Author Q&A with Hy Conrad

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Hy Con­rad (web­site | Face­book) made the move from writ­ing TV shows such as  Monk to writ­ing mys­tery books. I recently read his book Rally ‘Round the Corpse which I truly enjoyed. I was lucky enough to be able to ask Mr. Con­rad a few ques­tions about his his­tory, writ­ing and social media.
He was kind enough to answer.

Author Q&A with Hy Conrad

Q. How long have you been a fan of puz­zles and mys­ter­ies? What got you started?
A. Like a lot of mys­tery lovers, I started in my teens with Sher­lock Holmes. The char­ac­ters and the atmos­phere made the sto­ries unique. But Arthur Conan Doyle also estab­lished many of the great set-ups, includ­ing the small, intrigu­ing mys­tery that blos­soms into some­thing impor­tant, e.g., “Why is a man, whose only qual­i­fi­ca­tion is his flam­ing red hair, hired to do use­less cler­i­cal work?” If you don’t know the answer, you’re not a real mys­tery fan.

I got my own start when a soft­ware devel­oper asked me what kind of project might work on an inter­ac­tive laserdisc. I answered, “Mys­ter­ies.” The result was the Mys­tery­Disc and the start of my life in the genre.

Q. Who do you think are the mas­ters of mys­ter­ies among authors?
A. I don’t read a lot of cur­rent mys­tery authors. After all these years of craft­ing puz­zles, I’m a rather harsh judge of the mechan­ics of a plot. Even when the book is great, I always have my work hat on and can never just relax and enjoy it.

In the past, I’ve been a fan of Rex Stout, Ngaio Marsh, John Dick­son Carr. All the old mas­ters. Steig Lars­son pre­sented me with a real conun­drum. His “Dragon Tat­too” books are incred­i­bly long and not well-crafted. But they drew you into this other world and you always came back for more.

Q. What is your writ­ing process like? Is writ­ing a mys­tery dif­fer­ent from writ­ing a novel?
A. Writ­ing is my job, so my process is pretty bor­ing: get up, walk the dogs, have my cof­fee with the NY Times, and sit down to the next thing in my in-box. As for the writ­ing, I start with a rough out­line and try to do at least 1000 words a day. I often know where I’m going to be in 15,000 words but have no idea where I’m going tomor­row. That makes it exciting.

Although I have writ­ten a humor book (“Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know”), I’ve never writ­ten a non-mystery novel. I assume a sus­pense novel would use many of the same skills, since both are heav­ily plot-driven. But a “seri­ous” novel seems much more intro­spec­tive. You’re try­ing to con­vey some­thing more per­sonal that just a good story. There’s much more room to suc­ceed – or to fail.

Q. Any positive/ neg­a­tive expe­ri­ences in book pro­mo­tions?
A. Lucky for me, I have a part­ner, Jeff John­son, who keeps track of all the online and radio pro­mo­tions much bet­ter than I ever could.

As for the in-person events, I think the low-point had to be dur­ing a tour for the humor book we wrote together. We were sent to a famous dog fair to sign and sell books, next to a stand for organic dog treats. We quickly dis­cov­ered that dog lovers are not nec­es­sar­ily great readers.

Q. What are the chal­lenges of book pro­mo­tion in the social media age?
A. Every­one talks about pro­mot­ing with social media and form­ing a fan base. But I think the biggest change today is that, with e-publishing and self-publishing, there are so many more books. And every­one is sud­denly a critic, on even foot­ing with every­one else who has a wi-fi sig­nal. It makes it harder to find any­thing really good. And it makes it harder for an author to stand out on his or her own merits.

Shame­less plug dis­guised as a ques­tion: Why do you love so much and often visit the web­site?
Wise Guy Answer:
I’ve been a huge fan of ManOfLa­Book ever since I started read­ing it – about eight a.m. this morn­ing. Since then I have vis­ited the site every sin­gle day and can’t imag­ine start­ing my day with­out it – unless I had a time machine that could take me back to before eight a.m.

No, in all hon­esty, it’s a great site, with a lot of depth and vari­ety. Congratulations!

Thanks to Mr. Con­rad for the kind words, the good answers and con­tin­ued suc­cess with the career.

Zohar — Man of la Book

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