Anne here, interviewing wench Pat Rice about her most recent innovation, self publishing in e-book form. Pat, with the growth of e-book buying, we are seeing more and more well-known authors putting out their own, new-and-original e-books, in addition to their usual publications by major publishers. What made you decide to join their ranks?
Pat: mainly because I had a story that doesn’t fit genre boundaries. Evil Genius is not historical and not a romance, although there’s one hunky spy hiding in the attic who might have intentions toward my peripatetic heroine. But she has an eccentric family, a murdered grandfather, and Washington D.C. to conquer first, so romance must wait.
Anne: It sounds wonderful. You do have a way with eccentric characters, and I liked your heroine from the opening lines:
My name is Ana, and I’m a doormat.
I’m also one of the best virtual assistants in the world, if you’ll pardon my modesty. Being a virtual assistant and a wuss often go hand in hand. Most of us are introverts who prefer to work in cyberspace because human nature is messy and unpredictable and computers aren’t.
My excuse is that my family is messier than most and so far beyond volatile as to establish whole new spectrums of the definition, so being their doormat involves a great deal of mud and muddle that I couldn’t take anymore.
But her family, starting with her brilliant, goth, nine-year-old half-sister, EG, manages to track Ana down, and that's where the fun starts. What inspired you to write this story?
Pat: I wish I could say I dipped into the well of creative genius and returned with a pail full of characters, but my head doesn't work that way. I started this book years and years ago, when I was tired of writing romance and wanted to expand my repertoire. I asked my agent what I should write. She said whatever made me happy. Ana made me happy. At the time—back before tiny computers were so readily available and USB drives were barely known, Ana was on the cutting edge of the technical world. So she may have been driven a little bit by my IT husband who would tell me all kinds of fun things computers would do some day. Alas and alack, that cutting edge had to be cut as time went on!
Anne: Yes, technology changes so fast, doesn't it? But people don't. This book has a great cast of quirky, fun characters, including the one who begins his communications via a lamp (electronically, not as a ghost.) Tell us about a couple of your favorite characters.
Pat: I adore them all. Ana, of course, who carries a cap gun in her purse to scare off thieves. And EG, who pessimistically predicts the family's downfalls—because she's psychic or because the family always fails? Nick, the ascot-wearing Brit half-brother who feels guilty when he breaks the bank at casinos. But yes, the spy in the attic has so much potential, he has to be one of my favorites. He doesn't go out in public often, but when he does, he wears diamond cufflinks.
Anne: This is a bit of a departure for you, isn't it? A kind of murder mystery, not historical and not a romance. Was it fun to play in a different playground?
Pat: Lovely fun! I've always written character-driven books with heavy duty plot, so pretty much all I left out here was the direct romance and the sex. There's a hint of romance to come, but the book is basically family relationship with a mystery. And a spy. Don't forget the spy!
Anne: Nobody could forget the spy. You're a "fly-into-the-mist" kind of writer. Did anything surprise you along the way?
Pat: Just about everything surprised me. I had so many things jumping off the page that I probably excised as much as I left in. It was really difficult taming this wild and wooly story into something that might please readers as much as it did me.
Anne: Well, it certainly pleased this reader. Is this a one-off story, or do you plan to write a sequel?
Pat: That, my friend, remains to be seen. I definitely have sequels planned. But this is the first time I've tried publishing directly without a big NYC house promoting for me. It's a daunting task, and I'd much rather write than promote. So if sales don't justify a sequel, I can't afford to take time away from my contracted work to play in new waters. So if readers really want the sequel, they need to encourage friends to buy the book!
Anne: I really hope lots of people buy it, because I want to read the next story. (Selfish? me? LOL) Could you give us a small taste of this book?
“May I help you?” a voice intoned from the intercom hidden behind a pot of pothos cascading from a sphinx head near the door.
“Anastasia Devlin here,” I informed the disembodied voice. “I wish to see my grandfather.”
Nicholas elbowed me, and EG scowled, but I didn’t see any purpose in terrifying the old guy by telling him a regiment of Magda’s offspring was at the door.
The silence following my announcement was striking. I opted for the fantasy of imagining a supercilious butler progressing through marble hallways, dusting the woodwork in his anxiousness to garner the approval of the prodigal grandchild.
“There are no grandfathers present,” the voice finally replied, striking a blow to my comfortable reverie.
I am not normally a combative person. I say please and thank you when called upon. But there were times my Irish temper blew the top of my head—
Seeing the gleam in my eye, Nicholas grabbed my elbow and jerked me down the stairs. “Come along. We can take a hotel room and discuss this.”
EG scampered for the gate without waiting.
I shook him off and returned to slam the knocker again. “What have you done with my grandfather?” I shouted at the sphinx, rattling the door.
And I was serious. I remembered this house. I remembered a tall man with thick pepper-and-salt hair and a bristly mustache, and I wanted his hugs back again. If these monsters had done anything to my grandfather, I’d make them pay. Tears actually stung my eyes as I slammed the knocker, and disappointment and grief spilled into the fury. I wanted my childhood back.
I knew I couldn’t have it, but EG deserved a real childhood with kitchen tables and schools and laughing friends. No kid ought to be brought up as I had. I would claw the face off the damned sphinx to give EG the home she needed. This home. Ripped from my subconscious, it had become my reason for living. To hell with Magda and whatever argument had taken us out of our grandfather’s life. I intended to change all that.
All right, so I had a lot fermenting in the murk of my subconscious, and denial was my middle name. No one ever said therapy helped.
“Maximillian no longer lives here,” the voice intoned again in an accent more posh than Nick’s. “He passed on two months ago.”
EG gave her “I told you so” shrug, sat down on the gate step, and began searching the three-inch band of lawn for four-leaf clovers. I knew she’d been covertly hoping her hitherto unknown relative might help Senator Tex, but EG was not only smart, she’s a cynic. My heart bled watching her give up hope.
Apparently as affected by her plight as I was, Nicholas stepped up to the intercom, shot his cuffs to the proper width from his coat sleeve as if someone could see him, and purred with his best British accent, “Then I suggest you open the door to his heirs, or we will be forced to consult with our attorneys.”
Anne: Gorgeous. So where can readers find your Evil Genius?
Pat: At www.bookviewcafe.com and on all other internet e-book sites.
Anne: Having no experience in the area myself, I'm curious as to what process you followed in getting this book ready for publication.
Pat: I didn't want to put an original work of fiction in the market without proper editing. So when I joined Bookviewcafe's author's co-op to release my Magic backlist and saw what a lovely job they were doing on their new fiction, I brought EG out and dusted her off and began taking e-publishing a little more seriously. Bookviewcafe has awesome editors, artists, and professionals who know how to make an e-book look good. Pati Nagle designed my cover. Bookviewcafe released the book first and it's available here . They also arranged for reviews and prepared the book for Amazon, B&N, etc. Working together, authors have a wonderful array of tools at their hands!
Anne: It sounds brilliant. It's been a while now since you bought an e-book reader. Has it changed the way you read at all?
Pat: Oh definitely! When I got the reader, I went through and found all the beginnings of series I've wanted to read and couldn't buy because they're OOP. Many of them were marked down to $2.99, so I had stacks and stacks of books to test. Sadly, the publishers insisting on "agency pricing" for new mass markets have curtailed my buying of brand new books. I want books on my reader because I'm tired of throwing out paper books. But I can order paper at a discount and can't with digital, so I'm reading a lot of older books now. Or in different genres that still discount digital.
Anne: Thanks for the interview, Pat. And for the pre-read of a fun book that made me smile all the way through.
Pat: Thank you for wasting your time on me and Evil Genius!
Anne: It was no waste, but a pleasure. So, a question for our readers, those of you who have e-readers already, how has it changed your reading/buying habits? And those (like me) who don't, are you getting tempted by the e-book revolution? Or still resisting?