I had the pleasure of meeting Mark Pryor in person over the weekend at Bouchercon (a Bouchercon post is in the works, will probably be up next week). He is ridiculously charming--he is very charismatic--and his debut novel, The Bookseller came out yesterday! It is getting rave reviews so please stick around for the purchase links below!
Max—an elderly Paris bookstall owner—is abducted at gunpoint. His friend, Hugo Marston, head of security at the US embassy, looks on helplessly, powerless to do anything to stop the kidnapper.
Marston launches a search, enlisting the help of semiretired CIA agent Tom Green. Their investigation reveals that Max was a Holocaust survivor and later became a Nazi hunter. Is his disappearance somehow tied to his grim history, or even to the mysterious old books he sold?
On the streets of Paris, tensions are rising as rival drug gangs engage in violent turf wars. Before long, other booksellers start to disappear, their bodies found floating in the Seine. Though the police are not interested in his opinion, Marston is convinced the hostilities have something to do with the murders of these bouquinistes.
Then he himself becomes a target of the unknown assassins.
With Tom by his side, Marston finally puts the pieces of the puzzle together, connecting the past with the present and leading the two men, quite literally, to the enemy's lair.
Just as the killer intended.
If you're not aware, Mark blogs over at DA Confidential. Here's his bio:
Mark Pryor is a former newspaper reporter from England, now an assistant district attorney with the Travis County District Attorney's Office, in Austin, Texas. He is the creator of the true-crime blog D.A. Confidential. He has appeared on CBS News's 48 Hours and Discovery Channel's Discovery ID: Cold Blood. THE BOOKSELLER is his first mystery novel.
Mark was gracious enough to grant me an interview so here goes!
1. What was your inspiration for writing The Bookseller?
As it happens, and very appropriately, I was in Paris with my wife for a brief vacation. We love the city and a few days there is guaranteed to set my mind wandering. I bought a notebook at a little store and just started jotting down ideas. Planning out a book while sitting in a café in Paris, well, that's my idea of heaven.
I've always wanted to write a series, and I had the idea of creating one where the different facets of Paris play a role. For The Bookseller it was the bouquinistes by the River Seine. For the next one it's the beautiful, and huge, cemeteries. As for Hugo Marston, my hero, he's an amalgam of people I've known or met, or would like to be. I knew that I wanted to move away from the trend towards MCs battling demons, alcohol, drugs, relationships. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I just didn't think I had anything to offer in that vein. And I do like the idea of a return to more a traditional MC, the genuinely nice guy with a handy set of talents.
2. You’re a prosecutor. In my experience, lawyers—especially prosecutors—work a lot of hours. How do you balance it all? Your family, your job and writing? How do you find time to write?
You know, I'm very lucky because I don't work that many hours. Or maybe I'm very lazy?! No, I have always been able to do my job within the work week, and unless I have a trial then I am home by six and never work weekends. I usually write at the library close to home, a couple of hours a day on weekends. My family has been amazing, especially my wife of course, so supportive and understanding and they help me find time. I am also lucky in that when I sit down to write I can do so pretty quickly. I can knock out two thousand words in a couple of hours, and don't need to do a whole lot of rewriting.
3. Can you tell us a little about your writing process?
Sure. I'm not an outliner, if that's what you're wondering! I do keep a journal for each book in which I jot down ideas, either about the plot or characters. But the journal evolves with the book and a lot of what goes in there doesn't make it to the page. So I don't come up with every idea up front, but I do have to write them down when they pop into my mind else I'll forget them. As for the development of the story, well, as I mentioned before I've been choosing an aspect of Paris to explore for the Hugo Marston series and with The Bookseller I decided on the bouquinistes, having poor old Max kidnapped. Then I had to answer the question Why? The same with the next book in the series, I have to know the solution , to know where I'm headed, when I start to write. What I don't always know is exactly how to get there! But that's the fun part, because as I stumble towards the solution I also work to camouflage it, covering it up with action and conflict, all the while dropping clues for the reader.
4. How long did it take you to find an agent? How many rejections?
How high can you count? The Bookseller is the third novel for which I sought an agent. The first two never made it, so dozens and dozens of rejections for those. The Bookseller got more interest from agents early on, but I'd say I got ten or fifteen outright rejections. From first query to signing with Ann Collette was pretty quick though, about six months. Several other agents had the full manuscript when she offered to represent me and I accepted pretty quickly. I really wanted to work with someone who was enthusiastic and I got very lucky with Ann, she's amazing.
5. How long were you on submissions?
About a year. Ann is a very hands-on agent in terms of editing, so we did several months of back and forth, and a little more after some early rejections from big publishers. That's a nerve-wracking process, too, we got so close but in the end the major houses passed. Funnily enough, I got two offers on the same day, though when Ann told me Seventh Street wanted three books, well, I jumped at that as you can imagine. And they have been fantastic to work with, as a new imprint of an existing publisher they have the enthusiasm of a beginner but the machinery of an existing house.
6. What advice would you give to writers who are just beginning their journey to publication?
I'd say two things. First, work on your writing, your story. As I mentioned, The Bookseller was my third completed novel and is head and shoulders above the first two. Yet I peddled the first two, not realizing they weren't good enough. So if you're not having luck the traditional route, it may just be you're not there yet. That's a hard thing for people to grasp, to accept, and I know because clearly I didn't. Yes, I'm afraid I'm one of those people who believe that good writing will get you there, eventually. I'm sure there are exceptions but I do think it's true.
Which brings me to: Stick with it. Going the traditional route, via an agent, is a punishing, slow, brutal process and many times over the years I thought I'd never make it. It can also be demoralizing, all those rejections from agents and then editors. But getting that one call from an agent, the nod from one publisher. . . those things are utterly priceless. For me, going the traditional route is not just about getting the marketing, distribution, even the editing. It also carries with it a certain validation I knew I wouldn't get from self-publishing. My name is on the cover of a book because someone else put it there, not because I did. I see so many people getting rejected and then leaping into self-publishing and I hate that their books don't really see the light of day, when I see that initial excitement turns to frustration when they don't sell more than a few copies.
Along the same lines, I'd also throw my backing behind small, indie publishers. I shot for the big guys, yes, but the support (in terms of marketing) I've gotten from my publisher has been amazing. And, I'm guessing, more than I would have gotten from one of the big six, especially as a new author. I may be wrong about that but suffice it to say I've been very lucky.
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I've pre-ordered the book for my Kindle. I hope you guys will check it out too!
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