Thursday, October 31, 2019

Book Publishing Secrets with Political Thriller Author Michael Bowen

Name:  Michael Bowen
Book Title:  False Flag in Autumn
Genre: Political thriller
Publisher: Farragut Square Publications

Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Mike:   We are now living through the most important American political period in my lifetime – and at 68 years of age, I have lived through Watergate, the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the end of the Cold War, and the economic upheaval accompanying globalization.  It has generated voluminous commentary by smart people – and 98% of that commentary, on both sides, is twaddle.  Something is going on here that the usual ways of analyzing politics can’t seem to get at properly.  I’m a storyteller, and I thought that maybe I could get at what the other approaches are missing by telling a story about it.  After all, fiction is truth liberated from the tyranny of fact.

Is this your first book?
Mike:  Nope.  Harper & Row published my first novel, Can’t Miss, in 1987.  I’ve had something like twenty – mostly mysteries, but with political satire mixed in – since then.

With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Mike:  I self-published through Farragut Square Publications because I tried every other avenue and hit nothing but dead ends.  The great satirist Evelyn Waugh said that he turned to writing because he had tried every other profession and failed.  That’s how I ended up going to the route I did with False Flag in Autumn.

Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?
Mike:  A prominent small-press mystery publisher bought the story, paid for it in full – and then got cold feet and bailed because it felt its readers had, in its words, “Trump fatigue.”  I’d had books rejected before, but I’d never had a publisher give me its hard-earned money, say “Mike delivered” – direct quote – and then have second thoughts.  Another prominent publisher raved about what a fully developed character Josie Kendal was, but said that it didn’t know how to place political stories.  I got the message and went with Captain David Farragut’s famous line from the Battle of Mobile Bay:  “Damn the torpedoes!  Full speed ahead!”  The greatest part of the experience was hiring an independent editor to help me with the story.  She was tremendous – and because I myself was paying her, I felt that I had to defer to her more readily than I had to editors my publishers were paying.

What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Mike: Given the times we live in, I absolutely do not blame established publishers for deciding that they simply don’t need the hassle and aggravation that could well be waiting for them if they turn out a topical political novel.  Publishing is a business, not a hobby, and unless a publisher has a guaranteed bankable author with a string of bestsellers on his resumé, why should it risk a Twitter-storm from the right, or the left, or both, complete with angry demands that bookstores and readers boycott all of that publisher’s titles?  For that matter, why should it risk alienating readers who it thinks want Nancy Drew Goes to Washington instead of a shrewd, manipulative Washington apparatchik who (as Josie Kendal puts it) “can pull out every stop on the organ – and you don’t want to be in church when it happens”?  I’ve learned that politics is toxic right now, and that the intimidation tactics deployed by both sides have worked.

Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Mike:  It’s like the proverbial question sometimes put to lawyers by college students:  do you think I should go to law school?  The answer is, “Unless you want to be a lawyer so much that nothing I could say could make the slightest difference, the answer is no.”  Unless you think what you have to say is potentially so important that it simply cannot be left unsaid, then the odds are that two years from now you’ll be richer and happier if you don’t resort to self-publication – even under a name as clever as Farragut Square Publications.

What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Mike:  Remember every time you sit down at the keyboard that the great accomplishment isn’t getting a book published – it’s telling a story, even if no one but you and your friends in your writing group ever read that story.  If you truly believe in the story you’ve written, then in writing that story you have accomplished something far greater than a hugely successful author who has gone on automatic pilot to turn out one more entry in a franchise that deliberately gives readers something familiar and non-threatening.  At a more practical level, always stop writing in a given session before you want to.  That will make you hungry to go back.  If you stay up until three a.m. and crank out eight chapters, it will be two weeks before you go back to the story.

About False Flag in Autumn:  Why wasn’t there an October surprise before the 2018 midterm elections?  The irrepressible Josie Kendall, introduced in 2016’s Damage Control (“ . . . consistently delightful . . . . Bowen’s ebullient antidote to election season blues” – Kirkus Reviews) finds herself in the middle of that provocative question.  She no sooner answers it than she faces one even more dramatic:  What about 2020, with control of the White House at stake?  Josie will have to decide whether to leave the Beltway cocoon, where the weapons are spin, winks, nudges, and strategic leaks, and venture into a world where the weapons are actual weapons.  Josie knows that you don’t do politics with choir girls, and that to end up on the side of the angels you sometimes have to find angels who play a little dirty.

M.C.: What themes do you explore in False Flag in Autumn?
Mike:  Integrity, redemption, and the willingness to know yourself – to look in the mirror finally and see something that you’re not particularly comfortable with.

M.C.: Why do you write?
Mike:   God has given me the gift of being able to tell stories that engage the interest and emotions of other people.  To borrow a line from the movie Chariots of Fire, when I use that gift I can feel His pleasure.

M.C.: When do you feel most creative?
Mike:   When I see something – e.g., a computer bag going through the luggage screener at an airport, that could be switched with an identical bag with neither the owner nor anyone else being any the wiser – and realize that no one else looking at exactly the same scene has seen what I just saw.  And when I wonder What if?  What if someone threatens to kill you unless you stop sleeping with his wife, and you’re not sleeping with anyone else’s wife?

M.C.: How picky are you with language?
Mike:    I’m an unapologetic, old-school pedant.  I’ve tried – hard – to check my tendency to correct grammar and diction in conversation, but I still yell corrections at my television screen:  fewer, not less, to her and me, not to her and I, supine, not prone, espionage, not treason, you semi-literate cretin.”  In a deposition once, an expert witness referred three times to his “mythology.”  I finally said, “I think you mean ‘methodology.’  ‘Mythology’ is what I’d call it if we had a jury here.”  Opposing counsel once told me in a letter that he found one of my statements “incredulous.”  I replied that I thought he meant “incredible.”  He peevishly responded, “Please don’t correct my grammar.”  I wrote back, “I wasn’t correcting your grammar, I was correcting your diction.”

M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you are being manipulated from afar?
Mike:   Nope.  The internal logic of plot or character can take me in unanticipated and even surprising directions, but that’s because I haven’t thought things through thoroughly enough before I started to write – not because a muse is playing head-games with me.

M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?
Mike:     Spotting a typo – or, even worse, a substantive factual error – when I’m reading the printed book and it’s too late to make a correction.

M.C.:   Your best?
Mike:    When I’m reading something I’ve written and I know the story perfectly well, but I want to go on reading even so simply because I’m enjoying the prose and the way the story is playing out.

M.C.:   Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
Mike:   No.  If someone threatened to disclose my most embarrassing secret unless I promised never to write another word, I’d say, “You’re too late.  I’ve already revealed it in at least three stories.”

M.C.:   What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
Mike:    When I realized that you could lock a snap-lock on the inside of a room by blocking the latch with an ice cube and then stepping outside and closing the door, so that the lock would snap shut when the ice cube melted; and then verified with a lock I bought and installed expressly for the purpose, and an ice cube and a camera, that the trick would actually work.

M.C.:   Is writing an obsession to you?
Mike:     Absolutely.  If the apocalypse comes before I die, I’ll probably be typing right up until an angel on a green horse gallops up to let me know what my fate is

M.C.:   Are the stories you create connected to you in some way?
Mike:  Sure.  My protagonists have strengths and weaknesses (and good habits and bad habits) that I don’t have, and they tend to lead more interesting lives (especially now that I’ve retired from practicing law), but every emotion, every desire, every conflict of conscience, every resistance to or acquiescence in temptation that I write about is an extrapolation of something that I have felt or experienced or imagined.

M.C.:   Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”  Thoughts?
Mike:    Bradbury has a far more sensitive soul than I do.  I practiced law for thirty-nine years.  What does a lawyer do when he has secured a not guilty verdict for a client he knows perfectly well was as guilty as Judas Iscariot?  I’ll tell you what he does.  He goes home; loosens his tie and unbuttons the top button on his shirt; puts jazz on his CD player; pours two fingers of scotch;  listens to Miles Davis or John Coltrane until he falls asleep; then gets up the next morning and goes back to work.  Reality doesn’t stand a chance

M.C.:  Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?


Monday, October 14, 2019

Book Publishing Secrets with Deborah Serani Author of The Ninth Session

Deborah Serani is an award-winning author and psychologist who has been in practice for thirty years. She is also a professor at Adelphi University and is a go-to media expert for psychological issues. Her interviews can be found in Newsday, Psychology Today, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Associated Press, and affiliate radio programs at CBS and NPR, among others. Dr. Serani has also been a technical advisor for the NBC television show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The recurring character, Judge D. Serani, was named after her.


About the Book:

Author: Deborah Serani
Publisher: TouchPoint Press
Pages: 190
Genre: Psychological Suspense/Thriller

Dr. Alicia Reese, a recent widow and a CODA – a child of Deaf Adults, takes on a new patient. Lucas Ferro reveals the reason for his consultation is that he wasn't really open with his previous therapist. After gaining Reese’s trust, he shares aspects of his life that are clearly disturbing – experiences that create anxiety and panic, but also reveal horrifying psychopathology. Instead of referring Ferro elsewhere, Reese chooses to continue working with him, feeling reinvigorated by the challenge of his case.     
As sessions progress, and Ferro’s disclosures become more menacing, Reese finds herself wedged between the cold hard frame of professional ethics and the integrity of personal truth – and learns just how far she’s willing to go, willing to risk and willing to lose to do the right thing.


Amazon →

Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
I’ve had this story in my mind for a decade or more. I love writing and enjoyed the process of getting the story, the characters and the plot twists on paper. I’m a teacher at heart, so this story, like many of my other books, has a subject to showcase.  
Is this your first book?
No, this is my fifth book. I’ve got two more I’m working on.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
I tried to get an agent, but that wasn’t an easy thing to do. In fact, I’d say it was exhausting. I felt as if finding an agent whose interests perfectly dovetailed exactly with my writing was a near-impossible task. And when I did find an agent, she wanted me to shift the story this way. Or add this piece. Or take out this and spin things that way. It felt like my story was being edited to “sell” and no longer reflected my own voice. So, I fired the agent and decided to go the Indie route. It took a long time to get the novel back to my own voice again. But once I did, I began emailing independent publishers with a short query. And I finally found an editor that wanted my work in their publishing house. You have more control of your narrative when you work with Indie publishers. The integrity of your story seems to hold more value and respect. And your unique voice as a writer is celebrated.  At least, that’s been my experience with the three different Indie publishers where my books call home.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?  The pros and cons?
See above. I think I kinda wrote about that there.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
My take away in this journey as an author is that many good and great writers encounter hardship finding publishers and/or agents. It can feel frustrating and dash long-held dreams when you realize how hard it is. But once you realize there are other ways to go, your dreams as an author can be realized. I’ve found that talking with other authors offers great support. And it was through such conversations that I learned about Indie publishing. Going Indie has been a very meaningful experience for me and I’m glad I went that route.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
I definitely would!
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Surround yourself with people who believe in your talent. Have trusted others read your work, so they can offer you constructive criticism. An then perfect your craft from suggestions or comments you get. When it comes to publishing, consider all avenues. And learn about them all. Consider traditional. Indie. Or Self-Publishing. Find what works best for you. And keep writing. Always keep writing.