Interview with Earl Staggs

Justified_Action_Cover_for_Kindle (2)Tell us about your publishing journey…

The thought of being a writer first took seed when I won an essay contest in high school. The thought lay dormant for a long time in favor of other things.  Thing like earning a living and raising a family.  When our daughters were grown and on their own, my wife and I burned our snow shovels in Maryland and moved to Florida.  That’s when I decided to give writing a serious try.

My first effort was a short mystery story.  I thought it was the best story ever written, so I immediately submitted it to a magazine.  A few weeks later, I received a rejection letter. Okay, I thought, their loss.  I sent the story to another magazine, then another, and another, all with the same result.  After a string of rejection letters, I suffered, I cried, I moaned, and I filed that story away.  Daunted but not totally discouraged, I continued writing short stories and submitting them.

Eventually, I received my first acceptance letter from The Cozy Detective Mystery Magazine for a story titled “Room Six.”  It’s funny how one acceptance can wipe out the pain of a whole stack of rejections.

Over the next few years, we moved to Fort Worth, Texas, and I placed a number of short stories in magazines and anthologies.  One of my stories even brought home a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year.

Then I decided to move to the next level – writing a novel.  Remember that first story, the one that picked up those rejection letters?  One day, I pulled it out, dusted it off, and read it.  Oh my gosh!  I saw why it had been rejected.  There were so many things wrong with it I suspected someone had sneaked into my file and sabotaged it.  Either that or I had learned a lot about writing since then.  Anyway, I rewrote it, and when I sent it out this time, two magazines wanted to publish it, one a print magazine and one an electronic one.  What to do?  Fortunately. I didn’t have to decide.  Both magazines agreed to publish it at the same time.  That’s the only time I know of that a story appeared in two magazines simultaneously.

A lot of readers liked the protagonist and the premise of the story.  The protagonist is Adam Kingston, a private eye with some psychic abilities. His psychic images didn’t solve cases for him, but sometimes they provided clues which led him in the right direction.  Sometimes, they only confused him because he had no idea what they meant.  Response and feedback on the story was so encouraging, I decided to take Adam into a novel.

The title of the novel turned out to be MEMORY OF A MURDER.  It’s still available in all the usual places online and off.  I’m currently working on a sequel.  The short story that led to it, that first story featuring Adam Kingston, is “The Missing Sniper,” and it’s available in ebook form at:  http://store.untreedreads.com

What do you love about being an author?

Everything except one.  I love it when an idea occurs, when the idea turns into words that make sense on my screen, when the idea becomes a finished story I’m happy with, and I especially love it when someone likes it enough to publish it.  The one thing I don’t like is rejections letters.  Yes, I added a few more to that first batch and no matter how many times I tell myself they’re inevitable even for famous writers, they’re still painful.

If your book was to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?

George Clooney and Sandra Bullock would be perfect as the leads in MEMORY OF A MURDER.  There are other actors who would fit, but those two would be my first choice.  They could also star in my second novel, an action mystery called JUSTIFIED ACTION, if they wanted to.

Vampires – do you prefer them as sexy leads or blood hungry monsters?

I grew up watching old black and white movies with Bela Lugosi as Dracula. Because of that, I can only think of vampires, zombies, or any other monster as horrible, scary creatures.  I prefer characters, even the bad guys, who are human.

If you had a time machine, which era would you go back to and why?

Probably to the mid 1800’s when cowboys with fast horses and fast guns ruled the Old West.  There was adventure, romance, lots of action, and the bad guys were dispatched with a bullet or a rope instead of a long drawn out trial followed by years of appeals.

What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner?Mem Cover

Find what you’re best-suited to do and enjoy doing and work hard to be the best at it.

If you were a supernatural creature, what would you be and why?

A winged unicorn.  They’re sleek and beautiful, they can fly above the ugly parts of life, and if someone gives them a hard time, they have that sharp horn on their foreheads.

Where do you write best? 

There are two places.  One is at home.  We turned a third bedroom into a computer room, and I write there. I also have a part-time job driving a school bus.  That takes two hours in the morning to get the kids to school and two hours in the afternoon to deliver them back home.  In between, there are about five hours all my own. I take my laptop to work and spend that time writing in the driver’s lounge. I’ve learned to shut out everything going on around me and go into a writing zone.

What was the last book you read, and what were your thoughts on it?

I recently read Harper Lee’s GO SET A WATCHMAN.  I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about.  While I found Miss Lee to be a smooth and talented writer, not much of anything resembling a plot happened until after midway through the book, and that plot didn’t draw me in as much as I like in a novel.  It’s easy to see why her editor made strong recommendations to rewrite it.  The rewrite, of course, became TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

If you didn’t write in your genre, which other would you prefer and why? 

If I didn’t write mysteries, I’d probably write westerns.  Actually, when you think about it, many westerns are nothing more than mysteries in a different time period. In a western, the bad guys rustle cattle and rob stage coaches and the good guy has to hunt them down and bring them to justice just like cops go after criminals in a modern mystery.  You only have to substitute fast cars for fast horses and Glock nine millimeters for Colt forty-fives and the genres are very similar.

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I have a blog site at http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com where I showcase my novels and short stories.

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2 comments on “Interview with Earl Staggs

  1. Earl’s sense of humor is evident throughout the interview and he makes two important points every writer must remember–rejection is part of the process and don’t give up. Oh, and if you haven’t read his stories, you should.

  2. I’m SO impressed that two magazines published your same story. I’ve never heard of that either. I haven’t read the story, I admit, but the novel turned out great! Thanks for the interview. Hint: Reading Earl’s short stories is a good way to learn how to do them.

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