J.M. Reinbold interviews Delaware author Greg Smith, author of “Final Price”.
JMR: Hi, Greg! Please tell us a bit about yourself.
GS: I was born and raised in Washington, DC. I have a BA in English from Skidmore College and an MBA from the College of William & Mary. I worked in public relations in DC and moved to Delaware to get married. I also worked in PR in Wilmington and Philadelphia before committing to fiction writing full time.
JMR: How did you get started in writing?
GS: I’ve always wanted to be a writer and it eventually dawned on me one day that in order to make it happen I had to…write! Sit down, come up with an idea and start typing, or filling legal pads with scribbles. When I finished my first novel, it was a great sense of accomplishment, but I look back on that VERY unpublished story and realize it was merely an important first step.
JMR: Your book, Final Price, was a quarter-finalist this year in the Amazon.com “Break Through Novel Award” competition and was published by CreateSpace. What is your book about?
Final Price pits a psychotic car salesman, Shamus Ryan, against a culturally conflicted Chinese-American homicide detective, Paul Chang. The story is set in Northern Delaware where Shamus takes out his murderous revenge on customers who waste his time and reject him. In the “small town” atmosphere of Wilmington, the seemingly random killings baffle the cops until Chang and his emotionally fragile ex-partner, Nelson Rogers, step in to find the common thread.
JMR: Can you tell us a little about the history of Final Price and your experience writing this particular book?
GS: I think this book has changed more than any other that I’ve written. Actually, in a lot of ways I think of it as my informal “graduate thesis.” It went through no fewer than ten drafts and years of intensive group critique led by a professional editor who improved my writing and craft exponentially. With her help we tried to find a home through conventional publisher routes but that is always a daunting path for an unknown. I got some good feedback but no offers.
I took a shot with the Amazon contest and got some more good feedback and even though it didn’t finish at the top, I was very pleased with the whole contest experience. After that, I decided to follow through and release the book as a self published work.
JMR: Final Price has been described as a thriller, a novel of suspense and a mystery — is Final Price a cross genre novel, and if so why did you decide to combine these three genres?
GS: I don’t know about that, I think it stands as a thriller certainly, but within the mystery framework it is not so much of a “whodunit?” as a “Howtheygonnacatchhim?” I wanted to show the action from two distinctly different perspectives so the reader gets to be in the head of both the hero and the killer.
JMR: To a greater or lesser degree all authors write from personal experience, how much of Final Price is from your personal experience and how much research did you have to do in order to write this book?
GS: This book started from a simple premise that occurred to me during a long shift selling cars during a snowy day with few customers. What if, instead of sharing war stories with co-workers in the break room, a salesman totally snapped and lashed out against his most aggravating customers? Shamus Ryan was born. To play the other side of the equation I wanted to create an edgy hero who has plenty of dark demons of his own.
Paul Chang is an amalgam of people I’ve met throughout my life, as well as a bunch of stuff I simply made up (one of the beauties of writing!)
JMR: What’s the most unusual experience you’ve had related to the writing of “Final Price“?
GS: Sometimes when I tell people about the book and that I sold cars myself they get a funny look in their eye that always prompts me to remind them that it is fiction!
JMR: Can you tell us a few funny or unusual “facts” about Final Price?
GS: Of course all the characters are fictitious even if they were inspired by real people. More often than not, several people actually. Likewise, some of the annoying customer traits I gave the victims had some basis in fact. In particular, there’s a scene where the customers devour Shamus’s lunch then leave without buying. That happened once.
JMR: Do you have a favorite author and if so, who and why?
GS: Hard to pin down but since we’re talking about thrillers, Stephen King, Thomas Harris, Dean Koontz.
JMR: What other authors have significantly influenced your writing?
GS: James Frey, author of How to Write a Damn Good Mystery, (No connection to the disgraced autobiographer!)
JMR: Could you tell us a little about your other writing projects – past, present, future?
GS: Sure, I have two other complete novels, one a young adult fantasy and a second thriller based on a mind control conspiracy. I’m still looking for representation or publishers for those and have several new books in mind.
I have a short story, Street Smarts, published in Stories from The Inkslingers (Gryphonwood Press, 2007.)
The launch of Final Price has kept me pretty busy but the writing itch won’t be denied for long!
JMR: What has been your experience of the publishing world and what advice would you give writers, especially new writers seeking publication?
GS: It’s a marathon, and even for every “overnight” success if you look more closely you’ll see plenty of struggling.
Whether it’s writing, re-writing, polishing and marketing, take everything one step at a time.
Personally, so far it’s been a great experience. Since I’m doing it myself it’s certainly different than a big splashy marketing campaign. I liken it to forcing the proverbial tree in the forest to make a sound. Or to put it another way, each reader represents a spark, I never know which one will catch on.
So far most of the folks who have read the book like it, and word of mouth is the best marketing of all.
Additional Information about Greg Smith and “Final Price”
Check out Final Price on : Amazon.com
Read a review of Final Price on : Pick of the Literate
J.M. Reinbold at Written Remains