Name: Jim Nesbitt
Book Title: The Right Wrong Number
For more than 30 years, Jim Nesbitt roved the American Outback as a correspondent for newspapers and wire services in Alabama, Florida, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Washington, D.C. He chased hurricanes, earthquakes, plane wrecks, presidential candidates, wildfires, rodeo cowboys, ranchers, miners, loggers, farmers, migrant field hands, doctors, neo-Nazis and nuns with an eye for the telling detail and an ear for the voice of the people who give life to a story. He is a lapsed horseman, pilot, hunter and saloon sport with a keen appreciation for old guns, vintage cars and trucks, good cigars, aged whiskey and a well-told story. He now lives in Athens, Alabama where he writes hard-boiled detective thrillers set in Texas. His latest novel, The Right Wrong Number, which is set in Texas and northern Mexico, features Dallas private eye Ed Earl Burch, a cashiered homicide detective who has been called “a classic American anti-hero.” His first novel, The Last Second Chance, also a hard-boiled Burch thriller, won Best Hard-Boiled Mystery for 2016 from Independent Crime Master Authors, was selected as an Underground Book Reviews Top Pick and named a finalist for their Novel of the Year award. To learn more about Jim’s books, visit www.jimnesbitthardboiledbooks.com.
Amazon Link to Book: www.amazon.com/author/jimnesbitt
Thanks for letting us interrogate you! Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?
Author seems kind of pretentious. I’m a writer. Always have been. Didn’t have much of a damn choice. I come from a long line of hillbilly storytellers and grew up listening to my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and older cousins tell tales of growing up in the Great Depression, going overseas to fight in World War II, coming home to marry and start families. I’ve got an older cousin who ran moonshine to help pay for a heart operation for his daughter. He later became a cop. I’ve got another cousin who bootstrapped his way onto the engineering team that developed the lunar landing module for the Apollo moon launches. All he had was a high school diploma, but he was a super smart guy with a ton of technical training from the Army’s missile program. One of my great grandfathers was a circuit-riding preacher who served hamlets so deep in the North Carolina mountains they had to pipe in the sunshine. These stories gave me a keen sense of family, time and place that has served me well as a writer, which is what I’ve been professionally for a very long time. But it’s far more than a paycheck to me: it’s who I am.
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?
The perks are seeing all of those scenes and people and dialogue spill out of your head and come to life on paper. I just love telling stories and can’t imagine a life without writing them down. The demands are those of a merciless mistress with a whip in her hand.
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 went the indie route after riding a maddening merry-go-round with agents and publishers who wanted me to re-write my books to make them into something they weren’t—parrot-like versions of the last book they successfully sold. Didn’t know a thing about self-publishing but learned a lot through trial and a ton of error and wasted money putting the first book out there, The Last Second Chance. Tried to apply those lessons for a smarter and less wasteful launch of The Right Wrong Number. When you self-publish, you get to tell your story your way, but you also have to learn how to do everything yourself, particularly the ceaseless hustle to get your book noticed and crank up your sales.
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?
They already have me pegged as a crazed, obsessive and unrepentant outlaw, so this seems like perfectly normal behavior to them.
This is for pet lovers. If you don’t own a pet, skip this question, but do your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word?
I’ve got a cranky, old orange tabby that’s snoring away on my lap right now. His name is Milo and he’s a bossy little bastard. When he gets tired of waiting for me to feed him or clean his litter, he just walks across the keyboard to my computer and starts yowling at me. He’s an Anglophile and degenerate gambler, addicted to betting on Brit Premier League soccer when he’s not working on his Winston Churchill imitation. He also poaches my cigars.
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?
I ignore the phone. I live alone, so I don’t have anybody nagging me about taking out the trash or any other domestic chore. And my boss is based in a different city so he really doesn’t know if I’m late, early, on-time or long gone just as long as I get the work done on deadline.
What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?
Having millennial formatters tell me that rivers of hyphens cascading through my book on words seven letters or fewer was something that wouldn’t drive readers batshit crazy and was an acceptable professional look for my books. I rudely disagreed and fired them and found a pro to give me the clean and polished look I expect my copy to have. I’m old-school and hate sloppy and clueless laziness.
How about the social networks? Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?
I think Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great for helping you create buzz about your books that doesn’t necessarily translate into sales. I also post semi-frequent updates on LinkedIn and my blog, The Spotted Mule, https://spottedmule.wordpress.com/
And I really enjoy the virtual give-and-take of blog tours and Q&A’s from book bloggers, particularly those who love snarky patter. Patter is vital and snarky patter is best of all. But what I’ve learned is you just can’t rely on social media alone—you also have to have an old-school game and hustle your work to influential publications that focus on your genre as well as national and regional magazines and the few newspaper that still run book reviews.
Book sales. Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)? How are you making the sales happen for you?
I’ve found that a combination of snagging good reviews in newspapers and magazines, Amazon advertising and frequent use of giveaways, countdown sales and deep discounts for a set time period give me a modest stream of sales. I haven’t found the silver bullet that will make me a best-selling author and don’t think there is one. It’s a marathon of the constant hustle.
What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?
Snobs who think a book can’t possibly be good if it’s self-published and the self-appointed gatekeepers and arbiters of “what good is” for a particular genre. You saw that in the traditional publishing world, but those walls have crumbled with the rise of self-publishing and the ease of getting your book into the market. Sadly, you’re starting to see those same type of folks pop up in the indie game. For the most part, they’re hawking a template for a genre, a checklist for what a book must have and mustn’t have to win a gold star from them. Most don’t realize a good writer masters the template then turns it on its ear or chucks it out the window to tell the story his or her way.
It takes a schizophrenic mix of confidence, determination and humble to write a novel and put it out on the market and still be able to keep the ego in check to accept good editing and smart, knowing criticism you need to hear from fellow writers to become a better writer. I’ll chew the fat till the cows come home with a writer or editor who has taken the time to read my book and offer me a detailed critique of what they liked or didn’t like and why. Readers are different animals: they paid their nickel and earned the right to tell me my books suck. And I’ll always listen because you never know who will deliver that nugget you need to get better. That’s why I read every review, good or bad, even the nasty ones from trolls. I’m looking for that nugget. But when I get dinged by one of these Checklist Charlies, I see red. Even Chandler himself flipped the template of the genre he helped create upside down to tell the story he wanted to tell in The Long Goodbye the way he wanted to tell it.
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?
When I was a journalist, I used to think there was nothing better than that front-page byline with a screaming headline over a story you wrote that ripped the cover off some big scandal or painted an evocative portrait of people swept up in a crisis or tragedy. That was my addiction for a lot of years. I’ve now found a far better drug--that first proof copy of a novel I’ve written coming in the mail. I’m a junkie who wants to see more of his own books all lined up in a row.