How Long is a Piece of Rope: Toni Dwiggins


Badwater by Toni Dwiggins is available for Kindle in the UK for £2.14

and elsewhere for $2.99

also for Barnes & Noble Nook and on Smashwords

BADWATER is part forensic mystery/part ecothriller:

When a freight truck is hijacked on a primitive Nevada road, forensic geologists Cassie Oldfield and her partner Walter Shaws track the mineral trail into Death Valley. The stolen cargo they seek is hotter than the desert in August: radioactive waste.

As scientists, Cassie and her partner Walter are familiar with background radiation in the rocks they study. But as a woman of child-bearing age and a man of advancing years, they become acutely aware of the risk of their hunt. How many exposures are too many? What’s safe? More immediately, what’s lethal?

Cassie and Walter find out when the unstable radwaste thief unleashes the power of the unstable atom.

So, what does Toni have to say about our society’s most pressing issues?

1. BADWATER is way better than my first thriller about a bad guy who steals a little girl’s doll (I was twelve), but one day I’d really like to be as good as James Lee Burke.

2. You will just love my book if you enjoyed Nevada Barr but if you’re a fan of Snooki steer well clear.

3. Unburned powder comes from the barrel of a gun.

4. How do you see the role of food in the contemporary thriller and where does BADWATER fit into the spectrum?

Because thriller plots/characters are often larger than life, I think it’s good to ground the characters whenever possible. EG, in the TV series 24 you really had to wonder if Jack ever ate or went to the bathroom. That said, I don’t think thriller writers can get away with the lovingly described leisurely meal, unless there’s the equivalent of a dead body under the table.

In BADWATER, I’ve got passing references to McDonald’s (hey, the characters are in a hurry), lemonade (triple-digits in the shade in Death Valley and they’re thirsty), a ham/cheese/tomato sandwich (the tomato slips off the cheese, sparking the protag to figure out a key clue—really), and a dinner of rattlesnake croquettes (snaky reveleations).

5. How would it affect the direction BADWATER takes if the action were moved wholesale to the set of Glee in chapter 7?

I’m one of the few people on the planet who has never seen Glee. But from the little I know of the show…

Chapter 7 of BADWATER takes place at the villain’s house, a creepily neat place isolated in the desert. The villain is planning mayhem, and worrying about his dog. The chapter ends, I’m told, with quite a shock. So if this took place on the set of a TV show about a high school glee club (right?), I guess the villain would have to have a parrot instead of a dog and they could squawk together.

6. When you’re writing, would you rather look out at the sea, or in at your thoughts?

At the sea. It would do wonders for my thoughts. Actually, I’m working on the third book in my forensic geology series—SEA CHANGE—and I could claim the sea as a research expense and justify renting a beach house.

7. When writing, do you start at the beginning and keep going, or start at the end and work back?

I start at the beginning, but I’ve already outlined the book and know, at least vaguely, how it will end. If I started at the end I’d have to figure out all those details that come together in the climax and I never know those details until the characters and the plot get moving.

8. A great villain or a great hero?

Not a fair question!  Need to have both. I will admit, guiltily, that a great villain is more fun to write.

9. BADWATER will change the way a reader looks at a glass of water.

Because the book involves the theft and release of nasty-hot radioactive waste, which gets into the water supply. So the reader might well think about nearby nuke plants and then wonder, what’s your plutonium doing in my water?

10. How long is a piece of rope?

As long as one needs it to be. This is the beauty of writing fiction.

The protagonist needs to rappel down a cliff face and if there is plenty of rope, there’s no tension. If there’s not enough rope, the protag will either die or unbelievingly succeed. If there’s almost enough rope, the protag will almost get into big trouble and need to be believably clever to get down that cliff.


~ by danholloway on July 29, 2011.

2 Responses to “How Long is a Piece of Rope: Toni Dwiggins”

  1. An original plot, a witty writer – sounds good!

  2. Thank you, Gerry – the wit and originality of these interviews constantly boggles me

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