Don't Do It for the Money: Interview with Thriller Author James Hayman

"Don't Do It For the Money"
Interview with James Hayman, author of The Cutting

Like the hero of The Cutting, James Hayman is a transplanted New Yorker. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Manhattan, he spent more than twenty years writing TV advertising for clients like The U.S. Army, Lincoln-Mercury and Procter & Gamble. He moved to Portland, Maine in 2001. Four years later he decided to scratch a lifelong itch to write fiction and began work on his first suspense thriller featuring Portland homicide detective Mike McCabe. St. Martin’s/Minotaur bought rights to The Cutting and published it in July 2009. Hayman is currently at work on the second McCabe novel.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, James. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

James: I’ve been a writer, though not a fiction writer, all my life. After college I spent about 25 years as a copywriter and creative director for major Madison Avenue advertising agencies. I also wrote and produced television commercials for clients like The US Army (“Be All You Can BE”) and Lincoln/Mercury (“The Shape You Want To Be In)

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

James: First and foremost The Cutting is about a character named McCabe. He’s an ex-NYPD homicide cop, a single father, who hoped moving to a place like Portland Maine would allow him to build a new and safer life, both for himself and his teenage daughter. Little did he know what terrible violence was waiting on the cobblestoned streets of this small and charming city.

As to why I wrote it, the answer is simple. I’ve always wanted to write fiction. Thrillers are my favorite kind of fiction. I thought I had a story to tell. I fijor freelance writing assignment—a 200 page coffee table book--- in December of 2005. I had no other assignments on tap. So in the words of Rabi Hillell I said to myself, “If not now, when?”

What kind of research was involved in writing The Cutting?

James: Two kinds.

I had to learn about police work in general and the Portland Police Department in particular. I was helped enormously by a retired PPD Detective named Tom Joyce who made himself available to answer any and all questions.

I also made extensive use of the Internet to find answers to questions and background information. For example one of the victims is killed with a Blackie Collins knife. I found all the information I needed about that knife on the website of an online seller of knives.

The Cutting is a medical thriller. It involves heart transplants as well as a key scene in the ER of a major hospital. Here I was helped by a couple of cardiac surgeons and the head of Emergency Medicine at Maine Medical Center. Again the Internet provided a fast and almost endless supply of background information.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

James: Incredibly smooth. I showed the finished manuscript of The Cutting to exactly one agent who loved it and signed me up as a client. It turned out that she was one of the best mystery/thriller agents in the business with great contacts at all the major publishers. She sent The Cutting to six or seven editors. Two made offers. I signed a two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press Minotaur imprint less than two years after writing the first lines.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

James: About eighteen months.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

James: I do have an agent. Her name is Meg Ruley and not only did she sell the book, she’s also been a great source of information, ideas and editorial suggestions. For a first time novelist I believe it’s critical to have an agent if you want to have any hope of selling your book to a commercial publisher.

Do you plan subsequent books?

James: I’d just finishing final revisions of The Chill of Night. It’s the second Michael McCabe thriller and it also takes place in Portland, Maine. Minotaur plans to bring it out in June/July 2010, about the same time The Cutting goes paperback.

Can you describe your most favorite place to write?

James: Two places. When the writing is going well, I can write at home in a room set aside for that purpose. When I hit a tough patch I go to the fifth floor carrel of a nearby university library where there are no distractions, no phone calls, and no Internet (since I’m not a student or staff member). I can’t even get up and go to the men’s room without taking my laptop with me.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

James: I’d send a free copy of The Cutting to every mystery/thriller reader in the country. Once they read it I think most of them would but McCabe #2, The Chill of Night as well as McCabe #3, #4, and so on.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

James: Very important. Publishers have only small budgets to promote books. The rest is up to the author. Freelance publicists are incredibly expensive. So you have to promote it yourself.

Offline, you participate in as many readings and panels as you can. Sign copies of your book at every bookstore you can find that’s carrying it. Send out press releases announcing upcoming events.

Online, create a blog and a website. Use Facebook and Twitter and other social networking sites. And make use of online promotion services like Pump Up Your Book Promotions.

What’s the most common reason you believe new writers give up their dream of becoming published and did you almost give up?

James: I believe most writers who give up their dream of writing give it up because they discover that it’s a hell of a lot harder than they ever imagined. It requires equal measures discipline and determination. Both to finish writing the book and then to find an agent and/or a publisher.

Regarding the second part of your question, no I never “almost gave up.”

I’ve been a writer all my working life. So I had a pretty good sense, even before I started, of what it would take to finish The Cutting.

Once the book was finished the rest, amazingly, turned out to be easy. I discissed that process a little earlier in this interview.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

James: Yes. Writing is a tough business. Don’t do it for the money. Don’t do it for fame. And don’t do it if you can’t handle rejection.

Do it because you have a story (or maybe a lot of stories) to tell and you just can’t rest until you’ve told it.

Thank you for your interview, James. I wish you much success!

James: Thank you for having me.

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