I would like to introduce you to Award-Winning & Bestselling Thriller Author Kevin Tumlinson, who has agreed to be interviewed here on my blog.
Welcome Kevin, let’s start with you telling us a little about yourself
Now that’s a loaded question! You should never ask a writer to start talking about himself. Especially one who was born and raised in a small, South-Texas town. We, as a breed, are not known to be brief!
But the short version is that I am a bestselling and award-winning author, with around fifty books currently available. These days, I mostly write thrillers, but I started my writing career with science fiction and fantasy. And I have every intention of writing more in those genres, at some point, plus a few other genres besides.
My current, most popular series, the Dan Kotler Archaeological Thrillers, has been my main source of income as an author since 2016, and it has been an absolute pleasure to write. I’ll continue producing books in that series until it’s either no longer wanted by readers or is no longer any fun for me. I don’t see either of those conditions happening anytime soon.
How did you get into writing?
I have always loved telling stories, in one form or another. When I was very young, I loved playing with action figures (Star Wars, GI Joe, and a bunch of other brands), and I invariably created stories for the figures to engage in. Later, my parents gave me a tape recorder and a bunch of blank cassettes for Christmas, and I spent hours and hours narrating stories to tape. It was, hands down, the most fun Christmas gift I ever got, and the most used.
I started actually writing stories when I was very young, almost from the time I learned how to read and write. When I was five years old, I wrote my first “book,” which was a story spanning five pages of Big Chief notebook paper, written with one of those fat pencils kids are given to practice writing. I actually made a hand-drawn cover for this book, complete with a masking tape binding. My first steps into the self-publishing world.
From there, I started writing professionally at the age of twelve. I wrote for the local papers, covering “teen beat” stories like football games, dances, and other activities. I made a whopping $10 per article, but it was real money for my writing. It had me thinking of writing as paid work, right from the beginning. A lesson I’ve benefited from ever since.
After high school I continued to write for newspapers and magazines, when I could get the assignments. But I ended up taking on copywriting jobs, penning advertising and marketing copy for agencies and clients. Somewhere in there I also worked in film and television, and wrote scripts, website copy, articles, and more. But for a good twenty years I worked almost exclusively as a copywriter, which can (if you do it right) be a very good living.
In 2008, however, I sat with my brother-in-law and a good friend of mine, and the three of us thought up a story that we wanted to see turned into a web series. This was before YouTube and Hulu and Netflix were streaming television shows online. We were trying to do something cutting edge! But I was having trouble getting my head around some of the things we were discussing. So I decided to write a book based on our treatment for the show, and see if that might help get the show made.
It didn’t. But what it did do was put me on a path to start writing and publishing my work. And over the next ten years, on the side, I wrote and published a handful of books. They never sold particularly well, but neither did they do a terrible job. They were enough to give me a taste of the writing life, at least.
Then in 2015, a friend of mine (fellow thriller author, Nick Thacker) dared me, live on a podcast, to write a thriller. I took him up on it, and Dan Kotler was born. I’ve been writing and loving the character ever since.
I have always written stories. Over the decades I started and stopped writing novels thousands of times. But finishing that one novel, publishing it, seeing money come in for it … that launched me into this career. It showed me I could do it. I had always been a writer, but now I was an author. It changed my life, and I’ve never looked back.
Please tell me about your Dan Kotler Archaeological Thrillers
So my Dan Kotler Archaeological Thrillers have been my journeyman work for the past five years, after a lifetime of being an apprentice under the virtual wings of such greats as Orson Scott Card, David Eddings, Dan Brown, and Stieg Larson. Plus hundred more authors I can never thank enough. They never knew I was their apprentice, but they were all very free with their guidance and advice, and I learned eagerly from them, page by page.
The Kotler books are archaeological thrillers, featuring Dr. Dan Kotler—anthropologist and polymathic adventurer. Kotler somehow finds himself working as a consultant with the FBI, and is partnered with Agent Roland Denzel. The two are an odd couple, but completely loyal to each other. And they travel the world as part of a special unit, called Historic Crimes, dealing with world-level threats that evolve out of some outcropping of history.
Kotler is a puzzle solver by nature, making him an excellent resource for the FBI and other government agencies, when it comes to the “weird and out of place history” that Historic Crimes has to deal with.
At the moment of this writing, I have ten full-length novels, one novella, and two short stories in this universe, plus a current work in progress for Book 11. If you had asked me, thirty years ago (or even six years ago) if I thought I’d ever write such a long-running series, particularly in the thriller genre, I’d have adamantly told you I was a sci-fi writer for life. But this character, these stories, this little universe in which I spend my time, all of it has become my life’s work. I love it. Every word is a joy to see on the page.
Do you base your characters on people you know or strangers you see in the streets?
I will confess that Dan Kotler, as brilliant and talented as he appears, is certainly an idealized version of myself.
Granted, I’m not a multi-millionaire, jet-setting adventurer with multiple PhDs and a gig consulting with the FBI. But I do travel the world frequently, I do conduct a stunning amount of research into history and human cultures, I do speak frequently at large events in front of thousands of people, I do write and publish books in my field, and I do have multiple degrees, though I top out at a Masters. So there’s a bit of that in the character which overlaps with my own life.
Primarily, though, Kotler is much smarter than me, and much more disciplined. We share a sense of humor, but Kotler is far quicker on the draw than I am, when it comes to laying down the history or science of a thing. I have to Google stuff.
Other characters in my fiction are based more on other fictional characters than on real world people. I love people, and I study them from multiple vantage points—I’m a student of psychology and anthropology, even if I’m essentially an amateur. But I’m not sure if you’ve noticed—real people, living their real lives, are kind of boring. So I tend to build characters with traits similar to other characters I’ve admired, for fiction written or produced by other people
I’m not going to name names here. I’m not making literary clones or anything. But I take a trait from this character and a trait from that one, and build an amalgam that has all the qualities I need for my story. It’s fun. And it’s a lot more interesting than trying to fictionalize a co-worker or the barista you see every day.
Last but not least, Where does your writing career go from here?
I have some interesting experiments planned, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they pan out. For a start, I’ve decided to break out “Historic Crimes,” the fictional government agency from my novels, into its own brand. I’m planning to keep Dan Kotler under that brand, but what I’m really excited about is the chance to write new books, with new characters, and tie them into he same universe.
I haven’t told this to my readers yet, so this is more or less the first public announcement. And I’m not sure how long it will take to rebrand the books and start doing this. But I’m excited, and ready for it. I’ve written Dan Kotler and Agent Roland Denzel for so long now, I feel like they’re real people I get to hang out and have adventures with. But their stories are only one of the types of stories I want to tell. I’m very much looking forward to expanding the universe, with more books and more characters.
Beyond that, the plan for my writing career is pretty simple: Write more books, find more readers, and write even more books.
I love what I do, and I love who I’m doing it for. It’s service, to me. I’m serving readers, by putting in the time to do this, and do it right. I’ve had to learn a few tough lessons, over the years, but I genuinely believe I’m in a place, now, where I’m honoring the promise that all writers implicitly make to all readers: You can trust me. I will take you on an adventure, and I will give you my very best.
Thank you so much for taking time to talk to me about you and your books.