Today, my guest is MuseItUp publishing's author, Frank Scully. Frank is talking about his western, Resurrection Garden. He also has another book coming from MuseItUP, Deadman's Gambit.
1) Tell me a little about your book.
It’s a mystery novel set against the backdrop of the settling of the North Dakota prairie at the turn of the 20th century. Life on the North Dakota prairie in 1904 was still raw but modern times were coming with every new homesteader. Railroads and the telegraph were changing transportation and communication. The pace of life was speeding up. The land was filling up with settlers.
Jake Turner, a scarred veteran of the charge up San Juan Hill, has been a lone drifter through much of the settling of the west. Opportunity was growing out of the newly turned sod of the North Dakota prairie in 1904 when he stopped to take a part time job as a Deputy Sheriff, expecting to move on again when the dark parts of his past catch up to him.
An investigation into the murder of a man hated by everyone has threads that lead to his best friend, Isaac. Jake is ambushed and almost killed, but is nursed back to health by Isaac. While Jake follows the clues into a labyrinth of hatred, sordid crimes and missing money he becomes attached to an eight year old orphaned boy named Andy and falls in love with Isaac’s sister, Alice. After being alone for so long with no hope or care for what tomorrow might bring, Jake finds it difficult to accept these new emotional attachments.
Jake believes in Justice, but before he had only his own life on the line. When Andy is kidnapped and almost killed, Jake knows the killers will do anything to stop him. In order to protect Alice and Andy, he must break their hearts and leave them and North Dakota behind.
Jake knows he’ll be back. So do the killers. Trap and counter trap are laid. Jake knows there will be graves. He just doesn’t know who will be in them.
2) What gave you the idea for this particular story?
The genesis of the story behind Resurrection Garden came to me while I was driving home during a particularly nasty winter blizzard here in North Dakota. I had always intended to write a story set during the first decade of the 20th century as part of my Decade Mystery Series and had been mulling over a variety of storylines but none of them really felt as if they were capturing the special feel of that pioneering time.
Something in that blizzard sparked several ideas that blossomed into scenes in the book and the rest began to fall into place rather quickly as I did my research. I scoured archives of local newspapers to get a sense of the time and what was happening in the community and the world. Many incidents from the newspaper find their way into the book. Since my grandparents were among the pioneers who were already settled in the area at the time of the story, I also had personal history and diaries that I could draw on for background.
It was a time of remarkable change. The train and telegraph were making communication and travel so much quicker and easier. Goods could be shipped over long distance cheaply. Newspapers even in small towns provided information and provided a sense of community. Letters could cross the country in a week instead of months. The telephone was a new invention and being used in cities. Cars and streetcars were transforming cities. And yet, on the frontier prairie where farmers came to homestead and stake their claim to the American Dream, life was still harsh and often raw.
3) Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I am a part time writer with a full time career day job as a Contracts Manager for a major aerospace manufacturer. I have to write in the evenings and on weekends and whatever time I can find to put aside for it.
4) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I grew up in a house full of avid readers. We had overstuffed bookshelves everywhere. One summer when I was ten years old and had to stay in bed with Rheumatic Fever, I remember reading at least one book a day, mostly mysteries and adventure books. I didn’t start writing until I was in college and was encouraged to write by an English professor. However, after college my work as a lawyer and businessman took me in other directions for many years. I was still always reading a wide variety of books for pleasure. It was many years later before my wife pushed me into sitting down and actually writing.
My first attempts were, of course, not that good, but I kept at it and learned the craft as I went along. It took some time before I got one ready for submission to agents. I continued to write as I queried agents and had another ready and then another as the years went on and my queries did not get me an agent. Close many times with some very reputable agents and almost burned a few times by pseudo agents. After much time and effort, MuseItUp came along. I couldn’t be more satisfied than I am being a part of MIU. The publishing industry is going through an amazing transformation now, and it is fun being a part of it.
5) What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
I hope they will have a few hours of very pleasant entertainment and that they will learn something without realizing it.
6) Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why?
I write mystery/suspense novels. Fortunately, most people will go through life without ever being personally involved in a murder case or the intrigue and suspense that revolves around a major investigation of a crime. There is something raw, elemental, and terrifying about it. It exposes the worst about humanity and also at times the best. True crime often is just sordid and ugly. Fictional crime stories run the gamut from cozies where the grime and crime is off screen to the dark where blood and gore is splashed on every page. I try to keep it more “real”. People lie, cheat, steal and kill and others clean up and try to keep order and justice. It’s not always neat and clean. Sometimes the justice system works and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s all about the commitment of the people involved. There are so many different avenues you can take in a mystery/suspense novel and that is part of what makes it a wonderful genre to read as well as write. Every author approaches it from a different perspective and develops his/her own style or “voice”.
7) What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?
The hardest part of being a writer is the constant editing and re-writing to get it right. But it is also rewarding to see the story get polished and become a much better manuscript.
8) Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.
I worked many small things I found in the newspaper archives of the times into the story such as lunch specials at a diner, traveling acting companies, and other events of the day. The general background of the times with the new settlers arriving and the hard conditions were all real.
9) How much is your protagonist like you? How different?
Any similarities between me and my lead characters is more wishful thinking on my part than reality.
10) What kind of research did you do for this type of story?
This story entailed some very personal research. My grandparents were settlers in North Dakota in the 1880’s and I had some of their old diaries, and photos to use. I also had heard people talking about the times while I was growing up. The local museum has a wealth of information and the local newspaper archives provided a picture of the daily life of the times. I had a number of old books including a set of encyclopedias from the time that gave details of the knowledge base.
11) Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not?
I don’t have any problems writing violent scenes but I don’t do blood and gore for its own sake or just to shock. I may use sexually charged scenes in my books but don’t do sex scenes.
12) What about your book makes it special?
I do not have any aspirations of literary importance or greatness but I do believe that the story is unique and entertaining. Readers will learn something about the time and place, 1904 North Dakota, as well as the wider circumstances that relate to the people involved while enjoying a murder mystery filled with suspense and populated by interesting characters. Resurrection Garden is not a western in the traditional sense nor is it a Victorian mystery. It provides a unique perspective to the pioneer experience at the turn of the 20th century.
13) What is your marketing plan?
I have been very fortunate that I received some local publicity from an article in a local newspaper that helped promote the book immediately after it was released. I intend to do a press release to try and get some more local newspaper interested in doing a story. I am also promoting it through friends and colleagues by giving out business cards with the book information on it. I also am doing a blog tour and will be doing selected advertising as well as participating in various forums.
14) Where can people learn more about you and your work?
My website is: www.frankjscully.com
It is a work in progress but all are welcome to stop by and leave a comment on my blog there. More information can also be found on the publisher’s website: http://museituppublishing.com/
15) Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?
Read as many books as you can, study each book and each author carefully to understand what makes them successful. Then write and write some more. And write because you enjoy the writing, not for the money.