Like the hero of The Cutting, James Hayman is a transplanted New Yorker. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Manhattan, he spent more than twenty years writing TV advertising for clients like The U.S. Army, Lincoln-Mercury and Procter & Gamble. He moved to Portland, Maine in 2001. Four years later he decided to scratch a lifelong itch to write fiction and began work on his first suspense thriller featuring homicide detective Mike McCabe. St. Martin’s/Minotaur bought rights to The Cutting and published it in July 2009. Hayman is currently at work on the second McCabe novel, due for release in July 2010 and tentatively titled The Chill of Night. You can visit his website at www.jameshaymanthrillers.com.
James is joining us today to talk about his latest book, The Cutting, and his journey into the world of publishing books.
Thank you for this interview, James. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
The Cutting is my first fiction and my commercially published book. I’ve written several non-fiction books under contract to clients that they published.
What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
The Cutting is my first book.
For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
I almost feel guilty answering this question knowing what a lot of writers go through. But I was incredibly lucky.
When I finished the first draft or The Cutting I sent a cover letter and my first eighty pages to exactly one agent, Meg Ruley, of the Jane Rotrosen Agency, who is one of the top mystery/thriller agents in New York. Well, Meg must have had a light weekend because she read the eighty pages, loved them and emailed me Monday morning to ask if she could see the rest of the manuscript. I said she could.
After we came to an agreement, Meg showed it to, I think, seven publishers in New York. Five said no. Two made offers. We accepted the offer from St. Martin’s Press for a two-book deal for The Cutting and a second Michael McCabe thriller.
How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
Three of the rejections came in first. That made me a little apprehensive but it wasn’t too bad because I knew The Cutting was going out to a lot more editors. The first offer (the one we didn’t take) came in about a week or so later and was pretty quickly followed by the one from St. Martin’s.
How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
Jumped up and down, yelled “Whoopie,” called or emailed just about everyone I know and then took my wife out to an expensive dinner.
What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
I sent press releases to every newspaper in Maine. I threw a launch party for nearly two hundred guests. The publicity guy at St. Martin’s set up readings at six or seven bookstores around Maine. I was interviewed by a couple of bloggers who heard about the book and I got a five minute interview on a TV show called 207 on the NBC affiliate here in Portland.
If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
I’m almost finished writing McCabe #2 which we’re calling The Chill of Night. Everyone who’s read the manuscript so far ( that includes several readers I trust plus Meg and my editor at St. Martin’s, Charlie Spicer) thinks it’s a stronger book than the first. That’s high praise because they all loved The Cutting. The phrase they most use is “The writing’s more assured.”
Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
As I said earlier. I was incredibly lucky. The stars fell into perfect alignment. The angels smiled down from heaven. It all happened fast. So, I guess, the short answer is nothing.
What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
Writing and nearly finishing a second novel in about a year while trying to promote the first. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so har or so intensively in my life.
If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
Advertising was a lot of fun for me. I got to race around the world writing and producing big budget TV commercials for major clients. It was also great training for writing thrillers. It taught me to write “tight” (A thirty second TV commercial has to tell a whole story in a max of 65 words). It taught me how to write dialogue and to think cinematically.
However, if I had it to do over, I would have started writing fiction much sooner than I did. Decades sooner. I think I have a lot of books in me and because I’m not a kid I probably won’t get to write them all. But maybe I will. Elmore Leonard’s well into his eighties and he’s still turning them out.
Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
I’ve combined the best of both worlds, sequentially if not simultaneously.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
Grayer. Maybe balder. Hopefully not fatter. Hopefully still writing fiction. At some point in the near future I’d like to try a non-genre book. Literary fiction as they say, although I happen to think that’s a false distinction…a lot of the best genre writing is every bit as good as a lot of the best general fiction being published today.
Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep going to workshops and meeting as many agents and writers as you can. Networking helps. And keep dreaming.
I had a lot of luck early on, but if your books are any good, one of these days the luck will fall your way too.