As a writer, and an avid reader, I’m always interested in learning how other writers approach writing, from the creative process to the business side of getting published. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with crime fiction writers Elizabeth Hosang, Lesley Mang, Steve Shrott, Madona Skaff and Linda Wiken (aka Erika Chase). Among their other accomplishments, each of these talented authors has the honor of being included in both The Whole She-Bang (November 2012) and its sequel, The Whole She-Bang 2 (November 2014).
The series begins with Steve Shrott. The winner of the Joe Konrath short story contest, Steve Shrott’s short fiction has appeared in numerous print magazines and ezines. His work has been published in twelve anthologies and his comedy material has been used by well-known performers of stage and screen, including Joan Rivers. He has written a book on how to create humor (Steve Shrott’s Comedy Course) and some of his jokes are in The Smithsonian Institute. His humorous mystery novel, Audition for Death was recently published and his new humorous mystery, Dead Men Don’t Get Married, will be out shortly.
Tell me a bit about your writing process.
I come up with ideas in my spare moments—when I’m on the subway, in a dental waiting room etc. Later, I will look at the ideas and pick the ones that I like. Then I just start writing. I don’t usually plan when I write short stories. Of course there are always exceptions. I write most days and use a computer.
Clearly you liked The Whole She-Bang enough to want to get into the sequel. Did you read the guidelines and then write a story, did you have a story you’d been working on and “tweak it,” or are you lucky enough to have a whole stockpile of stories ready to go?
I love being in print anthologies! That’s one of the reasons I submitted to TWSB. I’m not so crazy about e-books. There’s something special about print books. (Ray Bradbury used to say, “A new book smells great. An old book smells even better.”) I do have several stories ready to go, but I give a lot of thought as to whether a story is right for a particular market. When I heard that Toronto Sisters in Crime would be publishing another anthology, I wasn’t sure the story I’d been working on would fit in. I finally decided to send it anyway. It was selected which shows that you can’t always predict what people are going to like.
What was your reaction when you received the email notice of acceptance?
The first time I received the acceptance, I was thrilled. The second time I was even more excited as the story I submitted was one of my favorites.
Janet Costello is the editor for both books. What was your experience with the editing process?
I have been edited by many people over the years and I’m used to the process. I don’t mind changes as long as they make the story better or at least don’t damage its integrity. I think that Janet did an excellent job. I know she cares a great deal about making the stories as good as possible. And that’s the mark of a great editor. Because we, as writers, go over these stories so many times, it’s often difficult to catch things that might not be quite right. Luckily Janet was there to point them out.
These days, authors need to take care of a lot of their own marketing and promotion. How do you handle this aspect of the business?
In my mind, things were better in the old days. You wrote a book or story, and your agent/ publisher arranged all promotion. I really think that’s the way it should be. We’re writers, not sales people. Our job is to craft stories that entertain the reader. However, I realize at this time in the world of publishing, we do have to promote ourselves. The fact that I have a sales and entrepreneurial background helps somewhat.
I don’t tweet, never really believed in it. I am on Facebook and do mention books I have coming out. I do think a website is important along with a way that people can contact you. For my own book, I was interviewed many times online. That helped a great deal. Good reviews are also important.
In my humble opinion, the best way to sell books is the personal approach. Start conversations with people you might meet and mention your book. The key is to be subtle about it and not be one of these people who is always talking about their books. (Not that I’ve ever been one of those people, of course.)
Personal appearances are great too. When the first She-Bang came out, I visited many libraries, doing talks and readings.
We’re having a launch at Sleuth of Baker Street on November 22nd. What can the other authors AND the guests expect from a book launch?
It’s very exciting. You’re a celebrity for a day. You get to meet a lot of people who ask you to sign their book. It inspires you. The guests who attend will get to meet a lot of writers and that’s exciting for them. Everyone wants to write and us being there shows them that it’s possible to get published. On top of that you get to be in a great mystery bookstore like, Sleuth of Baker Street, where you can check out a lot of interesting novels that you might not have known about. All in all, a wonderful day!
Any last words?
It’s not easy publishing an anthology. I think that Janet Costello and everyone else involved did a great job with the first She-bang, and from what I can see so far, the second one as well. I’m looking forward to getting a copy of the published book.
Thank you, Steve. I’m looking forward to reading you.