Deadly Allusions, discusses his book, his journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Deadly Allusions?
SHERBAN YOUNG: Deadly Allusions is a collection of humorous mini-mysteries. On the whole, I’d say it’s one part humor and two parts game. The Allusions are rather like short comedy sketches, each centered around a literary/cultural puzzle. The object is to pick up on the particular reference in the story and apply it to one of the suspects. There are puzzles dealing with history, literature, art, music, sports, movies, food, drink and word origins. I like to think of it as a murder-filled crossword without the squares.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop your puzzles?
SHERBAN YOUNG: I usually start with a central idea for a puzzle—some little tidbit I have come across that I think might make a nice angle in a puzzle. Once I have written that story, I develop from there. The collection features several sets of characters, and each set has a theme (and sometimes even a story arc). For instance, I have a pair of crooks looking for loot from a heist. Their puzzles always deal with geography. Another set features centerfold models and their clues always revolve around word origins. Once I have written one puzzle for one cast of characters, I sit down and think of all the puzzles I can for that cast and theme.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
SHERBAN YOUNG: I think, ideally, anyone who tends to do a quick Google search to answer a question for themselves will get the most out of the puzzle side of the book. It used to be if you wanted to find out something—the name of an actor in a movie you saw ten years ago; what's in a Tom Collins cocktail; who wrote “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” etc.—you either had to just know it, or you had to have some kind of good reference handy. Now, with the web, you can look up almost anything in seconds. The mysteries in Allusions are not meant to be solved right off the bat (although sometimes they will be, depending on the reader's knowledge). Usually, though, the trick is to see what the puzzle is getting at—what the reference or allusion is—and then take that observation to the web and see what you can find. That’s where the real investigating comes in and, hopefully, the fun. People have told me that they get into a rhythm with the themes in the stories and know just what to look for. Each puzzle should have this Aha! moment where you stumble across the defining fact that points to the solution. It’s almost like cracking a code. (And you might even pick up some interesting tidbit of knowledge along the way.)
(Meanwhile, if puzzle solving isn’t your thing, my secondary ideal reader would just be anyone who enjoys humor. The Allusions are meant to be entertaining as well as challenging.)
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
SHERBAN YOUNG: I am primarily a novelist and that’s where my focus will always lie. When I first started writing seriously twenty years ago I began with short stories. Two of these stories I later developed into novels. There is nowhere near the market for short fiction there once was, but I still think it’s smart to start with something short. It gives a new writer something manageable he or she can finish, and it gets the juices flowing.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
SHERBAN YOUNG: When I was younger I used to write at night and into the wee hours. Today, I prefer to write in the morning. No matter when you work, I’ve found that you have to set aside three hours at a minimum. Anything less and you will just be getting into the flow when you have to pause.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
SHERBAN YOUNG: When I first read P. G. Wodehouse I knew I wanted to be a writer. His command of language was second to none. Agatha Christie and Rex Stout have also always inspired me, on the mystery side. I’m pretty old school.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
SHERBAN YOUNG: Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
SHERBAN YOUNG: I find marketing on the e-side the most satisfying—on blogs and review websites. Obviously, the digital editions of my work most lend themselves to that. Traditional routes, newspapers, magazines, bookstores—they’re the most frustrating. For the most part, they’re not as open to new trends and ideas the way the digital side is.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
SHERBAN YOUNG: I really believe that serious readers are gravitating towards e-books, and I wanted to reach that audience. These days, people tend to go to bookstores to hang out, maybe browse a little. People download a Kindle book because they love reading.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
SHERBAN YOUNG: It sounds funny but I would really pay attention to the formatting of the book. Too many ebooks (sometimes even from large presses) have poorly formatted paragraphs and dialogue. Most of this can be avoided if you just take advantage of the preview tools provided by Amazon.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
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