Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Merry Jones - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Merry Jones. She is the bestselling author of the Elle Harrison Thrillers, The Zoe Hayes Mysteries and the Harper Jennings Mystery series.

Author Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

Website: MerryJones.com
Author's Blog: Merry Jones
Twitter: @MerryDDJones
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Facebook: Check Out Facebook

Author Description:
Merry Jones has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. “If I don’t write,” she says, “over time, I get agitated and irritable, as if energy is building up inside and I have to let it out.”

Accordingly, over the years, she has written a wide range of material, in a variety of styles and for diverse media. She began her career by spending about fifteen years writing and producing video and multi-media for corporate clients, but, when her second child was born in 1989, she decided to pursue her passion and began to write books.

All of Merry’s work deals with inter-personal relationships, particularly their unanticipated aspects. For several years, she approached this topic through light humor (including the best-selling I LOVE HIM, BUT…) and serious non-fiction (including BIRTHMOTHERS: WOMEN WHO HAVE RELINQUISHED BABIES FOR ADOPTION TELL THEIR STORIES). Now, she has moved into a genre she loves: shadowy mysteries.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Congratulations on your book: Elective Procedures. Let’s start with what’s next. Rumor has it that you have another book on the horizon called In the Woods. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

IN THE WOODS comes out in England in October, in the US in November. It's the fifth Harper Jennings novel. For readers unfamiliar with Harper Jennings (SUMMER SESSION, BEHIND THE WALLS, WINTER BREAK and OUTSIDE EDEN), she is an Iraq war vet, an archeology grad student, wife of a Cornell U geology professor. She suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but is determined to live a "normal" life.

In IN THE WOODS, she and her husband Hank are camping in upstate Pennsylvania in a remote area where local folklore says a Yeti-type creature has been sighted. Rumors of the Yeti run rampant after a hunter goes missing. However, when his body is found propped up against a tree wearing a "Trespasser" sign, suspicion turns from the mysterious Yeti to a local survivalist group that doesn't like weekend hunters invading their territory.

But then, another body is found. A pipeline walker who inspects the gas pipeline that crosses under the woods from the Marcellus Shale has been murdered.

Soon the woods are hopping with press, law enforcement, survivalists, weekend hunters, and gas company officials, and Harper finds herself and her husband in the midst of a complicated conflict that not only ruins their weekend but also endangers their lives and those of anyone else in the woods.

You have a good following on twitter. Since you started before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How did you build your following in your niche? Did you use forums, newsletters and methods like that? How much has it changed your book launch process?

Interesting question. Social media have changed EVERYTHING in terms of promotion and publicity. As to building a "following," I'm not sure I've done that yet--I think of online relationships as a community in which people share common interests and concerns. I contact members of my "community" when I have news, and some of that news is about my books.

You do a lot of book signings, interviews, personal appearances and other events? When and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

This year, I signed at Book Expo in NYC, but I don't do many signings. I appear on panels, sometimes do readings (eg Noir at the Bar), visit book groups, help run a monthly writers' coffeehouse through the Liars Club, and teach suspense writing. Most of my promotion work, though, is done on-line.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

I have two different publishers right now. One of them has an art department that designs the covers and they show them to me after they are completed. I have no input, unless it's to correct a mistake. The other publisher, Oceanview, conducts a phone meeting with the artist, the editor, the marketing man, the publicist, the publishers and me. We brainstorm ideas, and the artist goes to work, does his/her magic. We then discuss the proposed cover, make changes. It's a team effort. But readers aren't involved, and I don't see how they could be, since they haven't read the book yet.

You have a great book trailer for The Trouble With Charlie. (See link below.) It looks very professional. Do you know how much impact it has had on your book’s success? Tell us about the process that you used to create your trailer?

I hired a trailer-making company as an experiment. They actually took information from me, I picked the music and they compiled the trailer with stock images. They revised it twice, based on my input. Problem was, I didn't know how to get the trailer circulated widely. I'm not sure what/if any effect it had on book sales. But it was fun to work on.

Several of you novels have been converted into audio books. What has been the impact on your regular sales? Has the audio books gained a new audience?

I hope so. I love audio books myself, especially on long car trips. And I think they're great for people who are visually impaired. I'm not sure that audio books enhance regular sales; I'd be interested to find out. My instincts say that audio book buyers are an independent market, but I have nothing to back that up.

Has the advent of ebooks changed anything in your writing, getting the book to your readers and the relationship with your readers and fans?

Ebooks haven't changed my writing, but they've prevented some of my books from fading into oblivion. The Zoe Hayes mysteries (NANNY MURDERS, RIVER KILLINGS, DEADLY NEIGHBORS, BORROWED AND BLUE MURDERS) were printed in hard cover, paperback and some also as audio books. When the publisher let them go out of print, they would have become obsolete. But I was able to reclaim the rights and, through the magic of ebooks and print on demand, to keep them available by self-publishing them. So they are/will remain available for readers for years and years. And years.

For writers who are "traditionally" published as I have been, ebooks allow us not to reach a wider range of readers via their devices, but also to keep our books available long after the publisher stops printing them.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

My giveaways have been at book events, like Book Expo, through bloggers who handle the logistics themselves, and through Goodreads. I hope readers who've won the books have been happy. For me, getting free books out there is a way to stimulate word of mouth and positive reader relationships.

You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing useful information to other writers. What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels, take care of the social media and maintain your blog?

Actually, my blog is terribly neglected. Because I DON'T have time to, as you said, create great novels, take care of social media and maintain the blog. When you add real life to the equation, there's no time to breathe. So my blog is sorely without attention. Something had to give…

What is the objective for your newsletter? Do you try to build a list of readers? Do you see a carryover to the sales of your novels?

My newsletter is a way of keeping readers informed about upcoming work/ current releases. I try to build the list of readers/ potential readers. And I send it out only four times a year, so I don't harass people with too many heavy-handed flyers.I try to keep it short and interesting, sometimes add a contest or a question. But mostly, it's a no nonsense, simple, eye-catching way of reaching a group of pre-selected highly motivated readers, along with family and friends. Sometimes, I actually see a bump in sales after a mailing. Sometimes not so much. Marketing books is a mysterious process without clear rules or guaranteed results. I think more is not always better; it's a matter of focusing and targeting. Reaching people who care/can be made to care about what you're offering. And that can take time. It's not easy.

Author's Book List
Elective Procedures - An Elle Harrison Thriller
Elle Harrison is back! She and her pals Jen, Becky, and Susan travel to Mexico where Jen has arranged cosmetic surgery, after which she will recover in a plush hotel suite. But more is going on at the hotel than tummy tucks. Soon after they arrive, Elle sees the woman in the suite next door fall from her sixth floor balcony. When the room is later occupied by another patient, Elle finds her brutally mutilated body on that same balcony. Police question Elle as the last person to see these women alive. Their doctor also takes an interest in Elle; a woman staying at the hotel asks Elle to help her fend off a creepy stalker; a veiled woman sneaks into Elle's suite at night, and her late husband, Charlie, reappears (or Elle imagines that he does) when Elle gets pushed under water in the ocean and nearly drowns. As dangers swirl and intensify, Elle is forced to face her unresolved issues with Charlie, even as she races to find the connections between killings before more patients-including Jen-can be murdered. And before she herself becomes prey.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Outside Eden - A Harper Jennings Mystery
July, Israel. Iraqi war vet and archaeology graduate Harper Jennings doesn’t believe in the evil eye. So when Hagit – the woman assigned to show her and Chloe, Harper’s fourteen-month-old baby, around Tel Aviv – drags the pair of them into a market to buy charms to ward off evil, it isn’t the bad luck she fears but the market itself. Close, dark and crowded, the place worries Harper, and when an American man seems to be in trouble, it is only the presence of baby Chloe that stops her from wading in to help.

Later, to Harper’s dismay, she learns that the man she saw was murdered. So when she’s invited to take part in an dig fifty miles away, while her geologist husband Hank takes part in the international symposium that has brought them both to Israel, she accepts. It will be safer away from the market, she thinks. But Hagit, who’s coming along to look after Chloe, disagrees. She is convinced the evil eye is to blame, and that it will follow Harper wherever she goes . . .

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
The Trouble With Charlie - An Elle Harrison Thriller
Elle finds the body of her soon-to-be-ex husband, Charlie on her sofa, stabbed to death with her kitchen knife. Elle's close friends stand by her through the difficult funeral, but Elle alone must face the loss of the man she'd loved. Except that the loss is not total--Charlie is still around. Elle feels his presence, smells his after shave. Hears him accuse her of killing him. And even though she doesn't believe in ghosts, she argues with him, asserting her innocence. Oddly, Elle has a gap in her memory; she can't account for her activity during the time of his murder. As she tries to clear herself by finding out how Charlie died, she discovers that she had plenty of reason to kill him. Charlie had secrets. Infidelity. Unsavory business associates. Involvement with an international organization of sex abusers. The more she learns, the more danger she faces. As unscrupulous people begin to fear she'll expose them, Elle races against time to avoid arrest, fight off attackers, solve the murder, and make peace with Charlie's spirit.

Book Trailer: The Trouble With Charlie

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Winter Break - A Harper Jennings Mystery
Pregnant Harper sees danger everywhere in the chilling third Harper Jennings mystery, but can she keep herself and her baby safe when no one believes her? Surely Harper Jennings can survive a visit from her mother and her new boyfriend while Hank’s on his first business trip since his accident? But she has more on her mind when she glimpses a nude young man being dragged into the woods near her house. Everyone – police included – concludes it was either kids playing around . . . or Harper’s hormones talking. But Harper can’t let it go; suspecting that her mother’s boyfriend might be hiding something, soon even her own home no longer seems a place of safety . . .

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Behind the Walls - A Harper Jennings Mystery
A Harper Jennings mystery - When Harper Jennings’ staunchest rival at Cornell’s archaeology department turns up on her doorstep, babbling about seeing a Pre-Columbian shape-shifter, Harper doesn’t know what to think. But she can spot a great opportunity – Zina won a coveted post cataloguing a priceless collection of Pre-Columbian artifacts, and if Harper humours Zina, she’ll be able to see them for herself. But then Zina is killed – and the more contact Harper has with the relics, the more her life starts going wrong. The artifacts can’t really be cursed . . . can they?

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Summer Session - A Harper Jennings Mystery
The first in a new series from the author of the 'Zoe Hayes' books - Harper Jennings is an Iraqi war veteran with PTSD. Now a teaching assistant at Cornell, her life is rosy until, carrying out repairs on their home, her husband Hank falls off the roof. The accident damages his brain and brings back terrible war memories for Harper. As Hank is treated at the prestigious Cayuga Neurological Center, Harper's flashbacks subside - until, during class, her student jumps out of the window. Suddenly, Harper is swept up in suicide, theft, betrayal and murder - and all the victims connect to her . . .

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
The Deadly Neighbors - The Zoe Hayes Mysteries Book 3
In this third novel featuring art therapist Zoe Hayes, neighbors are shocked when a woman's body is found in the kitchen of Zoe's estranged father, Walter. In fact, they suspect Walter of killing her. But as Zoe investigates further, it seems that the neighbors are up to some pretty shocking shenanigans themselves.

As Zoe tries to prove her father's innocence, she encounters a cruel ring of organized criminals who specialize in dark and deadly forms of entertainment. Trying to escape their grasp, Zoe--with daughter Molly in tow--must solve a series of grisly murders, but in the process, she stumbles into secrets that force her to reconnect with a lost a frightening part of her own past.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
The Borrowed and Blue Murders - The Zoe Hayes Mysteries Book 4
Zoe Hayes is back with another fast-paced thriller set in Philadelphia. In the final days before Zoe's marriage to Detective Nick Stiles, a jogger turns up murdered on Zoe's back patio. Two of Nick's brothers have come for the wedding and are staying at her home, and Zoe--now the mother of two: baby Luke and six-year-old Molly--finds evidence that at least one of her future in-laws is not who he pretends to be.

When her babysitter has a breakdown, her wedding planner is attacked, and a psychotic former patient decides to come after Zoe and her family, Zoe is caught in an intricate web of intrigue and spiraling danger that threatens to destroy a lot more than just her wedding.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
The River Killings - The Zoe Hayes Mysteries
Continuing the pate-turning suspense of THE NANNY MURDERS, this sequel weaves another taut, fast-paced tale. Zoe Hayes, a divorced art therapist with a six-year-old adopted daughter, Molly, returns with another gripping mystery set in Philadelphia, this time taking place along historic Boathouse Row.

On summer vacation from her job, Zoe takes a sculling class for fun with her best friend, Susan Cummings. One evening, while Molly waits with Susan's children at the boathouse, Zoe rows off with Susan to practice for an upcoming regatta. When Susan's oar catches on some flotsam (which turns out to be a woman's dress), the boat flips, and the two find themselves in deep water with not just one but an entire throng of floating bodies.

Someone (but who?) along Boathouse Row is a murderer. After Zoe argues with Detective Nick Stiles, her boyfriend, he sets out for the river at night, and she and Molly head out after him. There, Zoe uncovers a sinister plot that she and Molly might be unable to escape.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
The Nanny Murders - The Zoe Hayes Mysteries
A mesmerizing page-turner about missing nannies who disappear, one by one, from a close-knit Philadelphia community.

Zoe Hayes, an art therapist at an institute for seriously deranged patients, is the divorced, single mother of an adopted and adorable little girl named Molly. When Molly makes a grisly discover while playing in the snow--finding a piece of litter that turns out to be a human finger, Zoe gets involved in the case of the missing nannies.

One of Zoe's neighbors seems to be a serial killer. Zoe and a mysteriously scarred detective named Nick Stiles team up to catch the killer, and Zoe suddenly becomes the prey…

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
eBook Author’s Corner and
HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle

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