Mug Shot: Member Profile

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Mug Shot: Jen Conley

Jen Conley's short stories have appeared in Thuglit, Needle, Crime Factory, Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen, and many others. She has contributed to the Los Angeles Review of Books and is one of editors of Shotgun Honey. Her story collection, Cannibals: Stories from the Edge of the Pine Barrens is available now.

Tell us about your latest project.
Last May my first book was published, a collection of crime stories that take place in one the more rural areas of New Jersey, the Pine Barrens.

When and how do you find time to write?
Whenever I can find it. I teach middle school and I'm a mom, so my writing time is limited. I am off in the summer, so I tend to write a lot then, or I try to. It's funny — when having large blocks of time to write sometimes gives me writer's block. As for the school year, I write Saturday mornings and afternoons and during the week, usually I write for a bit at night before I go to bed.

How much and what kinds of marketing do you personally do?
I have a website, which I think every author needs these days. People need a place to find you. I think Twitter is an excellent source for writers, although I find Twitter very fast and you need to be sharp to be a decent tweeter. I'm pretty quiet on Twitter but I use it to promote my writing or if I'm hosting a Noir at the Bar. I use Facebook the most. It seems to be the right pace for me and I think it's been the main source of getting the word out that I have a book.

What fictional detective would you like to be and why?
I don't know about fictional detective but I think I'd like to be Sam Gerard in The Fugitive. Or I want to be Tommy Lee Jones as Sam Gerard in The Fugitive.

In five words or less, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
"Don't write until you're 30."

I stole that from Annie Proulx, who said don't write until you're 50. Of course, it's not meant to be taken literally, but the idea of it makes sense. I think young writers should be writing, but it's more important to read and watch films and good television, maybe take an acting class, read more, and you also have to live — go somewhere different, work different jobs, listen to people of all walks of life . . . and read even more. All of this will help a writer figure out their writing style, the life themes they'll be writing about. I also think your 20s are the time to explore, and your 30s can be your time to reflect. This is all very hippy-dippy, and I'm more of a cynical northeast woman, but I know a lot of writers and most of them seem to have gotten serious about their writing when they were in their 30s.

The other reason to go out and live, is because you need to figure out how you feel about the world. If you don't have your own take on the world, as a writer, you don't have a personal authentic view of the world, and you end up mimicking. I can only speak for myself, by as a reader, I want something from the writer, some bit of empathy, a glimpse into how they see the world. If you don’t know how you see the world, you will mimic someone else's view, and you won’t move anyone doing that. Even in genre writing you have to come at it with your own take.

Mug Shot: Larry Kelter

Lawrence Kelter has now authored several novels, including two internationally best-selling series, the Stephanie Chalice Series and the Chloe Mather Series. Nelson DeMille called him “an exciting new novelist, who reminds me of an early Robert Ludlum.” Kelter's next book is Back to Brooklyn, the long-awaited literary sequel to the film My Cousin Vinny. It will be the first in a series of comic adventures featuring Vinny Gambini and Mona Lisa Vito. Kelter has lived in the Metro New York area most of his life and relies primarily on familiar locales for story settings.

Tell us about your latest work.
My big news is that I signed a deal with Twentieth Century Fox and the screenwriter of the classic comedy, My Cousin Vinny. I’ll be writing a series of novels based on the characters, Vincent Gambini and Mona Lisa Vito. Back to Brooklyn, a sequel to the film, picks up exactly where the film left off, with Vinny racing to get out of Beechum County before he's found out and thrown into jail. It will be the first in what will evolve into a modern day Nick and Nora kind of series with Lisa investigating and Vinny litigating. My Cousin Vinny has always been my favorite comedy film, the one that made me late for appointments if it happened to pop up on the tube when I should've been walking out the door. Mention the film by name or parrot any of the classic lines and you'll find that practically everyone within earshot is immediately on the same page with you, going tit for tat with smiles plastered on their faces. "Are you sure? Yeah, I'm pos-i-tive."

When and how do you find time to write?
Funny that you should ask because I'm pretty sure my friends and neighbors have a vision of a full-time writer as someone who wakes mid-afternoon and sashays around the house in slippers and a silk smoking jacket, smoking a cigarette fitted into a cigarette holder, when in truth, I've never smoked. Actually, I’m pretty disciplined. I think of writing and promotion as a full-time job, and it doesn't matter that I don't have a boss standing over me cracking the whip. I'm the CEO, my wife, Isabella is the chairwoman of the board, and together we do whatever is necessary to keep the ship afloat. Before that, I used to plug away on my laptop while commuting back and forth to work in the city. I think the lack of elbow room on the railroad actually contributed to the creative process. No, come to think of it, that's a lie.

What kinds of marketing for your books do you personally?
I'm on Facebook everyday doing my best to post interesting tidbits about me and my family, my writing, and the world at large. Does that world-at-large bit sound too much like Walter Cronkite? I do blog and find it fun — my website was just revamped for something like the sixth time. Anyway, tomorrow may be history but Twitter is my mystery. I've tried and tried, and I just don’t get it. I've had three different assistants help me with it, and it just doesn’t work for me.

What fictional detective would you like to be and why?
It’s gotta be Sherlock because the man is just so damn clever. I mean think about it — he exists in an age before computers, forensics labs, DNA analysis, CCTV, and tracking devices. He figures it all out in his mind. His powers of observation are second to none. And who else but Holmes is capable of catching Moriarity, “the greatest schemer of all time, the organizer of every devilry”?

In five words or less, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
How about six? “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!” — Captain Lloyd Williams

Mug Shot: Peter Blauner

Peter Blauner is the author of seven novels, including Slow Motion Riot, winner of an Edgar award for best first novel, and The Intruder, a New York Times bestseller. He began his career as a journalist for New York magazine in the 1980s and segued into writing fiction in the 1990s. His short fiction has been anthologized in Best American Mystery Stories and on Selected Shorts from Symphony Space. For the last ten years, he has written for several television shows, including Law & Order: SVU and Blue Bloods. His newest novel is Proving Ground, published in May 2017.

What are you working on currently?
After finishing a second season writing for the CBS show Blue Bloods, I’m putting out my first novel in eleven years, Proving Ground (actually Minotaur/St. Martin’s is publishing it: I’m just following it around). It’s a kind of modern-day Hamlet revenge story with a traumatized vet and a bodacious detective, set in Brooklyn. I’m about to start writing another novel, which I hope will be done a lot sooner.

When and how do you find time to write?
I try to be very disciplined about it. Some people consider writing to be a calling, but it’s also a job and not necessarily one that anybody’s dying for you to do. So it’s on you to take it seriously. Especially when it comes to books. Writing for someone else’s TV show is relatively simple. The characters already exist, the length is predetermined, and the number of sets are limited by budget and time constraints. But a novel can be anything. So when I’m writing one, I approach it like a boxer approaching a title fight. I do the road work and hit the heavy bag every day. I write three pages, without judgment, then spend several hours reading and doing research. I got the three page thing from Hemingway. He said if it’s going well and you cut off after three pages, you have a good place to start the next day. But if they stink, three pages isn’t that much to recover from.

How much and what kinds of marketing do you personally do?
Honestly, I’m not much of marketing maven. What I do like is hearing from readers. The financial rewards of writing can come and go. And publicity is always ephemeral. The only real lasting rewards are the pleasure you take from doing the work and knowing that your words actually landed with someone personally.

What fictional detective would you like to be and why?
That’s a tough one. If I was someone else, I’d miss the people I love in my family. Then again, if I was Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op, I wouldn’t love anybody. I’d just go around being a pitiless observer, playing people off against each other, cool about deploying language and violence with equally cool detachment. Nothing would bother me, which might be good. But only for a while.

In five words or less, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read. Can’t get better otherwise.

Mug Shot: Alex Segura

Miami native Alex Segura is a novelist and comic book writer. He is the author of the Miami crime novels featuring Pete Fernandez, Silent City, and Down the Darkest Street. The latest Fernandez mystery, Dangerous Ends, was released in April. He has also written a number of comic books, including the best-selling and critically acclaimed Archie Meets Kiss storyline, the "Occupy Riverdale" story, and Archie Meets Ramones. He lives in New York with his wife and son.

Tell us about your latest work.
Down the Darkest Street is the second Pete Fernandez mystery. Pete is a washed-up journalist trying to not only decide if he wants to be a PI, but struggling to stay sober. The book finds Pete paired with a woman he saved in the pages of the first book, Silent Cityas they try to solve a string of murders that are eerily reminiscent of a long-dead serial killer. The books are set in my hometown of Miami. Place is a big part of the books, and I really strive to showcase the Miami that tourists don't see.

When and how do you find time to write?
It's all about pockets of time. I wish I had a more ceremonial writing routine, but with a day job, baby, and life in general, it's really about just maximizing the time as I find it. Though, more often than not, I'm writing after dinner — when the kid is asleep and the house is relatively quiet.

In terms of finding time — it's about desire. I want to finish my book and get on to the next one so I put in the time. I don't believe in writer's block, either. You sit down and write and hope the words are good. If they words are bad, you power through them and hope the next batch is better.

How much and what kinds of marketing do you personally do?
I'm a publicity and marketing person by day, so I think I do more than the average author. I'm active on Twitter and my Facebook author page, I also try to send out a newsletter at least once a month. The biggest piece of advice I'd share is authors should strive to make their "content" as organic as possible. No one wants to read a dozen tweets to your book. Engage with readers. Support other authors. Post regularly. Be yourself. People want to get to know you via social media. If they like that, they might consider buying your book — but it's not a one-for-one trade.

What writers have inspired you?
So many. Lots of the classics, like Chandler, Millar, MacDonald, Thompson, Highsmith. Authors like Lehane, Block, Coleman, Lippman, Pelecanos, Connelly — that made setting prominent and important parts of their series. Noir masters like Megan Abbott and James Ellroy. I read books by these authors and I get motivated. I want to strive for those heights. That's what it's all about, I think.

In five words or less, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write and read a lot.

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