Mug Shot: Member Profile

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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.

Mug Shot: Deb Pines

Deb Pines, an award-winning New York Post headline writer and former reporter, is the author of three Chautauqua-based mystery novels, one novelette, and a stand-alone short story. A mother of two, SoulCycle fanatic and lover of Scrabble, cooking, hiking and show tunes, she lives in New York City with her husband, Dave. "If you enjoy an old-fashioned whodunit, it's perfect," The Jamestown Post-Journal said of Pines' 2013 debut novel In the Shadow of Death.

Tell us about your latest work.
Beside Still Waters: A Chautauqua Murder Mystery is the third novel in a series of old-school whodunits set in Chautauqua, a quirky, churchy, lakeside summer arts community in western New York State. This time, series heroine Mimi Goldman, a small-town newspaper reporter — who's sort of me but younger, braver, and prettier — is asked to find a missing person: Jenny Van Alstine, a feminist artist who is her dear friend's granddaughter. Instead, Mimi finds a surprising number of Jenn-emies: haters, lovers, secret-keepers and one killer determined to stop Mimi before she stops them.

When and how do you find time to write?
Since I left full-time reporting for a three-evening-a-week job on the New York Post copy desk, it's easier but not easy. Now I write on my days off. On workdays before my 3:30 p.m. shift. And at work where we typically start with downtime, waiting for stories to chop, edit, and top with snarky tabloid headlines before we finish with frenzied, can't-even-get-up-to-pee editing up to our 9 p.m. early deadline.

How much and what kinds of marketing do you personally do?
I'm self-published, so any marketing is done by me. Mostly, I target my niche audience: the 100,000 people who visit Chautauqua each summer for some or all of a nine-week season of concerts, lectures, church services and other events. There, I run modestly-priced local newspaper ads, speak to any group who will have me — the Jewish Center, Women’s Club, day-camp teens, book clubs —  teach classes, sign books, solicit reviews and keep writing. Combined, the efforts + good luck = more book sales each year. I’ve had less success reaching an audience beyond Chautauqua. But I keep trying with Amazon and Goodreads book giveaways, guest-blogging, twice-a-year MailChimp newsletters, radio shows, etc.

What fictional detective would you like to be and why?
I admire fearless, badass private eyes and cops like Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski, Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone, and Law & Order: SVU's Olivia Benson. But they'd be tough to be. So I'd rather be an underestimated, in-over-her-head amateur sleuth, especially a funny one like Rosie Meyers, Susan Isaacs' suburban English teacher sleuth in After All These Years. Rosie not only figures out who killed her estranged husband, she also has two love interests, a boy toy and a more suitably-aged partner. And Rosie gets the great lines like when she praises the conciseness of art over real life. "In English-country-house murder mysteries, for instance," Rosie notes, "someone finds the body and says, 'Egad, the vicar!' No slogging through sixty more pages while you wait for the police to show up."

In five words or less, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Have fun.

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

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