Dennis Koller Interview

Born and raised in San Francisco, Mr. Koller spent many years as a senior level marketing administrator in the California college and university system. In 2009, he left university life to become the Executive Director of the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, a WWII Liberty Ship berthed at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. It was while serving in that post that Mr. Koller became involved with veterans of America’s wars, from WWII through Iraq and Afghanistan.

What inspired you to write?
I had a story I wanted to tell. I thought it would be a one-off. But when I finished that first novel, The Oath, I already had another story I wanted to tell. I'm now writing the -fourth- story I want to tell.

Did the inspiration to write come to you suddenly, or had you been thinking about it some time?
For The Oath, I had been thinking about it for twenty years. I then spent four tentative years writing it while working full-time - and was only half finished. Finally, I said "enough." I quit my job and went home to finish the story. In seven months I had it finished.

How did you tell your story? In other words, did you use an outline, or just write your story from start to finish?
I had the key points already outlined, i.e. what the story wanted to say. But the details just came to me as I wrote. Even the "surprise" ending was a surprise to me.

Did you receive any encouragement from family and friends, or did you work on your book alone?
I was fortunate to have a very supporting cast around me, especially my family. I think my family was even more relieved when the book was finally finished than I was.

What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
Being honest and fair about portraying the true feelings of both the protagonist and antagonist.

What was the most enjoyable aspect of writing your book?
The Oath is a story about Vietnam and the social chaos that enveloped the country. Sorting out my own confused ideas about that time in history was most enjoyable. Very cathartic.

Did you experience any personal transformation after the book was published?
Nothing explosive. It was just thrilling to get the damn thing finally finished, but that was accompanied by a burning desire to write another one.

What’s something that gets in the way of your creativity?
Life.

What strategies do you use to deal with criticism?
Criticism that's fair, I relish. Makes me a better writer. Criticism that isn't fair just makes me want to work harder to show how wrong the critic(s) is/are.

Are you currently working on another book and what is it about?
I am writing a new Tom McGuire mystery novel (untitled as of yet) about a four year old cold case murder of a young woman who unwittingly snaps a picture in downtown San Francisco that captures four people together who, for political reasons, can't afford to have it made public. I've got approximately 16% of first draft finished. Hope to have the novel finished by the end of September.

Your book 'The Oath' won the 2017 Independent Press Award for Military Fiction. 'The Custer Conspiracy' was named a Distinguished Favorite in the Thriller category in the same 2017 Independent Press Award competition. Who nominated you for these awards?
We were contacted by Gabby, the organizer of the Independent Press Award group, saying that a friend of hers had seen our Facebook post about being part of a book signing in Deadwood, SD. and would we like to be considered for the contest? My no-brainer answer was "yes, and how many books can I enter?"

The competition is judged by experts from all aspect of the book industry, including publishers, writers, editors, book cover designers and professional copywriters. They select winners based on overall excellence. How does it feel to receive these accolades for your books?
Imagine being awakened by a soft, early morning breeze that smells of wildflowers and hope. It feels like that. The moral of this story for all my followers and friends is to never give up. Don't get discouraged. Keep writing. It takes time, but finally people start noticing.

Tell us more about yourself - where did you grow up and what is your favorite/worst childhood memory?
I was born and raised in San Francisco. Mostly only good memories. I use the City, its people and environs as the background for my novels; from my main character, SFPD homicide inspector Tom McGuire, to neighborhoods, cool haunts, etc.

Do you have a favorite quote?
I have a ton of them. Mostly from movies. Hard to pick a favorite, but here are two:
"Dad, you're the one-eyed jack around this place. But don't forget ... I seen the other side of that face." (From Marlon Brando's first directorial movie One-Eyed Jacks. In my mind, the best western ever made.)
And from the second best western ever made - the original Magnificent Seven -
Ely Wallach - "Why? Why did you come back?"
Steve McQueen - "Knew a man once who took off all his clothes and jumped in a barrel of cactus. I asked him the same question - "why"? He said, "seemed like a good idea at the time."

What is your favorite show on TV?
House of Cards
Blacklist
Six.

Favorite movie?
One-Eyed Jacks - from the most realistic dialogue in a western - ever; to the most amazing Hollywood backstory - ever.

Favorite book?
I've read so many books in my life - both fiction and non-fiction and in every genre, it would be impossible for me to pick a favorite.

Is there a talent you wish you had?
I wish I had learned music theory as a child.

Describe yourself in 3 words!
Inquisitive - Romantic - Balanced