Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Lovely, The Literary and the Larcenous

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The Lovely, The Literary and the Larcenous

Good Sunday morning. You're going to regret that lost hour at around 2 today ...

I recently spoke with Linda Wiken and Erika Chase. You could almost say they are one and the same. And they are. Confused? Don’t be. This author is set to take the so-called ‘cozy’ mystery field by storm.

One of my favourite memories of Linda/Erika was at the writer’s conference where I handed her my copy of the masterpiece, 'The Postman Always Rings Twice', and asked her to ensure it reached the hands of her travelling partner, the always-affable Mary Jane Maffini. Ten minutes later I spotted Linda/Erika sitting in the lobby of the Toronto Hilton, already absorbed in the pages of the book …

This is one woman who has promoted and supported authors for years. Now it’s time for all of that good karma to swing back her way.

C.B.: 'A Killer Read' is your first in the Ashton Corners Book Club mystery series. It's due out next month. How long has this project been in the making? Have you plotted out several more titles?

L/E: It feels like forever but it's really two years. And it's not your usual story. My friend Mary Jane Maffini's agent asked if she knew someone who might be willing to "try out" for writing a Berkley Prime Crime series. The catch was, the series was already a concept, complete with setting, character names, and a starting point. In other words, a writer for hire. Hence the pen name. I tried out and here I am at countdown to release date. Once they'd approved the sample chapters, synopsis and ideas for two more books that I sent them, I had a three-book contract with Berkley, which is part of the Penguin group. So, yes ... book two which is due out in November 2012 is titled, Read and Buried, and it's in the editing stages; book three is due to the editor June 1. Depending on sales of that first book, the contract could be extended. Which would be great since I've got several more plots in mind for these characters, whom I've come to love spending time with.

C.B.: You are an accomplished short story writer. There was a time when writers could actually make a living writing and selling short stories. How has the digital age impacted this market? Is the short story on life support?

L/E: No, I don't believe so. I think the digital age is providing many more opportunities for short story writers. Traditionally, it's been through magazines published in the US, such as the well-known Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock and the lesser-known but popular Over My Dead Body and others. The other route has been anthologies. Many are invitation only and most are published in the U.S. Canadian short story writers have been blessed to have the former RendezVous Crime line from Napoleon (now part of Dundurn) at the forefront of publishing mystery anthologies, in particular the four final anthologies from The Ladies' Killing Circle. But they didn't stop there. Other anthologies joined their catalogues and because of RendezVous Crime, many new authors were given a chance at gaining those essential publishing credits. With the e-reader craze, writers are now able to leap into the fray by publishing their own collections of short stories or even offering individual short stories for sale to readers. Of course, traditional publishers will hopefully offer their anthologies in e-book format, also. My only concern is that with such a large number now being available, how will readers choose? Will new talents get a break or will the authors with the known names still be the ones chosen?

C.B.: In a past life you owned a bookstore. What sort of advice can you give authors in terms of their outreach and interaction with the (dwindling) indie stores?

L/E: There's a fine balance between getting your name known and driving a bookstore owner crazy. So, writers should use their common sense. It's a good idea to approach bookstores in person, if you live in the city, or by email; send bookmarks and promo sheets; even send advance reading copies or a copy of the published book. However, don't get upset if the books aren't read. There are only so many hours in the day and believe me, reading does not take up the majority of a bookseller's working time. Unfortunately!

Offer to do a signing at the store but again, don't fret if you're turned down. The bookseller knows his or her clientele and if the answer is 'no', it doesn't mean your book is not good, it just means it won't really fly at that particular store. Or maybe they don't have any openings. Or they might not even do signings but you should have known that first if you did your homework. If you are given a signing time, be happy to have it and don't get too disappointed if the numbers are low. That's the publishing business these days. Remember, the value-added is your name is out there and even if you don't sell out that day, or even sell one book, readers may buy your book at a later time.

And, mind your manners! Be sure to thank the booksellers for anything they're able to do for your book. They're in the business to sell books and help promote authors so they'll do the best they can!

C.B.: You can have tea with any writer living or dead. Who is it and why?

L/E: Agatha Christie for sure. In earlier years, I enjoyed reading Christie however, more recently I've spent most of my reading time with contemporary authors. One of the characters in my book club series is an Agatha Christie fanatic. So, I got to know Christie all over again. I've re-read her books, read books about her writing and about her life. She's a fascinating woman what with her personal challenges and the travel she undertook with her second husband. Imagine a few hours spent combing through her life! Although, she might not want to share too much about it. But I'd love to give it a try.

Oh, and maybe we could invite Dorothy B. Parker. And P.D. James. And....

C.B.: You always look so ageless and healthy. What is your secret? Have you made a deal with the devil?

L/E: Is this really a question?

C.B.: It is indeed. You know me, I don’t joke around.

L/E: OK ... it could be flattery that does that, you flatterer you! And maybe the hour of power walking I do every morning. And of course, writing ... although it's added the final few grey hairs. When you're doing something you love, you feel really good about life and about yourself.

Actually, the only 'devils' I know are my fellow crime writers ...

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

C.B. Forrest

C.B. Forrest is the author of the literary crime novels The Weight of Stones and Slow Recoil.

Go to C.B. Forrest’s Author Page