Saturday, September 17, 2011

Part Two - The Keith Cronin Interview

Clearly we aren't the only ones who think Keith's debut is a promising one.  Here's some of the advance praise he received for Me Again.
"A beautifully wrought tale of courage, hope, and awakenings of all kinds."
~ Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants "Heart and humor are inseparable in Keith Cronin's engaging debut."
~ Susan Henderson, author of Up from the Blue
"A work that will make readers laugh and think."
~ Lauren Baratz-Logsted, author of The Thin Pink Line
While it's always interesting to read what other authors think of a book, I also wanted to find out what Keith's rock and roll colleagues thought about his "other" career.

MS: How did your rock 'n roll friends react when they heard about your book?

I think some of them are scratching their heads about this different side of me, but others are extremely supportive, and some of them have been very patient and enthusiastic readers and reviewers of early drafts of my work. I got to chat with Pat Travers recently, and he was thrilled to learn I had a novel coming out. He's the first person I can distinctly remember telling me I should write a book, and I think he was pretty happy to learn that his advice had actually led to something, some 20 years later.

MS: How do you manage two very different creative careers?

By taking what I learned from one and applying it to the other. From my music career, I know how to do the hard, focused work necessary to attain professional results, so I apply that discipline to writing. And I learned the hard way how crazy the music business was, which prepared me for the equally bizarre world of publishing. I also learned the importance of people skills. You can't succeed in either industry without a lot of support, and you won't garner that support by being a jerk. (At least not unless you can prove your ability to make other people rich while still being a jerk.)

But balancing the two careers has actually been pretty easy, because each one gives me a break from the other. But no matter which direction I'm pursuing, I'm still involved in some kind of creative effort. That's essential to me: the desire to constantly create has been a defining characteristic for me and my immediate family for as long as I can remember. So it's nice to have more than one option for pursuing that desire.

What's next for Keith Cronin writer?

KC: Tough call. Promoting this book seems to be a fulltime job, but I know that the next book won't write itself. I'm currently toying with a modern-day retelling of a famous old novel I dearly love, with the added twist of putting it into a rock n' roll context. But in the interest of following my own advice, I first want to think it through, and make sure I understand where the market might be for such a story.

The other thing I want to do is to learn to write faster. The two novels I've written each took more than two years to complete. I'd like to see if I can take what I've learned over the past decade - both about writing and about project management - and try to condense the process. This market is so challenging, and I hate the idea of putting years of work into a book that may not sell. But one thing I'm sure about: I want to continue to write for female readers. I think that's the audience where the kind of thing I write will most likely resonate; plus, they're just so much better-looking than male readers!

MS: One more question: Is it a spoiler for you to reveal why there's a Buddha in the cereal bowl?

Well, you may never see the Buddha actually in a cereal bowl in Me Again, but he does keep turning up in some unexpected places. And the Cheerios? They put in a brief cameo during one of the bigger emotional revelations in my book. How I ever came up with the idea of combining those two disparate images is something that probably wouldn't make sense to anybody who isn't familiar with the weird way my mind works. Ah, but you've seen that first-hand, Mary, so you can probably easily imagine the warped logic behind that creative impulse. If nothing else, I don't think there are many book covers that will be confused with mine. I mean, I never heard anybody say, "Oh, no - not ANOTHER Buddha-in-a-cereal-bowl book cover!"

Is there anything you'd like to add that I didn't ask? Go for it!

Lots of authors are offering freebies to try to attract readers. So here's mine: I would LOVE for you to read my book for free. All you need to do is ask your local library to order the book. Five Star, my publishing house, specializes in selling hardcover fiction to libraries. So by asking your librarian to order my book, you're helping my book succeed, and getting to read it for free. How cool is that?

MS: Keith, thanks so much for taking part in this interview.  Me Again is next on my TBR list.  Can't wait!

Readers, as further evidence that Keith is an all around cool, nice guy, he's donating 25% of his earnings from Me Again to the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association that focuses on reducing risk, disability, and death from stroke through research, education, fund raising and advocacy. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Chatting with Keith Cronin - Debut Author of Me Again

Miracles can be damned inconvenient. That's what thirty-four-year-old stroke victim Jonathan Hooper learns when he wakes up after spending six years in a coma. Everyone calls Jonathan's recovery a "miracle," but since nobody had expected him to recover, his sudden awakening becomes an awkward intrusion on the lives of his family and friends. To make matters worse, Jonathan doesn't even recognize these people. The stroke has wiped away most of Jonathan's memory, while the coma has withered his body.
In short, Jonathan's not the man he used to be - whoever that was.
The only bright spot for Jonathan is Rebecca Chase, a young woman he meets in the hospital's long-term recovery unit. A stroke has drastically changed her personality, making her a stranger to her husband. Gone is the vivacious trophy wife, replaced by a shy, awkward woman with a knack for saying exactly the wrong thing.
Constantly reminded how badly they fit in, Jonathan and Rebecca find much in common with each other as they work on rebuilding - and rediscovering - their lives. But while Rebecca copes with her husband's frustrated attempts at "fixing" her, Jonathan finds mounting evidence that the man he used to be was not necessarily a very good man. And everywhere he turns, Jonathan keeps discovering more secrets that his own loved ones are keeping from him.
A steadily accelerating story exploring the irony, humor, and opportunity that can accompany personal calamity, Me Again follows the intertwined paths of two people forced to start over in life: one looking for his place in a world that has moved on without him, the other struggling to navigate a relationship with a man who wishes she were someone else.

Since first meeting Keith last winter, I've looked forward to reading his debut novel Me Again.  Keith's a nice, interesting, very funny guy and I had a hunch that I and other people would enjoy learning more about the writer behind the book.

Here's what his website bio says: 

Author of the novel ME AGAIN, Keith Cronin is a corporate speechwriter and professional rock drummer who has performed and recorded with artists including Bruce Springsteen, Clarence Clemons, and Pat Travers.
He is also becoming informally known as "the title guy," having provided the title for Sara Gruen's blockbuster Water for Elephants, as well as Susan Henderson's HarperCollins debut Up from the Blue.
Keith is a regular contributor at the literary blog Writer Unboxed, named one of Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for the past five years. His fiction has appeared in Carve Magazine, Amarillo Bay, The Scruffy Dog Review, Zinos, and a University of Phoenix management course. He holds a bachelor's degree in music from Indiana University, and earned his MBA at Florida Atlantic University. A native of South Florida, Keith spends his free time serenading local ducks and squirrels with his ukulele.

Now here's part one of what Keith says about himself and his work:

MS: Me Again is your debut novel. According to your website, you've written shorter fiction before, but it looks like you're primarily known as a musician. Has writing a novel been a long-held dream, or is this a newer trip on your creative journey?

KC: Back in the late 80s I toured with the Pat Travers Band, and Pat and I were both big readers, often loaning each other books to help pass the endless hours spent on the bus. Pat was always telling me I should write a book, but at the time I didn't feel I had a story to tell. I mean, I knew I supposedly had "a way with words," but I didn't know what to say with those words. It wasn't until the late 90s that I started getting serious about writing fiction. But I got very serious indeed, and ended up devoting the next ten years to learning the craft and the business, with the goal of becoming a published novelist.

MS: The description of Me Again is so different and intriguing. What moved you to write this particular story?

KC: I'll admit, at first it was just an intriguing "what if?" premise, making me curious to see what my characters would do. For many of us, the occasional desire for a "do-over" in life is a pretty universal thing, whether we're at a point where things are going so badly that we want to start over, or we're wistfully wondering what our lives would be like if we had made some different choices or taken some different paths. But in Me Again, I forced the issue, giving both of my characters a do-over that they never asked for.

But as I got caught up in the writing, I became far more focused on how my characters would feel under these circumstances, and it was their emotions that in turn drove their actions - all while I sat back and watched. I learned a lot while writing this book: both my characters and I made some major emotional discoveries along the way. That's the power of fiction, but I'll admit this was my first time tapping into that power so directly.

MS: I'm sure you've learned that it's unique for a man to write a book that's characterized as women's fiction. Is there a story behind that, too? Did you set out to write women's fiction or is did you realize that's what you had when finished?

KC: I really don't tend to think in genres - I'm an EORAW (Equal Opportunity Reader And Writer). But I did consciously set out to write a book that women would be interested in reading. For one thing, I believe there are more women reading fiction than men, and that they are more open-minded about what they read. But I was also at a point in my life where I felt ready to tackle some pretty intense emotional issues with my writing, viewed through a lens that seeks the positive - or at least the funny - side of even the darkest situation. I was hoping that this sort of world view might lend itself to some compelling and emotionally substantial storytelling.

When Five Star announced they wanted to acquire my book for their Expressions line of women's fiction and romance, I was a little surprised, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Although my first-person narrator is male, the main female character in my book goes through a major transformation, which I think is one of the essential components of good women's fiction.

MS: What's been the biggest challenge? What's the most important thing you've learned? Anything you wish you'd done differently?

KC: One of the biggest challenges is staying positive and focused in such a daunting pursuit. You hear so many more no's than yes's in this line of work, and it's easy to become bitter or jealous, but that's such a waste of energy. The key is to keep your eyes and ears open, and learn from your experiences, even if the lessons you're being taught seem illogical or unfair. That old "Serenity Prayer" comes to mind:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

 That last part is tricky, though. Many aspiring writers become downtrodden and desperate, and begin to assume that they can't change certain things, when in reality they probably could change them if they tried. I'm always a little skeptical when I start hearing "that's the way it is in this business," or "that's the way we've always done it." So I'm definitely trying to approach my writing career from the driver's seat, not simply along for the ride. Obviously, I'm not alone in my thinking, as witnessed by the revolutionary changes we're starting to see in publishing, particularly with e-books.

As far as things to do differently, I think I could have worked even harder to understand how genres are perceived by the decision makers in this industry. I mean, even though I may not care about genre, you can bet the editorial and marketing departments of all the publishing houses do care. So rather than buy into the popular advice of "just write the story that's in your heart, and it will find its way to success," I think it's more realistic to look for how your passions and storytelling instincts intersect with the current market, and try to write something that aims for that point of intersection. Easy as pie, right? Next I'll explain how I would handle cold fusion and solve world hunger.

Check back tomorrow for part 2 of the Keith Cronin interview where we discuss cold fusion, world hunger, handling a dual career and other interesting topics.  In the meantime, check out Keith's website to download an excerpt of Me Again.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Keith Cronin - Debut Author / Rock Drummer - Interview Coming Soon!

A few months ago, I went to one of the monthly meetings of Florida Romance Writers and met a new member named Keith Cronin. As you might suppose, male writers are in the minority in romance groups. Men who are also rock and roll drummers are even more rare. Keith and I talked for awhile and my initial impression was that he was a cool guy, comfortable in his own skin, smart and very witty.

Okay, my initial impression actually was, "This guy's funny as hell!"

I learned that his debut novel, Me Again, would soon be published. Over the months I learned more about Keith's book and it really grabbed my interest. I think his personal story - rock musician turns author of a book marketed as womens fiction - is pretty interesting, too, so I asked if I could interview him for my blog.

Happily, he agreed. Stay tuned for the Keith Cronin interview in two parts on Friday and Saturday. In the meantime, check out this awesome trailer for Me Again, produced by and featuring original music written and performed by Keith's significant other Luna Jade.

To learn more about Keith and his debut novel, visit his website.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

I love baseball.  Go Phillies!

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Spicing Life with Variety

I'm having lots of fun this weekend and I realized that to some extent it's because life hasn't been the "same old same old".  Let me give you a quick recap. . .

Came home from work on Friday, put on my Phillies T-shirt and settled into watching the Phillies play the Marlins on television.  This was the perfect, relaxing way to end a busy day.  Saturday, I slept in a little, and then did some things around the house.  Ran up to the veterinarian's office to get heartworm preventative meds for Nat and Pyxi and then checked in at the salon for a mini-facial.  Ahhh.

Hit the supermarket to pick up the makings of meals over the next few days.  Got everything put away at home.  Read for a while on the porch.  Chatted with a neighbor.  Jumped into the pool for some exercise.  Made dinner, then showered and got ready to join friends at a small gathering to celebrate a friend's birthday and survey some, um, risque' products.  (Chocolate vodka and amaretto = delicious martini.)

This morning I had a personal to-do list: Enjoy a leisurely breakfast and read the paper; Assemble ingredients in the crock pot and get it started for dinner later;  Purchase a grease gun and marine-grade lubricant and attempt to grease the zercs on my boat.  (This meant learning what zercs are, not to mention figure out how to assemble and load a grease gun.); meet my friend back at the salon to get my eyelashes permed (no mascara necessary); Take Nat and Pyxi up to DRC to meet the DolphinLab students they'll be working with all week; Come home and attempt to grease said zercs (I was semi-successful but need a little instruction.); Add salt to the pool; Exercise in pool.

Whew!  Now that's a day.  I'm a little tired, but pleasantly so.  My muscles have that stretched, fluid warm feel.  My mind is completely content and relaxed.   My house smells delicious and I'm almost ready to enjoy that dinner that's been cooking all day.

Read as a list, no one thing that I did was all that exciting.  Certainly nothing to make you clap your hands with glee and think, "Wow.  Can't wait to get to it!"  Even so, each item on the list added up to a whole being greater than the sum of its parts.  The day, as a whole, brought some fun, some challenge, and a great deal of satisfaction.

Wonder if I can achieve the same level of satisfaction with whatever I do tomorrow?