Interview with Jeffrey Marks for AuthorMePro

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APKY/AMP: Hello, Jeffrey. Welcome to our Author Interview. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer. What inspired you to write your first book?

I’ve written for as long as I can remember. I can recall writing as early as elementary school and telling stories in words. So it’s always Jeffrey Marksbeen a part of me. When I turned 30, I knew that I’d better start taking it seriously if I ever wanted to be published. I worked on a number of books, including the biography of Craig Rice. I’d always been interested in how writers and their own backgrounds inform their writing. SO I began to investigate Rice (about whom little was known) and write about her works. That book became Who Was That Lady? which was published in 2001.

In studying her work so carefully, I found insight into what made a mystery novel work. As a result, I wrote a series of mystery novels as well. The first in my Civil War series was The Ambush of My Name, and that book appeared just 3 months after my biography of Rice.

APKY/AMP: That’s quite a feat – it takes me at least a year to write a novel. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?

I write in the mystery genre, both fiction and non-fiction. It’s what I’ve read all my life, and it’s what I enjoy reading, so it made sense that I would write about it too. I write fiction, and I also write non-fiction, biographies about famous mystery authors of the 1940s/1950s.

APKY/AMP: What have you had published to-date, apart from the works you mention earlier?

I’ve had three novels published, 2 in my US Grant mystery series (The Ambush of My Name and A Good Soldier) and 1 in a Anthony Boucher, by Jeffrey Markscontemporary cozy series (The Scent of Murder). I’m hoping to bring out another book in each series this year. I’ve also written three biographies of mystery writers (Who Was That Lady?, Atomic Renaissance, and Anthony Boucher.) I’m currently writing a biography of Erle Stanley Gardner, the man behind Perry Mason.

APKY/AMP: An impressive list, Jeffrey. Why should we buy your book or books?

With the genre criticism books, hopefully they give you insights into authors that you may never have heard of otherwise. Craig Rice is as funny as any author today, including Janet Evanovich, but sadly few have ever heard of her. Bouchercon is named after Anthony Boucher, but no one has really known much about him. Erle Stanley Gardner, who for many years was the best-selling mystery author alive, has never had a comprehensive biography done of his works.

As for my mystery series, they are traditional mysteries without much violence or sex. So they’re accessible to most everyone.

APKY/AMP: You’re right – I’ve never heard of Craig Rice or Erle Stanley Gardner although I’ve certainly heard of Perry Mason. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?

I’ve written a book on promoting genre fiction (Intent to Sell: Marketing the Genre Novel). It came out in 2001 and is now in its 4th edition. I know the ins and outs of book marketing, and I do spend a lot of time trying different marketing strategies both to sell my own books and to be able to discuss the efficacy of different marketing strategies with others. I also teach classes on marketing (which can be found on my website.)

APKY/AMP: Then I’ll definitely need your assistance as I’m pretty hopeless with marketing. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?

I won an Anthony from The World Mystery Convention for my biography of Anthony Boucher. I’ve been nominated for 3 Agathas, 2 Macavities, 3 Anthonys and an Edgar. I also won an Ohioana Library Award for my work in the field of genre criticism.

APKY/AMP: Another impressive list, congratulations! Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?

I do have an agent, and I believe that’s she is vital to my success. I don’t have to worry about the business side of writing as much. She takes the proposals and the manuscripts to the editors. She has access to editors I could never meet. So I can concentrate more on my writing and less on selling the books to a publisher.

APKY/AMP: So you’re one of the lucky ones because of late it’s becoming increasingly hard for writers, especially aspiring authors, to find an agent, let alone a publisher. So could you tell me what you’re working on at the moment / next?

Currently I’m finishing up a biography of Erle Stanley Gardner, who wrote the Perry Mason novels. He was one of the best-selling authors of all times. It’s daunting to think that he wrote 100,000 words a month! I’m editing that book at the moment.

Next up for me in the biography department is a biography of author/editor/anthologist Ellery Queen, who was not one person, but two. I’ll be starting that this summer.

I’m also toying around with a PI novel, but it’s still in the early stages.

APKY/AMP: So you have a busy schedule ahead of you. Do you manage to write every day?

My schedule is such that I cannot write every day. I write on weekends, and usually one or two days during the week. I teach, and so I do have all summer to write, and that helps make up for the times I can’t write.

APKY/AMP: Right. Tell me, do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and off you are with it?

I plot my stories carefully. I find that I can’t write very fast, if I don’t know where I’m going. Especially in the mystery world where so many story elements go into the climax, it would be difficult not to know the end results in writing the book.

APKY/AMP: (laughing) How different we all areJ. I just interviewed an author who said they can even begin writing the end, then the beginning and then the middle last! Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?

It depends on the works. I have different people look at different books and different parts of the book. For my biography, the first reader is the research assistant I work with. She reads through it and makes notes on what needs to be fleshed out, and what needs to be explained more clearly.

APKY/AMP: Very professional. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?

I do a lot of editing still. I am the type of writer who rushes to get it all on the page and then edits at leisure. For non-fiction especially, I have to go back and check all the facts in the book. So that can be time-consuming.

APKY/AMP: Indeed it must consume time. Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?

I prefer composing on a computer and editing on paper. It’s just what I’m used to. I came from an IT background, so I’ve been using computers since the late 1970s. As a result, I’m very comfortable at a keyboard, and I don’t have any problem putting my thoughts down on the screen. From my days at working for a magazine, we passed around the articles for editing on paper. Each of us had our own color of pen to make corrections as well. Still today, I do my corrections on paper with a red pen, just as I did then.

AMP: Could you tell me what you like to read?

I love mysteries. I recently bought a Kindle, so I’ve been on a jag of reading all the older mysteries (many of which are free from Amazon.) It’s been fun to re-read classics that I haven’t seen since I was in high school.

APKY/AMP: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?

I work on my home, which could be a full-time job. I play with our two dogs, a Westie and a Scottie. And I spend time with family.

AMP: The usual suspectsJ! Where can we find out about you and your work?

My website is http://www.jeffreymarks.com I try to update it at least monthly with all the different things going on in my world.

APKY/AMP: Thank you, Jeffrey. I invite you to include an extract of your writing:

Gardner started the next decade at loose ends, farther away from his goal of personal freedom than ever before. Gardner’s sales position had been eliminated when the company went under. Despite the set-backs due to the economy, Gardner still considered Templeton to be one of the best salesmen he’d ever met and credited the man with helping him to sell his own books. To the end of his life, Gardner spoke warmly of Joe Templeton and the company they had created. Even so, Gardner had learned that the long hours and constant travel of a salesman left little time for him to explore and camp in the manner that he wanted.

The family rented a one-story home on Buena Vista. Gardner liked to tell the story of how he was able to rent the home, using money anonymously given to him by a Chinese benefactor. Gardner never learned the man’s name, but assumed that one of the men he had represented in Oxnard. The charity only served to cement Gardner’s relationship to the Chinese and furthered his desire to visit mainland China.

The family loved to socialize and Gardner even built a soda fountain in the home. Prohibition was in full swing by this point, and ever the lawyer, Gardner did not imbibe while the law was in effect. In his later years, he was not opposed to drinking during social gatherings at the ranch.

Fortunately, Gardner had kept his law license. He went back to Frank Orr in Ventura, looking to restart his legal career. Orr took him back, but Gardner remained unhappy with his vocation. He wanted to be free of the shackles of a career that tied him to an office and the indoors.

APKY/AMP: Thank you once again, Jeffrey.