Monday, December 28, 2009

A Conversation with Jason Pinter

Thriller novelist Jason Pinter received a three-book publishing contract at the age of 26, has been nominated for a number of awards, and claimed the number one spot on the Kindle bestseller list.

Jason, how did it feel to be ahead of Dan Brown on the Kindle bestseller list? And to what do you attribute The Mark’s success?

It was pretty shocking, considering the new Dan Brown was one of the biggest publishing stories in recent memory. Now, I will couch that by admitting that my book was available for free for a week whereas Brown's was not, but the outpouring of support from readers to help propel the book up the charts was nothing short of amazing. They're the ones who made it happen. I think that book resonates because the character is relatable, and the troubles he gets into are things that could happen to any of us. Henry Parker is not a spy, ninja, cop or soldier. He relies only on his wits and intellect. He does things to get out of jams that are available only to normal people like you and me.

Which five words inspired your novel, The Fury, and what do they represent?

It was inspired by five words from James Ellroy's brilliant novel L.A Confidential. Those five words were Bud White refused to die. I wrote a post all about this which can be found at

Tell us about your latest book.

The Fury is the fourth novel in the Henry Parker series. In the first three books, we've learned bits and pieces about Henry's past, about his strained relationship with his family and how he hasn't been home in nearly a decade. Well, in The Fury Henry learns that there is a massive, thirty year-old skeleton in his closet that will force him to question everything he's ever know. And when he goes to learn more about his past, he realizes that something very dark and very sinister is bubbling under the surface of New York City, and his past just might have something to do with it.

You’ve been nominated for a number of awards: The Thriller, Strand Critics, Shamus, Barry, CrimeSpree and the RT Booklovers Reviewers Choice award. Which means the most to you and why?

All the nominations mean a great deal to me, especially because they've all come from different spectrums of the industry, and have been voted on by both readers and critics. I'm thrilled and humbled that people who read so much have liked my books enough to nominate them for so many awards.

How were you able to negotiate a three-book contract with MIRA at the age of 26? Were you agented by then or was it due to your contacts as an editor?

I was an editorial assistant, so my contacts helped as much as a mailroom guy at a movie studio getting the lead in a movie. I'd barely been working in the industry, and when you're that young agents don't know who you are. I sent the book out to a few agents who I heard were both young and hungry but also had already established good reputations. A few responded positively, and I was fortunate to land an agent who helped a tremendous amount. In the end, readers don't care if you work in book publishing and they certainly won't pay money because of it, they only care if the book is any good.

Which publishing houses did you work for as an editor and how young were you when you began your first editing job?

I worked for Warner Books (now Grand Central Publishing), Crown and St. Martin's Press. I was 23 when I got my first job at Warner as an editorial assistant and was a full editor by 26.

Tell us about your weblog, “The Man in Black.”

It's gone through a lot of changes in the three and a half years I've had it. I've written about everything from publishing to marketing and publicity to sports and pop culture. I try to make it something of an extension of my personality, as way to keep in touch with readers. Nowadays I have so many ways to do that, whether through Twitter or Facebook, or at the Huffington Post where I've recently started as a columnist.

What’s the difference between mystery, suspense and thriller novels? And why do you write thrillers?

Ask ten different authors and you're likely to get ten different answers on this. The standard answers tend to be that mysteries are about solving a crime, whereas thrillers are about preventing one. I think of my books as thrillers with elements of mystery, and of course with suspense in them. Occasionally that does change - I consider The Stolen more of a mystery with thriller elements.

Advice to fledgling thriller writers.

Read everything you can get your hands on in any genre. You're likely to face some rejection in your life, the most important thing you can do is take that rejection and use it as fuel to hone your craft and become a better writer. Too many writers focus that anger and frustration outward at others. Turn it inward, use it as fuel. Prove everybody wrong.

What would you be doing if you weren’t writing?

Probably still working as an editor, or in publishing in some capacity.

Thanks, Jason, for taking part in the series.

Jason's your website:
He's also on Twitter at where he says he tries to be funny and occasionally informative. And he leaves it to readers to agree or disagree with that, but they should know that everything he writes, funny or unfunny, informative or irreverent, is who he is.


Sun Singer said...

Great interview! Makes me wish I'd been a little more dutiful about writing when I was 23.


Helen Ginger said...

I think it would be interesting to work at a publishing house, even at the low end of the totem pole. Congrats Jason on your nominations and being tops on the Kindle bestseller list. Yay!

Straight From Hel

Colleen Collins said...

Really enjoyed the interview. Years ago, I worked for the head of Creative Artists Agency (Michael Ovitz), but what Jason Pinter says it's true, it's not about who/where you worked in the entertainment/publishing industry, it's ultimately the quality of the work you produce.

Just ordered The Stolen, looking forward to a great read.

L.J. Sellers said...

Thanks for sharing, Jason. It's fun to get to know you. Congratulations on all your success!

Jason said...

Hey everyone!

Thanks for the kind notes, I appreciate them.

Sun Singer - I always wanted to write. Started my first (unpublished) novel literally while I was bored in college one day. But never too late to start!

Helen - I loved published, loved it and miss it. I'd never rule out a return.

Colleen - That must have been fascinating, I've read some very interesting things about Mr. Ovitz (and was looking forward to a book Nikki Finke was allegedly writing about him). Thanks for picking up The Stolen - enjoy!

LJ - It was a pleasure to meet you, see you around the circuit!

jenny milchman said...

Great perspective and great advice...thanks to both Jean and Jason...have to go look for your first!