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
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
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!

One thought on “Interview with debut mystery novelist Gregory Sterner

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.