Debbi Mack’s first novel, Identity Crisis, hit the New York Times e-book bestseller list in 2011 and is the first in the Sam McRae Mystery series. Her second novel, Least Wanted, became a Kindle bestseller during the summer of 2011 in the U.S. and the U.K. The third and fourth novels are Riptide and Deep Six.
The main character in the series is a Maryland lawyer-sleuth named Stephanie Ann “Sam” McRae.
Mack also has written and published a young adult novel, Invisible Me, in which Portia Maddox, an outcast 13-year-old albino girl, tries to gain acceptance from her school’s most popular girl while balancing the needs of another friend.
Mack is the author of several short stories as well, one of which was nominated for a Derringer Award. In addition, she has written two feature film screenplays. One — an adaptation of her first novel — was featured prominently at ScriptDC. Her latest thriller novel, The Planck Factor, is set for tentative release on Sept. 25. A native of Queens, N.Y., Mack currently lives in Columbia with her husband and cats.
Before you broke into fiction-writing, you were a freelancer for local venues, including The Business Monthly. When did you decide to become a full-time fiction writer?
I decided around 2010, when e-books were really starting to take off, that this could be a way I could publish crime fiction and other genres. For fiction writers, e-books were a godsend because we had to deal with so many rejections from agents who were overwhelmed with queries.
That year, I had reached the point where I was starting to make money selling e-books. But it still felt like a big risk to me. I didn’t want to completely cut my ties to everyone. I wanted people to know I was still out there. Eventually I started “The Mini-Mack Newsletter” so people would know what I was doing.
How did you get the idea for your young adult novel?
It was a surprise to me that I wrote it. I was in the shower, where I get a lot of ideas. A voice started talking to me. It was the voice of a 13-year-old girl. The voice said words that ended up being the beginning of chapter one. I scribbled them down as fast as I could. I thought about where the plot should go, and that was how it was born.
When I give the book to people, whether they are young or older, their response seems to be, “I like it.” I’m very pleased by that. Since I started this, I’ve come to the conclusion that I should keep it going. I could make her 14 years old in the next one, and keep going.
Are you starting to build nonfiction into your work?
What I’m trying to do is mix publishing fiction with publishing nonfiction so I can put out books that might be helpful to people in a similar position to me. Right now, because of health issues, I can only do so much.
Because I’m on Twitter, I see people dealing with health issues, dealing with lots of stress and feeling overwhelmed. There is so much information out there that you’re facing a complexity of choice that goes beyond what most of us can deal with. You have to be able to narrow your focus and not pay attention to everything that’s out there. It’s very distracting.
You have successfully used Twitter, Facebook, blogging, a website, podcasting — many forms of media to communicate with people and promote your work. How do you know what will reach people most effectively?
I am still experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. Having a background in law has helped me separate, in terms of issues, what things are going to help produce results as opposed to what things are just frivolous. At the same time, it’s called “social media” for a reason, so you want to be social and you want to be responsive.
I have had situations where people have said things that I’m not even going to respond to. I do ask myself what’s happening to our society as a result of comments people make on social media. Aside from social media, I find that attending conferences is a wonderful way to meet people. It’s not only a great way to connect with other authors and readers, but most movie deals are made when people actually know you. Attending conferences allows you to practice your pitch, get out and meet people.
Your podcast “Crime Cafe” features interviews with top crime fiction authors. Will you continue offering this?
The podcast has been a wonderful experience, and producing it has helped the world know that there are people out there writing great fiction. For the first season, I started Crime Cafe last July and kept going through March. I just started the second season this July, and will continue again through March. This season, I’m mixing author interviews with old public domain radio shows.
You launched a crowdfunding campaign on July 12 that will expand your efforts even more in terms of helping authors featured in the Crime Cafe gain readers and visibility for their work. Can you explain what the campaign is about?
If you’re unfamiliar with crowdfunding, it’s a process through which individuals can give financial support to writers, filmmakers and other creators at any level and get something of value in return. I’ve gathered stories to be published as part of a Crime Cafe Boxed Set and the Crime Cafe Anthology, along with the interviews with each author. I’ll be working on developing a cover for each one.
The Crime Cafe novels and short stories are provided by a highly talented group of writers who represent a diversity in crime fiction that you won’t find in most boxed sets and other collections.
I’ve been disseminating information by every means possible to spur interest in the project. You can help the campaign succeed by posting images on Facebook, tweeting or blogging, or even just putting up a poster at your local coffee shop or grocery store. This is the campaign’s Indiegogo page: https://igg.me/at/CrimeCafeStories/x/9153969.
What’s next for you?
I’m about to publish my new novel, The Planck Factor. I’m waiting for blurbs from authors I know. For me, at this point, I need to finish editing, then I need to send it to the copy editor who will also format it. I’ll get the e-book out first, then follow up with the print edition. It takes more to get the print version done; you have to have upload-ready copy.
I’d also love to see the screenplay for my first novel go into production. I would love to be able to go on the set and be involved. I know a lot of writers who would say, “Don’t change a word.” But I’m much more cooperative. I would love to work in the business. I’ve also been taking classes on documentary making, because there are so many stories to tell.
For more information about Debbi Mack, visit www.debbimack.com.