I write to music, and sometimes certain songs take on the feel of a soundtrack to me, adding layers to the characters and story. That’s never been more true than with The Prophet, when the music of Matthew Ryan and Brian Fallon, in particular, drove that book along. I got to know Matthew when he graciously agreed to let me use a quote from his haunting song “Return To Me” as The Prophet’s epigram, and since then I’ve taken a lot of inspiration not just from his music, but from his approach to his craft. (Read Michael’s 2012 interview with Matthew Ryan)
I don’t really have words to describe what it meant to have the chance to offer an intro in the liner notes of his new album, Hustle Up Starlings, which releases this week — and which happens to have been produced by Brian Fallon, who also plays lead guitar on every song. It was a rare, humbling, and special opportunity. I urge you to check out his work. I’ve never met a more dedicated writer…and then this poor guy has to put the words to music, too! I’m eternally grateful that he does, and in awe of his talent and his work ethic.
What a year 2016 has been for Rise the Dark! Here are a few of the “best of” lists that feature this electrifying read:
In Koryta’s latest nightmare, a self-anointed messiah capable of calling up a homegrown army of “more than 200 heavily armed and deeply paranoid white men” is preparing to shut down the electrical grid supplying energy to half the country. (“Good night, Seattle. Good night, Portland.”) To motivate the only lineman with the nerve and technical skills to pull off the job, the crazies are holding his wife hostage.
“Again proving himself one of today’s top thriller writers, Koryta creates edgy suspense not with trickery but with characters who test the limits of their courage.”
It’s been said many times that there are only about five different plots, and they all revolve around power, greed, revenge, sex and love. But it is what the authors do with those plots and the characters that makes the difference. A plot — no matter how involving — will not work if the characters are not believable.
I now have the pirated edition of Rise the Dark in hand. Notice any difference between the bootleg and the real book? It’s hard, I know, but if you’re a trained detective like me you just might be able to figure it out.
Sadly, Amazon’s system did not figure it out, and so these things were sold alongside the real book, at $12.99 a pop, for a month. I suspect I was a trial run of sorts. I don’t sell enough books for anyone to make a killing on pirated editions, but I do have the right kind of release to piggyback on with a fake edition, as it blends in nicely among hardcover, Kindle, large-print, and audio versions.
Because I believe my book was used as a test, I really hope other writers are made aware of the tactic and keep an eye out for it. I will keep everyone posted on the feedback we receive from Amazon as to how this all came about and what measures will be taken to try to see that it doesn’t happen to more writers in the future.
And if you received the pirated copy, please let me know and I will replace it promptly with a signed hardcover.
Yesterday we discovered that a paperback edition of Rise the Dark was available for sale on the book’s homepage on Amazon. Apparently, it had been available since September 2. This was intriguing, because the paperback edition won’t be out for a year, and that seemed awfully early for a pre-order page.
It wasn’t a pre-order page. It was a pirated version of my book, selling at $12.99, below the hardcover and Kindle price. It had its own ISBN, and the publisher was CreateSpace Independent Publishing. CreateSpace, I learned, is a print-on-demand, self-publishing outfit that is, ironically, owned by Amazon. The stolen copy’s product page included the real book’s reviews and blurbs. It included a photograph of me, holding up physical copies of a real book in my real publisher’s warehouse. It included everything, essentially, that is on the real book’s product page. For the buyer, there was absolutely no indication that this was pirated.
Thanks to Amazon’s wonderful “look inside this book” feature, I was able to scan the pages. The copyright page was missing, naturally. An odd floating page had been added, announcing that this was “The Second Book in the Markus Novak Series, 2016.” Then the text appeared – wrong font, bad formatting, but the right words. It was my book, but someone else had somehow managed to upload it and sell it right alongside the real formats. Disturbing, to say the least.
Thanks to swift work from Little, Brown’s legal team, the pirated edition is off the site now. That’s a good start, but obviously doesn’t answer some critical questions. I hope to know a lot more soon.
If you purchased a paperback edition from Amazon, I would love to hear from you. I will happily replace it with a signed hardcover and my sincere apologies. I’d also love to see a copy of the bootlegged book.
Fraud in the e-book business isn’t new – fake novels by Stephen King, John Grisham, Michael Connelly and other major bestsellers regularly appear, and pirated versions of classics like The Great Gatsby abound. I’d heard about that before. I’d never heard about someone selling a fake physical version of a new release right alongside the real deal – with free shipping for Prime members, no less!
For now, I’m most interested in reaching any reader who got a pirated book in exchange for their real dollars. If you somehow ended up with a bogus book, please send a private message via Facebook or use the contact page on my web site, and we will do whatever it takes to make this right.
For other writers – you might want to keep an eye on all of your editions. If CreateSpace suddenly becomes your publisher, it is a serious problem.
Michael discusses craft, the advice he keeps in mind as he writes, and his rotten S.O.B. of an editor in his post on Literary Hub:
THE EDITOR INSIDE MY HEAD IS A CRUEL AND DEMANDING S.O.B.
By Michael Koryta, Sept. 2
When I worked at a newspaper, my cubicle walls were lined with little reminders about craft—things of the “every word counts” and “hard writing makes easy reading” variety. But my absolute favorite piece of advice was from William Blundell, who wrote a wonderful book called The Art and Craft of Feature Writing. This particular quote has traveled with me from desk to desk and from journalism to fiction; I still include it with handouts anytime I teach a workshop or give a craft talk. The only line that has equal mileage for me is the one from Michael Connelly that’s still taped to my computer today: “Write with your head down.”
Here’s the Blundell quote:
The mean writer is always a lean writer. He can’t help it.
By meanness I don’t refer to a harsh quality in his copy but to his attitude toward himself as he works. You may think it strange to cite an attitude as a consideration in good writing, but often it’s the only thing separating the work of two equally talented people. The one turning out fat, flaccid, talky stories is not being tough enough on himself.
The mean storyteller becomes two people, acting alternately as he works. The first is the sensitive artist-creator, the second a savage critic who eradicates every weakness in the creation. He’s cruel, derisive and obsessively demanding. He hoots at the writer’s affectations and pretty turns of phrase, blisters him for cowardice when he uses soft, passive constructions or hedges on conclusions, challenges every point of logic, demands sound reasons for the presence of every character and fact, and above all flagellates his victim for wordiness. He is a rotten, S.O.B., worse than any editor who ever drew breath, and he is the artist’s best friend.
I absolutely love that concept, and I believe in it, but I never realized just how literally my subconscious applies it until I combed through some old notebooks from works-in-progress.
Supposedly, the most-common question for a writer is , “Where do you get your ideas?” but in my experience, it is actually, “Do you outline?” I don’t outline, but I do fill notebooks with scribbled thoughts about where the story is and where it should be, and over the years I’ve realized that these pages inevitably take the form of a hybrid between potential plot moves and an editorial note on the existing material, as if I’m offering feedback on a student’s manuscript, or another writer’s work, rather than my own. Only, in this case, I’m the student and teacher, and I’m cultivating that “rotten S.O.B.” Blundell describes so well as the artist’s best friend.
Looking back at those notebooks, one thing has become painfully apparent: when things are going well, my subconscious is happy to view writing as a team effort. When mistakes have been made, though, the rotten S.O.B. is very quick to the point the finger at me. Mistakes become personal, and the rotten S.O.B. is not going to share the blame.
The notes shift from a plural pronoun approach “we” to an accusatory “you.”
Here are some samples from the notebooks of my 2015 book, Last Words. In the same pages, or even same paragraphs at times:
“A key question to hold in mind—how do we deal with the body of Evan Borders’ father?”
“We can use this to incite Ridley…”
“We’ve done a good job of building the sense of Garrison as a place of menace.”
See—it’s a team effort! “We” are all in this together, and doing good work! But then:
“You have missed some key opportunities.”
“Major mistake—you haven’t explored Ridley’s alibi.”
“You need to give him a line stating that the past needs to be left to him and Ridley.”
And my absolute favorite, a single-sentence shift:
“We have done a nice job with the emotional and sensory qualities of claustrophobia, but you haven’t anchored it in anything related to character. Mark could be anyone trapped in a cave, but not in the good, universal sense. We need to understand why this fear is unique to him and what it says about his past. Maybe he has a desire to control his circumstances as much as possible because in his damaged childhood he didn’t have that ability?”
“We” have done a nice job but “you” have screwed it up. This is what I write to myself, about my own work. I wouldn’t want to share those pages with a psychiatrist, but I’m actually grateful to see the unconscious way that I can look forward with hope and optimism about the opportunities I’ve created and simultaneously berate myself for mistakes I’ve made, or opportunities I missed.
There are countless books, essays, and interviews on craft that I’d recommend to every writer, but there are not many that I’d put in front of the William Blundell explanation about the requirement that there be two people at work on the same book.
He is a rotten, S.O.B., worse than any editor who ever drew breath, and he is the artist’s best friend.
Amen, Mr. Blundell.