Michael Guillebeau interview with David Alan Binder

posted Feb 22, 2017, 4:43 PM by David Alan Binder

Michael Guillebeau interview with David Alan Binder

 Bio from his website:  My name's Michael Guillebeau, and I write mysteries. While I'd like to sell you my books, I'd really like you to know what you're getting. If you're looking for a tight, plot-driven mystery like Agatha Christie, you've come to the wrong place.

I try to work hard on my plots, but characters--the wonderful oddballs struggling to get along, fighting the good fight every day the best way they know how, often with humor and grace--they are what get me out of bed to write every morning. If you like Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, and John MacDonald, please take a look at the first chapter of one of my books and see if you want to hang around with these MICHAEL GUILLEBEAU’S CHARACTERS

There's Josh, from the book JOSH WHOEVER. He's a burned out hero hiding out in the back of the Western World Bar, running small scams to stay drunk and unknown. But the Russian Mob thinks he can save their kidnapped daughter, so now he's got to stay sober and save the girl--or die.

SHARK'S TOOTH: EMERALD COAST MURDER has seven stories from the small Florida beach town of Emerald Beach. One reviewer said, “…characters that sneak up on you and deliver a punch to the gut. The wonderfully doddering Miss Hodges, the evilly opportunistic Miriam, the wily, unnamed “little girl”, and the nobly upright Mr. Leary each gave you a tale that sticks with you.”

Coming in February 2015 is Paul from Portland, a quiet man whose artist wife faked her own death to make her paintings famous, and Rue, the hippie chick determined to help Paul get over the trauma of his wife's death. Add in the investigator who's convinced that Paul murdered his wife, and a Native American enforcer who's convinced that Paul has money stolen by his wife, put them in desert town gone mad, and you've got A STUDY IN DETAIL.

 

Website:      http://www.michaelguillebeau.com/

Facebook:   www.facebook.com/michael.guillebeau.5

 

1.     How do you pronounce your name? 

Gil-a-bow. French, by way of two hundred years of Guillebeaus in East Georgia and South Carolina.

 

2.     Where are you currently living?

 I’ve lived most of my life in Madison, Alabama, a suburb of Huntsville, which built the rockets that put men on the moon. My father worked with NASA here since its founding, and I worked on every NASA program from Skylab to the Space Station.

 

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

Elmore Leonard said it best: You’ve got to find ways to love writing, or it will drive you crazy. I roll my eyes when writers talk about how hard writing is—ditch digging in the Alabama summer, now that’s hard work. But writing can be lonely and frustrating and you’re never, never sure if what you’re working on is trash or gold.

 

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

There’s a favorite poem about the beautiful, rowdy prisoners of life. My writing tends to be fascinated with those guys. Not the heroes or the villains, but the little guys and gals trapped in between furiously rattling the bars of their cages and screaming at the top of their lungs. They’re battling their hearts out with jokes and love and desperate choices that sometimes open the cages just a little.

 

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

 

a.      Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?

I’ve done both. I published three books with Five Star Mysteries, and I’ve self-published two books. It feels really good to say that I’ve had books with a traditional publisher, and it felt really good to have the control that self-publishing provides. Either way, you have to sell your books. Don’t kid yourself and think that a publisher will let you sit in a corner and write while they sell your books. You want good advice on which way to go? Read Jane Friedman. She’s the best there is. And Tim Grahl is the best to read about book marketing.

 

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

Reading is reading, and any kind of publishing is good.

 

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

Persist. That is the single difference between 99% of published writers and all unpublished. Not talent. You need talent to write a great book or a best seller, but most of us have the talent to publish a book or a story.

I sent my first book, JOSH WHOEVER, out to a hundred agents, with little interest. Pitched it to several publishers at conference, to polite yawns. Then I had ten minutes with Deni Dietz, who said, “Cool title” which was literally the first positive thing I’d heard. She kept reading and saying positive things, and published the book with Five Star. Library Journal reviewed it and named it a Mystery Debut of the Month, and it’s been an award finalist.         

 

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

HA! I’m either the best and worst person to ask about this. I had an agent for a year. I sensed that he had lost interest, and fired him, sure that I would get another agent. Hasn’t happened.

But here’s the advice, for what it’s worth. Get a subscription to Publisher’s Marketplace, research agents who sell books like yours. Work like hell to get your query letter right. Send it out to at least a hundred agents.

Then go to work on the next book.

 

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

Study your craft, but don’t expect any easy answers. I wrote in my twenties, gave it up, then came back to writing in my fifties. My wife gave me a writing notebook and some books on writing. I thanked her, but I really was a little offended. I knew how to write. The more I wrote, the more I realized that I had to learn. Now I have a shelf of writing books (Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury and Lamott are the best) and notebooks full of things that I’ve learned and unlearned.

But every rule seems to have as many exceptions as successes, and every trick is as valuable as gold, except when it’s not. There are only two rules of writing that I think are absolutely true.

Read a lot, and write a lot.

No, I’d add a third. Stare out the window a lot.

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

With my current books, I’ve learned the value of slowing down and letting the story come to me. If you can do that, while still following Natalie Goldberg’s Number One Rule for Writing and Sex (Keep Your Hand Moving) you’re doing pretty good.

11. How many books have you written?

Finished four, published three. Two more are getting close. Oh, and a collection of my own short stories and an anthology with some writers I admire.

12. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?

Respect your reader. I like to imagine he’s sitting on the couch with my book. His kids are begging him to come play. His wife is yelling at him to cut the grass. His favorite sport is on TV. What makes him say, “Just one more page?”

 

13. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story? Create characters with a different point of view, and listen to them. When I wrote my first book, I outlined the story carefully. In the third chapter, a minor character who had a single line wouldn’t shut up and go away. Marci got under the skin of my POV character and wouldn’t leave. I tore up the outline.

That kept on throughout the book. Every afternoon, I’d redo the outline. Every morning, Josh and Marci would cheerfully rip up the outline and march off on their own path.

Lee Childs and Steven King don’t outline because they believe the reader can’t be surprised unless the writer is surprised.

By the way, this is a terribly inefficient and uncertain way to work. Friends of mine who stick to an outline can put out polished books in a fraction of the time I can.

Again, I don’t know any rules that work for everybody. But this works for me. Right now.

14. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?

Again, I don’t know any rules that apply to every book out there. For my books, I go back to the beautiful, rowdy prisoners idea. Josh, the POV of my first book, was a funny, smart man who the world made a hero when he knew he wasn’t, so he went to live in a broom closet to hide away. The POV of my current WIP is a determined librarian who finds a way to embezzle money when the city shuts off the funding of her library.

 

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

I’ve taken the last two years off from promotion to write my library book, MAD. But the best advice here isn’t mine but Tim Grahl’s. Find his books and his blog, and start reading them at least a year before you’ve got a book to sell.

 

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

Everything. Nothing. Sorry. Not useful, I know, but it’s true.

 

17. What saying or mantra do you live by?

Eat dessert first.

Write drunk, edit sober (Hemingway).

Writing’s more fun (Guillebeau)

This last doesn’t apply to writing (maybe) but I love this from my daughter:

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

Tenzin Gyatso,

18. Anything else you would like to say?

Thanks for the chance to chat.

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