Monday, November 19, 2012

Author Interview: Paul McNabb, The Jaguar Conspiracy

I have the pleasure of introducing my readers to a debut writer, Paul McNabb, whose The Jaguar Conspiracy, is a ride worth taking. Join me in getting to know Paul.

BA:    I was very excited when one of my friends introduced me to your book. Would you like to introduce yourself to the readers of this blog? Tell us where you live?

PMc: My wife, Cathy, and I originally planned on using a townhouse we purchased in Oxnard, California as a winter getaway from our home in Calgary, Alberta, Canada but when Cathy learned to surf we sold the place in Canada and decided to try California full time. I had visited the Ventura area quite a bit while I was still working as a sales rep for a data company so this area felt like home. We are 2 miles from the ocean and golf, kayak, hike, or bike almost every day. We are also only about a mile from the Pacific Coast Highway, one of the best in the world for driving. I am from Oklahoma but my wife is a dual citizen, US and Canada. She had never lived outside of Canada until two or three years ago.

BA:    Before we learn about your latest book, can you tell us the last two exciting places you visited? Why did you pick these destinations? 

PMc:  My father loved flying and owned a magnificent Cessna 195 when I was young so I had visited virtually every state in the continental US by high school. During my sales career I worked for an international data company based in Geneva, Switzerland so I did a lot of traveling for 25 years. I’ve made too many trips to Europe to count. I guess I like London the best. We are planning a trip to Italy next year. My wife is the traveler in our family, with trips to Ecuador, Peru & the Galapagos Islands two years ago and a photo safari for a month in Africa last year. It took me a long time to own a place in California and now everything I love is in my own back yard. My favorite trips are either 25 miles north to Cars & Coffee in Santa Barbara or 25 miles south for a hot chocolate and bagel in Malibu, both driving leisurely along the PCH in Lucille.

BA:     I know The Jaguar Conspiracy is your first published novel and the first of a series. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea of using a classic car as a character? 

PMc:  I own and drive a classic Jag. I wanted to attempt to give readers the experience of riding in the car. The side kick part just kind of developed. I wanted to do something completely original. Lucille will actually help solve the crimes in books 2 & 3 in an innovative way.
 BA:     The end note says you own a classic Jag named Lucille? For those of us who are classic car buffs like me, what year is Lucille? And did you restore her yourself? 

PMc: Lucille is a 1961 Jaguar XK150 Drop Head Coupe. I found her in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada while I was still working in Calgary. The body had been repaired and painted about 1990. Every else needed attention and a local shop named Mulsanne Motorcars did most of the work. Now that I live in Oxnard, a friend, who also owns a Jaguar XK150, does most of the maintenance. Whenever he checks something on his car I pull up Lucille beside and he checks the same thing on my car. The old Jags are actually quite reliable if regular service is performed and they are driven regularly.
 BA:     What is the second book in the series? How long will we have to wait for it? How far along are you in writing it? 

PMc: The second book of the series is tentatively titled Hope Against Hope and takes up right at the end of book 1. I’m on my twelfth draft but need a couple more to get it ready for Mitchell Morris. I think the publisher will start on it early in 2013 but we haven’t pinned down a release date yet. My books take a little longer because I was not formally trained in writing, making the editing more difficult.
 BA:     Can you tell us a little about how you became a writer? 

PMc: I worked for the same company for almost 25 years. The last 5 were difficult, hanging on until taking an early retirement. I had a lot of freedom in my job because I was in sales and the scorecard was simply meeting a quota. The west coast was an additional sales territory, even though I was based in Calgary, so I scheduled my business trips in conjunction with car and motorbike shows, etc. My pictures got emailed around and finally E-type Magazine asked to use a shot. I said yes and they asked for an explanation. The picture was of an elegant silver haired gentleman sitting beside his Jaguar XK140 calmly eating a sandwich. I asked him how long he’d owned the car and how he found it. He was driving his 1976 XJS Jaguar and stopped in Santa Barbara for lunch. When he came out an owner had parked his XK140 beside was having a close look at his XJ. He said he was looking for one. They ended up pulling out their pink slips, signing each car over and driving home in a new car. It’s actually exactly the same way the character in the book got into writing. 

I was working in Calgary and had gone to a client for the signing of a 6-year, multi-million dollar contract for our services with a nice commission check as a result. When I returned to the office Philip Porter had emailed and asked me to start writing a monthly column about cars, events and owners in North America. I was so much more excited about the writing than the sales, I knew then I really wanted to be a writer. I now write three monthly columns each month in classic Jaguar magazines. The writing keeps me very busy but the owners and locales are rich sources of characters and plots for new books.
 BA:     You can help your fellow writers by talking a little about how you are promoting this book? Do you have help from your publisher, or are you on your own for the most part? 

PMc: Again, I worked in front line sales for 25 years. I learned a lot along the way so I’m definitely taking the lead in promoting my book. The fact my book is woven around classic cars is a huge advantage in finding a market. 

Here is one example of what I’m doing. The Jaguar Clubs of North America have 66 chapters, each with its own web site. During one game of the World Series I visited each web site, copied 3-5 email addresses of officers such as membership chairman, president, or editor of the club gazette and then pasted them into a word document. The day my book was published, and I mean when I saw it was on Amazon and available from the publisher’s web site, I pasted the word document with all the email address into the BCC and sent an email message about my book. It took about one minute and had the potential to reach about 6,000 members who would be prime targets for my book. 

I stressed in my note that Christmas was coming and what a great gift idea this book would be. Almost every chapter put a note in their local newsletter this month. I do something like this EVERY DAY! Some writers write 8 hours a day. I write a couple at the most and market 2-4 hours a day. Thousands of car clubs exist so my targets are endless. Car guys may not be my end market, the book readers, but their wives are and it is an excellent head start. If my book doesn’t sell, there won’t be a book 2, book 3, etc. 

Finally a rule from a professional sales person: Many people confuse marketing and sales activity. Marketing might feel good but sales activity should result in someone buying a book. Don’t confuse the two. Impressing other writers might feel very good but writers make up a tiny, tiny percentage of the book buyers in the market. Think about people who might buy your book and target them.
 BA:      What are the last three books you read and why did you choose them? 

PMc:  I have little time to read these days. I feel it is more important to work on developing my own style. I do plan to pick up the new Michael Connelly book, the Harry Bosch book, when it comes out soon but that’s about it. I love murder mysteries. Reading the James Bond books when I was a teenager taught me to love reading. I loved the exotic locales and the recurring series theme of following a character through adventures. When I discovered Raymond Chandler I wanted to write. When I look for inspiration I tend to reread his books rather than read something new. The vocabulary he used in describing characters and locales is unparalleled. I love film noir and murder mysteries in LA noir.
 BA:     What haven’t I covered that you’d like to add? 

PMc: My dream was to create a detective who would travel from case to case, exactly the way Philip Marlowe did in the Raymond Chandler novels. Book 2 is in the final stages. I’ve roughed in much of book 3 and I have the most fantastic idea for book 4, something that could really knock it out of the park. If I can write and publish these four installments I think I will have really accomplished something.

Thank you, Paul, for sitting down for this interview. I know my readers will enjoy your candor and advice on selling your book. As you say, Christmas is coming. If I may, add this to your shopping list. Anyone loving old cars and fresh mysteries is in for a treat. I'm selfish. I want to read book two.

1 comment:

  1. P.S. Actually, using WP as an offensive weapon against military targets is against the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Convention on Certain Chemical Weapons, not the Geneva Conventions per se - although the GC DO ban the use of incendiary weapons in civilian areas or against civilian targets. But this just a 'the more you know' quibble which I only know because I just wrote an article on war crimes in videogames.
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