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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015



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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

Conversation with Gayle Lynds

Gayle Lynds is a NYT best selling author and award-winning creator of eight international espionage novels, including The Last Spymaster, The Coil, and Masquerade. She also co-created the Covert One series with Robert Ludlum. She was the featured keynote speaker at the PNWA Writers' Conference on Thursday evening.

But I'm not writing about her keynote. I had a separate conversation with her in two parts. The first part was during the autograph party for authors. I've always enjoyed her writing in the past (starting with the Covert One Series) and was anxious to get an autographed copy of the newest: The Last Spymaster. I happened on her during a slack time in the rush to get copies and she was engaging and ready to converse. We talked a bit about the genre, and the conference, and ultimately I told her about Long Tale Press. Her first response, after about two sentences, was "That's brilliant!" It was, however, from a completely different perspective than the Reader review of Writer's work and determination of publishing.

Ms. Lynds immediately identified the long tail aspect of Long Tale Press. Her assessment was that twenty years ago, all publishers had huge "backlists" of books that weren't destined to become bestsellers, but that sold a few to a few hundred copies a year. These were the bread and butter of the publishing industry. But the "great consolidation" began. Publishing houses were bought up, merged, and combined and as a result had to bank more and more on the blockbuster hit. The backlist, and even the midlist, began to disappear. It was the beginning of a relentless cycle that finds many publishers in trouble today because they risk everything on a few titles, hoping that one will be The DaVinci Code or Harry Potter, and driving proven authors to faster and more prolific output. She praised the Long Tale Press concept as providing the much needed backlist publishing opportunities for authors.

I was pretty encouraged.

Then Saturday evening befor the awards ceremony, I was sitting in the lobby with a glass of wine and the computer open, doing a last editorial pass on Gary Syck's new novel Dark Horses (available in the Long Tale bookstore August 1). Gayle came up to me and sat at my small table and started our conversation again. This time, however, it was much more on the craft of writing. She asked what I was doing and I told her. She said "Oh, you actually edit in soft copy?" She is firmly a paper and pen kind of woman. I explained that this was the last pass to make sure we hadn't missed a typo or that there wasn't one last error that had been missed. I mentioned that I had found a spot in the story where campers gathered "drawn by the smell of the smoke cooking." It had been overlooked in countless reviews. Smoke doesn't cook. The ribs were cooking.

She laughed and said that she once had a book ready for press and through all the reviews and edits, no one had caught that she mentioned putting a silencer on a revolver. You can't put a silencer on a revolver.

Wow! Now you are getting really particular I thought, but she said that in her readership there were weapons experts and if that error had gone to press she would have had hundreds of letters censoring her.

We also talked about the make-up of a thriller and she asked me to tell her about the next one I'm working on. So, I gave her the pitch for "Gutenberg's Other Book." She thought the title was terrific and that it would be especially effective in selling to agents and editors who would make instant associations with the Gutenberg Bible (as intended). She challenged me on why Gutenberg didn't just make a lot of gold and live like a rich man if he had actually learned the secret of alchemy. I explained about Gutenberg's relationship with the Prince of Mainz and how I was making the assumption that Gutenberg had supplied the prince with the gold needed for his takeover of Mainz.

We also talked about the craft a bit. She researches for upwards of a year before writing, and the first draft might take months to write. I think that is obvious from the meticulous attention to detail in her books. All told, it was a great conversation and after 15 minutes we moved on to the awards ceremony. I'll be reading The Last Spymaster in the next couple of weeks, and will review it here.


Want to annotate this entry with the following email I received from Gayle Lynds:

Hi Nathan … Thank you much for your kind words. Among your many talents you have an eagle eye. Yes, I really enjoyed you and I really enjoyed meeting so many fine people at the conference. There was a lot of talent there, and that feeds my soul. Your blog about our conversations was just what I remembered, too. It’s great to talk to someone like you who also remembers all of the titanic shifts the industry has been through in the past 20 years. Best of luck with Long Tale, although I suspect your idea is so great and your energy commensurate that you’re going to be making your own good luck in abundance. Hope you enjoy the Last Spymaster. All best, gayle