Thursday, November 11, 2010
A Visit with Gerrie Ferris Finger
Gerrie, what, in your opinion, is the future of publishing? Are electronic editions going to edge out print copies or eliminate them altogether?
I wish I had a crystal ball, as does every author, reader, agent, editor and publisher. I do believe that print will be around for a long time, but hard covers will be published primarily for Big Name authors. These same Big Names will be published in every other form: ebook, audio, paperback and anything else lurking around the corner to provoke and delight an author, reader, agent, editor or publisher. Ebooks are surging in popularity, and I don't see that slowing down any time soon. What could put a bug in ebook sales is every Tom, Dick and Jane publishing his own poorly-edited book. Every writer needs a professional editor and some would-be writers don't see the rewards of paying $500 to $1,000 to get their project edited.
I was a staff writer and editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A lot of foster children were going missing, many in the custody and control of the division of children and family services. Also, at the same time the Atlanta Police Department was raiding massage parlors and finding underage children working in the sex slave business. Thus the genesis of The End Game.
Tell us about your writing background.
I have written all my life, since the day at camp when I was five and the counselor asked me to write a letter home to mom and dad. I told them all about a little green snake that lived under the cabin. All made-up, of course. I majored in journalism in college, where I had to stick to the facts. Then, I retired to write fiction.
Did journalism contribute in any way to your award winning novel?
I have to believe it did. I learned to write clear, concise sentences without a lot of adverbs and adjectives. I write in different genres, so in some instances, adverbs and adjectives have their place, i.e., historicals. But in most mystery genres they lessen the tension.
You won last year's St. Martin's Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel competition, but The End Game is a bit outside the norm. With so many current mystery subgenres, how do you define a traditional mystery?
Think of Agatha Christie. In my opinion Agatha Christie is not necessarily a cozy writer as a lot of genre experts do. She dealt with very dark aspects of murder and mystery as did P. D. James. A true cozy will have an amateur sleuth, maybe one who owns a flower shop, or a book that has talking animals.
Traditional mysteries always have a satisfying ending; that's not to say a happy ending. I would say it's more hard-boiled than a cozy but not noir. Both cozy and traditional mysteries are whodunits. The violence and sex aspects are muted in both types. St. Martin's competition states that the protagonist can't be beaten up to any serious extent. My heroine is a runner which gives her the power to jump on and off trains and she's threatened with death, but we can be sure in this traditional novel, she's going to survive.
What's your writing schedule like and do you outline?
I have a lot of online promotion to do, so I usually get that out of the way early in the morning and write in the afternoon. If I try to write in the morning, which I do if I'm on a deadline, I find the phone and emails distract me. Less so in the afternoon. I don't outline, although I know where the story is going and how it's going to end. Otherwise, I'd create a mess. I know, I've done it.
How difficult is it to hire the right agent?
I wouldn't know since I've not "hired" the right agent. I had two very nice people who couldn't sell my books. I placed my ebooks with Desert Breeze by sending submissions to that publisher and was accepted, and I won the competition by entering the novel in a contest. Neither agent could sell The End Game to a New York publisher. I honestly don't know how hard they tried, but it didn't get to the right editor at St. Martin's. I probably could get another agent, but I have no interest now. I understand it's getting more difficult as publishers are offering fewer advances. An agent takes fifteen percent of the advance, which means the advance must meet their needs. Publishers are no longer "bringing along" writers at their houses. They want debut writers to sell like they've been around for ten years.
What advice would you offer aspiring mystery writers?
Love what you do because the road is long and hard and it's easy to get discouraged. Mystery is a crowded field. Be original and never give up.
Thank you, Gerrie.
Gerrie's website: www.gerrieferrisfinger.com
And her blogsite: http://www.gerrieferrisfinger.blogspot.com/