“The difference between people who believe they have books inside of them and those who actually write books is sheer cussed persistence.”
A few years ago–I fear saying how many–I made my way out to Hood River, Oregon, to take the incredibly worthwhile Breakout Novel Intensive workshop with super-agent Donald Maass. I have kept in touch with many of those eager students since then, and among them was fellow Canadian crime-writer Charlotte Morganti.
Charlotte, who describes herself as a “recovering lawyer,” went on to write the Persimmon Worthing Short Mysteries, and now she has published her first full-length mystery. The End Game follows DS (Gabe) Gabrielli as he races to save his kid brother from a murder charge by finding the truth behind a deadly mine explosion. It features all the things most mystery writers love: a small town with secrets, a mysterious landscape, and a cunning killer who pushes the protagonist to the breaking point.
I caught up with Charlotte to ask her about her writing process and her journey to getting The End Game into the world.
Q. What was the genesis of your book? Where did the idea come from and how did your story evolve? Why this story/this character?
A. I find many of my story ideas in the news. In part, The End Game began with a news story about suspected environmental activists blowing up oil pipelines. I asked the proverbial “what if” question – what if that’s not the reason? Noodling that around for a bit gave me a glimmer of a plot.
However, I didn’t know much about oil or pipelines, so I changed oil pipelines to mining operations exploring for gold. That I knew a fair bit about through my years as a mining and corporate finance lawyer. Plus, my husband is a geologist and was able to fill in the often massive gaps in my knowledge.
In addition I wanted to take advantage of the “stranger comes to town” trope so that I could show the setting and the characters from the point of view of an investigator who is out of his element and unsure who is truthful and who is a liar. Enter D.S. Gabrieli, an investigator from Alberta who travels to a small town in the mountains of British Columbia.
In the initial outline Gabrieli goes to the town because his friend the mayor asks him to look into sabotage that is happening near that town. My theory was that Gabrieli was an investigator so he was doing his job. But an excellent editor then told me that the first book in a mystery series should be all about the protagonist. That is, the story has to be very personal to him.
I went back to the drawing board, made the stakes much more personal for Gabrieli, and ramped up the tension.
Q. What was your path to publication? Did you work with a critique group, hire an editor, query agents etc.? Why did you end up choosing to publish the way you did?
A. Rather than work with a critique group, I shared the drafts with another writer who has an unbelievable ability to pinpoint exactly what isn’t working. Once the manuscript was finished and polished, I did query agents, a process that can be (and in my case was) lengthy.
I originally believed that securing a traditional publishing contract would make the promotion or marketing of the novel easier. But really, the days of a publisher handling all the promotion are long gone and authors do the bulk of promotion themselves, whether they publish traditionally or independently.
A year ago I attended a conference of indie authors where the focus was entirely on the business of indie publishing and marketing. It opened my eyes to the opportunities for authors and convinced me to create my own imprint and publish the novel independently.
It’s been a steep learning curve and the to-do list is huge, but the experience has been worthwhile.
Q. Do you have any advice for writers following in your footsteps, e.g. just starting out and/or finished their first MS and looking to publish?
A. Whether a writer decides to pursue a traditional publishing contract or to publish their work independently, the first thing they should do is polish the manuscript to give it the best chance of success. Agents and publishers receive hundreds of queries weekly, so your work has to shine to get past that gate. And independently published works equally need to be polished so that readers give them a thumbs up and want to read more from that author.
I think you’ll definitely want to read more from this author! Don’t forget to get your copy of The End Game here.