Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Christopher Keating, author of Dog Run,Texas.
FQ: I want to thank you for the opportunity to interview you. Let me start by saying Dog Run, Texas is an extremely entertaining read. You make a point in your afterward to clarify that ‘Dog Run’ isn’t a real town in Texas, yet it’s so very believable. Is there a real town in Texas from which you drew your inspiration?
KEATING: Thank you. It was a lot of fun writing Dog Run. And, yes, a lot of it is based on my hometown of Mason, Texas. This book actually started out as a biography of Mason several years ago because it is so quirky here. Along the way, I decided that wasn’t the best idea I ever had. So, I created the fictional town of Dog Run. Several of the stories are inspired by real events, but I’ve fictionalize them to fit the story.
FQ: In line with my previous question, it’s abundantly clear you love the great state of Texas. Tell me a bit about one of your favorite ‘go to’ places and why is this it?
KEATING: I grew up in the country and still have a fondness for open places over the cities. Big Bend National Park is a spectacular area and the beaches are really nice. The Hill Country, where I live, is certainly one of my favorite areas. It is pretty much the way I described it in the book – rough and rocky and not good for all that much except good living, which we do a lot of out here.
FQ: Without creating too much of a spoiler, character Stormy Weather is quite the diabolical piece of work. How did you come up with so many ways to ‘end one’s life’ and invariably miss the mark in doing so? Which of the many scenarios was your favorite to write about?
KEATING: I hope I’m never suspected of a crime and have my browser history looked at. I spent a lot of time researching ways to kill someone. I think my favorite was when she tried to use the snake. That conjures up all sorts of creepy images. Kind of makes your skin crawl.
FQ: I love the character name ‘Stormy Weather’ because she certainly was ‘stormy.’ However, it’s also kind of cheeky. When you’re developing your story, do character names simply come to you or do you build the plot around the character’s name?
KEATING: That was the real name of a woman I met, as are the names of her sisters. True story. I have various ways of coming up with names. I keep a list of names that I come across and think are interesting and then I’ll see if any of them fit my characters. (I admit I was a little flattered when I learned Charles Dickens did the same thing). Sometimes I use an online name generator and will look at lists of names until something catches my interest. Other times, I’ll just use a symbol for the character’s name until something seems to fit. I’ve had characters who went unnamed for most of a book before their name evolves out of the story. That usually requires going back and doing some rewrites. An example of that is Xochitl. I was well along with the book without being able to name this character when I came across this name. I thought it sounded interesting and did some research on it. When I learned it was Mayan she suddenly became alive and had physical characteristics and a personality all of her own. Names really aren’t as random as we might think. They influence someone’s life, including fictional people.
FQ: I have had the pleasure of traveling to a few places in Texas and must confess one of my favorite areas is Austin. However, it has gotten quite populated. Do you prefer the city life or the ‘hills’ of Texas? And why your choice?
KEATING: I think I answered this one above. I grew up in the country and prefer it over the city. However, I’ve spent lots of time in cities and enjoy what they have to offer. I’ve gotten to know Austin pretty well and you’re right about it becoming crowded, but there are still some real gems of places to go to that many people don’t know about. There are several cities I enjoy visiting. New York City is a great example of a city that is so much fun to visit.
FQ: Dog Run has a terrific flow throughout. Was there ever a time during the creative process where you felt a drag? What would you do to kickstart the flow again?
KEATING: I wrote most of the book and felt as though it was a dead end. It was a ‘boy meets girl, they fall in love and break up’ story. That’s been done so many times I wasn’t pleased with it. I let it sit for a while and then the idea came to me of having her come back and try and kill him. Other times, when I had writer’s block, I’d just go to our local wine bar and listen to my friends tell some story. Problem solved!
FQ: You reference in your bio you spend time on ‘long-distance hikes.’ What is one of your most memorable ‘walkabouts’? Where did you go? What did you see? Did you camp along the way?
KEATING: I did 539 miles on the Appalachian Trail in the summer and fall of 2019. I started at the northern terminus on Katahdin, the tallest mountain in Maine, and made it about two-thirds of the way through Vermont before winter made the ground too cold to be comfortable. It was a tremendous experience and it’s hard to express how beautiful it is up there. I’m planning on returning to it this summer to start from the beginning and try to finish the entire 2193 miles to Springer, GA.
FQ: Texas has so many different faces to it. It’s as though one could spend the rest of their life moving from one part to another for a change of scenery and lifestyle. What was your draw to the Hill Country?
KEATING: I wanted to move to the country, but I didn’t want to be too remote. Austin and San Antonio are both only two hours away. So, I get to enjoy the quiet lifestyle of the country while I have the resources of major cities only a short distance away.
FQ: The age-old adage of: ‘a writer writes what a writer knows’ always comes to mind when I read an exceptionally captivating read. Such was the case with Dog Run. Tell me, are there any characters in your story who are fashioned after real acquaintances and was he/she flattered or offended?
KEATING: Many of the characters were inspired by real people, but none of them are really representative of them. When people I know read it, they recognize certain things. But, no one who isn’t familiar with these people would be able to say such and such a person is a certain character in the book because the characters really are fictional. If any of my ex-girl friends read the book, they haven’t provided any feedback. Who knows? Maybe they’d get an inspiration from the story and come back to finish me off.
FQ: It’s been an absolute treat to read and review Dog Run, Texas. I’m hoping you are working on your next book. If so, are you able to give a sneak peak into it?
KEATING: Yes. I’m well along on a book that involves a serial-killer who is executed and then, as part of his punishment in Hell, has to come back and help police solve murders. He experiences the murders as the victims when he sleeps and feels all the pain of being murdered every night when he goes to sleep. By the way, Satan is a good guy and is merely a servant of God doing what he’s told to do. Sometimes Satan is a man, and sometimes a woman. This is all giving me an opportunity to have a suspense-murder mystery while mixing in some philosophical discussions and some dark humor.