Interview with best-selling thriller author, Dan Padavona

Dan Padavona: The Business of Writing (Interview)


Welcome to Thriller author Dan Padavona!


You are going to love this interview with Dan! I’ve been following his career since he first broke onto the indie scene back in 2014, with the publication of his dark Vampire Horror novel: Storberry. Over the course of 3 years he continued to make waves as an Indie Horror author, publishing a succession of well-received Horror novels and novellas.


In 2017/2018, Dan took the plunge and re-emerged as a prolific writer of dark Serial-Killer Thrillers with the introduction of his Scarlett Bell series – followed soon after with the Darkwater Cove, Logan and Scarlett, and Wolf Lake series. 


With the popularity and success of his thriller books, Dan was able to commit full-time to writing as a career in 2021, retiring from his previous career as a Meteorologist.


With over 40 novels and novellas to his name, and no sign of him slowing down any time soon, I talk to Dan about his writing process and how he measures success as an indie author.


Without further ado, here is the man himself: Dan Padavona!


When you made the crossover from writing horror to dark psychological thrillers, how much of the way you write (writing process) did you need to change to launch yourself as a thriller author?


I see my genre choice in terms of a Venn diagram. In one circle, I make a list of genres I love to read and write. The other circles includes genres people read voraciously. The overlap is the sweet spot. For me, these were serial killer thrillers and dark mysteries.


After switching from horror to thriller and mysteries, I implemented story beats into my planning process, rather than writing from the seat of my pants and creating the plot on the fly. My process is to devote a short paragraph to each chapter before I start the first draft.


Story beats keep me writing—I never take a day off because I can’t figure out where to go with the plot. Beats also make it easier for me to track clues and important twists that make up the mystery portions of my thrillers.


When you come up with a story idea, do you think of it from a visual or cinematic perspective before you put your ideas on paper? Have you had any experience with screenplay writing and would you ever consider turning your novels into screen adaptations?


For better or worse, I grew up watching television and movies. I naturally think cinematic perspective.


Though I wrote screenplays during college, I’ve never considered doing so for one of my books. I have feelers out for adapting my books to the screen.


What is your process for writing a long-running episodic series? Do you write an origin story with a future series in mind or is it more of an organic process because of the way you build such a strong setting/world in the first book?


Good question. I suppose it varies from book to book, but I always have a series in mind when I write a story. A series allows me to better flesh out character arcs and develop long-running subplots. It also attracts more readers, as my target demographic prefers series over stand-alones. 


A series is also easier to profitably market because I can use the first book a loss leader. Provided I write a compelling story and keep my readers entertained, people go on to read several books in the series. This pulls my advertising out of the red and into the black.


How important do you think ‘world building’ is in terms of writing a series and how do you approach this aspect of your writing?


It’s less important for thrillers and mysteries than it is for fantasy, obviously. But world building is an important part of my workflow because I enjoy living vicariously through my characters and in their environment.


Take the Finger Lakes, for instance. This is the setting to several of my novels. Because I love to visit this region and will one day retire there, I’m proficient in building fictional settings near the lakes. This gives me a stronger sense of my surroundings and allows my storytelling to flow freely.


Do you intentionally incorporate elements of your own character (and those around you) into the characters of your novels? Detective Thomas Shepherd of your Wolf Lake Thriller series has Asperger’s syndrome, did this aspect of his character come from personal experience or is it merely a narrative device used to increase the depth of character and complexity in the series?


Whether intentional or not, relationships and past experiences shape our fictional counterparts. Some of my friends and family members inspire fictional characters, and key moments in my life, positive and negative, influence plot-lines. We write what we know.


I know several parents of children with autism and Asperger’s. When creating Thomas Shepherd’s character, I wanted added depth, and Asperger’s seemed to fit the traits I imagined him displaying. The Asperger’s angle took on a life of its own. To this day, I receive thank you emails from parents of autistic children for presenting Thomas in such a positive light. I never intended to build awareness of Asperger’s and autism, but I’m happy my books help others.


Considering the previous question, how important do you feel it is it to add realistic character traits and complexity to your characters and what effect does it have on the overall strength of the narrative?


Realistic traits are important because I want my characters to be memorable. I broke an unwritten rule in the Wolf Lake series by adding a few more characters than writers recommend. Give readers too many people to keep track of, and they’ll get confused and lose interest. By infusing my heroes and villains with strong, defined traits, readers are able to remember who they are.


When I wrote Her Last Breath, the first book in the Wolf Lake series, I found Thomas kept performing amazing acts of kindness normally not seen in traditional dark mysteries and thrillers. The acts made sense. Thomas spent his life overcoming Asperger’s and forcing himself to open up and display emotion. He sees the world through sympathetic eyes. Thomas rubs off on the other characters, and the various characters merge to become a family of sorts.


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What kind of marketing did you do to re-establish your author brand as a thriller author, and what do you think is the most successful marketing for self-published authors? Is there any one thing that has helped you sell more books – i.e. could you outline your path to establishing your brand and your most successful sales method/s?


From the beginning, I realized I wouldn’t survive as a thriller author without successful marketing. This is a highly-competitive genre, and I was starting from scratch. Rather than stroke my ego and assume my storytelling would win me readers, I utilized AMS and Facebook advertising to grow my following.


I accepted that I would lose money for a few months (or longer) before sales caught up to ad spend. But I saw those losing months as investments in my future.


My bread-and-butter is advertising the first book in a long series. As I stated earlier, this is my loss leader. The profit comes from people reading the rest of the series. I doubt it’s possible to profitably achieve scale while advertising stand-alone novels in competitive genres like thrillers and mysteries.


How do you go about soliciting reviews for your work, or is it a more organic process for you in that the reviews come on their own accord? Do you have any advice for indie/self-published authors as to the best way to gain reviews?


I utilize beta readers to catch typos my editor missed and to seed my reviews with honest opinions. These first reviews were very important early on, as they established social proof that my books were worth reading. Since then, my readership has grown to the point where I receive far more organic reviews than I dreamed possible. Beta readers still play an important role, but I get all the reviews I require from readers.


You have many of your books available in audio format – do you think audio books are worth investing in for self-published authors? I.e. is it a revenue stream that pays dividends in your opinion? What’s your selection process for finding a narrator that your readers will want to listen to?


This is a controversial topic. I know successful authors who swear by audio-books and see them as the future. I’ve been disappointed with audio-book sales so far. Despite hiring professional producers to record books which are highly-ranked, audio-book revenue remains a small, insignificant portion of my total earnings.


That said, even if you aren’t experiencing strong audio sales, the inclusion of audio-books looks more professional. When readers visit my buy page on Amazon, they see the e-book, the paperback, and the audio-book. I’m hopeful the future will be brighter than the present.


You often refer to Dean Koontz as being an inspiration and a favorite writer of yours. What aspects of his writing inform your own and how important do you think it is (especially for independent authors) for writers to have good quality role models within their own genre/s?


Besides penning amazing prose, Dean Koontz writes tense and frightening thrillers while placing importance on family. Not every scene needs to be full-on darkness. In a Koontz book, I get a healthy dose of happiness to go with the scare factor. It feels more realistic and hopeful, and that makes me care more about the characters he places in jeopardy.


Koontz also ends his stories on optimistic notes. It’s hard not to finish one of his books without feeling positive about the future. I don’t know another dark thriller author who manages this as well.


Can you offer any advice to fellow writers if you could go back in time and “do it all over?” What’s your top tip for other indie authors?


If you want this to be a career, start with the Venn diagram. There’s no point to writing stories in a genre without enough buyers. That doesn’t mean you have to sell out. What it means is finding a happy medium between what you love and what sells.


Of course, if all you care about is the art, write in any genre you love or create your own. That’s wonderful, and I support your efforts. Just don’t complain about lack of sales. Do it for the love of writing and forget about making a living from your stories.


Finally, thanks for sharing your thoughts on writing and independent publishing. Where is the best place for readers to find your books?


I encourage everyone to visit my Dan Padavona: Thriller and Mystery Author website, where I keep readers up to date on my writings. I also include an advice section for authors.


Readers can also find my books on my Amazon page.


Thanks Dan.


I recommend and encourage every one of my readers to share this interview and check Dan’s books out. You won’t be disappointed.



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