Ryan Dietzen set to appear at BookSmart Aug. 12

Published in the July 19 – August 1, 2017 issue of Gilroy Life

By Staff Report

Mystery writer Ryan Dietzen has fun setting his novels in festival locations. He is scheduled to visit with detective fiction fans at BookSmart 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12, to chat about his latest murder mystery, “The Burnt Man,” which takes place at the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada.

Morgan Hill Life asked him about his unique twist on the mystery genre and why he has fun writing his novels.

With the Gilroy Garlic Festival coming up at the end of this month, it might be fun for garlic festival fans to read your novel “Murder Most Garlic.” How did you chose an East Coast garlic festival for the setting of a murder mystery?

“Murder Most Garlic” is about a freelance writer who is bored with his career. While on a visit to his mother’s hometown in upstate New York, he stumbles on a passion for detection, when the not-so-beloved host of the town’s annual garlic festival is found dead. The fictional Havana, New York, garlic festival is nowhere near as big as the one in Gilroy, but garlic features prominently in the plot. I wanted to write what I know, and the small festival held there is one I have attended for several years.

Who is the hero of the story and what makes him unique as a character to solve a mystery?

There are multiple heroes in the story. While the amateur detective, Gardner, is the nominal protagonist, he relies heavily on his sister Lane, and his boyfriend to help solve the case. Gardner is far too headstrong and impetuous to successfully solve the case on his own. His passion for detective work often exceeds his skills.

What is your background in your career and how might it have led to writing murder mystery novels?

I began my career as a technical writer and shifted to market research after getting my MBA. I talked for years about writing a novel but didn’t get kick started into action until I found out about something called National Novel Writing Month three years ago. Every November, hundreds of thousands of people from across the globe commit to writing 50,000 words of their novel in thirty days. I was lucky enough to take a class at Stanford from the founder of National Novel Writing Month, Chris Baty. The class got us prepared ahead of November to hit the ground running, helping us understand the key elements of plot and novel outlining. I’ve always enjoyed murder mysteries as a genre, particularly writers such as Alexander McCall Smith and Sue Grafton, and felt a plot-driven book would be the easiest to write. That was pretty naive, but oh well. I came out of the month with a rough first draft, one which eventually became “Murder Most Garlic,” which was published last summer.

I enjoyed writing “Murder Most Garlic” so much that I decided to bring Gardner back for a second adventure. In my new book, just published in June, Gardner goes off to Burning Man, the annual gathering of 70,000 people in the Nevada desert. I think the festival is an amazing, otherworldly place that is the perfect setting for a murder.

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How did you do your research for “Murder Most Garlic” and what was the most fun part of it?

I tried to follow the dictum of “write what you know.” I have visited my mother’s home town regularly since I was a child. I pulled from the town’s history, some of its architectural landmarks, and a few of its more original characters, to craft the story. The funnest part was being able to blend fiction and fact together. As a writer I could use the town as inspiration, but shift people and places into just what I needed for the plot. That’s a lot of fun and a power trip to boot.

Why might you encourage mystery readers to attend the BookSmart event Aug. 12?

The reading from my new book, “The Burnt Man,” will give mystery enthusiasts a taste of Gardner as a detective, and also a sense of Burning Man as a setting for murder. I’m excited to be able to share both books with readers. Not sure if Gardner will have a third adventure, but who knows?