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Monday, June 29, 2009

The Ravens Eye is on : Chris Grabenstein

Being a born and raised a Jersey girl it's no wonder that I gravitated towards the books of Chris Grabenstein. A man who, although originally from TN, spent several years here in the Garden State apparently growing to appreciate the unique Jersey creations of bagels, beach and boardwalks. His humourous grasp of all things wild and wierd New Jersey, along with fast paced plots and inventively original characters, make reading his books a true feast for the mystery fan. Buy your ticket now for the fantastic reading ride that is the Ceepak mysterys.

Why do you write mysteries? What in specific draws you to it?
Chris: Well, I think I like the puzzle solving aspect of mysteries. As a writer, you are forced to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and an end. Also, mysteries are what I loved to read on the train ride from Metuchen to NYC. It's the one genre where the reader can be an active participant. I think mysteries have the same appeal that Crossword Puzzles do.

When did you begin the process of writing your first book? What did you find the most challenging?
Chris: I started writing my first book about a year after I left advertising. I had assumed I would write screenplays, since the commercials I had been doing for 17 years were mini-movies. But, I was WAY too old -- you have to be 24 to be a screenwriter. And, I lived on the wrong side of the country. Then I read Stephen King's little book ON WRITING and it convinced me that I may be able to write a...gasp...novel. All those words! Remember, a thirty second commercial has a maximum of 70 words. Books have thousands. Usually around 80 thousand, in my case. The most challenging part was probably not knowing whether what I was working on was any good for almost a year...because it took that long to get it into readable shape.

How many books do you plan for the John Ceepak series? Why carnival rides? For that matter, why New Jersey ? Is there a personal reason?
Chris: As many as they'll let me! Book #5 comes out this June. I hope #25 comes out when I'm in the old folks home. I chose the Carnival/Boardwalk ride theme because I think a good mystery is like a good roller coaster ride. Ups and downs, twists and turns -- you scream with laughter right before you're scared to death. I set the books down the shore because that's where I go every August...and, having lived in Metuchen for several years, I know all about jug handles.

Is there anyone, author or otherwise, in particular you draw inspiration from? If so, how has that influenced your writing?
Chris: Stephen King for voice. James Patterson for pace. Donald Westlake for his humor. Elmore Leonard for his dialogure. There are so many great story tellers. I think I have learned from them all.

It is becoming more difficult to become published. Tell us about the process it took for you to get your first book on book store shelves.
Chris: Very hard. TILT A WHIRL, my first book, was my fourth manuscript. It took four years and several rejection letters. One of my series (the holiday thrillers) died before it's time because the publisher went out of business and no other house picked it up. The competition is fierce. So, I tell people you really have to enjoy the actual writing process...because you just never know if or when you'll be published, how long that will last, etc. I love writing and am grateful that I am able to be read.

While getting a book onto store shelves is a huge challenge, the work doesn’t end there. How do you go about publicizing your work and developing a fan base?
Chris: Well, you have to try just about everything. I like meeting readers at book events. I love going to schools and meeting students and discussing my YA titles. You basically have to become your own marketing department. However, as they always say, the best thing an author can do to publicize his work is -- write a good book! Especially in fiction. Word of mouth is just about the only proven selling tool in fiction.

What does the future hold for John Ceepak and Danny Boyle?
Chris: This summer, they'll be heading a little further down the Jersey Shore to Atlantic City for book #5 MIND SCRAMBLER. They go there investigating one case but end up helping to solve a murder that takes place back stage during an illusionist's show at one of the big casinos. The victim? A very close friend from back home!

Thank you Chris.


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