Monday, March 14, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Author Morgan Mandel

SEVERAL YEARS AGO I met Author Morgan Mandel at a writers conference, and like so many such relationships, our paths continue to cross. Morgan grew up in Chicago, married her college sweetheart (I won’t say how many years ago) and worked for a Chicago law firm as an administrative assistant until this year when she became the victim of the economy, which allows her to spend more time writing while looking for a new day job.

Mike: Thank you for joining us, Morgan. First, let me ask you about your books. I count three, can you tell us a little about each.

Morgan: My first book, Two Wrongs, a mystery set in Chicago with references to such popular places as the old Marshall Field’s, depicts what happens when a young boy mistakenly testifies against the person he believes killed his sister. That person goes to prison. After his innocence is proven, he emerges from prison, no longer innocent, but intent on getting even.

For a change of pace, after all that doom and gloom, I wrote a romantic comedy, Girl of My Dreams, a Cinderella story about a director’s temporary assistant, whose well meaning attempt to save the director’s reality show by becoming a contestant gets her into madcap scrapes and ill favor with the director. I had a lot of fun writing this book.

Then my publisher, Hard Shell Word Factory, went into a state of transition before being sold to Mundania Press. After a chance conversation with Austin Camacho at a Love is Murder Mystery Conference, I decided to experiment and enter the arena of self-publishing. Self-publishing wasn’t easy. I had much to learn about setting up the cover, the book block and other mechanics. Not only that, I needed to make sure the book was as polished as it would be if published by a traditional press. To make sure that happened, I hired a good editor. Fortunately, I belong to a blog called The Blood-Red Pencil, which is rife with great editors. I chose Helen Ginger and recommend her highly.

Killer Career, my current release, is about a lawyer whose career change to writer could be a killer because her mentor, a New York Times Bestselling Author, not only writes about murder mysteries, but also participates in them. Then, there’s her law partner, who comes to realize she means more to him than he thought, and he doesn’t care for the way her relationship is developing with the strange author.

All three of my books are available at Amazon.com in print and kindle. Also, signed copies can be obtained by emailing me at morgan@morganmandel.com.

Mike: This discussion comes up at many writers events, so let me get your opinion. As a writer, what is more important: Plot or Character?

Morgan: In the contest between character and plot, I’ve always considered character more important, maybe because it comes easily to me. I enjoy getting into the person’s head and want my readers to share that experience. Dialogue is also a fun part of revealing a character’s psyche. As far as plot is concerned, when I write I have a vague idea about what I want to happen, but let the plot unfold as I go along. Plotting doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’m ecstatic when I discover a way around a tricky situation. Writing is as much a discovery to me as it is to someone reading one of my books.

Mike: What started you writing?

Morgan: I always loved to read, but didn’t get the writing bug until after I attended a library presentation by members of Chicago-North Romance Writers of America. That’s when I realized authors are normal people, from various walks of life. That knowledge encouraged me to tackle writing my own book. I joined Chicago-North RWA, served in various capacities from secretary, to manuscript chairperson, president, and advisor. After a while, what I learned from the meeting critiques gelled and I got published. I’m still a member of the chapter and go to every meeting I can.

Mike: Can you tell us a little about writing habits? In other words, do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?

Morgan: My writing habits have changed. Before, when I worked a day job, I’d write mainly on the train while commuting to and from Downtown Chicago, and sometimes on weekends. Now, since I don’t commute, I’ve set a goal of writing 1,000 words every day, in the morning or afternoon, or both, no matter how long it takes me. Since I’m a slow writer, I can spend two, three or more hours getting those words out of my brain and onto the screen. By evening, my brain is fried, so if I haven’t completed my word count during the day, I’ll cruise the Internet or do something else that’s simple.

Mike: You have three books in print, is there anything you are working on now?

Morgan: Right now I’m working on a paranormal thriller, tentatively called Forever Young, about a 55 year old woman whose husband is killed in an auto accident. In desperation, she takes an experimental drug to turn her to 24 forever. Then she learns her husband may have been murdered and the pill is somehow tied in with the murder. The first draft is in its final stages. Then I’ll be doing some cutting and pasting to get the back story in the right spot, plus add more descriptions and depth. To keep up to date on its progress, click the link to its Facebook page.

Mike: Besides writing, do you have any hobbies, etc. for spare time?

Morgan: My chief hobby is books. I adore my Kindle, but also read print books. Writing is an offshoot of my love of books. I’m also a social media fanatic, spending a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter and other popular media spots, as well as blogs, and e-groups, like DorothyL, Murder Must Advertise, Epic, and too many more to mention. I love listening to country music, talk radio, and have a special spot in my heart for dogs, especially my own dog, Rascal. I volunteer for the local Fourth of July Festival. I also confess to being a slots fanatic, but restrain that vice to vacations. This year, due to my current state of unemployment, I’ll be curbing my slots playing even more. I didn’t mention shopping, another vice. I’m a firm believer I can’t have enough shoes and purses. That’s another obsession I’ll put on hold for now.

Mike: I see you involved in several blogs, can you tell me a bit about them?

Morgan: I’m also an addicted blogger. I’ve met many wonderful online friends through blogging. My chief blogs are: My personal blog, Morgan Mandel’s Take on Books, Blogs, Dogs, Networking and Life, is exactly what it says, covering a spectrum of topics, which usually, but not always, tie in with writing in some way. I set up a group blog, Acme Authors Link, with a small collection of authors who blog each week, concentrating mainly on romance and mystery writing. I also own the group blog, Make Mine Mystery, with a large contingency of members who blog every other week. Lastly, I belong to the blog I mentioned before, The Blood-Red Pencil, comprised chiefly of editors and a few authors such as myself thrown into the mix. I also own a few other personal blogs which don’t generate as much traffic, but I started for the fun of it, and sometimes contribute to them, such as the one about my dog, Rascal. You can find all of them on my Blogger Profile Page. Blogging takes up a lot of time, but it’s a fun part of my writing life I wouldn’t want to discard.

Mike: As a dog lover, I have two myself, what is all this about Rascal?

Rascal
Morgan: I mentioned my dog, Rascal. She has her own pages on Facebook, the most popular being Our Little Rascal, where she has a number of followers, who not surprisingly happen to look like dogs. She also belongs to Doggyspace. She’s got a few blogs, but I don’t get around to updating them as often as I should. One is Our Little Rascal – The Blog of a Special Dog Who Can’t Hear.

Rascal’s the subject of many of my videos at youtube.com, along with writing and other fun events. In case you haven’t figured it out, when I can get around to it, Rascal will have her own book. That will be my way of righting a wrong against the much aligned pit bull breed.

Mike: How can readers contact you?

Morgan: The best places to reach me are through my email, or Facebook, as well as main personal blog, Morgan Mandel’s Take. I can also be reached at the group blogs mentioned above on my posting days. I don’t update my website as often, but if you have extra time, I have lots over there at http://www.morganmandel.com/, starting with the time my debut mystery, Two Wrongs, first came out. I plan to reconstruct my website once my new book, Forever Young, goes into production.

All of my books are available in print and e-book at Amazon.com, but Killer Career is also available on Smashwords, if you don’t have a Kindle. Autographed copies are available by e-mailing me at morgan@morganmandel.com

Mike: Thank you so much for joining us today, and good luck with your new project.

Morgan: Mike, Thanks so much for hosting me at your wonderful blog. It’s been a pleasure to let you and your readers know more about me and my writing life.

29 comments:

  1. Hi Mike,
    Thanks for hosting me today.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

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  2. Terrific interview, Morgan and Mike! (Great picture of Rascal, too ;).

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  3. Thanks, Marilyn. Right now Rascal is allowing me to be online. She's sleeping instead of whining for attention.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
    http://facebook.com/morgan.mandel

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  4. All your different genres and publishing experiences draw me in, Morgan. I wonder what kind of book you'll do next?? My cat, Agamemnon, actually likes dogs, so he says HI to Rascal.

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  5. I'm working on Forever Young - Blessing or Curse right now. I hope to get it ready by summer, and put it up on kindle first.

    Thanks for asking, Kaye. Rascal says to say hi back to Agememnon.

    Morgan Mandel

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  6. Good interview. I enjoyed getting to know more about you and your books. Hope the writing is going well on Forever Young. Great title and concept.

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  7. I can't imagine trying to self publish a book! Seems like so much work to go at it alone!

    Thanks for the interview, very informative!

    Diane

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  8. Great interview, Morgan. I love Rascal. As a fellow victim of the new economy, I too have upped my writing time. Instead of a word count, though, I've opted for 40 hours a week at the keyboard. Some weeks are more productive than others, but it's amazing how much I can get done.

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  9. I enjoyed the interview very much! Thanks for recommending I come look at it. Rascal is a sweetheart. Our dog, Joe, says to tell him hello. :)

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  10. Great interview. I read Killer Career and loved it. Ask Morgan, my laundry was a mess because I couldn't put the book down. :)

    Morgan, I hope your days as a full-time writer are profitable. You have some many wonderful stories to tell.

    All my best,

    Cheryl

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  11. I enjoyed reading the interview and learning more about you, and I admire your courage and fortitude in going the self-published route.

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  12. Thanks, Maryann, Diana, Keena,Marian, Cheryl and Ciara, for stopping by.

    As in any big project, I took self-publishing one step at a time. Some parts were tough, like designing the cover, and following all the rules for getting the book block on Lightning Source for printing.

    The next time around I'm getting the cover designed to save me the hassle, and I'm trying Create Space to see how that works out.

    Morgan Mandel

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  13. Great interview. Thanks for sharing. It's amazing all the different projects writers are involved in! :-) Good luck!

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  14. I had no problems with Creatspace. I put out a slim volume of short stories. It looks great and I didn't have to charge too much for it, I think. At least everything I looked at was higher.

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  15. Waving at Morgan. Nice interview.

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  16. MORGAN--I was racing through mail and digests and thought I'd pause and read your interview. I'm glad I did. A little more of the "real" Morgan came out, and I enjoyed it all. And now, we'll crown you the Blogger Queen. Celia

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  17. Thanks, Ryann, Kaye, Chris and Celia for stopping by.And thanks for my new title, Celia, but don't expect me to dress any fancier because of it. (g)

    Morgan Mandel

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  18. Enjoyed getting to know you a little better, Morgan, through this interview. Glad you shared it with us. I just can't imagine tuning out enough to be able to write while commuting! My hat is off to you!

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  19. Hi Sharon,
    Well, right now I don't have that writing commuting problem, but it may be coming again if I find a job Downtown instead of in the neighborhood.

    Morgan Mandel

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  20. Great interview Morgan. I agree with you, characters are the most important element of a book. The plot follows. Your Rascal is so cute.
    www.monarisk.com

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  21. Insightful and enjoyable interview. I enjoyed getting to know Ms. Mandel.

    Best wishes,
    Donna

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  22. Great to hear about your journey through publishing thus far! I wish everyone who self-published realized the importance of hiring a good editor. In fact, it's a worthwhile expense even for books being published by traditional publishers because the house editors don't have time to do much with a story these days.

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  23. Thanks for stopping by Mona, Donna and Kate.

    Yes, an editor makes all the difference, even if submitting a book to a traditional publisher.

    I'm glad so many of you like our dog daughter, Rascal.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

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  24. Very good interview. I admire your perseverance in having a daily writing goal. Good job!

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  25. Nice interview, Morgan. I enjoyed reading about your journey.

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  26. Thanks for stopping by, Heidi and B.A.!

    Morgan Mandel

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  27. Thanks for being such a great host, Mike.
    I enjoyed my stay here.

    Morgan Mandel

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  28. You are very welcome, Morgan. It was nice to have such a great interview!

    Mike

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  29. I'm a little late, but I loved the interview, Morgan and Mike. (Mike and Morgan sounds like a sitcom!) I just downloaded Killer Career. Can't wait to see how it turns out.

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