Interview with Mystery Writer Brad Geagley

Brad Geagley is the author of two mysteries published by Simon & Schuster: Year of the Hyenas (2005) and Day of the False King (2006).

Brad has recently written and self-published a new, noir thriller, The Stand In, which  appeared on Kindle and eBook in December 2011. The new mystery is set in Hollywood in 1957, is bursting with murder, intrigue and suspense.

As an established author who decided to take self-publishing into his own hands, we’re interviewing Brad about his decision to self-publish ebooks.

What can you tell us about yourself?

I’m a writer.  Baby Boomer.  I worked in the Entertainment Industry for many years as a Producer, ending up as a VP of Production for a firm located in New York City.  Lived down the street from the World Trade Center, and watched the towers fall.  Decided I couldn’t put off my writing career any longer.  Four books published.  One play produced.  I love Ancient Egyptian, French, and American history.  I’m an expert on the 1963 film “Cleopatra” and currently live in Palm Springs, CA.

What can you tell us about your book(s)? We see that you are writing in the noir style of the 1940s. What authors were your inspiration? Are you fan of Rex Stout, Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane and other authors from this period and style?

I can’t say that I’m writing in the noir style, though I love Raymond Chandler and, particularly, James M. Cain, who wrote Mildred Pierce and Double Indemnity – what a storyteller!  In fact, the more that I think about it my style is, in this instance, more Cain than Spillane (Ha – I rhymed!). The Stand In is set in Hollywood of the 1950s and we put it into the hard-boiled category for readers because that’s usually the decade when all those kinds of stories occur.  For modern mysteries and thrillers I have one author to whom I always turn for inspiration and guidance – Martin Cruz Smith (who wrote the Gorky Park series, and many other novels.)  Other authors who have influenced me are Shirley Jackson (the so-called Virginia Werewolf of American Fiction), Pearl Buck, Patrick Dennis and Gore Vidal.

Do you use any organizational software for writing?

For screenplays (I teach “Writing for Film” at Mt. San Antonio College) and plays I use Final Draft 8.  All of my prose is composed in Microsoft Word.  That’s about it.

Do you set specific daily hours or word count goals for yourself?

I start work about 8:00 in the morning, having finished the New York Times and the Washington Post, during which I have downed copious amounts of black coffee.  The muse joins me and I work until about 11:30 a.m., then resume work at 1:30 p.m. and work until 4:00.  Sometimes, if I’m on a roll, I work in the evenings, too.  But I try to quit at least an hour before I go to bed, simply because the process of writing jazzes me up so much I can’t go to sleep directly afterward.  I try to write three usable pages per day, though I’ve done as much as thirty.  (That occurs, usually, during the thrilling conclusion of a novel – I’m going so fast I can’t stop.)

Why self-publishing? Was the decision difficult?

I lost my editor, the sublime and legendary Michael Korda, during a palace coup at Simon & Schuster.  The editor to whom I was then assigned was merely an assistant who was promoted to editor-hood during the shake-up.  I wanted to write history, she wanted chick-lit.  The twain did not meet.  The Author’s Guild had been telling us writers for years that, with the Internet, we no longer needed publishers; that we could target our audiences even more specifically than before.  I was also appalled at the amounts of money the publishers collected above and beyond what the author made – a factor of 10 to 1.  I simply want to see if I can do better than that.  If not, then I will go back to traditional publishing.  The Stand In is a bit of an experiment.

What were the challenges of self-publishing?

Basically, the challenges are to replicate the services provided by a publishing house; editing, proof-reading, design, and publicity (with particular emphasis on the latter.)  I’m also consistently surprised at how many legitimate newspapers and book review sites do NOT cover digital literature.  That will change, though, as the sales for downloaded books are now exceeding that of hardbound books.  As with music and movies, the public will soon have to content itself with purchasing an experience, and not a physical object.

Did you use a service to create the various eReader formats?

I used Bookbaby.  Though they’ve been responsive to my inquiries, they offer no way to track the sales, but then neither did Simon & Schuster.  I’ve adopted a “wait and see” policy as to whether or not I will use them again.

Did you hire other experts, such as an editor or cover artist?

I work with a wonderfully gifted online PR/Publicity agent, Ms Cynthia Copeland, who handles all the online promotion for me – I could never navigate the opportunities that she has found and exploited there.  (For anyone looking to hire a publicist/PR person for their book, I enthusiastically recommend her.  She can be contacted at cynthiacopeland@mac.com)  Cynthia, in turn, found a cover artist for me, Augusto Ferriols, who created a wonderful book cover for me.

Some genres are doing better as eBooks than others. How is the mystery genre performing?

I have no idea.  I know that the Authors Guild, when advising self-publication, was speaking at the time about non-fiction.  Fiction still needed shelf-space in a book store.  Now, with all the book chains disappearing, fiction writers need to do all they can to find (or re-find) their audience.  Luckily, I have a following who knows my work and with any luck they have purchased eReaders. Mystery readers are avid readers and intensely loyal.  I love them and know they will find their favorites – of which, I hope, I am one.

How are you handling the marketing? What are you doing personally and what is your agent doing?

I write a blog at www.bradgeagley.net and have developed a surprising amount of followers.  (I have to admit that I was opposed to writing a blog, simply because I thought it took up the time I needed for “real work”.  But I find that writing it is both inspirational and energizing.  It’s far more personal writing, too, and I like that it’s part confessional, part lectern.  Very fun.)

With Cynthia’s help and guidance, I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Shelfari. Cynthia lets me know of other writers to follow, other blogs to comment on, and has found sites like yours where I can share a few words with your readers (and hopefully entice them into purchasing The Stand In – its premise being, what would a movie studio do if they found out that the leading man on their very troubled wide-screen production might well be a serial killer?  How would they protect their film, their studio – their leading lady?  The answer, hint hint, is in the title.)

Brad Geagley
On Twitter at @BradGeagley
amazon.com/author/bradgeagley
https://bradgeagley.wordpress.com/

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