Friday, November 20, 2009

Author Interview with DEBBI MACK

Debbi is the owner of Mack Research and Writing, providing articles, reports, case studies, white papers and otherwise assisting businesses and organizations with communications needs. She has also done research for legal and reference publishers and attorneys. Debbi is also a mystery author, whose published work includes a novel, Identity Crisis, a hardboiled mystery featuring lawyer/sleuth Stephanie Ann "Sam" McRae, and a short story in Chesapeake Crimes I, an anthology written and edited by members of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

In addition to writing fiction, your professional background includes research and writing corporate communications, web content, and white papers. Tell us how you manage to do it all.

Two words: time management. (Okay, maybe three words, since diligence helps, too.) I make a to-do list every day in advance, schedule the time for doing things (literally) on my calendar and do my best to stick to it. It's a bit rigorous, but it's also quite freeing, really. Because once you've accounted for the time it takes to do something, you just look at your schedule and try to follow it. I won't say I always succeed, but I do a pretty good job most of the time.

As for the variety of work, I guess I'm just the kind of person who enjoys doing different things. I enjoy the challenge of exercising different types of communications skills. While I'd like to focus on one particular area at some point, I'm still happy as a generalist. Plus, flexibility is an essential trait for a freelance writer. Because you never know where your next assignment is going to come from.

How long have you been writing? In what genres do you write?

I've been writing fiction for close to 15 years. I wrote some fiction in high school and college, but not with serious intent to publish my work. So, in terms of professional writing, I've been at it about 15 years. My fiction was first published in 2004.

I've written hard-boiled mysteries (whodunnits), noir, a humorous crime caper and I'm working on a thriller. I've also written the first draft of a feature film script (a kind of hardboiled police procedural in which federal agents investigate the apparent reappearance of a serial killer, thought to have died), and the pilot episode for a drama/suspense TV series--both of which are sitting in the proverbial drawer.

Tell us about the short stories that will be published in early 2010.

CHESAPEAKE CRIMES 4 is a short story anthology assembled and edited by members of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime. The anthology's theme is "They Had It Coming." The stories were picked from blind submissions, by the editorial board made up of members Erin Bush, Megan Plyler, and Mary Augusta Thomas. Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley are the coordinating editors for the project. The anthology will be published by Wildside Press in March 2010. My contribution to the book is a story called "A Woman Who Thinks"--a story about a psychologist whose professional judgment proves to be a bit less than it should be.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

That's a hard question to answer because there've been so many challenges. I guess the biggest has been overcoming the setback of having my first novel go out-of-print within a year after its release, due to my publisher's financial problems. The decision to reissue it through Lulu and as an e-book have led many people to assume I'm an "indie author," which is not the case. It's an erroneous perception that I frequently face, and I think it may affect sales, since some people won't buy books by indie authors. So, I try to correct people on that point, whenever I can.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.

My most recently published book is IDENTITY CRISIS, a hardboiled mystery in which Maryland attorney Stephanie Ann "Sam" McRae gets in over her head when her client is suspected of murdering her ex-boyfriend and possibly committing identity theft (against Sam and others). The client goes missing and when Sam looks for her, it draws unwanted attention from the Mob, placing her and her client in peril. Readers tell me they find it fast-paced, complex and suspenseful. They also find Sam to be a likeable character. This is what I hear, anyway.

Right now, the book is available online from at Eventually, the book is supposed to be available on and, though for some reason, it's taking an extremely long time for this to happen. Hopefully, it will be on Amazon and the other online bookselling sites soon. Since Lulu distributes books through Ingram, once it's in the distribution system (which, again, is taking longer than it should), people will be able to order it at any bookstore, too.

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

I'm working on a thriller now, but I have two other Sam McRae stories (plus a stand-alone humorous crime caper) written. As to when they'll be available, that'll depend on how soon I can find a new publisher. Frankly, I'm hoping sales of IDENTITY CRISIS will help me achieve that end.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

Never give up. There are lots of great tips I can offer. But, if you let rejections get you down, you'll never last in this business. And, if you think rejection hurts, try a bad review. You really need to develop a tough hide to criticism and keep going no matter what.

Are you a member of any writer’s organizations? Why? Why not?

I'm in the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Private Eye Writers of America, the Maryland Writers Association, the Washington Independent Writers and the National Writers Union. Why? First, I really can't say enough about how invaluable Sisters in Crime has been, in getting my work published and getting marketing and promotional support. The local chapter has been an excellent resource and its members are more than just writing peers; they're friends. SinC also has the laudable mission of promoting women mystery authors. The Chesapeake Crimes Chapter of SinC is responsible for creating two anthologies that include my short stories; the first anthology, CHESAPEAKE CRIMES, started my fiction writing career and the second, CHESAPEAKE CRIMES 4, is helping to sustain it. The Mystery Writers of America is considered the premiere mystery writers organization in the country. The MWA Mid-Atlantic Chapter holds meetings and conferences (at which I've met some great agents). The Private Eye Writers of America celebrates one of my favorite mystery subgenres. (My protagonist, Sam McRae, is an attorney, but the story is about her investigation, not her court appearances. So, essentially, it's an attorney-as-PI novel.) The rest of the organizations have offered a combination of benefits ranging from promotional support and book selling opportunities to conferences and networking events.

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.

I'm hoping to do a panel book signing at Barnes & Noble in Annapolis in January (no firm date set yet). I've also applied to attend the Virginia Festival of the Book, which takes place from March 18 - 22, 2009. (My application must be approved, and I should know if it is by the end of the year.) I also plan to participate at the Book Lover's Cafe during the weekend of March 13 - 14, 2009 at the Women's Expo at the Catonsville Community College of Baltimore. I'll be attending (and, hopefully, participating on a panel at) the Malice Domestic conference in Arlington, VA, from April 30 to May 2, 2009.

Here’s your opportunity to tell us anything else you care to share.

Writing fiction involves a marriage of well-crafted storytelling and inspiration. If you want to write, read everything you can (particularly in the genre you'd like to write) and learn story structure. Then, sit down and start writing. Set aside time on a regular basis to do this. Even if you can only write one page each day, it's better than nothing. The main thing is to do it regularly and stick with it. Plus, if you want to have a writing career, you have to be prepared to include marketing and promotion in your skill set. Doing things like blogging, networking, using social media, going to conferences and events, meeting everyone you can in the business--that's all part of it. And the earlier you get out there and start meeting people, the better.

Don't write to trends. Write about things that excite and interest you. By the time a trend has been identified, it's usually too late to jump on board, especially given how long it usually takes to find a publisher and actually get a book published. When you write about something that interests you, that enthusiasm will tend to come through in your writing and make it more engaging to readers.

Don't write with the goal of becoming rich. Chances are you won't. Most authors can't quit their day jobs. Write because you love it so much, you can't imagine not writing. For me, it's like a continual learning process. With each project, I try to set the bar a little higher for myself. I feel like no matter how well you do in this business, it's always about challenging yourself to do better. So, forgive me if this sounds like a cliche, but for me writing is as much about the journey as the destination.

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):

My Web site is
I have several blogs:
Debbi Mack: My Life on the Mid-List: (my author blog)
The Book Grrl: (book reviews and news)
Writing for Hire: (about the business side of writing)
Green Reality Check: (explores credibility issues related to green and sustainability claims)
Random & Sundry Things: (miscellaneous stuff of interest to me--from politics to movies to…pretty much anything :))

1 comment:

  1. Linda: Great interview as always. Your questions are always different, unusual and geared to your guests.
    Debbi: Enjoyed your answers. I'm sorry we only got to meet for a few seconds at Bouchercon. I just started your book and I'm having difficulty putting it down. Will have to use your time management scheudule to keep me on NANOs schedule and my reading in. My daughter read Identity Crisis and loved it. You will find a publisher soon.
    W.S. Gager
    A Case of Infatuation - now available