Interview: Catherine Dilts

Let’s get to know Catherine Dilts, author of Survive or Die.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?

I have interests and activities that take me in different directions. A perfect day might involve catching a rainbow trout, hiking up a mountain, or enjoying a trail run. Camping with family makes for fun times. I also enjoy gardening, painting rocks, and arts and crafts. A perfect writing day is easier to define: a summer morning, sitting on the deck with my laptop and a cup of coffee, surrounded by pots of flowers, with hummingbirds buzzing the feeder – that is paradise.

Do you listen to music when you write? 

Absolutely, especially if there are other people at home. I am easily distracted. My husband bought me sound cancelling headphones. They block out just about all noise. I play jazz fusion that’s on the light side – it’s kind of dreamy sounding. The music keeps the toddler corner of my brain occupied so I can get work done.

What made you interested in writing this particular story? 

The ideas behind Survive Or Die were bouncing around for quite a while before coming together in this book. The EPA, while attempting an abandoned mine clean-up, accidentally released millions of gallons of contaminated water into a Colorado river. I attended a lecture at the Western Museum of Mining and Industry, where I learned abandoned mine owners are typically deceased, and/or the mining company has been dissolved, leaving no responsible party to fund the clean-up. Burying mine entrances, for those without contamination issues, presents another problem. Bats use abandoned mines as their habitat. The issue of abandoned mines formed a subplot of my novel.

Now for the characters. At a company holiday party, an executive got bombed on whiskey sours and fell off his chair, inspiring the wretched boss in my book. Next, during a visit to a small-town museum, I saw an exhibit about self-confessed Colorado cannibal Alferd Packer. I wondered what kind of shadow might be cast upon a family related to a cannibal. Finally, I needed a setting for my novel. The executives at the same company led by the hard-drinking fellow later went on a team building exercise at a dude ranch. No rank and file employees were invited. But what if they were? What if they went to a survivalist camp? What if they had to play games designed to humiliate, if they wanted to keep their jobs?

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?

My day job is in environmental regulatory compliance, which in my case involves mostly paper-pushing. I also keep up with current environmental issues. These often crop up in my stories. The main theme in my fiction is that right will triumph over wrong. The bad guy or girl always gets caught. So when it comes to nefarious deeds that threaten to despoil the environment, I want to make the perpetrator pay. Sometimes in very creative ways.

Tell us about your main character.

Survive or Die has three point of view characters: a timid eco-warrior on a secret mission, a middle-aged mom hoping to revive her lackluster marriage, and a lovelorn mountain man seeking a bride with wide, child-bearing hips. The trio navigate increasing danger as unlikely accidents plague the camp.

What’s next for you?

I have multiple projects going at all times. I just drafted a new short story that follows my characters Dr. Charles Jerome Harrison and his young sidekick Tony, African-American chemists who first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in the April 2013 issue, followed later by a story in the May 2016 issue. I am also working on Rock Shop Mystery # 4, Stone Cold Pressed.

Besides Survive or Die, my 2019 publications are the novel A Thorny Plot – A Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library Mystery, and a short story appearing in the May/June issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, “Real Cowgirls Don’t Cry.”

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since I was old enough to hold a crayon. I dabbled at writing fiction my entire life, off and on. I thought I was a serious writer. Then I took a few graduate school courses, and experienced an epiphany – I didn’t apply nearly the level of effort to my fiction as I did to a term paper. From that moment on, I approached my fiction with a professional attitude, working until I came as close to perfection as I could manage. In 2012, I became fiercely dedicated to getting published, finally selling my first short story and my first novel.


Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She takes a turn in the multi-author sweet cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library with Ink or Swim. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. The two worlds collide in Survive or Die, when a manufacturing company holds a team building exercise in the wilderness. You can learn more about Catherine’s fiction at

12 thoughts on “Interview: Catherine Dilts”

  1. Welcome, Catherine. The book sounds delightful. I always wondered about those executive bonding retreats. I have to ask, do you still work with the inspirational executive – and does he know he was inspirational?


    1. Ha ha! No, the inspirational executive retired several years ago. Our execs now are better behaved – or at least more discreet.


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