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Dana Haynes, mayor's publicist, pens spy thrillers



Dana HaynesLast week, when I emailed Dana Haynes asking for a publicity photo, he responded quickly with an attachment of an image for actor Denzel Washington.

“This is me,” Haynes wrote in the body of the email. “I’ve had it airbrushed a little.”

Haynes quickly followed up with a picture of himself.

“OK, that was an outright lie,” Haynes wrote. “Shameful, really. There’s just no excuse for that.”

The email exchange was no surprise.

Haynes is an author who knows how to entertain. After 20 years in journalism,

including at Community Newspapers such as the Gresham Outlook, West Linn Tidings and Lake Oswego

Review, Haynes became communications director for Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.

Haynes recently published “Gun-Metal Heart” (Minotaur Books, $25.99), the third book in the thriller series featuring heroine Daria Gibron, an Israeli ex-soldier and ex-spy.

The Tribune caught up with Haynes to talk about writing novels and the thrills of City Hall and the newsroom:

Portland Tribune: How did a guy from the Pacific Northwest get the idea to write an international spy thriller?

Dana Haynes: Part of my 20 years in newspapers was spent being a copy editor and a news editor and working the foreign wire. I loved that. And I have a bachelor’s degree from Lewis & Clark in political science, and I really love foreign policy things. When I decided that Daria was going to be my breakout character from the first two books, I thought, “What are the things that I read when I pick up my newspaper?” And that’s the stuff I wanted to write, because it’s fun.

Tribune: How has working as a journalist affected you as a novelist?

Haynes: As a guy who came out of weekly newspapers, I’m among the fastest fiction writers I’ve ever met. Journalists are always by far the fastest writers and by far the least whiney. I’ve never been edited by publishers like I’ve been edited by a news editor, who will just shred your copy. Journalists who are novelists never, ever miss deadlines, we have very thick skin and we never, ever get writer’s block. The idea of writer’s block is unheard of in weekly newspapers because in weekly newspapers we call that unemployment.

Tribune: How do you have time to write working in city government?

Photo Credit: COURTESY OF DANA HAYNES - Dana Hayne's Gun Metal Heart is the third book in the series featuring heroine Daria Gibron, an Israeli ex-soldier and ex-spy.Haynes: When people ask me, “How do you find time to do both things?” I usually respond, “I’ve never tried to raise children. How the hell do you have enough time to raise kids and work?” That’s utterly beyond me how anybody as a parent can have a full-time job. That’s infinitely harder. Secondly, the job I do at City Hall is really fascinating and as interesting as heck. But not as hectic as the 10 years I spent at weekly newspapers. Being an editor at a weekly was a lot more time-consuming and energy-consuming than this job. All things considered — and I try not to let the mayor know this — this job is a piece of cake after you’ve tried to run the West Linn Tidings.

Tribune: Do you have to compartmentalize your life as a city official and your life as a novelist?

Haynes: When I’m doing my job, very few people ask me about fiction writing. I never, ever talk about that part of my life while I’m in the office. It’s very important as a communications director, as when I was the reporter, that I’m always the storyteller and never the story. When I’m here, it’s my job to craft stories about this place and never be the story.

Tribune: You’re on the inside of Portland’s city government. Do you see things that you want to put in your novels?

Haynes: Well, I wrote the first draft of “Gun Metal Heart” three months before I got this job. Having said that, I almost never run into anything here that would be of any value in the kind of writing I do. I did when I was in the newsroom. Here, I hate to admit this, but a lot of what we do is very processed and municipal. It’s about the three-inch pipe instead of the four-inch pipe. A lot of what we do here is kind of dull.

Tribune: Some male writers, like Jonathan Franzen, have a talent for writing from the female perspective. Others, like Philip K. Dick, couldn’t create a believable

female character if their lives depended on it. How did you go about writing “Gun Metal Heart” from a female perspective?

Haynes: I think I do a woman’s voice as a protagonist well. I think the reason I do is because of all the years I spent as a journalist taking quotes from people, writing their quotes down. Secondly, my wife, Katy (King), is a novelist as well. As she reads through the books, she’ll say, “This line sounds like Dana.” I have the luxury of having a tremendously good in-house editor.

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