Chris Orcutt

In 2011, Chris Orcutt brought years of experience as a professional writer and award-winning journalist to Kindle, releasing his mystery novel, A Real Piece of Work. Orcutt’s witty prose helped elevate cunning detective Dakota Stevens and gorgeous chess master Svetlana—Orcutt’s contemporary, cosmopolitan equivalents for Sherlock Holmes and Watson—out of the crowded mystery genre, earning bestseller spots on Amazon and admiration from critics. Several more Dakota mysteries have since been released, but Orcutt has also used self-publishing to expand his devotion to high-quality writing into several genres: 2014 saw award-winning novel One Hundred Miles from Manhattan, and just last year he released both a memoir, Perpetuating Trouble,and a very timely play about an arrogant celebrity-turned-politician, The Ronald.

What made you decide to self-publish a novel, and what was the experience like?

I received an offer for A Real Piece of Work from a legacy publisher, but their terms were entirely in their favor. I was tired of the legacy publisher hoop-jumping, anyway—writing synopses and query letters, waiting for replies—that had nothing to do with what I loved, which was writing novels. I knew that if I could just get my books in front of readers, they’d enjoy them, and that’s proven to be the case. I’ve discovered the independent path suits me. I’m a maverick, an artist who enjoys the entire process of creation. I consider myself the literary equivalent of an independent filmmaker in the vein of Woody Allen or Quentin Tarantino.

What do you think sets your Dakota Stevens series apart from other mystery series?

The quality of the writing. Beyond riveting plots and sharp dialogue, I strive to give readers aesthetic pleasure through the language itself—beautifully written page-turners. Also setting the series apart is Dakota and Svetlana’s relationship. Their humorous banter, especially.

Why did you want to create a political satire like The Ronald, and why did you choose to make it into a play?

I am highly attuned to the Muse, what’s happening around me, and what I want to say. For two weeks after the 2016 presidential election, I wondered how Trump pulled it off, then the answer came to me in a dream. But I didn’t choose to make it into a play; the story revealed itself to me as a play, and I took dictation.

Orcutt cover What do you appreciate about writing in several genres?

I’m a lover of sentences and literature, so no matter what format or genre I write in, I want the writing to be stellar. Also, my reading interests have a very wide range, and I like to write books I would like to read.

How do you approach releasing your work in different genres?

I write and release what I want to say. I don’t write to an audience or seek out an audience when I release a book. They’ll find me eventually. Regardless, I get the satisfaction of putting out the very best work I can produce.

What are you working on next?

I recently finished the first draft of a War and Peace–length nonfiction novel; I’m revising a Paris memoir/travelogue; I’m about to publish a Dakota Stevens “origin story”; and I’m currently writing a short novel about a biblical hero. Simply put, I’m always writing, always trying to improve and top myself. I believe that readers, whatever their tastes, can find something in my oeuvre that they’ll enjoy.

Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator based in Paris. 


Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
Connecting readers to global stories via self-publishing
After a move to Doha in 2005, South Asian–American MohanalakshmiRajakumar found herself with an abundance of time to contemplate women in the modern Middle East and the expat experience. As a scholar of gender and literature teaching at American universities in Qatar, Rajakumar started a blog to further explore these issues. She soon used self-publishing to find a global audience ...
Michael Okon
Three years ago, during a movie marathon with his son, bestselling self-published author Michael Okon asked himself why there wasn’t a theme park with zombies. His brother, in turn, asked why the theme park couldn't have werewolves, vampires, and zombies. Okon started writing Monsterland that very night. He initially released the thriller about two young boys lost in ...
Shelf Space
We talk to Sandi Torkildson, Owner of A Room of One’s Own Bookstore
In 1975, five young feminists finishing up their degrees at University of Wisconsin-Madison collectively launched A Room of One’s Own Bookstore. “We had taken some feminist studies courses together and were really interested in starting a feminist bookstore,” says co-founder and owner Sandi Torkildson. They learned by doing everything themselves, from building bookcases to ordering books to accounting. The ...