Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Straight From the Mouth of 'San Francisco Secrets' Greg Messel

Greg Messel grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in Edmonds, Washington on the Puget Sound with his wife, Carol. San Francisco Secrets is his sixth novel and is the third in a new series of Sam Slater mystery novels. Greg has lived in Oregon, Washington, California, Wyoming and Utah and has always loved writing, including stints as a reporter, columnist and news editor for a daily newspaper.
Follow news about Messel’s writings and books at www.gregmessel.com.

Thanks for letting us interrogate interview you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut
answer as to why you wanted to be an author?

It’s what I do. I have loved to write since I was a child.  I’m happiest when I’m writing. It’s always been my favorite thing.  I keep exploring new levels of the writing craft as I progress as a novelist.

Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?   

My current mindset is a good example of the dilemma.  My new book “San Francisco Secrets” is out. I’m very excited about it being finished and available to readers. I’m going to spend a lot of time this summer trying to market it and give it the attention I think it deserves.  Meanwhile, I’ve written about a draft of about 20 chapters of my new book “Fog City Strangler.” I’m very into that story right down and my mind is spinning with all kinds of ideas and plot points that I’m anxious to get on paper.  So in a nutshell--I love the writing and producing of the books and I’m not so excited about the marketing process.  I love book signings and interacting with readers on line but marketing is the real challenge of self publishing.

Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?

I’ve self published six novels.  I’ve learned a lot with each novel and the book world and publishing world has changed immensely in the last four years.  There are some companies out there who will charge you a ton of money to help you self publish your book. I’ve found a publishing coach who helps me through the process on my last four books. We subcontract out book design, editing and typesetting to other experts. There are some very talented people available to help.  I find bookstores to be frustrating.  Some are open to independent authors and other have a completely closed shop.   I’ve done book signings at Barnes & Noble stores and Borders (while it existed).  There’s a lot of misunderstanding out there about self published books. That is made worse by some very unprofessional, sloppy self published books out there on the market.  As the Randy Newman song says, “It’s a jungle out there.”

Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?

I’m lucky in that regard. I’m retired in the sense that I don’t have a regular job and my wife and I have grown children. I can’t imagine how some young women I know write quality books, while running a household and running their kids to soccer. Those women are truly talented writers.  My wife is very supportive of my writing.  As I finish first draft chapters I hand them to my wife to helps me with preliminary punctuation and seeing if it all makes sense.  I continue to polish it and rewrite it and finally turn it over to a professional editors.

In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late? 

My answer is above but I don’t live in a bubble, I have a lot of demands on me which pull me away from writing.  I’m always looking for snippets of time to spend time writing. You can’t just turn it on and off like a spigot.  You have to keep you head into your story narrative and stay in the “zone.”   I have a two week trip coming up. I find that once I get that much of an interruption, that I have to start at the beginning of my book (Fog City Strangler currently) and re-read and polish it. By doing that it gets me back into the groove on the story.

What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process? 

You can sign on to Amazon or Goodreads any day and see anything written about you. Everyone has an opinion but it is hard to not let completely off the wall stuff that people write get into your head.  I had one guy on Amazon say that Last of the Seals seems like it was written by “some horny seventh grader.”  There’s no sex in that book and very chaste behavior between Sam and Amelia. I haven’t been called a “horny seventh grader” for some time. At my age it’s something of a compliment.

How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid? 

I spend a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook. I get a lot of feedback on both platforms and feel very comfortable there.  I am get used to all of the aspects of Goodreads. I’m still feeling my way there but I think it has great potential to reach a lot of new readers.  I’m less excited about all of the social media outlets beyond that. There is a limit to how many things you can focus on daily.

Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you? 

It’s not exactly a runaway freight train but my sales continue to steadily--albeit slowly--grow. My mystery series helps. I write the books to be stand alone and I hope it will stimulate interest in the earlier books in the series. I try to model it after Sue Grafton’s A through S (or where ever she is now) series. I haven’t read all of her books but you can pick up anyone in the Kinsey series and enjoy it. It always makes me want to read others in the series. I really think virtual book tours have helped stimulate sales. You have to do something to get noticed.  Virtual book tours help expand your circle of influence.

What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?

I have trouble with that mode of communication since I am very afraid of heights and can’t get on my roof--even to put up Christmas lights. However, I wish readers would try San Francisco Secrets as well as Last of the Seals and Deadly Plunge.  The reaction has been very strongly positive and I think the series could easily gather a following of fans.

Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?

There are some really discouraging and disheartening things that happen on the journey. However, it is such a joy to get feedback from readers when they tell you that they love your books. It was so amazing to be in a Borders store a couple of Christmas ago and see people in the cash register line with your book in their hand.  I have had people tell me that they love my writing and love my characters. That really makes me happy because I love my characters also.   I recently went to my high school reunion and I had classmates bring some of my books to the reunion for me to sign. That was extremely touching.  I have received messages from all over the world telling me that they’ve enjoyed my books. I’m not exactly John Grisham but it is wonderful to get a message from the UK or Netherlands or even Saudi Arabia from readers.   It’s really fun to make your books part of someone’s life.  One of my favorite messages I got was from someone who said “My dad loves your books and I bought your new one for his birthday.”   Wow, that’s hard to top. That makes all the unpleasantness worth it. I got to sign books at the Los Angeles Festival of Books. I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I went to a Costco and there was a big banner of the cover of my book hanging from a rafter advertising my appearance.

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