Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Michele Gagnon interview

by Jean Henry Mead

Michelle Gagnon is a former modern dancer, dog walker, bartender, freelance journalist, personal trainer, model, and Russian supper club performer. Her parents were happy when she gave all that up to become a crime fiction writer.

Michele, when did you conceive Boneyard, your chilling police procedural about two dueling serial killers? And how long did it take to research and write the novel?

I first came up with the idea for Boneyard while researching Ted Bundy. One of the cops called the field where he dumped his victims "a boneyard,” and the title was born. Then I was reading Steve Eggers’s book on serial killers, and he discussed the reasons why they frequently operated unfettered for years, including the “missing missing” and “linkage blindness.” I thought all of that was fascinating, especially since my cop friends often complain about jurisdictional conflicts when a case crosses county or state boundaries. Plus it’s sad but true that some victims’ deaths aren’t investigated as intensively as others, despite how things are portrayed on television.

Most women don't write police procedurals. Why did you decide on the genre?

I didn’t, really. I just write about whatever interests me, so each book has gone in a very different direction. I did make the decision to create an FBI agent heroine, mainly because I couldn’t see myself writing an amateur sleuth. There are people who do that, and do it well, but I figured at some point I’d hit a situation where any sane layperson would simply call 911, effectively handing over the case. I wanted a heroine who had a reason to be involved from start to finish, and who possessed the flexibility to travel to different parts of the country.

My next book is actually more of a true thriller in the Lee Child vein, since it involves a domestic dirty bomb plot by an anti-immigration hate group.

Your first book, The Tunnels, has been described as “Silence of the Lamb meets the wicker man.” Tell us about the book.

It’s about a series of ritualized murders in the abandoned tunnel system beneath a college campus. The Tunnels storyline combines elements of Norse mythology, neo-paganism, and ivory tower politics. Lots of fun research involved with that one.

Which author most influenced your own work? And who are you reading most often now?

I can never pinpoint any one writer who influenced my work. I tend to go on reading jags. Recently I read the first two books written by Tana French, Chelsea Cain, and Brent Ghelfi. Can't wait for the third in each series.

What’s your writing schedule like and do you still have a day job?

I’m fortunate that this is now more or less my full time job. That being said, I tend to spend the morning handling emails and all the minutiae of both life and my writing career, and afternoons writing.

You’ve had a variety of jobs. Have any of them crept into your novels? Not so far, although I look forward to the day when a bartending, dogwalking, Russian supper club performer waltzes on to the page.

What’s the best way to promote your books?

If you know, send me an email and I’ll split all future proceeds with you fifty-fifty. That’s the problem with marketing--half of it works, you just never know which half. So I always feel as though many of my marketing dollars are wasted, and it’s hard to say which were effective. Was it the blog tour? The sample chapters? Darned if I know.

How do you feel about the publishing downturn? What do you think publishers should do to prevent going the way of newspaper failures?

I think we need a “Got Books?” campaign along the lines of the "Got Milk?" one. If publishers banded together to remind people that books provide the most bang for your money in terms of entertainment, we might see those numbers hold steady, or even grow. I also think they need to figure out a way to capitalize on ebooks, incorporating them in with the other formats in a way that makes sense. The new Harper imprint seems like a good start toward doing just that.

What do you like most about writing and what really turns you off?

I love everything about writing, the only thing that surprised me was that after you sell a manuscript, subsequently much of your time is devoted to marketing it. I’d prefer to sit in a room hammering away at a keyboard. Trying to figure out the vagaries of photoshop in order to design bookmarks is always so frustrating.

Anything else you’d like to comment on?

The third book in the series, The Gatekeeper, will be released in November 2009. I’ll have more information and contests posting on my website soon.

Michele's webpage: http://www.michellegagnon.com
and blog site: http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com

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