My iPad. I swore I'd never get one, but now I don't know how I lived without it.
Describe your desk
I have a $60 roll-around computer cart from Staples. It looks good, and moves seamlessly from bedroom to living room, where I work on my novels during the wee hours while my family sleeps.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
One-on-one engaging with readers on line and in person. Everything else--especially anything that has cost a lot of money--has been a big disappointment.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Queens, New York. My troubled childhood inspired my first novel, Later with Myself: The Misadventures of Millie Moskowitz.
When did you first start writing?
I've always been a writer; I just didn't know it. I penned an advice column as a kid; as a young adult, I sent eloquent, multi-page letters long after the practice had fallen out of fashion. Today, I write professionally as an attorney. I only figured out my passion for writing fiction in 2009, a few years after my father died, when I began writing my first novel about our dysfunctional family life.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Stop & Frisk is a character study of a conflicted strip club bouncer who's suffered one too many "hard knocks" in life. Paulie Beckwith was originally patterned after my brother, a former bouncer whose spirited nightly “tales from the dark side” prompted me to want to expose strip club life from the gatekeeper's vantage point. However, as is true with any novel, as Paulie and I grew together, he took on a life all his own. The fictional setting for this story was inspired by a now-closed, flamingo-pink exotic dance club I pass driving to and from my family's rural vacation home.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I found it impossible to find an agent for my first or second novels. But I also saw firsthand from published authors that having a book deal does not guaranty success when it comes to book sales. And I am simply too impatient a control-freak to leave my fate to the timing and whims of others.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Too early to tell! I hope that this alternative platform--where I can control my pricing and offer free or reduced-priced books without giving up my rights--will give me an edge in the e-publishing world. I also disagree with many of Amazon's employment and monopolistic policies, and wanted to try and support a competitor.
Who are your favorite authors?
Lionel Shriver--what an incredible talent! Love everything she writes. Khaled Housseini (ditto). To a lesser extent, and in no particular order: Wally Lamb; Jodi Picoult; Barbara Kingsolver; Elizabeth Berg; Jeannette Walls; Liane Moriarty;Thrity Umrigar; Donna Tartt; Jojo Moyes; Jhumpa Lahiri; Jonathan Franzen; Jeffrey Eugenides; Chris Cleave; Tracy Chevalier; and last but not least, T.C. Boyle.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The fact that I am still alive. That's all the motivation I need.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Working, working, working. It seems I am always working at something--if not practicing law, then trying to stay fit, trying to be a good parent, or trying to stay on top of the never-ending myriad of household/personal/"admin" tasks that swallow up our modern lives.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I mainly discover new books--electronic and physical--through friend updates and recommendations on Goodreads. Number two way is the Sunday book review of my local newspaper.
What is your writing process?
First, I wait for inspiration in the form of a story. Or, I should say, in the form of a character around whom I want to center a story. Next, I "get it all on paper." This may or may not involve mapping out the story; I have done it both ways. Usually, somewhere in the process, I will create full character profiles.
Concurrently with the first draft, I will be doing all kinds of research, often about the most minute things--restaurant menus, for example. Or distances between two places. That kind of thing. The Internet is a phenomenal resource (though I've often wondered what the FBI would think I was up to if they ever tracked my Google activity!). It is at this stage that I am also trying to pick a title and cover. I find having a cover inspires and guides my writing.
Just when I am sure my first draft sucks (which is does--it's a first draft, after all, and as such is supposed to suck!) and I'm ready to throw in the towel, I take a breather. Usually no more than a few weeks. Once I feel motivated to come back to my fictional peeps, I do.
As soon as the whole mess is committed to paper, the editing process begins. I don't have a hard a fast rule about how many "rounds" I will go, but definitely upwards of twenty. Somewhere after round ten or so, I begin seeking input from beta readers, and pass my manuscript on to one or more editors. On and on it goes, until that seemingly magic moment when I decide my book is "ready".
And still after that, there will be endless further "fixes" as I (and readers) catch those inevitable typos that were somehow missed in the above painstaking process (or, more likely, cropped up unbidden like weed sprouting out of hard earth). Once I am certain I've eliminated all but a stray typo or two (every book has at least one, after all; it would be bad luck--not to mention haughty--to sanitize one's work beyond that), I sit back and watch those sales tick and the royalties roll in. One thousand copies--two thousand--ten thousand. The sky's the limit. UntilI I wake up from my lovely little dream to the sound of crickets.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I read it in 6th grade. It made me afraid of the world.
How do you approach cover design?
This is perhaps one of the toughest tasks of being an independent author, in my opinion. I approach it like I do online shopping. I go on the stock photo websites and "shop" for ideas. Sometimes, if I am lucky, I will have an "aha" moment where the perfect picture falls in my lap. More often, however, the process is mind-numbing and can go on for weeks until I settle on something I think I can make work.
From there, I send my selection to my cover designer (Melton Cartes) for adaptation. He and I go several rounds, but this process at least feels creative, collaborative and fun.
What do you read for pleasure?
Fiction. Always fiction.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy is without question when a reader lets me know that s/he was touched, moved, or entertained by what I wrote. Sure, the process itself is fun and worthwhile, but positive feedback is like straight sugar--the frosting on the cake.
What do your fans mean to you?
My fans--few though they are in number--mean that someone out there likes and appreciates what I do. I suppose I could write just for me, but having even a few faithful readers makes the effort so much more worthwhile. Even if I touch only one person, it means that what I have to say matters.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.