I can’t pick a favourite author, really, because there are just so many good ones out there. But if I could, Zoe Sharp would be near the top of the list. I can’t put my finger on what it is, but I just love her writing and can’t wait each time I hear the announcement of an imminent new release. Like now – the next one isn’t until October, but it’ll be here soon. If you haven’t read her work yet, there’s plenty for you to catch up on between now and then!
PJ: Zoe, How long have you been writing?
Zoe: Most of my life, I think. I’ve always written stories that usually fizzled out halfway down the first page. Then when I was fifteen I wrote my first novel. Although that went off to publishers it received what’s known in the trade as ‘rave rejections’ and I put my fictional ambitions on hold for a few years. Instead, I started writing non-fiction ― magazine articles. A great way for a writer to develop their craft, as it teaches you to write to topic, to length and to deadline, and not be too precious about your ‘art’.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Zoe: The first time I received an unsolicited email from a reader who was a total stranger, writing to tell me how much they’d enjoyed the book and the character. Without readers we are largely talking to ourselves.
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Zoe: I don’t think any writer realizes at the outset how much publicity is required. It seems such a solitary business, sitting at home with your imagination and a blank computer screen. But when that’s done you have to get out there and tell people about your story.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
Zoe: LOL, there aren’t very many authors living the JK Rowling lifestyle, I’m afraid. But I have been able to make a living from the written word ― both non-fiction and fiction ― since 1988, which I view as quite an achievement!
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
Zoe: My focus is on improving my craft and always has been. As long as I feel each book is better than the last, I’m moving forwards.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
Zoe: Hmm, depends what you class as the first time? I wrote the first Charlie Fox novel over about five or six years, in between the cracks of all my other non-fiction work. It probably took six months to find an agent, but only because of the speed of response times. I queried one agent at once, and the second one who asked to see the whole typescript offered me representation. From there it took another year to find a publisher, and another year before KILLER INSTINCT: Charlie Fox book one was actually a real book on the shelves.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
Zoe: Everything! Bear in mind this was back in 1999 ― there simply wasn’t the same info available to a wannabe writer about successful query letters, agent recommendations, nor was there easy contact available with agents and publishers on social networking sites. You simply had to stick a pin in one of the writers’ handbooks and hope!
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?
Zoe: Sleep is very overrated. I admit that when I’m working on a book other things do tend to get neglected, although I’ve altered my writing method for the latest book, working a lot more from notes, and this seems to have helped the flow without too many distractions. It is all important, but at the end of the day my core activity (and I’m SO sorry to slip into management-speak there) is to write the best books I can. Without that, I’ve nothing worthy of promotion.
PJ: LOL I don’t know. I like sleep a lot, but I know what you mean. What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
Zoe: There are too many to list, but making some wonderful friends among the writing community is probably the bestthing that’s happened to me, if that counts? The most exciting has to be when incredibly talented US
singer/songwriter Beth Rudetsky wrote and performed an original song inspired by FIFTH VICTIM: Charlie Fox book nine. The song is called The Victim Won’t Be Me, and the accompanying video was put together by the equally talented and creative students at Vision West Notts.
PJ: Wow that is so cool. What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
Zoe: People who over-promise and under-deliver.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
Zoe: I was incredibly honoured to be invited to the Mayhem in the Midlands convention a few years ago as their International Guest of Honour. The delightful William Kent Krueger was interviewing me both for the audience and for a recording which was being made of the event. I had the most awful coughing fit in the middle of the interview, literally gasping for breath and unable to speak. Very embarrassing, but Kent coped brilliantly. He pulled a stocking over his head and attacked me with an axe (a plastic one, I hasten to add) for a self-defence demonstration. My response? I pulled a knife on him ― also plastic, before I get hate mail from Kent’s fans! You probably had to be there …
PJ: I heard about that! Wish I’d been there. With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Zoe: Hmm, these are some great questions. Tricky, too. I hope readers are thoroughly engaged by the character of Charlie Fox, and enjoy the fast pace of the situations she finds herself involved in! There’s also quite a backlist for them to enjoy, and the character evolves throughout the series.
PJ: I know I am. What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Zoe: Two things. First, that there are more persistent writers published than there are talented writers published. You will face more criticism in a year as a writer than most people face in a lifetime. How you react to that criticism will be the difference between success and failure. And secondly, pay it forwards.
PJ: That is all SO true. Well said. What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Zoe: Satisfied readers! I blog on my own website, of course, and put out a regular e-newsletter. I also blog every other week on Murderati, and try to be active on Facebook and Twitter — @AuthorZoeSharp. And I go to conventions and events both in the UK and the States as often as I can.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Zoe: Blowing my own trumpet. Some authors are very good at the hard sell, but I can’t bring myself to do it — it seems so desperate somehow. I’d rather let people make up their own minds rather than be force-fed one of my books, which I know would put me right off.
Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
DIE EASY: Charlie Fox book ten — coming Oct 2012 (UK) and Jan 2013 (US)
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:
FIFTH VICTIM: Charlie Fox book nine is about not knowing what you’ve got until it’s gone. Charlie is tasked to stem a series of increasingly violent kidnappings on New York’s Long Island while also dealing with the continuing coma of her lover, fellow bodyguard Sean Meyer.
Where can we buy it?
Any good bookstore, hopefully. Either your local indie mystery store, or from one of the major retailers, either in store or on line. It’s also available from libraries, and in Large Print, Audiobook and NALB Talking Book formats.
What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
Zoe: I could tell you that, but then I’d have to kill you … 🙂
Thanks, PJ, this has been great fun!
There you have it ladies and gentleman. Don’t just take my word for it – see for yourself if her books aren’t some of the very best ones out there! Any questions for Zoe? Comments?