Today’s Interview is with Author John Pearce about writing his highly successful novel Treasure of Saint-Lazare.
John, how would you describe your book to someone who has not yet read it?
Treasure of Saint-Lazare is an international thriller with a strong romantic undercurrent. It’s the story of lost treasure and lost love. Only one of those is found.
Is there a message in your book that you want your readers to grasp?
Treasure isn’t a “message” book, but I hope my readers will watch my protagonist, Eddie Grant, change before their eyes. He, like many of us, must learn to put aside his grief and get on with the business of life.
What inspired you to start writing ?
I’ve been a word person since my days as a journalist in Washington and Germany a good many years ago. Treasure is my second serious effort to write a novel, but the first that stuck. I lived in Germany and wrote for the International Herald Tribune during the last full decade of the Cold War, and I’ve wanted to follow up on that experience by presenting a story as seen by the younger generation of people who were influenced by the Cold War but didn’t actually take part in it.
How did you get the idea for the novel?
Work and reflection. A lot of my ideas come during my daily four-mile walks. The “what if” idea for this one came that way one day, and then I went looking to see if there were a historical hook I could use. That’s when I found Raphael’s well-known self-portrait, which has been missing since 1945.
Does your book have any underlying theme, message, or moral?
Do the best you can, whatever the situation.
Are your characters based on real people?
I picked up a couple of names from people I know, but otherwise every character in it is totally fictional, or such a broad combination of attributes that they are anonymous.
Who is your favorite character and why?
Just about everybody who’s expressed a preference likes Jen Wetzmuller, the Sarasota art dealer who’s always on the edge of being in trouble. I’m writing the sequel right now, and the more I look at her the more I like her.
Are your plots based on your real-life experiences?
Not in any large way, but I spend a lot of time in Paris and I’ve been everywhere I write about. Of course, I live most of the year in Sarasota.
Give us an excerpted quote from your favorite review of this book:
One of my early and most thoughtful reviews came from Adam Najberg, deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal’s Asia edition. I was really pleased when he wrote, “The best thing is how absolutely readable it is.” Of the 119 reviews I have since publication, there are several of the “I couldn’t put it down” variety, which I also appreciated, and the ones who tell me reading the book is like taking a walk through Paris – that’s the effect I wanted to leave.
How much of the book is based on real life (either yours or someone you know)?
The painting was real. Hans Frank, the brutal Nazi governor-general of Poland, was real (and was hanged at Nuremberg). He did steal the painting, along with others. Outside of that minimal factual framework, it’s fiction. I don’t know of any other real-life event precisely like this (although there are still a lot of paintings and other treasures missing from the war).
Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you have learned as a writer from then to now?
Stay in the chair. Write!
Considering a book from the first word you write to the moment you see it on a bookstore shelf, what’s your favorite part of the process? What’s your least favorite?
I enjoy coming up with the concepts. I enjoy creating the sentences. I do not particularly enjoy the editing.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about your book?
I’d resolve the ending more clearly. Of course, there are several small changes I’d make, but all in all I think it came out the way I intended.
What genre have you not yet written but really want to try?
My sequel, whose working title is “Last Stop: Paris,” will be more of a thriller than Treasure. The third book will be the story of my protagonist’s father as a U.S. military intelligence agent during the war, a sort of third-party memoir. That will keep me busy through 2015, and as of now I don’t know what direction I will go.
What general advice do you have for other writers?
Write. Read many, many books of your own and similar genres, and any book you can find that’s well-written (however you define that). Two good sources for ideas are the podcasts of the New York Times Book Review and the New Yorker Magazine’s fiction department. Their interviews with the reviewers sometimes give a better impression of the quality of the writing than the pages of the newspaper or the magazine.
What is the best part of being a writer?
The feeling of creation.
What’s the most challenging part of being a writer?
Making time for the physical work in the face of all the demands for marketing and research.
Where’s the one place in the world you’d like to visit?
After a lifetime of travel I live in Paris part of every year. This year my wife and I may make another couple of stops in Europe. I’d like to see Hong Kong. I have a book idea on the back burner that might take me to South America, but it’s too early to tell.
What is your favorite novel?
That is tough. I thought “Atonement” by Ian McEwan was one of the strongest novels I’ve ever read, better than its successor “Solar.” Up there with it is “To the End of the Land,” by David Grossman. “The Flamethrowers” by Rachel Kushner and “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt are two new books I enjoyed immensely. And then, after I read about Ann Patchett’s new book of stories, I read her “Bel Canto.” And that short list omits a lot.
How would a close friend describe you?
Focused, self-contained, friendly most of the time, tech-savvy.
Where can people learn more about your writing?
My blog site JohnPearceAuthor.com is the best place. I’m active on Google Plus and Twitter, less so on Facebook and LinkedIn, although I do show up there.
What is ONE thing that you have done that brought you more readers?
Seek reviewers. I’ve been fortunate to have almost 120 reviews of Treasure of Saint-Lazare. It’s maintained a four-star ranking on Amazon and reached #25 on the historical mysteries best-seller list. The Amazon page, where you can get the paperback and audio-book editions from. Don’t miss the video trailer on YouTube.
Thanks so much John, for taking the time to talk about your book and your life as a writer.
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Are You Sure Your Book is in the Right Genre – or Sub Genre?
“Knowing Your Genre”, by John C. Ford Author of “The Morgue and Me“
If you want to travel to a nice place, the first step is finding it on the map. And so it is with writing a novel: if you want to get a novel up on the bookstore shelves, the first step is finding the shelf that you’re aiming for.
You have got a great idea, say, for a story about a young actress in turn-of-the-century Chicago, haunted by ghosts of the characters she plays on stage. But if you start writing without a clear notion of whether your novel is a horror story, a young adult tale, or a historical romance, you are putting yourself in a hole — and probably a lot of reject piles. Why? Well, if you don’t know what shelf your book should be on, then agents, editors, and booksellers probably won’t either, and that will make them reluctant to invest in your manuscript.
If you are writing a crime story, this lesson applies to you. About thirty percent of novels purchased in the U.S. are mysteries or thrillers, and your first step as a crime writer should be knowing which of those two types of books — a mystery or a thriller — you are delivering to your readers.
And in order to take that step, you need to know what a mystery is, what a thriller is, and the differences between them. Relax… we’re here to help. Mysteries begin with a murder. The major question is whodunit, and the novel answers that question. Thrillers begin with a situation that portends a catastrophe of some sort (an assassination, a bank robbery, a nuclear explosion, etc.) The major question is whether or not our hero will be able to prevent that catastrophe from occurring. This, in a nutshell, describes the difference between a mystery and a thriller.
The two genres have a number of deeper differences — in tone, point of view, and appeal — which writers should also know in order to understand the expectations that readers bring to each type of story. Some of those differences are as follows:
Mysteries tend to get sub-divided based on the identity of their protagonists: “amateur sleuth” mysteries feature a main character whose main occupation is not crime-solving; “police procedures” often follow a police detective; “private investigator” novels, naturally, star private detectives. Thrillers get sub-divided based on the cultural or professional world in which the threat arises. Thus you have “medical thrillers,” “spy thrillers,” “financial/corporate thrillers,” and many others.
Based on the above, you should be able to tell whether your story, at its core, is a mystery or a thriller. Knowing the characteristics of your genre (and sub-genre) should inform the story choices you make, help you to identify authors of similar works to read for inspiration, and to know how your novel fits into the publishing picture when you address agents and editors. In short, it should help you see more clearly where your novel will end up in the bookstore — and that’s a very good thing.
To be clear, though, the qualities of mysteries and thrillers described above are by no means absolute. They should not be taken as hard-and-fast “rules” to follow, and indeed, many successful mysteries and thrillers deviate in ways large and small from the descriptions above. The thrillers of Harlan Coben, to give just one example, tend to revolve around complicated family histories — a personal type of storyline more expected in a mystery — rather than preventing a “high stakes” threat like terrorists poisoning a water system.
Writers should not fear to tread where others in the genre haven’t, either. Many of the thriller sub-genres began with authors exploring subject matter that had not been tackled yet in their genre. Scott Turow virtually invented the legal thriller with “Presumed Innocent.” Joseph Finder has set a number of thrillers in the corporate world, and with his success the sub-genre of corporate thrillers has flowered.
If you have your own story, certain aspects of it probably do not fit neatly into the generalized descriptions above. That’s okay. Better than okay — within the terrain of your genre, you want to find a fresh spot to claim as your own.
Indeed… breaking the “rules” can be great. But the first step, even in doing that, is knowing your genre well.
Read the whole post: http://foliolit.com/resources/knowing-your-genre/
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Posted by ebooksinternational on March 18, 2012 in comment on posts, googling social, join the conversation, Marketing, post to public, posting, Publishing, Self-Publishing
Tags: book genre, Genre, http://foliolit.com/resources/knowing-your-genre/, John C. Ford, Knowing Your Genre, Mystery, sub-genre, The Morgue and Me, Thriller