Interview with Debbie Dyke, Author of the Bloody Mary Club

Debbie Dyke is a novelist and businesswoman from Alexandria, Virginia, and has a background in military intelligence, the stock market, executive recruiting and writing. An Army brat, she's lived in Turkey, France, Germany, Italy, Albania and Holland. She graduated from the American High School in Naples, Italy then attending University of Maryland, Munich Campus. She graduated from Georgetown University and holds a Bachelors of Science and Masters degree in National Security. Debbie has two grown children, Lisa and Jordan and has been married to Michael for over thirty wonderful years. Debbie has written 5 screenplays, one Wall Street calendar and two novels.

What is your favorite quality about yourself?

Happiness! I'm generally a happy person! I look at the bright side of life and always keep a good sense of humor about me. I expect a good outcome and believe that being positive has opened a lot of doors for me. I believe that anything is possible. My circumstances do not create me, I create my circumstances.


What is your least favorite quality about yourself?

Sometimes I can be an impatient person; I don't like to wait for things to happen. I am always moving in fast pace and tend to get irritated by those who go at a snail's pace. I like to move forward, get things done at my speed.


What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?

Not sure where this quote came from, but I love it: Even the longest journey begins with a single step. If you think about writing a novel, it's a daunting challenge. However, if you start with small steps: making an outline, identifying characters, listing character traits, creating plot points, the task becomes more manageable. You have to create a road map so you know where you are going with your story. You may not follow it, but then if you lose your way, you can always go back to the plan. This is true for writing a novel as well as how I approach life. Whenever my kids are faced with a huge task, I chime in: 'How do you eat an elephant?" and they know to say, "One bite at a time."

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?

My list is very long - my family, successful business, comfortable home, the good life that I've created. My most proud accomplishment in writing is my evolution from scriptwriting to writing a novel. The Bloody Mary Club went through 18 rewrites, then, finally, seeing the finished product was a very proud moment for me. It was a very long journey and one that I am happy to say I've accomplished. No regrets and no doubts. Pure joy.

How has your upbringing influenced your writing?

First and foremost, I'm a military brat, I grew up overseas and this most definitely influenced my writing. In fact, my lead characters in the investment club are all military brats. Some are based on friends that met overseas while attending the University of Maryland Munich Campus. I draw upon this overseas experience to create many of my memorable characters and scenes in The Bloody Mary Club.

Military brats are used to picking up and moving and adapt to new cultures very quickly. We have had the opportunities to see a lot of different places and experience cultures from all around the world. In most instances, we have lived in numerous states and countries, and have made new friends everywhere. The downfall to being a military brat is that it is often difficult to keep moving time and time again. The overall joys, lifestyles, and experiences that are associated with being a military brat can often be shared with others that have gone through the same experiences. I met my husband at Munich Campus (now married 32 years) and we both share the background. The military provided us a learning experience that lasts a lifetime. Living overseas has influenced me greatly. I graduated from High School in Naples Italy, went to college for two years in Munich, Germany. I've lived in Germany, Turkey, Albania, Italy, Holland, and France. My husband and I love traveling and living abroad. I'm as comfortable overseas as I am here in Alexandria, Alexandria.

Military brats are known for being outgoing, very adaptable and vagabonds of the world. This mobile upbringing allowed me to become a very well rounded, multi-cultural global citizen with a love of travel and adventure. It explains why I like to try new things and embrace change. It's made me resilient while at the same time open to new ideas. I can go into many new situations, learn the ins-and-outs, and then quickly assimilate. On the downside, I'm always trying to overcome the 'itch' to move and change things around. I'm a true rolling stone.

When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing scripts for fun, then it turned into work when they started getting attention. I wrote five screen plays, treatments, and articles for magazines. Two of my screen plays were option by HBO and A list actress. I collaborated with award winning director Uli Edel ( Baader Meinhof Complex, Tyson, Purgatory, Little Vampires) on a action movie called Closing In. As an owner of Script Magazine, I was able to attend Scriptwriting and Film Festivals all across the United States. It was a lot of fun to meet and speak with top screenwriters, directors, producers and attend lots of pitch festivals. I learned that screenwriters aren't treated very nicely in Hollywood, that you are only as good as the last thing you wrote. Most importantly, screenwriting is a collaborative venture. Once you've sold your script, it's out of your hands. It will go through multiple revisions. It's rewritten for the producer, then for the director, then rewritten for each actor (depending on A or B list) when they comes onboard it. For example, four women in an all investment club in Alexandria, VA could turn out to be about a divorcing couple fighting over Skippy the dog in Las Vegas.

The best advice I received from an agent was that, if you wanted to be respected in Hollywood and control your work, you have to be novelist. Novelists are held in very high regard. Screenwriters are at the bottom of the barrel of the Hollywood pecking order and many aren't even invited to their own opening night.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I fell into writing by accident; my first paying job was with the Navy Newspaper, The Panorama, in Naples, Italy. It was a summer job when I was a rising 9th grader. The Navy assigned jobs on the first day of the summer break -- first come first serve. My job was to work at the AFSOUTH NATO beach --- in the kitchen of the snack bar. Not exactly what I had in mind, but I thought that I would give it a try. There was a tiny window that looked out onto the beautiful Mediterranean beach and I wished I was anywhere but in the greasy beach snack shack. Before long, the cook asked me to go into the food locker and get him some frozen hamburgers. The minute I stepped foot into the meat locker --- that was it. Done!

I took my apron off for good. I caught the beach bus back to the Navy base where I had to report to the Navy Chief in charge of the summer program. He wasn't happy with me but then said he had saved the best job for last. Navy Public Affairs! He told me to give it a try, but, it might be a little demanding for a little lady like me. It was a perfect match. I loved it and continued to work there for the next three years. I was assigned a Leica Camera and went out on assignments just like any of the other Navy Photo Journalists. I shot my own photos and wrote articles for the Navy Newspaper. I went out on the Navy Carriers with the PAO chief when the fleet came to port, covered a major cholera outbreak, sporting events, Admiral visits, rock concert in Rome, -- all sorts of interesting events. Oh, and I was paid $ 1.60 an hour.

I've been writing ever in one form or another. I became a script writer and now novelist. I finished The Bloody Mary Club in 2007, my 18 th rewrite when I wrote it back to my original vision. I shelved it when I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer (I'm good to go now). I spent time on my personal life. My children and my wonderful husband needed me and I had lost interest in writing. It took five years. Here I am today…The Bloody Mary Club is published and I did it 'my way.' I'm happy with the cover and its snazzy title. I'm also thrilled with the great response that I've received. I never regretted my choice to put it on the back burner and focus on my family. Now I'm moving full force with my writing life and loving it.

When did you first know you could be a writer?


I knew I could be a writer when I saw my first by-line in the Panorama Navy Newspaper when I was 16 years old. I was hooked.

What inspires you to write and why?

I am very passionate about the stock market and investments. I'm fascinated by the recent Ponzi schemes that have been reported in the front page news. I've watched the bank meltdowns with great interest. As a former stockbroker, I've met a few embezzlers and worked with several bad brokers who've run away with client's money. It always amazes me that even the rich and mighty get taken in by complicated financial schemes and are so trusting of their financial advisors. Once you've hooked a big fish, the rest will come. The rich refer their rich friends and it just grows from there. I think the time is right for smart, funny, readable financial fiction. Let's pump up the interest in Financial Thrillers!


What genre are you most comfortable writing?

I am most comfortable writing Fiction and specifically financial thrillers. This field is ripe with stories that need to be told: financial intrigue, bank take over's, nasty embezzlers, investment shams, bad stockbrokers, international money launders, identify theft, corporate espionage, stock swindles, just to name a few. Wrap these themes around engaging characters, put them in interesting settings and let the writing begin!


What inspired you to write your first book?

I wrote several screenplays that were optioned. The Bloody Mary Club novel is based on my script optioned by a Hollywood Production company for an Emmy-winning actress. Of course, being an asset type of gal, I took the money and bought a mink coat! It was the only sensible thing to do with crazy Hollywood money. The Bloody Mary Club came inches from becoming a TV series. After seeing the waist high stacks of scripts in the producer's office that were 'in development'-- I took charge and turned my script into a novel. Two years later and after 17 rewrites, and agonizing advice from my two literary agents to 'make it more 'Sex in the city', make it more 'Desperate Housewives,' with a hint of 'scarier', I stopped listening to them and rewrote version 18 back to my original vision.


Who or what influenced your writing once you began?

My inspiration came to me in many ways. I've always been interested in the stock market and the idea of an all-woman investment club was my hook. I added the Bloody Mary Drink after hearing about its historical tie to Alexandria. It was a convergence of ideas and I knew I had to write this story. My first medium was in script format but it felt limited with just dialog and scene settings. It was like an abbreviated version of the story in my head. When I wrote the novel the characters came to life and the story became richer and more nuanced. I knew it was meant to be a novel.


What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?

The most challenging aspect is keeping the story moving along. There needs to be urgency in the story, you need an action line that keeps the reader turning pages. I think the ultimate compliment from a reader is that it's a page turner! I learned this 'urgency' technique writing scripts -- always leave a scene at the earliest and start the next scene at the latest. It creates interest and energy in the story.


Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?

I learned a number of things. Patience. Perseverance. Believe in yourself. Never give up. Write what is in your heart. Find your own voice. Don't follow trends. Life is unfair. Don't give in. There is more than one way to achieve your dreams.


Do you intend to make writing a career?

Most definitely. Right now I'm working on getting a vodka sponsorship and endorsement! As you can tell, Vodka plays a key role in my novel and I'd sure like to have a vodka partner along with me on this journey. Seriously, I'm working on my second novel, Gina's Tonic, which is the next in the financial series. I'm half way through the first draft. I am happy to report, the gin is flowing. I don't have to look too far for characters for this novel. A few years ago while on vacation in Panama with my family we stayed on a remote island and came face to face with a charming American man staying there with his family. Turns out he was a wanted fugitive with a 46 count indictment from Georgia. He was caught and escorted out of the country by the FBI and is still in prison. His financial crimes are unbelievable and I will explore many of his scams in my latest novel.


Have you developed a specific writing style?

Yes, my style is fast paced, lots of action moving the story along. I don't give long winded descriptive or deep reflective passages. I like to set up the scene, give a few key details and then let the dialog and characters take over. I try to write scenes that advance the plot and make the reader hungry for more. I started as a screenwriter and learned to be very succinct in descriptions and dialog, it's what makes you turn the page. I don't get bogged down in morality, life observations, but use themes and phrases that move the story along. I put movement and dialog on every page and try for bigger action every three or four chapters. I want to shake up the story and vary the tension/speed of the scenes to keep the reader guessing. I am telling a story that I hope will interest the reader to not want to put down the book and to find out more. I send my lead character on a quest and put her investment girlfriends on the run.


What is your greatest strength as a writer?

Creativity. Coming up with ideas. Story telling. Never being stuck for a character, setting or scene. I'm also a very fast typist and can get things out of my head onto the keyboard without much of a struggle. As a military brat, I draw on all my life experiences to bring out unique characters and situations. Having worked in military intelligence and the stock market, I have plenty of unusual situations to draw upon. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss my journey with you. I hope you enjoy reading The Bloody Mary Club and come away with an appreciation of all things financial! You can keep up with me by visiting my website: www.DebbieDyke.com, or dropping in on my blog: http://debbiedykebooks.blogspot.com/ and friend me on Facebook at: DebbieDykeBooks.