From CLAWBACK by Mike Wiecek.
You saw it here first!
You saw it here first!
HALLIE: Mike Wiecek has been a fixture in the New England community of mystery writers--his first novel came out in 2005 and he's had a steady stream of short stories published since and plenty of accolades.
So, Mike, I guess Santa came early to the Wiecek's this year! Congratulations on your two-book contract with Viking. Tell us about the book. I love the title.
MIKE WIECEK: The premise of CLAWBACK is that an assassin has begun shooting the country’s worst-performing financiers. A bottom-ranked investment manager; a hedge fund partner down ninety percent; a rotten banker. Someone’s slogan seems to be, "Don’t bail them out, take them out!"
A coalition of banksters hires a fixer, the sort of contractor whose job description opens with "total deniability" and ends with "unlicensed machine guns." As bodies fall and markets plunge, he ranges the Greenwich-Midtown axis with an equalizer and an attitude -- only to realize he's become a target himself.
HALLIE: High stakes, jeopardy -- sounds like a page turner. And I gotta ask, what was it like having publishers fighting over you? How did you get the good news?
MIKE WIECEK: The experience was certainly a first for me :) Thanks to hard work by my agent, Heide Lange, in drumming up interest, the book went to auction. That means that more than one house was interested, and they bid back and forth against each other -- for nearly three days. As you can imagine, I was checking my email about every five minutes during that time. In the end we went with Josh Kendall at Viking, who has a lot of ideas for shaping the manuscript and placing it in what is an already-more-than-crowded marketplace.
HALLIE: THREE DAYS! The mind boggles. So you must be celebrating, big time.
MIKE WIECEK: Celebrating – why, yes! My wife and I hope to have a nice dinner sometime, if we can find a babysitter and a free weekend … both in short supply, this time of year!
HALLIE: Your first novel, Exit Strategy, published by Penguin in 2005, got great reviews, fabulous blurbs (Lee Child: "A fantastic debut"). It was a finalist for ITW's award for Best Paperback. Then, a dry spell, punctuated with some spectacular, multi-award-nominated short stories. Your 2009 story in Ellery Queen, "The Shipbreaker," got picked for "Best American Short Stories of 2010."
Can you give us some words of wisdom about perseverance?
MIKE WIECEK: None that haven’t been said a thousand times already. After EXIT STRATEGY, I worked on several novels, finally finishing one a couple years ago. But it didn’t sell. On the other hand, I was publishing two or three stories a year, and as you mention, several were well-received. Without that encouragement I might not have kept going. You can bang your head on the wall forever if you like, but if the plaster doesn’t at least BEGIN to crack, you might consider trying something different.
Oh, and I don’t see anything wrong with “writing to market.” That doesn’t mean yet another vampire-dog-detective story, perhaps, but ‘gunning down investment bankers’ seemed timely. Perseverance is necessary; so is listening to what readers say, and taking seriously what they like and dislike.
HALLIE: I know you're a stay-at-home dad, have been for ten years. Tell us about your kids, your wife, and how you keep yourself energized and motivated?
MIKE WIECEK: I’ve always been happy in my own company, so the solitary part of the job is not a problem. Of course, I spend an hour or two a day at the playground after school, hanging around with other parents – it might turn out to be harder once the children are in high school, and my social life entirely evaporates. My wife works one of those demanding, more-than-full-time jobs, but fortunately rarely on the weekend, so we get our time together.
As for motivation: far and away the best motivator is a deadline! Which is one reason why breaking in is so difficult – before that first contract, no one’s standing at your shoulder, pointing out how late you are already. Oh, and critique groups can be very helpful. Not just for the critiques, but for the expectations they place on you. Just knowing that I’m supposed to bring something in every couple of weeks is a surprisingly powerful force. Kim, Samantha, Lynne: I couldn’t have done it without you!
HALLIE: And a question I'm very familiar with--what's it like having such a spectacular successful writer for a sister?
MIKE WIECEK: Actually it’s been great! Sophie Littlefield and I have sort of leapfrogged: she was publishing stories years ago, before I ever started writing. Then I got a few in print, followed by EXIT STRATEGY -- but three years later she sold her first book, A BAD DAY FOR SORRY, and soon had another dozen under contract.
Sophie used to ask my advice and opinions on the business. Lately it’s been me asking her the questions, because she’s become much more knowledgeable and connected. It’s keen having someone to talk to who understands everything. And also, frankly, someone to gossip with. Triads, mafiya, forget it -- there's no omerta stronger than that among writers. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to ignore that and snark freely.
Sophie is the hardest-working writer I know (seriously; she’s now publishing three major-house hardbacks every YEAR) and I can’t tell you how fantastic it is to see that effort finally rewarded. She is an inspiration in all senses of the word.
HALLIE: I know we'll have to wait until 2012 to get our hands on a copy of CLAWBACK. Would you just share with us the opening line?
MIKE WIECEK: Gladly.
“You’d think imminent arrest for a forty-million-dollar fraud might slow a guy down, but nope, there he was, wandering out of Bazookas at midnight.”
Hallie, thanks for taking the time for this. I can’t wait until CLAWBACK is out in the world!
HALLIE: We're all so happy with your success!
Mike will be checking back today so please, chime in with questions or just a pat on the back!