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 http://www.jasonpinter.com/blog/2009/09/james-ellroy-and-5-words-that-inspired.asp.

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: http://www.jasonpinter.com.
He's also on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jasonpinter 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.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Conversation with Beverle Graves Myers

Beverle Graves Myers made a mid-life career switch from psychiatry to mystery writing. A graduate of University of Louisville School of Medicine, she worked ten years at a public mental health clinic before her first book was published in 2004. Interrupted Aria introduced singer-sleuth Tito Amato and the Baroque Mystery series set in old Venice. Bev also writes short stories set in a variety of times and places.

Her short fiction has been published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Woman's World, and numerous anthologies. She has earned nominations for the Macavity, Derringer, and Kentucky Literary awards. Her latest novel is The Iron Tongue of Midnight .

Bev, why did you decide to set your mystery series in 18th century Venice, featuring castrato opera singer Tito Amato?

For me, no other background can match the drama of Tito’s Venice. In the 18th century, the faltering city-state reinvented herself as the pleasure capital of Europe. Venice became a magnet for gamblers, courtesans, and adventurers of all kinds. Since opera was the most popular entertainment of the era and its singers on a par with rock stars of today, Tito was right in the thick of the intrigue.

Tell us about your protagonist.

Tito enters the series as a young man, fresh from a Naples conservatory and na├»ve in the ways of the world. He loves music but has conflicts about performing publicly as a musical eunuch and feels he’s an embarrassment to his family, particularly his rough-and-ready sailor brother Alessandro. Throughout the books, Tito gains wisdom, and his natural curiosity and sense of fairness draw him into mysterious doings, usually on the side of underdogs and other marginalized characters.

How long have you been interested in opera and how much research was necessary to begin the series?

I fell in love with opera during a marionette production of Rigoletto. I was nine. Thunder, lightning, kidnapping, wonderful melodies—it made quite an impression. The research on the castrato singers of early opera and 18th-century Venice was a delight, but took some time. I spent six months immersing myself in that world before I started to write Interrupted Aria, the first book in the series.

Have you written in other genres? Tell us about your background.
My first career was in psychiatry, so I also have an interest in writing mysteries and thrillers that incorporate medicine and science. So far, I’ve only published short stories on those topics, but in addition to the Tito novels, a science thriller is in the works now.

How has your background influenced your writing and your characters?

My career in psychiatry gave me a deep understanding of character, personality, and motivations for good and evil deeds, so it’s no surprise that my novels could be described as character driven. Also, although psychiatry as we know it didn’t exist in Tito’s time, at least one character in each of my books suffers from what we would call a mental illness. Tito’s sister Grisella has Tourette’s Syndrome. Her family, mystified by her outbursts, tries everything from herbal remedies to exorcism.

Did a favorite author influence your own writing? In what way?

When I decided to write historical mysteries, I studied the Roman novels of Steven Saylor and the Bruce Alexander series featuring Sir John Fielding of the Bow Street Runners. Both authors have a knack for bringing the past to life without a tiresome history lesson. I tried to write by their examples.

You’ve written your books as though they were set for the stage. Please explain why?


The novels in the Baroque Mystery Series each have three or four distinct parts, much like the acts of a grand opera. In the widest sense, this type of story-telling structure goes all the way back to classical times. The rising action and partial resolution in each act keeps things interesting for the reader. Focusing more narrowly, I enjoy writing a book that could be an opera about an opera singer who is the hero of a book. Interesting symmetry, I think.

Have you received feedback from the operatic world? If so, has it been positive?

I’ve been reviewed on several opera sites, and often receive emails from opera fans. They seem to enjoy the backstage antics and intrigue as much as the solution of the mystery.

Have you visited Venice as part of your research? If so, what did you find that surprised you?

My husband and I visited Venice for eight days a couple of years ago. It was my first trip, so the first several books were written without first-hand experience of the city. Because of my extensive research, not much surprised me, though I did expect the Rialto Bridge to be bigger. It was the little things that truly charmed me—canary birds hanging from many open windows, children playing in the alleys on their way home from school. I could really imagine Tito walking those pavements 275 years or so ago.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process as well as the least?

I enjoy manipulating words to paint a scene—finding that one crucial word or phrase that sums it up perfectly. On the downside, it sometimes becomes a burden to write everyday, especially if I feel I’m not writing particularly well.

Anything else you’d like to touch on?

I’ll just caution readers not to be put off by the opera aspect of the Baroque Mysteries. You don’t have to be an opera lover to enjoy the books. Tito gets all over Venice, makes a side trip to Rome, and has all sorts of adventures totally unrelated to the opera house.

Thanks, Bev, for taking part in the series.

Beverle's website: http://www.beverlegravesmyers.com
Her blog: http://CruelMusic.blogspot.com is where she reviews films set in the 18th century, discusses historical oddities, and fills in Tito’s backstory.