Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Conversation with Lee Goldberg


Television script writer and author of the Monk series, Lee Goldberg gives us his honest and candid insights into the publishing and broadcast industries as well as his own industrious climb up the ladder to success.

Lee, when did you realize you were a writer?

I've always known. When I was ten or eleven, I was already pecking novels out on my Mom's old typewriters. The first one was a futuristic tale about a cop born in an underwater sperm bank. I don't know why the bank was underwater, or how deposits were made, but I thought it was very cool. I followed that up with a series of books about gentleman thief Brian Lockwood, aka "The Perfect Sinner,” a thinly disguised rip-off of Simon Templar, aka "The Saint." I sold these stories for a dime to my friends and even managed to make a dollar or two. In fact, I think my royalties per book were better then than they are now.

I continued writing novels all through my teenage years. I still have most of those novels today in boxes in my garage (some were destroyed in flooding a few years back).

By the time I was 17, I was writing articles for The Contra Costa Times and other Bay Area newspapers and applying to colleges. I didn't get a book published, but my detective stories got me into UCLA's School of Communications. My grades weren't wonderful, so I knew I had to kick ass on my application essay. I wrote it first person as a hard-boiled detective story. The committee, at first, had doubts that I actually wrote it myself--until they reviewed articles I'd written for the Times, including one that used the same device as my essay. Once I got into UCLA, I put myself through school as a freelance writer...for American Film, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, UPI, Newsweek. Anybody who would pay me. I had a girlfriend at Playgirl and she got me a gig writing sexually explicit Letters-to-the-Editor at Playgirl for $25 each.

Did you sell your first book while a student at UCLA? If so, how did that come about?

I had a journalism advisor at UCLA who wrote spy novels. We became friends and talked a lot about mysteries, thrillers, plotting, etc. One day in the early 80s his publisher came to him and asked him if he’d write a “men’s action adventure series,” sort of the male equivalent of the Harlequin romance. He said he wasn’t desperate enough, hungry enough, or stupid enough to do it. . .but he knew someone who was: Me. So I wrote an outline and some sample chapters and they bought it. The book was called .357 Vigilante I wrote it as “Ian Ludlow” so I'd be on the shelf next to Robert Ludlum and had plenty of Letter-to-the-Editor-of-Playgirl quality sex in it.

The West Coast Review of Books called my literary debut "as stunning as the report of a .357 Magnum, a dynamic premiere effort," singling the book out as "The Best New Paperback Series" of the year. I ended up writing four books in the series. Naturally, the publisher promptly went bankrupt and I never saw a dime in royalties.

But New World Pictures bought the movie rights to .357 Vigilante and hired me to write the screenplay. I didn’t know anything about writing scripts. . .luckily, I had a good friend who did, William Rabkin. We worked together on the UCLA Daily Bruin. So the two of us teamed up. The movie never got made, but we had so much fun that we were writing partners for over 20 years. . .and remain best friends to this day. (He writes the novels based on the TV series "PSYCH").

Why were you selected to write the Mr. Monk books?

I was already writing for the TV series "Monk" when Andy Breckman, the series creator and executive producer, was approached about doing original Monk novels. He immediately recommended me for the job, since I was already familiar with the character and he'd read my original Diagnosis Murder novels. He knew he could trust me to capture the character, and the tone of the series, and do a good job with the books.

Part of the fun of doing these books for me is the chance to explore aspects of Monk's character that haven't been dealt with yet on the TV series or, as is the case with MR. Monk Goes to Hawaii and MR. Monk Goes to Germany, go to places and do things that the TV series can't for various logistical and production reasons.

I believe there's one thing that stops the Monk episodes and the books
from becoming a slapstick cartoon, that prevents his character from becoming Maxwell Smart or Inspector Clouseau. It's this: amidst all the comedic situations that arise from his OCD, there's always something emotionally true about the stories...something that reveals Monk's essential sadness and grounds the character in reality. Maybe not our reality, but a reality just the same.

The hardest thing for me with the books isn't the mystery or the comedy...it's coming up with that emotional center, the heart-felt conflict that gives some shading to the broad humor. I always try to find something in the story that will put Monk and Natalie's relationship to the test, that will reveal something about who they are, and that will bring them closer together (or give them a deeper understanding of one another). I don't consciously think of a theme, but one seems to reveal itself to me along the way...and then I try not to belabor it or pay attention to it...I prefer to let it emerge on its own as a strand within scenes or in lines of dialogue.

What was really great is that it has come full circle--I was able to adapt one of my Monk books into an episode of the show. My novel Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse became the episode "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing."

Which form do you prefer, novels or scriptwriting? And why?

They are entirely different experiences. Television is very much a group effort and what you are writing is a blueprint that lots of other people are going to use as the basis for their creative work, whether it’s the actor, the director, the production designer. And when you write a script it’s not locked in stone. It’s going to change. It’s going to change because everybody has notes. It’s going to change because production concerns force rewrites. It’s going to change because of actors and directors. It’s in fluid motion all the time.

A book is entirely my own and unaffected by production concerns or actors. I’m the actors, the director, the production designer. . .it’s entirely mine. It’s not a blueprint. It is the finished product and it won’t change much once I am done with it. It’s not a group effort--I plot it myself and I write it by myself. It’s entirely in my head and I live it for months.

Creatively speaking, there’s a big difference between writing prose and writing a script. In a book, you are seducing the reader. You are bringing them into your imagination and holding them there for as long as they’re reading the book. You construct everything. You construct the sets, the wardrobe, the world. You’re God. You can even read a character’s thoughts. In a script, everything that happens and everything the characters do has to be revealed through action and dialogue.

In a script, you could introduce a scene like this:

INT– RESTAURANT– DAY

It’s a cheap Chinese restaurant with very few customers. There’s an aquarium with live lobsters, fish, etc. in the window. Monk is disgusted by what he sees...

But in a book, you have to describe the restaurant in detail. You have to tell us everything that’s going on. You have to set the scene for the reader. It’s an entirely different skill. That’s why some novelists are terrible screen writers and why some screen writers can’t write a book. They can’t jump back and forth.

The only thing that TV and books have in common is that both are mediums for sharing stories...in books, you tell stories, in TV you show them. That simple distinction is a difficult one for many writers to overcome when moving into one field from the other.

If books paid me as well as screenwriting, I might stick with books only because I could do it all at home and not have to answer to a lot of other people. On the other hand, I love being in a writers room plotting with a dozen other writers on an episodic TV series. . .it is so much fun.

What’s your next project?

I am writing an action movie, a co-production between a German studio and a Chinese studio, that will be shot in English in Berlin and Shanghai. And I've got a new Monk book, Mr. Monk in Trouble, coming out in December and am hard at work on the one that follows that...

How has the publishing downturn affected you personally? And what’s the best way, in your opinion, for the industry to pull itself out of its current slump?

I wrote a 100 pages and an outline on a new, standalone novel. But the days when a publisher would buy a book, even from an author they know well, based on a proposal has passed. So my agent is holding on to it...and suggesting that maybe I should just finish the book. On the other hand, the market is so tight, I could end up writing the book and not finding a home for it. I have to give serious thought to whether I want to complete it or not...or wait until the publishing industry recovers and is buying manuscripts again in a big way. For now, I am happy writing my successful Monk novels.

I don't know how the industry can recover. There are so many factors that are simply outside the industry's control. You can't make people buy books if they don't have the money to spend.

How important are writer organizations and online social networking? And do you prefer promoting your books online or in person?

I think you can get way too bogged down in self-promotion and forget what's really important: THE WRITING. Word of mouth is the best promotion of all. I believe the best advertising you can do is to buy 50 copies of your book and send them, with a personal cover letter, to key reviewers, bloggers, fans, booksellers and other opinion-makers to get them talking. A successful author once told me that the biggest mistake she ever made was hiring a publicist--that she should have spent that money on books and postage.

You shouldn't join writers organizations with the intention of promoting yourself and your work. You should do it because you want to interact with fellow writers, for the support, the camaraderie, gleaning knowledge about the craft and industry, etc. Yes, you will make contacts, and you might introduce more people to you and your work...but going into it with the mercenary intent to promote yourself always leads to disaster. That said, I think writers organizations are terrific on so many levels...not just what they can bring you personally and professionally, but what they can do for writers in general. For instance, the MWA, SFWA, and RWA have done so much to generate attention and respect for their genres...and to educate people about writing and how to avoid predatory publishing practices.

You shouldn't attend conferences with the obvious intent to promote your books, either. The best promotion you can do is to be yourself, be engaging, and write good books. That will sell you better than handing out leaflets, bookmarks, and incessant huckstering. In fact, you can self-promote yourself out of sales by doing that.

That's not to say you shouldn't sent out mailings to your mailing list or let people know you have a book out...but it's very easy to cross the line into being annoying and counter-productive. I know, because I have been guilty of it myself.

Advice to fledgling novelists and scriptwriters?

For novelists, write a lot. Read a lot. Don't EVER pay to be published. Don't EVER pay an agent to read your work. As for my advice on breaking into television…you can find it all in my book Successful Television Writing, which I wrote with William Rabkin.

Everybody’s story of breaking in is unique. Most of those stories, however, share one common element. You have to put yourself in the right place to get your lucky break. And it’s easier than you think.

The first thing you have to do is learn your craft. Take classes,
preferably taught by people who have had some success as TV writers.
There’s no point taking a class from someone who isn’t an experienced
TV writer themselves.

You’d think that would be common sense, but you’d be astonished how many TV courses are taught by people who don’t know the first thing about writing for television. Even more surprising is how many desperate people shell out money to take courses from instructors who should be taking TV writing courses themselves.

There’s another reason to take a TV writing course besides learning the basics of the craft. If you’re the least bit likable, you’ll make a few friends among the other classmates. This is good, because you’ll have other people you can show your work to. This is also good because somebody in the class may sell his or her first script before you do. . . and suddenly you’ll have a friend in the business.

Many of my writer/producer friends today are writers I knew back when I was in college, when we were all dreaming of breaking into TV someday.

A writer we hired on staff on the first season of Missing was in a Santa Monica screenwriters group. . .and was the first member of her class to get a paying writing gig. Now her friends in the class suddenly had a friend on a network TV show who could share her knowledge, give them practical advice and even recommend them to her new agent and the writer/producers she was working with.

Another route is to try and get a job as a writer/producer’s assistant on an hour-long drama. Not only will you get a meager salary, but you will see how a show works from the inside. You’ll read lots of scripts and revisions and, simply by observation, get a graduate course in TV writing. More important, you’ll establish relationships with the writers on the show and the freelancers who come through the door. Many of today’s top TV producers were writer/producer assistants once.

All of the assistants we’ve had have gone on to become working TV writers themselves… and not because we gave them a script assignment or recommended them for one. We didn’t do either.

But the one thing you simply have to do is write a spec episodic teleplay. There are lots of books out there--including mine--that will tell you how to do that.

Thank you, Lee.

Lee Goldberg's website is www.leegoldberg.com.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Conversation with Hank Phillippi Ryan


Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is on the air at Boston's NBC affiliate. Her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in restitution.

Along with her 26 EMMYs, Hank’s won dozens of other journalism honors. She's been a radio reporter, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine working with Hunter S. Thompson. She's also a national board of Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the New England Sisters in Crime.

Her first mystery, the best-selling Prime Time, won the Agatha for Best First Novel. It was also was a double RITA nominee for Best First Book and Best Romantic Suspense Novel, and a Reviewers' Choice Award Winner. Face Time and Air Time are IMBA bestsellers. Sue Grafton said of Air Time: "This is first-class entertainment."

Hank, you’ve had an incredible career in broadcasting. What have you enjoyed most about your professional life?

Well, thanks! Over the past 30 years, I’ve wired myself with hidden cameras, chased down criminals and confronted corrupt politicians—and had many a door slammed in my face! But the idea that I can change lives and even change laws is so gratifying. It’s a big responsibility, which I take very seriously. But when a tough story comes through and changes are made as a result—the rewards are immense.

How did your TV show “Hank Investigates” come about?

It’s a segment on the news here in Boston, and airs on the NBC affiliate. I’ve been a reporter for a long time—starting out as the political reporter in Indianapolis in 1975—then assigned to other beats from the medical reporter (!) to movie critic (!!) to on-the-road feature reporter in Atlanta, Georgia, where every Monday morning I’d close my eyes and point to a map—and then go to wherever that finger point took me to see what I could come up with.

I came to Boston as a reporter in 1982, where for awhile I was the “funny one.” Whenever the newscast needed a clever feature—what we call a “kicker”—I was the one assigned to do it. They called me “Something out of nothing productions” since I could always find a story anywhere!

But in 1988, I was assigned to do the long-form “think pieces” for the presidential conventions. After that, my news director told me he’d realized I was wasting time being the funny one. He said—you’re the serious one. And he made me the investigative reporter. And that’s what I’ve done—with much delight—ever since.

Which of all your many awards do you cherish most, and why?

Oh, impossible. My Agatha for Prime Time as Best First Novel? Brings tears to my eyes every time I see it. What a joy! But I love each of the 26 Emmys and12 Murrows as if it were the only one. Each one of them represents a secret that we discovered and brought to light. I’m very proud of those, and what they represent.

Tell us briefly about your background.

I was born in Chicago, where my dad was the music critic for the old Chicago Daily News. We moved to Indianapolis (where some of my family still lives) when I was about 6. I went to public schools, where I was a geeky Beatle-loving misfit voted “most original” in high school…much to my chagrin at the time. Majored in English at Western College for Women in Oxford Ohio, when in to work in politics and then…radio.

I got my first job in broadcasting because—as I told the news director at the radio station—“Your license is up for renewal at the FCC, and you don’t have any women working here.” Well, it was 1970! I’m proud to be part of the group of women who began to break down the gender barriers back then.

I worked for almost 2 years in the US Senate, and then a couple of years at Rolling Stone Magazine in Washington, DC. And then, TV.

When did you decide to write novels? And how did you come up with your “Time” mystery series?

Well, I decided to write mystery novels when I was about 7—Nancy Drew was my first best friend. But for whatever reason, it took me about 48 more years to come up with a plot I thought was worthy!

That happened when I got a weird email one day at the station. It was clearly a spam, with the subject line “mortgage refinancing.” But inside, was what looked like lines from a play by Shakespeare. I thought—why would someone send lines form a play by Shakespeare in a spam about mortgage refinancing? And it crossed my mind—maybe it’s a secret message.

And ding ding ding! (I still get goosebumps telling this story.) I thought—my plot! And that’s how it all started. Form the moment on, I was obsessed with writing the book. And that was the Agatha-winning Prime Time.

What’s Charlotte McNally up to in your latest novel, Drive Time?

Drive Time is about secrets. TV reporter Charlie McNally’s working on a story about a dangerous scheme that could absolutely happen…and let me just say, if you own a car, or rent a car, you’ll never look at your vehicle the same way after reading DRIVE TIME. In fact, after writing the book, I now get a bit creeped out when I go into a parking garage. That’s all I‘ll say.

Charlie’s also drawn into another frightening situation—this one at the prep school where her fiancĂ© is an English professor. When Charlie learns a secret that might put her step-daughter-to-be in danger, and might also be an blockbuster investigative story—how does she balance her loyalty to her husband-to-be—with her need to protect the public?

So this is a tough one for Charlie. And she must make many life-changing decisions. Just when she begins to think she might be able to have it all—a terrific career and a new husband and a new life--revenge, extortion and murder may bring it all to a crashing halt.

Drive Time just got a fabulous starred review from Library Journal. Just a snippet of the rave: “Placing Ryan in the same league as Lisa Scottoline…her latest book catapults the reader into the fast lane and doesn't relent until the story careens to a stop. New readers will speed to get her earlier books, and diehard fans will hope for another installment.”

And dear Robert B. Parker’s quote is on the cover—he says “I loved Drive Time!”

What’s your writing schedule like and how long does a novel take to write, from idea to finished manuscript? Do you outline?

Prime Time took maybe..two years. The others have taken maybe 6 months each.

Outline? Yes. No. When I started with Prime Time, I had no outline. Just one of the many things I didn’t understand about mystery writing. My first manuscript was 723 pages long! AH. I had to cut 400 pages!

When we sold Prime Time, the publisher initially wanted two books. And they wanted an outline for the second. So I did outline Face Time, and although I complained the entire time writing it—it was no fun at all—it turned out to be a terrific tool. Even though the final story was nothing like the outline!

So now, I outline. And then I write the real story--however it comes out.

Which do you prefer, investigative reporting or novel writing, and why?

No way I could decide that! I love them both.

Which novelist most influenced your own work? And which writer, past or present, would you like to spend some time with?

I love Edith Wharton’s cynical take on the world, and the way she illustrates the social structure even while being dramatic and entertaining. Her stories have such with such depth and texture, and her characters are wonderful. Julia Spencer Fleming. Margaret Maron’s wonderfully authentic dialogue and settings. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for clever plots. Lisa Scottoline for her contemporary and hip take on the world. John Lescroart for story story story. PD James. Who I’d love to spend time with? Shakespeare. I have many, many questions for him. Whoever he was. Oh! And Stephen King. What a genius, on so many levels.

Advice to fledgling writers and journalists?

For journalists: Don’t be afraid. Be very afraid. Be scrupulously careful. Think. And think again. Never give up.

For writers? On my bulletin board there are two quotes. One is a Zen saying: “Leap and the net will appear.” To me, that means: Just do it. The other says “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” And I think that’s so wonderful—just have the confidence to carry on. Writing is tough, arduous, not always rewarding in the moment—but no successful author has ever had an easy path.

Thanks, Hank, for taking part in the series.

Hanks's website: http://www.HankPhillippiRyan.com
Her blog sites: http://www.JungleRedWriters.com
http://www.theLipstickChronicles.typepad.com
http://www.femmesfatales.typepad.com

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Conversation with John Gilstrap


John Gilstrap began his phenomenal publishing career with Nathan's Run, which was followed by five more bestselling thriller novels, four of them Literary Guild selections. No Mercy, his latest release, is the first of a new series. John will be giving away two copies of No Mercy in a drawing from visitors who leave a comment here.

John, how does a former firefighter, EMT, and explosives safety expert, with a master’s degree in safety engineering, become a bestselling author?

It all starts with an obsession to tell stories. I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember—as early as elementary school. In junior high and high school, I would write stories just for my own pleasure. I’ve never been any good at sports, but I’ve always been good with words, so I guess it only made sense that during those formative years when every kid is trying to cut a niche for himself, I chose the creative one.

Still, one has to make a living. That’s what the safety engineering was about; but I continued to write for my own pleasure. Since fiction writing is equal parts talent and craft, I think you get better with each new effort. In 1995, I finally landed on a story that people thought was worth buying. That book became Nathan’s Run, and when it sold, it sold big.

With six thrillers on the bestseller's list and four of them Literary Guild selections, do you feel secure in your writing career?

I think that anyone who feels “secure” in any sector of the entertainment business is not paying attention. Authors exist to serve a certain appetite for entertainment, and previous success is no guarantee for tomorrow. It’s particularly unnerving when you think that books are among the oldest and potentially most stale forms of entertainment. We have to compete with TV and movies and video games and whatever really cool thing is coming around the corner tomorrow. I think there’ll always be a market for books—more are published now than ever before—but I think there’s no room to become complacent

I am keenly aware that when people plunk down their hard-earned money for one of my books, I owe them at least as good a ride as I gave them last time. That’s my commitment as a professional. If I come through on my end of the bargain, I hope that they’ll come through on theirs.

It's hard to believe that with all your writing successes that you went back to work during the day and write at night. Was it because you don't like the loneliness of full time writing?

I’m the classical Type A personality. I’m an extrovert. I love meeting people and helping them to solve problems. So, for the seven years or so that I wrote more or less full-time, I found myself longing for social outlets. Spending all day alone in a room with your imaginary friends can get a little stifling. Many of my writer colleagues love the solitude. I didn’t love it so much.

Also, at the risk of sounding immodest, I am very good at solving complex problems and leading diverse groups to a common goal. The same creative bent that allows me to write books serves me well in illustrating to people why they need to change their behaviors. My current job is to serve as the director of safety for a trade association for an industry that has killed many, many people over the years. When I first started, the fatality rate was 43.8 deaths per 100,000 workers. In the five years I’ve been in the job, the rate has dropped to 22.3 deaths per 100,000 workers. I can’t claim credit for all of that change, but a slice of it is mine, and it’s a great source of pride. In its own way, it’s way more gratifying than writing books.

How much of your novels are taken from your own background?

One hundred percent. And zero percent. As a practical matter, I think that every author writes from his or her own experience, because that’s the only frame of reference we have. While I’ve never killed anyone, through my fire service experience I’ve seen more than a few people die, and I’ve witnessed the aftermath. I hope I’m able to bring that kind of human drama to life on the page.

At one level or another, all my books deal with families in turmoil. As a devoted family man, I can extrapolate the love I feel in my own life to imagine what it would be to have a family member endangered. So, emotionally, the vast majority of my work is drawn from my own background. In terms of plot, though, none of it is.

I know that you earned your safety engineering degree from USC and a bachelor's degree in history from William and Mary. Why the diverse courses? And if you wanted to become a journalist, why didn't you major in journalism?

When I was 10 or 12 years old, some famous old-school journalists told me that a degree in journalism was not necessary to pursue a news career. They advised me to concentrate on other liberal arts disciplines, which in theory would give me a better perspective on the news I was reporting. Since William and Mary was the only school I ever wanted to go to, and they did not offer a journalism degree, this was exactly what I wanted to hear. In the end, it turned out that the old school journalists were wrong.

The safety engineering thing was a direct outgrowth of my fire service experience.

How did you get into screenwriting?

After two years in development at Warner Brothers, in which two different screenwriters created two thoroughly awful screenplays, I got word that Nathan’s Run was being put into turnaround, which is Hollywood-speak for being mothballed. When my Hollywood agent told me the news, I was angry. I told him that I could write a better script than the ones the “professionals” did, and I’d never even seen a screenplay. He asked me if I could do it by the next week. I did, and for a while, the project was pulled back into active development. In the end, though, the film still has not been made.

That script I wrote for Nathan’s Run served as a sample that got me three additional screenwriting gigs. Most recently, when I sold the film rights to my book Six Minutes to Freedom, I made my assignment as screenwriter a non-negotiable element of the deal. SixMin will be my first trifecta: I’ll have been paid to write the book, for the movie rights, and for the screenplay. Plus, at least the first version of the script will be one that I like.

Is Nathan's Run your favorite book?

I know this sounds trite, but my favorite book is always the one I’m working on right now. I think I need that level of commitment to keep writing, to keep it exciting. Since it was the book that gave me my big break, Nathan’s Run will always hold a special place in my heart, but I can’t say it’s my favorite.

Tell us about your soon-to-be released thriller, No Mercy. And how does it differ from the five before it.

No Mercy is the first book in a new series. To date, I’ve only written stand-alone novels. At the end of each previous story, the characters have all served nobly, but they were fairly well spent. Then, as I was researching Six Minutes to Freedom, I met a number of Special Forces operators, and I landed on the idea of Jonathan Grave, a freelance hostage rescue specialist. If your loved one is taken, and you just want them back—you don’t care about warrants and Miranda warnings, and you don’t care what happens to the bad guys—then Jonathan is the guy to call.

In the first book, No Mercy, the rescue operation in the opening chapters triggers events that spiral out of control and directly impact the people that Jonathan loves most. It’s a mistake to hurt the people Jonathan Loves most.

What advice would you give novice writers and screenwriters?

First, write, write, and write. Continually hone your craft. Second, quit listening to all the naysayers who love to tell you that the industry is dying and that it’s impossible anymore to get published through traditional means. It simply is not true. Third, remember that while writing is an art form, selling one’s writing is a business and needs to be treated as such. If your passion is to write a Western, then you need to accept the fact that there’s currently a very limited market for your book. Maybe you can write the one that re-launches the genre, but know that the odds are stacked against you.

Most importantly, if your dream is to become a respected writer of commercially viable fiction or nonfiction, self-publishing is almost always a huge mistake. In this business, the money—all of it—flows only one way, to the writer. Your agent (and yes, you need to have one) should only get paid when you do. Anyone who asks you to pay for anything up front is likely trying to rip you off.

Which part of writing do you enjoy most?

I hope this doesn’t sound too shallow, but one of the aspects of writing that I enjoy most is simply being a member of the club that I’ve admired for as long as I can remember. I love the company of other writers. I love the intellectual bantering and the sheer expanse of their talent. To be treated as an equal by people you’ve admired your whole life—well, it doesn’t get any better than that.

What have you found to be the best way to promote your books? And would you rather promote in person or online?

I’m just now trying to figure that out. Clearly, the day of the traditional book tour is dead. Truthfully, it never did make much sense to me to spend thousands of dollars flying an author all over the country or around the world. It was fun, but I don’t see how the publisher ever made money off of it. So, here we are in the world of 21st century publishing, and I think everyone’s trying to figure out what works best. As publishers slash costs, it’s becoming more and more important for authors to promote their own books.

I participate in a blog, http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com, and I have a website and I’ve hired a publicist and an advertising consultant. No Mercy came out in July. I figured that by September I should know if my efforts were effective.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Just one thing, and it’s an opportunity for budding filmmakers. In what’s left of my spare time, I serve as the executive director of the Northern Virginia Film festival, which is currently accepting submissions for this year’s film competition. The idea is to give young filmmakers a chance for recognition. For details, please visit www.northernvirginiafilmfestival.org.

And finally, thanks, Jean, for this opportunity.

Thank you, John.

John's web and blog sites: http://www.johngilstrap.com
http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com
http://www.northernvirginiafilmfestival.org