A reporter once, a reporter for 40 years, even when writing fiction.
It’s no surprise that reporter John DeDakis has found his niche and second career in writing fiction from the perspective of a Washington D.C., correspondent. DeDakis was a CNN senior copy editor for the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning show “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.” DeDakis’ journalism career stretches nearly four and a half decades and includes interviews with high-profile personalities such as Alfred Hitchcock, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
DeDakis said he began writing on the side while working for CNN.
“I became an editor in ’89 at CNN, and that’s not very creative,” he said. “By the early ’90s, for a creative outlet, I started a biographical project about a friend’s murder. I ended up selling the project for various reasons. It was complicated knowing so much, more than the family knew. That’s when I tried fiction.”
His fiction work includes a series of books about White House correspondent Lark Chadwick.
DeDakis’ fictional White House correspondent, unlike the author, is a woman. According to Associated Press White House reporter Josh Lederman, “Lark Chadwick stands out as a protagonist who is at once compelling and compulsively true to form. John DeDakis gets inside the head of a modern-day White House journalist.”
DeDakis chose a woman character for his mystery-thriller-suspense plots, he said, because “a friend once told me to write in a way that stretches yourself. So I chose the female voice.”
“We’re not that different, men and women, but women are more nuanced about emotions,” he said. “Women have a lot to say.”
DeDakis is humble about his heroine. Though he said doesn’t consider his four books a series but as stand-alone stories, “Fast Track,” ” “Bluff,” “Troubled Water” and “Bullet in the Chamber” were partly inspired by DeDakis’ life.
“I am most inspired by subplots,” he said. “My life is peppered everywhere. My first novel was prompted by my sister’s suicide in 1980. It was a carthartic to write it. In my fourth novel, the major subplot of events surround my son’s death in 2011.
“In journalism, it’s a story. In fiction it’s a plot twist. And in real life the event is a crisis.”
DeDakis occupies several roles as a modern writer. He’s been a reporter, an editor, a professor of journalism, a lecturer and a writing coach. But he doesn’t miss journalism.
“I didn’t feel the need to go back even while watching a great story break,” he said. “The Boston Marathon was the first big story to break after I left. I’ve made a great second career writing, editing, teaching — everything has prepared me for now.
“When you think about it, and the main thing I teach is write what you know. Anything is grist, even if it’s fiction. It can be tied to a universal theme in the real world. Peek behind the curtain of how journalism is done — it’s messy. The emphasis for professionals is informative, not persuasive.”
DeDakis also finds grist in the social media arena. A longtime friend and colleague of his, David Aikman, a conservative Christian journalist and former senior reporter at Time Magazine, has been involved with DeDakis in an online discussion about evangelical Christian support of President Trump. DeDakis and Aikman first met in 1985 as young journalists attending a regular breakfast for Christian reporters in Washington, D.C.
“I have become disillusioned with evangelicalism and responded with a #notmypresident post after the new year, and David responded,” he said. “I hadn’t seen David since my son’s funeral. And I figured if anyone could explain how you can back Trump as an evangelical, David could.”
The interchange has blossomed between the Baltimore-based DeDakis and the Dublin-based Aikman into a discussion about where religion and politics intersect. DeDakis still considers Aikman one of his mentors despite the difference in opinion. The conversation is public on DeDakis’ Facebook page.
DeDakis will be at Jackson Hole Book Trader from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday for a book signing and meet and greet. It will be the first author event at the book store since it reopened. DeDakis said he is looking forward to returning to town.
“The last time I was in town, it was part of a monthlong tour from Wisconsin, where I grew up, to Seattle for the 1962 World Fair.” ￼