The Art of Talking About Yourself

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Two nice hits today: My first television interview as an author is running on NY1, and my first really long audio interview just dropped on the Booked podcast.

They are both, to varying degrees, mortifying.

I don’t think I performed poorly. But there’s a reason I’m attracted to being a writer. It’s easier to express myself when I can do it by myself. I could never be an actor. Being the center of attention is not something I actively seek out. I get embarrassed playing charades.

And yet, when you’re promoting a book, you’ve got to take every opportunity you can to talk about it. And yourself. And process. All these things you’ve been perfectly happy to not talk about for so long.

Despite my initial terror, and the fact that I will never listen to or watch either of these ever again, I did learn some stuff that’s going to be helpful going forward.

For example, practice, practice, practice. This is a lesson I learned earlier in the process (and I talked about at LitReactor): You need an elevator pitch ready to go. When someone asks you what your book is about you need to be able to explain it quickly and with confidence.

I stumbled a bit on Booked, so before the NY1 interview, which took place two days later, I wrote something out and practiced it until I had it down.

(They ended up not using that for the clip, but hey, at least I was prepared.)

Also, be careful of filler words. Like. Um. Y’know. Well.

Those words you use to fill empty space. Booked is full of them. Again, something I thought about a lot while recording and went into NY1 being thoughtful of. Because holy shit, it can make you sound like a bit of a goof.

They were both very different experiences—for the NY1 interview, we talked for maybe 45 minutes to an hour, and the whole thing is condensed down into one minute and 48 seconds.

With Booked, we talked for nearly two hours—not all of it made it onto the ‘cast (thankfully—there was some fun off-the-record riffing), but the overwhelming majority of it did. I listened to it on the way to work this morning, and it’s weird, listening to yourself, wishing you’d said things differently, or glad you nailed a thought that, until then, had escaped you.

I’m very fortunate to have landed both of these—and it’s given me some stuff to chew on, about how to be more confident as a speaker.

I will say, though, it was a blast. So thanks to Amanda Farinacci from NY1, and Robb Olson and Livius Nedin from Booked. All three of them asked a ton of smart questions, and were such good sounding boards that the whole process was that much easier.

Interview at The Life Sentence

lifeOver at The Life Sentence, me and Angel Colon talk about writing and books and New Yorked and kids and how much of an asshole I’m going to be a year from now.

The Life Sentence is a very groovy new site dedicated to crime and mystery fiction. Add it to your reading queue—they’re putting out some killer content.

Check it out.

Recent items of note; Bookpage, The Lineup, a new review

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Two new guest posts just landed. One was really easy to write and one was really hard to write.

First up, the hard one: Over at The Lineup, I wrote about the murder of Imette St. Guillen, which influenced New Yorked.

At Bookpage, I wrote about the art that inspired New Yorked. That was a little easier.

Finally, there’s this review from Elizabeth A. White, which really resonated. This one made me feel really good to read.

Milwaukee Love

Thrilled to see the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had some very kind words for New Yorked.

“I loved this novel. It may be the most quixotic hard-boiled I’ve read in ages. With clever nods to Chandler (including giving Ash a fedora) and lots of muscular metaphors (“The two of them looked at me like I’m calculus”), Hart has written an achingly lovely farewell to one man’s past.”

Click here to read the whole thing, and see some other excellent books that were highlighted.

Three simple steps to a bulletproof novel outline

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I went into New Yorked, my first novel, without an outline.

It took five years to write. Characters appeared, disappeared, and reappeared. Entire threads were added, removed, repurposes, rethought, and ultimately, trashed.

One of the lessons I learned over the course of those five years was: I’m the kind of writer who needs an outline. I knew the start and I knew the ending, but the middle—that’s where I was getting lost.

The second book, City of Rose, I wrote and delivered to my publisher in six months. Part of that was because I found my voice and my process. But a big part, too, was: I had an outline.

And it was a damn good outline. Because I took a cue from a friend of mine, who has this trick for writing short stories.

He writes the story, then trashes it. A day or two later, he rewrites it from scratch. The logic goes that he’ll only remember the good parts, and the rest, he’s had time to think about.

He trashes the second draft too, waits a few days, writes a third.

The third version is his working version, which gets subject to editing and rewriting.

So for City of Rose, I thought I would give that a try with the outline, because that’s where I was getting jammed up. I outlined the book in a Moleskine after I was done sorting out my notes and character sketches.

I went chapter by chapter, spelling out the place, the characters present, the conflict, and the hook to drive readers into the next chapter. No more than a paragraph for each.

Than I waited a few days. Without looking back, I rewrote it. And I only remembered the good stuff. The places where I hit a wall—I had fixes and answers, since I had time to think them over.

A few days later, I outlined again. That third version nailed the story, hit all the targets I wanted to hit, and guided me through the book.

Simple, right?

Write, trash, think.

Write, trash, think.

Write.

It’s important to note that an outline isn’t gospel. There were a few points where I veered off, or found in the writing that something needed to be moved or added or eliminated.

Think of an outline as a roadmap. You can cut around construction or take a longer route to get in some sightseeing—but you’ll arrive at your destination (the completion of the first draft) so much sooner if you’ve got some semblance of a plan.

What about you? Do you outline? Or do you write by the seat of your pants and hope you find the story in the process?

And you can find New Yorked here.

Roundup time

Two weeks out from the release of New Yorked, and things are chugging along nicely. Figured it was time to round some stuff up, for those who may have missed my incessant social media posts.

(And there’s a point to all this, as you’ll see at the end.)

First up, people have been asking about signed copies. You can order through The Mysterious Bookshop, and I will happily inscribe whatever you’d like. To do that, go here.

The Booked. podcast gave New Yorked some love—it’s a great show that features some really thoughtful, in-depth book talk. I like it a lot. Listen, then subscribe.

I wrote some guest posts, at Crimespree (on book promo), the Daily Beast (five books about NYC that I love), Criminal Element (page to screen on Death Wish), Chuck Wendig’s blog Terrible Minds (things I learned writing New Yorked), and Powell’s (disappearing New York City).

My hometown paper, the Staten Island Advance, ran a piece about the book (with a groovy photo gallery). There have also been some new reviews, over at Out of the Gutter and Pulp Fire.

Also—and this is too cool to not mention again—I had my first Barnes & Noble signing, and we sold out every copy of New Yorked they had. Woo!

This brings me to the point of all this—a new session of my LitReactor class, Sell Yourself, is starting July 14. In this fast-and-furious workshop, I run through the basics of marketing. All the stuff you actually need to know, with none of the bullshit filler people claim you need to know.

This will be the first session of the class I’ll be hosting after the launch of my book, so I’ll have a lot of exciting new things to add to the curriculum. Like, how I got some of the coverage I linked to in this post.

Check it out. It’s a fun class.

Booked. love

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I’m a big fan of the Booked. podcast. The hosts, Robb and Livius—besides being nice guys—do some very thoughtful, in-depth book talk, which you don’t get a lot of these days.

Even better, they give time to a wide mix, from best sellers to small press stuff, shedding light on stories that often need all the love they can get.

It’s pretty thrilling to not only get the Booked. treatment for New Yorked—but to find that they really dug it. It’s a little trippy, listening to people break down and analyze your book. Awesome, too.

Listen to the podcast here. And if you haven’t already, subscribe to this thing.