Happy release day to Barbara Rogan’s
new book A DANGEROUS FICTION!
Jo Donovan always manages to come out on top. From the backwoods of
Appalachia, she forged a hard path to life among the literati in New
York City. At thirty-five, she’s the widow of the renowned author Hugo
Donovan and the owner of one of the best literary agencies in town. Jo
is living the life she dreamed of but it’s all about to fall apart.
When a would-be client turns stalker, Jo is more angry than shaken
until her clients come under attack. Meanwhile, a biography of Hugo
Donovan is in the works and the author’s digging threatens to destroy
the foundations of Jo’s carefully constructed life. As the web of
suspicion grows wider and her stalker ups the ante, she’s persuaded by
her client and friend—FBI profiler-turned-bestselling-thriller writer—to
go to the police. There Jo finds herself face-to-face with an old
flame: the handsome Tommy Cullen, now NYPD detective.
Barbara Rogan is the
author of eight novels and coauthor of several nonfiction books. Her latest
novel, A DANGEROUS FICTION, a mystery set in the
publishing world, has just come out with Viking Books. She has also
worked extensively in publishing, starting out an editor at Fawcett, then as
founder and director of the Barbara Rogan Literary Agency. She has taught fiction
writing at Hofstra University and SUNY Farmingdale, and currently teaches for
Writers Digest University and in her own online school, Next Level
Workshops. A frequent lecturer on both the business and craft of writing,
she writes a popular blog, In Cold Ink, and teaches seminars and master
classes at writers’ conferences.
Your latest book takes place in the
publishing word, a world you’re very familiar with, was writing about something
so familiar easier or more difficult than other settings?
It was so much easier I sometimes
worried I was getting lazy. Having been an editor in a large New York
publishing house and then a literary agent for many years, I know the industry
from the inside. I’m also quite fond of it, which I imagine comes across in the
book. It was great fun. I traveled widely, drank too much champagne and
consumed too many publishing lunches. The people I worked with—publishers,
agents, and authors, many of them brilliant, all of them book-lovers—were at
the heart of that experience; and returning to that world was one of the great
pleasures of writing A DANGEROUS FICTION.
How much research is associated with
Quite a bit; almost as much research
as procrastination. My previous books dealt with topics as diverse as
chaos physics, jazz, Shaker furniture, adobe houses, high-level embezzlement,
homicide investigation and open-heart surgery, none of which were areas of
particular expertise until I started writing about them.
I usually start with reading tons of
books and articles. I try to find experts willing to work with me; and then I
go out and see things for myself. A few pages in A DANGEROUS FICTION concerns
the training of protection dogs: that was fun research. I once spent three
weeks in an inner-city ER, trailing doctors and nurses. I’ve met with retired
spies, homicide detectives, jazz musicians, physicists, reporters, carpenters,
heart surgeons, and nuclear physicists, all of whom were incredibly generous
with their time and expertise. It’s a fallacy to think that fiction writers
just “make it all up.” Fiction always needs to sound plausible, or readers
won’t believe; and sounding plausible requires learning enough so that experts
in the various fields, reading the book, will nod their heads, not scratch
You used to be an agent, Do you have
an agent to represent you or do you handle it yourself? What advantages
are there to having an agent?
I have a literary agent, the
wonderful Gail Hochman of Brandt and Hochman. I wouldn’t represent myself even
if I were still an agent, because you can’t tout your own work the way you can
a client’s. Having an agent is necessary if you want to get your work read by
the right editors in the major publishing houses. Most of them don’t take
unagented submissions. A good agent is an essential part of the team that goes
into publishing any book. Their job starts with selling the book to a
publisher, but doesn’t end there. The agent looks after the writer’s interests
in every phase of the publishing process, acts as an intermediary to get
information and settle any issues that arise, gives career guidance, and
educates the client about the realities of the publishing world. Many of them
act as the first editor of the book, in order to go out with the strongest
possible work. They also handle subsidiary rights, including translation, film
and serial rights. A solitary author has far less clout in the world of big
publishing than an agent with a strong list.
You recently had some books
re-released in ebook form. Did you do that yourself or did your publisher
do it? Can you tell us about them?
This was really a banner year for
me. Five of my books were re-released this year, and I’m thrilled that readers
who discover me through A DANGEROUS FICTION will have other books available to
The three most recent titles,
HINDSIGHT, SUSPICION, and ROWING IN EDEN, were reissued by their original
publisher, Simon & Schuster, in ebook and paperback editions. Rights to two
earlier novels, CAFÉ NEVO and SAVING GRACE, had reverted, and for a while I
considered reissuing them myself as ebooks; but the prospect of self-publishing
was daunting in terms of time and learning curve. Also, after working with top
professionals, I had too much respect for what they do to think I could
duplicate all that work myself. So I got in touch with Richard Curtis,
venerable literary agent and founder of E-Reads, the oldest ebook publisher in
the country. We’d been colleagues back when I was an agent, and Richard, who
knew my books, offered to reissue them in his imprint…which he did. For me,
it’s a dream come true to have six books in print at the same time.
I’m a slow writer. I know each
writer has to go at their own pace but about how long does it take you to write
a book? Does it vary book to book, or is it fairly standard?
It varies according to how much
research is required and other factors. But I’m quite slow, too. Most of my
books have taken two years to write and revise; one took as long as five years.
Do you have a favorite character that you’ve written? Favorite
character that someone else has written?
Jo Donovan, the protagonist of
A DANGEROUS FICTION, is my favorite, as evidenced by the fact that she’s the
first character I’ve ever felt drawn to write a series about. She’s the
smartest character I’ve ever created, but also the most flawed. Her
virtues are ones I admire—she’s tough, resourceful, and loyal—but her flaws are
what make her interesting to me. She sees either very clearly or not at all;
she’s an expert in every sort of fiction except the kind she tells herself.
As for other writers’ characters,
there are many who’ve become part of my life. But if I had to pick a favorite,
I’d say Huck Finn. Love that kid.
Can you tell us about the classes
With pleasure. After teaching
writing at Hofstra Unversity, SUNY and online for Writers Digest, I started my
own online school of writing, the Next Level Workshop. I teach several
intensive workshops a year for fiction writers who are serious about mastering
the craft, including “One Good Scene,” based on the premise that all
the skills writers need to write fiction can be learned by focusing on the
creation of one good scene; and “Revising Fiction,” my most advanced workshop, for
writers who have completed a draft of their novel and want help bringing it to
the next level. I keep the classes very small, and I only teach a few each
year, so there’s usually a waiting list. I don’t advertise. The best way to get
in, for writers who are interested, is to contact me via my website (www.nextlevelworkshop.com)
and ask to be on my workshop emailing list.
Barbara is not only a wonderful, giving person, she is an amazing writer. I can't wait to read this latest offering and I hope you all join me in giving her a big congrats on her new book. I know it will be the kind of book you can't put down.