You may have heard about M.J. Rose through her first adventures in the publishing industry. Rose self-published her first novel, Lip Service, late in 1998 after several traditional publishers turned it down. Editors had loved it, but didn't know how to position it or market it since it didn't fit into any one genre.
Frustrated, but curious and convinced that there was a readership for her work, she set up a web site where readers could download her book for $9.95 and began to seriously market the novel on the Internet.
After selling over 2500 copies (in both electronic and trade paper format) Lip Service became the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club as well as being the first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house.Today, she is the international bestselling author of 10 novels; Lip Service, In Fidelity, Flesh Tones, Sheet Music, Lying in Bed, The Halo Effect, The Delilah Complex, The Venus Fix, The Reincarnationist, and The Memorist.
Rose has appeared on The Today Show, Fox News, The Jim Lehrer NewsHour, and features on her have appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, including USAToday, Stern, L'Official, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly. And now she's here today:
You noted at the end of The Memorist that you have spent time in Vienna and that the underground ruins really do exist – Did you get a chance to explore some of the abandoned city below the surface?
Yes I did, it’s an amazing thing to see.
What first interested you in reincarnation and binaural beats?
When I was three years old, I told my great grandfather things about his childhood in Russia that there was simply no way I could have known. He became convinced I was a reincarnation of someone in his past. And over time, after more incidents, my mother – a very sane and logical woman -- also came to believe it.
Reincarnation was an idea I grew up with that my mom and I talked about and researched together.
For years, I wanted to write a novel about someone like my mother – who was sane and logical – who started out skeptical but came to believe in reincarnation. But I was afraid if I did people would think I was a “woo woo weirdo”.
I tried to start the first book in this series ten years ago after my mother died but I was too close to the subject and missed her too much to be able to explore it objectively. Every once in a while the idea would start to pester me again but I still stayed away from it.
Then a few years ago on the exact anniversary of my mom’s death my niece, who was a toddler at the time, said some very curious things to me about my mother and I – things she really couldn’t have known -- and the pestering became an obsession.
That’s when I sat down and started in earnest to write The Reincarnationist – which was published in September '07 and is out now in paperback and is the first book in the series. But they don’t have to be read in order.
As for binaural beats- I came across them in my research I did in 2005 when I was searching out information for the first novel in this series.
Throughout the book there are quotes from famous people like Carl Jung, Tolstoy, and Goethe regarding reincarnation. Were you surprised to find that so many influential people throughout history believed in reincarnation?
Yes and it was one of the things that really helped make me decide to tackle these books on this complicated and amazing subject.
Are you a fan of Beethoven, or was he just used because of the location and his interest in this type of research?
Here’s a short essay I wrote about the inspiration for this book that explains all that…
Once upon a time, my husband and I went to Vienna on a vacation and fell in love. Not with each other - we'd already done that - but with the city.
Growing up in Manhattan you don't bump in to history on every street corner - mostly you're bumping into other people or great shopping or eating experiences. In New York you have to go out of your way to find eighteenth century history but it’s still alive on every block in Vienna. There’s so much of it you are literally breathing it in. Arts and sciences have flourished here for centuries and whatever your passion you can visit museums, monuments and memorials to art, music, architecture, literature philosophy and psychology.
And visit them we did including making visits to homes of many famous people who’d once lived there and since my husband is a musician the trip turned out to be what I now jokingly call our Beethoven pilgrimage.
There are several of the great composer's residences in the city proper and its environs and we visited every one of them as well as churches, cafes and music halls he frequented. We walked the streets he walked following the routes he took and spent one day wandering the woods he wandered during the summers he spent in Baden, a spa town an hour out of the city.
But it was in the Heligenstadt house that the idea for my novel, The Memorist was born.
The house at Probusgasse 6 is in a neighborhood called Heligenstadt at the bottom of the Kahlemberg, which in Beethoven’s time was outside the city and filled with vineyards that are still growing there. And it was here at the end of the summer of 1802 that the 31-year-old Beethoven wrote the heart-wrenching Testament to his two brothers documenting his anguish at the onset of his terrible deafness.
The upstairs of this small apartment is open to the public and we walked through the ordinary rooms where he lived. Wandering over to the window I looked down at a simple courtyard where there was a single tree growing.
I stared at the gnarled, twisted trunk and the rich healthy verdant green leaves and realized that Beethoven must have once stood there and looked down at that same tree. Suddenly the composer’s ghost was standing there with me looking out the window.
Later I told my husband what I had been thinking and he said: “You’re going to write about that aren’t you?” Until that moment I hadn’t thought about it but after he said it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
At home I read several biographies about Beethoven and in one discovered the great composer had been fascinated with Eastern philosophy, which includes a strong belief in reincarnation. His own notebooks contain quotes a number of passages from Bhagavad-Gita. As well as a quote from William Jones that was included in his Hymn to Narayena, We know this only, that we nothing know.
And with that piece of information the idea at the heart of my tenth novel revealed itself.
The Memorist is not about Ludwig Van Beethoven although he does play a small part in it. Rather it’s a suspense novel about a woman on a search for her own ghosts but it was Beethoven’s spirit that inspired the book and his everlasting gifts to us are at the heart of the mystery I attempted to unravel.
Is there going to be a third book in this series?
There is and I’m writing it now.
(Looks like Rose is going to leave us in suspense, but rumor has it the third book will have more details about FBI Agent Lucien Glass, who was one of my favorite characters in this book. Yay!)
Was it difficult to keep all of the timelines straight in this book? How did you manage them and the characters from each time period?
It’s a bit tricky to keep it all straight but I write a first draft and then go back and do a timeline outline and then do a second draft fixing all the dates and making it all consistent.
How long did you spend researching the Indus Valley and Viennese history before writing this book?
I have been researching the whole subject of reincarnation for many years and have read over 50 books – I did an additional 3 months of research before I started this book and then while I was writing the first draft kept doing more research.
I’m also curious about the references to Judaism and Kabbalah. Did you have to research this or is it something you have studied throughout your life?
I’m Jewish but knew nothing about the Kabbalah until I stared doing the research for this book.
One of my readers was also wondering about online marketing for books. She asks: What are some of the biggest mistakes inexperienced writers can make on the web while they're promoting their work? Is it possible to rectify them, or do mistakes follow us forever and ever?
I teach an online marketing class once a year that is of great help to writers starting out or those already out. It will be taught in Jan 2009 - more at this link.
And the biggest mistake is to spend your entire marketing budget on a website. The second biggest is to think you don’t need to do anything - that your publisher will do it all. At Authorbuzz.com we help authors do affordable marketing - and since we work with all the major publishers - authors can feel confident about working with us.
Also, do you have any easy tips for authors starting out who have decided to self-publish?
I’m sorry, I don’t. And unless it’s very niche marketed non-fiction I don’t recommend self-publishing at all. I think it’s a big mistake to self-publish fiction. I’ve written a lot about that online and you can read about why here.
On your Website you mention that The Secret Garden was the first book to get you thinking about writing. Are there other books that have influenced you along the way? And what are you currently into reading? Some favorites?
I hate to do these lists because I always leave too many books out. Here are some of my favorite authors: Paul Auster, Anne Rice, Robert Goddard, Michael Connelly, Arthur Phillips, Lisa Tucker, Douglas Clegg, Ruth Rendell, Sophie Kinsella, Alice Hoffman, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, Steve Berry, Jeffery Deaver… and I’ve been influenced by: John O’Hara, Ayn Rand, Daphne DuMaurier, and John Gardner.
I’m reading Buddha by Deepak Chopra right now.
M.J. Rose, is the international bestselling author of 10 novels; Lip Service, In Fidelity, Flesh Tones, Sheet Music, Lying in Bed, The Halo Effect, The Delilah Complex, The Venus Fix, The Reincarnationist, and The Memorist. Rose is also the co-author with Angela Adair Hoy of How to Publish and Promote Online, and with Doug Clegg of Buzz Your Book. She is a founding member and board member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: AuthorBuzz.com. She runs two popular blogs; Buzz, Balls & Hype and Backstory.
And now for the giveaway! MIRA Books has been kind enough to send me extra copies to give away to FIVE lucky readers! Two winners will each receive a paperback copy of The Reincarnationist. Two winners will receive The Memorist. And the Grand Prize winner will receive both books in the series.* So here's how to enter:
1. For one entry you can leave a comment below answering the question: If you were a historian/archaeologist/anthropologist, what place and time would you most like to learn more about?
2. For an extra entry you can post about this giveaway on your blog OR if you don't have a blog you can send an e-mail about the giveaway to five friends. Leave a comment here letting me know you did this.
Also, feel free to leave comments about the interview and the book itself. I'd love to hear what you all think about the themes in this book.
Thanks so much for reading! And be sure to leave your comment by 11:59 p.m. on November 23. I'll be drawing winners on November 24.
*Sorry to do this to you international readers, but I'm super poor right now so this giveaway is only open to the U.S. and Canada.
Also, check out some of the other upcoming TLC Tours for more chances to win The Memorist:
Monday, November 17th: Booking Mama
Tuesday, November 18th: Books I Done Read
Wednesday, November 19th: Diary of an Eccentric
Thursday, November 20th: MommyPie
Monday, November 24th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Friday, November 28th: Frequency of Silence
Check out TLC tours for the entire list.