Interview With Author Dale E. Lehman

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

Hello, everyone! I’m Dale E. Lehman. I write mystery, science fiction, humor, and whatever else taps me on the shoulder and begs to be written. I’m also a veteran software developer, amateur astronomer, and bonsai artist-in-training. I’ve been writing practically my whole life, and for a span of nine years my wife and I ran a small publishing house that produced books related to the Baha’i Faith, which is my religion. I also run a small creative writing workshop through my local library. You can find me online and subscribe to my newsletter at https://www.daleelehman.com.

# What inspires/inspired your creativity?

In a word, the world. The raw materials for stories surround us. The trick is taking time to notice them and giving your unconscious mind space to play with them. The muse doesn’t like to work; she likes to play. One way I do this is with Writing prompts. A lot of my short stories began with them. But really, the whole world is a writing prompt.

# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

The worst thing you can do is bore your readers. There’s no better way to get someone to close a book. The best way to bore readers is by telling instead of showing. Telling comes in several forms, the worst offenders being over-explaining and using dialogue to convey information to the reader. You don’t need to explain half as much as you might think. Rather, paint a picture with your words, immerse the reader in this world you’ve spun so they can see, hear, smell, taste and touch it.

# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

For covers, get a professional cover artist. To save money, my wife and I designed a number of covers ourselves. Later, we turned to professional artists, and what a difference that makes! Seriously. If you are an artist, great, but if not, don’t skimp on it. Book covers are marketing tools and from a sales perspective the most important part of your book (unless you happen to be someone like Stephen King, in which case your name is the most important part). You can get professional covers for just a few hundred dollars or even less in some cases.

For titles, the most important thing is to be catchy without sounding stupid. Myself, I prefer short, snappy titles, but some authors have done very well with longish titles, such as Douglas Adams’ “The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul” or Ray Bradbury’s “Have I Got a Chocolate Bar for You!” They catch your eye. I hope my titles do, too. As of this writing, my published novels are: “The Fibonacci Murders,” “True Death,” “Ice on the Bay,” “Space Operatic,” and “Weasel Words.”

# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

Nobody likes to get bad reviews, but a few are inevitable, and negative feedback can be valuable. Besides, personal opinions differ. No story will be universally liked. It’s important to consider averages in addition to individual feedback. If ten people love a story and two hate it, it’s probably a pretty good story. If ten people hate it and two love it, then maybe you have a problem. Still, don’t discount the minority opinion. It may teach you something. A criticism leveled by one person at “True Death” was that the number of scene changes and flashbacks made it confusing. I asked around and found that nobody but that one person had an issue with it. So I didn’t worry too much, but in the works that followed, I made some changes to my approach to avoid confusing those readers who might have trouble with such devices.

# How has your creation process improved over time?

I’ve become a much better editor. Writing and editing are not the same skills, although there is overlap. The most important editing lesson is that nothing is set in stone. I used to hate making significant changes to my stories. Now if a scene isn’t working, I’ll readily–well, almost readily–delete the whole thing and start over. First draft material tends toward rotten. That isn’t true for all authors, nor for every sentence a given author writes, but Ray Bradbury put it best, and he should know: “Throw up in the typewriter every morning. Clean it up every noon.”

# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

Yes. 😉 My goal is a story I like. I assume that if I like it, there must be others out there who will like it, too. That said, I’m writing for my readers, not only for myself. But the only way I know to make a good story is to make one that entertains me. And surely if it works for me, it must work for others. I’m not that unique.

# What role do emotions play in creativity?

I’ve been accused of being Vulcan, which isn’t exactly true, but given I’m a software developer you might guess I have a fairly good handle on logic. So probably I don’t get as emotionally into stories as most writers. Still, readers want emotional engagement with characters and stories, so I try to give them characters they can both love and hate, characters they can laugh at or with, characters they can feel sorry for. I’m still learning how to do this, but I think I did a pretty good job in my latest novel, “Weasel Words.”

# Do you have any creativity tricks?

Nah. Just, as I said above, invite the muse out to play. And maybe look for the unusual in the everyday. A lot of creativity seems to involve turning fairly ordinary things upside down or inside out.

# What are your plans for future books?

I’m about to release my first short story collection, “The Realm of Tiny Giants,” which will be released August 16, 2021. I’m nearing completion of the first draft of my fourth Howard County Mystery, but I still can’t think of a title for it. I also have a post-apocalyptic SF novel in the works about, strangely enough, a pandemic. It has nothing to do with the past year, though. It began life as a short story back in the late 1990’s, and for over a decade I’ve wanted to expand it into a novel. I just happened to start work on it a couple of months before COVID hit. I also plan to write more Bernard and Melody stories (sequels to “Weasel Words”). So I have a lot to do.

# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

I’m married to my editor, if that counts as quirky. We just celebrated our 44th anniversary, which is not entirely normal these days. I’m a (very unskilled) bonsai artist, an amateur astronomer, and in high school was a halfway decent trombonist. I still have the instrument but very rarely play anymore.