Daniel Cole’s first book isn’t set for release in the United States until April 4, so it’s understandable that he isn’t a household name—yet. But with the book slated for translation into more than 30 languages and a narrative ready made for the screen (in fact, it was recently picked up by Sid Gentle Films), don’t be surprised if Cole’s name begins popping up in bookstores and households alike. Described by fellow author Greg Hurwitz as “a gruesome delight,” the novel features detective “Wolf” Fawkes, who discovers a corpse stitched together from the body parts of six different victims. Cole manages to inject humor into this macabre premise and the result is, indeed, a delight. Published in the Houston Chronicle, April 9, 2017.
Mike Yawn: You began “Ragdoll” as a screenplay. When did you finish it in that form?
Daniel Cole: Five or six years ago. It was one of many screenplays I submitted, only to have them rejected. But “Ragdoll” is the one I liked the most, and I spent time developing it into a novel.
Q: How did you persist during those years of writing when nothing was accepted?
A: It was tough. If “Ragdoll” had also been rejected as a novel, I’m not sure I would have hung in there. But I loved the characters and premise, and I stuck with it as a novel.
Q: Tell us about the characters and premise.
A: The main character, Detective William “Wolf” Fawkes, gets a call to a crime scene. When Fawkes arrives, he finds a “body,” but it’s a body composed of different parts of six different victims, stitched together to make a whole, which the press nickname the “Ragdoll.” The media then receive a list of six more names, along with the dates on which those victims will die. So the police have two objectives: to solve the murders of the first six victims, and to prevent the targeted victims from being murdered by this twisted but ingenious serial killer.
Q: Why do you think novel was accepted when the screenplay was rejected?
A: I think my writing improved. In looking at my old screenplays, I can see that they got better as I wrote more. At the time, you think you’ve written something really good, and then you look back at it later, and think, “Gosh, that’s a bit cringe-worthy.” But I think I also added some complexity, details, and humor that made the novel better.
Q: How did you get the news that the book was accepted?
A: I got an excited call from my agent. To be honest, for me, it was more relief than anything. After six years of rejection, I started wondering if I was deluding myself.
Q: And I guess the positive reviews have taken you beyond relief into excitement?
A: I’m quite naïve, and I didn’t know how the whole publishing world works. But I stay clear of reviews, if I can. The good ones don’t sink in, they just bounce off of me, and I take the bad ones to heart, so it’s not very healthy for me. But the publishers let me know how it’s going, and it’s been wonderful. I wrote the book for me, filled with dark humor and weird things. I wasn’t really aiming for it to be a commercial hit, so I was just happy it was published, and then to get a really positive response has been amazing.
Q: You worked in emergency management while writing. Did that inform your writing?
A: Yes, some of my medical knowledge came in handy for the gory parts of “Ragdoll.” But I also think the attitude of people who work in the midst of tragedy, their world-weary outlook and sarcastic humor is something that I used to set the tone.
Q: I was surprised by the humor in a book with such a macabre storyline.
A: The humor is important to me. I get bored easily, so I need something every couple of pages that makes me smile. And I think it helps the readers, too, who may not want a book that is just doom-and-gloom. The humor lightens it.
Q: You wrote this while working full-time. When did you write?
A: I stayed up writing all night when I was in the mood. I’d turn up to work the next day a bit of a zombie, but able to function. It’s quite an exhausting way of doing things, and I wouldn’t recommend that other writers emulate my writing schedule, because it’s not healthy or good.
Q: When do you write now that you are a full-time writer?
A: The same. I’ve tried to write from 8 to 5, but I find that just rubbish comes out if I try to force it. So I wait until I am in the mood and then I write obsessively for a few weeks. I’ll start growing a beard and looking a bit homeless and keep going at it.
Q: Are you doing a book tour?
A: My publicist has all sorts of strange stuff planned for me. I’m booked more or less for the next few months with radio shows and public-speaking things that I’m still trying to get my head around. It’s something I’ve tried to avoid in the past, and I didn’t fully realize it was part of being a writer.
Q: As a person who likes to write obsessively for weeks and look homeless, how do you think you’ll do with the kind of city-a-day schedule?
A: I wish I knew. The publisher gave me some media training at last, which was much needed because I tend to just babble when I am nervous (laughs).
Q: What do they tell you in media training?
A: It basically came down to telling me to stop babbling, to think about my answers, really obvious stuff. They filmed me speaking so I would see myself on camera, which is really horrible to start off with (laughs). But it helps, and I’ll be a pro by next year…or that’s what they keep telling me.
Mike Yawn is the Director of the Center for Law, Engagement, and Politics at Sam Houston State University.