Mug Shot: Member Profile

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Mug Shot: Rich Zahradnik

Rich Zahradnik is the award-winning author of the critically acclaimed Coleridge Taylor Mysteries. The latest installment, Lights Out Summer, comes out in October. Publishers Weekly said, “Zahradnik nails the period, with its pack journalism, racism overt and subtle, and the excesses of the wealthy at places like Studio 54, as he shows how one dogged reporter can make a difference.” He worked for almost 30 years in journalism and now teaches kids in the New York area how to write news stories and publish newspapers.

In your most recent finished work, what was the hardest scene to write?
Lights Out Summer is set in 1977. An important set piece is the New York City black out of July 13-14. I was working from newspaper coverage of the looting and destruction. I wanted to turn the facts into a true feel for the chaos of being out on the streets as mass crime happened--the skip-jumpy fear of trying to get through it.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
The day after I received an offer of representation, I found out I was admitted to the Crime Fiction Academy, a first-of-its-kind program run by the Center for Fiction. I workshopped my novel during my semester in CFA before my agent took it out to publishers. That effort helped the manuscript a great deal, and it became my first published novel.

What do you think is the best way to market your books?
This is a tough one. I’ve tried Facebook post boosts and ads, Google, Goodreads contests and ads, various deal emails and blog tours and still have not found the outlet that delivers a return on investment. I sold a bunch of books when a novel was priced at 99 cents, and I used the deal newsletters (others than BookBub; I couldn’t get on that one). But after costs, the royalties weren’t much because I’m traditionally published. In the end, I’d say having a PR person work on the book for three months before launch is the thing I would always do because I’ve got someone who knows the crime fiction blog scene and can secure good placements.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?
Michael Connelly, for the way he uses seemingly straightforward, everyday language — though it’s really not — to draw you in. Before you know it, he’s grabbed you with his story. The energy builds and the fireworks go off.

Derek Raymond, for the dark, harsh yet emotional writing of this author of 1980s British noir. I don’t write this way, but I borrow bits of his technique.

Tony Hillerman, for making his landscape and setting a character in all his books. What he did with the southwestern desert, I attempt to do with 1970s New York.

Georges Simenon, for telling great, complex mysteries in 150 pages.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Start writing sooner.

Mug Shot: Kevin Egan

Kevin Egan is the author of eight novels, most recently A Shattered Circle, and Midnight, a Kirkus Best Book of 2013. He works in the iconic New York County Courthouse, which serves as the setting and inspiration for most of his recent fiction. Several of his courthouse mystery stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. His short fiction also has been published in Thuglit, Rosebud, and Westchester Review.

Tell us about your latest work.
A Shattered Circle involves a judge suffering from dementia. His wife, who also is his secretary, is fiercely protective of him, his career, and his reputation. The working title of the novel was A Small Circle, which was the title of my AHMM short story that became the germ of the novel. The term “small circle” was meant to convey the progressively circumscribed life of a person afflicted with dementia, especially Alzheimer's. In the novel, the small circle is the protective ring of trust and secrecy the judge's wife has created to protect her husband. Unfortunately, events from both of their pasts threaten to shattered the circle.

When and how do you find time to write?
My strategy is to have discipline make up for lack of time. On weekdays, I have three writing sessions. Two of them are automatic – the commuter train rides from between the suburbs and New York City. The third session of the day is lunch hour in the courthouse library, but that depends on how the workday is going. On weekends, I will get up early at least one, if not both days, depending on where I am in a project. Weekend work usually involves editing the previous week’s work and blocking out where I hope to go the following week.

How much and what kinds of marketing do you and how do you feel it works for you?
I always start with an event at the Mysterious Bookshop. Beyond that, I write guests posts for as many web sites as will have me. I have done readings at several independent book stores and at the fabulous KGB Lit Bar. However, independent bookstore events seem to be dwindling along with the stores themselves, so in the future I will turn my attention to libraries. I established both a Goodreads author page and a Facebook page four years ago, but can’t seem to work either of them very well. Self-promotion just isn’t in my DNA.

What fictional detective would you like to be and why?
The quick answer is Jack Reacher and the simple reason is: Who wouldn't want to be? But before there was a Jack Reacher, the hands-down answer was Spenser. For me, Spenser had everything: toughness leavened with a deadpan wit, a marvelous foil in his buddy Hawk, and the exquisite Susan Silverman as his love interest. Plus he could cook.

In five words or less, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Same time every day.

Mug Shot: Nelson DeMille

Nelson DeMille is the best-selling author of thrillers that deal with terrorism, espionage, and crime. His books include By the Rivers of Babylon, Cathedral, The Talbot Odyssey, Word of Honor, The Charm School, The Gold Coast, The General's Daughter, Spencerville, Plum Island, The Lion's Game, Up Country, Night Fall, Wild Fire, The Gate House, The Lion, The Panther, The Quest, Radiant Angel, and, most recently, The Cuban Affair. He also co-authored Mayday with Thomas Block and has contributed short stories to anthologies as well as book reviews and articles to magazines and newspapers.

Tell us about your latest project.
My latest novel, The Cuban Affair, will be published this month by Simon & Schuster. This is my twentieth hardcover novel and features a new character, Daniel "Mac" MacCormick. Mac is a wounded and decorated Afghan War vet, born and raised in Maine but currently living in Key West, Florida, where he is the owner and skipper of a 42-foot charter fishing boat, named The Maine. Life would be good if he wasn’t in debt, and that problem could be solved by Carlos, a Cuban-American Miami lawyer who offers Mac two million dollars to charter The Maine for a fishing tournament to Cuba. Is there a catch? You bet. And it's not fish.

When and how do you find the time to write?
I'm blessed not to have a real job, so I can devote full time to writing. I have a small writing studio outside my home that I call "Area 51," and it contains only a desk, reference books, a coffee pot, and reams of white legal pads and boxes of No. 1 pencils, which I sharpen with an electric pencil sharpener. I don't use a computer for writing the first two or three drafts, but my assistant has a computer in her office for the final drafts and for online research. My writing hours are generally noon to about 7 p.m., unless I’m on a roll. I’ve written as late as 5 a.m., fueled by coffee. Anyone who stumbles upon Area 51 by accident meets with an accident.

How much and what kinds of marketing do you personally do?
Social media is a mixed blessing. It puts you in direct contact with your readers, but it also takes time and psychic energy that could be used for writing or drinking. I’ve put out a monthly newsletter for over a decade, which I thought was sufficient. It wasn’t. So about two years ago I hired a social media person who has introduced me to the world of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I mean, if POTUS can tweet, so can I. I don’t write blogs, and I don’t do readings or personal appearances, except when I’m on a publicity tour for a new book. I feel that my website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter keep my readers engaged and informed between books. Beyond selling books, I enjoy the feedback and the interaction. I learn from my readers.

What fictional detective would you like to be and why?
Sherlock Holmes. He dressed well, lived in a nice part of London, fired his pistol in his parlor, and didn’t need a prescription from Dr. Watson for his drugs. Also, Holmes' thinking wasn't interrupted by cell phone calls, texts, tweets, and emails. I also like that he didn’t depend on Uber to get a horse-drawn cab, and he never missed a train.

In five words or less, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Careful what you wish for.

Mug Shot: Michele Campbell

Michele Campbell is the author of It's Always the Husband, which US Weekly called "a riveting, suspenseful tale of love, hate and murder." It's Always the Husband has been featured in Elle, Redbook, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, the New York Post, PopSugar, BookBub, and Culturalist, and reviewed by the Associated Press, Publisher's Weekly, and many other publications. Campbell is a former federal prosecutor and law professor, and a graduate of Harvard College and Stanford Law School. She previously published four novels in the Melanie Vargas thriller series under the name Michele Martinez.

Tell us about your latest work.
It's Always the Husband is a psychological thriller about the relationship between three young women who meet as roommates on their first day at an Ivy League college. They couldn't be more different, yet in the crazy, pressure-cooker atmosphere of freshman year they become inseparable. A tragedy at the end of freshman year leaves them with a terrible secret that they don't trust one another to keep. Twenty years later, one of the friends turns up dead. Was she murdered, or was it a suicide? If it was a murder, was it the victim's husband — as the police suspect — or was it one of the best friends?

When and how do you find time to write?
I write full-time, and I try to keep regular hours. I work most efficiently if I go to an "office," which is usually the library, although sometimes it's a room in my house dedicated to writing. In other words, I'm not sitting on my sofa or lying in bed with my laptop like Hannah does on Girls. How can she possibly be productive that way?

How much and what kinds of marketing do you personally do?
Authors need to be proactive if they want their books to succeed, even if they have great publisher support. It's a team effort. My publisher has done wonderful marketing and publicity for my current book, and I have also done a lot of my own marketing and publicity. When I say that I've done it, I'm including what I do personally and what I pay experienced professionals to do. For example, I have a professionally-designed website. I'm active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where I personally post most of the content, although some is posted for me by publicists. I have advertised, and sponsored contests. And I've hired an outside publicist experienced at working with the wonderful in-house team at my publisher to work on getting media exposure for my book.

What writers have inspired you?
So many writers have inspired me over the years. At the moment, I'm reading a few great, recently released psychological thrillers in search of tips to sharpen up my plotting game. I recently finished The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware and The Break Down by B.A. Paris, both of which are incredibly propulsive and have fantastic, relatable protagonists.

In five words or less, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read, network, listen to criticism.

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