Sunday, April 23, 2006

Morning Glory Blossoms
With POD-DY Mouth Review

Brian A. Massey’s Morning Glory’s Long Lost Order of Worship recently collected the Needle Award in the Literary category from blogger POD-DY Mouth. The momentum from the award has helped Massey, who has published four books with iUniverse, land an agent. Massey selected Kristin Nelson to represent his work after receiving inquires from six agents and one editor following the award announcement.

Getting a review for a print-on-demand book from a reputable outlet can be difficult, but blogger POD-DY Mouth, a traditionally-published novelist who chooses to remain anonymous, waded through over 6,000 requests and reviewed 50 print-on-demand books over the past year. From those 50, she chose 10 Needle Award nominees, five in the commercial category and five in the literary category, before choosing a winner in both areas.

Ms Mouth raved about Morning Glory in her review. “This is the hidden antique in the corner of the old store that no one realized was a rare artifact. This is that diamond, that needle. The lotto ticket just came in,” she said.

Morning Glory follows Steer McAlilly, a young Presbyterian minister, who’s life is jumbled after a sexual indiscretion with a beautiful 19-year-old member of his congregation.

What was your initial reaction to winning the Needle Award?
I was honored and delighted. Girl on Demand says that she received nearly 6000 requests to review novels. Girl chose fifty, and every one she picked was excellent in its own way. Ten were nominated for the Needle Award (five literary, five commercial), and these were judged by two separate panels of New York agents and editors. You can only pray to finish on top in a competition that fierce. To do so is to take a lesson in unending gratitude.

How did you first hear about the POD-DY Mouth blog? How did you go about submitting your book to her?
I heard about the blog in April of last year, not long after its inception, via a message board. Soon after Morning Glory was published, I emailed Girl the sell sheet I’d put together with the help of iUniverse’s marketing toolkit. She said she was intrigued and asked me to email her the PDF.

What kind of interest has the Needle Award generated for Morning Glory? I understand you signed with an agent. Who did you sign with? Did you have multiple offers for representation? How are you coming on landing a traditional publisher?
Six agents and one editor wrote almost immediately to ask for copies of the novel. The agent I signed with is Kristin Nelson, head of the Nelson Literary Agency. She called to say she had finished Morning Glory in one night and loved it. I cannot say enough kind things about Kristin to do her justice. I was impressed--no--overjoyed with her conviviality, as well as her knowledge of literature. From our first conversation, I knew Kristin was the right agent for me. What a delight it was to be offered a place among her impressive list of clients. I’m happy to report that Kristin has already begun shopping Morning Glory
to traditional publishers.

Can you describe your writing/revising/editing process? What kind of critical feedback do you receive prior to submitting the book and from who?
Some writers are sprinters, but I prefer the marathon approach: I write five days a week, trying to get each line right as I go I compose on a computer and use a pen for revising. Each day, my first task is to revise the previous night’s printout. After I’ve typed in changes, I’m warmed up and ready to begin writing new material.

Once I have the first draft of a novel completed, I like to let it breathe awhile and work on something else--sometimes a shorter piece of nonfiction, sometimes the rough draft of a previous novel. This gives me distance. When I start revising, I like to feel as if the work were written by someone else. Revision typically takes as long as the actual writing. On average, I go through a manuscript eight to ten times. At first, I’m on the lookout for any larger story and character elements that need work. The final passes are about smoothing sentences, copy editing, fact checking.

Fortunately, I’m married to someone with excellent editorial skills. My wife, Maria, has a degree in English and received quite a bit of creative writing instruction from her grandmother, M. J. Amft, a widely published author of short stories. Maria gives me feedback during the early stages of a project, and she helps a great deal with proofreading and fact checking in the later stages. POD publishing gives both of us that extra motivation to make sure the book is camera-ready, as perfect as we can possibly make it. We are always aware (and wary) that it will pass through no editorial filters beyond our own.

Tell me about the cover for Morning Glory? How did you come up with it? Was it difficult to get permission to use?
The cover art is a reproduction of an original painting by my father-in-law, Warren Linn. Warren has been a freelance illustrator for many years. He’s a dedicated artist who has showcased his work in Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, and The New York Times--places all of us would like to see our work. Was is it difficult to get permission? No. Warren’s a generous guy. The piece is titled St. Francis. I love it for its central image of a red-nosed man climbing toward the light of heaven with a rosary in his hands. The hero of Morning Glory, Steer McAlilly, is a Protestant minister, but I love the ecumenism of Warren’s painting. Aren’t we all climbing toward heaven with a peace offering to God in our hands? Aren’t we all in some way saying, ‘I didn’t do my best. Forgive me?’

What's your latest writing project?
The best perk of fiction writing is that one asks his own heart in solitude and secrecy to explore big questions about the meaning of life. An artist searches for answers that will truly enthrall him, pump into him enough ego and adrenaline to go on and write a book. Only after this enchantment occurs within himself does he dare hope that others might wish to see the record of his travels. So, my latest project is my place of solitude for now. I hope others will want to come and visit later. It’s like your best and quietest fishing spot. You want to keep it to yourself for awhile; then you start to invite your friends along.

You mention Jack Kerouac in your author bio. Who are some of your other influences?
Yes, Kerouac and all of the Beats are favorites of mine. They are possessed of a joy that paints in all of human experience, an irreverent exuberance that doesn’t exclude the poor, the downtrodden. At its best, their work has all the harmony and dissonance of jazz; it’s verbal music, sentences and stanzas created one breath at a time. From the larger world of literature, my greatest influences have been Shakespeare, Cervantes, Voltaire, Moliere, and Balzac. Among modern Brits, I admire Graham Greene and John Fowles. As for Americans, my true favorite is John Steinbeck. Without sacrificing his sense of place, his roots, he attempts to write a different sort of book each time out. As our great novelists go, he is one of a very few who possesses that enormous variety of emotion, the palette of bright and dark humanity that brings us to the truth of who we are; laughter competes with sobs for page space in his work. Happiness usually loses the battle in a Steinbeck story, but his characters go on hoping for better times. America has yet to produce a writer more worthy of emulation.

You published The Revenants with iUniverse in 2001. How did you first learn about iUniverse? What are your impressions of our process?
The first time I heard of iUniverse and seriously considered using their service was when Marshall Frank wrote about his experiences in the Southeastern Mystery Writers of America newsletter. His testimony was so close to my own, I was convinced to give iUniverse a try. I’ve been consistently impressed by your process--it is efficient and user-friendly.

Did you shop your books to agents and traditional publishers prior to submitting to iUniverse? What was that process like? Any memorable rejections?
Several years before I sent my work to iUniverse, I was under contract with a large literary agency in New York. With a good deal of regret, I left that agency in the hopes of finding more creative freedom. For a writer with serious aims, this is the most laudable thing POD publishers offer: the opportunity to speak truths you may not be let to speak in the traditional marketplace. None of my last three iUniverse novels were seen by agents or traditional publishers. At that time, I felt I had to focus my energies solely on getting the books written and out into the world.

How have things changed at iUniverse since your first book (besides price increases!)?
The most palpable change in POD publishing since the printing of my first book (2001) is the steadily eroding promise of print-on-demand technology in bookstores. That is, I believe, why many authors signed on. For some reason, the miracle machines never landed in the chain stores. No POD author with any sense ever expected to compete for shelf space with the big houses, but many of us believed in the fairy tale of our own corner cupboard, a small space where our POD books would be made for the customer one copy at a time.

Where can iUniverse improve the most?
It’s an uphill battle to get bricks and mortar stores to carry POD books, but if iUniverse could work out a way to accept returns, authors might at least be able to see their work in their hometown bookstores. This said, I still must praise iUniverse for treating each of my books with respect and delivering a fine product each time. Were it not for iUniverse, my novel would never have been reviewed at POD-DY Mouth, I would never have won the Needle Award, and I most certainly would never have signed with the agent of my best dreams without sending out even one query letter. I began this interview by using the word gratitude, and believe me, I have a heart full of it for the good folks out in Lincoln, Nebraska who took a box of paper called Morning Glory’s Long Lost Order of Worship and transformed it into a book.

In addition to Morning Glory's Lost Order of Worship, Massey has published The Revenants, Shadow Clock and Blind Horses with iUniverse. Visit his website at


Blogger Pat B. said...

Excellent interview. Thanks to Brian for sharing his story. I also published my first book with iUniverse in 2001, and it's so refreshing to hear complimentary things about POD. (I've certainly heard plenty of the other kind.)

I was immensely pleased with iU's production of my book ("Full Circle," a mystery). I am at work on the second mystery, and will probably take it to iUniverse, too.

Pat Browning

May 3, 2006 at 10:43 PM  

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