Interview with Jeff Widmer

What motivated you to become an indie author?
After sending queries to 76 agents, I received a number of kind comments but no offers of representation. Then an indie author told me about Joanna Penn and her Creative Penn podcasts about the publishing industry. I found her rationale for going independent so compelling I decided to learn as much as I could. The materials on Smashwords were also a great help. In an increasingly DIY world, indie publishing makes a lot sense.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy of writing is the process, the act of writing. Something I think publishing is just an excuse to keep writing.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans mean contact with people who share common interests and feelings. The feel of a book is so important, and so elusive, especially during the drafting phase, when the author is isolated from others. To hear that I've entertained or touched someone else . . . that's the real joy of writing.
What are you working on next?
I'm writing the sequel to Peak Season, the second book in the CW McCoy series. It's called Tourist in Paradise and starts with the premise that someone is trying to kill the tourism industry in Southwest Florida. I'm also working on the audiobook version of Mr. Mayhem, the first in the Brinker series of crime novels. It's high-concept, the kind of treatment you'd expect to see on HBO or Amazon Prime.
Who are your favorite authors?
An eclectic group of crime novelists ranging from Raymond Chandler, Ken Bruen and Chelsea Cain ("One Kick) to Robert B. Parker, Sara Paretsky, Ruth Rendell and Tony Hillerman. I like the Anns--Anne Lamott, Annie Proulx, Anne Tyler and Anna Quindlen. I also like the romantics, Jennifer Crusie and Janet Evanovich, and British writers P.G. Wodehouse and John Mortimer (Rumpole of the Bailey).
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Another chance to create, to build new worlds and live inside them.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Hiking, taking photos, reading, listening to classical music and NPR.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Recommendations from fellow members of my writers' groups.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
No, but I remember a wonderful professor who rekindled my interest in fiction to such a degree that I wrote a book-length collection of short stories. Now that's inspiration.
What is your writing process?
I try to write first thing in the morning and save marketing and social media for later in the day.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I remember my parents reading to me, and since then, I've grown fond of spoken-word audio.
How do you approach cover design?
After design the cover of my first nonfiction book, The Spirit of Swiftwater, I wisely took the advice of a seasoned indie author and hired a professional to design the covers of Peak Season, Mr. Mayhem and Riding with the Blues. The designers have captured the tone of the work better than I ever could.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Listening Woman by Tony Hillerman, Rumpole of the Bailey by John Mortimer, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse by Faith Sullivan and Road Rage by Ruth Rendell. Let's add a sixth: California Fire and Life by Don Winslow. All offer sensitive characters thrust into compelling situations.
What do you read for pleasure?
Standalone books like "Girl on the Train" and series novels by Parker, Hillerman, Rendell, Grimes and the inimitable P.G. Wodehouse. (Who can top Jeeves and Wooster?)
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have an iPad mini and a Kindle and I'm looking forward to buying an Android tablet in the near future.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Social media and word of mouth, although I will send review copies to journalists and bloggers.
Describe your desk
My dining room table.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, a once-rural area that attracted tourists to the clean mountain air. Perched on the border with New Jersey, it's now a bedroom community for New York. The area inspired a love of nature and a desire to experience the art and culture of the city.
What's the story behind your latest book?
After moving to Florida, I decided to revisit a lifelong interest in fiction. During a writing class, the instructor suggested we turn a short story into a news report and a news story into a piece of short fiction. As a working journalist, the first part felt easy. (I chose one of my favorites, a John Updike short story.) For the second part, I found an article about a fugitive financier that fascinated me and turned it into a short story. I liked the product and the process so much, I worked the character into a novel and created someone worthy of challenging him, CW McCoy, a woman who had renounced violence . . . under the fugitive kidnaps her family.

For the second novel, Mr. Mayhem, I channeled some of the anger at literary rejection and cynicism about public relations and marketing in general.
When did you first start writing?
In elementary school.
What's next for you?
The debut of Mr. Mayhem and the character of Brinker, a disgraced journalist doing PR for a funeral home and its trolley tour of murder sites in rural Pennsylvania. He hates the job, the place and himself. The tour business is dying. There aren’t enough murders to draw a crowd. An assassin would help. The audio version should be a killer.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Mark Coker's "Smashwords Style Guide" is an indispensable road map to ebook publishing. Let's hope his words of wisdom translate into sales.
Published 2015-11-22.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Curb Appeal: a CW McCoy Novel
Series: A CW McCoy Novel. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 66,300. Language: English. Published: June 7, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
In her third outing (after Peak Season and Tourist in Paradise), CW McCoy’s must unmask a serial killer who’s murdering real estate agents before the killer targets her.
Mr. Magic
Series: A Brinker Novel. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 58,740. Language: English. Published: October 1, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Hard-Boiled
A PR whiz must make the competition disappear or vanish himself.
Tourist in Paradise: a CW McCoy Novel
Series: A CW McCoy Novel. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 63,890. Language: English. Published: April 3, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
Former detective CW McCoy battles punks, politicians and police to determine who's killing tourists in Southwest Florida.
Mr. Mayhem
Series: A Brinker Novel. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 64,430. Language: American English. Published: November 27, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Hard-Boiled
A disgraced journalist teams with a doctor to euthanize terminally ill patients, but will the assassin they hire target them?
Riding with the Blues
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 10,330. Language: English. Published: August 10, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Social Science » Criminology, Nonfiction » Education and Study Guides » Decision-making & problem solving
From Ferguson to Baltimore to Hattiesburg, police officers face an unprecedented challenge—how to keep the law while maintaining public trust. Riding with the Blues explores the often hidden world behind the badge, taking readers beyond the front lines of law enforcement to see how officers feel about their work and the people they protect.
Peak Season
Series: A CW McCoy Novel. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 74,180. Language: English. Published: July 14, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
When a fugitive kidnaps her family, former police officer CW McCoy must decide which side of the law she’s on.