at Yellowstone. He had shoes like those.
Exactly. Like. Those.
I wanted to look again, but my neck wouldn’t budge.
Don’t look; just run. But I was frozen. My feet were boulders. My body was stiffer than those presidents on the mountain.
I couldn’t. My eyes were heavier than paperweights. They lifted slowly in his direction.
No one was there.
DL: What’s next for you?
KDP: I’ve completed the manuscript for a novel about police brutality called ILLEGAL JUSTICE. It’s currently in the production stages. There will be a sequel to MISSING, the manuscript is currently in progress. In the meantime, readers can check out my ROSS ROULETTE adult thriller series on my Amazon author page.
DL: Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)?
• Website: www.kevindonporter.com
• Amazon Author Page: https://tinyurl.com/y86pevnk or
• Book Buy Links:
Barnes & Noble: https://tinyurl.com/yanvnnky
• Facebook: https://tinyurl.com/ycsp45va or @kevindonporter, or
• Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kevindonporter / @kevindonporter
• Twitter: https://twitter.com/KevinDonPorter @kevindonporter
• Blog: https://www.kevindonporter.com/blog-1
It’s been a pleasure having you here with us today. I know my readers will enjoy getting to know you and your work.