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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Interview With Author Doris Meredith

1.      What is your newest book about?  My latest book is MURDER BY THE BOOK, first published by Berkely Prime Crime, and is the fifth in the Megan Clark series. The worst drought for decades dries up area lakes in Amarillo and reveals a Depression-era car at the bottom of White Horse Lake. The discovery makes the front page of the local newspaper, and rouses the curiosity of unemployed paleopathologist Megan Clark. Megan is presently underemployed as an assistant reference librarian at Amarillo Public Library, and feels restless and bored. What use is a Ph.D. in forensic anthropology with a specialty in paleopatholgy if she's at the bottom of a long waiting list for a job in her chosen profession? Desperate for diversion, she decides investigating the old car would be a mystery she and other members of Murder by the Yard mystery discussion group at the local bookstore. After all, she and the other members have been responsible for solving several other mysteries, much to the chagrin of the local police, so why not investigate the old car? At least murder is not involved, so Megan and her friend, Dr. Ryan Stevens, won't be stepping on any law enforcement toes.

To Megan's surprise, the discussion group refuses to help her. Even when a skeleton is discovered during the renovation to an old building on Sixth Street, a skeleton Megan is certain is related to the old car, the discussion group refuses to help her investigate. In fact, many of the older members act as if they are afraid of what Megan might uncover. The group is much more interested in a series of ritualistic murders. The murders also interest Megan since she discovered two of the bodies, but that doesn't mean that the Amarillo Special Crimes Unit should suspect her of any criminal intent. It was just a coincident that she found the bodies, just as her discoveries of other bodies on other occasions were coincidences.

Meanwhile, in a local retirement home, an elderly woman is tracking Megan's investigation of the old car and the skeleton. The old woman knows that Megan will soon learn the story of the old car, and that long-buried secrets will be revealed, secrets that still have the power to hurt the innocent.

2.      What inspired you to write it? An elderly friend of mine had opened a gift shop on Sixth Street, one of the few stretches of old Route 66 remaining almost untouched by time. My friend happened to mention that the building she renovated for her shop was an old laundry, and that it had a false wall behind the Depression-era commercial dryers. The idea was born. What if there had been a body buried behind that false wall, a murder victim dating from the Great Depression? Who was the victim, and how had she come to be buried behind the false wall of an old laundry?

3.      HOW CHALLENGING WAS IT TO WRITE IT? There is a wealth of material available about the Great Depression, as well as a number of people still living who lived through it. The fact that Amarillo's Sixth Street is still relatively unchanged from the 1930s helped me create a believable setting, and interviews with survivors of the Great Depression helped me create the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that threatened to drag people into an abyss of defeat. When my elderly characters remark that times were hard, they are making an understatement. Times were hard to the point that younger readers under fifty will have difficulty believing it. My elderly retirement home narrator serves as a sort of Greek Chorus to explain hard times as a personal witness to them. The biggest challenge I had in writing MURDER BY THE BOOK was in weaving together the story of the Great Depression with the very modern story of a serial killer, intertwining the two plots so they play off one another. The impact of the past on the present is a recurring theme in all my novels, so the challenge in writing this particular book was not one I had not encountered before, but meeting it was more difficult.

4.      HOW HAVE YOU BEEN PROMOTING IT AND MARKETING IT? When the book was first published in print, I did book signings at local and regional bookstores, newspaper interviews, and mailed out posters to mystery bookstores nationally and internationally. For the ebook version of MURDER BY THE BOOK my marketing and promotion has been exclusively on the internet. I have promoted it on Facebook, twitter, on my blog, and on various marketing venues such as internet book clubs and discussion groups. I've been surprised at how effective these methods can be. It all depends on how much time and effort one is prepared to spend.

Those authors who enjoy very strong sales and publisher-generated promotion will undoubtedly want to stay with traditional publishing--if they are happy with the financial side. For the midlist author, I would recommend self publishing in an ebook format, PROVIDED they hire professional editing. Nothing will hurt a writer's chances for a professional, well-paying career more than self publishing a sloppy, poorly-plotted, poorly-written book. You may self-promote good sales for your first effort, but the chances are you will sell successive titles only to your family and friends, and even your friends may not buy. You can give titles away for free, but that won't earn you a living. If you are writing for ego's sake, fine, give your stuff away. If you are making writing a career, then you must spend all the time necessary to make your work a polished, professional piece of writing, one the reader will be willing to pay for.

5.      WHERE DO YOU SEE BOOK PUBLISHING GOING? Obliviously the electronic book is not going away. It is convenient, cheaper than a hardback, easy to purchase, and for older eyes requiring larger print, the ebook reader of whatever brand is ideal. On the other hand, the print book is not going away either. A majority--if only slightly--of readers still prepare a paper and ink book. There are a number of authors I buy in print editions rather than as ebooks, because I collect them. Although I buy and read extensively in an ebook format, I still love my print books, and own a personal library of over 5,000 such books. There is room and a market for both ebooks and print books. I will watch with interest to see what further innovations publishing will undergo in the future.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This blog is copyrighted material by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2013



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