Dave Vizard is a writer and editor who lives with his wife Barbara on Lake Huron. Vizard also is helping launch a new post-production movie and music studio while selling real estate in Caseville, MI. "A Formula for Murder" is his first novel. Four years ago, Vizard left the newspaper industry. During a 34-year journalism career, he was an award-winning reporter, editor and columnist. Vizard also edited True North Magazine.
He is a founding member of the Huron Area Writers Group. When not working on a writing project, Vizard enjoys reading, jogging, drinking beer, and sleeping, but not necessarily in that order.
Dave, I'm so pleased that you've finally released your book, "A Formula for Murder". Can you give us a tantalizing teaser about the story?
I didn't realize it when I started writing it five years ago, but it is essentially the Jerry Sandusky / Penn State saga in fiction. The only differences are my story involves a high school instead of a college, my sexual predator is a band director instead of a coach, the people who turned a blind eye to the abuse in my book are a school principal, superintendent, and school board president instead of a head football coach, athletic director, and a college president. They all were more interested in protecting their institutions than looking out for the students they were supposed to protect. The major difference is that when one of the victims in my story does not get justice through the school or local police, the parent seeks revenge by developing an elaborate plot to kill the school officials using prescription medicine.
The book has what might be considered a vigilante theme to it. You are such a mild-mannered, nice guy! Was there something specific in the news or in your area that brought this theme about?
Mild-mannered? Why, thank you! When I started developing the storyline, I wanted the story to be believable and connect with average people. So, I did a lot of thinking about what would motivate average people to rise up and actually kill others. Motive for murder usually revolves around the Three Rs - Revenge, Rage, Reward. So, I picked revenge because I thought it would be easier for readers to identify with a killer who seeks justice for an abused child.
Nick Steele is a reporter who is considered washed up. Did you draw his character from your own experiences in the news field?
Mine, and many others in the news business. Since my book came out, I've had several people ask if Nick is my alter ego. I answer yes and no. Nick is the reporter I aspired to be. The difference between us is that I became a newsroom manager at an early age and Nick dislikes and distrusts newsroom management. He thinks they are all basically cowards and bootlickers only interested in the next promotion, not getting the story and telling it straight. Nick is an honorable man and a noble reporter who is driven by the idea of getting the story that no one else has the guts to touch. He does so in his own way and does not cut corners or violate journalism ethics. At the same time, Nick is still just a man with flaws, which are exacerbated by the loss of key loved ones in his iife.
I've hired and worked with a lot of really good reporters over the years, so I drew on the best characteristics and flaws of each of them to create Nick. By the way, the name is real. I went to high school with Nick Steele. I ran into him about three or four years ago and I mentioned that I wanted to "borrow" his name for my protagonist. At the time, he laughed it off because "everybody" says they are writing a book, but few actually do. After he thought about it for a while, he came up to me and said: "OK, you can use my name, no problem. But if this becomes a movie, I want a cut of the take." We both roared. Nick has read the book and loves the character I created, so we're both happy.
Is this the first in a series? And which characters do you plan to bring back?
When I finally finished the book, I did not plan to do another Nick Steele story. So many publishers and literary agents had told me that newspaper storylines with male reporters were passe - too old school to be of interest to a broad market in today's world of vampires, zombies, ghost hunters, super-powered weirdos, and sexual deviants. Nevertheless, "A Formula for Murder," is a story that I wanted to tell and I hoped (and prayed) that I could tell it in a compelling enough way that people would enjoy it just because it's a damn good story that addresses issues that are never passe when talking about the human condition. So, when I finished the story I left the door open just in case it generated enough interest for another book.
So far, almost everyone who reads it asks me when the next one is coming out. That's really been heart warming. Now, I'm thinking of a new murder for Nick, Tanya, and Dave to tackle as they close the two loose ends left open at the end of "A Formula for Murder." At the same time, I would really like to start another kind of story, perhaps non-fiction so I can use my reporting and journalism skills.
A few years ago, you started a writing group with great success. Tell us what you've all been up to.
One thing I'd like to share with your readers is how terrific our writing group has become - we've helped each other publish six books in the last two years AND we sponsored a youth writing contest in Huron County last spring that attracted 300 entries from youngsters, grades 6 -12. We raised money for prizes and handed out $100 checks for our winners (every entrant received a certificate and our thanks). Our awards ceremony was an Author's Day at the local library and every winner showed up with their proud parents. It was very cool!
Do you have any advice for writers wanting to start a critique group? And for those who already have a group, how can they get into community projects?
We do critiques in a couple of different ways. First, any member of the group can have the project they are working on critiqued at any time. It can be a chapter, or a setting, or back story, or a chunk of dialogue. We ask everyone to weigh in with their thoughts. We want honesty and thick skin on both sides. This is very helpful if a writer is struggling through a part of the project he or she is working on.
The other thing we do is we try to do as writing exercises is to write short, 1,000-word stories by using three writing prompts. The writers who complete the exercise get the floor during our sessions and read their work, then everyone offers their thoughts about the story, the characters, the color, the background, anything good or bad that is offered. We encourage all to be constructive and positive in their approach to the critiques. At first they were a little difficult, but as we writers got to know each other and started caring for one another, it became easier to accept the barbs with the applause.
Your group has had amazing success with your authors getting published. What advice do you have for other groups to keep their goals on track and make them happen?
Our motto is this: When one of us has success, we all have success. We help each other through every step of the writing and editing process. We write, and re-write, and edit, then re-write again. You have to keep at it until you get the story to a point where you are proud of it and not afraid to shove it out in front of the masses. That's one of the things I'm really happy with about our group and our books. Our stories are very clean. We put our books through an extensive editing and proof-reading process.
"A Formula for Murder" had two main editors working with me on improving the story through the writing, re-write and editing process, and then I asked seven competent, literate readers to proof it for me. I went through each set of proofs and made fixes to the story. After it was all done, I went through the story line by line. Then our designer and formatter proofed it the last time.
When my first box of books arrived at my door step, I was so excited I had trouble getting the box open. After I examined the first copy of my very first book, I put it in my lap and cried.
What's next for you?
Right now, I'm out trying to sell the book. I'm doing book signings and making presentations every where I can. That's been a blast for me because I like meeting people even if they don't want the book. I am finding that selling it is getting easier now because word is starting to spread that the book "is a good read." And I just love it when people tell me, honestly, that they "could not put it down," and polished it off in two or three days, which is music to every writer's ears.
Thank you, Dave! Don't forget to check out "A Formula for Murder" on Amazon. You'll be glad you did!