Q&A with Amazon bestseller Robert Bidinotto
My good friend and fellow thriller author Robert Bidinotto has just reduced the price of his fabulously successful debut novel Hunter to a mere 99 cents! It’s a limited-time offer, and I’d suggest downloading it without hesitation. To give you a better sense of who Robert is and his journey in publishing, I thought it’d be nice to have a brief Q&A session with the man himself.
*How do you feel your experience in investigative journalism has impacted your fiction writing? While reading Hunter, I’ve definitely seen your knowledge and insight of the criminal justice system shine through, but in what ways, specifically, did it impact the characters and the storyline?
RB: Great question, Nate. My past experiences investigating the criminal justice system for Reader’s Digest profoundly affected both the plot and the character development in HUNTER.
In those days, the more I saw of the legal system, the more upset I became. It’s a system that works mainly for the benefit and convenience of those who operate it—certainly not for the benefit of the victims of crime. Expediency and self-aggrandizement reign, which means that nobody is held accountable for much of anything. Criminals are coddled at every turn. Again and again, dangerous predators spend little time behind bars, because it’s more expedient to release them. The needs of victims—most importantly, their desperate need for simple justice—are routinely evaded or dismissed. In short, it’s a system at war with the concept of self-responsibility. And the architects of this morally inverted system are what I call “the Excuse-Making Industry.” They’ve erected an edifice of phony, self-serving philosophical rationalizations that excuse criminals for their acts, and also excuse their own complicity in aiding and abetting criminals.
I dramatized all of this in HUNTER. My character portraits of both victims and victimizers come directly from my first-hand encounters with both. I drew upon countless real-life examples of criminals who went through the legal system’s revolving doors, quickly emerging right back on the streets to prey on more innocents. And I also drew upon my memories of the victims I encountered. Their ravaged faces still haunt me.
My experiences also colored my portrait of the hero, Dylan Hunter. His burning passion to seek justice for victims and to hold everyone in the system to account, directly reflects my own feelings of frustration and outrage over what I witnessed during those years. So Dylan shares my motives; however, unlike me, he also has the means and opportunities to do something about it all. For me and thousands of readers, that’s a very satisfying fantasy.
What do you find most challenging about crafting the Dylan Hunter series? Surely, with as much popularity as the first book enjoyed, readers have developed expectations for each of the subsequent books. How do you ensure those readers stay satisfied?
RB: You hit a nerve with that one, Nate. After HUNTER, I felt the great weight of expectations—the readers’ and my own. Fans of that book are really intense about the characters and Dylan’s whole “world.” I desperately didn’t want the sequel, BAD DEEDS,to disappoint them. Even more important, though, I didn’t want it to disappoint me. Lots of authors with successful debut novels are one-hit wonders; their subsequent work never matches the quality of their first book. And frankly, after HUNTER I didn’t know if I had more than one good story in me.
So the biggest challenge I faced in writing BAD DEEDS was keeping my sense of responsibility to myself and my readers in check. That was really, really hard to do, because I’ve always been a perfectionist type. The self-imposed emotional pressure I felt was a big factor in how long it took me to get started on the sequel. And that long delay between books only made the pressure worse as I wrote.
At a certain point, though, I just had to push all of those internal and external expectations out of my head. I had to accept the fact that the book would be whatever it was going to be—and that my job as an author was to finish the thing and move on.
Once I accepted that, the writing pace really accelerated. And now, ironically, many readers say that they think BAD DEEDS is better than HUNTER. That was a huge relief to me. Having proved to myself that I can write more than one good novel, the pressure is pretty much gone. I’m enjoying the early work on Book #3.
Robert, you’ve turned on its head the notion that writers must have a raft of books in their name in order to build a reputation and a brand; for the longest time, you had only Hunter (book one) available, and yet you eked out a very impressive readership, and a deeply loyal one, as well. What do you think this says to other writers about the industry?
RB: That’s another great question, Nate.
Let me first answer as a self-published author. One of the great attractions of “going indie” is that a self-publishing writer can set his or her own terms, expectations, and goals. It’s all about having options. You’re no longer a slave to industry demands and dogmas—including industry notions of a “proper” writing pace, publishing schedule, or quantity of output.
Yet I hear a lot of “indie” gurus proclaim that the only way to succeed as a self-publishing author is to write and publish a huge volume of work, at a lickety-split pace. I definitely get the feeling that they look down on writers like me, who craft their stories more slowly and painstakingly. Well, I didn’t reject the dogmas of traditional publishing merely to acquire a new set of dogmas! If self-publishing is all about options, then I’m opting to do something different.
You mention the size and loyalty of the Dylan Hunter audience. I think that’s a reflection of how much care and attention I put into every aspect of the novels. My thrillers have serious themes. It’s terribly difficult to figure out the complex, real-world ramifications of those themes—to orchestrate characters who clash over those ideas, and also have related internal conflicts—to generate from all of this complicated plot structures that operate on multiple levels—and to stil give readers a highly entertaining, white-knuckle thrill ride, with characters they’ll not just enjoy, but absolutely love.
A reader can’t get more out of a book than the author puts into it. I pour everything I have into these stories. If it takes a while to produce them, well, so be it. The reader response to HUNTER and BAD DEEDS, in both sales and reviews, affirms that there is a route to self-publishing success other than the “volume and speed of output” approach. You may also take a lot of time to craft a story that will fill the reader with intense emotions, iconic characters, and indelible memories.
I hope to do that with every new release in the Dylan Hunter Thrillers series, Nate.