Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Conversation with Thriller Writer Philip Donlay

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Philip Donlay
with Philip Donlay

We are delighted to welcome author Philip Donlay to Omnimystery News today.

Philip's fourth thriller to feature pilot Donovan Nash is Deadly Echoes (Oceanview Publishing; April 2014 hardcover and ebook formats) and we had the chance to catch up with him to talk about the series.

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Omnimystery News: Deadly Echoes is the fourth thriller in a series. What is it about series books that appeals to you as a writer?

Philip Donlay
Photo provided courtesy of
Philip Donlay

Philip Donlay: I love reading a series, so I chose to write one. I believe the challenges are to keep the characters in a constant state of change without straying too far from the original formula. We are all trying to change in some way, shape or form. So should characters.

OMN: Tell us something about the book that isn't mentioned in the publisher's synopsis.

PD: The book takes place in Virginia, California, France, Washington State, British Columbia and Alaska. All places I have been.

OMN: How would you summarize the book in a tweet?

PD: A voice on the phone promises to destroy everything Donovan Nash loves — and then the first act of violence explodes on the internet.

OMN: How do you go about starting a new book?

PD: I do create an outline, or a proof of concept. I'm a little loose with the biographies, as it gives me a little more latitude as the story evolves within the larger framework. Just like in real life, groups swell and contract within any story.

OMN: You and Donovan Nash are both pilots, so you have that in common. But have you included any of your other personal or professional experience into your books?

PD: My characters are usually a compilation of people I know. That said, I am always able to incorporate my own experiences into the story. In terms of Deadly Echoes there are several instances where no research was necessary. In no particular order: A yacht is taken, there is a dangerous confrontation with a bear, and there's a wild 200mph aerial chase that takes place only feet above the ground.

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your stories for which you don't have first-hand experience?

PD: Research is king. Readers are savvy, they can pick up their phone and google something they're not quite sure about. If it pops up as real and accurate, then you're won a new fan. If it doesn't hold up, you've lost a reader. Finding out facts that people want to keep secret is always the most challenging. I recently researched volcanoes and was amazed by their destructive power, and the fact that they can happen virtually anywhere, anytime, with little or no warning. That's exciting!

OMN: How true are you to the settings of your books?

PD: Accuracy is everything. Readers are thrilled when they recognize a local setting and even more thrilled when it's accurately woven into the story. In thriller writing, you can sell them on the big story if you're spot on with all the other details.

OMN: If you could travel anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, to research a setting for a book, where would it be?

PD: As a former professional pilot, I've been to most of the places I've written about, or am planning to write about. I'm an avid fisherman, so as long as you're buying, I'd love to go trout fishing in New Zealand. I'd figure out a book once I got there, or at least within a month or so.

OMN: What are some of your outside interests? And have any of these found their way into your books?

PD: Fly fishing, aviation, travel. And yes, you'll find them all in there somewhere.

OMN: What is the best advice — and harshest criticism — you've received as an author?

PD: The best advice I ever got was from the late Vince Flynn. He told me to ignore the critics and keep pushing forward. The harshest criticism came early on from what I now know to be extremely unprofessional literary agents. My best advice is write what you're passionate about, the rest will follow.

OMN: Complete this sentence for us: "I am a thriller writer and thus I am also …".

PD: … really fun to be around, yet probably a little crazy.

OMN: Tell us how Deadly Echoes came to be titled? And how involved were you with the cover design?

PD: Book titles are important, in fact, I won't write the opening line until I have a working title picked out and firmly in place within the header on the page. Deadly Echoes refers to past words or actions in our life that can return, almost as an echo, yet do great damage. Covers are difficult, they must do a great many things. My publisher, Oceanview has been more than gracious in allowing my input, then it gets discussed by all concerned and a proof is created. It's a process, but in the end they do good work.

OMN: What kind of feedback have you received from readers?

PD: I love any kind of questions from readers, it almost always leads somewhere interesting. I think the comments I enjoy the most are when readers tell me that they not only loved the book, but that they learned something as well.

OMN: Thrillers often make for terrific film adaptations. Has there been any interest in your books?

PD: My novel Code Black was optioned for film, and I was asked to write the screenplay. Unlike novels, time constraints are everything in screenplays. Each page is a minute of screen time. 120 pages, equals two hours. By the time I'd trimmed for time, it was very obvious what stayed and what went. The rest was figuring out the very best dialogue from the book, to insert into the screenplay.

OMN: Have any specific authors or books influenced how and what you write today?

PD: Thrillers involving aviation, Fate is the Hunter, High and the Mighty, Band of Brothers, Devil Take All. They all shaped me as a young man — and as a novelist.

OMN: What do you read now for pleasure?

PD: I like cop stories, mysteries, and biographies.

OMN: Who are some of your favorite series characters?

PD: Harry Bosch, Elvis Cole, Joe Pike, Lucas Davenport, Mitch Rapp, Cork O'Conner.

OMN: Create a Top 5 list on any subject.

PD: Top Five authors you should read: Vince Flynn, John Sandford, Michael Connelly, William Kent Krueger, and Robert Ludlum.

OMN: What's next for you?

PD: The next Donovan Nash thriller is scratching to get out and come to life on the page — I always get excited when that happens.

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Philip Donlay's life was shaped by two distinct events. At the age of seventeen, he earned his pilot's license, and at eighteen was published in a national aviation magazine. The combination of these two passions: flying and writing, has led to successful careers as both a professional pilot and a novelist.

Donlay was a flight instructor prior to becoming copilot of a private jet based in Jeddah, flying for a Saudi Prince. After months of flying over wind-swept deserts, he returned to the States and took a job flying a corporate jet for a Fortune 500 company, a position he held for twenty-eight years.

Today, he is licensed to fly six different jets and holds the civilian title of Senior Captain. His travels have taken him to over forty countries on five continents. Currently, Donlay divides his time between Minneapolis and the San Juan Islands.

For more information about the author, please visit his website at or find his on Facebook.

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Deadly Echoes by Philip Donlay

Deadly Echoes
Philip Donlay
A Donovan Nash Thriller

Donovan Nash is a man under siege, and this time it's personal.

Eco-Watch, the premier scientific research organization he founded, is being blamed for a series of violent eco-atrocities that ignite protests around the world. Behind the attacks is Garrick Pearce, a man from Donovan's past, who is bent on a ruthless vendetta. Garrick has promised that after he annihilates Eco-Watch, he'll murder everyone close to Nash.

Recoiling from the damage, Donovan enlists the help of Erica, a woman who claims she has information Donovan needs, but her knowledge makes her a marked woman. Running from trained killers, the FBI and even his own organization, Donovan races from southern California to British Columbia, then finally to Alaska where he joins Eco-Watch personnel and desperately tries to stop what promises to be the worst eco-atrocity in history.

With his world in tatters and everything he built seemingly destroyed, Donovan is forced to make one last desperate gamble to stop Garrick and silence the man forever — a roll of the dice that may very well cost Nash his life. Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)  iTunes iBook Format  Kobo eBook Format

1 comment:

  1. Hi Philip!

    Great interview, really enjoyed getting to know more about you. And I especially loved the bit about not having to do research when facing a killer bear or engaging in an aerial chase.

    Looking forward to seeing you in NYC at 2014 ThrillerFest this July!



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