Friday, May 15, 2009

A visit from author Deni Dietz . . .

By Lonnie Cruse

I'm taking this morning off and giving author Deni Dietz my usual Friday spot. Gotta love her imaginary (or maybe not so imaginary, if you've ever been in this spot?) writer's interview with an agent.

Denise [Deni] Dietz is the author of the bestselling Ellie Bernstein/Lt. Peter Miller "diet club" Mysteries. The 4th in the series, STRANGLE A LOAF OF ITALIAN BREAD, comes out this month. For readers who like to read a series from the beginning, Deni has exciting news. Her back list --- THROW DARTS AT A CHEESECAKE, BEAT UP A COOKIE and CHAIN A LAMB CHOP TO THE BED --- is being reissued by Wildside Press. The books have been updated and re-edited. Deni calls it "writing wrongs."

"Proofing my back list books brought back memories," Deni said. "I pictured myself pitching 'Cheesecake' at various writers conferences. I kept calling it a 'funny mystery' until I realized that editors didn't like the word 'funny.' So I switched to 'humorous psychological thriller' and sold the series."

With that in mind, Deni thought it might be fun to blog an imaginary pitch session. Repeat, imaginary. No agents were hurt in the making of this pitch session.

DENI (making her pitch): In a tribute to Agatha Christie and the Beatles, the protagonist of my novel, GOTTA SING OR DIE, is an alien from another planet who assumes the face and body of a twenty-year-old and tries out for American Idol. Jaya San makes the top 12 with her original renditions of "I Wanna Borrow Your Hand" and "We All Live in a Yellow Spaceship." A finalist is murdered, then another. Jaya doesn't want to win the competition by default, so she sets out to find the killer before she, too, gets eliminated. Think: STARMAN meets THE TERMINATOR meets COCOON meets Simon Cowell.

AGENT: What's the genre?

DENI: Genre? I guess you'd call it a "fantasy-mystery."

AGENT: You can't have two genres. Choose one.

DENI: How about a mystery with fantasy elements? Or a fantasy with mystery elements?

AGENT: We'll keep it simple and call it a mystery, okay? Now, let's talk about the future because that's more important than your book. So, where do you see yourself in 10 years?

DENI: I see myself writing a Jaya Say series, 26 books, with titles like DANCING WITH THE PLANETS and RUNWAY OF DEATH and EXTREME ALIEN MAKEOVER and AMERICA'S TOP ALIEN. I see myself signing a movie option with Spielberg and appearing on Oprah and Ellen. I see mysel---

AGENT: How will you promote your series?

DENI (taken aback): Promote?

AGENT: Yes, promote. That's the first question editors ask.

DENI: Oh. Well, alrighty then. My website, of course. Posting on the DorothyL list every day, maybe twice a day, maybe even answering every post. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter. A movie trailer on YouTube. A 52-state tour. A European tour with Lee Child, Harlan Coben and Marshall Karp. Conferences like Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, NINC and Westercon. Conventions like ABA. The usual.

AGENT (looking at wristwatch): Our time is up. Why don't you send me three chapters and a synopsis?

Tick-tock, tick-tock . . . 3 months later:

Dear Mr. Deitz,
Thank you for submitting GOTTA DANCE OR DIE. While I like the tie-in to that song Gotta Dance from Singing In The Rain, I'm afraid I'm not enthusiastic enough to work with your book. I did, however, put out a few feelers but Berkley already has a series starring an alien with a green card that tries out for Jeopardy.

Tick-tock, tick-tock . . . 18 months later:

Publishers Weekly starred review: "A fresh, imaginative concept."

Library Journal: "Recommended for readers who are looking for a good mystery with supernatural elements. Denise Dietz lives in B.C."

Kirkus: "Gotta Sing or Die makes you want to sing and..."

Romantic Times: ****1/2. The steamy romance in GOTTA SING OR DIE left this reviewer breathless."

Harriet Klausner: "Readers will appreciate the part where Jayne Sands assumes her alien shape and Paula Abdul doesn't notice the difference."

DorothyL: I finished GOTTA SING OR DIE last night, and while I liked the book I skipped the sex scenes, so my question is, are sex scenes really necessary in a mystery?

DorothyL response: We discussed sex in mysteries 6 weeks ago, and 2 months before that. Check the archives.

2nd DorothyL response: I don't like mysteries with sex or cussing or dead cats because they can't protect themselves like humans can.

Lonnie: Bawhahahah! Thanks, Deni, from those of us who have been there, done that!


Sandra Parshall said...

Very funny, Deni. You've captured the essential nature of DL... and agents. :-)

You know, I'm beginning to think publishers don't like the word "mystery" either. They seem to be branding everything "suspense" or "thriller" these days. I predicted recently that one day soon we'll see a book labeled a "knitting thriller" -- and I'm still expecting it to happen.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Publishers prefer "humorous" to "funny"? Really? I always think "humorous" makes it sound as if the author is trying too hard and it's not really funny. More proof that marketers run the publishing companies....

Sandy, what goes around comes around--Georgette Heyer's mysteries were called "thrillers" in their day.

Deni Dietz said...

Sandra...knitting thriller? LOL. That's funnier than my blog!

Come to think of it, I killed off a nice old lady - with knitting needles - in my first published book, Throw Darts at a Cheesecake.

But I dint kill no cats!!!

Deni Dietz said...

Elizabeth, I swear on a stack of Stephen King novels that editors don't - or at least didn't - like "funny." I kept getting rejections that said: "I really like your writing but this book is too funny." Maybe killing off dieters at goal weight put their knickers in a twist.

Personally, I always thought "humorous" was a bone or something.

Julia Buckley said...

Deni, your writing is just funny enough--and my criterion is that it makes me laugh. :)