Once upon a time, Gerrie Ferris Finger was one of my very first clients. I’m thrilled that she believed in me enough to be my client again today! She’s a journalist in the best sense, and I don’t know of a better example of how persistence and perseverance pays off. I hope you’re already familiar with her work, but if not, there’s no time like the present…
PJ: How long have you been writing?
Gerrie: That’s an easy one. As long as I can remember. I never kept a diary, but scribbled a lot of ideas and stuffed them in drawers. In elementary school I was always the first one done with my story, and the last one to turn in my arithmetic (is it still called that?)
PJ: Not sure we want to go there lol. Gerrie, tell us what it was like to work with Lewis Grizzard. That must’ve been amazing.
Gerrie: A cross between rafting section IV rapids and a paddle in the lake. And, at all times, tremendous joy and amazement at his skill in connecting with his readers, to say nothing of his stand-up comedy routines. Lewis had his serious side and was compassionate. He moved readers and listeners to tears of sorrow or laughter
Lewis was my mentor. Even though I’d always written and learned good journalistic skills, I still over-wrote. In editing his columns, I’d see what he’d blue-penciled out, and thought, wow, he’s throwing away good stuff. His attitude was that fewer words and descriptions brought immediacy to the intended idea. And, God forbid, anyone insert an exclamation point in his copy. My editors have done that and I cringe.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Gerrie: When I saw my first byline in a major newspaper (The Atlanta Journal Constitution) and my news stories published in anthologies.
With fiction, I felt on my way with Look Away from Evil, the second book I’d actually finished and saw print. Small step, sure, but an independent ebook publishing company offered me a contract for three books in the series, so that was the next step. Each achievement brings me closer to feeling successful. I won the St. Martin’s/Malice Domestic Award for the Best First Traditional Mystery Novel with The End Game. It was my first money advance and hard cover novel. In July the second in the series The Last Temptation will be released in hard cover and the third, The Devil Laughed comes out in 2013.
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Gerrie: I can’t answer that because my writing life continues to evolve and surprise me, positively and sometimes negatively. It’s always been exciting.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
Gerrie: The paltry money made by mid-listers was surprising. I thought even if you weren’t John Grisham you could make a living writing one or two books a year. The ebook revolution has changed that for most writers in too many ways to get into. I’ve had my successes with my self-pubbed books, but the jaws of ebook publishing need constant filling to keep up sales.
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
Gerrie: Continue writing, and increasing readership with each new book.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
Gerrie: A year-and-a-half. Then I got a New York agent and thought I’d be on my way. Not so. I worked with her for two-and-a-half years. She couldn’t sell my work and suggested I write fantasy. She wasn’t wrong, because fantasy was coming on strong, but it’s just not my genre. Finally, I won the St. Martin’s/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery novel and was then on my way. I’ve still a long road ahead.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
Gerrie: I don’t even go there.
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?
Gerrie: I take it as it comes. The most important thing to me is writing new material and polishing it, so that gets the majority of my time. When I’m creating a plot and characters, I have to keep up momentum on a daily basis or I lose threads and have to go back and that’s counterproductive.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
Gerrie: Getting published by a Big Six New York publisher after winning the St. Martin’s contest.
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
Gerrie: As with all who submit work to agents and publishers, rejections.
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Gerrie: My writing skills. I’d put my work up with the best of mystery, suspense, thriller writers – with a little romance thrown in.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Gerrie: Believe in yourself and never give up.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Gerrie: Hiring a publicist, Patti Nunn in particular. She knows the markets and she’s experienced in working with writers whose needs and wants in the promotional area vary.
PJ: That’s very kind of you to say. Thank you. What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Gerrie: All have their challenges.
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
Gerrie: Books Plus in Fernandina Beach, Fl and Once Upon a Bookseller in St.
Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
Look Away from Evil
When Serpents Die
The End Game
The Ghost Ship
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:
Recovering addict Eileen Cameron and her daughter Kinley Whitney have vanished from Eileen’s Palm Springs home. Kinley’s custodial father, Bradley Whitney, lives in Atlanta. Eileen and Bradley are locked in a custody battle, and Bradley believes Eileen has taken Kinley to hide with the Indians in the desert. The court hires Moriah Dru of Child Trace to find and bring Kinley home.
Bradley’s academic credentials are solid, but Dru is wary. He’s rich and involved with the secretive Cloisters. Dru and lover, police Lieutenant Richard Lake, delve into Bradley’s past, while Lake investigates the Atlanta Suburban Girl murders.
In Palm Springs, Dru meets a host of glitzy suspects, including Dartagnan LeRoi, a cop; Arlo Cameron, Eileen’s movie director husband; Heidi, Arlo’s widowed neighbor; Eileen’s hairdresser, a cross-dresser named Theodosia; a donut-maker named Zing; Indian princess Contessa (Tess) Rosovo; and Phillippe, a self-styled Frenchman who claims he’s a Cordon Bleu chef. Phillippe says everyone in “The Springs” is an actor.
To help find Eileen and Kinley, Tess takes Dru to the high desert for a Moon Maiden ceremony. Dru spots a young girl in a wig. Tess notices Dru’s attention to the girl. Dru passes out then wakes in the desert scrub as a monsoon rages. Terrified, she’s swept over a rock waterfall to certain death. Her miraculous survival brings her even greater pain.
The Last Temptation is an edgy mystery thriller loaded with eccentric oddballs. Murder and deceit are no strangers to glamorous Palm Springs. Nor to Atlanta.
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
“There are three rules for writing a novel. . . unfortunately no one knows what they are.”
~W. Somerset Maugham