Tuesday, December 1, 2015

An Interview with Greg Herren

MM: Greg, I went to your website. I loved that you stated the real reason you became an author was because you kept getting fired from other jobs. I had to laugh and I applaud you for your honesty.

My question: Are there any books that you have written that didn't make the cut?

GREG: I've been very lucky in that every book I've ever tried to have published have been. There's a couple of unfinished ones I started, though, that are in the files that I got stuck on and hope to get back to someday. My first three young adult novels--Sorceress, Sleeping Angel,
Sara--were originally written in the early 1990's, and revised/edited and finally published from 2010-2012. I may stop writing something, but I will always go back to it.

MM: No day is probably typical but take us thru your typical writing day?

GREG: I try to get up every day around 6 (sometimes not till 7, as I keep hitting snooze...snooze buttons are evil) and write before I go to the office, and then I try to do some more every night when I get home. I generally shoot for 3000 words a day when I am working on a book. On the weekends, I usually will get up, answer emails, write my blog, and then edit what I've written during the week while I'm drinking coffee before getting started on new pages. Some days are easier than others, but there's nothing like the absolute terror of the looming deadline to get me to write.

MM: Happy Birthday as I saw on Facebook today is your birthday. Do you have a birthday wish that hasn't been granted?

GREG: I've been very blessed in my life to have all of my dreams come true. I live in a city I love with the man I love doing the work I love. Everything else is just gravy, really.

MM: Where is your favorite place to write?

GREG: I have a work space in my kitchen. I turned the breakfast nook into my workspace. My desk faces  three enormous windows. It's wonderful, and I do most of my work there. I do a lot of my thinking and writing in my head while I'm in the car, which is kind of scary, really--my mind really gets creative while I'm on the highway.

MM: Tell us about your latest book? Also tell us about all the genres you write?

GREG: The Orion Mask is an homage to the romantic suspense writers I grew up reading--Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, etc. I've always wanted to write one of those book from a gay male point of view, and my publisher--I'm very blessed that my publisher will pretty much green light anything I want to write--said to go for it. I love those books where a young protagonist comes to the big spooky mansion full of secrets.

As for genres, I started out writing private eye novels--I've written two different series with gay private eyes in New Orleans. The Chanse MacLeod series--Murder in the Arts District was the most recent--was more hardboiled and darker. The Scotty Bradley series--Baton Rouge Bingo the most recent title--is more light and funny. I've
also written a lot of gay erotica under my pseudonym Todd Gregory, and have also written some mainstream horror/suspense under pseudonyms. I also write y/a suspense novels--some of them have supernatural elements--which I really enjoy doing. Horror is a genre I love, but I'm not very confident about writing it as I am writing crime novels. I read a lot, and in pretty much every genre. I would love to write a cozy series, a couple of noir stand-alones....I'd even like to try writing some chick lit, to be honest! Personally, I think the hardest genre, at least for me, to write is romance. I can only make it work in the context of a suspense novel.

MM: What has life taught you about writing?

GREG: Life is material. Everything is material, and everything is fair game when you're a writer. Your experiences affect who you are, and they also affect your writing. Writing can also help you deal with the worst experiences....writing about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding of New Orleans was incredibly cathartic for me, as one example. They go hand in hand, I think--my experiences have affected my writing, and my writing has helped me to deal with things that have happened in my life.

MM: If you could sit down with five authors and discuss your adventures. What would be a couple of your favorite adventures?
What author would you invite? What would you want to know from the group of authors?

I used to work for an airline, and I love telling stories about those days. I also have stories from when I was more of a party boy....hmmm, who would i like to invite? I am very lucky in that I have lots of friends who are also writers, and I frequently get to have meals with them...I guess if I had to choose writers I didn't know I would go with Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Michael Connelly, Charlaine Harris, and Jennifer Weiner. I've met them all, but don't really know them. If I had to choose writers I do know, I'd pick Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott, Alison Gaylin, Alex Marwood, and Rebecca Chance. I love listening to writers I admire talk about writing or books in general. You can always learn by listening...and as I said, I am very blessed to be friends with a lot of writers whose work I admire. Donna Andrews, Elaine Viets, PJ Parrish, Ace Atkins, Alafair Burke, Wendy Corsi Staub,  Clare O'Donohue...the list goes on and on.

MM: What advice do you have for beginning authors?

GREG: Read everything you can get your hands on, especially in the genre you want to write in. Go to writers' conferences, fan conferences--anywhere you get to hear writers talk about writing and books. I find writers' conferences to be especially inspiring. I always come away from them ready to get back to work and with a million ideas for stories and books. If the Mystery Writers of America-University comes to your area, by all means, GO. It's an incredibly rich experience.

MM: Tell us your favorite quote?

Would it be incredibly narcissistic to quote one of my own characters? Scotty Bradley's motto is "Life never gives you anything you can't handle. It's how you handle it that matters." I try to live my life by that.

MM: How do you spend your spare time? Tell us some of your favorite things about New Orleans, be our tour guide?

GREG: Now that I'm getting older, I'm more of a homebody. I like to stay home and watch great television series, or read. As for New Orleans, I love everything about New Orleans, even the things that are frustrating. There's so much to do here, so much culture, so much history...my absolute favorite thing is going to the Carnival parades. I live about a half-block from the St. Charles Parade Route, so all I have to do is walk to the corner. It's a wonderful time, it's a wonderful experience to just hang out with your neighbors and watch the marching bands and catch throws from the floats.

MM: Okay for some fun questions. What is your favorite meal? Your favorite dessert, song, movies and places to travel?

GREG: My favorite meal isn't all that interesting--I love to barbecue hamburgers and could eat that every day! I'm not a big dessert person, but I can always have a slice of cheesecake. Lately I've been addicted to cheese puffs, I don't know why, but I crave them every day. I don't have a favorite song, but I can always listen to Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac without getting tired of them. I love the old black-and-white noir movies, like Mildred Pierce, Double Indemnity, In a Lonely Place, etc. My absolute favorite place to travel is Italy. My partner and I went there last year for eight days, and fell absolutely in love with it. We went to Pisa, Tuscany, Florence and Venice. My dream now is to live there someday.

MM: What would you like to say to your readers?

GREG: Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making it possible for me to do what I dreamed of my entire life, and what I really and truly love.

MM: What would some of your characters tell us about you?

GREG: Hopefully good things! Probably that I leave a lot of who they are out? It always seems like I am cutting things out to make the story move faster and more smoothly.

MM: Last question in 2016 what are you looking forward to writing, to reading and is there some new adventure you might delve into or put in one of your books?

I have an idea for a y/a noir about a teenaged gay male figure skater that I am really excited about writing, and I am thinking about starting a new series, which is always exciting.  I am currently writing a y/a, and after that I am scheduled to write another Scotty Bradley mystery, Garden District Gothic, and then I'm contracted to write another Todd Gregory novel. I also have a great idea for two gay noir novels--not for the young adult market--that I am itching to get to. I also have an idea for a suspense thriller that I think has a lot of potential.

This year I am judging a book award, so most of my reading time is spent reading for that--but I've had some time to read for pleasure. I am currently reading Donna Andrews' incredible Meg Langslow mystery series; I can't recommend it highly enough. My TBR pile is enormous, and continues to grow exponentially every day, but I am really looking forward to Stephen King's new collection of short stories, the new Alex Marwood novel, I have an advance reader's copy of the new Michael Koryta, who is one of my favorite writers, and there's going to be new books from Alison Gaylin, Laura Lippman, and Megan Abbott in the new year, which is very exciting. Rebecca Chance named a character after me in her new book, Mile High, and I absolutely love her books! Alafair Burke never disappoints, either.

I really want to go back to Italy, and spend some more time there doing some research. I have an idea for a novel set there, and I also have an idea for a short story set in Venice. It's a remarkable, wonderful place...I cannot wait to get back there.


  1. Greg - I love all your variety and inspirations! Would love to see a cozy series too! Laissez les bon temps roulez!

  2. This was such a fun interview to do that I think you should have a couple of your characters tell us about the 2016 parades? By way of a blog for us? I love NOLA and miss living in the state. Many great books and series. Keep us posted.
    P.S. I love hamburgers. Do you have a favorite NOLA bookstore?

    1. That would be fun! Let me know!

      I have three favorite bookstores in New Orleans--Tubby and Coo's, Garden District, and Octavia.


    2. Take us on a tour of the gardens, bookstores, parades am well New Orleans by way of your three favorite characters. So I am thinking March, April and May? LOLOL


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