David Albertyn tells us more about Undercard

Welcome to Escape with a Writer Sunday, David Albertyn!

I had the pleasure of not only reviewing this book, but meeting the author who is a really great guy! I have to say I can easily see this book as a movie…

The choices we make have a ripple effect on others whether we realize it or not. Tyron Shaw's return to Las Vegas after his stint in the military brings the consequences of the choices he and his circle of friends to the surface. Undercard is a riveting novel with well-rounded characters and a story that will keep you guessing until the end. I definitely look forward to reading future novels by this author! (as well as attending future events!)  

David Albertyn (1983) was born in Durban, South Africa, and grew up in Toronto, Canada. He studied at Queen’s University and the Humber School for Writers, and coached tennis until the publication of his first novel, “Undercard” (2019), which was a finalist for the Forest of Reading Evergreen Award, and made 49th Shelf’s Top Fiction List of 2019 and CrimeReads’ list of “8 Debut Novels You Should Read This June” (2020). Among many sports, he primarily competed in track and field growing up, then in tennis as an adult. When he completes a draft of a novel, he does as much yoga and running in nature as he can, promptly burns out, and as soon as he’s recovered, it’s time to work on a new draft. His goal is to write visceral novels that are both thrilling and meaningful. 

What would you say are your strengths as an author?
I think making a story exciting and entertaining is something I’ve had for a long time. Particularly action scenes I’ve been studying and writing since I was a child. When I came across a great chase, fight, or shootout in a book, I would read it over and over and try to analyze how the author had made that reading experience so thrilling, then I would try my best to emulate their techniques.
     I would also say that cutting between multiple perspectives, and between past and present, like I do in Undercard, is a strength of mine. I believe this might have come from studying Film at university and editing short films.
     Where I’ve worked very hard to develop my writing is stylistically, and particularly in descriptions and detail. It’s been a lot of years of intense effort to shore up that side of my writing.
     But what I would say is my best strength as an author is that I really dig deep in my writing. I dig deep within myself and use a lot of emotion to breathe life and depth into my characters. Writing is by no means an effortless experience for me. It takes a lot from me.

How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
I don’t always write. I take breaks between drafts to recover, and when I am promoting a release, like I am with Undercard being recently released in the US now, I try to put all my energy into that. But when I am in a writing phase, I do follow a fairly strict routine. I try to get up early (it used to be 6 am although increasingly it’s 5 am) and write first thing in the morning. I’ll try to have a session of an hour or two to start the day. Then if I have the time and the energy, I’ll try to get in two more sessions of about an hour over the course of the day. Occasionally I can do four sessions in a day, but that is a lot for me. I usually write five to six days a week, leaving a day or two to refresh my mind.

Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
That’s a very good question. I try not to think about results too much and just focus on what I can control, but I hope that in five years I have at least one, and ideally two, more books that I’m truly proud of. I’m very proud of Undercard, and if I could create two more books that I feel the same way about, that I’ve poured my heart and soul into and feel like I’ve created something worthwhile, then I’ll feel very happy.

If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
I’ve said this in other interviews, and I’d like to say something different but I’m going to say it again because I think it’s the most important thing when it comes to writing, or any skill: keep improving. Improving is more important than any short-term success. Finding ways to continuously improve at your writing is what will make your writing experience richer, will make your work more interesting, and will create opportunities for you over time. Try different things. Push yourself in new ways. Don’t be afraid of setbacks. Don’t be afraid of failure. Know that anything good that was ever written took multiple drafts. Know that anything great that was ever written took near countless drafts. It is in all of us to improve. You can do it, and you will be rewarded for it.

What would you consider to be the best compliment a reader could give your book?
These are great questions, Diane. I never really thought about that before. I think the best thing anyone could say to me about my book is that it affected them. It meant something to them. Reading it was a worthwhile experience that they won’t forget. Hearing that would mean a lot to me. But just to be clear, I’m not going to turn down a compliment. Any compliment I’ll take, and I’ll appreciate it.

What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on a murder mystery dramedy set in the tennis club world. I think it could be very funny. I’m really working hard on making it as funny as possible—a deviation from Undercard, which I tried to make as visceral, gritty, and intense as possible. There is also a lot of sex in it. I feel like it could really be a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to finish it so I can share it with everybody.

Where can you find out more?


Set over the course of twenty-four exhilarating hours, Undercard is the story of four childhood friends, now in their early thirties, unexpectedly reunited by a high-profile prizefight in a Las Vegas casino . . . and an even higher-profile murder.

When Tyron Shaw returns to his hometown of Las Vegas after eleven years in the Marines, he’s surprised to discover that two of his best friends from childhood are all anyone is talking about: Antoine Deco, three years out of prison, hasn’t lost a boxing match since his release, and tonight is fighting in the undercard to the fight of the decade; and Keenan Quinn, a police officer who killed an unarmed teenager and escaped punishment from the courts, is the subject of a protest tomorrow morning.

Tyron has trouble reconciling either story with his memory of these men, and the situation escalates when he runs into the love of his life, Naomi Wilks, a retired WNBA player, basketball coach, and estranged wife of Keenan. As Tyron reconnects with his old community, he will learn over the next twenty-four hours that much has changed since he left Las Vegas . . . and there is much more that he never understood.

The Reef, an aquarium-themed casino and the hottest resort on the Strip, is the backdrop for this bullet-paced narrative, where loyalty to one’s friends, one’s family, and one’s community are ever at odds, and every choice has deadly repercussions.

“A rich, exhilarating story…Albertyn creates a pressure-cooker scenario for his characters, but manages amidst the adrenaline to bring out moments of insight and humanity.”
—Dwyer Murphy, CrimeReads Editor-in-Chief

“[Albertyn] successfully generates a gritty, dark atmosphere in the novel that draws on the best elements of noir to keep readers edgy and absorbed. His interiors are dark and gloomy, and his exteriors make us feel agoraphobic and threatened in a vague, undefined way.”
—New York Journal of Books 

“Fast-paced, fearless, and psychologically astute, Undercard is at once a terrific thriller and a sharp commentary on our turbulent times.”
— David Bezmozgis, author of Immigrant City

Undercard is a dizzying rollercoaster of suspense and action that examines the complexities of brotherhood and the consequences of tragic masculinity. Albertyn’s pitch-perfect understanding of the bonds of friendship gives this novel a powerful emotional center. If The Hangover were a serious suspense novel, it would be Undercard.”
—S. A. Cosby, author of Blacktop Wasteland    


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