Posts Tagged ‘Author Interview’


John Lutz is the author of more than forty novels and more than 200 short stories. He has written everything from horror and occult, to humor, thriller, mystery and suspense. His novel SWF Seeks Same was made into the movie Single White Female, starring Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh. His novel The Ex was made into the HBO original movie of the same title, which he co-wrote the screenplay for. John is a past president of both Mystery Writers of America and Private Eye Writers of America. He has won such awards as the MWA Edgar, the Trophee 813 Award, the PWA Life Achievement Award, the PWA Shamus, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Golden Derringer Lifetime Achievement Award.

I met John Lutz at a book signing for his novel Serial. He signed a copy of the book for me, which I have to admit, was one of my most exciting rock star moments! I’ve been reading his books for many years, so when I actually met him in person, I was a little nervous. As it happened, I found him to be intelligent, funny in a charmingly quirky way, and very pleasant to be around. I asked him to be a part of the author interviews on my blog because he is one of the novelists who have inspired me to write. He’s a great guy who has taught me much through his excellent novels and his willingness to answer questions about the craft. I am thrilled and honored to pass on some of his views on storytelling, his thoughts on the publishing industry, and a little bit of insight into his own writing process. So… here are my questions, and here are his answers! (For more information, check out John Lutz Online at: http://www.johnlutzonline.com/)

Q: What year was your first book published, and what are some of the most significant changes you’ve seen in publishing industry since then?

A) First short story in 1967. Thieves’ Honor, in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. First novel in 1971. The Truth of the Matter, Pocketbooks.

I don’t think publishing changed much in fundamental ways until the advent of the e-book. Now it’s changing so fast, and in unpredictable ways, that it’s difficult to keep up with it. Scary, but truly interesting.

Q: When you first got published, what did you do to celebrate?

A) Exhaled. Had dinner with my wife.

Q: How many ‘No’s’ before you got a ‘Yes’?

A) “Many ‘No’s’.  Most writers of my time and ilk would say the same. Usually writers’ “first” novels weren’t first efforts. The e-book has made publishing easier, cheaper. Not necessarily a bad thing.

Q: As a writer, what has been your greatest disappointment?

A) There are a few things I’d sill like to see happen (like seeing one of my novels made into a play), but I don’t think in terms of disappointments. All in all, I feel that I’ve been extremely lucky.

Q: Your novel, SWF Seeks Same was made into a movie, Single White Female, starring Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh. How did that come about, and what was it like for you?

A) As with some other books that my agent thought had movie potential, the manuscript was sent to his west coast affiliate to shop around. And it found a home.  The rights were bought before the book was published. The entire movie thing was great fun. Yes, I did meet the cast. Watched filming in NYC. Attended premier in LA. Was presented with a screenplay signed by cast and crew. A very positive experience.

Q: Did you meet any of the actors?

A) Met them, watched them work, got to look over the director’s shoulder, tried not to trip over any of the cables. Actually seeing a book made into a movie strengthened my opinion that for best results the movie shouldn’t follow the book chapter and verse.

Q: In researching serial killers, what about them has surprised or intrigued you most?

A) The extent of the violence and physical damage in a stranger-on-stranger rape. And the fact that, according to FBI studies, once a serial killer takes a first step toward his intended victim, if there is no interruption, no matter what the intended victims does, there will be a confrontation. Most serial killers are kind of like guided missiles that have locked onto a target.

Q: What is one question you wish people would ask you, and how would you answer it?

A) “Are you going to write more books?” “Yes.”

Q: You’ve been featured in several of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazines and in several anthologies edited by Alfred Hitchcock. Did you ever meet Alfred Hitchcock, and how did his editing style differ from other editors?

A) I never met Hitchcock. To my knowledge he never did any editing, but there was and is a distinct overarching “Hitchcock type” story, featuring suspense, dry humor, and surprising turns. When someone says “Hitchcockian” I think most people have a pretty good idea of what is meant.

Q: What do you think is the greatest misconception people have about you and your work?

A) I can’t be sure about that, because I don’t know what their misconceptions are. Many people do seem to think that writing fiction is easier than it is. You not only have to learn how to write. You have to learn to write. Like you have to learn how to dance before you learn to dance. Takes a lot of dancing.

Q: What do you think is the greatest misconception new and/or aspiring authors have about the industry?

A) That once their book is out there, it will automatically sell. To sell in large numbers books have to be actively sold, ideally through various kinds of advertising that reach large numbers of people. However, the rules are that there are no rules, and sometimes word of mouth can turn a book into a big seller. Or fortunate timing. And yes, now and then a book is so damned good it simply can’t be ignored. But most of those are heavily advertised as books that are so damned good they can’t be ignored. Having said all that, I am aware that I don’t really understand our rapidly changing industry. At this point, I don’t think anyone really understands, or can predict.

Q: In the course of your career, you’ve undoubtedly done an awful lot of book signings. Do you still enjoy them?

A) Sure. It’s nice to make contact with readers, see before you proof that they are actually out there and enjoy your work.

Q: Of the characters you’ve created, who was your favorite, and why?

A) Hard do say. Maybe Nudger, the star-crossed P.I. more suited to selling appliances, with a suicidal girlfriend, a fear of guns, an office above a doughnut shop, and a constant need for antacid tablets.

Q: Are there any of your books that you feel deserved more recognition?

A) Maybe BONEGRINDER, which got great reviews but remains largely unread. It’s kind of hard to fit into a category. Horror, maybe. Or maybe not. It’s recently been republished as an E-book.

Q: Since beginning your career, what invention has most impacted your life as a writer?

A) Has to be the electronic book, but I haven’t yet figured out how.

Q: As a writer myself, I cannot even imagine the days of writing, editing and revising on typewriters. What was it like having to use one for those purposes?

A) I like typewriters. When you’ve run several drafts through one, you have an intimate knowledge of the content, every letter. However, I like writing on computers more. It’s a lot easier in obvious ways, but it takes some tricky adaptation to make the most of it.

Q: Your novel, The Ex, was made into a HBO Original movie of the same title for which you co-wrote the screenplay. How does writing screenplays differ from writing novels, and how are they similar?

A) I think it seems easier to write a screenplay. Maybe it is easier to write a passable screenplay. But they are deceptively simple. To write a good screenplay, worthy of being translated to film or digitalization, is difficult. Lots of people can, and do, write screenplays, but there’s a reason why not a lot of  people write them successfully, and those people, with that rare ability make a lot of money.

Q: What do you consider the highlight of your writing career?

A) I suppose SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, when it was made into a hit movie. It was the number two movie in theaters, and number one in video sales. Would have been the #1 movie if it weren’t for UNFORGIVEN. Also it inspired a lot of women to get their hair cut and dyed in that hairdo that looked great on J,J, Leigh and B. Fonda. On the other hand, maybe I haven’t yet experienced the highlight of my career.

Q: If you could say one thing to a new writer, what would it be?

A) Write, write, write. Write some more.

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When I first met Lori L. Clark, I was immediately struck by her quick wit and awesome sense of humor. Lori is fun, optimistic, and genuinely kind. Having had the pleasure of reading her novel, Tyler Falls, (which you can find on Amazon) I can also say she’s a skilled writer with a knack for damned good storytelling.

When I began doing author interviews on this blog, I did it with a mission in mind: to heighten the awareness of the works written by the author’s I admire. Lori Clark was one of the first people I wanted to ask. As someone who has been on both sides of the publishing spectrum (self-publishing and traditional publishing), I thought she’d give a pretty interesting interview. I was right. Oh… and by the way, I did get her number… 😉

You can find her books on Amazon.com. Also be sure to check her out at: http://www.clarklori.com/ and: http://justbookinaround.blogspot.com/ and: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Just-Bookin-Around/212483995430964

                                

Q: How many completed novels do you have?

A: I have 3 completed, and one WIP.

Beauty’s Beholder (YA contemporary)

Between the Moon & Shine (MG fantasy)

and Tyler Falls (YA contemporary)

Q: You have recently been accepted for publication by a traditional publishing press. What is that like?

A: I have to be honest here, although I’m thrilled that Between the Moon & Shine has been picked up by a local publisher, it’s not as exciting as getting a call from an agent who has an offer of representation must be. I think every author dreams of having several agents “fight” over your manuscript and then having it go on to receive a 6+ figure deal. I think once the book actually hits the stores, then the reality of it will sink in for real.

Q: What is the basic storyline of this novel?

A: This is (somewhat) the query letter I used:

Fourteen-year-old Bobbi Flowers wishes on a falling star for a summer to remember. Rescuing her twin brother from Trogs and meeting a sixteen-year-old boy who claims he’s over half a century old isn’t what she has in mind.

When her brother is kidnapped one night, Bobbi sets out to find him. Armed with her Louisville Slugger (to wallop those creepy Trogs into the next county) and ajar of peanut butter (in case she gets hungry), her search leads her through a portal in the woods to The Over there — and Michael. Michael’s sixteen going on sixty and wants nothing to do with an outsider. When Bobbi saves his little brother’s life, Michael reluctantly agrees to help her. It becomes a race against time when Michael tells her that each night she spends in The Over there might mean years — if not decades — will pass before she returns home. Staying fourteen forever doesn’t sound like much fun and going home decades in the future doesn’t either.

Q: When are you expecting the book to be released?

A: I have no idea how long it takes these things to come out! Summer of 2014.

Q: Having traveled down both paths, what are the major differences, in your experience, between self-publishing and traditional publishing?

A: Traditional publishing takes so much longer for the book to come out. Self-publishing is much faster. I’ve always been a bit of a self-published book snob. Assuming someone who was unable to get an agent or publisher to take on their work must not be a very good writer. I don’t believe that anymore. I’ve read a huge number of self-published and e-published books lately that are surprisingly very good. I believe there is still an unfair negative attitude toward self-published authors and/or books though.

Q: What is your usual writing process?

A: I get a seed of an idea and then I rough out some of the characters and details in a notebook by hand. Other than these details and minimal outlining, I tend to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants style writer. I know some authors painstakingly map out practically the whole book. I am not one of those authors. As close as I come to that is writing in my notebook what I want to have happen in the next few chapters with a few sentences for each chapter.

Q: What inspires you?

A: Books, the success stories of other writers, song lyrics and dreams.

Q: What are some of the books you love?

A: I am a huge fan of YA. Especially contemporary. The Hate List by Jennifer Brown, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, anything by Ilsa J. Bick and Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala. The list goes on and on.

Q: Do you have a muse?

A: If you promise not to tell anyone… the voices inside my head tell me what to write. It’s more like each main character from my books takes on a life of their own inside my mind and “they” tell me what to write. Is it any wonder so many writers/authors also have had mental issues?

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: A YA contemporary with the working title of Breaker. It’s about an overweight girl with a beautiful voice who can’t get people to take her seriously due to her appearance.

Q: Aside from writing, what do you love?

A: Reading and running are two big time fillers for me. I love going to concerts and my Miniature Pinscher — Barkley.

Q: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

A: Getting the initial spark for an idea is a lot of fun and the excitement that comes with putting pen to paper. After that, seeing “THE END” is pretty awesome too.

Q: What is your ultimate goal in writing?

A: I could say to become rich like JK Rowling or have one (or more) of my books become a household name like “Fifty Shades of Grey” or as wildly popular as the Hunger Games trilogy.

Q: When and why did you decide to become a writer?

A: I’ve always enjoyed writing, and found it easier to express myself through the written word, but I didn’t get serious about it until a few years ago when I moved, which is sort of ironic considering I was born in Iowa City, IA and lived within a few miles of there all my life prior to 2007. Every writer knows why that’s ironic and what Iowa City is famous for.

Q: Who is your greatest supporter?

A: My mom is proud that I’ve finally taken up something she approves of. I also have a good friend in North Carolina who reads everything I write and gives me moral support and suggestions.

Q: Since you began writing novels, what have you learned about yourself?

A: I have a pretty creative imagination and I’m even more impatient than I thought I was.

Q: In your opinion, what main qualities should a book have in order to be damned good?

A: A likeable and interesting main character. Someone people can identify with or empathize with. Unpredictability and pacing that doesn’t make me fall asleep. One of my biggest pet peeves is for an author to name their character something I don’t know how to pronounce. If I can’t pronounce his or her name I stumble over it every time it’s written in the book.

Q: Who do you most hope will really love your upcoming novel?

A: Everyone who reads it. I’m so sensitive, I’m sure the first bad reviews I read are going to crush me.

Q: Do you have any particular marketing plans for this novel?

A: I think it’s important to have an online platform in place. I have an author’s page, a book review blog, a twitter account, etc. I plan to do a lot of word of mouth online promoting. I also would love to spend time at the local indie book stores.

Q: When your novel is released, I’d love to get you in for a book signing. Sound good?

A: I would love that!

Q: You’re pretty cute. Can I have your number?

A: Ha! If I were younger I would have already been your number 1 stalker. See me hiding behind those parked cars over there? 🙂


Syrie James is the bestselling author of Dracula, My Love, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, Nocturne, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and most recently, Forbidden, a young adult novel she wrote with her son, Ryan M. James. The release of a new novel, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, is scheduled for release in January of 2013.

 

Syrie began writing novels after a successful career in Hollywood, in which she wrote nineteen screenplays and teleplays for Tri-Star Pictures, NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox TV, Fox Family Films and The Lifetime Network. Her novels have gone on to be bestsellers and have been translated into sixteen foreign languages.

I made Syrie’s acquaintance last summer after reading her novel Nocturne. I loved the book so much that I wrote a blog about it! (Real Men Read Romance: https://jsascribes.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/real-men-read-romance/).  She was kind to me then, as she is to me now. Syrie is friendly, down-to-earth, and she writes some seriously good stuff. When I asked her to do an interview for my blog, she was enthusiastic about it and more than happy to oblige me. She has become a good friend, and I hope her insights into the world of writing give you as much inspiration as they have me. For more information on Syrie, check her out at: http://www.syriejames.com/

Q: What inspired you to write The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë?

A: I have always adored the novel Jane Eyre. I felt compelled to know and understand the woman who wrote it. I wondered: who was Charlotte Brontë? How did she come to write this remarkable book, which is still so popular all over the world more than 160 years after she wrote it?

As I started researching Charlotte’s life, I was astonished to discover how many parts of the novel were inspired by her own experiences. I was also captivated by the engrossing saga of Charlotte’s family. Charlotte lived in Victorian England in a tiny village in the wilds of Yorkshire. Her brother became an alcoholic and a drug addict. Her father, a clergyman, was going blind. Her sisters Emily and Anne were also very talented writers. All three sisters, despite the difficulties of their circumstances, became published authors at the same time. Emily’s novel Wuthering Heights is considered one of the greatest masterpieces ever written in the English language. I can’t think of any other family in history who’ve achieved a similar literary feat, and I wanted to explore that and show how it happened.

Add to that the true story of Charlotte’s romance! Her father’s curate, the tall, dark, and handsome Arthur Bell Nicholls, lived right next door to the Brontës for more than seven years, and carried a silent torch for Charlotte all that time, before he had the nerve to propose. Charlotte greatly disliked him for many years, but her feelings eventually changed, and she grew to love him. I knew that would make a fabulous story—and it had never been told!

Q: Which parts of The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë are true?

A: The novel is based almost entirely on fact. All the details of Charlotte’s family life, her experiences at school, her friendship with Ellen, her feelings for Monsieur Heger, the evolution of her writing career, and her relationship with her publisher, George Smith, are all true and based on information from her letters and biographies.

All the critical notices the sisters read about their poetry and novels are real. The details about Mr. Nicholls’s childhood and Charlotte’s experiences with the Bell family in Ireland are factual. Most of the characters in the book—even the girls at Roe Head School—are based on real people.

The details of Mr. Nicholls’s passionate and agonized proposal of marriage, as well as its stormy aftermath and Patrick Bronte’s vehement opposition, are all based on fact, and were meticulously recorded in Charlotte’s correspondence. Charlotte and Mr. Nicholls’s strolls from Haworth to Oxenhope during those bitingly cold days in January 1854 are so well known, that the path came to be called “Charlotte’s Lane.”

 

Q: You also wrote a book about Jane Austen. Did you find any similarities between the two women?

A: Both Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë were daughters of clergymen, had very close relationships with a sister, and felt frustrated in their search for true love. Both were extremely well-read, and were educated for a majority of their lives at home by their fathers.

The timeless issues which Charlotte wrote about in Jane Eyre were all dear to Jane Austen’s heart, and central themes in Austen’s novels. Both women enjoyed gothic novels, and wrote torrid and passionate stories in their youth.

Both published their books anonymously or under a pseudonym during their lifetime. And of course both were incredibly imaginative and brilliant writers!

Q: Why do you think Jane Austen continues to be so popular with modern readers?

A: Readers are drawn in by her sense of realism, her superb narrative technique, her brilliant understanding of character, her wonderful sense of humor, and the topicality of her subject matter. Her characters all wrestle with social and emotional problems we can recognize, and still confront on a daily basis.

Reading Jane Austen’s novels makes us feel we are in communion with a rarely gifted, wise and subtle mind. Her books are witty and ironic, and, at a time when people worry that the past is being lost, they provide a pleasurable way of connecting to it. But ultimately, what attracts us to Austen now is probably what’s been attracting people to her for two centuries: anyone, at any time, can relate to falling in love.

Q: What inspired you to write The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen?

A: I have long been a Jane Austen fan. One of my all-time favorite books is Pride and Prejudice. There are few novels which can match it for pure brilliance of plot, characterization and dialog. I adore the A&E mini-series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, and the films Sense and Sensibility and Shakespeare in Love. One day, I thought: what about a love story for Jane Austen?

Although Jane Austen’s biographers portray her basically as a spinster with a great imagination, I refused to believe that! We know that Jane had a brief flirtation with an Irishman named Tom Lefroy when she was twenty, but his family rapidly sent him away because she had no money.

I was more intrigued, however, by the story that Jane’s sister Cassandra confided to her niece: that the only man Jane ever truly loved, was an unnamed gentleman she once met at an unspecified seaside resort. This tantalizing anecdote is known as the mysterious “seaside romance.” Everyone wonders: who was that man? What happened to him? I decided to invent him.

Q: Jane Austen has a large male readership. Do you think that would have surprised her?

A: Not at all. Sir Walter Scott loved her work, and the Prince of Wales was one of her biggest fans; he even asked her to dedicate a book to him (which she did: Emma.) I think Jane knew she was writing books that would please readers of both genders. She had a gift for portraying the feelings of what women and men are like, and what they’d like each other to be.

Q: What was the most difficult thing about writing Dracula, My love?

A: The most difficult part for me was dealing with Mina Harker’s dilemma and still keeping her real and sympathetic: she’s in love with two men, which would be hard for any woman to handle, but this is the Victorian era with all its sexual and moral taboos, which made it even more complicated.

I wanted this to be a standalone book, so that readers could enjoy it and fully follow the action without having read Stoker’s original. It was important to me to stay true to the facts of Bram Stoker’s classic, while giving it a new spin (as it’s all told from Mina’s point of view.) At the same time, I was interweaving a brand new, romantic story, and creating what I hope are compelling and fascinating back stories for the main characters. Balancing all that was very tricky! I hope you enjoy the result.

Q: Dracula, My Love is very romantic, but there is little or no romance in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. How do the main characters in your novel compare to–or differ from–Stoker’s characters?

A: Stoker’s Mina is smart, strong, logical, and sensitive–a woman with a “man’s brain,” as Van Helsing puts it. I strove to retain all these lovely, essential qualities, while at the same time fleshing out Mina’s character arc and reflecting her evolution as a woman. To that end, I focused on two major elements: the invention and exploration of her personal history, and her inner struggle between her affection for and loyalty to her husband, and her intense desire for that powerful being, Dracula, to whom she is drawn despite herself.

I wanted Dracula to be a central character and love interest–which meant he could not be Stoker’s hideous, selfish, elderly recluse. Neither did I envision him as the suave but evil charmer so often portrayed in the movies. I envisioned Count Dracula not only as an attractive, charismatic, and highly intelligent supernatural being, but a sympathetic one: a man who had a very different explanation for every terrible act attributed to him. A man who’d been completely misunderstood. An accomplished man who’d taken full advantage of his gift of immortality to expand his mind and talents, and who would do anything to win the heart of the woman he loved. Mina would fall madly in love with that man, and so would I.

Stoker’s Dracula can vanish at will, morph into a bat or wolf, and appear decades younger. Given these abilities, I reasoned, he would surely appear in his most attractive form to the woman he wished to woo–just as the female vampires at his castle appear to Jonathan as ravishing beauties.

Q: As a bestselling author what would you say is your secret formula to successful novels?

A: I work long and hard on every book, pour my heart and soul into it, sometimes for years. While I’m researching and writing, I obsess about the book in progress, eat, sleep, and breathe it, and never stop thinking about it. I think that’s the formula to success in anything: be passionate about what you do, give it your full attention, and don’t settle for anything but your very best work.

Q: Any advice to budding authors?

A: Read everything. Study hard. Join writing groups. Write what you love. And: don’t get bogged down by trying to make the beginning perfect. Even if you change your mind midstream about a story or character or book’s direction, just jot down a few notes about it and keep going with that new direction in mind. When you get to the end, then–and only then–should you go back and revise. Reaching the finish line of that first draft is an indescribably satisfying feeling, and you don’t want to derail yourself by constantly revising the first few chapters.

Finally, I believe that the secrets to success are threefold, and they all begin with P: passion, patience, and perseverance. No matter who you are, how old you are, what you do, or what you wish for … I believe that if you press on, keep your goals in sight, and put in the hard work, you can achieve your dreams–no matter how impossible or unlikely they may seem to others.

And remember: Syrie’s next novel, THE MISSING MANUSCRIPT OF JANE AUSTEN, will be published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Books, in January 2013.  Be sure to get a copy!