Mystery author Earl Staggs has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned a long list of Five Star reviews. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups. He recently received his second Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the year.
Besides all that, he’s been a really good friend of mine for more years than I’ll admit! Here’s what he has to say today:
PJ: How long have you been writing?
Earl: During all the years I spent raising a family and making a living in the real world – mostly as a salesman – I secretly harbored the crazy idea of being a writer. When I semi-retired in 1995, left the cold winters of Maryland behind and moved south, I decided it was time to give it a serious try. It was a slow start since I had no real training or experience, but that’s when I actually began writing. Wow. I hadn’t really thought about it in number of years, but a little simple math tells us that’s seventeen years, doesn’t it? That’s okay. While the years flew by, I was having fun.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Earl: A story of mine was accepted by and appeared in the spring 1998 issue of The Cozy Detective Mystery Magazine. Never mind that it was a small, little-known magazine, that I wasn’t paid a penny for the story, or that the magazine disappeared after another issue or two. The editor of a print magazine declared my story good enough to publish. That planted a suspicion in my mind that I could actually BE a writer.
That suspicion wasn’t truly confirmed until 2002 when, after seeing a number of stories accepted and published in various venues, I received a Derringer Award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society. The award was for a story titled “All the Fine Actors” which appeared in a new-fangled kind of magazine. It wasn’t a print magazine, but was electronically published on the Internet. The magazine was called “EWG Presents: Without a Clue” and the editor was a lovely lady I knew as Patti Nunn, a struggling writer herself. The magazine closed a few years later and the editor went on to become a well-known and highly-respected publicist who goes by the initials “PJ.” (Hmmm. I wonder if she remembers me.)
At any rate, even though outside the short mystery fiction community, no one knew of me, winning the Derringer Award gave me the confidence to feel successful as a writer. Without that confidence, I would not have thought it possible to have a novel published.
PJ: Hmmm the name Slasher comes to mind, but I’m sure that’s a figment of my imagination. Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Earl: In one way, it’s everything I expected. There’s a satisfaction hard to describe when I finish a story and feel it’s as good as it can be. On a much smaller scale, it’s the same feeling DaVinci had when he paid his model and said, “Thanks, Mona, it’s done and you can go home now.” The same feeling Michelangelo had when he looked up and said, “Fantastic! But I’ll never do another ceiling.”
There’s a special joy and thrill to begin with a blank canvas — or a blank page — and create something new and original you can feel proud to send out into the world carrying your name. That’s what I always thought writing would be like, and that’s the way it is for me now.
In another way, it’s totally different. I grew up thinking, like everyone else, that it went like this: you write a good book, find an agent, a publisher pays you a bunch of money, and you spend the rest of your life being rich and famous. Maybe it was like that at one time, maybe not, but the reality is far from it now.
Like so many other industries, the publishing industry is struggling to stay afloat. Rarely do publishers take chances on unknown authors. Many agents have left the business or are looking for a new line of work. Authors must decide whether to pray for that one in a million break the way it used to be, lower their expectations and sign with a small press, or join the “ebook revolution” via digital self-publishing.
No one knows for sure what publishing will be like in the future. There is, however, one thing I know for sure. Just as there will always be artists willing to hire a model to “Sit still and give me a tiny little smile” and ones willing to climb a ladder and paint a ceiling, there will always be writers unable to resist the challenge of filling a blank page with something they can be proud of. It’s what we do and will continue to do, no matter what.
Thank you for allowing me to visit Bookbrowsing. I enjoy talking about writing almost as much as I enjoy writing.
Currently in publication:
A mystery novel with a long list of Five Star reviews.
“Someone is leaving a trail of bodies from Baltimore to Ocean City and Adam Kingston is the only one who can stop him.”
Read Chapter One at: http://tinyurl.com/7xshlhw
SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS
Includes 2002 Derringer Award winner “All the Fine Actors”
Available in print form or ebook at: http://tinyurl.com/7fz8u6m
Available for all ereaders at Untreed Reads: http://tinyurl.com/7h4nays
WHERE BILLY DIED
****2012 Derringer Award Winner****
A modern day bounty hunter follows a bail jumper to Texas where he has to tangle with a mobster from back east as well as a local legend about Billy the Kid. Novella. $1.99
THE MISSING SNIPER
The first appearance of Adam Kingston, later featured in the novel MEMORY OF A MURDER. Novella. $1.50
THE THANKSGIVING COOKOFF WAR
Sheriff Molly Goodall has to deal with a rash of tractor thefts, a deputy who wants to be a SWAT member, and having to judge the winning entry in The Thanksgiving Cookoff.
Short story. $.99
Thank you so much, Earl, for stopping by. I can’t WAIT to finally read more of Tall Chambers and I strongly encourage everyone who reads this to read everything of Earl’s you can find. He’s worth the effort! Any questions or comments?