… agents and editors kept telling me that they couldn’t sell my book (Lying in Judgment) because they couldn’t sell a book whose protagonist was essentially the bad guy. I knew the book could sell – but they did convince me that they weren’t the ones to do it.
Gary Corbin – 2 October 2017
The Back Flap
He’s a good man with a dark secret. She knows it, and needs a man killed.
In this sequel to award-winning courtroom thriller Lying in Judgment, Peter Robertson must choose between two horrible options. Both involve death and revenge.
About the book
What is the book about?
“He’s a good man with a dark secret. She knows it, and needs a man killed.”
In Lying in Vengeance, the sequel to my award-winning debut courtroom thriller Lying in Judgment (release date September 13, 2017), Peter Robertson must choose between two horrible options. Both involve death and revenge.
Peter Robertson, 33, once fought a man he believed to be his wife’s lover on a remote forested road and left him to die. Six months later, he served on the jury that freed a wrongfully accused man—and let his own secret slip to a beautiful but manipulative fellow juror, Christine Nielsen.
Two months later, Christine wakes him in the middle of the night with a threat: kill Kyle, the man who stalks and abuses her, or have his own murderous past exposed.
Peter pretends to go along as he seeks another, less violent solution, and his best friend Frankie threatens to expose the conspiracy to the police. When Kyle kidnaps her at gunpoint, Peter’s daring rescue gives him the opportunity to fulfill her request.
The next morning, Kyle turns up dead, and the police arrest Frankie, of all people. Peter knows he’s innocent, but can he prove it without directing the finger of blame at himself—for both murders?
When did you start writing the book?
After the publication of my debut novel in March 2016, Lying in Judgment, readers often asked me, “What happens to Peter and Christine after the trial? Do they get together? Does he get away with it?” and so on. In thinking about how to answer those questions, the story for Lying in Vengeance came to me.
How long did it take you to write it?
About 18 months in total. About a year to do initial drafts and incorporate feedback from my critique group, then six months to get beta readers, edit, proof, etc.
Where did you get the idea from?
My readers – see above.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
The complexity of the plot required taking some care with the details of how to reveal clues —and red herrings, of course—in the proper order to as to keep the story moving without giving away too much too early. That took several attempts and required that I massaged certain sections repeatedly to ensure consistency while maintaining a sense of intrigue and mystery.
What came easily?
Dialog. As an actor, playwright, and improviser, characters’ quirks, motivations, and voices tend to come most easily to me.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
I believe all writers “borrow” from the real world they know. Bits and pieces of “real people” sneak into my fiction all the time. But with one exception, no one is a “real world person.” That exception: I rewarded a randomly selected person who answered one of my website surveys with the right to have a character be named after him. He’s quite proud of it, apparently.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
Scott Turow and Philip Margolin are two mystery/thriller writers that have influenced me the most. They write character-driven mysteries with strong narrative voices and don’t let the technical aspects take over the story. Barbara Kingsolver is another great writer whose character voices are a strong inspiration.
Do you have a target reader?
Adults who love mysteries and thrillers and look for good writing and strong characters over cheap thrills or gratuitous sex and violence. (I don’t shy away from sex and violence but I don’t want them to be the reason people read my work.) Readers who love to support new indie authors also have a special place in my heart.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
I write longhand first — always. Even so, I develop the main premise and principal conflicts first, then develop detailed character outlines — even biographies — so that I know everything about them before I immerse them into scenes. I know what they look like, what car they drive, where they went to school, how many siblings, their fears, their obsessions, their quirks. Then when I actually draft scenes, it’s easy to “hear” them speak and “see” them take action, and I’m less likely to make them do something out of character. Despite all that, the story can take on a life of its own as I write, usually because the characters begin to take over a bit. New characters emerge unbidden at times — but only in novels, never in plays.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
I sketch the story outline in a “top down” manner, with the major “acts” and plot points first, then develop scene structures and beats. Typically, each scene gets a one-sentence summary, and I try to develop the whole outline before I begin. But sometimes a story begins as a morning freewrite (like The Mountain Man’s Dog) that I’ll later flag for development; other times it comes to me as I’m doing something else, and I’ll jot down a quick note to return to later.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
I edit a bit as I type from longhand into Scrivener or Word, but only to fix obvious errors. I take several edit passes once I have a draft: first to get it ready for my critique group to review, then to incorporate their story feedback, then a few more times to fix plot holes and technical writing issues, then again after my beta readers give feedback. After that I hand it off to the pros.
Did you hire a professional editor?
Yes – two, actually. One for line/copy-editing, and one for a final proofread before I go to print.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
No, I find that too distracting. I get too into the music when it’s playing!
Did you submit your work to Agents?
I first tried the traditional publishing route. I actually finished my first draft at noon on August 4, 2005. A few hours later I attended my first “pitch practice” session at a Willamette Writers Conference and wowed the room with my pitch. Based on the reaction from agents and fellow writers, I thought I was on a fast track to best-seller success! Dozens of rejected queries later, I started getting curious about self-publishing.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
At first it was because agents and editors kept telling me that they couldn’t sell my book (Lying in Judgment) because they couldn’t sell a book whose protagonist was essentially the bad guy. I knew the book could sell – but they did convince me that they weren’t the ones to do it.
So, I took some workshops at writers conferences, asked advice from fellow writers, and undertook some of my own research on options, tools, costs, and obstacles to reassure myself that it was doable. I learned from fellow writers, I read and applied advice from a bazillion books on the subject, and explored the various self-pub sites. Still I was undecided.
Then one morning I woke up and realized that if my life ended that day, I’d die with only one regret: that I never got my books published. That day I made the commitment to myself to get it done. I compared options, downloaded some tools, got some recommendations for cover artists, editing, etc., and finally, I just gave it a whirl. I’m not sure I’ve really “won” the battle yet, but I’m published now, so there’s that. two months later, my first book went on sale on Amazon.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
I have an amazing cover designer, Steven Novak, and I can’t imagine using anyone else.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
I have an extensive and ambitious marketing plan that includes the usual channels like Amazon, Nook, etc., as well as extensive social and traditional online media, monthly newsletters, direct sales and commission sales with brick and mortar stores, bookstore tours, giveaway promotions, and the occasional advertisement. If only I had time to do everything in my plan.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Use the best available tools out there, but also know your limitations, and don’t skimp on getting professionals on your team like editors and cover designers. Research and compare the publishers, and choose the one that works best for you. Begin marketing long before you’ve finished writing the book.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I’m the seventh of nine baby boom children (six sisters, two brothers), all born within eleven years from first to last. After spending the first sixteen years of my life in a small mill town with a funny name (Agawam) in Massachusetts, my family moved to the New Orleans, Louisiana area, and I graduated from a Catholic school, having gone there only one year. I earned a B.A. in political science and economics from LSU, then a Ph.D. from Indiana University. After nine years in Washington, DC, I moved to the Pacific Northwest. I share dog-raising duties for a rambunctious Golden Retriever with my girlfriend and partner, Renee, in another small mill town – Camas, Washington – and I love it here.
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’ve done a lot of things. Writing is my third or fourth career, although it’s something I’ve done all of my life. I split my writing time between novels and playwriting, and several of my plays have been produced to critical acclaim in the Portland area. I’ve also done farming, construction, restaurant work, information technology, and organizational development consulting. Hopefully I won’t need any new careers!
I love to cook—food is a passion—and I am a homebrewer, I roast my own coffee, and even try to grow my own vegetables (although I’m not a great gardener). I love to ski, so Mt. Hood is my friend, and my partner and I escape to the Oregon coast whenever we can.
What are you working on now?
I’m about 1/3 done with my next novel, The Mountain Man’s Badge, the third book in my Mountain Man Mysteries series. In this story, the main character, Lehigh, has gotten drafted to serve as sheriff, leading a law enforcement agency that has been trying to put him in jail repeatedly over the past year. Right out of the gate, he has to investigate a murder — and a lot of people want to see him fail…including some surprising people responsible for the murder.
I’m also working on a full-length stage play called Voodoo Snowball, a comedy about an estranged son coming to terms with the impending loss of his crusty old father to cancer. Yes, I said comedy! Voodoo Snowball will be stage-read on January 25 at Literary Arts and January 26 at Hipbone Studios, both in Portland, as part of the 2018 Fertile Ground Festival of New Works.
End of Interview: