Andrew Gross is the bestselling author of Reckless, Don’t Look Twice, The Dark Tide, and The Blue Zone. He has also co-authored a number of bestsellers with thriller-writing machine, James Patterson, including Judge & Jury and Lifeguard.
Alex C. Telander: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Andrew Gross: Well, I wrote in high school and college- edited my literary journals at both, but when I graduated I got sucked into the business world, got an MBA, ended up running a couple of large, apparel companies, and never thought in that direction again for twenty years, just trying to single-mindedly succeed in the business world as best I could. Of course, the way business people end up writers is they either cash-in big or get fired and my way was the latter! I guess I always carried the flame—you know, like a million people: if I ever find six months I’m gonna write my novel . . . And when the time hit and I had no plan for the next stage of life, I brought forth an idea—a political conspiracy novel about an NRA takeover of the White House; married it with the sudden opportunity, and began to get the sense: “I can do this, Andy!”
Alex: What was the first thing you got published and how did it happen?
Andrew: Well, I probably have the most unique path into the business you’ll ever read. I had a #1 bestseller, a movie in the works, and a pretty lucrative contract before I had ever published a word on my own! Of course, all that was due to writing in partnership with Jim Patterson. The aforementioned political conspiracy novel got close, but never quite made the cut. It did, providentially, fall into the hands of Patterson through the head of his publishing house, and even more providentially, he called me up and told me, “You have the goods!” We met, and he said he could tell me how to fine-tune the book and maybe re-submit, but then he described an idea he had for his own new series about this female homicide detective who forms a bond with three other women…. and the result became First to Die and it went on to #1 and became the foundation of the second largest selling crime series in America—after Alex Cross.
Alex: When co-writing a book, how does that work exactly?
Andrew: Well, it probably works differently with every partnership, but in my case, each book idea came directly from Jim, via outline. The rest was a combination of what we did to it, but it’s safe to say when there’s a big name on top and a little name underneath, the little name is doing much of the lifting, except in my case, the names grew equal in size after three books so that complicates my answer. Fair to say they all started with Jim and ended with Jim, as he had last draft. And in between, I felt I made a pretty fair contribution to all our books that was enough to get me some recognition when it was time to go my own way.
Alex: What are you working on next?
Andrew: Well, I’ve written three straight books based in Greenwich Ct and set around a central character of Ty Hauck, a rugged, down to earth, totally tenacious detective in the land of the super-rich and powerful, but this next book will be a break from him. It’s set in central California and is a totally personal story built around two real experiences in my life: the very sad suicide of my nephew last year—a troubled kid who jumped off the Morro Bay Rock; and a chance meeting when I was a kid with none other than Charles Manson. In between, there’s a lot of stuff about the Sixties; sons fighting against their fathers; the garment business; and a thirty year old vendetta by a cult killer against a family. It sort of harkens back to the Blue Zone, my first book, about an ideal family put in peril by an old blood oath. Like I said, it’s very personal and filled with dozens of family anecdotes and lore, and so far, most seem to think it my best so I may well stay in that vein—personal, family based, emotional– going forward.
Alex: Do you have any advice for writers looking to get published?
Andrew: Well, there’s always advice, but maybe not good advice. Or advice one might want to hear. It’s not a fast or easy process—the field is tilted against. I think the biggest problem new writers face is wanting to rush their book out sooner than it’s ready. I know I did. And of course, like in business, that first contact is probably your best shot and you don’t want to blow it. Writers have to have the doggedness and patience to stay with their books and make them the best possible product. All the good material in mine comes in the rewrites! And sometimes, dozens of times until you hit it right! I used writers programs not to learn how to write, but to measure myself and my progress until I felt if they thought I was ready, maybe I was. Of course, the new wave to digital makes the traditional road all the more difficult, but it does level that field just a bit and give writers an opportunity on their own to find a forum and a platform, if – a big if – they can find an audience! Anyway, it’s a daunting process and the rewards are not always there, even once you connect—so you better love the process and have a wife with a good day job! Of course mine was a yoga teacher, so I had to make it work! See, not necessarily what anyone might want to hear.
On the positive side, conferences like Thrillerfest and Bouchercon do give aspiring writers access to authors and agents in a way they never had before, and several have found a home for their books as a result of sitting around the bar or pitching to an agent in the halls. So avail yourself of these opportunities. Like in politics, access is half the battle!