In my final 2020 installment of the Author Up Close series, I’m interviewing Alexia Gordon. Alexia is repped by Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary Services and published by Henery Press. She’s been nominated for an Agatha Award, was a finalist for a Silver Falchion Award, and was chosen as one of Suspense Magazine’s best debuts of 2016. She’s also the host of the Cozy Corner podcast. As if all that weren’t enough, Alexia is also a medical doctor.
I first met Alexia in 2019 at the Killer Nashville Conference. Despite its name, the annual conference isn’t some weird meetup of aspiring murderers; it’s an event held by and for very friendly, welcoming, and non-killy mystery, crime, and thriller writers. It was there that I learned that Alexia is the author behind the Gethsemane Brown Mysteries, paranormal cozies featuring an African American classical musician living in southwestern Ireland. I recently had the opportunity to ask her about the series, the challenges of balancing two demanding careers, and why she advises writers never to miss an opportunity to pitch their work.
GW: I’ve been starting my author Q&As by asking about writer origin stories. The term is usually only used to describe superheroes, but I think creatives all have origin stories. What’s yours?
AG: I write mysteries with ghosts because I grew up reading mysteries and reading (and watching) horror and ghost stories. Write what you love, right? The thing missing from what I read growing up were characters who looked like me. I wondered why a Black woman couldn’t catch a murderer or vanquish a demon or survive the night in a haunted house. One day, I realized a Black woman could do those things. So, I decided to write about a Black woman catching murderers while living in a haunted house.
GW: What was your path to getting published? If you pitched and queried, what was it about your manuscript and query that stood out? What advice can you give to writers who are currently querying?
AG: I didn’t have much (any) luck with querying. I got my contract by pitching. I went to DFWCon, the Dallas Fort Worth Writers Conference, and signed up for pitch sessions. I attended the practice pitch sessions beforehand. The feedback I got proved invaluable in helping me hone my pitch. I can’t give any advice about querying, I’m afraid. As for pitching, I recommend not passing up any chance to pitch and I recommend practicing so you sound your best in the short time you have to impress an agent or editor.
GW: In this industry, it can be difficult for authors to get additional books published in a planned series. You’ve got five in your Gethsemane Brown Mysteries series, which is amazing. Can you tell us a little about the series: how you got started with it and share some insight into how to try to obtain longevity in this business?
AG: The Gethsemane Brown Mysteries feature an African American classical musician who, through misadventure, ends up accepting a job teaching music at an Irish boys’ school and a caretaking gig at a cottage haunted by a murder victim. Gethsemane solves the ghost’s murder. After that, the murders and the ghosts keep finding her. Cozy mysteries are almost always series. My publisher specialized in cozy mysteries so they were only interested in a series. I don’t think there’s any secret to longevity other than not giving up. Keep working. Keep writing.
GW: What advice would you give a newbie writer who someday wants to be doing what you’re doing?
AG: Write, write, and write some more. Pitch. Write. You’ll have to prioritize writing, which means you’ll have to make sacrifices somewhere else. Treat writing like a job. It might be your side hustle instead of your main job, but it’s still a job. Once you’re published, you’ll have to promote yourself, appear on panels, write for blogs, accept interview requests, be active on social media, appear on podcasts (or host one yourself), have a newsletter, attend conferences, participate in giveaways, and, and, and… Getting published is not the end of the work, it’s the beginning. If you’re not prepared to put in the effort, you’re not prepared to be a published author. And support other authors. They’re your tribe, not your competition. Help whoever you can, even something as simple as sharing their social media posts. Someday, you may be the one who needs help.
How do I do this and keep my day job? I gave up clinical medicine in favor of administrative medicine so I’d have predictable hours and evenings and weekends free. I couldn’t continue clinical medicine, with its 10-12 hour days, weekend clinics, and call, and still make time to write. Writing was important enough for me to make the change that made it possible.
Many thanks to Alexia for sharing her experiences and insights with us. Alexia’s latest novel, Execution in E, was published in March 2020. You can learn more about Alexia and The Gethsemane Brown Mysteries by visiting her at Alexiagordon.net.
If you’d like more Q&As from successful traditionally and independently-published authors tap or click here to read other interviews in the Author Up Close series.
Now over to you: what sacrifices have you made or are you willing to make to write?