Thursday, September 14, 2006

BookEnds Talks to Jonathan McGoran

Jonathan McGoran, writing as D. H. Dublin
Book: Body Trace
Publisher: Berkley
Pub date: September 2006

Jonathan McGoran wrote short stories in grade school and high school, but prose took a backseat to writing and performing music after high school. While working as a freelance copywriter after college, he realized that he really wanted to be writing his own fiction, and started writing his first novel.

Author Web site:

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Jonathan: Body Trace is the first installment in a forensic crime series based in Philadelphia. The main character, Madison Cross, is a brilliant young med student who ditches her medical career for an entry-level position with the Philadelphia Police Crime Scene Unit.

BookEnds: How did you come to write this book?
Jonathan: My wonderful agent, Kim Lionetti, approached me about writing it after Berkley approached her.

BookEnds: What is your writing process like?
Jonathan: My writing process changes to accommodate my life . . . having a child, working two jobs, insane deadlines, all these things have affected my writing process at different times. At one point, I was working a lot of day-job hours, but I also had a day off during the week. All week long I would think about what I was going to write, and when Tuesday rolled around, I would get up at six, make coffee, and literally write until midnight. It was great.

These days, I write mostly at night. My advance helped me cut back one day a week, but I end up spending a lot of that time on research and interviews I can only do during business hours. I have rarely suffered from a lack of motivation to write, but tight deadlines and a lack of free time have imposed an enforced discipline. I have to write, and if I have a problem I have to solve it, and if what I’m writing is crap, I have to write through it, write around it, or just write crap, knowing that I can rewrite it later. I think it has helped my craft having to maintain this pace.

BookEnds: Where do you get your ideas?
Jonathan: I never have a problem coming up with ideas. My mind is always chugging along, with ideas popping into my head. Good ideas, not always, but definitely lots of ideas. My problem is deciding which ones to pursue, and finding the time to do it.

I love to read, but at this point in my life, I don’t have much time for it. I listen to NPR at work, and that is just an excellent resource, a wonderful place to hear great interviews and stories on wildly disparate topics that you will rarely be exposed to elsewhere. I’m constantly hearing things on NPR that send my mind off in all sorts of directions.

BookEnds: What else are you working on?
Jonathan: I’m currently awaiting the copy edits on the second installment in the CSU series, Blood Poison (tentative release date September 2007). I am also working on the third installment of the CSU Investigation Series, which is due in December. When that is finished, I look forward to working on some revisions to a novel I have written called Pig Latin, and then returning to finish Skipping Stones, the novel I was working on when the CSU deal came through.

BookEnds: Many writers have stories of rejections. What are yours? What was your most memorable rejection?
Jonathan: I’ve had many memorable rejections, and more than a few forgettable ones as well. In the early days, in the days of mass-mailed cold queries, I was partial to having my queries returned to me with “REJECTED” stamped across the top. I also liked the rejections that included a suggestion to buy that agent’s book.

But my favorite rejection was one of those slow-motion disaster rejections. It started with elation at the agent’s initial interest. Sure, she wanted me to make some changes, but hey, she was interested. And sure, she wanted to have it exclusively, but it would only be for . . . three months? I made my changes, sent them in, and bided my time. At the end of three months, when I had just started to indulge in my mailbox-checking compulsion, I heard through the grapevine that the agent holding my manuscript had quit. Not only had she quit the agency, but she was no longer an agent.

I waited another day or two, but when I heard nothing, I called and asked if the agent in question was in. After an awkward pause and a mumbled “please hold,” I was told she was in a meeting . . . could she call me back? Three days later, her assistant called to tell me her boss wouldn’t be able to represent me, but the good news was that the head of the agency herself was interested, a woman notoriously slow to read manuscripts.

A week later, I finally had my rejection.


Loralee said...

Great interview! I'm encouraged to keep writing through my crap, as suggested, and working on improving my mind-set for mysteries while I continue writing romances.
There's always something to learn from this blog site. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Another great interview. I have a question about this:

"BookEnds: How did you come to write this book?
Jonathan: My wonderful agent, Kim Lionetti, approached me about writing it after Berkley approached her."

To make sure I understand this correctly--the publisher said, "Hey, we have an idea for a series. Do you have any authors who might be interested in writing it?" How often does this type of thing happen?

Kim Lionetti said...

Yes, the publisher approached me with the overall series concept first. This happens on occassion, but more often with category fiction, especially mystery series.

If we think we have a client who'd be a good fit, we send the editor a proposal. In most instances, like this one, the editor loves what the writer's put together and we're able to make a deal!

jolinn said...

Wow, rubber stamped rejections? Now I don't feel so bad about the one I got last year with a big NO! written across my query in red sharpie.
I admire your discipline. :)