Thursday, March 30, 2006

Pro-File: Marcia Muller

A native of the Detroit area, Marcia Muller grew up in a house full of books and self-published three copies of her first novel at age twelve, a tale about her dog complete with primitive illustrations. The “reviews” were generally positive.

Her literary aspirations were put on hold, however, in her third year at the University of Michigan, when her creative writing instructor told her she would never be a writer because she had nothing to say.  Instead she turned to journalism, earning a master’s degree, but various editors for whom she freelanced noticed her unfortunate tendency to embellish the facts in order to make them more interesting.

In the early 1970s, having moved to California, Muller found herself unemployable and began experimenting with mystery novels, because they were what she liked to read.  After three manuscripts and five years of rejection, Edwin of the Iron Shoes, the first novel featuring San Francisco private investigator Sharon McCone, was published by David McKay Company, who then cancelled their mystery list.  Four more years passed before St. Martin’s Press accepted the second McCone novel, Ask the Cards a Question.

In the ensuing twenty years, Muller has authored 32 novels, three of them in collaboration with husband Bill Pronzini; four short-story collections; and numerous nonfiction articles.  Together she and Pronzini have edited a dozen anthologies and a nonfiction book on the mystery genre. The Mulzinis, as friends call them, live in Sonoma County, California, in yet another house full of books.

Marcia Muller:

1.  Tell us about your current novel.

It’s titled Vanishing Point and is coming out in July.  Another Sharon McCone.  In it she is hired by the daughter of a woman who vanished twenty-two years ago to look into the disappearance and provide her family with closure.  In the middle of McCone’s investigation, the client also vanishes, and she finds herself working two cases.

2.  Can you tell us what you’re working on now?

It’s another McCone, The Ever-Running Man.  Someone has a vendetta against RKI, the security firm in which McCone’s husband, Hy Ripinsky, is a partner.  Several of their offices have been bombed, and they hire McCone to investigate.  But before she can even get started, RKI’s San Francisco headquarters are blown up and she narrowly misses dying in the blast.  She’s now in Chicago, investigating yet another explosion, and after that ...who knows?  Not I!

3.  What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

The writing itself.  And hearing from readers who understand and appreciate my work.

4.  The greatest DIS-pleasure?

Being involved in a high-stress industry that no one – even those who run it – can really figure out.

5.  If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

Nurture your authors.  Don’t kick them out because they’re not instant bestsellers.  I’ve been fortunate to have this experience with Mysterious/Warner, and I wish more writers – especially the new ones coming into the field today – could have it.

6.  Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you’d like to see in print again?

Thomas B. Dewey, who wrote wonderful private eye novels, comes to mind.  And there are a whole lot of writers, not necessarily forgotten, whose early work I’d like to see rereleased.

7. Tell us about your first novel.  Most writers never forget that moment.

I’d submitted a manuscript to Michele Slung at David McKay Company because I’d heard she was looking for my kind of material.  She rejected it, but said she liked the character and if I did another, she’d like to see it.  I was finishing Edwin of the Iron Shoes at the time and shipped it off.  She wrote, said she wanted to buy it, but was going on vacation for a month.  I waited, getting more and more panicky as two months went by.  Then one evening the phone rang. Michele, confirming the sale.

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