HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: YAY Jan! Our very dear blog sister, Red Jan, has entered the e-world. We've been talking about turning back time this week--are you humming Cher in the background?--and our Jan has managed it! She's taken her first book, which came out---well, let her tell it. (And if the fonts look funny, what can I say. I lost the battle with Blogger.)
JAN BROGAN: So if you could go back to 1991, what would be different?
Not that much, was what I thought. I'm not the most aggressive marketer, and I had allowed my first novel, Final Copy, to sit on the shelf for four years before I sold it to Larcom Press, a small New England publisher. Before publication, it needed to be updated.
In the early and mid 1990s, fax machines weren't standard in newsrooms - and although laptops existed, they were still expensive. Cell phones were practically the size of a shoebox and still pretty rare. In fact, when my husband, who was then in the cell phone business tried to convince me that someday even stay-at-home-moms would carry cell phones, I laughed and told him he was dreaming.
So since clearly, my talents did not lie in predicting the future, I decided to head to the past.
Instead of updating Final Copy to 2001, when the book would be published, I traveled backwards and set the novel even earlier - in 1991.
George Bush, the senior, was president and he launched Operation Desert Storm.
Terminator II, The Silence of the Lambs, and Thelma and Louise were big movies.
And the Internet was just beginning to take off.
But the reason I chose 1991? Final Copy, and the main character, reporter Addy McNeil, starts off with a venture capitalist plunging to his death at a biotechnology conference on the waterfront, and a lot of the story has to do with the rough and tumble world of fledgling entrepreneurs that needed millions and millions of dollars to invent sexy new drugs. I wanted to choose a year when this industry was particularly desperate.
And I might have been stuck in 1991 forever if it hadn't been for some bad luck and some good advice.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: What was the bad luck?
JAN: Larcom Press, an incredibly supportive publisher that put out quality New England mysteries, went out of just as I was finishing the sequel, A Confidential Source.
JAN: I cried for a while, and then I called my agent.
HANK: AW. And we can all relate, no question about that. So all worked out nicely, as things often do. SO what was the good advice?
JAN: Well, my agent thought A Confidential Source could still be sold to a bigger publisher, but wanted to call it "first in a series," which he said would generate a lot more interest from the New York publishers - so he asked me to change the man character's name.
HANK: Whoa. That's kind of weird. I mean--you'd written the entire book, heard Addy be called "Addy" again and again, and --you know, when you name a character, and there she is in print, it must be difficult to undo in your brain.
JAN: . It was remarkably hard to contemplate, sort of like renaming one of your children. But I realized that if I made that change, at least I wouldn't be stuck in 1991 forever. And my agent was right, two different New York publishers bid for the new series.
HANK: So for your reader fans--there's one little secret that may make FINAL COPY a bit of a, well, mystery. The protagonist of this book is named Addy McNeil. Your other mysteries have a protagonist named Hallie Ahern. But I must say, she reminds me just bit of Addy. What gives?
JAN: Well, yeah, now it can be told! Addy McNeil IS Hallie Ahern.It did cause some confusion from reviewers who had liked Addy McNeil and couldn't help but recognize the similarities when Hallie Ahern made her appearance. Before I put the e-book up, I considered whether I should rename Addy McNeil and all those characters in Final Copy to be consistent with A Confidential Source.
HANK: Oh, no, talk about confusing!
JAN: But to tell you the truth, Final Copy has always been my favorite book, the one closest to my heart, and even all these years later, I still couldn't go in and change Addy's name. She was Addy McNeil in 1991, and she's Addy McNeil now.
JAN: Larcom went out of business, the rights reverted to me. I sat on those rights for a long time. But now as epublishing has taken off, it seemed like the time - and an opportunity to reach more readers.
HANK: Clearly, from the amazing numbers, epublishing and self-publishing is a juggernaut. Even so, it's--still a bit cutting edge. What were the pros and cons for you--and what have you learned about the self-publishing world?
JAN: What I've learned about e-publishing so far is that there are a lot of different opinions about it. But one thing is for certain, the author has to get out on the Internet and promote it. Also, pricing was baffling me, I had no idea what to charge for the book - so I went with suggestion I found on the web, at $2.99 per E-book - which is a huge bargain compared to what my other E-books cost.
The big controversy simmering now is about whether authors should join Amazon Kindle's new Select program, which makes a self-published e-book part of a "lending library." Amazon promises authors a percentage of a pot, but to take part, you have to make the book available exclusively on Amazon Kindle. That seemed a little bit like strong-arming the author to me, so I didn't opt in.
JAN: Hmmm, let's see. When I wrote Final Copy, I was more experimental, but as I got into the Hallie Ahern series, I think I began conforming to certain perceived rules of mystery writing. Now after four books, I care less about getting a book published and more about creating a new and interesting work.
HANK: What did you learn on your recent adventure in France (besides acquiring the fabulous leopard dress)?
JAN: It's only taken like....twenty years....but now I'm into the process of writing and stretching myself. And in part, I learned some of that on my adventures in France. My friends there are all writers and artists, ex-pats who lives in southern France because they live and breathe art. A friend who is the director of the art school there always makes the connection between literature and the visual arts and he was really able to penetrate this sometimes-thick head of mine.
But you cannot blame any of these friends for the inappropriate leopard dress decision - that was actually two years before that when I was in Provence with my daughter. I haven't worn that dress ONCE at home, and I didn't even bring it back to Provence last summer so I could wear it there.
Anyway, one thing I've learned about my role in the mystery world is that I'm definitely not mainstream. I'm more fringe -- and I'm really much more comfortable on those edges.HANK:. And now, Where can people find you? Besides here, of course!
JAN: Final Copy is available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com right now and soon with smaller distributors. Here are the links, since you asked :-)
HANK: And since it's all about time here this week--just tell us when you'd rather be living--French revolution? Civil War? D-Day? Restoration? Roaring Twenties? Or--what's your choice of another time? (And one lucky commenter will win Jan's new/old/new book! )