Writing Advice Sucks #2: How forgetting shit might make you a better writer


Last week I talked about the mechanics of thrillers and writing to trends.

This week I want to talk about why forgetting shit can be really valuable.

I’m the kind of writer who needs an outline. I respect people who can write by the seat of their pants—that ain’t me. My outlines don’t need to be super intense (usually a couple of sentences per chapter), and a lot of times I’ll diverge from them. But I need a general sense of where I’m going.

I learned this as I was writing my first book, New Yorked, which took me five years to finish. I was just writing blindly, and had to keep finding my path. I re-wrote it from the ground up twice. It tried to outline it three or four times after I’d already written it.

I went into my second book, City of Rose, with a solid outline, and it took me four or five months to write.

Which, granted, I knew my character and I found my process, and I had more confidence. But the outline helped a lot.

Remember: writing advice is mostly bullshit and you have to take what works for you and trash the rest. Maybe outlines don’t work for you. That’s fine! But I do have a trick for them. I even found another place to apply that trick, in my research. Continue reading

Writing Advice Sucks #1: The mechanics of thrillers, writing to trends, and free books


I hit the publishing hat-trick with my newest book, The Warehouse. Nice deal with Crown, sold to publishers in more than a dozen countries so far, and optioned for film by Ron Howard. One of the funny/odd/interesting things about this is: how other people have responded.

Besides the general well-wishes, one writer called dibs on getting a blurb when his next book is ready (which is baller, so I said yes). I’ve had people walking on eggshells like I’m suddenly going to forget who my friends are (I won’t!). I’ve had at least one person quiz me on how the deal went down, and seemed so stunned that, by the end of the conversation, I felt a little bummed out (because it sounded like: “how did you manage to do this?”).

But one question I’ve gotten a couple of times now is: did you write something you were passionate about, or did you write to a trend?

And the more I think about it, the more I want to answer that. Because it’s like 95 percent no and five percent yes. And even that five is a little wonky.  Continue reading

Coming in January: ‘Take-Out, and Other Tales of Culinary Crime’


Someone else noticed before I did.

Over the course of a few months, I wrote and published stories involving a bagel maker, and warring food trucks, and a restaurant scam. A friend asked when my collection of food noir stories was coming out. When he said that, I was working on a story about a bouncer at a pastry shop.

It’s not surprising I’d fall into a theme, with writing about food. I like to eat. But it’s more than that, too.

Food is the thing that binds all of us, across continents and cultures. No matter where you go, there are signature dishes and traditions of hospitality. Sharing a meal is as much about emotional sustenance as it is about the physical.

Which makes food a fantastic storytelling device, especially within the confines of crime and noir fiction. They’re intersections where passions collide.

In total, I wrote more than a dozen stories with components of food or hospitality.

And now Polis Books is going to collect them in Take-Out—and it will include three stories that haven’t been published anywhere. The whole jam will be available in paperback and eBook, and it’s coming out in January.

That should fill the hole in your heart between Potter’s Field (coming in July and available for pre-order) and The Warehouse (due sometime in the back half of 2019).

I’m really excited to see this hit, because I think it represents some of my best short story work. Two of them were shortlisted for Best American Mystery Stories, and one (the title story, “Take-Out”) made the final cut. Another (“Foodies”) was nominated for a Derringer Award. One (“Confessions of a Taco Truck Owner”) I read at Noir at the Bar, and Todd Robinson told me he was putting it in the next issue of Thuglit before I even left the microphone. Best short story acceptance I ever got.

More on this soon. Three cheers to Jason Pinter for agreeing to publish it, and Josh Getzler for sealing the deal. This is going to be a fun one.

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What’s ‘warehouse’ in Greek?

The dust has settled a bit, and it got announced in Publishers Marketplace, so now I can say, with a reasonable degree of confidence, that The Warehouse has sold to publishers in seventeen countries.

I’m astounded. Because I never sold foreign rights on the Ash books, but also, The Warehouse is very much about the American economy. So I figured—no one outside the U.S. would care.

But my wife pointed out: the American economy is the world economy, and she’s generally smarter than me, so I’ll go with that.

Come next year the book should be available in (deep breath):

Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Brazil, Russia, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Hungary, Japan, Italy, Greece, France, the Czech Republic, Taiwan, Turkey, and China.

Continue reading

Ron Howard might direct ‘The Warehouse’


I’m trying to swear less around my daughter, especially now that she’s three and repeats so much of what we say. This is not easy as I tend to swear a lot. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to help.

For example, I get home from work and sit down at the dining room table with dinner. I pop open my laptop and see an e-mail from my agent about The Warehouse, which had already sold to Crown and was doing bangin business in foreign territories.

The e-mail is simple enough: there are multiple offers for film or TV, and which would I prefer? I thought about it for a few minutes and responded that it’s a nearly impossible question to answer, and I would think about it some more, but my gut was telling me TV.

His response was: Well what if it’s a film and Ron Howard is the director?

Continue reading

Welcome to ‘The Warehouse’

So. It’s been a day.

I’m thrilled to say my new book, The Warehouse, has been acquired by Crown at Random House. I’m even more thrilled to say they bought it at pre-empt before it could go to auction, which is really humbling (and also a little scary!).

It’s April 2 so I swear this isn’t a belated April Fool’s Day joke (I spent part of the weekend thinking maybe it was?).

It’ll come out in 2019, under the editorial guidance of Julian Pavia, who did The Martian and Ready Player One. He also worked on Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, a book I enjoyed so much I read it in a single day. Julian is a smart dude. He gets me and he gets my book and I’m really excited to be working with him.

The Warehouse is about a thing that makes me angry: big businesses and how they treat their workers. It’s also a book I was afraid to write, because I thought I wasn’t smart enough or a good enough writer. I’m glad I pushed past that and I am very excited for people to read it.

I want to give a shout out to my agent Josh Getzler for doing such an incredible job on this—he went to bat for me and knocked it clean out of the park. And Jason Pinter at Polis, who gave me a place to learn and grow as a writer.

Most of all, I want to say thank you to everyone who supported me and encouraged me and read me. I wouldn’t be here without that.

More soon!

Ash McKenna in audio and large print!


Do you like having your books read to you? Do you like print books but find the letters are too small?

Then you’re in luck!

City of Rose, South Village, and The Woman from Prague are now available as audiobooks for your listening pleasure!

This is pretty exciting. See, what happened was, New Yorked got picked up as an audiobook, but didn’t do fantastic, so the publisher decided not to acquire the rest of the series. Which is a bummer, but I get it. There’s some behind-the-scenes stuff as to why that happened… so goes the biz.

But Ash, he’s a slow burn. The series has been picking up steam. Another publisher swooped in and scooped ’em up. They even brought back Alexander Cendese, who did a phenomenal job narrating New Yorked.

Go forth and listen!

And while we’re talking about subrights, just a reminder: The Woman from Prague is available in a handsome large print edition.

Get ’em here:

City of Rose audio

South Village audio

The Woman from Prague audio

The Woman from Prague large print

These books are available in regular-old eBook and print formats, too, in case you’re so inclined. Now is a good time to brush up, ’cause Ash’s last ride takes place in Potter’s Field, which is coming out in July…