For those of you who get the Fresh Fiction Box every month, you’re already familiar with the Barnes and Noble best-selling author L.A. Chandlar (Laurie). Her first book in The Art Deco mystery series, The Silver Gun, was published this fall. The second in the series, The Gold Pawn, is scheduled to be released in September 2018. Laurie and I first met at an event for the New York Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Anyone who’s met Laurie can attest that her energy and love of life are infectious. She’s brought all that enthusiasm to her books and the business of writing. Between work, traveling for book signings and being a mom to two boys, Laurie has very little extra time. Luckily for me, we live in the same neighborhood and were able to meet up for a cocktail and a chat about writing. D.A. Bartley: For those who aren’t familiar with the novel, can you give us a synopsis of The Silver Gun?
L.A. Chandlar: Sure! 1936, New York City, when Lane Sanders, aide to Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, is threatened by an assailant tied to one of the most notorious gangsters in the city, even the mayor can’t promise her safety. Everything seems to hinge on an elusive childhood memory of a silver gun. With a mounting list of suspects, Lane must figure out how the secrets of her past are connected to the city’s underground crime network – before someone pulls the trigger on the most explosive revenge plot in New York history… D.A. Bartley: Mayor La Guardia is a central historical figure in your mystery, but you don’t focus on the shanty towns in Central Park, breadlines or soup kitchens. What guided you in your portrayal of New York City during the 1930s?
L.A. Chandlar: I moved to NYC just after 9/11, and I saw first-hand how a big city handles adversity: with a lot of compassion, humor, art, sacrifice, and cocktails. Around that time, I picked up a biography on Fiorello LaGuardia, New York City’s 99th mayor, and I was fascinated with him (he’s hilarious) and the time period. I found I had pigeon-holed the Thirties into ONLY the Depression. But there was so much more coming out of that time that just the Depression: the art and music was incredible, women were rising in the workforce, the wit and humor was fabulous, and of course the cocktails! I wanted to tell that part of the story. I love the tension of that time. It was the era of the soup lines at the same time is was the era of the cocktail. I think it’s a story that has something for us today. I love that the era was full of innovation and magnificent art that changed the world – despite adversity.
D.A. Bartley: Among your many talents, one thing that has impressed me about you, Laurie, is your originality with marketing. Even though I didn’t win any (hint, hint), I loved the chocolate sauce give away at your Barnes & Noble signing on 86th Street. Can you tell us what you’ve done to get your book noticed?
L.A. Chandlar: Well, I always figure it doesn’t cost anything to be creative. There are two points in marketing. One point, is to just get your book noticed. The second point is to make it memorable. Since this is my first book with a major publisher, I wanted to do things that made it (and me) stand out. I started thinking about anything that is visual about the series, and that might connect with other organizations. Visually, the protagonist loves her red Mary Jane shoes. So, I started the #RedShoeSquad. At signings and conferences, I gave away fun swag to anyone who wore red shoes. I found a great bottle opener that was literally a silver gun (like the title) and a cool red velvet choker / bracelet with a silver gun charm. The funny thing is, they were cheaper than the typical swag like pens and post-it notes. When I was at Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, I wore my red shoes and I had several people stop me and tell me they’d seen my shoes on Twitter. I start a lot of videos with a shot of my red shoes as a visual cue. Another major marketing tool was from the fact that art is a major theme. I wanted to emphasize the potency of art in our own lives, and during the Art Deco period. So there is a piece of art that is highlighted and in the background of every novel, that comes alongside the main character –and sometimes a villain– as they navigate their story. The Silver Gun takes place in 1936, the year the Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia founded the first public arts high school, also known as the Fame School, from the TV show and movie in the Eighties. I organized a book fair with Barnes & Noble that benefitted the school. It was so fun! So it not only got my book noticed, but it was a great way for my work to “give back.” We even had several freshman parents contribute a large donation that enabled us to fulfill the entire Wish-List from the librarian.
The chocolate sauce you mentioned –I’ll bring you some– is actually mentioned a lot in the book. Sanders is an old candy company from Detroit and the protagonist was born there. So that was a natural choice for a fantastic gift. Again, it links in with the book, but also makes it stand out.
D.A. Bartley: Which of your marketing techniques have been the most successful? Have there been any surprises?
L.A. Chandlar: There are so many marketing things you could do, that it’s very daunting. If you’re not careful, you’ll spend all your time marketing and never writing. OR you can be paralyzed by all the things other people do. The key, I think, is finding what you do best, and what brings you life when you’re doing it. If you do things that suck the life out of you, you’ll kill yourself. It will all become a chore and it won’t come across as authentic. I like events and creative marketing. I love videos and those are big hits. I also love cocktails and since this era was the era of the cocktail, I give vintage cocktail recipes in my newsletters. The videos and the cocktail recipes get a LOT of hits. Those are the two most successful things. I think the biggest surprise to me, is that even with all the things I’ve done, I still get overwhelmed with the amount of marketing you have to do. I still wrestle with finding a balance. You have to continually kick yourself in the pants and remind yourself that there’s room for all of us, we each have a unique story that only we can tell, and just STOP COMPARING. Self-awareness is one thing, but when it turns to self-doubt, it’s never –ever– helpful.
D.A. Bartley: Will you give us a teaser for book number two?
L.A. Chandlar: Yes, it’s yummy. It’s a sequel, but it will be able to be read as a stand-alone, too.
A family friend of the mayor’s, a notable NYC banker, vanishes without a trace. Days later a bloody knife belonging to the beloved friend is found. In the back of a notorious criminal. As an old underground crime network seems to be rising again, Lane Sanders, aide to the mayor, decides to go back to her hometown of Detroit, Michigan to face the ghosts of her past, in hopes that she’ll find clues to unravel both the mystery of the missing banker and the newly resurrected crime syndicate that threatens the city. As Lane tries to discover the meaning of a gold pawn, the seeming lynch pin of the organization, she realizes the real question isn’t what is the gold pawn, but who?
D.A. Bartley: For all you L.A. Chandlar fans, Laurie is holding a Social Media Sweepstakes. You’ll be automatically entered for every social media post with a photo of you and The Silver Gun and for every review posted (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, GoodReads, etc.) before November 10th. The Grand Prize is a great one: Laurie will name a character after you in her next book The Gold Pawn.