Joining us today is NiFtY (Not Famous…Yet) author Mike Orenduff, creator of the Pot Thief mystery series. His first book, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, won the Epic eBook Award for 2010, and The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy is up for the award this year…we’ll know soon if it wins!
BH: What’s your one-paragraph pitch for the latest novel in your Pot Thief mystery series, The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier?
MO: Against his better judgment, Hubie agrees to design, throw, and fire chargers for a soon-to-open Austrian restaurant in Santa Fe. The $20,000 fee probably had something to do with his decision. But when one of the workers winds up dead in the back of Hubie’s old Bronco, he wants to take his edelweiss design home and not come back. His entry into the high stakes game of upscale dining turns even more dangerous when the coroner discovers that the poison that killed the cook was one of Hubie’s glazing compounds.
BH: When you wrote the first novel, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, did you plan to create a series mystery?
MO: Yes. Mystery readers love series. I know because I’m a fan myself, and there is nothing worse than finding a mystery you love then discovering there are no more books from that author to read.
BH: I agree! Do you have a “series bible,” or some sort of record of facts so that you can keep details straight among (and within) the different novels?
MO: I do, and it comes in handy. I had Hubie twenty pounds heavier in Escoffier than he was in Pythagoras until I looked in the “bible” and saw my mistake. If I hadn’t caught it, maybe I could have just claimed he gained weight?
BH: Hubert Schuze is a thief, but he is also the protagonist, so you want the reader to like him and maybe even identify with him. How did you go about making him into a sympathetic character?
MO: I try to make his rationalizations of what he does interesting and funny. And I show the good side of his character in other ways. Except for comic books, protagonists have flaws.
BH: Can you tell us about your path to your first publishing contract?
MO: Long and winding, but then that is probably true of most writers. I tried querying those publishers who were accepting queries. I also queried agents, which are about as difficult to get as publishers. I finally found an agent who was excited about my work and signed on. Then she suggested I enter contests to get my name out there. I won the Dark Oak contest with The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras. The prize was a publication contract. I hope the judges who selected my work are pleased that the book has since won the “Eppie” for the best eBook Mystery of the Year and the New Mexico Book of the Year.
BH: What does your workspace look like? Do you collect antique pots?
MO: If I posted a picture of my workspace, my wife might file for divorce. It is a mess on one wall of the kitchen, and I am under orders to relocate. Except for those on the New York Times Best Seller List, writers don’t make enough money to collect antique pots.
BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?
MO: I have never read a book on writing. I have nothing against them, and I imagine there are some that people find helpful. I prefer to observe the craft rather than read about it.
BH: What is the best writing advice anyone has given you?
MO: My dissertation advisor, Dr. Harold Lee, told me not to fret about the opening of a book because you’ll never get started if you keep trying to make the start perfect. “Just start writing,” he said, “and keep writing until you finish the last chapter. Then go back to the first chapter and throw it out.” And that’s exactly what I do.
BH: Any words on advice to aspiring writers for keeping the hope alive?
MO: If you have a passion for writing, that should be enough to keep you going. And if you keep going, you keep alive the possibility of that break we all dream about.
BH: Thank you, Mike, for sharing your insights into your writing and your books with us today, and best of luck with the EPIC Award! For more about Mike Orenduff, you can visit his website by clicking here!