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Friday, April 13, 2012


Our guest today is Patti Brooks, author of  Fame & Deceit, the first book in her new mystery series set in New England. Patti has been a published author since she sold her first article to an international magazine when she was sixteen years old. She’s since published over 500 articles. Her first novel, Mountain Shadows, became required reading in many NY State high schools. Learn more about Patti at her website.

Patti is offering a copy of Fame & Deceit to one of our readers who posts a comment to the blog this week. Be sure to check back on Sunday to see if you’re the lucky winner. -- AP

As a novelist, I believe it’s my responsibility to deliver entertainment to my readers. It’s much too easy today for folks to put down a copy of my book and pick up the TV remote. I’ve got major competition out there; not only from my fellow novelists, but TV, movies, etc.

Therefore, readers have a profound influence on writers. And when you peel away the layers of influence, it all comes down to sales. Of course there are writers that profess to just having published a book fills all their dreams. And there are writers that insist they wrote a book to get a point across (preach).
I seriously doubt that any writer wouldn’t be more satisfied if his sales’ commissions were of the caliber to make it worthwhile to drive to the bank to deposit on the day the commission arrived.
A novelist hoping for a career, must search his soul and study the statistics of what is more than marginally saleable. Of course that won’t guarantee success, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. And, what readers seek (i.e. "buy") is constantly shifting.
I recall many years ago, in the days before I became a novelist, going to bookstores and pulling the thickest books off the shelf first. If it was a 1,000+ page novel, I would automatically buy it.
My reason for doing so was that I wanted to get thoroughly immersed in the characters’ lives. Like a particularly good dessert, I want to savor every bite.
My favorites were Anna Lee Waldo’s Soakage (1400 pp), and Prairie (1100 pp). And Helen Hoover Santmyer’s ..Ladies of the Club. Of course, James Michener’s thick books line my bookshelves alongside Shogun by James Clavell.
It’s next to impossible for books like these to find a publisher today. Agents and publishers tend to frown on manuscripts over 100,000 words. There are some, however, that get the go-ahead, but mostly because the writer already enjoys a reputation of delivering what readers want. I’m a fan of most things written by Ken Follett. His Pillars of the Earth and Fall of the Giants are among the BIG reads.
Before I became a novelist, I wrote over five hundred articles for magazines. Had a monthly column in a trade journal for a few years as well. All that time I "knew" there would be a day I would start my career as a novelist. Since I was a horse trainer, I felt it was inevitable that one day I would break a bone. That would give me, I reasoned, a good six weeks to mend. So, I certainly could write a saleable manuscript in six weeks, right?
So wrong! At least for me. When I did tackle my first historical novel, Mountain Shadows, it took about four years of research and two years of writing and re-writing before catching the eye of a publisher. Of course, I did not have research assistants like Michener and Follett.
It’s a sign that a successful novelist has matured when he chooses the audience for which he writes. He can’t be devastated when he see readers leaving his book (child) on the shelf in favor of another. (Or even worse, put it back on the shelf after taking a peek at the first chapter.)
If I want to see a hefty royalty check, I have to give readers something they anticipate they will enjoy. It doesn’t mean I have to give up my soul to create something against my nature. May be as simple as understanding the market for which I choose to write.
Novel readers want to be stimulated and motivate. Or escape into a different world. Or envision themselves in the role of a character.
A fellow journalist who turned to writing wonderful short stories once told me that after spending a career making sure he got the facts right, he started to lie and loved every minute of it.
And, if I do it right, readers will pay me for lying!

Thanks for joining us today, Patti! Readers, if you’d like the chance to win a copy of Patti’s new mystery, post a comment. -- AP


Rosemary Webb said...

There's information (journalism), and then there's truth, which can be conveyed at times more easily by allegory, metaphor, and/or a well-told tale. It is much easier to immerse one's self into a longer work - which is one reason why series are so popular. Picking up a new book in a series is like sitting down over coffee with an old friend come back to town to visit.

traveler said...

I enjoyed your post today which resonated with me. I read a great deal and have always sought heavy duty large novels, family sagas with depth and heft. These always appealed to me, manybe because I am old school. A form of entertainment which lingers and is more satisfying and gratifying.

Kathy said...

You're right about escaping into another world and envisioning oneself in the role of a character. Whenever I'm depressed or stressed I cheer myself up by jumping into a good book. I tried cutting back on books and catching up on magazine subscriptions but magazines just don't satisfy me like book.

Liz said...

Another scandal--this time, The Times. Journalism or what?

Barbara D. said...

I like your thoughts Patti although I'm not much into thick books. (I think the last lengthy book I read was "Gone With the Wind").

I really like envisioning myself in the role of a character, like you mentioned. That's why I love mystery & other series books. You can get engrossed in the main character & others & follow them throughout the series. You really get to know the characters like you do when you're reading a lengthy book. And you really anticipate the next book in the series!

Good luck with your new book!

petite said...

I escape into novels which are neverending and unforgettable. The longer, the more involved and with characters that are unforgettable, the better. I started my reading that way and wish that there were more books nowadays written for an audience that appreciate Dickens, L.M. Montgomery and theodore Dreiser.