Interview with Author & Liar’s Club Member Merry Jones

I am thrilled to have talented mystery author Merry Jones here at the Dark Dimensions today. Behind the Walls, the second novel in her Harper Jennings series is out now and available here. Read on for my interview with her.

1. What was the inspiration of Behind the Walls? Behind the Walls is the second in a series (sequel to SUMMER SESSION).  Because the heroine, Harper Jennings, is an archeology grad student, I wanted to center the thriller on crimes related to artifacts.  In the process of researching pre-Columbian artifacts, I found out about the ancient belief in shapeshifters, or Nahuals.  And the plot took shape.  Could these creatures exist?  Do they protect the artifacts of their cultures?

2. What parts of the novel were the most fun to write?

The most fun for me were the parts where the characters question what they know.  It’s not possible, say, for a shapeshifter to exist.  And yet, here is evidence.  But that’s the fun of thrillers and mysteries: what characters (and sometimes the reader) is certain to be true is not always true.  Things aren’t what they seem.  It’s difficult to know what/whom to trust.  That’s where the tension comes from.

3. What draws you to the mystery genre? Do you feel they are the same things that draw the rest of us?

Life is mystery.  None of us know what will happen next.  The story unfolds with varying degrees of suspense. The mysteries we read are traditionally reassuring, though, because they follow a pattern in which good prevails.  Evil/danger/threat are always around, but in the end order is restored; even though there are victims, life goes on.  I see mystery/thriller as a microcosm of reality.

4. What was the most challenging part of writing the story of Behind the Walls?

Research.  I had to study a lot of diverse topics, including pre-Columbian culture, legends,relics and symbolism; the practice of honor killings; our government’s investments in the Iraq war; post traumatic stress disorder; silent film-making in Ithaca New York.  I learned a lot.  For example, pre-Columbians thought butterflies were the souls of dead warriors, and toads were the fathers of royalty.  And shapeshifters protected their communities.

5. Who are some authors that have inspired you along the way?

So many.  Sue Miller.  Joy Fielding.  Faye Kellerman.  Dennis Tafoya.  Joyce Carol Oates.  Mark Twain.  And on and on.

6. Having been both traditionally published and last year endeavoring into indie publishing, what would you say are the pros and cons for each path?

That’s a big question.  Traditional publishing offers an advance, which is nice.  And they handle distribution.  And you don’t have to worry about all the details of the publishing process–you get an editor, a copy editor, a cover designer.  Copies are sent out for review–you don’t have to do that by yourself.  You have a team devoted to your book and its success. They will decide whether your book is hardback or paper, whether it becomes an ebook.  Even with your team, when the book is out, you have to do most of the promotion on your own.

With self-publishing, you’re the head honcho.  If you need editing or copyediting, you need to hire someone.  You get no advance; in fact you pay for the whole process yourself.  You might need someone to help you format the text–a different format for each ebook outlet and for print on demand.  You upload the formatted text onto Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, Googlebooks–whatever ebook outlets you want and whichever print on demand company you go with.  You get your ISBN number, and pay for it.  You get a cover designer and pay for it.  There are companies that sell “packages,” who will help you by doing the formatting and uploading, etc, or you can hire specialists each step of the way.  Very few of us have the skills to do it all alone.  When the books is done, you have to send copies out for reviews and do your own promotion. You have to try to get printed copies into stores.  With self-publishing, you have a lot more freedom, but a lot more tedium, too.

7. What is a little known fact about you that readers of your work and fans of this blog may like to know?

I’m an avid sculler.  Maybe that’s not interesting.  Maybe it’s more interesting that when I was a child, my friends and I used to play dead.  The winner was the one who lay still the longest, without making a sound.  Hmmm.

Bio:  Merry Jones is the author of the Harper Jennings thrillers (BEHIND THE WALLS, SUMMER SESSION), and the Zoe Hayes mysteries (THE NANNY MURDERS, THE RIVER KILLINGS, THE DEADLY NEIGHBORS, THE BORROWED AND BLUE MURDERS).  She has also written humor (including I LOVE HIM, BUT…) and non-fiction (including BIRTHMOTHERS: Women who relinquished babies for adoption tell their stories.)  Jones is a member of the Philadelphia Liars Club, Mystery Writers of America and The Authors Guild.  Visit her at MerryJones.com

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