Interview: Dean Mayes

Please welcome Dean Mayes, author of The Recipient and other works.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
A perfect day usually occurs for me on a Monday (unbelievable right?!). I’m an Intensive Care Nurse with a fixed roster so I don’t actually work on Mondays. Once my partner is off to work herself – usually, she is out the door by 7AM – and I’ve prepared our children and completed the school run, the house is mine (and my dog Sam’s) for pretty much the entire day. I get home from the school run, make a cup of coffee and by around 9.15AM I am in my office, tending to the business and the act of writing. I’m answering emails first up, prepping new posts for my blog and seeing where things are at in terms of preparing for a new release – which I am in the middle of right now with my latest novel The Recipient (released May 1st, 2016). I’m then usually looking at notes I’ve made over the course of the previous week for my current work in progress and working on that work in progress at my laptop. Whether it is conducting the business around my writing, or the writing itself (blogging or working on a project), I enter a state of mind that is really satisfying and stimulating. Creating something is an experience like no other. By the time I am ready to pick up the children from school, I feel really good about how that day has gone. Even if I haven’t achieved much in terms of the work in progress, there are those other branches of the writing process that I draw a lot from.

Do you have a signature accessory, colour, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
When I was a kid, I once declared that I wouldn’t be satisfied until I had 9781771680394sampled a fisherman’s basket from every pub in Australia. A fisherman’s basket is basically a sample platter of seafood, usually containing prawns (crumbed), calamari rings (deep fried), scallops (battered) and a piece of fish (either crumbed battered or fried). I have yet to fulfil on that declaration – there are a lot of pubs in Australia. But it’s definitely on my bucket list.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
I often cite Simon Winchester (The Surgeon of Crowthorne, The Map That Changed The World) as an author who has inspired me immensely. His ability to take an off-beat and potential mundane topic and turn it into a captivating work is really something quite special. In his book, The Surgeon of Crowthorne, Winchester recounted the tragic history of a Civil War surgeon who went mad and ended up in an insane asylum in Victorian England. By a sheer stroke of luck, he became aware of the Oxford University’s endeavour to create the most comprehensive dictionary of words ever seen and, with the help of the sympathetic asylum warden, he was able to research and supply Oxford with more words and their etymological roots than any other contributor. And this went on for several decades. The University had no idea who he was until it was decided that he be rewarded for all those many years of hard work. Winchester’s meticulous research and his affection for the subject matter shine through in his writing, thus creating an engaging reading experience which I adore.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Occasionally I will. It’s usually classical music if anything and it must be something without vocals, otherwise I get distracted too easily. Sometimes, I’ll listen to jazz or some instrumental guitar. But I often find that I am most comfortable working with just the background sounds of the garden as an accompaniment.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
The Recipient is a particularly dark and, at times, biting piece of thriller fiction so I guess I would say that it would be a dark chocolate with a quality rating towards the higher percentile range where, typically, these chocolates have a lot of bite.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
The Recipient actually came about as the result of a particularly intense and vivid nightmare I had about witnessing a violent assault. The nightmare disturbed me so much that I wrote down as much as I could remember about it. This touched off a flurry of ideas over the course of the following days and weeks and, since I work in the medical field as an Intensive Care Nurse, it wasn’t too long before I began to conceive the idea of a transplant recipient who begins to have flashbacks that are not her own. From there, I built an increasingly tense narrative that involved her donor and before I knew it, the basic shape of a satisfying thriller was born.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I tend to be drawn to the idea of past lives and reincarnation but I have looked for ways in which those themes can be brought into as real world setting to the point where they can almost be believed. In The Hambledown Dream, I explored the idea of reincarnation as a means towards redemption for two individuals while in Gifts of the Peramangk reincarnation served a more subtle purpose that allowed for communication between the protagonists.

Tell us about your main character.
In The Recipient, Casey Schillinge is a young heart transplant recipient who is given a second chance at the eleventh hour. She is initially portrayed as an intelligent young woman, on the cusp of success, having completed a double University degree in mathematics and computer science and she is preparing for a career as a software engineer. She takes a rare opportunity to back-pack through SE Asia when she suffers from a sudden and life threatening heart condition. The story flicks forward three years and we find Casey is a shell of her former self. She is alienated from her family, she rides the line between work as a freelance security software specialist and a hacker and she is afflicted by agoraphobia and insomnia. The reason for this is because of repetitive, violent nightmares she experiences that are slowly driving her crazy. As the story unfolds, we discover the reasons why she is having these nightmares and we learn that they are not merely a figment of her imagination. Slowly, she is drawn into a very real and immediate conspiracy that will threaten her life all over again.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
I looked to a couple of pop culture icons for inspiration – chiefly Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise. I have always loved Ripley’s resilience in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and she is a methodical, practical individual with astute problem solving skills. I brought those aspects of the Ripley character to Casey Schillinge. Those who know me well know how much of a Star Wars fan I am and I have to confess to being a little inspired by Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia Organa who also displays a lot of pluck and resourcefulness and can battle along side her male counterparts effortlessly. Finally, for certain aspects of Casey’s psyche, I actually drew upon my own, personal experience of being a patient. When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cord tumour that robbed me of my ability to walk. I required two operations of the course of twelve months to remove the tumour and underwent an extensive period of rehabilitation afterwards. Over that time, my independence was significantly curtailed and though I initially appreciated all the support from my medical team and my family, over time I began to rail against the constant intrusions and I desperately wanted my independence back. I amplified this dilemma for Casey and explored the fractured relationship between her and her mother and this was one of the more challenging and satisfying parts of the novel to write.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Jeffrey Deaver, Kwei Quartey, Peter Temple, Paula Hawkins, Hayley Coates & Estelle Ryan.

What’s next for you?
At the time of answering these questions, I’m heavily involved in the pre publication marketing for The Recipient  but I am also planning for my next novel which carries the working title Walhalla. It will mark a return of sorts to romantic fiction for me and I’m really excited about it.


Dean Mayes is an Intensive Care Nurse and Author from Adelaide, Australia. Dean is the author of three novels, all for Central Avenue Publishing – The Hambledown Dream (2010), Gifts of the Peramangk (2012) and The Recipient (2016). He also writes for a loyal following at his website “Dean from Australia.” Dean is a massive Star Wars fan and consistently competes with his children as to who has the better toy collection.

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14 thoughts on “Interview: Dean Mayes”

  1. Fascinating! Nightmares can lead to the most interesting stories. Hope yours are purged now, with the release of your book. Looking forward to checking out your books.


  2. Thank you all for visiting and thank you to the Mysteristas for welcoming me.

    I have to confess to having an overactive and quite warped subconscious, from which I rarely get respite. Rather than battle it however, I’ve learned to live with it and I keep that notepad on my bedside table – just in case.

    The Recipient represents a really different aspect of my writing journey as it stands quite apart from my previous works. I’m really proud of it though and it is satisfying to now have it out of my system.


  3. Welcome, Dean! The Recipient sounds chilling and thrilling – just my sort of book! I’ll have to put it on my TBR list.

    I think an overactive subconscious is the writer’s best friend. And good thing we can get an outlet. I shudder to think of what we’d do without it.


  4. Thanks for dropping by. I have not read any of your books —yet. I’m putting “The Recipient” on my to-read list right now.


  5. Hi Dean: Thanks so much for visiting us. What a wonderful interview. It’s fascinating to hear about how your experiences have contributed to your art. What you went through with the hospitalizations at such a young age, especially–that sounds intense. Glad that you came through it so strong…it must have been incredibly difficult.

    Love Ellen Ripley and can’t wait to read about your main character.


  6. ps: “As the story unfolds, we discover the reasons why she is having these nightmares and we learn that they are not merely a figment of her imagination.” They’re NOT? I have shivers.


  7. My dad worked as a nurse in the ICU for many years. Also, I now crave a fisherman’s basket for dinner. That sounds amazing. Great interview!


  8. I want to try a fisherman’s basket from every pub in Australia, too. That’s an amazing goal. Can’t wait to check out your book!


  9. The most potent story elements for me are the ones to which I can contribute personal experiences.

    That hospital experience I had as a teen had a profound effect, although I wasn’t aware of just how profound until much later. Casey is presented as troubled and alienated from her family at the beginning of the story and part of that alienation is driven by herself. She is so driven to get her life back, to regain her independence that this causes conflict between her and her parents – particularly her mother. It wasn’t too much of a stretch to recreate that from my own experience – though it was confronting to write because I had to revisit memories that weren’t pleasant. I’m glad I did though. The Recipient represents something of a catharsis for me.

    My first experience of a seafood platter was waaaaay back when I was a kid and my family used to holiday at a place called Lakes Entrance in eastern Victoria, Australia. It is a renowned seaside holiday destination and fishing centre so seafood is a fixture.

    We had dinner at a local hotel and the seafood was so fresh and tasty. I fell in love with the dish and have spent my life searching for one that meets the standard of that first experience. I’ve come close – but I fear that I am reliving the experience through rose coloured glasses. I’ll never reach that pinnacle again.


  10. Coming in late, but fascinated! So many things I want to comment on… my husband fell in love with Sigourney Weaver because of Ripley. I’m still in recover over that one. I’ve never had an abalone steak come close to the first one I had at a mad-house restaurant (Anthony’s Grotto) in California. Your personal experience no doubt adds some amazing insight for Casey. Chocolate that bites… I think I want some. And now… a new book for my TBR pile! Well done!


  11. Thanks for contributing Peg!

    Just recently, I had a short sabbatical at home due to illness and I rewatched both Alien and Aliens. I have to say that I hold the massivest candle to Sigourney Weaver and her performance in both films. She acquitted herself with such strength and grit, intelligence and pragmatism – her Ripley is quite possibly the greatest pop culture protagonist of the past 50 years. When I sat down to write Casey’s character I gave a lot of thought to who embodies those qualities and Weaver went quickly to the top of my list. While I didn’t make a carbon copy of Ripley, I certainly imbued Casey Schillinge with those qualities. And I think it worked really well.

    Here in Adelaide, we have a much loved chocolatier called Haighs Chocolates. They make what I regard as the finest datk chocolate hands down. Sharp, biting and oh so delicious.


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