Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Interview with Randy Susan Meyers

Last  March I interviewed author Randy Susan Meyers. I had a great response to what turned out to be Randy's first interview. Now that her novel, The Murderer's Daughters, has been out for a few months, I thought it would be fun to conduct a follow-up interview and find out how things are going for Randy since the book came out. And Randy was gracious enough to agree.

Unreliable Narrator: This past January your first novel, The Murderer’s Daughters, was published in hardcover by St. Martin’s Press to excellent reviews. Unreliable Narrator interviewed you in March of ‘09, after the manuscript sold but before publication. At that time you said, “I am convinced, that for me, the less drama in my life, the more drama in my fiction.” Has your drama quotient changed, for better or worse, since the book came out?

Randy Susan Meyers: My life has certainly been busier and I guess a bit more dramatic, but all the drama, thank goodness, has been on the professional side, like waiting for reviews and the like. It’s been going wonderfully. This is drama I welcome and I am feeling truly blessed.

UN: For me, it was a great experience to critique parts of your manuscript in workshops at Grub Street, and then read the published version. I noticed at least one difference in the finished book, namely the scene where the father murders the mother. It seemed toned down, less violent and bloody, than in earlier iterations. Was this your choice or your editors’? Or, am I imagining things?

RSM: Hmm. That must have been my choice, because the few things my editor requested that I change stand out so large in my mind that I remember each one. It’s a funny thing, the editorial relationship. First, the changes requested get your back way up. What! Change that brilliant decision that I probably made on one hour of sleep?

Then, you let the editor’s ideas settle and slowly you see the wisdom and merit. My editor was great; her editing was light and smart. Many things she suggested I accepted, others I didn’t. We had a solid working relationship.

I imagine if I toned that first scene down, it was because I wanted the book to be about Lulu and Merry’s life, not about the murder or their father. And I think I also realized that when going through a traumatic experience as Lulu and Merry did, only very key moments would stand out and much of the painful scenes would be buried.

UN: Book tours, at least subsidized by publishers, are becoming rarer, especially for first-time novelists. Did St. Martin’s send you out, or did you book readings, etc., on your own?

RSM: I was not sent on a book tour, per se. St. Martin’s certainly did arrange for some speaking and readings—though they were more attuned to getting the books out to online sites and blogs (which was smart) than to my reading in bookstores. Debut authors do not equal big crowds was their belief, and I imagine they are correct. It certainly is a cost-benefit-analysis world out there. Other things they concentrated on, which were so important, were print reviews and the all-important Amazon Vines early reviewers program.

I did an enormous amount on my own. A wise agent, when speaking last year at The Muse and The Marketplace, said something that truly imprinted on me: No one will ever care as much about your book as you do. Not your agent, not your editor, not your publicist. No one. That’s true. I dove into promoting my book because I believe in it and I very much want people to read it.

UN: You’re great at blogging, keeping your author website fresh, tweeting, and facebook. I know you started doing these things, and more I’m probably not aware of, well before the book came out. How important have these social media tools been to the marketing of your book?

RSM: Enormously important (I believe) but still, one shouldn’t do things that don’t feel natural or pleasing. I found that I loved writing posts—my essays, for my blog. It’s a different form than fiction. It’s short and driven by my voice and opinions, not the ones I am giving to my characters. It’s a place where I can talk about what I love: books, magazines, writing and everything associated.

On Facebook and Twitter, I’ve made tons of new friends (even if my husband doesn’t believe they’re real). One builds a community of writers and readers who help each other. It’s lovely.

Face it, the world is online. Writers can’t really hide from it and why would they want to? It’s our medium—words.

UN: How about Amazon pre-orders and reader reviews? Did exposure on Amazon, and other retail sites like Barnes & Noble, help book sales?

RSM: I absolutely think so. St. Martin’s put The Murderer's Daughters in Amazon’s early reader program, which gives books to Amazon top reviewers before the book comes out. There is no guarantee here, and they are probably the toughest critics you can find, but I was blessed and most of them truly liked the book. These are the only reviews allowed up before the book comes out. It gives a book an early buzz on its reception. I consider Amazon Vines the canary in the mine.

Also, Amazon chose to highlight The Murderer's Daughters both as ‘Our Favorite Books to Read Right Now’ and as a ‘Find New Voices in Fiction’ Amazon Book Club recommendation. This truly helped the book.

UN: Sounds like Amazon was really supportive. When the book came out, it seemed to have a generous presence in big box and independent bookstores, at least in the Boston area. Are you satisfied with the push and print run St. Martin’s gave the book?

RSM: St. Martin’s truly showed their belief in The Murderer's Daughters through their large print run and the books solid presence nationwide, both in independents and big box stores.

UN: After the book was sold in the U.S., your agent, Stephanie Abou, started selling the foreign rights. When I interviewed you last, the book had been sold to five countries. Since then, have more rights sold? How has the reception been overseas? Any plans to travel to Europe to promote the book?

RSM: At this time, my wonderful agent has sold foreign rights to twelve countries. The first release was in Holland (where it was on the nationwide bestseller list for three weeks!) Then it came out in Australia and Germany, where it’s doing quite well. Next will be France, Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Portugal, Poland, Israel, and Taiwan.

UN: Wow, that truly impressive. When will The Murderer’s Daughters come out in paperback? And what are the big differences between the hardcover and paperback publication?

RSM: The paperback version should be out around January 2011. I am not certain about all the differences, but I was surprised to learn that the paperback is brought out by an entirely different arm of St. Martin’s Press (though I get to keep my terrific editor). The cover may or may not change. (I hope it stays the same, as I do love my cover.) When the paperback comes out, there is a larger push for book clubs (such as including a questionnaire).

UN: I know a little bit about your next book. Can you touch on the status of that? Bottom line: when do we get our next fix of RSM?

RSM: Here I am in Provincetown just finishing the last touches! It’s a story of the collateral damage of infidelity, revolving around a child who was the product of an affair. I’m hoping to get this last revision to my agent very soon!

UN: I look forward to seeing your next book hit the stores. Randy, thanks again for taking time out to chat with Unreliable Narrator. And congratulations on the success of The Murderer's Daughters.


Cynthia Sherrick said...

Thank you for this fabulous interview. Interesting to hear about some aspects of the publishing world after a book hits the bookstores.

Looking forward to more from Randy Susan Myers. :)

Liz's Mom said...

Great follow-up interview. Your questons... just right ! I loved the answers.

I want to read this book !

Dell Smith said...

That's what I was also interested in, the what-happens-next. After that novel is bought, and after that novel comes out.