Friday, June 14, 2019

Interview with debut mystery novelist Gregory Sterner

Debut mystery author Gregory Sterner joins me today to chat about his suspense novel Solving Cadence Moore.

Gregory Sterner is inspired by the great storytelling presentations of National Public Radio, including This American Life and Wiretap, as well as novels by Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, and many others. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Albright College and is currently completing his Master’s in Philosophy at West Chester University while working as a supervisor for Penske Truck Leasing. He lives with his wife Abigail in Reading, Pennsylvania, and has four children: Jordan, Austin, Alexis, and Jack. His debut novel Solving Cadence Moore was released on November 7th, 2017. It is available for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. Readers can connect with Gregory on Facebook and Goodreads. To learn more, go to

Welcome, Gregory. Please tell us about your current release.
My debut novel is Solving Cadence Moore, a mystery novel about a ten-year-old cold case. Cadence Moore was a famous young singer who disappeared without a trace in western Pennsylvania in 2002, never to be seen again. The case has recently been brought back to prominence by a smash hit documentary that has played fast and loose with the facts and many die-hard followers of the case believe the mystery remains unsolved. Public radio juggernaut UPR produces a podcast series and live midnight special to capitalize on the notoriety of the documentary and brash conspiracy radio host Charlie Marx is the unlikely choice to host the series. Charlie comes up empty in his efforts to solve the mystery until he starts taking crazy risks and telling big lies all in the pursuit of getting live on air with the long elusive truth. Readers will ride a roller coaster of suspense on their way to finding out if the real truth of Cadence Moore is finally revealed or whether Charlie Marx’s career will go down in flames live on air.

After a very long process of writing, editing, pitching, and re-writing, the book was published by Aperture Press, LLC (the realization of a life-long dream for me) and is now available at Amazon and all other major online retailers.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was attempting to write what was (in my mind) a horror novel about a girl who disappeared ten years ago and the haunting memories which torture her old boyfriend. I quickly realized I was not a horror writer and this book was not working. I kept turning the story around in my mind, trying to figure out a way to bring it to the page in a believable way. This was years before I completed the book. I was exposed to Ira Glass’s show This American Life on NPR. The way he broke down stories into “acts” and did a slow reveal on crucial facts made me realize that my own story could be told in the same way a “radio play” was put together. As I was deeply into the writing process and even as I pitched my first draft of the novel to publishers and agents, the podcast Serial became a super-successful hit. As I re-wrote my novel (initially incorporating my eventual publisher’s structural changes) I decided a topical change was needed and the podcast series and live radio special structure was introduced into my existing story and everything really came together at that point.

Excerpt from Solving Cadence Moore:
Chapter 1 – The Pitch
Charlie Marx sat with his arms crossed, refusing to visually sell his reaction to the sales pitch he was getting. As a successful conspiracy radio show host, Charlie had learned to trust nothing but consider everything, qualities which had made him very effective throughout his career.

His boss (as well as his mentor and friend), Tyler Reubens, had been in the public radio game for fifteen years, becoming a national celebrity by hosting a hugely successful syndicated show covering everything from intimate personal stories to murder mysteries called United Way of Life. Tyler, while still sitting at the helm of United Way of Life, was also now a big player at the executive level as a senior producer for WHHW (his home station) and programming liaison to UPR (the public radio juggernaut of which WHHW was an affiliate).

Tyler’s superiors were looking for on-demand content for various multimedia outlets (a trend the entire entertainment world had already been moving strongly toward for five years and public radio had been one of the first to plant a flag in podcast land, but had never had a smash hit). Tyler was reaching out to the one person who in his mind had the one show he was almost positive would connect with a large audience for the podcast mini-series UPR was prepared to push to the moon (or so went Tyler’s initial sales pitch).

The one man with the one show also happened to be a personal protégé of Tyler Reubens himself, Charlie Marx. Charlie was a former college DJ and conspiracy newsletter writer. Tyler had plucked him from obscurity and offered him an assistant producer job for United Way of Life, simply because he liked his work and was impressed by the buzz Charlie had managed to drum up for his conspiracy rag. Charlie produced a few conspiracy oriented segments for United Way of Life during anniversary years of the Kennedy Assassination and the Apollo Moon Landing. These segments had garnered such positive reviews that Tyler lobbied for Marx to be granted his own time slot on WHHW with a conspiracy-themed show called Underground BroadcastUnderground Broadcast eventually became one of the most popular programs on WHHW and had been considered at least on two occasions for national syndication over UPR stations, although that had never actually come to fruition.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I have two big irons in the fire, both of which I’m about 20% through at this point.

The first book (working title: Tomorrow in Twenty-Nine Palms) is about a dying man who in his last act hands a small leather bound book to a total stranger as he utters his dying words, “It has to be you.” The total stranger is Jack Hayes, a lying con man looking for his next angle in life. He soon finds himself embroiled in an unbelievable situation, and before the night is over, dangerous men who want the book back are chasing him all over town. All roads eventually will lead to Twenty-Nine Palms, CA and the secrets that may be found there.

The second book (working title: The Gallem City Limits) is about a charismatic young man who has worked his way into amassing a large number of troubled young people into his circle and indoctrinating them into his philosophy of life, which revolves around “balance” at all costs. Before long, he and his followers will balance the karma of long-ago atrocities (the mass scapegoating murders in Gallem centuries before is his starting point) by staging current ultra-violent atrocities (only this time with the “good guys” and “bad guys” on different sides). Danny Drake is about to become the most notorious cult leader in America and Gallem is the site of his National emergence.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have been writing since I was a kid, starting with stories of me and my dog having adventures in space. I started my first novel when I was about 22 years old and got about 100 pages through it before I lost all of it due to the floppy disc it was saved on becoming corrupted. I was too foolish at the time to have backed it up so it became a very demoralizing experience. I later decided to try again and just write a story for myself, to make myself laugh, and to show the finished product to my friends. That put some of the joy back into the process. After that, I began tossing around the bare bones of what would become Solving Cadence Moore. I felt, while writing it, that I was a writer. I felt, while pitching it, that I was a writer. But I did not feel like a “real” writer until the publisher agreed to publish the book. It’s sad that many writers feel the need to be validated by someone else saying they will invest in producing our novels for mass consumption to feel like we’re actually legitimate “real” writers but that seems to be the way it is.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I became good at balancing family life with a full-time job and college education over the last 10 years. This gave me some perspective on the amount of time someone needs to dedicate to complete something and complete it well, with quality in mind. I have brought the same approach to writing. I feel like a writer has to pick their spots so they do not alienate their family in the process of creating their “masterpiece.” That is my take anyway. It also helps to have an encouraging and understanding wife.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I seem to really like having characters drink and smoke as they go about their adventures. I think this might be my way of working through not being able to do these things myself, or at least not as much as I’d like to, so I live my former bad habits through my characters. This is a healthier approach than a writer drinking heavily and smoking like a chimney while writing. My advice: write it- don’t do it. You’ll survive longer and write more books!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a pro-wrestler my whole childhood. I seemed to ignore the sad fact that I had the athletic ability of a bow-legged kangaroo while I was dreaming this dream. I think what I was really attracted to was the pageantry and presentation of a spectacular story being told in the ring and around the ring. I realized later I could do most of this on the page and then writing became my passion.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I have learned so far in my brief membership in the worldwide club of published authors that it is wise to listen to feedback, especially from publishers or agents who have had more success than you. One has to be flexible and open to collaboration in order to move forward in the process of getting your novel published. I think it's important to embrace inspiration when it comes and don't be afraid to take risks, as long as you do so in the parameters of good writing. It can be easy to push things too far if you don't have in mind what a potential wide readership might enjoy. I'm still learning and feel lucky to have been granted the opportunity to get a novel published.


Thanks for joining me today!

1 comment:

Gregory Sterner said...

Thank you sincerely for the interview! I truly appreciate the time!