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.
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 ManOfLaBook.com 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