Here's just a few things you should know about this terrific writer: He's been writing fiction since the age of six. His books have received rave reviews from such prestigious publications as The New York Times, L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune and Publishers Weekly. He's six-foot-seven, has a sharp sense of humor and is fortunate enough to have friends with last name like Connelly and Gerritsen. Also, he currently has two books in the top 10 of Amazon's bestseller list for Police Procedurals. If you haven't heard of him before, that is about to change very soon. Thank you Alan very much for your time.
1- Tell us about your previous publishing experiences and how the agreement with Thomas and Mercer came about?
I have always written the book I wanted to write, which in the world of publishing is probably not the best success strategy. My first two novels were classical whodunits (“No Sign of Murder” and “The Forest Prime Evil”) featuring a private investigator. Those novels came out about the same time everyone in publishing was saying the PI novel was dead. I then surprised everyone by doing a bit of an about-face and writing two comedic novels (“The Hotel Detective” and “The Fat Innkeeper”) loosely based on my day job as a hotel manager in La Jolla, California. Then I switched courses again and wrote two psychological thrillers (“Multiple Wounds” and “Shame”). As if I hadn’t hopped around in the genre enough, I came out with two suspense novels (“Exposure” and “Political Suicide”). It seemed every time I tried to expand my voice and writing muscles I had to find a new publisher. I went from Warner Books to Simon & Schuster to St. Martin’s. The reviews were great, and I was nominated for a number of writing awards, but I wasn’t having commercial success. When my literary agent broached the idea of submitting “Burning Man” to Thomas and Mercer, I was initially skeptical. I didn’t know if I’d be comfortable with the idea of a novel not coming out in hardcover. And when I talked with editorial and they told me that over ninety percent of my sales would come through Kindle, it did give me pause for thought. But then I said, “What the hell, the other way isn’t working.” I did a leap of faith and I’m glad I did. And it didn’t hurt that they promised to bring all three books out in audio, as well as let me revise and update “Multiple Wounds” and “Shame.”
2- You've just released a brand new book, "Burning Man," and have reissued "Multiple Wounds," and "Shame." Tell us about Burning Man and where you came up with the concept.
When I was told by Thomas and Mercer that they would be bringing out “Burning Man” on the same day they were reissuing “Multiple Wounds” and “Shame,” I thought they were crazy. All of the books were released on December 11, 2012, and so far it seems my publisher knows a lot more about marketing than I do. It’s great to be wrong and benefit from it.
I think I was attracted to writing “Burning Man” because of the unique partnership of cop and K-9. Before I wrote the first word I visualized Gideon and Sirius going through the crucible of fire. Both come out the other side, but both are forever changed. My favorite novels are usually those in which the hero is not the same person at the end of the book than he was in the beginning. In most of my books there is definitely the element of redemption.
3- You're such a locally known favorite in San Diego, (Alan's won 2 San Diego Book Awards) do you ever get recognized when you're out on the town? And what's that like?
I don’t think I’ll ever have to worry about the paparazzi, and as far as I know there are no literary groupies. One of the great things about my craft is that my time is spent writing for smart people. As a whole, readers are educated and bright. I’ve been told that one percent of the population buys over ninety percent of the fiction, so I am writing for a very specific audience that cares about the words, and not the progenitor of them. But I’m begging the question. Yes, there have been a few times in my life where I was recognized as a writer outside of San Diego County, but I think the only reason I was noticed on those occasions is that I am a head taller than most people, which is what jarred their memories. It’s always wonderful to be noticed by someone outside your family.
4- Are you active on social networks, and, in general, how much do you think that helps in promoting your books?
My 14-year-old daughter insisted that I go on Facebook. And then everyone told me I needed to have a Facebook professional page promoting my books (www.facebook.com/AlanRussellMysteryAuthor). Because I am not comfortable tooting my own horn, I hired a social media person. She does all my posts that say things like, “Buy Burning Man,” and, “Did you see Alan’s great review?” I like hearing from people, and enjoy responding to their comments, but I’m still not comfortable with the megaphone (if you go to my website you can see I have the category of “Propaganda” where I comment on that – www.alanrussell.net). I am glad my social media goddess is out promoting me, but sometimes I find myself blushing when I see something she’s posted. It almost feels like I am the one on the mountaintop shouting what a wonderful person I am. My two words to describe social media? Necessary evil.
5- How has the industry changed since your first book was released and where do you believe the majority of your fans will be reading your books five years from now? Paper, or digital?
When I talk about how publishing was when I first started writing, I feel as old as Methuselah. The changes have been enormous, as has been the fallout. I still like “physical” books. I like dog-earing pages. I like writing in the margins. When I was young, I was that kid with a flashlight reading a book under the covers hoping that my parents wouldn’t discover me. But nostalgia notwithstanding, the digital age is here. One of the things I like best about the Kindle is that books are affordable. I used to feel guilty when I would be signing my hardcover books that cost $27.95. That’s a lot of money, and most people can ill afford such a luxury. And if you’re an unknown writer to the reader, can you really expect them to make an expenditure of that kind? I like it that readers can take a chance on you and not be out of pocket much. Slowly but surely I am becoming a reluctant convert, but my home library will always have a place for actual books written by authors I consider special.