Author Spotlight: Craig Bennett Hallenstein

Hometown: Woodstock. Have also resided in Crystal Lake and Bull Valley.

Latest Book: “The Dolphin”

Publisher: Storyville Press

Release Date: April 1

Available: Through local booksellers and online retailers in paperback and ebook formats.

What’s your book about?

“The Dolphin” is a psychological thriller set in New Orleans.

Former child prodigy and aspiring psychologist Sean Jordan moves to New Orleans, putting his past behind him, until a conservative radio station in a bid for higher ratings outs him as a dangerous sex offender. When the 13-year-old daughter of the station’s nationally celebrated talk show host disappears, police scramble to take down Jordan, unaware he, too, is a victim of the kidnapper, terrorizing the city on the eve of Mardi Gras. Jordan has a chance to save the girl but only if he meets the kidnapper’s demands. Refusing could cost him his life.

Agreeing could cost him his soul.

Where did the idea come from?

Scanning radio stations nine years ago, I suddenly heard: “We need to burn them in ovens and send them to hell!” I quickly held the station to find out who the commentator was referring to. When I realized it was “sex offenders,” I thought, of course, they’re the one group in our culture that’s near universally despised – so much so that radio personalities can get away with disparaging them, using the language of Nazi Germany. I thought there might be a story in that. I began doing research and came to understand that minor sexual offenders, such as 18-year-olds having consensual sex with 17-year-olds, were being forced to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives alongside violent sexual predators in a one-size-fits-all registry that fails to distinguish between the two. Then I knew there was a story.

What genre is your book, and why were you drawn to it?

A psychological thriller. As a psychologist, I like characters who are complex, nuanced, and richly drawn – wonderful in some ways, and deeply flawed in others. I also like to see the different ways people act under duress.

Who is the intended audience?


Why is this story important to you?

My parents fought for civil rights in the 1960s. My kids and I have been fighting for gay rights for years. Realizing people were being punished beyond time served for minor crimes – if crimes at all – I saw a civil rights violation needing to be addressed. I hope the book will launch a national dialogue about innocent “dolphins” getting caught in the net of sex offender registration.

How long did it take you to write? What was your process?

I’d figure out each chapter every morning in the shower, then sit in front of the computer and watch the chapter write itself. I followed Stephen King’s prescription and wrote 1,000 words a day. At the end of 90 days, I had my first draft. It took eight more years to turn it into a book worth reading.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? What was the hardest part?

Crafting story, writing dialogue and laughing out loud as amusing possibilities arose. There’s nothing better for a writer than creating a remarkable sentence in which every word works to spark a reader’s imagination.

What’s hard is sticking with it while facing endless, necessary rewrites, spanning months if not years.

How are you publishing this book and why (traditional/indie/self-publishing)?

I’m publishing under my own imprint, Storyville Press. For years, I swore I’d never self-publish. But watching the turmoil in the publishing industry, and finding out their authors have to similarly do all their own pr, I decided to jump on the emerging bandwagon and do it all myself. However, while most self-published authors rush books into print, I took my time, working with four award-winning editors over the span of eight years.

What is your education/background?

I attended Beloit College and the California School of Professional Psychology, earning a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and prompting a study of contemporary sexuality. I then studied writing at Chicago Dramatists and the University of Iowa.

How/why did you decide to write a book?

I was born into a family of writers. My father was day news editor for the Chicago Tribune. My mother was managing editor of a suburban weekly. I always wrote. My first (unpublished) novel was written at age 13. Writers have to write.

Who are your favorite authors?

John Irving!

Pick one: Danielle Steel or John Grisham?


Pick one: Stephen King or Nicholas Sparks?


Pick one: Ebooks or hard/paperbacks?

Hardback, but that’s changing. By the end of the year, I’ll own a tablet.

Have you written anything else?

My writing has appeared in publications as diverse as The Journal of Professional Psychology and The National Enquirer. A cover story I wrote for People Finders magazine was optioned by Dick Clark Productions for a made-for-TV movie.

What’s next for you?

I’m speaking at the Tennessee Williams/Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans, April 1-3. Locally, I’ll be reading and signing books at Read Between the Lynes Bookstore on the Woodstock Square, April 9th from 6-8pm.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website: Blog: Facebook: Twitter: Amazon Author Page: Goodreads: dolphin?ref=ru_lihp_up_rv_0_mclk-up2869094594 Netgalley: Kirkus: bennett-hallenstein/the-dolphin/

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