Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mike Wiecek comes roaring out of the pack

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.
From CLAWBACK by Mike Wiecek.
You saw it here first!

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?


“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!


  1. The premise of your new book is seductive. How many people who invest in poor performance portfolios wouldn't like revenge? Of course, few would kill, but living vicariously is part of the allure of fiction. Congratulations on the contracts and for your insight on rejection.

  2. Love the plaster analogy!

    Having once been an investment banker (note: I'm not any more!), I agree that they deserve whatever they get. I'll look forward to reading about their comeuppance!

  3. Hey Mike,
    Way to kick off the new year! And who knew you were Sophie's bro? We'll be together at ALA in San Diego next week. Do you think you'll ever write something together?

    Okay...I never get a funny word verification word but this one is apropos of my question - matings

  4. Great opening line. Congrats again, and good luck.

  5. Congrats on the deal, Mike! That part about bidding back and forth for three days sounds pretty cool! Love the premise of your book. Can we hope for a similar storyline in the next one, perhaps with politicians?

  6. Hurray hurray hurray!!!

    Okay,I can't stand it..what was it about the book everyone loved? Your writing, of course, the premise? The hook?

    Tell us more about he auction...sigh....

    Did I say: hurray!!!

    (mine is "tryth"--try to tell the truth? Something that's not quite true?)

  7. Mike, congratulations! Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, or more deserving--and the premise of your book couldn't happen to more deserving people :-) I can't wait to read CLAWBACK.

  8. Thanks for the accolades! And it's not just bankers -- hedge fund managers are in the line-up too. The hard part's leaving enough villains standing for the sequel. No politicians, sadly, but fortunately Wall Street is trying very hard to provide a bottomless sump of wrongdoers :)

    Rosemary, yes, Sophie and I HAVE talked about co-authoring someday. She writes relationships much better than me, for example, while I'm more focused on the guns and exploding helicopters, so it seems like there should be some complementarity. But it's tough fitting yet another project into the schedule -- especially hers!

    It's hard to know what people liked (or didn't) about the book; I'm just glad they found something. Readers are much the same: one says, too much over-the-top action for me! and the next says, jeez, can't you speed it up some? In the end, we all write what we like, and hope the world is welcoming.

  9. Congratulatiions, Mike. It's high time people in high places woke up and recognized your talent. Your premise is great, too. Does the second book feature the same character?

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  11. Welcome Mike,
    And congratulations!! My husband works on Wall Street -- and they all need a good book to read!

    I sounds like a good premise. I'm wondering does the assassin short the stocks before he kills?

  12. Steve, yes, the 2nd book is a sequel. The hope is for enough interest to keep going after that, but we'll have to see. Certainly, anyone trying to clean up Wall Street, even with automatic weapons, has a lot of work ahead of him :)

    Ah, Jan, you're figuring out some of the plot already ...!

  13. I am so proud of you!!! I knew this day would come and I can't wait for all the adventures we'll have together. We are so lucky!

  14. This looks like a great book -- and I'm so happy for you about the deal! Congratulations on your much deserved success -- and I'll be in line for a copy fresh off the press ;-)

  15. I really can't wait to read this. Congrats!!

  16. Just coming back to say congratualtions again..and wow, look at all the lovely guests we have visiting today! xoxoo to all. Mike, you have brought a truly classy and wonderful gang with you..Happy New Year!

  17. Mike,
    Can't wait to read CLAWBACK! Great title and I love the premise. I think people will be stampeding the bookstore to read about Wall Street guys getting taken out instead of bailed out. Maybe this will be one of those mysteries where the villain has our sympathies.

  18. Mike,
    Congrats o the two book deal. I have one question, what is the POV in the first book. 1st person, 3rd? Just curious.

  19. Hi Mike! Congrats on your sale. We heard ALLLLL about it at Murder She Writes, LOL. I love the premise!

  20. Yay, Mike! Like Allison, I've heard about this over on MSW from Sophie and I have to say, I cannot wait for this book to come out. It sounds like a page-turner and clearly, it's going to rock--it's not every day books are up for auction for three days! Congratulations!

  21. Hi Mike, like Toni and Allison, I heard about your sale from Sophie on Murder She Writes. She's very proud of you and for good reason! Your book sounds exciting, and it's on my to-be-bought list!

  22. Yep, Sophie sent us all over to check out her hot brother! Congratulations on the sale, the auction, the thrill of it all! Can't wait to read the book! Happy New Year to you and yours!

  23. Your book sounds terrific -- I can see why publishers were fighting over it. I haven't checked out your existing works yet, but I'm going to go do so now!

  24. Congratulations on the contract, Mike. I think your story will touch a nerve with a lot of people. I'm good friends with Sophie and look forward to meeting you at future mystery writing events.

  25. Gosh, this is a rather overwhelming response. Thanks you all!

    Steven, the POV is 1st close. A little unusual for thrillers, which tend to use multiple 3rd, and it introduces some challenges, plotwise. But the protagonist's voice was stuck in my head, and it seemed easiest to just let him talk (and talk, and talk ...)

  26. Congrats, Mike. Love your sister's books and am sure I'll love yours.

    After working in the insurance industry for over 30 years, and also being a writer, I just LOVE the premise of the book. And so timely, too...

  27. Looking forward to your book! Thanks for sticking up for quality writing no matter the genre!!!

  28. ‘gunning down investment bankers’ seemed timely.

    Love that line! I love your sister too! Congrats, Mike!

  29. Fantastic news, Mike! You know I've always been one of your biggest fans, and I'm pleased to know that you're enjoying the success you so richly deserve. Last time we talked, you were writing a different novel, but CLAWBACK sounds terrific!
    Can't wait to read it!

  30. Hip hip hooray Mike! We are all so excited--you are our poster boy for persistence in the face of overwhelming discouragement!

    And can I confess that I got to read an earlier draft? It's very fast-paced and exciting. Mike's theory is (and I paraphrase): if you don't know what's happening next, kill someone off. It seems to work!


  32. Leslie - indeed, I did write a different book last year, and though I still quite like it, the market wasn't ready. Maybe down the road.

    The rule Roberta mentions is useful -- too bad something like it isn't available in real life!

    Thanks again to everyone for this remarkable outpouring of enthusiasm; to Hallie for suggesting the interview; and to Jungle Red for being such a great resource!

  33. Great news, Mike! Just picked it up. You'll have to tell the folks at MWA about the exciting auction and also how you acquired such a fantastic agent. So nice to hear an upbeat story.


  34. Congratulations! I looked for Exit Strategy on Amazon but it's not on Kindle...if it were, I'd be reading it now!

  35. Congratulations, Mike. Your persistence is a lesson for all of us. I retired from the mortgage banking industry 9 years ago because plotting murder seemed far more fulfilling. THanks for taking out those scumbags for us. I can't wait to read Clawback so how long do I have to wait?

  36. Sadly, EXIT STRATEGY is out of print, but you can find it used (on Amazon and elsewhere).

    Cindy, you've identified the hardest part of the sale -- CLAWBACK won't see print until 2012! I understand why; the industry runs on rigid tracks, and it's far too expensive to readjust the pipeline for anything but immediate-celebrity-apocalypse one-offs. But it's still difficult to wait.

    Meanwhile, I'll still be publishing stories. ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE just bought one, in fact, and I'll let you all know when it's out (hopefully soon in 2011).