Darrell James is a California writer living in Pasadena. His short stories have appeared in numerous mystery magazines and book anthologies, and have garnered a number of awards. Most recently, The Art of Avarice, as appearing in the book anthology Politics Noir was a 2009 Derringer finalist. Darrell is highly visible among his peers, serving on the Board of Directors of Sisters In Crime/LA, and as an Active member of the SoCal Chapter of Mystery Writer’s of America. His personal odyssey to publication appears in the Writer’s Digest book HOW I GOT PUBLISHED, along with J.A. Jance, David Morrell, Clive Cussler, and other notable authors.
Darrell, after much success with short stories (several awards and high placement in competitions, inclusion in anthologies and the release of your own collection) you signed a three book deal with Midnight Ink for a mystery series. Congratulations!
Can you tell us about your sleuth and the first book in the series?
My series centers around a very determined young female protagonist named Del Shannon who works for Desert Sands Covert in Tucson, AZ., an investigative firm that specializes in finding missing persons (some who my not want to be found). Written as thrillers, each book sends Del on a dangerous assignment, while dealing with life and love and happiness. (I try to pick intriguing themes and unusual settings for the conflict.)
In book one, having already developed a reputation as being good at finding people, Del goes in search of her own mother—a mother she’s never known. Her search leads her to the clannish community of Nazareth Church, deep in the hills of Kentucky, where she encounters the fabled faith healer Silas Rule. Dark secrets and malevolent conspiracies surround the man and her mother’s past. There’s love and some sexual intrigue along the way. But, can Del survive the ordeal and find her mother?…
I guess I’ll say here… only time (and story endings) will tell.
You are now in that waiting period between signing the contract and holding the book in your hands; your novel will come out in September of 2011. What are some ways that authors can make good use of the time leading up to the release date?
There’s a lot to do actually: Marketing and promotional campaigns plan are a major part of an author’s work. Of course, books 2, 3 and beyond also need to be written. No matter what the length of time, writing must still be a priority. I have book 2 finished and I’ve started a first book in an entirely different series with the expectation of getting it to the market as well. I also try to keep my visibility high by continuing to promote my short stories (they number close to thirty now in various anthologies and mystery magazines).
Beyond that, things will start to get exciting around November to December of this year, as my publisher begins the process of creating book one for a September 2011 release. Final edits will be completed, cover design approved, publishers catalog of 2011 fall line-up established… (I’ll note that I’ve intentionally avoided stating the title of the book as it may change between now and the publication date.)
Some might think that an author writes a book in solitude, sells it, and then steps out and introduces himself to other authors and readers. There’s actually quite a bit of groundwork that an author must lay if he wants a successful career. Can you share with us some of the steps you’ve taken to prepare for your inevitable best seller?
Well, one of the most important steps is to develop skills (experience) as a writer. I feel very strongly that, regardless of background, all fiction writers begin as inexperienced rookies and must learn the craft of both writing and storytelling before they will see success (meaning published). Almost every writer I know has at least one or more failed attempts in their drawer. I have two such novels, as well as an original screen play, that will likely never see the light of day.
I believe that short stories are also an effective way to gain experience. They teach an economy of writing that plays well in today’s genre market. They also offer you some short-run validation of your efforts. Short stories have served effectively as my training wheels. A number of them have been winners or finalists in award competitions.
In addition, I’ve learned that it takes integrating with the writing community (writers, agents, editors, reviewers, and readers) and discovering exactly what success demands. I can’t over emphasize the importance of this. And this is anything but a solitary pursuit. It takes getting out from behind the laptop and meeting people.
I currently do more than thirty organizational events, conferences, and workshops a year and my first novel isn’t out yet. I have also served on the boards of two major writing organizations—Sisters In Crime/LA and (currently) SoCal Mystery Writers of America . I expect these efforts to only increase.
Where do you see this series taking you and what are your hopes for the future?
I am totally grateful to the terrific folks at Midnight Ink, who saw value in my series and agreed to publish it. I would hope for a long and fruitful relationship with them. In the end, however, book sales dictate the longevity of a series and the longevity of the author. I’m extremely excited about Del Shannon as a character and about the direction of the series overall. I thrill to writing these stories. My hope (and maybe my belief) is that others will thrill to them as well. If so, I expect that there will be many more book contracts, and books, to come.
Could you share a piece of advice to the authors struggling to get to where you’re at?
Be patient! Nothing happens fast in this business. (Okay, I’m as impatient as the next, but persevere.) There will be many, many rejections and disappointments along the way. But to get there you have to keep going.
And write! I’ve always said “You can’t sell from and empty wagon.” You must have completed projects to offer a publisher. Finish the short story (finish dozens of them). And submit them. Finish the novel and immediately start the next. Writing is what writers do. If you’re not inspired to put words on the page and tell a great story, perhaps another career is best. (Just my honest opinion.)
Thank you so much for sharing, and we look forward to the release of the first of many Del Shannon mysteries.