There are crime writers—and then there’s New York Times bestselling author Archer Mayor. There are series—and then there’s Joe Gunther. I could go on and on, but you’d be much better served meeting the man himself. The celebrated Vermonter recently published the 31st novel—yes, you read that right, thirty-one—in his long-running police procedural, which along with being a masterpiece that keeps on giving to readers is a master class that keeps on giving to writers. Read on.
1. What book changed your life?
Honestly? None. I’ve been reading all my life. The overall effect of good and thoughtful writing by others has been cumulative (and much appreciated, which is why it continues to this day).
2. Was your first published book the first manuscript you ever wrote?
Good lord, no. I have a drawer full of unpublishable manuscripts. I call them exercises in typing, and they represent my learning curve. In fact, often when I’m approached by a fledgling author who announces that they’ve just finished their first book and “What do I do now?” I sometimes tell them to throw it out and keep trying. After all, what happened the very first time you jumped on a bike? Statistically, you wobbled, fell off, or crashed. Writing takes practice.
3. Stephen King says, “The hardest part is just before you start.” What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
I wouldn’t argue with King on that. I might refine it, only because I’ve now written quite a bit. I’d therefore be inclined to say that the hardest part for me comes right after I’ve finished a piece and therefore have to start again on something new. There’s a moment similar to suffering from post-partum blues.
4. Do you know the story’s ending before you start?
Nope. I just let the story play as I write.
5. When you’re having a difficult writing day, what do you tell yourself to get through it?
“Take a nap.” Often, I simply don’t “get through it.” I love to write, so if I’m having an uninspiring day, I simply let it be, and do something else. Like ride my motorcycle or visit my woodworking shop.
6. Do you read your reviews?
Sure. You can only learn through your mistakes. I have the good fortune of usually receiving very good reviews, but I read the harsher ones very carefully, to see if and how I might improve.
7. Besides being persistent and correcting your spelling errors, what’s your best advice for a new author?
Grow a thick hide, be patient, listen to those you respect, and edit, edit, edit.
8. What’s your definition of writer misery?
I usually think it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you’re truly miserable, stop doing it. Writing is not easy, but ease is not the point of it.
9. What’s your definition of writer happiness?
A good day is simply that, whether you’re a writer or a plumber. Some days, things simply go well. That’s happiness for anyone.
10. What’s your favorite book on writing?
I don’t read books about how to write.
11. What book are you reading right now?
The Pursuit of Power by Richard J. Evans, about Europe from 1815 to 1914.
ARCHER MAYOR is the author of the highly acclaimed Vermont-based series featuring detective Joe Gunther, which the Chicago Tribune describes as “the best police procedurals being written in America.” He is a past winner of the New England Independent Booksellers Association Award for Best Fiction — the first time a writer of crime literature has been so honored. He has been on the faculty of the Bread Loaf Young Writers conference in Middlebury, Vermont, and the Colby College seminar on forensic sciences in Waterville, Maine. Archer was honored with the Robert B. Parker Award. (Parker being “The Dean of Mystery Writers.”)
Mayor’s 22nd Joe Gunther novel, TAG MAN, earned a place on The New York Times bestseller list for hardback fiction. His 31st book, The Orphan’s Guilt, was released by St Martins/Minotaur on September 29, 2020. Before turning his hand to fiction, Mayor wrote history books, the most notable of which, Southern Timberman: The Legacy of William Buchanan, concerned the lumber and oil business in Louisiana from the 1870s to the 1970s.
Mayor is currently a death investigator for Vermont’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Over the past thirty years, he has also been a detective for the Windham County Sheriff’s Office, a volunteer firefighter/EMT, the publisher of his own backlist, and a frequent contributor to magazines and newspapers.