Sunday 19 June 2011

Leighton Gage interview: A Vine In The Blood

A Vine In The Blood by Leighton Gage

Leighton Gage sets his crime novels in Brazil, the country where he lives and works. The New York Times has called his work “top notch” and his protagonist, Chief Inspector Mario Silva “irresistible”. Booklist referred to Silva as “South America’s Kurt Wallander.”

Your books were in print before eBooks achieved prominence. As a “traditionally-published” author, what’s your take on them?

I love them!


Availability, for starters.

There are, believe it or not, a few small and benighted places in the world (like the UK and Germany) where publishers have yet to discover my genius.

There, my readership used to be limited to a few discerning souls (of excellent taste) who were willing to pay a premium to buy my books and have the patience to wait for them.

No more! Now, they can get the books in seconds, through Amazon.

They’ll pay less for them, too, because I get to stipulate the prices, and I’m viscerally opposed to making my eBooks more expensive than my trade paperbacks, as my American publisher is currently doing with Every Bitter Thing. (No, I don’t know why they do that. I keep asking them, but I’m not getting any answers.)

Personal productivity is another plus. The folks in New York only wanted one book a year, so it never made sense to write more than one.

But Amazon’s appetite for eBooks is insatiable.

So I’m writing furiously.

I may not be able to produce two books a year, but I can certainly write three every two years and make each one available, in many places, before still another year is out.

Case in point: A Vine in the Blood has been up on Amazon Kindle in the UK since March, but it won’t be available on Kindle in the US until the hard cover comes out – and that will be at the end of December.

Same book. Same content. Different cover. Very different price.

Elsewhere, in this post, you can check it out on Amazon Kindle UK.

Here [right] is how it’s going to look, and how much it’s going to cost ($24), in hard cover, in the US:
And, judging by past experience, the Kindle version could cost as much as (get this) US$ 14+. (Yeah, I know. To price it above US$9.99 diminishes the royalties by half. I don’t get it either.)

As a reader, too, I’m in love with eBooks. Here, in Brazil, bookstores with English-language books are few, the choices are limited, and the prices are high. Libraries with English-language books are nonexistent.

Time was, when I’d come home from every trip with a suitcase full of books, enough to tide me over until the next time I went abroad.

But Ebooks have made all that onerous heavy-lifting a thing of the past.

And, again, I never have to wait. If I hear about a new book I’d like to buy, the odds are I can get it instantly.

Viva la revoluci√≥n!     

Who designed the covers for the eBooks you’ve been putting up yourself?

Peter Ratcliffe. An art-director from the UK now living in the United States. I highly recommend him. You’ll find his web site here:

What's the best piece of craft advice you've been given?

Good books aren’t written. They re-written, and re-written and re-written.

Want an example of the truth of that statement? Hemingway re-wrote the first chapter of For Whom the Bell Tolls thirty-seven times.

How many of us are as good as he was?

What's your favourite part of the writing process?

I begin by outlining.

That’s fun, and based upon past experience, it will generally absorb about one-sixth of the time I’m going to spend on a book.

After finishing the first draft, I revise like hell, adding detail, getting the words right. That will generally occupy about two sixths (a third) of the total time.

That’s fun too.

The outlining is pure creativity.

The revising gives me the joy of developing the well-turned phrase, delineating character with a line of dialogue, creating a description that not only sings, but also lingers with the reader.

But the part that comes in the middle, getting the first draft on paper, is a hard slog.

It occupies about half of my total time, and most people think of it as writing the book. But I don’t. And it’s the part I like the least.

What's the best collection of short stories you've read?

Best one ever? Tellers of Tales: 100 Short Stories from the United States, England, France, Russia and Germany. It’s a whopper (1526 pages) of an anthology, put together by W. Somerset Maugham back in 1939.  You can still get it on Amazon.

Best one recently? Shaken: Stories for Japan.

It’s an anthology of original stories from twenty talented writers compiled by Tim Hallinan. Great reading! And one hundred percent of the royalties are going to the 2011 Japan Relief Fund.

Available only as a Kindle book. Check it out.

Which author should be much better known?

Lenny Kleinfeld. Hands down.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Pretzel, by Margret Rey, illustrated by her husband, Hans. After more than 60 years, I can still recite the words on the first (and last) pages.  It is, I’m happy to say, back in print. And I bought it for my grandchildren.

A Vine In The Blood by Leighton Gage

1 comment:

  1. Pricing, shmicing. While Leighton's frustrations with his publisher's inexplicable Kindle positioning are deeply justified, my own frustration is with him, for teasing us with Vine In The Blood interviews when I can't get my hands on a copy until December.

    Because this guy is as talented as he is generous to his fellow authors. In other words, massively.