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Sarah Weinman

Sunday, March 26, 2006


ClevelandJJS: John Stickney
mtkrmac: Mary Reagan
MWhite8482: Dave White
mysdawg2003: Aldo Calcagno
Odo6140: Gerald So
SossyW98: Sarah Weinman

Odo6140: Welcome, Sarah.

SossyW98: hello. I hate the Internet.

ClevelandJJS: hello Sarah - you and GW BUSH. of course he hates those Internets

Odo6140: Sarah's site seems to have the bird flu.

SossyW98: until further notice it'll work soon at but I have to map the domain from scratch, unfortunately.

ClevelandJJS: ouch. Sarah - how did you first beome involved with the web?

SossyW98: in what way?

ClevelandJJS: With your site?

SossyW98: Ah, several answers. The flippant one was as a means of procrastinating on my master's thesis. The real one is more complicated. Basically I fell in love with blogs during the summer of 2003 and when I returned to Canada to work on said thesis I realized that the two types I really liked -- literary and gossip -- didn't really cover crime fiction the way I wanted to. And since I'd worked as a bookseller (at Partners & Crime in the West village) and knew a bunch of folks from there, Bouchercons, newsgroups, mailing lists...I assumed I'd have some audience. So early in October I went to blogger and set up a site, and 2 and a half years later...

MWhite8482: Do you find that since you left the bookstore you know more or less about upcoming releases?(

SossyW98: it fluctuates. I try to keep up because for the column (with the Baltimore Sun) I usually let my editor know what books to be on the lookout for several months in advance, but sometimes I get surprises in the mailbox and forgot that authors have new books out. Like the new Pelecanos. That was a bit of a surprise.

MWhite8482: Cool.

ClevelandJJS: What is your involvement with galleycat?

SossyW98: Galleycat's a publishing industry news blog I co-edit with Ron Hogan (of and an old friend of mine.) It's news-driven, frequently updated and it amazes me I get paid to do it.

SossyW98: Hi Mary.

mtkrmac: Hi Sarah

ClevelandJJS: where do you find time for your own writing?

SossyW98: ha, good question. It helps I don't have a day job right now :-) I don't have a rigid schedule but I do tend to get the blogging done either late at night (10-midnight) and in the mornings (8-10.) I find I write best in the late mornings and early evenings, espec latter.

mtkrmac: I've seen her writing her blog, its an impressive sight. The woman doesn't even need bookmarks to find things.

SossyW98: I guess I type fast...and I have a weird ability to memorize URLs

ClevelandJJS: In the future guessing personal URLs will be like guessing someone's wieght at the Carnival

SossyW98: I think it's a pattern thing, and I'm good with patterns

Odo6140: Okay, let's establish some order. If you have a question for Sarah type "?" and I'll add you to the queue.

MWhite8482: and now the questions stop.

SossyW98: well, it was nice seeing y'all...

Odo6140: hey, now. :)

mtkrmac: ? How does your short story writing influence your non-fiction and longer writing?

Odo6140: there you go. Thanks, Mary. :)

mtkrmac: Wasn't sure if that was what you meant.

Odo6140: Well I meant...

Odo6140: ?

Odo6140: (followed by your question).

mtkrmac: Yeah I realized that as soon as I typed. Now I'm just giving Sarah time to think :-)

SossyW98: well I think the question might have to be approached a bit differently because it's more how blogging/non-fiction influenced the fiction. A lot of bloggers, at least the ones I know, struggle to finish fiction works as blogging "takes away from their time" or whatnot. But blogging almost seemed to open up a vein, and last year I wrote more fiction than I ever have. That said, the first stories I had published tended to be pretty short, 1000-3000 words.

Odo6140: I've had a similar experience.

SossyW98: then I wrote a novel and the stories started getting longer and unwieldy...

SossyW98: so I'm trying to be economical again

ClevelandJJS: Your TD story had great elements of Jewish Myth in it, IB Singer meets PI is that an area you're going to explore further?

SossyW98: I have gotten that question a fair bit, JJ -- and this may sound trite but when I get another story-length idea, I'll bring Stuart and the dybbuk back. I'd like to. They were a lot of fun to create and write.

mtkrmac: They remind me of Christopher Moore

SossyW98: but more Jewish

mtkrmac: Yeah

mtkrmac: ?

Odo6140: Go ahead, Mary.

mtkrmac: When you get an idea for a story do you know from the start that its a short story rather than something longer?

SossyW98: Most of the time I do, Mary, but not always. In fact I started a short story a few weeks ago that was going along nicely...and then something went wrong about 4000 words in. I couldn't put my finger on it so I asked someone (initials DW) to take a look and tell me what the problem was. Verdict: "it's a novel." And of course he was right.

mtkrmac: He's going to preserve those words forever

Odo6140: Derek Walcott?

MWhite8482: yeah what a perceptive guy. Must have an amazing eye for such a detail.

SossyW98: I should have used "TP" as initials...

MWhite8482: ha!

SossyW98: anyway all kidding aside, I wrote another story specifically to see if I could do the whole "one idea only" thing, and while I haven't shopped it anywhere yet, I'm fairly happy with it.

ClevelandJJS: Tell us about the novel.

SossyW98: The novel is in a drawer, where it should be. I worked on it for over a year, two full drafts, and it was a great experience but it's not publishable in its current state.

Odo6140: Next question?

MWhite8482: hmmm

MWhite8482: ?

Odo6140: Go ahead, Dave, then John's q.

MWhite8482: Well, Ms. Blogger/Reviewer/Writer, which books are you most looking forward to over the next year or so.

SossyW98: can I include stuff I've read already?

MWhite8482: sure.

SossyW98: I just finished reading the ARC of George Pelecanos's new one (going to blog about that, because it's very good but it's going to provoke some interesting reactions once it's out.) Otherwise, Daniel Woodrell's new one (WINTER'S BONE) Daniel Judson's standalone, new books by Laura Lippman, Mark Billingham, Simon Kernick and in more literary/crossover stuff, Elisa Albert's short story collection HOW THIS NIGHT IS DIFFERENT. Ian Sansom's next installment in the Mobile Library series (that's out in August) and a zillion others I forgot.

MWhite8482: cool.

SossyW98: I totally understand how publishers feel because my head's in spring/summer/fall, not now.

Odo6140: go ahead, JJ.

ClevelandJJS: ? It seems to me they were really talking about the death of male PI fiction - female fiction featuring PIs and other continuing law enforcement characters seem to be doing fine. Are men abandoning reading fiction at such a pace that the male protag is going to be a hard sale?

SossyW98: well, it's either a male or female protag, unless you want to write about aliens...:-) Seriously, PI fiction will survive as long as there are new, more hook-driven ways to keep them fresh.

Odo6140: what do you mean by hook-driven?

SossyW98: Because standard-issue books only appeal to a limited audience and publishers want to break everyone out immediately like Charlie Huston's ALREADY DEAD (vampire PI) Lisa Lutz's upcoming THE SPELLMAN FILES (female PI works in her dysfunctional family's firm).

Odo6140: I see.

SossyW98: there's a real thriller-ish bent to PI fiction being bought now b/c thrillers have a wider audience.

mtkrmac: What about John's comment that it seems to be male PIs that are on the decline and not female?

SossyW98: what female PI books are being bought now? See, that's the thing I was trying to say in my blog post. Publishers have short memories, and comparing yourself to Hammett & Chandler...hate to say it but a lot of people just haven't read them. No context. But knowing what debuts are out or have just been released, that's the bigger indicator.

MWhite8482: but comparing yourself to Dennis Lehane and Mike Connelly?

SossyW98: it worked for Marcus Sakey...

mtkrmac: So you are saying that just because Laura Lippman is successful with a female PI doesn't mean that its a growing sector of the publishing field. That you need to look at who is signing the new deals rather than who is doing continuing series.

SossyW98: Exactly, Mary. And Laura's a great example of how her publisher stuck with her from paperback originals and grew her with each book, but unfortunately, the industry's way more impatient than they used to be and not everyone can write books that "break out" (or even if they do, who's to say they will?) which is why small presses are great.

Odo6140: do you think they will ever become more patient again?

SossyW98: I think that is highly unlikely. Time Warner just got bought out by a major conglomerate that in the UK, owns Orion, Hodder Headline and now Time Warner UK there. That's a huge chunk of the market. And even though no one's saying it publicly it is going to affect how, at least in that country, books will be bought. I know all this might depress some people. It doesn't depress me because all it means is that the author has to be a bit more creative about figuring out what will sell, what won't. And ultimately, good writing still wins out. You can write to market all to want but if there's no soul, no spark, no intangible, the book will die.

Odo6140: right. it's always been about adapting.

MWhite8482: I prefer to be a lazy uncreative writer... who is a good writer.

Odo6140: Dave would like to be Robert Parker, in other words.

MWhite8482: hai yooo

SossyW98: so who's the lucky girl who'll have the unusual house arrangement with you, Dave? :-)

MWhite8482: I'm whittling down the suspects as we speak.

ClevelandJJS: Books will be bought but are fiction books being bought by Men under the age of thirty-five?

SossyW98: I don't have hard numbers but I'm guessing if you go to a Chuck Palahniuk signing, a lot of the folks in attendance are men under 35...I do think that demographic hasn't been well marketed to. So many of them buy graphic novels or are SF/F geeks or whatever (gross generalization but hey). Look at Greg Rucka. He's like the graphic novel king, but I don't think his publisher's really figured this out yet and done appropriate marketing.

mtkrmac: Do you think that the crime fiction related graphic novels under development (I'm thinking of Reed's) will help draw them in? At least I'm assuming Reed's is crime related.

ClevelandJJS: Reed?

mtkrmac: Reed Farrel Coleman

SossyW98: it should but I'm not sure. Denise Mina wrote a recent series of HELLBLAZER comics, but will the people buying them go out and buy her books? I wish, but I'm not sure there's enough interest.

mtkrmac: Maybe they need more books that are marketed as comic book tie ins, like they do with tv shows.

MWhite8482: ?

MWhite8482: Sarah, what do you think is the most effective way to market crime fiction? Is there one way you think works?

SossyW98: oh if I knew the answer to that...

mtkrmac: She'd be taking us all out to dinner then

SossyW98: I mean, it's truism but basically the best way to market crime fiction is to get the kind of buzz that sustains itself for weeks, months, years, ye olde word of mouth. Or just change every new title to SNAKES ON A PLANE.

mtkrmac: Gotta love Snakes on a Plane

Odo6140: "This gun ain't ham on rye."

SossyW98: the great thing about the genre is that there are so many passionate people, booksellers, influential fans who go around saying "read this book, you will love it."

MWhite8482: true.

Odo6140: Next question?

SossyW98: Essentially that's all my blog is about. I love crime fiction and I want everyone else to love it as well.

ClevelandJJS: ?

Odo6140: Go, John.

ClevelandJJS: Any problems giving friends bad reviews?

SossyW98: fortunately the vast majority of my friends write good books...

MWhite8482: (except for that DW guy) (hai yo)

SossyW98: but that does bring up something else, which is that the genre is very small. And unlike some reviewers I have always been a part of the community and wouldn't think of removing myself from it, so at first, when I started at the Sun, I tried to be fairly rigid about who I could review and who I couldn't--the going rule being that if they bought me a drink in a bar I couldn't review them.

mtkrmac: Have you passed on reviewing a book because of friendship? Guess you just answered that.

SossyW98: not explicitly, no. I'm fortunate in that with some very few exceptions I don't get directives from my editor about which books I should cover and he trusts my judgment on the conflict of interest front. But on the blog, it's my site, it has my name on it, I don't consider the Picks full reviews (though it's trippy to see them quoted in publicity materials and on the back cover copy...)

MWhite8482: what is your favorite book that you've read in the past... 2 months?

SossyW98: you want me to narrow it to one? Do you realize how herculean a task this is?

MWhite8482: all right gimme a top 3

SossyW98: I'm going to stick with non-crime...Michelle Embree's MANSTEALING FOR FAT GIRLS, Ian Sansom's THE CASE OF THE MISSING BOOKS (Ok that's crime but more in the Alexander McCall Smith vein) and Graham Greene's THE END OF THE AFFAIR. Bloody brilliant.

mtkrmac: ?

Odo6140: Go ahead, Mary.

mtkrmac: You mentioned that the novel is in a drawer and it sounds like it will be there for a bit. Any plans on starting another one?

SossyW98: not for a while -- I have several deadlines to meet by mid-May (and a non-fiction book proposal I really, really need to finish so I can start sending it out) but after all that yeah, because I can feel things starting to take shape.

ClevelandJJS: ?

Odo6140: Go, John.

ClevelandJJS: How do you approach a novel - plot summary, outline, etc?

SossyW98: That answer's a work in progress, because I still haven't figured out what really works for me, but I'm not a true-blue outliner. Scribbled notes here and there and go forward semi-blindly, that's how I did the one that's in the drawer. Which might explain why it's there...

Odo6140: Next q?

SossyW98: how about you, Mr. Moderator?

Odo6140: What's the best/worst part of moderating a panel/doing a reading?

SossyW98: best part: when there's great audience response, when I can sit back and let the other panelists do their thing and just occasionally chime in when need be. Worst: when the panelists either say too much or too little, or when I think my purse is going to be stolen.

mtkrmac: Ah the secret of good moderating ; let the panel talk

SossyW98: my moderating MO is that I'm the least important person on the panel and I can take comfort that for the next one I'm doing (on April 5 in Brooklyn) I definitely will b/c I've got an agent, an editor, Christopher Sorrentino, Sam Lipsyte and Michael Cunningham on the bill.

mtkrmac: You'll have to work to keep your attention on your duties ;-)

SossyW98: ha!

Odo6140: Question, Aldo?

Odo6140: Jim Winter says hi.

mysdawg2003: Yeah, How did the whole galeycat thing come along? Has reviewing affected your writing schedule?

SossyW98: I answered both those questions a bit before, but Galleycat happened after I was approached by the then-editor in chief of mediabistro last year. I had just moved and started a full-time job so I convinced her to ask me again after the summer was over, and I did a guest stint. Ron Hogan did another guest stint and eventually it became clear that 2 heads were better than one, so to speak, and last fall, we both signed on and it's been that way ever since.

mysdawg2003: Saw Tom Perry yesterday, talked about his next book, not a Jane Whitfield....

SossyW98: I'd be surprised if he brought her back.

mysdawg2003: He says yes, maybe a middle aged woman with kids?

MWhite8482: Sarah, what doors has blogging opened for you?

SossyW98: To be frank, a whole lot. I wouldn't be freelancing full time in New York if not for the blog. It got me to write regularly and on schedule, and that's important if you have deadlines to meet. Also gave me an easy way to present clips to prospective editors, but I'll also caution that I got really lucky, in that I started blogging just about when they took off for specific topics that weren't politics or gossip-based.

Odo6140: Jack Bludis is also having difficulties with AIM. He says hi and he liked Sarah's story in Baltimore Noir.

SossyW98: Oh, sorry to hear that, and his story was really good as well (the whole collection rocks, I'm slightly biased but still, definitely one of the stronger "City Noir" anthologies from Akashic).

mysdawg2003: ?

Odo6140: Go ahead, Aldo.

Odo6140: If they do a L.I. (Long Island) Noir, I'd like to try my hand.

ClevelandJJS: If they ever do a Fairview Park Ohio Noir I am so in!

Odo6140: Midwest Noir sounds good to me.

SossyW98: One of these days I'll have to get Bookscan numbers for the Noir anthologies

ClevelandJJS: ?

Odo6140: Aldo, then John's q.

mysdawg2003: AT LCC, tell me about the Banks/Williams/Wignall thing.

SossyW98: Poor Kevin. No one did recognize him, me included. I went to the bar and I saw Simon Kernick talking to someone and said hello, and this guy goes "you know me." I shake my head. "No, you do." And it was Kevin and I felt so embarrassed but then other people failed to recognize him so I think he's absconded to Switzerland now.

mtkrmac: Don't know if I ever saw him. But then again I never saw Sam Neill.

SossyW98: I think I did but truth is I wouldn't have recognized him

Odo6140: Sam Neill, Lee Child, any resemblance?

mtkrmac: Lee's better looking.

SossyW98: they don't even look anywhere close to being alike.

mysdawg2003: ?

Odo6140: Go, John. then aldo.

ClevelandJJS: Tell us about the state of publishing in the UK. It seems crime fiction is going great over there.

SossyW98: On the one hand, it's good because there are a lot of great writers being published, whether from the UK or US, but on the other hand I think the whole industry there is extremely screwed up.

SossyW98: Publishers are narrowing the choices of what they buy and the bookstores have to compete with deep discounts by Tesco & Asda which slash the book price by over 50% in some cases but there's more of a literary culture, They take crime fiction more seriously in that it's genre but it doesn't have the ghetto stigma as much. They're also behind the curve in terms of online marketing, but I think they're starting to catch up a bit more. I was talking with an editor at Penguin UK about it at LCC and that house has finally launched podcasts, dedicated sites, so I think they are starting to get that there's a wealth of possibilities the web can offer

mtkrmac: ?

MWhite8482: How'd you get the idea for "Out of Clay" Tell us about writing it.

SossyW98: I get my best short story ideas when I'm out for a walk, b/c I find it clears my head and I can let my imagination run. So I was still living in Ottawa and was out for a walk in my neighborhood when all of a sudden I heard the dreidel song mutated ("I had a little Golem, I made him out of Clay") By the end of the walk I had the entire first draft in my head and that night I wrote it all down in one shot. 5000 words and I was dead to the world. The final story changed quite a bit thanks to Gerald and Kevin's suggestions, but the gist is still there.

MWhite8482: cool.

Odo6140: Sorry again about the delays posting it, Sarah.

SossyW98: Eh, these things happen. I always figure a story appears right when it's supposed to

Odo6140: I don't think we asked what Sarah's reading now.

SossyW98: I always seem to be in between books when I'm asked that but I just finished Ryu Murakami's IN THE MISO SOUP, which is bizarre and great (I love Japanese crime fiction) and I'm not totally sure what I'll read next.

Odo6140: go ahead, Mary.

mtkrmac: You mentioned podcasts earlier. Any interest in getting involved in them?

SossyW98: As in setting my own up?

mtkrmac: Yeah.

SossyW98: If I were more technologically adept, yeah. But I don't even own an iPod (shameful but true).

Odo6140: same here.

mtkrmac: Ah but you don't need one. Only need the software to listen on your computer. I have an ipod but I listen to as many on my desktop as I do on the ipod.

SossyW98: True. I do listen to podcasts. When switched over from a literary blog to a podcast I thought that was fantastic.

mtkrmac: Tess Gerritsen started one but I don't know if she got more than a couple of entires

SossyW98: I really like Ed Champion's Bat Segundo show (where authors are interviewed). Well, it's like blogging in general. Only the strong survive.

Odo6140: How far ahead do you plan projects, Sarah. What do you want to do that you haven't attempted yet?

SossyW98: I am a hopeless advance planner, it's great and gets me in trouble, I think.

Odo6140: How so?

SossyW98: Because then I think I have to stick with them forever and I'm not as spontaneous as I could be about some things. Anyway, someday, though it requires more research and for me to get better as a writer, I want to try the great Montreal Noir novel.

ClevelandJJS: ?

Odo6140: Go, John.

ClevelandJJS: I also dug Miso Soup - how does Am Crime fiction do over in Japan & how does it do in Canada?

SossyW98: I'd guess American crime fiction does better over there. I wish more Japanese writers would be translated here but at least I've been priveleged to read both Murakamis (Ryu and Haruki) Natsuo Kirino, Keigo Higashino and Miyuki Miyabe. They just seem to have a weirder, more bizarre viewpoint of the world and I really enjoy reading it even if it's not always pleasant, but at least it's very dark, which I love.

Odo6140: Any feel for the quality of the translations? I've always wondered how much is the translator's doing and how much the original author.

SossyW98: so do I, Gerald. I pretty much go by instinct when I read crime in translation. IMO the best translated books are Arnaldur Indridason's (he's the Icelandic author who won the Gold Dagger last year) because I think Bernard Scudder just really gets what Indridason is trying to do. There's also heavy collaboration between author and translator, which undoubtedly helps.

Odo6140: yes. Next q, anyone?

MWhite8482: I'm all out of q.

mtkrmac: Me too

Odo6140: John?

ClevelandJJS: Sarah, not really a question. More a thanks for running Confessions - I found a heck of a community and a wealth of reading material through your links.

SossyW98: You're welcome! I'm honestly amazed it's kept going this long, but as long as people keep reading I'll still be blogging and fortunately the crime world's a cool one to blog about.

Odo6140: Who knew? Apparently Sarah :) Thanks again for the chat, Sarah.

SossyW98: Thanks all, this was great fun and hope I didn't bore you with my answers :-)

Odo6140: No way. 'Night, all.


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