Nostalgia City Mysteries

By Mark S. Bacon

Category Archives: Desert Kill Switch

Potentially intrusive—and/or boring—questions from Anastasia Pollack in her blog Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers (Abridged)


One of the mandatories when you publish a book is getting mentioned on book-related websites. 

You can hire Internet publicists who schedule you on “blog tours.”  A tour is simply a collection of “posts” on different websites.  The options for these posts usually include an interview, a summary of your book, an excerpt of your book or, in some cases, a column or article you write about your genre, your book or both.  My preference is the latter, but in many cases you don’t have a choice and must succumb to an interview.

When this new book came out recently I was eager to gain exposure for it. One of the ways you do that is take a ‘blog tour.”

Usually these blog tour interviews consist of a series of stock questions you are to answer.  You receive a list of questions and you type up your answers.  There are no follow-up questions based on your answers because the whole process is prepackaged. And depending on the website and how you got booked there, the questions even may not be focused on your book type.  The questions often sound as if they are directed at someone who has just published his or her first book. 

Such interviews can be a challenge for the writer.  You want to sound spontaneous and conversational even though you’re really not interacting with an interviewer.  You’re just answering a list of stock questions. Like taking an exam in school. 

With this in mind, here is an abridged sample “interview” from a website published by Anastasia Pollack. 

Anastasia: When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
Mark S. Bacon: Relatively recently. I’ve been a writer all my life: newspaper reporter, copywriter, business writer. I wrote several business books some years ago but had always been a mystery fan.  So about six years ago I started writing and publishing mystery flash fiction stories then moved on to mystery novels.

Anastasia: How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
Mark S. Bacon: You’re probably talking about “my new, first book.”  That was years ago, but let’s go farther back. I sold my first magazine article, to a national men’s adventure magazine, when I was 16.  Some years later I sold my first book, on business writing, by writing query letters to three big New York publishers. Selling a novel is a different animal. That took years.

Anastasia: Where do you write?
MSB: In my home office with my golden retriever at my feet and a concrete crow statue looking over my shoulder. (It could be a raven.)

Anastasia: Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
MSB: Although I learned to write in a noisy newsroom, I’ve become spoiled at my home office. Quiet is best. However, I sometimes listen to mood music, depending on what I’m writing. For one chapter of the book I just finished, I listened to Ravi Shankar. Does that give you a clue to the story?

Anastasia: Describe your process for naming one of your lead characters.
MSB: How many people do you know named Lyle? It’s a retro name to go with my retro setting. Also, his initials are LSD. I was going to use that in the plot of my first Nostalgia City mystery but never worked it in.

Anastasia: If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
MSB: You could pick any Lew Archer novel by Ross Macdonald. He was the master of language and characters, not to mention atmosphere.  Raymond Chandler was a pretty good PI writer, too.

Anastasia: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
MSB: We’re talking books, not politics here, right?  I’d say people who ask for free copies of my books.  People think authors get unlimited free copies of their books.  Not true.  We have to buy them from the publisher.  Yes, some publishers give authors free copies when the title comes out.  Back when I was writing for John Wiley & Sons, I received 20 hardback copies of each new book.  My new (mystery) publisher sends me one trade paperback.  Sign of the times?

Anastasia: What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
MSB: One of my first jobs out of college was at a small, neighborhood newspaper in Los Angeles.   My primary duty was to rewrite stories out of the LA Times. I quit after a week. 

Anastasia: You’re stranded on a deserted South Seas island. What are your three must-haves?
MSB: An Adirondack chair, plenty of books, and a lifetime supply of Krispy Kremes.


‘Desert Kill Switch’ by the numbers


The estimated number of kill switches (and GPS trackers) presently active in cars financed in the US

Number of words in the book

Number of cups of Lapsang Souchong tea I drank while writing

Number of miles from Las Vegas to Reno

Number of days it took me to write it  (That’s elapsed days. Some few days I didn’t work. I was riding my bike, driving to Canada, etc. )

Number of pages

Number of times my dog interrupted me asking for attention or a walk

Height, in inches, of my protagonist Kate Sorensen

Number of Chapters

Age of the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am on the cover

Number of characters  This number is approximate.  Some characters are so minor they are not counted and some are dead.

Percent of the book I wrote while sitting in an Adirondack chair in my back garden

Number of times I use the f-word.  This is not excessive for a crime novel this long with lots of nasty characters.  But I cut it down in my next book. (See an upcoming post on the use of profanity in mystery novels.)

Number of years my publisher, Black Opal Books, has been in business

Per cent of the book I wrote in my pajamas

Number of times I use the f-word in my next book

Number of times someone slugs protagonist Lyle

Number of pictures   It’s just a mug shot of me at the end.  This is not a picture book.

Number of times I use the word “awesome”  (It was in dialog.)

I don’t know everything


The books I write, both nonfiction and fiction, start with ideas and branch out into chapters.  The background information in those chapters doesn’t all come from me.  No surprise.  Even with fiction—perhaps especially with fiction—I want to include accurate information, authentic details.  And many of those details are products of research: reading online and printed material and talking to experts.

Once I have collected facts and written a manuscript, I still need help. Writing is a solitary occupation, but making a manuscript as good as it can be  certainly is not. I need comments, suggestions, reactions and detailed editing.

I don’t know everything, but I know how to find people who know more than I do.  In Desert Kill Switch I thank the people who helped me create my book.  I’d like to thank them here, too.

Acknowledgements for Desert Kill Switch

My thanks to the professional team at Black Opal Books including Lauri, Faith, L.P., Arwen, and Jack for their hard work to make the book a reality.

Automobiles—classic cars in particular—are a big part of the story. I could not have included all the details about cars without the help of experts including veteran mechanic and classic car owner Bill Fogel and Tim Cox, a classic car owner and CEO of Quiet Ride Solutions.  Any automotive errors here are mine, not theirs.  Thanks to Jason Soto and Dustin Dodd for their generous help with my law enforcement questions.  And old friend Sue Longson gave me some pointers on auto lending.  Again, errors are all mine, not theirs.

Thanks again to Christel Hall for her careful editing.

My special appreciation goes to James Mandas for lending his beautiful 1972 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am to pose for the cover of this book and for his patience in arranging a photo shoot much delayed by weather.

Helpful ideas and support came from writer friends Jane Gorby, Linda Townsdin, Craig Holland, David Pincus and Gene Michals.  Many thanks to advance readers and to critique group members: Harriet Snyder, Christina Batjer, Betty Knapp, Carolee Hanks, Carol Watson, Anne Johnson, Marge Parnas, Deb Cork, Brian Cave, Nicole Frens, Rene Averett, and Lucas Ledbetter.

Finally, thanks to my wife, Anne, for her love and support.

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