James McCrone interview with David Alan Binder

posted Aug 16, 2018, 4:02 PM by David Alan Binder

James McCrone interview with David Alan Binder


His biography from his website:  James McCrone is the author of the Imogen Trager suspense-thriller series, including Faithless Elector and Dark Network. Publishers Weekly says Faithless Elector is a "fast-moving topical thriller." And Kirkus Review calls Dark Network a “rousing and provocative political thriller…”

Full reviews here


The Imogen Trager novels, of which Faithless Elector was the first, are potent political thrillers about a nation on the edge, demarcating where it all went wrong.

The third and final book in the Trager/Faithless Elector series is due out near the end of 2018.


His links:


Dark Network is available on Indiebound, in bookstores, and on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2kbB8ZC

Faithless Elector is available on Indiebound, in bookstores, and on Amazon:


James’s site:


GoodReads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15135639.James_McCrone


Blog, “Chosen Words:”  https://chosenwordsmccrone.blog/


You can contact James at:  jmccrone@faithlesselector.com


1.     Where are you currently living? 

I live in Philadelphia, PA, with my wife and three children.  I’m also the part-time business manager for the South 9th Street Italian Market. 

2.     What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

The most difficult thing has been to put into practice the maxim that you have to treat it like a job.  Make time for it the way you would anything else that’s important and guard that time jealously.  


3.     What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?

Having noted above that writers should treat it like a job, with a set schedule, it’s astonishing to me how long it takes to get the flow going on each writing day.  I start at 9am, but I usually hate what I’ve written up until about noon, when I take a break for lunch.  It’s as though I have to wade through the dreck in order to get to the good stuff.  Although crucial to the process, it’s rare that the first few hours ever make it to the finished product.

4.     Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

I’m self-published.  My wife and I spent a year abroad in Oxford in the UK.  I didn’t have a work permit, so I threw myself into writing.  The first book, Faithless Elector, was a thriller about the 2016 election. I finished the rewrites and my work with the editor in late 2015. I decided that I couldn’t wait for a publisher’s timeline, so I self-published in March of 2016, hoping that the book would stand out because of its timely subject matter.  It did! 

What I didn’t realize was that a series that began as a self-published work would probably have to remain as such.  The agents to whom I shopped Dark Network all wanted nothing to do with it.  I’ve never had such rapid rejections! I don’t fully understand the reasoning, but a couple of agents wrote back saying they were not interested in a series already under way.  I’ve since heard that it’s publishers who don’t want to jump in on a series that’s already begun.  While I don’t know definitively, I think it’s that publishers want control from the beginning.


5.     Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

EBooks have been great.  I’ve probably sold an equal amount of e- and print books.  The silver lining of working as a self-published author and having to do all my own marketing and outreach is that I’ve found from other authors that it’s all work I would probably be doing anyway.  Unless the publisher is a large, well-known press, the author will be doing a good deal of his/her own marketing and outreach.

6.     Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?

I wish I did!  I’ve done so many things wrong; I doubt I have anything but hard-won wisdom and experience.  Oscar Wilde famously said something to the effect that “experience is the name we give to our bad decisions,” and I’ve made my share of them.

The big things I’ve learned are to check ahead of time that bookstores will work with your printer/publishing platform.  I started out with CreateSpace.  They are a good option, but they don’t participate in the buy-back programs Ingram or Baker & Taylor do, so it was hard to get my books into bookstores except on a consignment basis, and that’s not a scalable option.  I switched to Ingram Spark, and that has been a very good option.

7.     How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent?  Any tips for new writers on getting one?

The standard advice out there is very good; and I would say just keep plugging away. I would say, treat it professionally; don’t send the work out half-done.  Make sure you’ve used a good editor and proofreader before you start sending the work around.  After that, so far as I can tell, it’s about finding a good match; finding someone who believes in the work, and will work hard for you.

Finally, the open secret is that no one—not publishers, not agents—knows what’s good or what will sell.  They’re all guessing just like the rest of us, which I find very liberating.  I mean how awful would it be if there were a group of people who knew unequivocally what was good? 

8.     Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?

I can’t stress enough how important it’s been for me to have a schedule and keep to it.  Also, I would say, read authors whose work you admire—whether it’s in your genre or not.  Look at what they do, how they approach problems you may be having.  Also use negative examples:  spot the bad/lazy things they do, and resolve not to imitate them.  I’m not suggesting you steal from these writers, but immersing yourself in good writing has a positive effect. 

As an example, I was re-reading The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John LeCarre while I was editing Faithless Elector.  They’re very different books, but what struck me in LeCarre’s writing—or Graham Greene’s for that matter—was that while they kept the action moving, they also weren’t afraid to stop and linger over beauty.  They’re scrupulous about setting scenes and describing characters.  As I looked at my rewrites, I noticed to my horror that I was cutting everything down to the bone.

9.     What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

I learned that it was a total commitment.  Even on non-writing days (and I have to balance writing with my part-time job), things are percolating.  Keeping something to take notes on always at hand is crucial.  The solution to some problem may come at a very odd, inconvenient moment.

Beyond that, the most interesting thing I grapple with is how much I myself have receded from the work.  The stories aren’t about me, and even the narrator isn’t me (not exactly).  Without getting too mystical, the point is that the writer is in service to the story, and it represents a very real ego death. 
The question a writer needs to keep it constantly in his/her mind is:  what does the story want?  And by extension, how can I help that happen?  The strange thing is that by the time the story is done and “out there” (whether traditionally or self-published), it’s become less and less one’s own. 
Some people talk about writers as being like gods playing with their characters.  I’ve never liked that notion. Ideally, the characters become so fully realized that rather than imposing your will on them, you’re “listening” to them, following them.  Reporting on what they’re doing.  If the characters and/or story take the writer in new and surprising ways, it’s more likely readers will find the story engaging and surprising.  I’m not suggesting you have no outline or no idea of where you’re going, just that you be open to serendipity.

10.                        How many books have you written?

I’ve written three, two published:  Faithless Elector (2016) and Dark Network (2017).  I’m at work on the final book in the series, Who Governs, due out next year.

11.                        Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?

Allowing the characters to “come alive” leads to directions you might not otherwise find, and therefore the twists will be natural.  The worst twists are unnatural or forced.

12.                        What are some ways in which you promote your work?

I try to get reviews from the big reviewers, like Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Midwest Book Review.  A good review from one of them (and quoted on the cover) helps significantly.  I find that doing readings, going to book fairs and conferences are very helpful for exposure.  Beyond that, I have a Facebook author page, a Twitter account and an Instagram account.  I’ve bought ads on Facebook and Twitter, will mixed success; and I’ve tried buying Google adwords, and even though you only pay if someone clicks on your ad, the price-per-click can easily be as much or more than the royalty you receive.  It may be a good option for some, but I haven’t found it useful.

13.                         What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?

I’m happy with where I am.  Being a writer, and writing every day is what I’ve wanted since I was a teenager, and I’m now having some modest success.  It would have been nice not to have struggled as I did, but frankly, maybe that was part of the journey.  I’m here now, doing what I want; and even on my worst days, when the words won’t come, or I realize the story isn’t working, I realize this is where I’ve always wanted to be, and that even the problems are the kinds of problems I don’t mind having.

14.                        What saying or mantra do you live by?

Ha ha!  I’m a novelist.  I wish I could come up with something pithy and short, but that would go against my nature!


15.                        Anything else you would like to say?

Thank you for the opportunity.  These are interesting questions, and I hope I’ve given you good responses.