Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your debut novel, Dexter & Sinister: Detecting Agents! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Keith Dickinson: Dexter & Sinister is a steampunk murder mystery, starring Dexter, a sarcastic mechanical cat, and John Sinister, a smart young man who really should have got his life together by now. John is hired to look into some shady goings on at the airship factory, but his investigation has barely begun before people start dying. Pretty soon he's on the wrong side of some very dodgy people, and that's when he meets Dexter. That's when things get complicated.
I wanted to write a steampunk story, because I love the aesthetics of it all. The modern inventions done in an antiquated style, mixed with Victorian dress and old-fashioned sensibilities. So, whilst my former agent was busy touting another book around town, I decided to give it a go. As for the story, it just came about on its own. I read the words dexter and sinister in a book one day, thought they sounded like a pair of private detectives, and that was it, away I went.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in bringing this story to life, and what have been some of your creative influences?
KD: I’m a great believer in Seat of the Pants writing: Seat of the pants in the seat of the chair. You just have to sit down and do it. For Dexter & Sinister, I wrote the plot out long-hand and in detail, something which I'd never done before. Sometimes, I wrote scenes and dialogue, when they were there to be had, and sometimes I just wrote general ideas. I filled two notebooks that way. It was very valuable in that that was essentially my first draft. It allowed me to explore ideas and find out what worked and what didn't, without having to worry about whether I was using the “right words”.
As for influences, there are two writers who have been the most influential on me; Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald Westlake) and Terry Pratchett. When I started, I used to get all twisted up about the rules of writing, putting in things I thought you had to have. It was only when I read Richard Stark's Parker novels, and saw his pared-down style of writing, that I thought, "This is it. This is how I write." Then, I read Terry Pratchett and realized, "This is how I want to write." Without those two writers, I wouldn't be where I am today.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Dexter & Sinister’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
KD: I have tried to include a diverse cast of characters in Dexter & Sinister, with a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences, and opinions, and it is my hope that readers will see some aspect of themselves in at least one, if not quite a few of them. Representation matters, and being able to see yourself in the stories that are told is a very powerful thing indeed.
Although it is written as a fun, entertaining read, I have not shied away from the things that affect people's day-to-day lives. Whatever people are dealing with - be it dyslexia, their supposed place in society, or loving those whom other people believe you shouldn't - to be able to see someone else dealing with the same things you are, even if it's just within the context of a story, can make a real difference.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the novel into subsequent books or even into other entertainment mediums, if given the opportunity?
KD: I already have another five books planned in the Hammersmyth series and would be very interested in adapting the setting for other genres, as well. I saw recently a trailer for Enola Holmes, which is coming to Netflix soon, and I thought that - but for the fantastical machinery - it was exactly how I imagine a proper steampunk story could be. Lots of fun, lots of energy, and loads of interesting characters and visuals. As far as I'm concerned, the possibilities for steampunk are endless.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
KD: Mostly, I am concentrating on the sequel to Dexter & Sinister called The Dragonfly Delivery Company. It is a tale of airship couriers versus sky pirates, of love and friendship and trust and betrayal, and it's got a Welsh chef called Mento Jones who does battle in a leather butcher's apron and very little else. It's gonna be a blast.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Dexter & Sinister?
KD: You can learn more about Dexter & Sinister on my website, www.keithwdickinson.com, where you can also read the short story, "Dexter vs. Mr. Nibbles."
You can also find out more info about me there, as well as follow me on Twitter and Instagram, where I post about all sorts of things, most of which is to do with writing, and only some of which is to do with tea and cake.
And if you like the sound of Dexter & Sinister, it can be purchased from Amazon as either an eBook or paperback, as well as other online retailers such as Apple, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.