PJ: Reed, how long have you been writing?
Reed: I started writing poetry when I was thirteen and got my first thing published at fifteen. It was the usual angst-ridden, melodramatic stuff about unfulfilled love and death, but I guess I had a way with words. I always have. In my family, we were screamers and writing was another way for me to finally be heard and recognized. I continued writing and publishing poetry into my thirties. At some point I took a night class at Brooklyn College. That class was in American Detective Fiction. Within the first few weeks, I knew I had found what my purpose in life was. I was meant to write crime fiction. My first novel was published twenty-one years ago and I don’t see me slowing down anytime soon.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Reed: When I was fifteen and my first poem was published. Taught me an important lesson. You have to judge success for yourself. Don’t ever let others or outside standards judge success for you. That’s a trap a smart writer stays out of.
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Reed: It’s very different than I could have imagined. For one thing it is much more difficult. You work very hard for very little reward in terms of financial reward or notoriety. I refer to my previous answer in that you have to learn how to judge success for yourself. As I tell my writing students: If you’re going into this business to make millions and expect people to throw roses, forget it. That is not to say it isn’t an enormously rewarding life. That’s the flip side. I can’t imagine a life in which I would find a deeper level of satisfaction or accomplishment. Also, the people I’ve come to know, the community I’ve become a part of is simply amazing. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. Plus, with the evolution in publishing, it’s become a very different business that offers new and exciting chances.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
Reed: My first advice to new writers is to marry up. No kidding. I’ve been fortunate to be married to a woman with a good career and great benefits. I have had some years that have afforded me a nice income and others where I have had to scrounge. This profession ain’t for the faint of heart. I guess I went into this not expecting to be rich. I went in expecting to be a good writer. No one should go into the arts as a way to make a fortune. It can be done. It has been done, but art should be your motivation, not wealth, not fame.
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
Reed: By the end of this year, I will have published sixteen novels, like twenty short stories, numerous poems, essays, novellas, etc. I tech writing at Hofstra University and for Mystery Writers of America University. But the thing that I’ve learned is that getting published isn’t the end of things, it’s only the beginning. Staying published, getting better, expanding your horizons … those are the things this kind of career is about.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
Reed: It took me two years to find my way to finish my first manuscript. It was published as my first novel—Life Goes Sleeping—in 1991. I was very lucky.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
Reed: No. I’m not a regretter or ruer by nature. It is silly to waste an ounce of energy on if onlys or should have dones.
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
Reed: Fortunately, I’m at the stage where I have a very good agent to represent me. But even so, I believe that the vast majority of your energy must be spent on producing the best possible writing and work you can. To do less is pure foolishness.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
Reed: Hard question. Getting nominated for the Edgar for The James Deans was amazing, but winning my first Shamus Award wasn’t shabby either. I think when I saw Walking the Perfect Square reviewed in the New York Times was the most exciting.
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
Reed: That’s easy: losing my contract with Viking.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
Reed: Oh, I think we all have memories of signings where no one shows at the bookstore. You figure it comes with the territory and you carry on. My favorite was when Michael Connelly—one of the kindest, most generous people in the business—called me to ask if it was alright if he did a few signings with me. Like I was going to say no, right? Those were great signings.
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Reed: See, I try not to worry too much about that because we all have such limited control over it. I prefer to let professional marketing people figure that out. Fortunately, I have a small but loyal fan base and publishers who believe in marketing.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Reed: Here are my best pieces of advice: Write the best thing you can write every time. Fall in love with writing, not with what you’ve written. Editing and rewriting are as important as writing.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Reed: I think blog touring is very cost-effective. When I have the budget for it, hiring an indie PR firm is also a good idea.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Reed: I enjoy Facebook, but otherwise don’t enjoy promoting on social media.
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
The Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan, but I also have to mention Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis and wish them happy 25th Anniversary.
PJ: Both great stores! Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
Dylan Klein Series:
Life Goes Sleeping
They Don’t Play Stickball in Milwaukee
Moe Prager Series:
Walking the Perfect Square
The James Deans
Onion Street (Tyrus Spring 2013)
Joe Serpe-Bob Healy Series (Written as Tony Spinosa)
The Fourth Victim
Gun Bunnies (Tyrus e-book 2012)
Detective Jack Kenny Series:
Bronx Requiem with John C. Roe (Hyperion e-book Fall 2012)
Tower with Ken Bruen
Gun Church (Audible.com now, Tyrus Fall 2012)
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:
Gun Church: Fight Club meets Wonder Boys meets Hunger Games with guns.
Where can we buy it?
Audible.com now or in bookstores and online in the fall of 2012.
Reed, thanks for sharing your time and your wisdom with us. I look forward to reading more of your work for a long time to come!