Author Interview — Cap Daniels
Updated: Apr 24, 2020
Today begins my author interview series, where I'll be asking authors the tough (and fun) questions and diving into their writing processes and motivations, while gaining bits of wisdom they have for aspiring writers.
I'm thrilled to start this series with best-selling author Cap Daniels, who has thoughtfully and thoroughly given us an inside look into his writing career.
I've been Cap Daniels's editor since book one of his Chase Fulton Novels series, and I will tell you that his books will take you on a thrilling ride, as will this interview.
Grab a cup o' joe, sit back, and enjoy.
Cap Daniels, Author of the Best-Selling Chase Fulton Novels Series
SF: In the course of writing, what have you learned about yourself?
CD: You’re one of those people who doesn’t order appetizers, aren’t you? You go straight for the main course. I like that you jumped into the tough questions right off the bat.
When I sit down to write, I stop thinking and I write as if there are no rules and no limits. I’ve learned that writing in that way is the most freeing experience I’ve ever known. To create something that didn’t exist before my fingers touched the keys is incredible. I’ve learned the human mind is capable of creativity that’s hard to believe possible. I’ve learned that those imaginary friends we had as children, before anyone told us they weren’t real, are a lot of fun to play with, and they make great characters in fiction.
Writers, for the most part, are weird people. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about myself as I’ve become a successful novelist is that it’s okay to be a little weird.
SF: In your first year as a published author, you published five books in your Chase Fulton Novels series, plus a novella. Do you sleep? What keeps you motivated?
CD: I sleep between four and five hours every night, and that seems to be enough for me. My self-imposed writing schedule is demanding by some writer’s standards, but I’ve always had high expectations for myself. We are all capable of astonishing things when we’re willing to exercise self-discipline and make the necessary sacrifices. I write every day of my life, with very few exceptions. My daily writing quota is a minimum of one thousand words. Typically, I write twenty-five hundred words per day, and that requires up to five hours of actual butt-in-chair time in front of my keyboard. That allows me to write an eighty-thousand-word manuscript in less than forty-five days.
My motivation is the same motivation that keeps readers up at night reading just one more chapter. I simply can’t wait to find out what happens next. I’m what they call a “pantser.” That means I write from the seat of my pants, having no idea what’s going to happen next. I use no outlines, and I never know how a novel is going to end. I simply sit down and write what comes out of my head. That makes the story unfold for me exactly the same way it plays out for my readers, and that is exciting and a whole lot of fun.
SF: In what ways has writing fulfilled or satisfied you?
CD: Fulfillment and satisfaction are interesting concepts and almost impossible to adequately define, but the single most satisfying part of writing for me is hearing from readers who enjoy my work. I believe most people need an outlet for their frustrations, anxiety, doubt, fear, passion, curiosity, etc. Writing gives me that outlet. If I want to start a gunfight in the Marquesas to save a kidnapped little girl, I get to do that. In fact, I did exactly that in The Entangled Chase, book six in the Chase Fulton Novels series. It’s amazing to literarily (not literally) do absolutely anything I want. Writing is a world without limits. From raiding a Chinese spy ship in the Panama Canal to burning down a Russian oligarch’s house on the banks of the Moscow River a few miles from the Kremlin, I get to do everything my imagination can conjure up . . . and that is satisfying.
SF: From time spent in the Air Force to time spent as a sailing instructor on the water (and so much more), your life has been an adventure of experiences. Do the majority of your stories stem from these life experiences, or do you conjure up original ideas?
CD: I have a dear friend and mentor, Wayne Stinnett, who is a brilliant writer, storyteller, and incredible inspiration to fledgling writers like me. He says, “There are no original ideas. If you can think it up, somebody else has already thought about it and has probably written it.” He’s most likely right, although I believe I’m the only novelist who has ever dared to sink a Chinese freighter in the Panama Canal. That was in book 4, The Unending Chase. I’ve lived a magnificent life full of incredible people and unforgettable experiences. I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s, although I wouldn’t mind being Sir Richard Branson for the weekend. Most of what I write about is rooted in personal experience and stories I’ve heard of other’s experiences, coupled with a healthy dose of imagination.
SF: What advice do you have for writers who aspire to make this a career?
CD: Write! Even if it’s terrible, write. Being a writer doesn’t mean you’re published and making a million bucks a year in royalties. Being a writer means you write. Writing is a skill built on the foundation of a tiny grain of talent. The first thing James Patterson ever wrote was garbage. He’ll tell you that. We become writers by writing until our fingers bleed. Then, we superglue the wounds shut and keep writing. That is what makes us writers.
The second best piece of advice I can offer is to find a great editor with the heart of a teacher and a passion for the craft. My editor (I think you know her) is the perfect fit for me. She’s opinionated, bossy, pushy, and abusive . . . when I need her to be. She’s also brilliant, insightful, knowledgeable, wise, kind, supportive, encouraging, and driven. She constantly teaches me how to become a better writer, storyteller, and artist. After seven books together, on our way to at least a hundred, we’ve developed a friendship and professional relationship that is incredible. Her insistence on me getting better with every page I write and her willingness to teach me how to do that has transformed me from a wannabe writer into a best-selling novelist, selling over a hundred thousand books per year. I couldn’t do it without her, and no writer should try doing it without a great editor of their own. An editor like mine is worth far more than she costs and will do more for your career than every creative writing class on Earth.
Third, believe in yourself, even when others don’t. “Nobody’s going to buy your books.” “You’re wasting your time.” “What makes you think you can be a writer?” I heard all of those and more. It can become discouraging, but I now sell hundreds of books every day because I didn’t listen to the naysayers, and I kept writing. I’m living proof that it can be done, and people will buy your books, and it isn’t a waste of time. Fight the doubt, overcome the procrastination, devote yourself to your craft, and write. You can do it!
SF: Chase Fulton, your protagonist in the Chase Fulton Novels, has strong beliefs when it comes to his faith, friendships, and his love for his country. Do these mirror your own?
CD: I believe every time a writer creates a character, that character takes on traits, beliefs, and philosophies of the writer, even when it isn’t done intentionally. Chase Fulton is no exception. I was raised in a wonderful Christian home and attended church regularly as a child and young adult. I have a strong faith in God and believe He wants what is best for us; however, like most people, I have many questions about my faith and things I was taught in my childhood. Chase’s doubts, fears, confusion, and questions absolutely mirror my own, and that isn’t going to change. I use Chase as an avenue for those things. Some of it I do intentionally, and sometimes it just happens.
A wonderfully serendipitous friendship has occurred as a result of my series. A pastor from Ohio wrote to me several months ago to tell me he was enjoying my series. He and I exchanged a few emails, and somewhat organically, our conversations turned to questions of faith and issues of Christianity. From those benign early emails, Pastor John has taken me under his wing, strengthened my faith, and answered a bevy of questions no one else has ever been able to answer for me. I treasure his friendship, wisdom, and patience with my ignorance and bottomless well of questions.
I’m learning the value of true friendship. In fact, the theme of The Devil’s Chase is exactly that: the importance of enduring friendship and the celebration of personal loyalty. I’ve let good people get away in my life because I didn’t show their friendship the respect it deserved, and I regret those decisions. As I age, my priorities are maturing, and the things that are most truly meaningful in life are becoming apparent.
Patriotism is becoming a bad word in today’s society, and that breaks my heart. I believe we live in the greatest nation ever to occupy Earth. We have opportunities and freedoms in America no other country can match. We have our problems, but they aren’t so enormous they can’t be overcome when we’re willing to put aside our differences and work together as Americans to keep the hopes and dreams of our founding fathers alive. No one has ever heard of the Russian Dream, or the Spanish Dream, or the Chinese Dream, but we’ve all heard of the American Dream, and that is what makes this country unlike any other. With dedication, self-sacrifice, ambition, hard work, and perseverance, almost nothing is impossible.
SF: It seems your main focus is on your current Chase Fulton Novels series, but do you have plans for anything outside of the thriller/action and adventure genres?
CD: I absolutely love writing in the action-adventure-espionage genre. It’s exciting, dynamic, and simply fun; however, what I truly want to write is incredibly different. This confession may disappoint many of my readers who love the gunfights, explosions, interrogations, and non-stop action of the Chase Fulton Novels, but I promised to answer your questions with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but . . . whatever. So, here it is. I want to write Nicholas Sparks type, make-you-cry, fall-in-love-with-the-characters, heartbreaking, and heartwarming mush. In fact, I’m writing my first such manuscript now. If my editor will let me get away with it, we’ll know later this year if I can actually pull it off. Don’t worry, though, I still plan to write at least twenty-five books in the Chase Fulton Novels series, with a few mushy books thrown in along the way. I’m also kicking around the idea for some historical fiction set in the Cold War era as well as a collaborative effort with the best editor in the world to create a spin-off series from the Chase series, but we won’t divulge any more details on that project just yet.
SF: You take your readers on adventures all over the world, from the Caribbean to Russia and beyond. What sort of research is involved in making sure your foreign characters and locations are accurately portrayed?
CD: There’s a line in a great old Jimmy Buffett song that says, “Don’t try to describe the ocean if you’ve never seen it.” I started this series with a rule: I’ll never write about a place I’ve never been.
I believe authenticity is crucial, even in fiction. I want my readers to feel like they’re walking in old town Saint Augustine, Florida, or Sol-Iletsk, Russia, when I write a scene there. In order to do that, I need to have felt those emotions and experienced the sights, sounds, smells, and energy of those places. I’ve broken my rule a few times, but when I’ve written about places I’ve never been, I interviewed people who have been there or who live there, and I’ve pieced together the essence of those places from those interviews.
I’m a bit of a foodie, so all of the restaurants in my novels are real, and every meal described is one I’ve actually eaten at those restaurants, although the inclusion of the meals is much to my editor’s dismay. (She says nobody cares how crunchy the croutons are on the salad at the Jekyll Island Club grand dining room.)
The philosophy of authenticity goes deeper than just locales and restaurants. I’m also a pilot, sailor, scuba diver, and avid shooter, so when I write scenes involving any of those subjects, I try not only to make the action possible, but also plausible. Writers who don’t do their homework or actually go try the action they’re describing often sound like someone trying to describe an ocean they’ve never seen.
SF: In what ways has writing changed you?
CD: Writing does some wonderful things and some terrible things to novelists. It changes our perception of the world around us. Almost every new person I meet immediately becomes a potential new character in a novel. When I travel, I’m constantly taking notes, snapping pictures, and pondering what mischief I could have my characters create wherever I go. One of the negatives about being a novelist is that it is incredibly difficult to make my brain stop imagining everything in the world as a potential element of fiction. Sometimes it would be nice to have a glass of wine at a sidewalk café without imagining the two men across the street conducting a nuclear arms deal.
SF: Which author (or authors) do you most admire, and how did they influence your writing?
CD: There are so many great writers, so it’s impossible to name everyone who has influenced my writing, but the two most influential writers in my career have been Wayne Stinnett and Dawn Lee McKenna. They adopted me after my first novel and became mentors and wonderful friends. They introduced me to their vast audiences and launched my writing career into the stratosphere almost overnight. They are both brilliant storytellers and magnificently successful novelists, and I’ll always owe them a debt I’ll never be capable of repaying.
John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series is one of my favorites. You’ll see a great deal of his influence in my writing. James Lee Burke is a genius. I only wish I could write with such brilliant application of language in painting scenes and characters. Stuart Woods, Ernest Hemingway, James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, Lee Child, David Baldacci, Clive Cussler, Randy Wayne White, Tom Clancy, and so many others are favorites of mine and have undoubtedly shaped my perception of how fiction should feel.
SF: In your author bio, you mention that your father was a Navy chief petty officer with “(sometimes true) stories of adventure on the high seas.” Have you incorporated any of these stories into the Chase Fulton Novels series?
CD: One of my dearest and most treasured childhood memories is listening to my father’s stories of life aboard ships and the amazing faraway places he’d seen. He spoke of places with mystical sounding names like Gibraltar, the Azores, Sicily, Morocco, and so many others. I’d spend hours searching for those names on my globe and dreaming of one day getting to see those places. My father was a masterful storyteller and a larger-than-life personality. I believe his influence is interwoven throughout my work and would be impossible to untangle from my own thoughts. He passed away when I was a teenager, and a day never passes without me missing him and longing to spend just one more hour listening to his stories.
SF: What does literary success look like to you?
CD: My mentor, Wayne Stinnett, scolded me the first time I met him. Allow me to paint this picture for you: I’m just over 6’5” and 240 pounds, and he’s at least eight inches shorter and seventy-five pounds lighter than me. Wayne grabbed my arm, pulled me aside, glared up at me like a drill sergeant, and said, “Stop introducing yourself as anything other than a writer. The sooner you start telling other people you’re a writer, the sooner you’ll start believing it yourself.” So, to me, literary success is shaking someone’s hand and confidently saying, “I’m Cap Daniels, and I’m a novelist.” I now do that a few hundred times a month, and I think of Wayne every single time.
Your question goes deeper than my answer above, so I’ll do my best to give a more thorough response. Success is not financial, although the financial rewards of writing have come and have, indeed, changed my life. The income is a wonderful side effect of success. Success is not seeing my book on the shelves at Barnes and Noble, although when that happens, it feels pretty cool. Success is getting to do something I truly love every day of my life and seeing thousands of people enjoy the results. When I began writing seriously, like most fledgling writers, I fantasized and dreamed of best-seller status and big fat royalty checks. What I didn’t expect was fan mail. The thought never entered my mind that I would receive an email from anyone saying they love my work, but that is now the single most meaningful part of this whole experience for me. I get approximately a hundred emails every week from readers who enjoy my books and want to tell me a story about how they’ve been to a place in one of my books or that they’ve eaten at a restaurant I described. I personally answer every single email, and I truly love interacting with readers. So, for me, literary success is doing what I love and sharing it with people who enjoy it.
I do have one benchmark that hasn’t happened yet, but I’m really looking forward to the day it does. I want to walk up on someone reading one of my books, sit down beside them, and ask what they think of the book without telling them who I am.
SF: You seem to respond to every social media comment or message you receive. What do your loyal readers mean to you, and how much of a role do they play in the prolific and seemingly non-stop creation of your novels?
CD: I briefly touched on this topic in my answer to your previous questions, but I’m glad I get the opportunity to take my answer a little further. There are literally millions of books on Earth written by millions of writers. The choices readers have are practically endless. When somebody chooses to spend five bucks on one of my books instead of one of the millions of other books on the market, that is one of the greatest compliments imaginable. People are willing to spend their hard-earned money on something I created. That is amazing to me. Even more amazing is that every month thousands of people not only spend their money on my work, but they spend hours of their life reading my words. Time is the most valuable thing we have. It can’t be bought, paused, borrowed, or stolen. We trade time, precious moments of our finite lives, for everything we do and everything we have. To know that these people are trading thousands of hours of their time to read what I write is almost unthinkable. I treasure every reader who opens one of my books. I’ll never take them for granted, and I’ll never consider them to be anything less than an absolutely crucial element of my success. As I mentioned above, interacting with readers is my favorite part of writing. I love and respect every one of my readers. It is my goal to demonstrate that by continually honing my craft and maintaining the high standards they’ve come to expect from my books. I’d like to sincerely thank every single reader who has ever read a single page of anything I’ve written. You have made my dream of becoming a professional novelist come true, and I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me.
SF: What do you drink, and is it on the rocks or neat?
CD: My cocktail of choice is Jack Daniels Gentleman Jack or Single Barrel. That’s a Tennessee sipping whiskey—not a bourbon. Generally, it’s on the rocks in one of several tumblers from the U.S. Naval Academy I bought at a garage sale several years ago. When I finish a manuscript, I celebrate with a glass of Little Book, a bourbon made by master distiller Freddie Noe at Jim Beam. Occasionally, I’ll have an Old Fashioned, which is a cocktail made from very old, very good whiskey, a sugar cube, angostura bitters, muddled cherries, and a thin slice of orange over a single large ice cube or sphere.
Books by Cap Daniels
About Cap Daniels
Cap Daniels is a sailing charter captain, scuba and sailing instructor, pilot, Air Force veteran, and civil servant of the U.S. Department of Defense. Raised far from the ocean in rural East Tennessee, his early infatuation with salt water was sparked by the fascinating, and sometimes true, sea stories told by his father, a retired Navy chief petty officer. Those stories of adventure on the high seas sent Cap in search of adventure of his own, which eventually landed him on Florida’s Gulf Coast where he and his wife Melissa own and operate a sailing charter service and spend as much time as possible on, in, and under the waters of the Emerald Coast. With a head full of larger-than-life characters and their thrilling exploits, Cap pours his love of adventure and passion for the ocean onto the pages of his new action adventure series, the Chase Fulton Novels. Inspired by the likes of John D Macdonald’s Travis McGee, Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford, and Wayne Stinnett’s Jesse McDermitt, Cap creates thrilling tales of action and adventure set throughout the Caribbean and coastal Florida and Georgia by intertwining nautical adventure with international espionage. Cap’s Chase Fulton Novels series promises to keep readers on the edge of their seats, trying to guess what new danger or adventure lies just around the corner.
Author Cap Daniels
Sarah Flores, Editor
Write Down the Line, LLC
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