Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Interpreter: Author Interview: JCarson Black

Shah Sight
JCarson Black, Welcome. Let us congratulate you on your book being number one in Kindle paid store, you did tell us about how you felt when you saw it, we don't ask you about that, but tell us please what exactly in the book led it to the top, the story, any of your characters, some particular chapters, tell us what is it that people love about The Shop?

JCarson Black Well, I think that's complex, and depends on a lot of things. Foremost was the fact that my publisher, Thomas & Mercer, Amazon's thriller imprint, helped me a lot. They pushed the book.

JCarson Black I should give you a little history. The banner you have up is from THE SHOP as we originally put it up last March. I think one reason it did well is that thrillers are popular. I also used the 99 cent price point, which worked well back then. Before my husband and I put up THE SHOP, it had been "shopped" to around 35 editors in New York by my literary agent. No one wanted it. But putting the book up yielded great results, and that led to a sale of the book to Thomas & Mercer.
about an hour ago · Like

JCarson Black About the characters. There's the main character, Jolie Burke, who is a detective in a small sheriff's department on the Florida panhandle. When a local police chief is found dead in a motel room, Jolie is sent to investigate. She uncovers something much more ominous, which leads to the highest levels of government.

JCarson Black Shah, I don't know that there's much I personally can do to keep it in the Top 100. Books rise and fall, and there are always new books coming to push you out. Thomas & Mercer has much more power over this than I do--they know when to push a book and when to give it a rest (I think), because after a while you saturate the market. At least that's my theory.

JCarson Black I have never done a lot of "marketing" or even that many guest blogs--only if asked. I think amazon has the best sales tool in their also-boughts and bestseller lists, and their alogrithms do what their algorithms do. I think a good cover, a good book, a good product description, being in a popular genre, and tagging the book right for the market are probably the best ways to promote your book.

JCarson Black How did I feel when I saw THE SHOP was #1? Over the moon. I couldn't believe it--just kept staring at the screen shot. (Yes, I took a screen shot!)

Shah Sight Thank you so much. How much do you think the title of the book, The Shop, has played its role to this success, I find it fascinating myself?

JCarson Black I don't know! My mother hates the title. She says, "The Shop, what is that? Is it about a shopkeeper?" But it felt right. My husband (and publisher) Glenn and I came up with it. We got the idea for the story while watching cable news during dinner. Want to hear that story?

Shah Sight Sure, please carry on.

JCarson Black We were watching cable news and preparing dinner when Jon Mark Karr's plane came in to Boulder. Jon Mark Karr was suspected of killing JonBenet Ramsey--that was a huge thing over here, because the media loves that kind of story, and they'd been stirring hysteria about the death of the little beauty queen for a year or more. So when this guy claimed to have killed her, the press went nuts.

JCarson Black Karr was arrested in Amsterdam (there's a theory he needed to get out of there and here was his ticket out), and he regaled the U.S. Marshals over shrimp cocktail over his exploits in the sex trade and how he killed JonBenet. So when he was flown to Boulder, Colorado, in a jet hired by the sheriff's office there, the media was out in force. It was a big event--kind of like the Space Shuttle landing. We thought it was ludicrous, but then, on the spot, came up with the kernal of an idea for THE SHOP.

JCarson Black How does a government distract the media from shining a spotlight on its most serious transgressions and power grabs? By creating a diversion. When Michael Jackson died, everything else stopped. It was all Michael all the time. Before Michael Jackson died, there was the Iranian protests, which shook the world. A young woman named Neda became the face of the protests, when she died before our eyes. And then Michael Jackson's death came along, and you heard nothing--literally nothing--about Iran and the protests.

JCarson Black I find that disgusting. But intriguing... What is it about our culture that we make a cult of celebrity?

Shah Sight Thanks, Maggy, tell us please about the actual story in The Shop, how did you start with it, did you think it would be number one one day by then?

JCarson Black I set out to write the best book I could. I always do. But I'd lost my publisher a year or so before, and as I always did when I got dumped by a publisher, I got seriously to work and said I would raise my game. I know this book changed from the previous ones. I had the idea, and started with a celebrity murder in Aspen. In fact, we created a web page to support it, the "pre story" to the Aspen murders, which can be seen on my J. Carson Black author page. If you go there and click LIKE, there is extra content around the story of THE SHOP.

J. Carson Black Author Page
Page: 256 like this

JCarson Black I did have high hopes for this book, and so did Glenn. I knew I had to find the best agent I could get. We narrowed it down to 4 of the best possible agents for this particular kind of book--a big thriller. It's enormously difficult to get an agent like that, so we honed and honed our message. Finally we queried them. I was fortunate to have a friend who was with Gelfmann-Schneider, who recommended me. And finally, after 25 years in the business, If found the agent of my dreams. Her confidence in me added to my belief about the book. But the Big Six are hardly buying, and so two years later we went the ebook route.

Shah Sight By reading the reviews on Amazon, apart from a lot of five stars reviews, there are a few of one or two stars as well, what do you think of them, what do they say to you?

JCarson Black Some people think the story is too complicated. It may be, but there are others who don't think so. I think it comes down to personal taste. I start a lot of books, and read through few of them to the end. And I think, "This book is not for me." It might be wonderful for someone else. The important thing, as far as I'm concerned, is that I did my best with that book and I am proud of it. Not only that, but I like it. A lot.

Shah Sight Maggy, we are all proud of your achievement, it's a great feeling, tell us something about yourself please, where do you live and what else you do apart from writing?

JCarson Black I'm an Arizonan, born and bred. I live near the Mexican border, and my next book will, tangentially, deal with border issues. I'm married to my best friend and publisher. I like to hike in the desert and write. I'm a horse-racing fiend, and am looking forward to the prep races leading to the Kentucky Derby.

This has been an exciting year, and we are both proud of our little business, Breakaway Media. The best thing about all of it (although the money's good) is the relationships I've made with other authors and readers. That's given me more hours of happiness - getting to know so many great folks - than just about anything else. Thank you for having me today, Shah.

Shah Sight Maggy, it is a real pleasure for us, and thank you so much for being with us today on this talk show, anything you want to add you are welcome?

JCarson Black Just that I haven't had breakfast yet! Thank you, Shah - this has been fun.

Shah Sight If you want to buy The Shop, visit:

The Shop J. Carson Black - ShahSight Home Literary Book

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