Welcome to my Authors 40+ Series – sharing the stories of amazing authors who published their first book over the age of 40. The series features talented, experienced and inspirational writers who share their (often non-conventional!) writing and publishing journeys honestly and articulately. Next to feature, is Michael Daigle!
1. What is the title and synopsis/premise of your first book and how old were you when you published it?
The first novel I published in 2013 is called “The Swamps of Jersey.” It is the first of a mystery series called ‘The Frank Nagler Mysteries’, now with three published books. I was 63 when the book was published. I was at the end of a long career in newspapers, and I had begun to find time to again return to fiction. I had always been writing fiction and poetry, but finding time to concentrate on it had been hard, with job and family obligations at the forefront. With time obligations changing as I made the transition from full-time newspaper work to freelancing, I concentrated on fiction.
2. Tell me about writing the book e.g. where did the idea come from / how long did it take / what did you learn along the way?
“Swamps,” is a rewrite of the first book in the Frank Nagler series, “A Game Called Dead.” It began as series of shorts based on a newspaper item that described a break-in at a local college. This was years before I got into the newspaper business. I wrote a one-character piece then another one, added a victim, and the series grew from there. I had written a full draft of that story at 23 and nursed it along for a decade. When I turned to it full time, I saved the main character, Detective Frank Nagler, his newspaper buddy, Jimmy Dawson, and blind friend, Leonard, and relocated them all to a fictional town called Ironton, New Jersey. The changes came in part out of my journalism career. I had worked for years in small factory towns that had seen better days, and I recognized that there was a setting that had strong possibilities for Ironton. The other lessons come from writing on deadline, how to interview (and listen) and observe people and how politics and society work. The rewrite of the original story – a juvenile serial killer story, written when I neither knew what a serial killer was or how to write a novel – is deeper, more involved and its characters are more engaging.
I rewrote “Dead” as the second book in the series, and again failed to recreate the original story; instead it is more modern with an Internet terrorist, and train-wreck pace.
With the Nagler series, and with all my other fiction, I try to imagine how to write a “better” book, defined in many ways: more challenging storylines or characters, or in technical ways in the use of language or story structure.
3. Tell me about your publishing journey step by step – what happened once the book was finished?
I wrote two novels in my early twenties: the abovementioned “A Game Called Dead” and a coming-of-age story about a college kid. I had sent both to agents and got what at the time seemed to be discouraging responses. Reading the response years later I realized I was too dumb and egotistical to understand what they said. A missed opportunity. With “Swamps” the business had changed. I tried for 18 months to interest publishers and agents, with little luck or even responses. I came across a website called “Authors Publish Magazine”, a compilation site listing publishers and publications seeking authors. After a spirited email exchange with one publisher who wanted me to combine the first two Nagler stories, a suggestion that was editorially impossible and artistically unsatisfying – I had always viewed the Nagler books as a series with character growth, changes to Ironton and a variety of plots – I found my current publisher, Imzadi Publishing of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
4. Who or what has helped you the most in becoming a published author?
The support of my family, colleagues and fellow writers is key. The careful readings of the works and their questions help frame the finished product. Also allowing me the time to work. But I’ve been writing since I was a teenager. Not that it was easy, but I have always had a sense that I knew how to write. Early on I knew I could manipulate words. The growth comes from learning to watch and listen, and reading good writers. As I was ready to find a publisher with “Swamps,” I knew the publishing industry had changed just as the newspaper industry had changed. Understanding that change (and 18 months of rejections) influenced how I marketed the book.
5. What are the main obstacles you faced / overcame when writing and publishing your book(s)?
I’ve never lacked confidence as a writer; I’ve found I could begin any story that popped into my head. Years as a newspaper writer gave me the skills to manage time and focus on a story at hand. Newspaper writing is a mix of long, thoughtful analysis of data and interviews, and a burst of creativity with deadlines approaching. Do it long enough and it becomes muscle memory.
Getting published is a matter of persistence. Self-publishing has changed the market place, flooding the world with works. Figure out how your work stands out.
6. How do you promote/advertise your book(s)?
I do some online promotion, having sifted through a couple of years of bad efforts. What you learn immediately if you are on Facebook or LinkedIn is that half your contacts want to sell you something. I experimented with a few low-cost programs and got mixed results. I have settled on a couple that seem to be working.
I started a website which is linked to numerous social media sites, which helps, but in truth it is limited. I need to spend time writing not searching for Facebook friends.
Dissatisfied in general with the quality of online reviews, beginning with “A Game Called Dead”, I began to submit the books to contests, where they would be judged blindly. The result: “Dead” was named a mystery runner-up in the 2017 Shelf-Unbound Indie book contest. The third book in the series, “The Weight of Living” was named First Place mystery winner in the 2018 Royal Dragonfly book contest, and won three other awards this year. The covers of “Dead” and “Living” were also named award winners. My goal in entering the contests was not to win, but to see if the books measured up. I have downloaded the lists of winners and one-by-one am reading through them to learn more.
I have had excellent on-line support from my publisher Imzadi Publishing, which has produced YouTube trailers and numerous ads for my use.
I attend libraries and fairs as often as possible. Speaking directly with readers is the best way to sell books.
7. How did you celebrate the incredible achievement of your first book being published?
I had a quiet celebration with family, then told everyone I knew. Then I went back to work.
8. What advice would you give to other authors about to begin their publishing journey?
Persist. And believe in yourself. Find some trusted advisors and readers. Polish your skills. Push yourself. Young writers are told to “write what they know”. I tell them to write what they don’t know. That is how to push yourself and your ability to manipulate language to tell the stories in your head.
Learn how the business works. There are many good, basic and honest guides out there, but there is also a lot of bad advice. Proceed with caution.
9. Where is/are your book(s) currently available to read and where can people find you online?
My website is: www.michaelstephendaigle.com.
Facebook page: michaelstephendaigle
The books are available online at :
10. Are you working on anything new we can look forward to in 2019?
After some online production issues, an anthology of the first three Frank Nagler books is becoming available at Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. The hardcover edition has been posted, and will soon be followed by an ebook and paperback versions.
That release should be a lead-in to the publication of the fourth Nagler book, called “The Red Han” in 2019. “The Red Hand” is the prequel to the whole series and answers many questions raised by readers about the serial killer Charlie Adams, who is sprinkled throughout the other books, and Nagler’s wife, Martha. It is an attempt to go back to the very first story in the series.
Thank you for taking part in my Authors 40+ Series Michael! If you are an author who published their first fiction or nonfiction book over the age of 40 and would like to be featured in this blog series just like Michael and Christina, please get in touch!