M.J. Rose is the internationally best-selling author of 9 novels and is a founding member of International Thriller Writers. She also founded Author Buzz, a marketing service that can help authors publicize their works, and is the blog mama of two popular sites: Buzz, Balls & Hype, and Backstory.
Yes, there’s a lot of buzz over M.J. Rose, but the biggest buzz at present is over her latest release, The Reincarnationist. Here’s a little taste of why, from scene one:
Josh Ryder looked through the camera’s viewfinder, focusing on the security guard arguing with a young mother whose hair was dyed so red it looked like she was on fire. The search of the woman’s baby carriage was quickly becoming anything but routine, and Josh moved in closer for his next shot.
He’d just been keeping himself busy while awaiting the arrival of a delegation of peacekeepers from several superpowers who would be meeting with the Pope that morning, but like several other members of the press and tourists who’d been ignoring the altercation or losing patience with it, he was becoming concerned. Although searches went on every hour, every day, around the world, the potential for danger hung over everyone’s lives, lingering like the smell of fire.
In the distance the sonorous sound of a bell ringing called the religious to prayer, its echo out of sync with the woman’s shrill voice as she continued to protest. Then, with a huge shove, she pushed the carriage against the guard’s legs, and just as Josh brought the image into that clarity he called “perfect vision,” the kind of image that the newspaper would want, the kind of conflict they loved captured on film, he heard the blast.
Then, a flash of bluish white light.
The next moment, the world exploded.
(Psst, you can read an even longer excerpt at M.J.’s website HERE.)
I recently had the pleasure of reading M.J.’s new release and interviewing her about this book of her heart, her process and more.
Interview with M.J. Rose
Q: Your latest book, The Reincarnationist, is a complex tale about a full cast of characters and how their past lives weave together in the present. Tell us a little bit about what inspired you to tackle this subject.
M.J.R. This is the book of my heart.
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.
So reincarnation was an idea I grew up with. That my mom and I talked about and researched together.
At some point, the idea to write a novel about the subject, was just there. The way ideas seem to suddenly appear. And then for years I flirted with the idea of writing a novel about someone like my mother – who was sane and logical – who started out skeptical but came to believe in reincarnation. But I kept putting it off, afraid if I did people would think I was a “woo woo weirdo”
Until a few years ago on the exact anniversary of my mom’s death my niece said some very provocative things to me about my mother – things she really couldn’t have known – and the pestering idea to write this novel became an obsession.
Q: I thought, even before I’d read your note in the back of the book, that this story idea probably brewed in your mind for many years before you poured it out onto the page. How long did this story take you to write? Why do you think this had to be Book Nine and not Book One or Two?
M.J.R. Once I actually started to write it – not just think about it or do research for it – it took about two years.
As for why book 9 not 1 or 2. I don’t know. I had a lot of other stories to tell and this one was the one that was the most difficult to imagine taking on. So I kept putting it off.
Q: “Karmic repercussions” is an interesting phrase you use in this book. Would you consider it the book’s theme, or one of them?
M.J.R. Most definitely, since I think karmic repercussions are very much what reincarnation is about to me.
Q: Your story starts, literally, with a bang. Was it difficult for you to decide on an inciting incident—where to begin the story, and how?
M.J.R. Ha. Yes. I think over the course of writing the book I had six or seven different openings. The one currently in the book still wasn’t the opening when my editor signed off on the book. About three weeks after we thought we were done with it, I gave it to some friends and one suggested I cut the first chapter and start with the “bang” chapter and she was right.
Q: You explored two different pasts in your book: there were sequences unfolding in the 1800s and others long before that, in Ancient Rome, and you wove everything together with sequences in the present day. Did you write each storyline out separately before putting them together?
M.J.R. I did write a lot of each of the three stories separately and then wove them together.
Q: Short sentences, short scenes, short chapters—they all lend themselves to slick pace. What other things do you consider when looking at the pacing of your story?
M.J.R. I didn’t actually consider them or any others. My pacing isn’t studied, its simply the way I write.
Q: Backstory was a huge part of this book—it had to be—but no one scene ever felt weighed down with too much of it. Are you conscious of wedging backstory into active scenes? What techniques do you use to ensure backstory doesn’t claim center stage?
M.J.R. Again, I wasn’t consciously working on these things. One of the comments I’ve always gotten on my books was that I use flashbacks or backstory effectively… it came in handy with this book. I have no ideas there even are techniques to ensure backstory doesn’t claim center stage other than emphasis. If there are some, can you tell me what they are?
Q: Tell us about the kind of research you had to do for this book?
M.J.R. I’ve literally been researching this book for years in various ways and studying the subject for most of my adult life. To date I’ve read at least 60 books on the subject, have interviewed dozens of people and spent six months visiting a past life regressionist.
Specifically I have 1200 pages of notes for THE REINCARNATIONIST and 1534 page of notes for the next book in the series.
There’s even a bibliography in the novel.
Q: Did you visit Rome?
Q: Did you interview the reincarnation specialist mentioned, Dr. Ian Stevenson?
M.J.R. No, but I read a lot about him and read everything he wrote.
Q: Were you, personally, ever hypnotized?
M.J.R. Yes, many times.
Q: Did you have any strange experiences while writing the book?
M.J.R. Writing every book has been strange… I disappear and don’t really know I’m there. This one was like that. The only difference is that I am more attached to one character in this book than I ever have been to any character I’ve ever written.
Q: Who is the character you’re attached to?
Q: I’m assuming you sold this book on proposal. If you’d had to write a synopsis for this, how might you have gone about it, considering the frequent interweavings of past(s) and present?
M.J.R. I am abysmal at proposals. Never learned how to do them well. The synop for this book was the first chapter and a general overview that was about one page long. But the book changed so much that the proposal has almost nothing to do with the book as it is today.
Q: The book trailer on your website is riveting. Were you involved in the making of it? What can you tell us about the process?
M.J.R. There are several. A booktrailer done by Vidlit.com. An interview done by Expandedbooks.com and a TV commercial for the book also done by Expandedbooks.com.
I was involved in all of them to different degrees but more as a creative director than the writer or art director. I like to work with people who are really good at what they do so I don’t have to micro manage. And Liz at Vidlits and Skye at Expanded are both brilliant.
Q: What is your method when you’re working on a book? Plotter or pantser?
M.J.R. Both at different times.
Q: What time of day do you like to work?
M.J.R. From 1 – 5 or 6 every afternoon.
Q: What do you like to work on—computer, with paper & pencil, etc…?
M.J.R. Lap top and then editing on paper.
Q: Do you have any writer’s rituals you use to get involved in a new story, or just to get yourself ready for a good writing session?
M.J.R. Three months before I start a new novel, I start my main character’s scrapbook. The very process of collecting his or her past –preferred poems, swatches of favorite colors, letters, postcards, memorabilia allows me time to find him or her.
I collect everything — the ticket stubs for a performance of the Metropolitan Opera that she went to, a postcard from his mother’s first trip to Europe, a piece of the red and white string on the pastry box from her grandmother’s apartment: it’s all in the scrapbook.
Only when I’ve found all the knickknacks of that imagined life and I’ve done a fair amount of procrastinating do I sit down to write. By then I’ve unconsciously worked out a lot of the plot of the themes of the book.
Q: Which part of the writing process do you find comes most easily to you? Which do you find most challenging?
M.J.R. The first draft is the most difficult. Everything after that is less difficult. Nothing is easy except the vision of the book in my head before I start writing it. Then I’m always so surprised how hard it is to get that vision down on paper.
But I do love it.
Q: What was your journey? Did you always love books, always know this was what you wanted to do? Were there challenges for you along the way that almost veered you off course?
M.J.R. I was a reader. I wanted to be an artist. I wrote poetry and short stories as emotional releases my whole life, but I wanted to paint. After art school I drifted into advertising and being a copy writer and wrote my first novel when I was 26. It was awful. About 8 years later and three novels later, I got an agent. (Still my agent today).
Getting published though was an adventure… I self-published my 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 my work, I set up a web site where readers could download the 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 Literary Guild/Doubleday Book Club as well as being the first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house.
Q: What are you reading now?
M.J.R. Douglas Clegg’s Queen of the Wolves.
Q: What are your favorite books?
M.J.R. 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, 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.
Q: What will you work on next?
M.J.R. I’m working on it now – the next in the series. And I’m doing this series a little differently. There won’t be continuing characters but rather a continuing group of objects.
The first book is about the discovery of and adventure around an ancient memory tool that helps people access their past lives.
I’ve suggested in this book that there were 12 such memory tools created in ancient India over 5000 years ago. In each books in the series, a different one of those memory tools will surface and the story will flow from there.
Thank you, M.J. Rose for a fascinating interview and read, and best of luck with your new series!