Friday, March 30, 2012

Weekend Guest: Archer Mayor

John here. This week, it is my pleasure to welcome Archer Mayor to Type M for Murder.

Archer is the 2004 winner of the New England Booksellers Association Award for best fiction—the first time a writer of crime literature has been so honored. His highly acclaimed, Vermont-based series, totaling 22 novels, features police officer Joe Gunther. The most recent Gunther novel Tag Man (Minotaur, 2011) hit the New York Times best-seller list, a first for Archer.

The Gunther books are one of the most enduring and critically acclaimed police procedural series written today. Mayor is a death investigator for Vermont's Chief Medical Examiner, a detective for the Windham County Sheriff's Department, and has 15 years of experience as a volunteer EMT/firefighter. This experience surfaces in Mayor’s novels, as he integrates actual police methodology with intricately detailed plots. The New York Times has deemed his work “dazzling,” and Booklist declares the Gunther books “among the best cop stories being written today.” Likewise, the Chicago Tribune describes the series “the best police procedurals being written in America.”

His first Gunther novel, Open Season, is available for free on Kindle. Enjoy his post below.

I’ve been at this game since 1975, when I was an editor at the University Press and scribbling my first novel (never published, thank goodness) on a yellow legal pad. Before that was a stint in the newspaper trade, including many nights standing before a layout table, attaching fragments of articles coated with bee’s wax on a master layout of the paper – the typesetter’s retriever sleeping underfoot.

So what? Only that, to put it lightly, times have changed. From hoping to sell a book to a publisher and then returning to life as an editor, or photographer, or who-knows-what (as those same publishers then turned around and struggled to sell to bookstores across the map,) we have entered a new world. Now, it is all about the author (still otherwise employed) selling directly to the audience via web sites, blogs, tweets, and emailed newsletters. Where it used to be the bestseller list, now it’s that elusive “Buzz.”

The consistency throughout, however?—that comment I made about employment as a writer. It has been my discovery—22 novels and 2 history books later—that the publishing industry, made up of so many parts (now largely in disarray,) has, for the last half century, proceeded on the assumption that the producer of its raw material—the writer—should be an amateur, happy to be paid whatever is available. My own agent, years ago, once countered a complaint about struggling to make ends meet in this profession with the advice, “Get a job.”

Truer words were rarely uttered. From some 60,000 annually published American books several years ago, we are now facing anywhere up to and exceeding a million titles—self-published, mainstream published, hardback, paper, virtual, edited, and totally raw. All sizes, shapes, formats, and qualities. The gatekeepers are increasingly the individual readers, and less and less the editors and reviewers that once gave us all a sense of product value.

This is just the way it is. Doesn’t mean the end of the world; doesn’t mean that quality is going to Hell in a hand basket. To me, perhaps paradoxically given all of the above, it simply represents an opportunity for writers to finally represent themselves directly to those whose interest in writing will keep us all alive—readers.

That and my three full-time jobs, of course.

[I’ve been writing full time for 32 years. The other two jobs alluded to? I’m also a detective with the Windham County Sheriff’s Dept, permanently assigned to a child sex crimes unit, and a death investigator for the state medical examiner. In addition to writing novels for St. Martins/Minotaur, several years ago, I also repossessed 14 of my earliest Joe Gunther titles and now publish them myself, available through stores and my website, I have taken advantage of this good fortune to step into the world of e-books as well. Furthermore, I am exploring a cooperative venture with the Vermont Tourism Department, a Joe Gunther game with Champlain College, and entertaining some audio ideas, too. I also have the series being shopped around Hollywood by a couple of hopeful producers at the moment. The idea, echoing my hopeful closing statement above, is to never sit still and to see my “product” as endlessly adaptable to other formats and avenues.]


Liz said...

Have enjoyed this series.

academia-research said...
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