“Makes a living by travelling, talking a lot and sometimes writing stuff down. Galericulate author, polymath and occasional smarty-pants.” John Dolan hails from a small town in the North-East of England. Before turning to writing, his career encompassed law and finance. He has run businesses in Europe, South and Central America, Africa and Asia. He and his wife Fiona currently divide their time between Thailand and the UK.

Time to chat with John!

Is your recent book part of a series?  

My latest novel, Restless Earth (which was published last week), is the first in a trilogy of books entitled Karma’s Children, and it features my anti-hero private detective David Braddock. Braddock is the lead protagonist in a series of four mystery books published between 2012 and 2016, collectively called Time, Blood and Karma. My original intention back in 2011 (when all this authoring madness came upon me) was to write a series of seven books; but I decided for various reasons to split these into two series. Restless Earth has been constructed in such a way that readers who have not previously read any of my books can jump straight in without getting lost. For those resilient bookworms who have somehow had the stamina to burrow their way through the previous four novels, Restless Earth picks up where the last series left off.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?  My Karma mystery books were all conceived at the same time: there was always going to be seven of them. One might say there is one long narrative arc spanning all seven books, with each individual book also containing a self-contained story. For me, there were (and still are) three specific challenges. First, I want the concept of karma and some underlying aspects of Eastern philosophy to permeate the writing and plots, and to provide a unifying theme. Second, the reader must be aware of a broader story trajectory while finding enjoyment in the particular plot of any specific book. While there will be loose ends at the end of each individual novel, I did not want to create a cliff-hanger scenario: I personally find this annoying when I encounter it – and it makes me feel cheated. Third, character development must be paced: a collection of seven books is, after all, more of a marathon than a sprint.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?  I describe my Karma books as mystery novels. They do, after all, feature a private detective and multiple crimes to be solved. However, in my view, they hover around a number of genres – sometimes literary fiction, sometimes thriller, and with some philosophy thrown in for good measure. And, without (hopefully) getting too pretentious about it, over the course of the seven books, they are more like a family saga incorporating the story of one man’s life journey. Wait, that is horribly pretentious. Oh, OK, too late now. The funny thing is, when I started writing Everyone Burns – my first book – I didn’t even consider genre, and I certainly wasn’t writing to any kind of formula. Plus, I very rarely read crime or mystery stories, as I tend to prefer non-fiction. So, where all this stuff came from is the real mystery.

What else have you written?  

I am currently editing a collection of my poetry, and trying to decide whether I have the courage to put it out into the public domain. Three years ago, I collaborated with another writer, Fiona Quinn, in co-authoring a completely off-the-wall black comedy/romance/thriller novel titled Chaos is Come Again. The most fascinating aspect of that project – which was fun, by the way, as Fiona is a great sport – was that Fiona and I have never actually met in person. We did the whole thing over the Internet, using Skype when we needed to chew things through. The time difference was a problem, as Fiona is on the US East Coast, and at the time, I was living in Thailand. But we found ways around the difficulties. Someday, we should probably write a book about the experience!

Are you easily distracted while writing? If so, what to you do to help yourself focus?  

Did you see that butterfly? I’m sorry, what did you say? I can be easily distracted. It depends whether I am ‘in the Zone’ or not. I am not one of these people who can sit down at their laptop and write for hours. My creativity soon dries up, and my monkey mind starts jumping off in different directions. Recognising this, I do my writing in bursts of about two hours, usually sitting at a corner table in a coffee shop. If I try to write at home, I find there are too many other things to think about. So, if you enjoy my books, you can thank Starbucks. If you don’t like my books, blame Starbucks (I know I will).

How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?  

The choosing of character names is very important for me for two reasons. One, many of my characters are Thai – and Thai names are notoriously long and complicated; yet I have to find ones that are accessible to a Western readership. Two, I have LOTS of characters in my books, so I’ve learned to make sure their names are sufficiently different (and memorable where necessary) so as not to confuse my audience. In Everyone Burns there were two Thai characters whose family names began with the same first three letters (‘Cha-‘), and in retrospect, I consider that a mistake. As to the second part of the question, no, I’ve never changed a character’s name later.

If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about?  

I have it in mind one day to write a philosophy book. My working title is Bloody Humans. As you might surmise, it’s not going to be a laugh a minute. Not recommended for anyone on suicide watch. Or indeed anyone, probably.

Would you like to write a short poem for us?  

Here’s one from my currently-unpublished poetry collection, so your readers are the first to see it. (I’m not sure whether that’s a reward or a punishment, but hey ho!) It’s an author’s plea, with due apologies to Philip Larkin.

This Be the Book Review

They fuck you up, your readers do;

They keep you always on the edge.

So, when you read that bad review

You feel like jumping off the ledge.  


But they were fucked up in their turn,

(A fact on which we should reflect)

By mums and dads who sought to spurn

And criticise their intellect.  


They’ve had bad days like you and me

Therefore, be gracious, let them live.

Their lives may be such shite, you see,

It’s better if we just forgive.  

I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?  

For a limited time, I have some free/discounted book offers – but you’ll have to act fast for some of them! On 27 and 28 November, my novel A Poison Tree is FREE on Amazon Kindle, and Everyone Burns is discounted to 99 cents. The short story Jim Fosse’s Expense Claim is permanently FREE (if you’d like to dip your toe into my writing). Also, until 31 December, you can enter a FREE giveaway for three paperback copies of my latest novel Restless Earth on Goodreads. Click on my Amazon Author Page link below and go from there for the Kindle offers. For the Goodreads giveaway, you will find a button below.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

For another few weeks, I live in Dubai, where I’ve been based for the last two and a half years. Our next ‘home base’ will be on the Thai island of Samui, where my wife and I built a house a few years back, and where many of my stories are located. For the next year or two, we will be splitting our time between South East Asia and the UK, and doing some travelling to exotic and/or weird parts of the world. After that, who knows? Since we started off on our expatriate odyssey in South Africa in 2004, we’ve become rather nomadic. I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon.

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?  

I really, really wish I could be modest, but frankly, I’m so talented this is impossible. But seriously, there is no skill I hanker after. The secret to a happy life is being content with what you already have. Don’t you agree?

Do you have any guilty pleasures? Yes, but obviously I can’t talk about them. If they were the sorts of things I could mention in public, then I don’t suppose they’d be guilty pleasures. I suppose I can just about mention chocolate, buying too many books, and talking way too much.

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?  

If about five billion of us humans all stopped breathing today that would give the planet’s other species a well-earned respite. That aside, I would advocate (1) being more compassionate toward each other; (2) watching fewer advertisements so we want less useless stuff; and (3) eating less meat. I’m working on all three of these – but so far with mixed success.


Amazon Author Page






Goodreads Book Giveaway

Restless Earth by John Dolan

Restless Earth

by John Dolan

Giveaway ends December 31, 2017. See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway



Canadian born, Fiona Quinn is now rooted in the Old Dominion outside of D.C. with her husband and four children. She unschools, pops chocolates, devours books, and taps continuously on her laptop.

Time to chat with Fiona!

What is your latest book?

I was involved in a project with two local Sisters in Crime chapters. Sisters in Crime (SinC) is a national support organization for female crime writers, though males are welcome, as well.

Our book, Virginia Is for Mysteries is a compilation of 17 shorts stories set in and around the state of Virginia. Each story features a Virginia landmark, from the shores of Cape Henry Lighthouse to Richmond’s Old Hollywood Cemetery to Jefferson’s Monticello, transporting readers across Virginia’s rich, unique and very deadly landscape. I have two stories included, “Key to a Crime” and “Caged Bird.”

We do many public appearances — library talks, presentation, signings – getting together is always fun. We’ve hit the Amazon top 10 with our effort. And now, we are gearing up for our second book.

You have a website called ThrillWriting. Can you tell us about it, and how you help authors?

ThrillWriting celebrated its first birthday by sliding over the 100k page-view mark. (May 2014) That was hugely gratifying.

A year ago, I was looking through my notebook of research for my novels, and I thought that it might be useful to other authors. I hoped to create a resource that was a beginning point for finding the kinds of tricky details that might show up in writers’ works – sort of a one-stop-shop for mystery/suspense/thriller writers. Though, there are things on psychology and body language that could inform any genre.

In my articles, I include links to further information if an author needs to go deeper in depth, as well as videos – some I make, some I pull from YouTube – to support the ideas and make them clear.

My readers have asked me if I’m afraid of the consequences for researching some of the topics that I do, such as date-rape drugs and the NSA. I point out that I always cheer for the heroine and give her as many options for surviving as possible. I like to joke that the strip searches at the airports and the midnight interrogation visits are just another perk of my job.

While I believe the best way to write something correctly is to have experienced it, that’s not practical. So talking with someone who has expertise is a best secondary avenue. I have met fabulous experts willing to share their time and knowledge. Interviewing them and asking carte-blanche questions has really been a great deal of fun.

Writers looking for research information, or maybe just something to spark their muse, will find a bevy of information at ThrillWriting – and it’s supposed to be interactive. I have a group of experts who are willing to answer authors’ questions, and I have written many of my articles in response to writer queries.

What else have you written?

I am working on a series based on a young woman raised as an unschooler. Unschooling is like homeschool on steroids where everything is fair game for use as a learning experience. My heroine, Lexi Sobado, has the great good fortune of having an amazing brain, great physical abilities, and is pretty in a girl-next-door kind of way. But that’s the end of her good luck. The rest of her life is a non-stop nightmare, and Lexi has to put her skills to good use just to stay alive.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

All of my most dramatic scenes showed up unexpectedly. They often went further than I thought I wanted to go with a set of circumstances. After I let the idea marinate for a while, I saw that these scenes were necessary and truthful. I like that very much – stretching into a new mind set.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I love when I have my teeth into a project. I could write from the moment that I open my eyes until my fingers simply cannot type another word at the end of the day. Sometimes the characters’ voices are so clear in my head and the plot is unravelling itself before me, and then ARGH kid interruptions. I adore my kids, but being pulled between my two worlds – my true life and my creative mind space – I find actually physically painful.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I start putting words on a page when I know my story in my head and all of the quirks and details about characters. I write, flipping back and forth along the time line – very seat of the pants-y.

Right now, I am experimenting with working with a writing partner. We have an idea that sets our characters in two separate parts of the world. I write in Virginia, USA and he writes in Thailand. For this kind of writing, we are being extremely methodical about our characters and our plot line. He has even made a spreadsheet, and I only got hives looking at it the first two or three times. It’s a fabulous learning experience and mental challenge. I’m very much enjoying the process.

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

I believe I was born to write. I write/think about writing all day every day whether I am, paid or not. When I was in college, my aspiration was to become a travel writer. I thought that it would be the ultimate job to travel the world at someone else’s expense and to get a paycheck for doing so. I thought doing spa critiques might be my specialty… Ah, but then came young love and marriage and life and four children. I homeschooled/unschooled all of my kids. When my first two left the nest, I thought, At last! Now I can write. I thought I might write about unschooling since I was one of the pioneering families. I started unschooling decades ago, before there were any resources available. But characters kept popping their heads out and getting killed, so I thought I’d better ditch the non-fiction and stick to romantic suspense.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

My husband has a gift for knowing where he is and how to get from Point A to Point B. I do not. I can get lost in a building that I had just walked into. It’s very disconcerting. I would be travelling in a different city from him and call hubby all in a panic, “I’m lost. I can’t get back to the interstate.”

And he’d ask in his calm voice, “What do you see?”

“Well, there’s a funeral home and a doughnut shop.”

“Fine, turn right at the next light, and you’ll see some highway signs.”

And he’d be right, every time. It was uncanny.

Anyway, he was in a contest years ago and won a Garmin – one of the very first ones available. Being a human compass, he had no need for such an instrument and gave it to me as a gift. I LOVE it – it’s one of my all-time favorite things. It makes me feel very free. Thanks to the Garmin, I felt comfortable packing my youngest kids in the car and driving them around the United States for six weeks on an unschooling odyssey. We were never lost, and we had such a great learning opportunity.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Yes! Camel, dogsled, almost anything to get me to the next adventure – though boats might rank up with my least favorite modes of transportation right before skis.

Once, I was in the Alps on a glacier during the summer, thinking for some reason that it was a great time to learn to ski. I went to the top of the black diamond, iced slopes where little kids, that I couldn’t imagine were much past the toddler stage, and the graceful figures of women, in their bright red bikinis and matching ski boots, shot down the mountain side. I wore everything I owned, knowing I might fall a time or two while I got the hang of things.

Turns out, I could not glide gracefully like the Swiss ski bunnies. Instead, I chose to flail wildly. I ended up slipping off the path and rested during my descent by gripping a sign that I translated to mean, “Return to the path. Dangerous crevasses.” Huh. If I only had the skills to comply… I did finally get to the bottom, one lost baton and one chipped elbow later. There, Rescue had the St. Bernard dogs, I kid you not, attached to a sled ready to pull me to the top. That and a cheering crowd of laughing Swiss citizens gleefully snapping my picture. Sigh.

While that was my first ski attempt, sadly, all of my ski stories go downhill from there.

For Mother’s Day this year, my husband is taking me to try zip lining over a zoo. I get to play orangutan. I’m very excited.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

I could live on a simple picnic – wine, bread, cheese, and fruit with chocolate for desert. I’m not a big fan of meat and am a mostly-vegetarian. I can do without heat-spice. I like to eat regionally when I travel – that’s part of the adventure.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

Oh so many. Simple joys are the best kinds. Holding hands with my husband. My kids’ laughter. The perfect temperature outside. My dog jumping to catch his ball. The scent of freshly mown grass especially if there were wild onions in the mix. A graceful orchid.