Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jan Brogan Turns Back TIme!

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.

Remember 1991?

George Bush, the senior, was president and he launched Operation Desert Storm.

Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested after 11 dead bodies were found in Milwaukee.

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.

HANK: What did you do?

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.

HANK: SO, back to the future. You've written four very successful novels, all via traditional publishers. Why are you putting out Final Copy in digital yourself?

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.

HANK: Let me ask you: How are you different now from when you started? How do you see the mystery world now? And your place in it?

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 and Barnes and 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! )


  1. Hi,
    Since Final Copy seemed to be your favorite I checked out my Library website and voila! It is now on my t-b-r list at the Library. Dee

  2. Thank you for taking the plunge for all the Jungle Reds - you'll be our scout in this brave new world! So how did you get your manuscript files ready, or were they already? I've got a short story that I'd love to put up as a freebie but don't know how.

    As I understand it, word of mouth is key with ebooks so let's all tell two friends...and they'll tell two fiends, etc. (except now we'll do it on fbook and twitter!)

  3. Thanks Ro,
    The first thing I did was have the file converted at Epublishing Works, which did a fab job. But my husband tells me that there's a software company getting funded as we speak that's creating software to self-convert our books to the e-book format.

    Thanks Gram, one of the reasons Final Copy is my favorite is that it's the most personal of my books (although I was NEVER addicted to anything and I did NOT sleep with any of my sources!)

  4. Congratulations, Jan! So exciting!! I have a few books out of print -- food for thought.

    Oh, gosh, what TIME would I want to be in? I can come back, right? Having just seen Hugo, I'd like to come back when the movies were just beginning, early 1900s, and experience what it must have been like to see the FIRST films.

  5. See, this is why I love author blogs--we readers get to learn backstory of how/why/etc books get written/published/etc. It's fun to have insider info when we read our favorite authors.

    I'd live in Paris in the teens and the 20's, during the time of F. Scott Fitzgerald, et al. That period overlapped with the tail end of the Impressionist painting movement, and there was so much going on there in that era. The City of Light must have fairly vibrated with all the creativity generated.

  6. I'm wishing I lived in a time when the fonts would behave. Sorry about that, gang.

    When would I live? I kind of like now. But I'd be happy to visit New York City high society in the 1890's, or Yes, Karen, I'm with you (and Owen Wilson) in the 20's Paris. But not--for long, you know?

    Hallie, how was Hugo? Was it in 3-D?

  7. Considering I'm older than dirt, I remember time before color TV, cell phones, internet, floppy disks...and my first computer, a Compaq with a NINE-inch screen. The keyboard fitted over the front of the CPU unit, you flipped some attachments and you had a "portable" computer that was the size of a suitcase and weighed about 80 pounds. Lawyer Guy was active duty Army at the time and we opted for this version to make it easier when we moved. I wrote the first book I ever sold on that thing--a dictionary of military terms for family members. That was 1985. Wow.

    Ya know? I like life now. I'm old and comfortable in my ways. Now, if there was a time machine and I could hop back for a few days only, like a vacation, that would be okay. Cuba in the 50's before Castro. Miami in the 60's. Paris in the 20's. Hollywood in the 30's. You notice I always pick times with indoor plumbing? LOLOL

    Best of luck on the new venture, Jan! Keep us posted on that software, will you?!? I'll start saving up my pennies so I can grab it when it comes out!

  8. Good luck with the new venture, Jan. I'm excited for you to see how it goes.

    The period I'd like to have lived in? Obviously I am fascinated with the early 20th Century. I certainly spend enough time in it, and I think I agree on Paris. I loved that movie and think I have to buy it.

    But I'd also like to live in ancient Rome... providing of course that I was a patrician with slaves and I wasn't related to Caligula.

  9. Hank, Hugo's delightful -- and in 3D. Kingsley and the kids are all wonderful, and the immersion in the world of early movies is fascinating. Plus -- Paris! Trains! Ben Kingsley! Go!

  10. Hollywood in the 30's yeah, so fab. But it would have to be in the glamorous part, right? And I guess we'd have to be pretty alcohol and cigarette tolerant. But I'd love the clothes.

    Rhys, ancient Rome? Whoa. Again. One day. And in just the right place.

  11. Bravo, Jan! I love the fact that authors can bring back their out-of-print books now. So often they're real favorites that have only gone out of print because of the stupid tax laws governing inventory.

    I'd love to go back to Britain before the Roman invasion or ancient Rome or many other historical times--always provided I didn't have to be a slave or serf or peasant, which most were.

    Hank, I used to have that problem with Blogger. Save anything you want to paste in Blogger in Rich Text Format (RTF) and then paste it in. Also, if you haven't yet, go to the new Blogger interface. Hope it helps you.

  12. Kudos, Jan, for taking the e-book plunge. Best of luck with it. The more I read, the more compelling it seems.And I wonder what publishers really think of writers going out on their own.

    As for time traveling, I'd love to go a lot of places, but I do really require indoor plumbing as Silver James said. Or if I could have a way station standing by, I'd visit France after the revolution.

  13. I'm with Karen and Rhys on Paris in the 20s. But would also love to be in England in the 19th century as long as we had servants and I wasn't One of the servants, which actually would be more likely considering my Irish roots.

    Thanks everyone for the good wishes!!

  14. Hank, I can see you in those clothes, too!

    Linda, I agree with you on the backlist. I've always thought it was unfair to modern authors that their equally wonderful books didn't get to share shelf space with the so-called classics. Just because a book is 100 years old doesn't necessarily mean it's better than a newly written one.

    I wonder how many millions of trees were sacrificed to the rip-the-covers off and dump in the landfill practices. Makes me shudder at the waste.

  15. Oh, thanks Karen. :-) (I'd really have to hold my stomach in.)

    And I agree, I get physically sick about the torn-cover books.

  16. Jan, I read Final Copy when it was first published, but am looking forward to reading it again.

    You look great in the leopard-print dress! You should wear it more often!

    Time travel? I'm tempted by Paris in the 20s, too. I read Hemingway's A Moveable Feast last year for the first time and was so smitten (with Paris, not Papa.)

    And maybe late Victorian or Edwardian London. Post-sewers:-) Or 1930s London. Fascinated by those periods just before such drastic change.

  17. Congrats, Jan, and thanks for the insider info on FINAL COPY. So interesting.

    I would have a hard time choosing what eras to time-travel through...but like several others, no question Paris in the 20's, as I've always been into art, music and literature.

    I wish I could have been friends with Julia Child and the great food writer M.F.K. Fisher, and experienced delicious dishes with them in France and California and Boston!

    And maybe Hollywood in the 1930's, if I could pull off wearing the clothes and had the wit of the wonderfully funny Carole Lombard.

    Sigh, so many choices! But I'd always want to return to the present day, and modern conveniences, for sure!

  18. Congratulations, Jan! I'm hoping we can get you to do a follow-up blog on the experience of being an ebook or indy author and how it compares with being traditionally published. That's the big question on every writer's mind these days!

    Since I get migraines, I'm happy to stay living in the here and now, where we have lovely interception drugs. Pop one and in a couple hours, you're back to normal. I'd hate to be living in a time where all I could do would be retire to the bedroom with a cold compress for twenty-four hours.

    And I hereby move that we have Jan wear the leopard-print dress to the next Crime Bake! That and a good "Jungle Red" manicure would perfectly exemplify l'esprit des Reds!

  19. Okay....Julia, o leopard dress at Crimebake, not unless ALL THE JUNGLE RED GIRLS wear one.

    But I will do the nails.....

    Thanks for all the kind words everyone!

  20. "The Roaring Twenties" of Course..Would Get to Go To Parties At F.Scott Fitzgerald's House and Dance all night..Decadent Me..

  21. Paris in the 20s for me as well. If I had two choices, maybe I'd like to be in the 80s again and also be a teenager. Oh, wait, I already did that. Well, maybe this time I'd live in 1980s Tokyo instead of New York.

    Jan, I don't know why you don't wear the leopard dress more. It looks great on you.

  22. Shizuka, I SO agree. Jan, you look great.

    And I think we can do leopard day at CrimeBake. Can't hurt. EVERYONE in animal print. Who's in?

  23. Lynn in Texas! You win Jan's me via my website and we'll get it to you ..

    thanks everyone!
    xoox Hank