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.
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.