Question Time 2015: Answers Part II

AliceAnn Steward asks:

As a Library Page, I was wondering if you often have to fix the placement of your books at any bookstore or library you browse. I often find your books shelved as if your last name was Gardner, rather than Gardiner.

Also, when you’re traveling around promoting your current book, do you find it extremely difficult to concentrate on your current WIP, or do you channel all your energy into one activity?

It’s great to hear from someone who appreciates alphabetization. I don’t often find my books misplaced because of the spelling of my name. If I do, it’s generally a sign that the entire shelf at the bookstore or library will be an alphabet free-for-all. (The Eason’s in Cork, Ireland, shelves books by the first letter in the author’s last name and no more. I asked whether they had a Faulkner novel, and they said, “It’ll be somewhere on the F shelf.”)

A more common issue is readers — and booksellers, and reviewers — thinking my name is spelled Gardner. That can lead to confusion. At a signing once, a reader handed me a copy of my novel The Shadow Tracer, explaining that she usually never bought hardcovers, but had enjoyed the paperback of The Neighbor she’d picked up at a second hand store, so was willing to give my new book a try. She thought I was Lisa Gardner. When I explained that I wasn’t, she nearly panicked — I could tell that she wanted to grab the book out of my hand and take it back for a refund, but was too embarrassed.

Later, I told Lisa Gardner that story. She laughed. She said that readers frequently confuse her with Lisa Jackson.

As for travel, I’ve trained myself to work on trains, planes, and in hotels. Deadlines provide terrific inspiration.

Question Time 2015: Answers Part I

You ask. I respond.


From Rob:

Several questions. What did it feel like to look at something you created as it sat on the book shelf?

Now that you are a seasoned writer, does opening the box with a new book have the same thrill as it did the first time?

At what point will you consider yourself a successful author?

The first time I saw one of my novels on a bookshelf — China Lake, at a Waterstones in London — I stood stunned. The light seemed intensely bright. I think I heard “Circle of Life,” from The Lion King, about how we “blinking, step into the sun.” I probably giggled. I wished my dad was still alive to see my dream come true. I realized that the bookstore was crowded with people who had no idea who I was, and who were buying Jane Austen and Dan Brown books. Who cared? It was fantastic.

That first novel — with the cover in the image above — still makes me smile.

After writing twelve published novels, it’s still a thrill to open a box and see the book itself for the first time. I love books for the worlds they contain: universes of imagination and enlightenment. But damn, I do love books as objects. I love the feel of the cover, and the text and color and atmosphere that it creates. I love the feel of the paper, and the smooth, enticing look of a great typeface and layout. Sure, the first time was special. But I never tire of it. And I always skim the book with a whiff of trepidation, because an overeager and grammar-obsessive proofreader once changed the last line of a chapter — in an intense first person action scene — to keep the sentence from ending with a preposition. The result was stiff and ridiculous and nearly caused me to throw that precious book across the room.

My editors now know that I insist on getting the final look at the manuscript before it goes to the printer.

I consider myself a successful author. How could I not? I’ve had a dozen books published, by the likes of Penguin, Random House, HarperCollins, Hodder & Stoughton. My books are translated into more than twenty languages. My writing has paid the rent and put food on the table. China Lake won an Edgar Award.

That’s not to say that I can’t do better. World domination would be nice. But to ignore the success my novels have already had would be neurotic and ungrateful. I am one of the luckiest people in the world.

Congrats Susan Daly — friend of the blog & published mystery author

From the earliest days of Lying for a Living, Susan Daly has been a loyal reader and wonderful commenter. She’s the person who inadvertently created the blog’s Grammar Geeks Unit. And she won my first ever contest, by coming up with my favorite verb name. UnknownHer prize was to become a character in my novel The Dirty Secrets Club — a television reporter with a past. Her character had a history as a porn star who dressed up as a nun. Susan took it with good grace. As for what happens to her character… sorry, no spoilers.

Susan has been writing for a while, and now she has joined the ranks of published mystery authors. She has a short story in The Whole She-bang 2, an anthology of stories published by Sisters in Crime Canada.

From the book’s page on

This is the second collection of mystery stories by Canadian members of Sisters in Crime… The stories have a variety of characters: shop owners, children, a thief, vengeful women, unhappy wives, a poet, police officers of both sexes and more… The stories are set mostly in Canada, in a wide variety of locations, including British Columbia, Northern Ontario, Alberta and Quebec!

Of course it’s also available from Amazon Canada.

Congratulations, Ms. Daly. It’s wonderful to share shelf space with you.

Question Time 2015

As I usually do around this time of year, I’m opening the blog to your questions. Ask me anything — about my books, writing, publishing, how to train an army of monkeys to infiltrate the White House — whatever’s on your mind.

I’ll answer to the best of my ability.

Things for writers to do during a blizzard


I’m in Austin, where it’s a cool and sunny winter day. But two of my kids are under the storm clouds in the photo above. So are tens of millions of other people, but mostly my kids, so: Sweetie, don’t forget your sweater!

Back to my point. If you’re a writer — or you’ve always wanted a chance to get to work on your writing — and you’re snowed in by this storm, here are some activities for you.

  1. Back up your work. On your computer, on an external hard drive or memory stick, on a cloud server that is not in the blizzard zone, and possibly to a site on another continent.
  2. Print your work in progress. Sharpen pencils. Put fresh batteries in the flashlight. Get ready to work on paper if the power goes out.
  3. Write scenes set in a blizzard. Use what’s outside the window as research. Write what you know.
  4. Write scenes set on an equatorial island. Sit around swearing, because if you’d booked that tropical vacation, you could set this scene on Bali and write what you know.
  5. Reread Jack London’s “To Build a Fire.”
  6. Spend the day browsing TV Tropes. When else will you have the excuse?
  7. Finally watch Snowpiercer. Wonder if it’s time to build that train to save a remnant of humanity. Then watch again and wonder at how expertly such a crazy dystopian sci fi film is put together.

Hunker down, everybody.

How to treat writers, and readers

Recently I’ve read some articles on supposed do’s and don’ts for readers, telling them how they should treat writers. (Among these: do support authors by writing positive customer reviews; don’t criticize or correct authors when interacting online. Unsurprisingly, these articles tend to be written by writers.) Here’s what I think.

For readers: how to treat writers

DO: Buy books. Borrow books. Check them out of the library. Read them. Share them.

DON’T: Steal an author’s work.

That’s it.

If readers feel inspired to talk about a book, or to leave customer reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, that’s wonderful. Authors truly appreciate it. But for a reader to go that extra mile is a generous gesture, not an obligation.

For writers: how to treat readers

DON’T: Argue with readers over their opinion of your work.

DO: Treat readers with respect. Honor them. Do that by writing the best damn books you can. Learn your craft. Study language and story and your deepest heart. Pour that onto the page. Polish your work until it shines like an exploding star.

Then, if someone tells you they’ve read your work, say thank you.

Everything else falls under the Golden Rule. Readers and writers: treat each other the way you’d like to be treated.

The 2015 Edgar Award nominations

The nominees for the 2015 Edgars have just been announced. I always get excited about the Edgar nominations, because they’re a huge deal for mystery authors, and because, well.

This year I am especially excited by the nominations because I was a judge for the Best Paperback Original. It was an honor and a privilege to read the submissions, and I’m delighted by the strong slate in the category.

Here’s the press release from Mystery Writers of America, announcing the nominees in all categories. (And, in the case of the Grand Master, Raven Award, and Ellery Queen Award, the winners.)

Congratulations to every one of them!

Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce, as we celebrate the 206th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, the Nominees for the 2015 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2014. The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners at our 69th Gala Banquet, Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.


This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Wolf by Mo Hayder (Grove/Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster – Scribner)
The Final Silence by Stuart Neville (Soho Press)
Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown)
Coptown by Karin Slaughter (Penguin Randomhouse – Ballantine Books)


Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman (W.W. Norton)
Invisible City by Julia Dahl (Minotaur Books)
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)
Bad Country by C.B. McKenzie (Minotaur Books – A Thomas Dunne Book)
Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh (Crown Publishers)
Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver (Minotaur Books – A Thomas Dunne Book)


The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani (Penguin Randomhouse – Penguin Books)
Stay With Me by Alison Gaylin (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Barkeep by William Lashner (Amazon Publishing – Thomas and Mercer)
The Day She Died by Catriona McPherson (Llewellyn Worldwide – Midnight Ink)
The Gone Dead Train by Lisa Turner (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters (Quirk Books)


Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America by Kevin Cook (W.W. Norton)
The Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Other Side: A Memoir by Lacy M. Johnson (Tin House Books)
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William Mann (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)
The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder that Shook the Nation by Harold Schechter (Amazon Publishing – New Harvest)


The Figure of the Detective: A Literary History and Analysis by Charles Brownson (McFarland & Company)
James Ellroy: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction by Jim Mancall (Oxford University Press)
Kiss the Blood Off My Hands: Classic Film Noir by Robert Miklitsch (University of Illinois Press)
Judges & Justice & Lawyers & Law: Exploring the Legal Dimensions of Fiction and Film by Francis M. Nevins (Perfect Crime Books)
Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe by J.W. Ocker (W.W. Norton – Countryman Press)


“The Snow Angel” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Doug Allyn (Dell Magazines)
“200 Feet” – Strand Magazine by John Floyd (The Strand)
“What Do You Do?” – Rogues by Gillian Flynn (Penguin Randomhouse Publishing – Ballantine Books)
“Red Eye” – Faceoff by Dennis Lehane vs. Michael Connelly (Simon & Schuster)
“Teddy” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Brian Tobin (Dell Magazines)


Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Greenglass House by Kate Milford (Clarion Books – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)
Nick and Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith (Quirk Books)
Saving Kabul Corner by N.H. Senzai (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)
Eddie Red, Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)


The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano (Penguin Young Readers Group – Kathy Dawson Books)
Fake ID by Lamar Giles (HarperCollins Children’s Books – Amistad)
The Art of Secrets by James Klise (Algonquin Young Readers)
The Prince of Venice Beach by Blake Nelson (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)


“The Empty Hearse” – Sherlock, Teleplay by Mark Gatiss (Hartswood Films/Masterpiece)
“Unfinished Business” – Blue Bloods, Teleplay by Siobhan Byrne O’Connor (CBS)
“Episode 1” – Happy Valley, Teleplay by Sally Wainwright (Netflix)
“Dream Baby Dream” – The Killing, Teleplay by Sean Whitesell (Netflix)
“Episode 6” – The Game, Teleplay by Toby Whithouse (BBC America)


“Getaway Girl” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine By Zoë Z. Dean (Dell Magazines)


Lois Duncan
James Ellroy


Ruth & Jon Jordan, Crimespree Magazine
Kathryn Kennison, Magna Cum Murder


Charles Ardai, Editor & Founder, Hard Case Crime

* * * * * *

(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Tuesday, April 28, 2015)

A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton (Minotaur Books)
The Stranger You Know by Jane Casey (Minotaur Books)
Invisible City by Julia Dahl (Minotaur Books)
Summer of the Dead by Julia Keller (Minotaur Books)
The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)