Dean Mayes is an Intensive Care Nurse who is fascinated by philosophy and the paranormal, so his stories weave an element of magical realism with deep humanism. He grew up near Melbourne, Australia, and now lives in Adelaide with his wife, Emily, his children, Xavier & Lucy, and his writing partner – a 10 year old spaniel named, Sam. Dean loves outdoor cooking, anything to do with Star Wars and (insanely) long-form podcasts.
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Thriller Fiction, Romantic Fiction.
Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My most recent novel “The Artisan Heart” (2018) is a contemporary romance novel. Having bounced around in different genres for the past few years, I wanted to return to my romantic roots and write a novel about relationships. Familial relationships, romantic relationships and relationships between people who have different communication styles – for example, there is a lovely relationship that develops between the protagonist of the novel and a deaf child. Both are able to communicate in sign language, which coaxes the child out of her shell.
Q2: What are five words that describe your writing process?
Chaotic, Messy, Inspired, Rambling, Insane!
Q3: What authors, or books have influenced you?
Recently, I’ve discovered the works of French author and philosopher Albert Camus and poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Camus especially writes in a vivid, visual style that is evocative for all the senses. Because he wrote in the 1920s through to the late 1950s, his use of language, adverbs and long sentences is quite different to the clipped, often frenetic sentences you see in a lot of writing today. It’s a style that I have sought to emulate in my own writing.
Q4: What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
I often find that playing classical music softly in the background helps me to focus. I usually have a note book and a pencil beside me to take notes as ideas come to me. More generally, it’s a mental state that I’m constantly searching for. There’s a head space I get into where I’ll write and write and write and time just falls away. It’s a beautiful thing when I touch it.
Q5. What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?
A cohesive structure and a consistent narrative flow comprising set up and pay off. If you are hitting those benchmarks, I think you can get most stories to work really well. There also has to be a character to the writing. Some of the best stories I’ve read are ones that have a character to them – even if I haven’t necessarily liked the stories.
Q6: What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Don’t be afraid to produce lots of content – knowing that you’ll edit the heck out of it later. I think that helps in staving off writer’s block while also helping you produce material that can be used elsewhere in your work in progress or indeed, another project that you might haven’t even conceived yet.
Q7: What is your favourite genre to read?
Oh wow...I’m pretty much open to most genres these days but I guess I remain fond of science fiction first and foremost. I’m reading The Expanse series of novels presently and I’m enjoying the hell out of them! They’re big novels but they’re so engaging, I find myself reading like a machine! I mentioned Albert Camus earlier and I’ve become a firm fan of philosophical writing. I read “The Plague” last year (an apt title given our current Covid situation) and it blew me away. His grasp of character and character motivation in the face of overwhelming circumstance is quite outstanding.
Q8: What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
I think I have gravitated toward character development in my own writing. Plot, for me at least tends to develop from that – even though I’ll have a rudimentary plot outline that I’ve established. I think if you have well defined characters who you get to know well, they’ll drive the story forward for you.
Q9: What are you working on now?
I have been working on a sequel to my political thriller “The Recipient” over the past couple of years but progress has been slow due to some personal circumstances here at home. My wife Emily was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the middle of last year and as you can imagine, that had a profound effect on our family. I mentioned earlier that I am an ICU Nurse and with the pandemic still a major concern, I’ve been working a lot harder. My writing has inevitably been affected. But I haven’t given up on it. I’m doing little bits here and there and I’m still committed to producing a story that I think is exciting and worth reading.
Q10: What are you currently reading?
I have two titles on the go at present – “Personal Essays” by Albert Camus and “Nemesis Games” - Book 5 in “The Expanse” series by James S.A. Corey. Both are very different books that appeal to my love of philosophy and science fiction and sometimes – they even cross over!
Excerpt from “The Recipient – Pandora’s Chest” by Dean Mayes.It’s so vast! It’s so, so vast…
Settle Saskia, we’re okay. We’ll be okay…
Forcing her eyes open, Casey risked a glance outside her window at the boiling sea far below. Her breath caught and she hurriedly had to recall a technique to calm herself. While she had grown accustomed to ocean going flight in the comfort of a jumbo jet, cruising over the white caps in a noisy and comparatively small Victoria Police Eurocopter was something else entirely. Casey had to stop herself from gasping as the pilot jinked suddenly, banking the helicopter towards a vast stretch of coastal limestone cliffs. In the fading afternoon light, Casey spotted the towering, monolithic sentinels of the Twelve Apostles, suddenly recalling a piece of trivia that recounted the relentless march of the sea had actually reduced their number to 8.
As the Eurocopter began its decent, rocking through a patch of turbulence, Casey gripped her harness tighter. She tried to hide her action from Whittaker who was sitting across from her and a young dark skinned detective sitting beside him, who Whittaker had grudgingly introduced as Jeremy Delfey. Thought still angry at Casey for having pestered her way onto the chopper, Whittaker broke his rancorous expression with a knowing grin in her direction and seemed to lighten in his mood. The young detective, seeing Casey’s discomfort, caught her notice with an enquiring nod of his own to see if she was okay. Distracted from her fear momentarily, Casey nodded back.
Through the window, Casey could see human figures moving back and forth across the landscape, close to cliff face. A bright orange crane had been stationed at the edge of the precipitous drop; its thick boom arm was extended out and over into the air. As the chopper drew closer, Casey could see an object being hauled up from the beach below and it took her mind several moments to register that it was the wrecked form of a vehicle. A trio of police vehicles, their blue and red lights flashing were positioned along what appeared to be a rough track that led into a bluff from the nearby Great Ocean Road. A pair of civilian four wheel drives were stationed on the bitumen - facing away from one another, their headlight beams shining in opposite directions as a warning to approaching traffic. Between them, Casey saw a pair of dark lines on the bitumen, tyre tracks suggesting a vehicle had served suddenly before leaving the road.
Dropping fast now, the chopper pilot circled away from a cluster of personnel about halfway in from the road, then it swung its tail around. It hung for a moment before setting down finally. Casey felt the bump of the tires as the aircraft touched ground followed by the deceleration of the rotors above her head.
Thank God, she mused, her anxiety tapering away. She steadied her breathing. Feeling a tap on her shoulder, she turned to Whittaker, who flashed a knowing grin.
“You can let go of your harness now,” he said above the noise of the rotors.
Casey blinked then looked at her hands gripping the harness. Her knuckles were white. Flicking her head up, she appraised Whittaker. “Have you gotten over your tantrum yet?” she countered shakily.
“Maybe,” Whittaker tilted his head from side to side. Helping her unclasp her restraint, he patted her shoulder. “Come on.”
Opening the door, Whittaker crouched low and gestured to Casey to follow closely. Offering his hand, Casey took it and ducked as she climbed out. Touching the earth, Casey’s leg gave a short wobble as Whittaker escorted her from the chopper.
Rounding to the front of the aircraft, the pair came up alongside the pilot and Delfey who surveyed the scene. Local police – who had been rallied in anticipation of Whittaker’s arrival – were doing their best to prepare the site, while supervising the precarious operation of the crane, which had now swung its arm around in an arc with the shattered vehicle in its grip. At a signal from an officer wearing a white jumpsuit and hard hat, The crane released the wreck and it crashed to the ground in front.
Shuddering, Casey turned away towards a uniformed officer who was speaking to a subordinate over by a 4WD. Upon seeing the new arrivals, he dismissed his colleague and turned towards them. He was middle aged, with a friendly face and large eyes that were magnified by a pair of coke bottle bottomed glassed. Hitching his trousers up by the belt, he approached, holding out a meaty hand to Whittaker.
“Senior Constable Graham Adams, Port Campbell Station,” the officer greeted in a heavy Scottish accent. “Deputy Commissioner Whittaker, yes?”
Whittaker nodded and glanced over Adams’ shoulder. “Thank you for accommodating us at such short notice. I apologise if we've inconvenienced you.”
“Not at all,” Adams adjusted his spectacles. “I appreciate the interest. We’re flying blind here so if anyone can assist in shedding light on this accident, I appreciate it.”
Whittaker gave a thoughtful nod, which didn’t escape the Senior Constable’s notice.
“I have to admit, I was surprised when they informed me you would be coming," Adams observed. “Do you have any ideas?”
“I’m not sure,” Whittaker replied, gesturing either side of him. “This is Detective Jeremy Delfey and this is civilian observer Casey Schillinge.”
Adams acknowledged both in turn, his gaze lingering on Casey a beat longer than Delfey. Casey saw his brow furrow, as though he recognised her, or perhaps her name. Her eyes darted away and towards the vehicles.
Adams gestured with an outstretched hand, inviting the trio ahead of him. Together they made their way over the uneven ground towards the wreck. The crane was retreating from the edge of the cliff on it’s tracks, the operator inside the cabin clearly relieved his task was over. Though it was blackened and twisted, almost folded back on itself, Casey could see that the wreck had once resembled the Holden utility she’d observed in the CCTV footage from the Blue Heeler Bar.
“We extracted the human remains from the wreck last night,” Adams explained. “I handed it over to the Warrnambool Detectives. There’s not much left, I'm afraid. The driver met a fiery end.”
“What about the other body?” Whittaker asked, glancing sideways at Casey. Her eyes bored into his. “The report said their were two bodies.”
The Senior Constable betrayed a note of confusion in his expression and he nudge the brim of his hat, shaking his head. “Single occupant only. There was no passenger.”
Casey felt her knee give way but she steadied herself before anyone noticed.
Whittaker proceeded forward, prompting Casey, Delfey and Adams to follow. They passed by a Police 4WD and came upon the rough track she’d seen from the air. Personnel were moving back and forth, erecting bright yellow police tape.
The track was little more a pair of grooves in the sandy earth, made by a vehicle that had, apparently, left the road in a hurry. Looking back along its length, Casey noted the impression of tyre prints at various points where the sand and gravel morphed into the mud of traditional top soil, but the tracks themselves were broken, probably as a result of the vehicle having bounced over the uneven ground on its trajectory towards the cliff
Scanning towards the cliff edge, Casey saw a ruined section agricultural fence where the vehicle had crashed through before careening over the edge. All told, it was a distance of no more than 100 meters, from road to cliff.
It had all the hallmarks of a suicide run...