Sunday, July 12, 2020

2020 Interview: Greg Dillensnyder

I’m Greg Dillensnyder, a husband, father, grandfather, and retired Clinical Social Worker. In my job as a social worker, I provided psychotherapy services to children, adults, and families for forty years. For several of those years, I worked as Clinical Director of the Community Counseling Center of Mercer County. Through that experience, I feel a fond connection to the Mercer area. I’ve lived near Pittsburgh for most of my adult life, coming here after graduation from Penn State, where my undergrad degree was in English. My childhood roots are in the eastern Pennsylvania anthracite coal region (Schuylkill County), which I use as the locale for my first two novels.

Do you have any hobbies?

I love music and spend a lot of time ‘playing at’ the piano. Though my playing is not very accomplished, it provides me pleasure. I also love to garden and grow anything that produces flowers or fruit. Another hobby is family tree research. I have been able to trace one line of ancestors back to the Middle Ages.

What is your favorite vacation spot?

I have never found anything to compare to the beaches of North Carolina. My family has taken weeks there in the summer every few years for the last forty-five. In recent years Topsail Island has become my favorite for a relaxing adventure. However, for culture, history, ambiance, I have also grown to love the city of San Francisco as my go-to place. While I’m getting too old for longer walks, I used to love full-day walking excursions to the various neighborhoods of the City by the Bay.

If you were given a ticket to anywhere and spending money to indulge, where would you go?

I would probably spend time in the Lorraine region of France, where my ancestors originated. 

Do you have pets?

My wife and I are the proud servants of two cats. Buddy is a sixteen-year-old flame-point Siamese, and Chloe is a chocolate point. Both are rescue cats from the Siamese Rescue Center.

What is your favorite color, and what do you love about it?

Without question, blue is my favorite. I find it calming – the color of the ocean in some places and of open summer skies.

What was your favorite book as a child?

This question prompted my recollection of one of my first serious reading experiences outside of school requirements. That first book was The Diamond Cave Mystery by Troy Nesbitt. In retrospect, that and other later readings played a role in my interest in mysteries.

What is one thing about yourself you’d like to change or are trying to work on?

As someone introverted by nature, I am enjoying the social opportunities that come with the promotion of my books; book festivals and signings are great places to meet new people. From my discussions with other authors, writing as a solitary activity does not prepare one for what it takes to promote and market the fruit of that activity. It doesn’t come naturally for many of us. So, it seems, even an old codger like me can learn some ‘new tricks.’

What music genre/singer/band is your go-to for a bad day? For working? 

I love the music of Josh Groban, the Canadian Tenors, Judy Collins, Linda Ronstadt, Celine Dion. When writing, I usually like quiet, but when needing some inspiration, I sometimes play Chopin in the background. The cadence and tonal qualities of his music seem to supplement creativity rather than distract me when I’m working.

Do you re-read books? If so, is there one in particular?

I don’t.

Are you an introvert, extravert, or ambivert?

Without question, an introvert.

Does pineapple go on pizza?

Absolutely. Not my favorite thing, but I’m a fan of putting two things that are good separately, together for an added benefit. That doesn’t always work out, but with pizza, a pineapple garnish is a good thing.

How many places have you lived? (If not native to western PA, what brought you here?)

I was born and raised in Frackville, Pennsylvania. I lived in State College, PA, through my undergraduate work at Penn State, then moved to Pittsburgh in the early 1970s to eventually marry my wife, who is a native Pittsburgher.

What was your first job?

My first paid job, during summer break from college, was working in a garment factory laying out the cloth material that was made into bathrobes. After graduating from college, my first employment was as a Public Assistance caseworker, administering public welfare payments to those who qualified and connecting them with any social service that they needed. This led me to my graduate work in Social Work and my career as a therapist.

Are you the type to take a dare?

Not usually. Introvert, remember? Also, not a risk-taker.

What books, other than your own, would you highly recommend?

I love the suspense mysteries of Patricia Cornwell. I also like most of Dean Koontz’s writings.

On to writing: what inspired you to start creating stories/non-fiction? How long ago?

I recall vividly the pleasure of my first experience with fiction writing in about eighth grade. Then, in undergraduate English classes, I had the good fortune of receiving encouragement and mentorship from one of my professors. It was then that I truly began to think that I might have some degree of talent for writing, but the practicality of finding a serious, paying profession led me to put writing on the ‘back burner.’ It is only since my ‘retirement’ that I have become serious about actually producing novel-length pieces.

How do you choose your settings (fiction) or topics (non-fiction)?

I have just finished my second mystery novel. I chose my hometown as the location for both books, partly out of nostalgia and partly out of trying to follow the maxim: ‘write what you know.’ I felt that I had enough experience with the culture and geography of my hometown to be able to bring an element of realism to the story plots.

Can you tell us a bit about your path to publication?

I wrote my first novel for pure pleasure without any thought that it would be worthy of publication. Once it was finished, my son encouraged me to publish and knew someone who worked for a ‘hybrid’ publisher and who gave me some guidance about my options. Given the low odds of traditional publishing for a first-time author, I decided to use the ‘hybrid publisher’ option.

Finally, please tell us about your books and add your website so we can find you:

My first novel, Murder at Mountain Tavern is the story of Aubrey McKenna, a celebrated criminal investigator who is on the rebound from losing everything: her career, her relationship, and her pride. Determined to recover personally and professionally, she accepts a position investigating a previously solved murder in a sleepy Pennsylvania coal-mining town. New evidence will likely exonerate the man serving a life sentence for a crime he did not commit, and the real culprit in the horrific murder of a teenage girl is still at large. McKenna navigates the pitfalls of small-town politics and corruption, leading her investigation to the highest levels of state government in her attempt to bring justice to the thirty-year-old cold case.

My second book, The Loner, continues the adventures of McKenna, who gets pulled into an investigation of late-night lights and gang symbols appearing on Centralia, Pennsylvania’s desolate Graffiti Highway. Worried about a new incursion of gang violence into the region, McKenna confronts an intrusion that is far more sinister and deadly. She finds herself battling a timeline to save the lives and health of the citizens of her area and relying on the premonitions of one of Centralia’s last few residents to guide her investigation.




  1. Greg, I so enjoyed your first book and look forward to reading the second. Great interview. Linda Kelley

  2. Wonderful interview. And you write a good solid book. I loved the first and can't wait to read the second. Are you already starting the third? I hope so.


Comments are moderated. Spam will not be posted.