05 October 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Good Morning, Darkness by Ruth Francisco – Review & Interview

The opening premise for this book has been done so many times that I felt like I could just stop after the first 15% or so and write the rest myself… and then the author screwed with my head. Everything you think you know in this book is wrong. Then it’s wrong again. Well, crud.

The author’s writing is some of the best in the self-published world. The words flow easily through the pages and I found myself getting lost in time several times, transported into Laura’s world. If there was a grammar error in here, I certainly didn’t catch it… and as those of you who follow my reviews know, that’s a huge pet peeve of mine in the Independent world.

The story was well developed. Yes, it’s been done before, but not quite like this. The action was fast-paced, twisting and turning and I just never knew where the author was going. This last bit is the reason it loses a star though. I think if I were to go back and read the book again, I wouldn’t see it coming because there’s no real foreshadowing. I’ve had the opposite problem lately with thrillers, so it was a change, but no less annoying. It really did come out of left field.

Having said that, I would much rather have no inkling than to have it all figured out. And that doesn’t take away from the story or the great story that this is.

Just don’t think you’re all so smart and have it all figured out. Cuz you don’t. No matter how smart you think you are.

This is recommended for readers who like a good mystery/thriller. It definitely made me want to read more of her work!

Everyone is in love with Laura: the Mexican fisherman who admires her through her kitchen window as he walks in the predawn darkness to the ocean; her boyfriend, Scott, a successful real estate agent who asks her to marry him and won’t take no for an answer; the detective who instructs her in martial arts; and her lascivious boss.

Then one day Laura disappears. There is no evidence of foul play—she had quit her job and claimed to be visiting her sick mother on the East Coast. But while wandering the beach one night, the fisherman finds a woman’s severed arm. When another one turns up shortly afterward, he believes they must be Laura’s. LAPD Detective Sergeant Reggie Brooks is also wondering if Laura is alive or dead. Yet without a missing person’s report or any evidence to suggest that the arms belonged to Laura, he cannot officially investigate.

Unofficially, however, Reggie Brooks can’t stop thinking about what happened to the vanished, beautiful woman who took his martial arts classes and now haunts his dreams. Soon he is driving up and down the windswept, lonely coastal highway in search of answers. He risks his job and his marriage as his obsession deepens. And his passion will lead him to a dark, terrifying place of unthinkable acts, irrational behavior, and premeditated murder…

Rating: ★★★★☆

Book count for 2010: 75

Here’s part 2 from my interview with the author:

Ruth Francisco is the author of more than half a dozen published novels. I spoke with her about her thriller, Good Morning, Darkness.

Tell us about Good Morning, Darkness. What makes this a good weekend read?

When I want a good weekend read, I look for something fast-paced and utterly engrossing. Something with atmosphere and surprises. Something that will transport me to a different time, a different place. Perhaps a sexy L.A. noir, something that will conjure up images of women in red stiletto heels. Something with as many twists and turns as Sunset Boulevard.

Good Morning, Darkness is a Hitchcock-like thriller that should keep you guessing until the end. We start with Laura, a mysterious beauty, loved by every man who sees her: the Mexican fisherman who admires her through her kitchen window as he walks in the predawn darkness to the ocean; her boyfriend, Scott, a successful real estate agent who asks her to marry him and won’t take no for an answer; her martial arts instructor, LAPD Detective Reggie Brooks; and her lascivious boss.

When Laura disappears, Detective Brooks can’t stop thinking about her. Then a fisherman discovers a woman’s severed arm on the beach. Is it Laura’s? Soon Detective Brooks is driving up and down the windswept, coastal highway in search of answers, risking his job, marriage, and all he believes in.

If you like noir mysteries, you’ll like this one.
I remember reading a lot of buzz online about one of your previous books, Amsterdam 2012. What can you tell us about that novel?

I published my first Indie book on Kindle in February, after my publisher turned down my Euro thriller Amsterdam 2012 for being too controversial.  It met with great success, doing what controversial books are meant to do—stirring up readers and opening up discussion on difficult topics.  Readers have been adamant about it; several have called it a “must-read,” which is enormously gratifying.  Having this kind of interaction with readers makes a political novel, a novel that says, “Look, we need to think about these things,” perfect for Kindle.

Amsterdam 2012 starts with a college-aged woman, Anne Aulis, who goes to Amsterdam with her boyfriend Peter during their summer break. They spend the night with a friendly Dutch couple, and the next morning discover their hosts have been murdered. They flee to London only to find the murders have touched off a Muslim rebellion in Holland that spreads to England. When they return home to the US, Peter is detained at Kennedy Airport, then taken away by FBI agents.

As the dominoes of disaster fall one by one in Europe, and still no word from Peter, Ann has to decide where she stands, what is worth fighting for, what she is willing to risk.  Finally, she throws off her passivity and decides to act.

You’re fairly prolific, with at least six books now available on Kindle. What is your writing process?

I started putting up books on Kindle in February, and just recently got the rights back on my first two published books, which I’ve posted. Then I have several manuscripts that I’ve written over the years that haven’t sold. So I have a bit of a backlog. Usually I research a book for several months before starting.  Then it takes me four to six months for a first draft, which I usually let sit for several months before rewriting, which takes another few months.  Sometimes a book will take years. The Secret Memoirs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis took me at least two years to write, and I rewrote Primal Wound three or four times over several years.

But writing for Kindle opens up new possibilities for writers, which is incredibly exciting. I wrote Amsterdam 2012 first as a free blog novel, and posted new entries every day. I edited it and posted it on Kindle. There is vitality and vigor to writing this way. My next project will be to do a blog novel written by two writers, who share posts between the antagonist and protagonist. I will invite readers to make comments, or write from a secondary character’s point of view. This kind of “novel improv” is exciting, and can only be done in epublishing.

What was your path to publication?

My first book was published in 2003, and my path was very ordinary—sending out query letters for one book, many agent rejections, writing another book, trying agents again, getting a little interest, then finally, after about a year, getting an agent. Then it was the waiting game all over again as he tried to find a publisher, another six months. Then a year after signing the book contract, the book was published. I’m not sure if this laborious, time-consuming process is even an option to new writers anymore. I think there are much better ways for new writers to enter the marketplace: 1) Polish your novel and get it up on Kindle and Smashwords; promote it; 2) Write several short pieces of fiction and sell them. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine is very open to new writers in that genre; 3) Write a blog that will draw in readers; 4) Use the internet social network to make writer friends; join writer websites such as authonomy.com; 5) Then, send out query letters to a few New York agents; 6) If you have time and the money, go to at least one writers’ conference in your genre.

With all this self promotion, don’t forget that your writing comes first. Set aside at least two hours a day for writing—six days a week. Don’t even think about checking your emails either before or during this time.

Which authors most inspire you?

Chandler, Connelly, and Highsmith, as well as Ruth Rendell, Joyce Carol Oates, and Stephen King. I guess my tastes run to the dark side. Beyond being great storytellers, all of these writers have characters who yearn for something greater than themselves, who challenge standard ways of thinking and behaving. And they use language beautifully.

Why publish on Kindle?

I am a huge advocate for Kindle publishing both for new writers and established writers. You can immediately make some money from your writing, which makes you feel like a writer. You get immediate feedback from readers, which is exciting, improves your work, and makes you realize that, yes, you are writing for an audience. You can make changes on your published material. Traditional publishing is on its way out: it is no longer economically sustainable for publishers; it is too slow to respond to the marketplace; and people are more mobile than ever—they don’t want to lug around a library of books every time they move.

Simply put, Kindle writing is the future of writing: exciting, dynamic, and very likely more profitable for writers. It makes literature suddenly relevant to readers in a new way.

You’ve had good success with ebooks. What have you done to promote and market your work?

Since epublishing is relatively new, venues for promotion that carry critical weight—such as The New York Time Review of Books—have not been established. But they will be soon—people need help sifting through the huge volume of available books to find what they want. I’ve done little more than promote on Kindleboards, and on the Amazon Discussion forums. Building a presence through a blog, participating in other people’s blogs, book trailers, Facebook, twitter, targeting topic-specific audiences relevant to your book, are all great ways to go. They are, however, time-consuming. You have to be a bit of a huckster at this point.

What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of publishing on Kindle?

I would advise thinking very strongly about what you are going to write first. If fiction, I would suggest writing a book that can be the first in a series. A book that has a built-in audience. I would think about how I was going to market the book. Being truly original is difficult, perhaps impossible, but displaying your true authentic voice is unique. That sounds easy, but like good acting, it requires self exploration, and a certain amount of despair. And time—don’t be in too much of a rush.

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