New York Times Bestselling author Joseph Finder is taking your questions…

In October, Ben Mezrich answered your questions on writing, inspiration and rejection, Joseph Finder is up next.

Joe, a bestselling thriller author and hailed as the “CEO of Suspense,” has published nine novels including the bestselling High Crimes which was turned into a film starring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd. He has recently sold two more bestselling novels to Hollywood and his latest thriller, Vanished, landed on The New York Times bestseller list. Vanished, published in August 2009, is the first book in a continuing series featuring corporate security specialist Nick Heller.

Joe was born in Chicago, but spent his childhood living around the world, including Afghanistan and the Philippines. At Yale, he majored in Russian studies and sang in the school’s legendary a cappella group, the Whiffenpoofs. He completed his master’s degree at Harvard and was recruited by the CIA, but decided to write fiction instead.

Finder_vanished-1 For the next week (or so), you get to ask Joe questions in the comments area below. Ask anything! Ask about his process and his writing routine, his favorite song or his most embarrassing moment. For more question inspiration, check out Joe’s website and/or follow him on twitter.

Be creative. Joe is now listening…

Giving Thanks, Sharing Stories

Turkey-1 Happy Thanksgiving WEbookers! In the spirit of coming together and sharing, we invite you to write a short Thanksgiving story (in the comments section below) Fiction or non-fiction (you can leave it ambiguous, if you’d like), happy or sad, funny or serious, it’s up to you, as long as it is somehow related to family, friends and giving thanks.

To kick things off, I’m going to share an almost entirely true story about my family at Thanksgiving. Names have been changed to protect my dear relatives.

November 25, 2004—The Thankful Leaf

My family is a serious group. Almost all of them are doctors, lawyers, or finance professionals. Because of their serious jobs, they tend to have very serious conversations. There’s lots of talk about mergers and interests rates, Medicare and malpractice insurance, torts and depositions…

I have absolutely no frame of reference with which to join into any of these conversations, so over the years I’ve mastered appearing interested while actually having private day-dreams.

My Uncle Frank, on the other hand, has been unable to adopt this strategy. He makes jokes constantly (nobody laughs), starts conversations about racy things (which he carries on alone), and generally doesn’t fit in with the accepted tone of our dinners.

Even though we are a professional family, each year my sentimental aunt cuts leaves out of multi-colored construction paper and asks us to write what we are thankful for. Almost all of our entries have something to do with the undying love and support of family, the success of respective children in their educational endeavors, and overall happiness and well-being.

Uncle Frank thought otherwise this year. During the leaf-writing time, he planted himself next to my youngest cousin, Sally, and assisted her with the leaf. The time came to read them aloud. One by one each of us stood up, and shared with the family.

    “My son John’s early acceptance into law school,” Uncle George said proudly.

    “The fact that everyone got here safely to share this lovely dinner,” said Aunt Susan.

And around we went. When it came time for Sally to read her leaf, she boldly shot up from her chair, cleared her throat, and enunciated herself with stellar clarity:  “I am most thankful for the agreeable consistency of my morning bowel movements!”

There was a pause. Uncle Frank’s was trying not to burst out laughing. I wanted to maintain my face of concentration. Then, my grandfather let out a chuckle, and Sally’s father and mother, and before I knew it, the entire table was in an uproar, slapping each other’s backs and pounding the table. It was the most I’d ever heard my family laugh. Sally was beaming. Uncle Frank’s joke was a little inappropriate, but we all laughed together and I will always be thankful for that memory.

Ok, that’s it! Hope it stirred some ideas around. Feel free to share anything that comes to mind, and have a funny Thanksgiving!

-- Brian (the new WEbook intern)

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AgentInbox Success Story #1

Corey_1-1-1WEbooker and aspiring author Corey_Whaley (John Corey Whaley in the real world) submitted his YA novel to an agent through AgentInbox in October. In a few short days, one of our participating agents requested a full manuscript and by the end of the week, he had signed on with a prominent literary agent! Corey_Whaley, a middle school English teacher from Louisiana, wrote WEbook an email: "My life just changed." To find out more about this YA novelist, WEbook asked him a few random and not-so-random questions.

Corey_2-1 What was the inspiration for your novel? How long have you been working on it?
I originally came up with the idea for Good God Bird sometime in 2005 after hearing an interesting piece about the small town of Brinkley, Arkansas, on National Public Radio. The story was about the possible re-emergence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the woods near  the town, and included  interviews with townspeople as well as an original song composed in honor of the bird by singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens (which struck my original interest in the story). The story went through several phases over a two-year span after that. I re-worked it and re-worked it, but never got much done until the summer of 2007.  It was a few weeks after my first year of teaching public school English that I decided to finish the novel. With only  about 16 pages or so, I cranked out the rest of the novel in June and the first part of July of 2007. I wrote most of the novel on my laptop while camping at a lake in Arkansas.

What's the single most important thing you've learned as a writer?

I've learned to be patient and to let ideas come to me. I used to try and force myself to write, but now I just wait until I have one of those cathartic moments that forces me to drop everything and write. No more staring endlessly at flashing cursors for me.

What is the last argument you got into?
I had a small, silly argument over the pronunciation of cacophony the other night. We agreed to disagree.

How does writing fit into the rest of your life?
now, it's hard to find time to write because I teach middle school
English and have just recently started getting involved in community
theater here in town.  But, when I get a good idea, I try to fit in
time on nights and weekends. Sometimes, when I get especially stressed
at work, I will write things at my desk while my students are busy
working. It sometimes makes for good distraction therapy.

When life gets hectic, what are you most likely to let slide?

When life gets especially hectic, I will let laundry pile up to embarrassing heights.

What was the first story you ever wrote?
Corey_3-2 My
mother found this story --- we think it's from first grade. It was in my
handwriting and the teacher wrote "very good story" at the top.

"Dr. Raccoon"
Raccoon was a nice doctor.  But, one day, a red fox came in.  The red
fox was a nice fox, but one day he came in and said "Dr. Raccoon, 
Where are you?" Then, he saw a red sign that said "No Foxes."

Corey, a huge congratulations from WEbook! This journey will no doubt be unforgettable.

John Corey Whaley grew up in the small town of Springhill, Louisiana, where he began winning writing contests in high school. He earned a B.A. in English at Louisiana Tech University in 2006 and began teaching public school English later that year in his hometown. Whaley earned an M.A.T. in Secondary English Education in 2009 and currently teaches middle school English in Shreveport, Louisiana.You can follow Corey on Twitter @Corey_Whaley.

Watch Repair and Other Sources of Inspiration

Amywritinglife1.1Esther Cohen teaches Good Stories at Manhattanville College. She’s the author of 5 books, including Book Doctor, Don’t Mind Me And Other Jewish Lies, and God is a Tree. In previous columns, Esther has written about what makes a writer and how to get the words out.

The story of our life is not our life. It is our story.

Great to read about you on WEbook. I’m interested to know as much as I can about all of you, your stories, and your writing. Here’s mine:

I was late (I am rarely late. I don’t like to keep anyone waiting. But sometimes it’s inevitable. Subways, buses who knows what). It happened one day when I was to meet two women I’m doing some freelance writing for. I earn my living in many ways. Some of them involve words – not words that evoke necessarily (although evocation is something I’m always trying to do). Sometimes I just write Words for Hire. I was late, walking quickly, but not all that quickly, because I was wearing high heels for my appointment.
I was thinking about what I was handing in. Was it good enough? Would I have to rewrite it? How would the women – my clients – respond? They are young and unpredictable.
I was walking down Broadway, from my apartment in the 70’s, to 65th Street, where we’d planned our meeting. The women lived out of town. I was behind two friends, a woman and man, in their late twenties or early thirties. They were both very thin – a little too thin, actually. Too thin makes me nervous. I have never been too thin. And never will be, either. I’m just not a thin type.
The woman said to her friend (they were both dressed in black. Not just any black, but black trendy – tight and new and asymmetrical in a way I knew meant Now). “I can’t believe he’s another married man with a wife named Sandra. There must be hundreds. Maybe even thousands. Who knows. Maybe there are a million married men with Sandra wives.”
When she said that, I immediately started thinking of a story to write. One woman, her lovers, and all their Sandra wives.
Someone else said to me, years ago at a party – I was in the Village, and the host was a man I did not know well, a playwright type, although he could have been an actor or a scenery painter. He had that theater-y personality. Why do so many of us look like what we do? I’ve wondered that for years.  An attractive woman, my age more or less, introduced herself to me. She had the ease of someone who introduced herself often and well to all those around her. I imagined her walking through the bus, shaking hands with strangers. Her first sentence was a memorable one: I’ve been with seven Sams. I saved this sentence in my forever folder, thinking: What a title. What a Story. What an art exhibit: Pictures of All My Sams.
Maybe Sams and Sandras is the title I’ll use, one day.
Later in the week, I went to 47th Street to have the crystal on my husband’s watch replaced. I’d borrowed his vintage watch one day, in order to look more official (why the vintage watch looks more official than my Swatch I’m not sure. But it does.) The crystal broke the day I wore it. I’m not sure how. It just did.
My friend Marion used to sell jewelry on 47th street. She told me that the watch makers there are masters, although she didn’t have a specific recommendation. I looked online to find out where to go, and wrote out a list of half a dozen. (Imagine a block anywhere in the world with half a dozen watch repairmen. They were all men. It seems to be a man’s job, even now.)
The block itself is from another time, another place. It’s all jewelry – diamonds, watches, earrings, rings. Immigrant men from all around the world are standing in the street, entreating every single passerby to sell their gold, or buy it. It’s like being in a foreign country somewhere – Hong Kong or Marrekesh, maybe – and not New York City in 2009. I visited many watchmakers, just to see them. They were born all over the world. In the end, I settled on Rafael, from Tajikistan. He made his own tools – beautiful wooden knobs of all shapes and sizes, with long metal points of every possible width and length. There’s not a watch that exists, he said, that he couldn’t fix. It so happens that I had a drawer full of broken watches. Don’t ask me why. I buy them at flea markets for their beautiful faces, intending one day to find someone like Rafael. Now all the watches in my drawer work. And Rafael’s story (famous rabbi father, seven brothers, his curved path to learning about watches, and life) reminded me of a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer. One of my favorite authors. Now maybe I’m the one who’ll write Rafael’s story…
Tell me about your week. I wait to hear.

Here's a second poem for inspiration:

You write about the life that's vividest.
And if that is your own, that is your subject.
And if the years before and after sixteen
Are colorless as salt and taste like sand—
Return to those remembered chilly mornings,
The light spreading like a great skin on the water...




Best Selling Author Ben Mezrich Answers Your Questions - PART 2!

BenMezrichCTracyAiguier1-2 We posted the first set of responses from Ben Mezrich last week. Following is the second and final Q&A (unless all of you come up with more fascinating questions!) Special thanks to Ben for answering so many of our questions.

Quick recap for first time readers: Ben (@BenMezrich) is the author of eleven books. His bestsellers include Bringing Down the House, a true story about
M.I.T. students who swindled a series of Vegas casinos out of millions by counting cards and most recently The Accidental Billionaires about, as the subtitle explains, The Founding of Facebook a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal.

Accidental Billionaires Cover I look at someone like yourself who has been rejected 190 times and think that getting published is probably not likely. --ERNEST DEMSEY

Rejection is a noble part of the game. There’s nothing wrong with being rejected, you need to embrace it and use it as fuel. Every great writer out there has been rejected countless times. It’s a tough, tough business, but if you’re good, and you work your ass off, you can get published. 

Do you still not drive and dislike flying, and why? Why do you also need to have a magazine open to a person with a "happy face?" --MERLE GORNICK

I drive now, but not very far! I’ve grown ok with flying, I do my magic rituals like staring at a happy face in a magazine on take-off and landing, and it seems to work! I haven’t crashed yet!

What 3 authors, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with and why? --ZOE

Michael Crichton, because I really wanted to be him for the first half
of my career; Hunter S Thompson, because it would be a blast and I want
desperately to be him now, in the second half of my career. And Scott
Stossel, of the Atlantic Monthly, because he owes me a dinner.

After your considerable success, how do you keep it real? Do you ever worry about losing your edge? Do you do stuff to try to re-capture your hunger from your days when you struggled? And how do you find new ideas to write about? Do you actively search for stuff or do new ideas just sort of arrive?

Ideas show up on my website or twitter or wherever, people come to me now. The key is searching through all the ideas and finding one that really turns me on. I don’t worry about losing my edge because I am pretty insane and have always lived vicariously through the stories I hear- so it’s not really my edge, it’s the edge of the people I write about. And there is no shortage of great stories!

Bringing_down_the_house You've written alot, and I was wondering how you found the inspiration to keep on writting? I write and write, but I tend to lose focus, do have any ways to keep focus? --MARGARITA CRUZ

It’s really an obsession for me. Focus has never been my problem- I can watch television for 40 straight hours, and I can write for 40 hours. The key is to make sure that what you are writing is something that someone else will want to read!

Have you ever had writer's block, and/or how did you recover from it? --ANONYMOUS

Yes and no. Writer’s block, for me, isn’t sitting there trying to write. It’s spending a month watching tv and going out and basically blowing off work. The key is to get excited about a project, and that all goes away.

Coming up in November: More bestselling authors on the blog. Get your questions ready!

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