Interview: The Transgressions of David A. Freas
Interview conducted by Nolcha Fox
A renegade pharmacist turned literary outlaw, David A. Freas is a wild man who has spent nearly four decades pushing pills, but his heart always yearned for something more. That's when he began to dabble in the written word, a passion he has nurtured since his younger days. But it wasn't until '95 that the savage beast of writing truly took hold of him, and he devoted himself to perfecting his craft.
This is the story of a man who refused to be caged by the mundane and instead carved out his own path to literary greatness.
NF: What prompted you to become a pharmacist instead of an auto mechanic or photographer?
DAF: Several things. I always did well in science classes in school, but spending my life looking into a microscope as a biologist had no appeal, and I had no desire (and wasn’t smart enough) to be a doctor. While I enjoy working on cars, I couldn’t see doing it for a living. Something that is fun as a hobby has a different dynamic when it’s how you pay your bills. And I don’t have the eye a person needs to be a great photographer. So, I did not have the fire to pursue either one as a career.
I came out of high school at the height of the Vietnam war. In the late 60s, any guy graduating from high school either went to college or the University of Southeast Asia - Vietnam campus, courtesy of the U.S. military. Also, I was the fat kid in high school, so if I'd been drafted, I probably would have died of a heart attack during basic training. Don't get me wrong, I have the greatest respect for anyone who puts on a uniform and swears an oath to protect and defend the U.S. What I found offensive about the Vietnam War was the loss of so many young lives (the man who came before me alphabetically in my graduating class was one) and the disgusting way our servicemen and women were treated when they came home after surviving hell over there.
NF: What drew you into writing?
DAF: I grew up in a home where newspapers, magazines, and books were part of everyday life, and a stop at the library was as much a part of running errands as picking up groceries. As a result, I developed a love for the written word. Even as a child, I enjoyed telling tales, so part of the writing bug that bit me in the 70s was reading a book and thinking I could write a better story than this.
NF: How has your life experience informed your novels?
DAF: I've always been a car guy, so much of my motivation for writing Illegal Maneuvers was a desire to see/write a mystery with the main character involved with automobiles in some manner – a change of pace from the standard cop/PI main character, and the cozy mysteries featuring a main character with some specialized knowledge or interest like baking or running a coffee shop.
Though I am an educated professional, I never strayed far from my blue-collar roots (my dad delivered mail and my mom worked in a school cafeteria), so I always felt a closer kinship with those who work with their hands to build and fix and create things than with those who made their money off other people’s labor.
Payback grew out of a skit a friend and I performed for another friend teaching an adult ed class in creative writing. I never thought about taking the skit further than its end as the friend and I worked it out. It was only after the teacher asked, “What happens next?” that those wheels started turning in my mind. That skit – with much modification – became the opening scene in the book.
Several friends asked me why I never wrote a story based on a pharmacy. My reason is, “I work there; I don’t want to play there.” The pharmacy was my professional life, writing and my avocations were my personal life.
NF: Why did you decide to focus on writing crime novels?
DAF: From my earliest fiction-reading days, I have been drawn to mysteries – Robert B. Parker’s Spenser and Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct, to name two series I think I’ve been reading from the start. Reading so many mediocre and poor ones started me thinking (as I said above), I can do a better job than he did.
NF: What makes a crime novel compelling?
DAF: I think we all want balance in our lives and in the world, and we have an inherent need to see wrongs righted. A crime (real or fictional) throws the world out of balance, and the desire to restore that balance drives the cop, the PI, or the amateur detective to solve the crime.
NF: How do you balance writing with all your other interests?
DAF: I mostly go with the flow. When the writing bug nips at me, I pick up my pen and paper or fire up my computer and go to work. When my car is due for a detailing or oil change or needs a repair, I turn to it. If the urge to take photographs strikes, I reach for my camera. But as I snap pictures, screw on an oil filter, buff out wax, or tighten a bolt, my mind is free to think about the story I’m writing – What happens next? I can make that line better. I need to re-arrange that scene. She wouldn’t be wearing a coat in that weather.
NF: How do you approach novel writing? Do you write every day or as the ideas strike?
DAF: A little of both. I try to write a little each day, even if it’s nothing more than tweaking what I’ve already written. If an idea pops into my head, I tend to sort it out in my mind (mentally writing it, if you will) until I think I have it right. That’s when I put my fingers on the keys. And I rarely go anywhere without a pen and notebook to scribble down ideas that pop into my head.
NF: What are you writing now?
DAF: I am working on a sequel to Illegal Maneuvers. Dan Gallagher finds the body of an ex-lover in the trunk of a car awaiting restoration at his shop. Did the car’s owner kill her or did someone else take her life? And why?
NF: Do you have any new projects in mind, and if so, what are they?
DAF: I actually have three started, but haven’t worked on in a long time.
• Snowkill is about the discovery of a body in the snow outside the church in a very small town cut off from the outside world by a once-in-a-century blizzard.
• Innocent Blood is about the murder of a man to harvest his heart to save the life of a captain of industry. The alcoholic brother of the main character witnessed the murder and is later killed by the murderer, sending the main character on a quest for answers.
• The Surrogate is about a laid-back college PR flak invited to write the biography of one of the richest, most powerful men in America, only he senses something off about the invitation from the moment he steps onto the man’s private jet.
• A dear friend and I started co-writing Smokescreen, a murder mystery featuring a male and female detective team, several years ago. The story is told in alternating chapters, she writing the female’s view, me writing the male’s, as they try to solve a woman’s murder.
End of Interview
Nolcha Fox has written all her life, starting with poop and crayons on the walls. Her poems have been published in Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Alien Buddha Zine, Medusa’s Kitchen, and others. Her three chapbooks are available on Amazon.
David A. Freas is a retired pharmacist turned author, born in 1950. After graduating from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy & Science, he spent nearly four decades working in the pharmaceutical field. However, he had a passion for writing that started during his junior high years, and he made his first attempt at writing a novel in 1975. In 1995, David decided to focus more on writing, and retirement in 2009 gave him more time to pursue this interest, along with other hobbies such as car maintenance and photography. David's writing career has led him to publish two crime novels, Illegal Maneuvers and Payback, both available on Amazon.