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!
Dreams do come true, for both authors and publishers. Michael is a publishing house’s dream author, one who is flexible, personable, and an energetic promoter who thinks outside the box. His output is incredible. I came to Oak Tree Press just a bit before Mike and he set the bar very high for the rest of us. It is a pleasure to be in his company and with his publishing house.
Plus, he does these incredible magic tricks. . . .
I’ve read Mike’s first book, and intend to read more of his work. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the characters. It’s a unique series, and I’m glad to have found it. I’m also glad that Oak Tree took a chance on the series or I probably wouldn’t know about Hubie.
Great interview, Mike!
Sunny, you make me blush. The fact is that Oak Tree authors support and encourage each other, and that makes us all better. And Sunny wouldn’t allow us not to promote!!!
I’m looking forward to your newest, Bogey Nights. I’m a fan of Bogey and of you.
Beth, I love learning about these authors, and getting new book recommendations at the same time.
Mike, does the pot thief study Pythagoras and Ptolemy in the books? Is he also a scholar, or does he read about them in his spare time? I’m wondering about the titles. Thanks!
The titles are sort of a take off on Lawrence Block’s Burglar who… books. This series looks different enough to be interesting.
I agree, if you don’t have a dream to shot for then life isn’t very interesting. In a writing group i belonged to we had a writer we named “Chapter One”. He spent a year and half rewriting chapter one and we finally convinced him to continue writing his story. He cut the original chapter one in the end.
Yes, the pot thief studies the person in the title, and what he learns from them helps him solve a mystery. But he’s not a scholar – just a guy who likes to read. And while he is reading great thinkers from the past (and often being confused by them), his sidekick Susannah is reading murder mysteries.
Throwing the first chapter away works for me, too. Thanks for your insights and congratulations.
As a none-series writer of one off books I have rued and continue to rue the day I chose to write them. I may well have become famous now had I chosen your route but time marches on so instead of regretting I will determine to change that and think up an unforgettable hero/heroine. Wait a minute have I not been trying to do that for twenty five years?
Good luck with your writing Mike I am sure you are doing the right thing.
Thanks, Paula. Nice to know someone else see the benefits of this approach over endless re-writes of the first chapter.
I like the idea of “throw out the first chapter.” New writers strive for perfection on the first draft–that’s why it’s called the first draft because far more will follow! Just get the ideas down and then revise/delete/add to it later. Good luck with your boosk.
Mike, I need to keep one of those series bible things- I find myself spending too much time pulling up my old manuscript when I forget little facts, those things readers love to catch and call you on.
I’m a great fan of Hubie and the Pot Thief Series, and always describe it to people as the thinking man’s mystery series. It’s an incredibly intelligent series, not that the rest of us are writing stupidity, but Hubie is almost as smart as Mike, and that’s quite a feat. It’s also laugh out loud funny, Smart and funny in a mystery, it doesn’t get much better than that.