Sunday, October 30, 2005

Christopher Moore talks about his first time… publishing.

I thought it might be interesting to hear from some traditionally-published authors on how they became just that—traditionally published.

I just finished reading Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore and after checking out, I emailed Mr. Moore a few questions about how his first book, Practical Demonkeeping, came to be published.

Moore is the author of eight novels including Practical Demonkeeping, Coyote Blue, Bloodsucking Fiends, Island of the Sequined Love Nun, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, Lamb, Fluke and The Stupidest Angel. The Stupidest Angel won the 2005 Quill Award in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror category.

Moore’s literary agent is Nick Ellison, who shows up on POD-dy Mouth’s list of great agents.

I kept the email short, asking only six questions, to help improve the chances of a response. Of course, when Mr. Moore wrote back in less than 12 hours (better than I do with my email), I wished I had asked a few more.

When you started writing Practical Demonkeeping was publishing it a thought that was always there or did that goal emerge later? If so, when?
I always had thought of publishing it. I started writing novels instead of short stories because I wanted to make a living at writing fiction.

You mentioned in another interview that you just followed the advice that the magazines offer, sending query letters to a ton on agents and then waiting. Was that a frustrating experience? What kind of feedback did you get from agents? Any particularly memorable rejections?
It was about as frustrating as I'd been led to believe it would be. They're not kidding about that. The first agent that accepted me wanted so many changes in the manuscript that I actually turned him down. That was tough. I ended up getting an agent through a connection with a friend who was in the TV business.

You mentioned that film rights to Practical Demonkeeping sold before the publishing rights did, was that through the same literary agent? How did being picked up feel?
No. It was sold through a Hollywood agent. It felt great. It was a ton of money. Would have been nice if they'd actually made a movie, but it was a ton of money.

How has your relationship with your agent (Nick Ellison) and publishers evolved since Practical Demonkeeping?
Nick has been great. He's been out there slugging for me for years, and I think we're pretty good friends. As far as publishers, I had mixed feelings about my first two publishers. I felt that they could have done a lot more with the books, but I felt as if they sorta didn't get what I was doing.

How involved were you in the marketing of Practical Demonkeeping? How has your involvement and approach to marketing your books evolved?
I was only involved in that I went to the few places that my publisher told me to go. I still do that, but they send me to a lot more places and a lot more people show up. I've also cultivated a pretty loyal following through the internet, as I've had my e-mail address on the books since 1995 and I make an effort to personally answer every letter I get.

What’s your latest project?
I've just finished a book about Death, called A Dirty Job and I'm starting the sequel to my 1995 vampire novel, Bloodsucking Fiends.

Check our Moore's website at He has several interviews available there including one on writing. There are some cool video interviews as well.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Vlad Dracula by Michael Augustyn

Robin Hood, King Arthur, Charlemagne—great heroes all, with legends enhanced by classics of literature. But Dracula? Certainly the vampire of Bram Stoker’s novel won’t show up on any such list.

Michael Augustyn, author of the historical novel Vlad Dracula, might beg to differ. In his book, Augustyn lays out the life and times of the Romanian prince that inspired Stoker’s vampire tale, and describes the duality of a man celebrated in Romania as a national hero, but who’s blood thirst inspired the tag “The Impaler” and an image of ultimate evil.

“I was inspired to write about Dracula for two reasons,” Augustyn said. “First, there were no historical novels on the subject in English. Second, I wanted to get into his psyche, and that of Romania. How could he impale 10 percent of his population, including women and children, and still be considered a national hero, a Robin Hood actually?

“His people had been so abused by Hungary, the Ottoman empire and their own nobility and church that they welcomed his sense of justice, hard as it was. It was kind of like his insanity versus his enemies' terror tactics. And he outdid them.”

Augustyn’s research is evident throughout the book lending authenticity to the tale.

“It took me seven years, on and off, getting down the history of Dracula. Some will quibble with some of the things I presented, but I would challenge them to cite sources that clearly contradict my interpretation,” he said. “There are significant disputes about the number of his brothers, his sons, the name of his first wife, and the facts surrounding one of his protagonists, Janos Hunyadi, a hero of Hungary. I assembled the facts from as many sources as I could find in English and wove my novel around them.”

Augustyn first published Vlad on his own before revising and republishing the book with iUniverse.

“(iUniverse’s) Editorial Evaluation process is an excellent asset,” he said. “They check the quality of writing and make specific suggestions, leaving the choice of change up to the author.”

Augustyn counts Edward Rutherford (Sarum, Russka, The Princes of Ireland) and Wilbur Smith (The Triumph of the Sun, Blue Horizon) as two of his favorite authors and also enjoys reading some ancient texts.

“I also read the classics, manuscripts written by the ancients themselves, like Livy’s The War with Hannibal and things by Herodotus,” Augustyn said. “They might be slanted—they are—but they give a flavor to the period that a writer can build on. They give a sense of the subject era.”

Vlad Dracula is currently being considered for translation into Portuguese by a Brazilian publisher and Augustyn is working on a second novel.

“I have two-thirds draft of another novel completed, one aimed at a younger audience, historical in background, but much looser in regard to relying on facts.”

Sunday, October 16, 2005

iUniverse author Susanne Severeid signs copies of her newly released murder mystery, The Death of Milly Mahoney, at the Flagstaff, AZ, Barnes & Noble.
Photo by Bea Jacobs 2005.

The Death of Milly Mahoney by Susanne Severeid

Hollywood—where dreams come true—at least on the big screen. But Tinsel Town can be a bit tougher when the cameras aren’t rolling.

iUniverse author Susanne Severeid, a former actress herself, captures a bit of the seedy side in her mystery novel, The Death of Milly Mahoney. Severeid’s protagonist, Trix Donovan, is drawn into a mystery when she receives a call from an old friend that she has lost touch with.

What inspired you to write The Death of Milly Mahoney?
A couple of things. A close friend of mine, who was gay, was murdered. It was brutal and senseless and it gave me a lot of emotional background for this book. I had written a short story about his death, really as a way to work through my grief and confusion, and it was published in an anthology. I had also reached a time in my life where I was ready to sit down and write a book, and I knew I wanted to draw upon my years in the entertainment field and Southern California. I began my career as a model at 19 in Los Angeles, which is where I grew up, and moved on to top t.v. commercials, t.v. shows & some films, anchoring documentaries, radio... For me it was all fascinating and I'd met so many bizarre, colorful characters, but didn't want it to be too autobiographical. Fiction is much more fun, because you can take more liberties. I had lived in Malibu in a beach cottage, like my protagonist Trix Donovan, so that's for real.

Who are some of your writing influences? Who do you read?
I've always enjoyed the genre of murder mysteries, from the old-fashioned classics like Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes, to Ellis Peters, P.D. James, Grisham, Paretsky. But so few out there on the mass market have believable plots--unlike real life, which is my main influence. I mean, if you know what really goes on backstage and in politics, truth can be stranger than fiction...and a lot of it isn't very pretty.

It seems like you did a lot of research to make sure the police procedural issues and legal issues were portrayed accurately. How did you go about doing the research?
Much of The Death of Milly Mahoney is based on firsthand experience in the sense that I've really known people who were like some of my characters in the book. But where I had less personal experience was with police and the judicial system, so I called and visited local police stations and officials, attorneys, etc and I enrolled in our local Citizen's Police Academy. It was amazing! A twelve-week course where we did everything from high speed car chases to visiting the maximum security prison in Winslow, Arizona. I had extensive conversations with the Medical Examiner, viewed crime scene photos, you name it. Everyone I spoke with was so helpful in answering my questions. I'm really happy with the feedback I'm getting from readers who tell me the dialogue and characters in my book are honest and ring true. That's gratifying.

You had a number of people write cover blurbs for you prior, to publication. How did you go about obtaining them?
They're all authors whom I respect; that was important to me. I simply asked them to read and evaluate my manuscript. You know, "Ask and it shall be given unto you." Don't be afraid to ask, all someone can say is "no." Think of who you know, or friends who may have contacts, and ask them to look at your manuscript and give you a quote if they like it.

Did you send the book out to agents and traditional publishers prior to coming to iUniverse? If so, what kind of feedback did you get?
Yes, I spent--or should I say wasted--months of my time before deciding to go with iUniverse. It became so clear to me that without a track record or established contacts in this particular field (even though I had a children's book published with a traditional publisher in Europe, and several articles in U.S. periodicals) that it just wasn't going to happen. I did get some very positive feedback along the way, including a top agent who saw its potential, but said they just couldn't take on a debut novel. I was trying to figure out my next step when I heard about iUniverse from a couple of authors who'd been happy with their experiences. "So, stop beating your head against a wall, just get it out there," they told me. One even said, "Susanne you cannot, must not let this manuscript languish unpublished. It's too good!" That was like a breath of fresh air and I thought, hey, if I can't walk in through the front door, then I'll climb in through a side window, but I will get my book out there in the marketplace. I knew that this book was good and deserved it's place in the sun, and I wasn't about to let it decorate the interior of my file drawer just for lack of contacts.

How was your iUniverse experience in general and the Editorial Evaluation process in particular?
Excellent. Honestly, I approached this with a lot of trepidation, knowing nothing about the self-publishing field or what to expect. But my PSA, Rachel Krupicka, was fantastic--she really held my hand every step of the way--and I've been totally pleased with the process and the final product. It's been 100% professional. I mean, I was probably a total pain because I had very particular ideas about certain aspects of the book, and its cover. The Editorial Evaluation is always a little scary, being judged always is, but there, too, I was very pleased with the comments and felt they were right on the mark. I paid attention to them and made some changes, which I feel improved the book. I'm very proud of having gotten the Editor's Choice distinction for The Death of Milly Mahoney.

You recently had a book signing at the Flagstaff Barnes & Noble. What all did that entail and how did it all turn out?
Beyond my wildest expectations! The assistant manager said that it was the most successful author signing she remembered at their store. To do it, I just picked up the phone and called the manager, who was totally receptive to the idea. I think most stores generally are very supportive of local authors. We set a date and I went in a few days before with the iUniverse marketing posters & bookmarks, a stack of books, a bunch of flowers in a vase, and a plate of cookies. Oh, and I also emailed every local friend and relative I could think of! Not only did they buy, but to my surprise, several shoppers who I didn't know were drawn to us and also bought the book. I'd sent press releases out to our local press who picked it up and wrote a couple of great articles and/or put it in their Calendar section.

What are your goals for The Death of Milly Mahoney? What type of marketing plans do you have?
I'd really like to see this book out there in a big way. And, yes, I'd like to make money with it! It's a quality book with commercial potential and, in time, I hope to see it marketed in the mainstream as a mass-market paperback. I plan to try to market it internationally to English-speaking countries and countries where a large number of people commonly read books in English. I lived in Europe for ten years and there's a huge market there for this kind of book. As a matter of fact, the manager of the American Bookstore in Amsterdam has already told me he'll order and display several copies. After that, translated versions. And...maybe film rights. My husband and I have, over the years, been very involved with the motion picture business.

Do you have a sequel in the works yet?
Yes. I hope The Death of Milly Mahoney will be the beginning of a continuing series of "Trix Donovan Mysteries"!

What other things (writing and otherwise) and you working on/involved with?
Well, I have a nine-year-old at home and a very busy life generally. I'm finishing up a second children's book, and I'd like to see my own book on public speaking & presentational skills, which was used as a course book at the University of Amsterdam and for corporate training seminars, published in the States.

You have a pretty wide and varied background in entertainment and media. How does your knowledge of Hollywood and the movie industry color Milly Mahoney?
In a huge way. The characters in my book, and much of the pathos and humor, are a composite of some of the many people I came in contact with over the years, and the strong sense of place comes from the fact that I lived and worked in Southern California for years. That was my turf. My husband was also in the business as a top motion picture historical advisor & researcher, writer, and photographer.

Visit Susanna's website at