20Q: Catching up with detective/author Erik Goth


Editor's Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area's arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person's artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.

Erik Goth

A law enforcement officer for 26 years, including 19 as a detective for the city of Janesville, Goth released his first book, “Dark Stirs an August Breeze,” in late 2015.

The book introduced characters Police Chief Ed Slade and young Isaiah Asner as the two worked together to solve mysterious disappearances in their small Wisconsin town. Goth's second book, “Damage in December Snow,” was released late last year and again teams Slade and Asner as they track down a mentally disturbed murderer.

Goth lives in Janesville with his daughter Hudson. He also has two grown sons: Mack, who lives in Hollywood, California, and Mitch, who also is an author and a student at Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

For more about Goth's books, search Amazon.com. Both books are available as paperbacks and as Kindle downloads.

1. What inspired you to begin writing? I read an article about twins who had their own language and only spoke to each other. It made me wonder how that would complicate a murder case. From there, a story in my head unfolded, and I shared it with my wife, Nicole. She encouraged me to write it down, mostly so she could find out what happened next in the story. My son, Mitch, is a writer, so I turned to him for advice on making it all come together.

2. If you weren't a law enforcement officer, would you write full time or do something else? I would definitely write full time. I'd also fish full time. I probably wouldn't 'live in a house', or 'have groceries', so I'll stick with what works.

3. What prompted you to enter law enforcement? John Torpy was a Rock County sheriff's deputy I knew back then. His stories certainly made the job sound real and gave it humanity compared with the car chases and shootouts on TV/movies. It struck me as an honorable and noble profession.

4. What was the first thing you ever wrote? I can't remember, but I can guarantee you my mom has it stored in a box in her basement.

5. Who is your favorite author? I grew up reading everything by Stephen King. Even though my books are crime-fiction, there is a lot of horror or fantasy throughout that is very King-esque. He is my No. 1 influence.

6. Do you write from an outline or free flow? I draft an outline that I throw away. I draft a second one that I throw away. I draft a third that I pretend to use but change everything as I go along. So, it's a combination effort I call “I have no idea what I'm doing.”

7. You spend your days trying to solve mysteries and your free time creating mysteries. Doesn't that drain you? No. The emotional aspect of police work catches up to me, but it's hard to compare it to anything else because I don't really know anything else. Solving puzzles is what I do for fun, so that isn't exhausting at all.

8. Do you have any writing rituals? My most common ritual is opening my laptop and not writing a damn thing.

9. Have you ever been injured on the job? In terms of danger, I'd rather be a cop than a roofer or one of those Alaskan king crab fishermen. The thing about law enforcement is a roof doesn't head butt you out of the blue. I did have my nose broken in '94. Heads are pretty hard. Most “injuries” are intangible. Right now, the public perception of cops as bloodthirsty thugs looking for a fight is hard for all of us to swallow.

10. Do you write every day? If not, how often do you write, and for how long each time? I write about two or three times a week; never more than a couple hours each time. The longer I write in one sitting, the more I have to delete the next time.  

11. What do you consider your essential tools for writing? My notes. It would be impossible to keep track of all the things I've made up without my notes. I am astounded at George R.R. Martin's ability to stay linear and accurate with his characters in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series.

12. Name a television show that accurately describes police work and one that couldn't be further from the truth? I thought “The Dukes of Hazzard” nailed police work (“Buckle up, Flash!”). “Cops” is realistic because, of course, it is real. Everything else is loosely based on reality and should be viewed for entertainment purposes only.

13. Have you always enjoyed writing, or is this a fairly new interest? I have written music and lyrics with my band, Kind of a Big Deal, but something the level of a novel had crossed my mind before. It just seemed like a lot of work, so I never got started on it until two years ago.

14. Would you describe your writing style as “arresting”? I hope it is.

15. Have you ever been involved in an investigation you thought would be a great subject for a book? Yes, and that is all I have to say about that.

16. Name a skill you wish you had. Writing. I have no formal training or education in creative writing. Lesson to be learned: Don't let your lack of skill stop you. Even if it's awful, you can still say you did it.

17. You're trapped on a deserted island. Which five books would you want to have with you? The ones with the most pages. I'll need them for kindling to boil water and roast coconuts.

18. There is a stereotype that cops like doughnuts. Is there any truth to it, do you like them and, if so, what is your favorite kind? Doughnuts taste good. Everyone likes doughnuts. My favorite doughnut is the one Hudson doesn't eat. It usually has a thumbprint and is partially dried out.

19. Do law enforcement officers have a sense of humor? I doubt it. The guy who wrote me a speeding ticket last year sure didn't think I was funny.

20. Describe your perfect day in law enforcement. Whenever someone says, “Thank you for what you do.” It isn't necessary, but it sure makes everything seem a little more worthwhile.

If you're involved in the arts and entertainment community and think you or someone you know would make a good subject for 20Q, email kicks Editor Greg Little at glittle@gazettextra.com.