Welcome to the two hundred and forty-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with historical romance and mystery novelist Greg Messel. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Greg. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Greg: I’ve always loved to write. I have written for newspapers for years and was at one time the news editor of a daily newspaper. I now live on the Puget Sound near Seattle with my wife, Carol. After leaving the corporate world, I’m devoting full time to writing and promoting my books. I began writing when I was a child. I have an old canvas bag with crayon writing on it. It was my newspaper bag. I wrote the “paper” and then delivered to neighbors and family members. I found the canvas bag in some things at my grandmother’s house after she died. I supported my self through high school and college being a stringer for local newspapers. Then after college I had a career as a sports writer, columnist and news editor. I finally got to try writing novels and published my first one in 2009.
Morgen: So many of my interviewees have said their passion for writing began at an early age, which is lovely to hear and for some reason I’m surprised that so many have, not sure why. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Greg: All three of my books have been historical romance. I am currently beginning a trilogy of mysteries about a private eye in San Francisco in 1957.
Morgen: I met three agents at the Winchester Writers Conference back in July (2011) and they were all looking for more historical and crime so you’ve picked good genres. 🙂 What have you had published to-date? Can you remember where you saw your first book on the shelves?
Greg: My first book was “Sunbreaks” and was published in 2009. My second novel “Expiation” was published in 2010 and “The Illusion of Certainty” was published in the summer of 2011. I had a book signing at a Costco. It was amazing to walk into the store and see large banners with pictures of my book on them. I saw a worker rolling a hand truck full of my books to the signing area. That was a very interesting experience.
Morgen: And surreal possibly. Have you ever seen a member of the public reading your book… in any unusual locations?
Greg: Not in unusual circumstances. It was amazing when I was at a Borders store and saw people standing in line at the checkout counter to buy my book.
Greg: One of my favorite tweets I got was from a woman in the UK who told me that she just finished my book and really liked it.
Morgen: Yay the UK. 🙂 How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Greg: I have tried most everything I can think of to promote my works. I’ve been very actively marketing all of my books. I try to keep my blog updated and make entries about my books every day on Twitter and Facebook.
Morgen: That’s the trick; regularity. I have a writing friend who regularly posts to his blog but isn’t on Twitter and Facebook. I think most authors these days need more than one outlet. Do you write under a pseudonym? Do you think they make a difference to an author’s profile?
Greg: I don’t write under a pseudonym. I can understand why some people do. Women have had to do that in the past to overcome sexist. I recently chatted with an elementary school teacher who wrote erotica. I can understand why she might need a pen name.
Morgen: I had an interviewee a while back in the same boat. It does make sense. You mentioned your paper copy books, are your books available as eBooks? And do you read eBooks?
Greg: I am a big convert to eBooks, both as an author and as a reader. I bought my first Kindle on Christmas, 2010. It is a thrill to see my books on it. All of my books are available for Kindle, Nook, iPad and iBooks. I will continue to focus on ebook marketing, hoping that for the low price, readers will give my books a try.
Morgen: I’m sure it makes a difference. It doesn’t make sense for a complete unknown (like me :)) to go mad with the price (mine are $1.49). Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Greg: I do try to write each afternoon, especially in the winter months, when I work on a new novel, like I’m doing now. Sometimes if I really get on a roll, I’ve written all day and into the night. That doesn’t happen very often. I feel that you need to not force it. It helps to step back and let the dust settle a little sometimes.
Morgen: Absolutely, it does. They do say that you can’t edit a blank page but I’m sure even the best writers wilt if too long in the chair. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Greg: Nothing serious but I’ve hit the wall a few times, not sure of where to take the story or the character from where I have them. Sometimes you can write yourself into a corner. If that happens to me, I’ve found that it’s best to take a couple of days off and just think about what you are writing.
Morgen: You’ve just mentioned “character”, do you have a method for creating yours, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Greg: I’ve found that it is best to actually sit down and formally write out a life history of a character. How old are they, what do they look like physically, what’s their job, who’s in their family, are they married, where did they go to college, what is their job, when is their birthday and how old are they, etc. It makes it so much easier as you get deep into the writing to consult those profiles. Take that step also makes you really think about your characters and where they are headed. What would be their motivations and aspirations?
Morgen: One of the exercises in my writing class is building a character’s profile (using a table with a dozen prompts similar to the ones you’ve just mentioned) and it’s not only fun to do but gives us a rounder picture of who our protagonists (and antagonists) are. Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Greg: I have two people. I give chapters to my wife to read. I also have a very good friend. She grew up with my wife and she and I have always been friends. I email chapters to her to ask her opinion. She is more critical than my wife tends to be, so I value her input.
Morgen: Ah but they’re two readers so ideal; two sides of a critical coin. 🙂 Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Greg: I feel my writing and editing are getting better with each book. I feel like I’m refining my skills. My approach to my fourth novel is much more fully-formed than any of my first three. Editing is so vital to a good book.
Morgen: It is. There’s a lot of talk about eBooks bringing down the quality of writing but I always say that reader reviews will guide readers to good books and we, as writers, have to make them the best we can in order to get those good reviews… we only have a certain number of friends. 🙂 How much research do you have to do for your writing? Have you ever received feedback from your readers?
Greg: I really try to get it right in my research. I spend a lot of time pouring over facts and double and triple checking them for the historical background I have in my books. It is something my readers appreciate I think.
Morgen: I’m sure they’d tell you if you got something wrong. Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Greg: I do all of my writing on my computer. I just recently bought a new iMac and I’m thoroughly enjoying writing my new book on it. I spent a lot of years typing on manual typewriters in the newspaper business. I can’t imagine going back to that.
Morgen: Me neither (I trained at secretarial college on manual, then electronic, typewriters) and I type mine on a Mac. 🙂 Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Greg: I go into my office at home and like to listen to music while I write.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Greg: I’ve gone back and forth. My first novel was first person. Right now I’m enjoying writing in the third person. I’m not sure I could get my head around writing a second person narrative. I’ve never done that.
Morgen: Oh, do have a go, it’s fun. It’s dark so might be more suited to your mysteries but it’s my favourite pov. Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Greg: I am very fond of prologues and epilogues. Maybe it’s because I enjoy them as a reader. I like to set the table with a prologue and make sure the reader understands something about the world we are entering. I like prologues because I like to find out what happens later to the characters.
Morgen: 🙂 Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: If you could have your life over again, is there anything you’d have done differently (writing-related or otherwise)?
Greg: I wish I could have spent more time writing earlier in my life. I had to go dormant for several years due to career demands and raising a family. In a way, it makes it all the more sweeter now that I get to write full time.
Morgen: Absolutely, that’s what I think (I came to writing in my late 30s) as it now means you have the experience to put into your writing and I had years between being an avid reader (when life took over) to becoming an avid writer. Thank you so much, Greg, and I wish you well with the rest of your tour.
Greg Messel has written three novels and three unpublished memoirs. He published his premiere novel “Sunbreaks” in 2009, followed by “Expiation” in 2010 and “The Illusion of Certainty” in 2011. Greg has had a newspaper career as a columnist, sportswriter and news editor. He won a Wyoming Press Association Award as a columnist. Greg also spent many years in the corporate world as a Financial Manager. He now devotes his energies to writing at his home in Edmonds, Washington on the Puget Sound just north of Seattle, where he lives with his wife, Carol. You can visit his website at www.gregmessel.com. Connect with Greg on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gregmessel or Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.messel.
The Illusion of Certainty follows two parallel storylines. Marc is a successful businessman who seems to have everything—a great job, a beautiful wife, a house in an upscale neighborhood of Portland, Oregon and two great kids who are preparing for college. But something is not right. Marc is unsettled by the sudden change in his wife, Aimee, who seems distant and unhappy. What’s going on with her?
The second storyline involves a successful young attorney, Alexandra Mattson. Alex, as she is called by her friends, meets a handsome young cop, Sean, during an unexpected crisis in her neighborhood. Sean and Alex seem made for each other and begin to merge their futures in a world of uncertainty.
The only certainty in life is that we will face uncertainty. Despite all of the technology and controls available in the modern world, sometimes the only comfort comes from the human touch.
Greg’s tour has been kindly arranged by ‘Pump Up Your Book’ Promotion PR who have been very supportive of my blog and tomorrow’s blog interviewee Carole Eglash Kosoff is another tourer… with more authors forthcoming. 🙂
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