Thursday, June 5, 2014

Finder finds another way with SUSPICION

HALLIE EPHRON: Joseph Finder’s new suspense novel SUSPICION has literally exploded in the press here in Boston -- stellar book review, feature articles -- and along with it a great back story about how Joe took hold of his own career to set a new direction.

There he was, a brand-name New York Times best selling author with ten thrillers under his belt, one of which was made into a Hollywood movie. Seven-figure multi-book deal and fans galore.  When his last book came out not as strong as the one before, he made a brave decision. He decided to make a change. New publisher, new agent... So he bought out his contract (!), cut his ties with his agent, and took his time writing a new novel.

Sure he was grateful to his publisher. As he told the Boston Globe, “If not for [St. Martin’s] I would not be a New York Times best-selling author, period. We just disagreed. They wanted me to be the CEO of Suspense. And I felt that was too constricting.”

His new publisher, Dutton, has just brought out his new novel SUSPICION to much fanfare. It's a taut thriller with a great main character Danny Goodman (single dad, widower…) who is a historian working on a book about Jay Gould, a 19th century robber baron. In dire financial straits, Danny accepts a loan that he shouldn’t and from that one bad decision it's downhill:  he’s between a rock (DEA investigators) and a hard place (Mexican cartel.)

SUSPICION just debuted #12 on the NY Times Bestseller List! WHOOT WHOOT!

I resonated to Joe's story - I didn't do quite the same thing, but when my last multiple-book contract with St. Martin's was fulfilled, I embarked on something new, writing on spec. The standalone suspense novel (NEVER TELL A LIE) took two years (not like one year for a series novel) to write.

I am so in awe of him - what courage it took to buy out his contract and rethink his image.

Here are some questions I'd love Joe to answer:

- How is this book different from what you’ve done before. Because one of the things I’ve always loved about your book is that you write about having kids and you’re doing that again here. It really humanizes the protagonist.

- Do you think the extra time makes a better book?

- Were you tempted to go the self-publishing route, which some authors are taking these days, or did you want to set your sites on the "right" traditional publisher?

- Where can we find you talking about your new book and signing copies?

Red readers, pile on with questions for Joe. He'll be visiting Jungle Red today. I have a copy of his new book ready to go to one lucky commenter.


  1. I guess I'm a bit confused . . . if extra time to write is an issue, it's difficult for me to imagine any publisher not being willing to give the author the required time to write. [Not being involved with publishers, perhaps that is naïve, but . . . .]

    At any rate, "Suspicion" was riveting and I absolutely loved it . . . .

  2. I can't wait to read this new one, and to hear your answers to Hallie's questions. I liked your previous protagonist, Alex - and I often don't care for male leads in crime novels, so that's a big compliment - I thought he was, well, a sensitive thoughtful guy, one I'd be willing to get to know.

    I'm still amazed by the buy-out-the-contract thing. And I wonder if you had a lot of doubts about doing that.

  3. Joan, my experience has been different with different publishers. With HarperCollins, I turned in my last manuscript way late, really late, because it just took that long for me to figure it out. They've been fine with that. When I wrote a series I did feel pressure to get it in on time (1/year)... it had a marketing plan that required it.

    I stopped writing the series because ... I COULD SAY that I got tired of writing the same characters, but the truth is that I could see that the series was never going to go to NY Times Bestseller and it would be a better use of my time to switch horses. So I did.

  4. Edith, I agree, Joe's protagonist isn't one of those macho guys. Which is why I think so many of his readers are women! He writes compelling family relationships (and stuff that really matters) as much as he does about cartels and chases.

    I think this is a trend among some top male thriller writers... reader writers like John Harvey, Bob Dugoni, Wm Kent Krueger, CJ Box and you see it loud and clear.

  5. I can understand buying out the publisher contract. I'd be interested in knowing what he wanted in an agent that his old agent was unable or unwilling to provide.

    ~ Jim

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  7. Thanks, Hallie! I’m so honored and flattered to be invited into the vaunted virtual pages of Jungle Red.
    SUSPICION is both different from and the same as my earlier books. It’s by far my most intimate, most personal story. In some ways I’d even call it a love story. It’s a story propelled by the love of a daddy for his daughter (and yes, it’s based on my crazy love for my now 20-year-old daughter, Emma). Danny Goodman is forced into making a terrible decision out of a desire to keep his daughter’s world normal and happy. It’s a decision that I think any dad would make . . . even though it ends up turning Danny’s life upside down.

    But it’s also an “ordinary guy in extraordinary circumstances” story, straight out of Hitchcock (hence the wink of a title, “Suspicion”). And all of my novels (except, arguably, for the two Nick Hellers) are ordinary guy stories. They all are. They make take place in a company or whatever, but they’re still ordinary guy stories.

    On the question of extra time helping: Not necessarily. It really depends on the writer, I think. Two of my best novels (in my humble opinion), Paranoia and Killer Instinct, were each written in about three or four months. The reason it took three years between Buried Secrets and Suspicion is really the turmoil I went through to get to where I am. First I had to buy myself out of my St. Martin’s contract, which was not only quite time consuming but just emotionally draining. (I loved and still do love my friends at St. Martin’s, who made me a New York Times bestseller when I think no other publisher could or would have done it. I owe them a vast debt of loyalty.)

    Then, having written half of the third Nick Heller thriller, I had to put it down to write a standalone (at my agent’s request – they thought a standalone would be easier to sell at this point, and they were right). Once I was at work on Suspicion, it took me the normal amount of time (or maybe just a few months longer).

    But maybe I’m dodging your question. Do I think more time makes a better book? Sometimes. Depends on the kind of story you’re telling. If the canvas is smaller (the scope of the story), you can do a good job in the allotted time. But sometimes if you take five years on a novel that you could have written in six months, what you get is a pot of mushy rice that’s cooked too long.

    On self-publishing: No way, José. I understand that some people have to self-publish because they’ve had bad luck in the publishing business (bad luck we’ve all had!). Or they want to self-publish because they have the energy to be their own publisher (which I don’t have). I am grateful to have a publisher to do all the stuff I don’t want to do – advertising, distribution, soliciting review coverage, getting the books printed . . . man, it gives me a headache just to think about it. No, I most definitely never wanted to be in the publishing business. Just the writing business.

    Where can you get signed books? I'm on book tour right now - tonight I'll be in Pittsburgh, at the Barnes & Noble in Homestead (details here: If I'm not coming to your town, you can order books from anywhere I've visited (, or from The Mysterious Bookshop in New York. Thanks!

  8. Welcome Joe! We're so happy to have you here--we loved having you as our Guest of Honor at Crimebake and love seeing your career shoot off into the stars!

    I've been writing faster lately, so interested to hear your answer about more time. (love the mushy rice!) I think sometimes the ideas flow faster if you're writing more quickly, but also, it's always good to leave time to let the manuscript sit a while.

    Do you think you'll go back to the series? or another standalone next?

  9. Hi Joe! So nice to have you here! I don't know anyone who was brave enough to buy out of a contract with a major publisher, and I'm so glad it was a good decision for you.

    I love your male characters (I write a pretty sensitive guy with kids myself!) and can't wait to read the new book. LOVE the nod to Hitchcock, too~

  10. Thanks, Roberta and Deb! The book I'm writing now is a standalone, but I look forward to getting back to Nick Heller one of these days. I like Nick, I like his world, and in many ways it's easier to write a series: I'm not reinventing backstory, supporting characters, etc. every time.

  11. Hello Joseph and welcome! All I can say is BRAVO! I the book sounds terrific and I'm glad you took yourself seriously as an artist, not a "brand."

    After MR. CHURCHIL'S SECRETARY didn't sell on the first round of submissions, I did a huge (and I mean huge) rewrite Still, my agent (at least in my opinion) had given up on the book and only wanted something new. So, after much deliberation, I took the reworked manuscript to another agent and signed with her. SO GLAD I DID THAT! Sometimes you need a change.

  12. I loved that book, Susan - and how brave of you! The gamble truly paid off.

  13. I am in awe of all authors. So much more goes into your work than just the writing that I don't know how you all manage to keep moving on. I'm glad your brave decision worked out for you. Based on your comments, Joe, and on the comments of people who have read your books, I KNOW that I must read them, too! Looking forward to it!

  14. Another great peek into the tough world of the author. So glad you find ways to persevere so we can keep reading.

  15. YAY JOE!! So very exciting.and I am cheering like mad.

    Yup, I changed agents, too.. I am still great pals with the first one (and admire her greatly) but I wanted to be a suspense writer, and she is queen of a different genre world. I needed someone with savvy about where I wanted to be. It's worked out fabulously for all of us.

    But yes, THE OTHER WOMAN was written without a contract! And that tightrope is pretty scary--you may be devoting your every waking moment, and more, to something that will never see the light of publishing day.

    And now--well, all so far so good.

    People always ask us-do you know how your book will end when you start? Hah. We don't even know if it 'll BE a book.

    Is it some kind of writer-faith? Desire? Hope?

  16. But it is SO freeing to write without a contract, too. NEVER TELL A LIE was written without one, and it's very freeing and scary at the same time to step off a cliff like that. What do **I** want to write about? Scary question. And then hope like made other people will want to read it.

  17. Hi Joe! You're going to be in my neck of the woods - just as I'm going out of town. Bummer.

    Good for you in knowing what you wanted and going for it. I can't even imagine (as an unpublished author) the courage it would take to make that decision. And I love the "mushy rice" analogy. Sounds like there's another for the TBR pile.

    Hallie, I'm with you. Writing without a contract can be very freeing. Of course I HOPE the novel I'm working on finds a home, but it's also nice to write it because I want to.

  18. I read a review of your book this weekend and it sounds REALLY good!
    You're brave to cut your ties and try new things.

  19. Hats off to you for buying out that contract. Sounds like it was the right decision.

  20. I'm so tickled you chose to feature one of the nicest guys on the planet! I feel close to Joe as we are both members of the AFIO - if you have to ask us what... we'll have to kill you! I'd love to win your copy of Suspicion --- and will always be indebted to Jungle Reds for all the wisdom and advice you have given so many of us through time. Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  21. I heard Joseph Finder speak at the 2012 Crime Bake and am thrilled to learn more about his career and books. I am right now reading my first Lee Child ("Gone Tomorrow"), tiptoeing into this genre. I tend to read female authors.

  22. Lee Child has a HUGE fan base of women readers... Ditto Joe. VERY different protagonists and situations still lots of women fans.

  23. And--I have had LEAP AND THE NET WILL APPEAR pinned to my bulletin board for many years...

  24. tee hee Hank, I just wrote LEAP AND THE NET WILL APPEAR into my WIP:)

  25. I'm going to echo everyone else and admire Joe's bravery. It's very hard to leave a publisher when you have a great relationship with the folks there - and I know Joe did. But sometimes, the author's creative focus comes to a cross-purpose against the publisher's (understandable) business focus. As Susan said, it's the difference between being an artist and being brand.

    I can't wait to read SUSPICION!

  26. 115I'm in the middle of a course on openings right now, so for days I've been examining first pages on my bookshelf. I love what you did with SUSPICION. Smart what ifs, theme, sympathetic character, all delivered in the first half page. Admirable!

    Poor Danny, though.

  27. I did NOT know that you, Hallie, and Hank both wrote your first suspense novels without a contract. That makes me feel better about my historical (first draft almost done!), also not under contract, but a book I couldn't not write. Let's hear it for taking a chance.

  28. Poor Danny is right! Great to see so many people checking in today — thanks! And yes, Hank, I think that being a writer at all takes some kind of faith or recklessness that not everyone has. Then again, nobody sits down to write 80,000 words; we write 100 words, and then 500 words, and then 1,000 words — and 1,000 words a day for three months is a novel, even if you take the occasional day off. I think a lot about readers' reactions while I'm writing, but while I'm writing, I can't let myself be distracted by the question of how the book's going to be sold.

  29. Hallie— Glad I came by today. Sounds like a terrific book, and I think I will love Danny.

    Joseph, interesting comments about self-publishing. I often wonder about those things, myself. Everything that an author would have to be responsible for seems like a full-time job.

  30. Can wait to read Joe's newest book. What impresses me is that I'll go back and re-read one of his novels and enjoy it as much as I did the first time. Can't say that about too many authors. (And his autographed Christmas cards certainly endear him to readers. LOL. I always keep mine.)

  31. Like Joan Emerson earlier, I'm also confused, but for a different reason. Hank and Hallie reference the terror of "writing without a contract" - isn't that what all (most?) new fiction writers do? All the "experts" say we have to finish a novel before querying anywhere. I've written three novels now, searching for that magic agent, and just finally landed with a small press without an agent.

    This was an informative post; I love the Reds and look to them for guidance often - help!

  32. I'm delighted to see Joseph Finder as a featured author here on the blog today. I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't started reading his books yet, which I plan to remedy with Suspicion. I do, however, follow Joe on Facebook, and he has many interesting posts. Quite frankly, I just like you, Joe, without having read your books or met you. I get that good vibe from your FB posts, and I trust it. And, what a brave action, to be true to yourself and your art by buying out your contract.

    Once again, I find impetus to finally read an author I've been thinking about by his feature here on the Reds. It seems lately that I am plentifully bestrewn (a definition I recently came across for "covered")with new books, and I couldn't be happier.

  33. I missed this yesterday. Work was just too crazy. Very excited about this book!! Love seeing Joe's updates on FB, too. Exciting stuff ahead for Mr. "Thriller Writer" Finder!!!