Fiction Reboot Interview’s Barbara Rogan, Mystery Writer

FictionReboot2Welcome back to the Fiction Reboot!

Today’s Friday Feature interviews Barbara Rogan, mystery writer, agent, and teacher. Rogan has lived a diverse life; from New York City and Santa Fe to Europe and Israel, she has experienced many different places and perspectives that have factored into her writing. A writer with a love of thriller and mystery novels, Rogan also teaches online writing classes on her “Next Level Workshop” site. Her latest book, “A Dangerous Fiction,” combines Rogan’s loves of the publishing industry and of this thriller theme. The book was touted by Diana Gabaldon “a thriller with a psychological heart of mystery, a double-ended love story, and a fascinating look at the world of high-stakes publishing.” In an exclusive interview, Rogan discusses how her rich past plays a role in her writing.

bio_2_1949043100Author Bio:

Born in New York City, Barbara Rogan has spent much of her life traveling. In college she took a year off to journey through Europe and Israel. After she graduated from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, she took a publishing job in New York. Six months later, Rogan left for Israel, studied Hebrew and worked as a park ranger, horse wrangler, and editor in Tel Aviv. Two years later, she launched Barbara Rogan Literary Agency, which soon became the largest in the country. After the birth of her son, she sold the agency, moved back to New York, and became a full time writer. She has since published multiple novels and continues to teach online writing courses and revise fiction.

To learn more about Rogan, visit her website at or follow her on Twitter at @RoganBarbara.

Interview with Barbara Rogan:

  1. You have a rich, diverse life. How does this factor into your writing?

It provides material and a wider view of life. I’m not an ivory tower sort of writer. Recently, a young writer asked my advice about going straight from college to grad school to get an MFA. I advised against it. I have nothing against MFA degrees. The degree itself isn’t critical, as writers are judged by what they produce, not how they got there; but the intense focus on writing and critical feedback required to attain that degree can be valuable indeed. The first thing the writer needs, though, is something to write about. I suspicion_1advised the young writer who asked not to go straight to grad school but rather to go out into the world, preferably someplace where he doesn’t feel at home.

  1. How did running such a large publishing agency in Israel shape your perspective as a writer?

It taught me how the industry works. Before I started the agency, I was an editor in a large New York City publishing house; so I’ve seen the publishing world from a lot of different angles. This is both good and bad for me as a writer. On the one hand, I’m not intimidated by any situation and I can speak the lingo without an interpreter. Writers who understand the business get a bit more respect and can help themselves more, or at least avoid hurting themselves. On the other hand, I can see potential problems coming from 50 different directions. Sometimes, it’s better to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

  1. Do you have a specific process that you follow when you write?

I spend months doing prep work before I start writing a book. I do research; I write down setting, character and plot ideas, and wait for them to cross-fertilize; and in the final stage of prep, I start plotting out the novel. In the beginning, it’s a pretty rough outline. I know where I want to start and end up, but not all the stops along the way. As I proceed with the writing, I continue to outline sections in more detail. I write down my goals for each scene, and the incidents that need to happen to get me there. After all that planning, I put my notes aside and just write. The notes have provided parameters for the scene, but writing without reference to them allows for unexpected things to pop up.

  1. Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I like to write naked, hanging upside down from a chandelier. Other than that, no.

  1. What draws you to the genre of suspense and mystery?

hindsight_1__1Well, for one thing I’ve always liked to read them. People should write what they enjoy reading I think. For another, they have a definitive form. Mysteries are to fiction as sonnets are to poetry. They have certain requirements and you can be very creative while playing within those lines; but they give a shape to the book and a solid resolution, which I find very satisfying.

  1. You taught for a long time and still continue to do so through workshops. Why is teaching so important to you?

I never had the opportunity to study writing in college or out of it; like most writers, I’ve learned through practice, good critical feedback, and other writers. Teaching is a way of exploring the art of fiction writing, consolidating what I’ve learned over the course of writing my books. It’s certainly made me a better writer.

I also enjoy working with serious writers, seeing their progress and offering a little help along the way. It’s hugely satisfying when my students go forth and publish, as many have. And I think it’s useful work. Most writers go through identical stages in learning to write, as babies do in learning to walk. You can’t make just anyone into a writer, but for those who have the skill and determination, a good teacher can shorten the path.

  1. How was your move from Israel back to the United States reflected in your writing, if at all?

My first couple of books were set in Israel. After I made the move back to the U. S., the settings moved as well. Part of the reason that I came back was for the language. When I lived in Israel, I read a lot in English but spoke Hebrew most of the time. After a number of years living abroad, I began to feel a certain disconnection to my native language, which is a living and evolving thing. Since I write in English, I wanted to re-immerse myself in that language.

  1. Tell me about your experience writing your latest book, “A Dangerous Fiction”?

DangerousFictionHC_jacket3“A DANGEROUS FICTION” is the story of Jo Donovan, a literary agent who came out of nowhere to become a star in the NYC publishing world. She’s living the life she always dreamed of until it all starts to go south. Jo’s problems begin with a stalker who insists that she represent him, but soon get much, much worse. I had loved the 15 or so years that I spent as an agent, traveling widely and working with brilliant, fascinating people, and writing this book gave me the opportunity to return to that world. It’s always fun to write a book in which the characters need be really clever. I did succeed in entertaining myself, always my first goal.

  1. Who are some of your favorite authors?

That’s tough because I read so many different kinds of books. In the suspense genre I like Dennis Lehane, Ron Rash, Gillian Flynn. Literary fiction: Don DeLillo, Edward St. Aubyn, Pat Parker, Barbara Kingsolver, Ivy Compton-Burnett, and the sainted Jane Austen, whose books I’ve read to the point of memorization. I read a lot of short stories, too: favorites include Katherine Mansfield, George Sanders, Amy Bloom, Lori Moore, and Tobias Wolff.

Thanks to Barbara Rogan for taking the time to speak with “Fiction Reboot.”

Keri Heath is a writer and journalist from Austin, Texas. She has written professionally for Austin Fit, Totally Dublin, Austin Woman, and ATX Man magazines. She has also seen her creative work published in NEAT and Straylight magazines, among others. When she isn’t writing, she loves to read, run, and play mandolin. You can view Keri’s work at or by following her @HeathKeri.

Fiction Reboot Agent Interview: Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen

FictionReboot2Welcome back to the Fiction Reboot and the introductory post of author-contributor Keri Heath! Today we are reviving our previous series of interviews featuring agents and publishers. Join us in welcoming Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen of Tramp Press!

Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen pooled their collective knowledge of literature and publishing to form Tramp Press, a small publishing agency in Dublin, Ireland. The press focuses on publishing excellent books, as Davis-Goff stated, “the absolute crème de la crème of Irish literary fiction.” The quality of the literature that Tramp Press publishes is obvious, especially since several of its releases have won the Irish Book Award. As Tramp Press looks towards the next step, it plans to increase the publishing experience for its authors by expanding to the UK. In an interview with the “Fiction Reboot,” Davis-Goff and Coen share their vision of Tramp Press’ place within the Irish publishing industry.

Lisa and SarahAgent Bios:

Sarah Davis-Goff received an MA in publishing from Oxford Brookes University in 2009 and has since obtained international publishing experience in New York, London, and Dublin. Lisa Coen spent several years working in the production department of Hot Press magazine, before deciding to complete an M.Phil and PhD in Anglo-Irish literature. The two met during their work at Lilliput Press and decided to found Tramp Press together.

For more information about Davis-Goff, Coen, and Tramp Press, visit

  1. Why did you decide to start Tramp Press?

There were a few reasons, really. We were both working at The Lilliput Press here in Dublin, but our time there was almost up. We’re young(ish) women and we felt that the industry could do with more age and gender diversity. More than anything we felt we had a valuable viewpoint to offer, and we could publish brilliant works that other people were missing, and do it well. For instance Flight by Oona Frawley was rejected by publishers who thought it would be a hard sell. It sat around for a few years, but once we published it, it was nominated for an Irish Book Award and received a rave review in the Guardian, among others. We’ve had to reprint it twice already!

  1. What makes Tramp Press different from other small publishers in Ireland?

We’re different from other publishers in how we approach the process: with the decline in sales over the last years, publishers have been publishing more, throwing a load into the marketplace and hoping that one or two make a dent. We approach things from the opposite direction. We’ll only ever publish works that are skin-prickingly, heart-stoppingly brilliant, and we’ll publish them with great care, and attention to detail – and force. We maintain old-fashioned editorial values and work to develop long-lasting relationships with our authors. By devoting all our time and attention to a few brilliant books a year, we aim to publish harder and better than anyone else. We get great feedback on our books, not just the content, but for instance the cover design of Dubliners 100.

  1. What do you look for in the books you like to publish?

In a word – brilliance. We only publish fiction (so no memoirs, history, etc), but apart from that it doesn’t really matter what a book is about, and we’re not genre-snobs. We have diverse tastes and read widely and would love to see some fantastic YA or sci-fi. As long as a book is excellent, we’ll want to get it out there. We also publish ‘Recovered Voices: once a year we’ll take a lost classic and repackage it. In our first year, that was A Struggle for Fame by Charlotte Riddell, a witty, scathing book about being a public author.

  1. How closely do you work with the writers to see their visions fulfilled?

At least a part of excellent publishing is managing expectations. Not every book is going to be a market-leader, unfortunately, and the massive success stories you see in the media are very much the exception rather than the rule. So being honest and upfront with our authors and making sure that they know what we offer is very important. This starts with our submission guide on We’re open to unsolicited manuscripts, but we’re upfront that the standard is high. Once we find a great manuscript, we work very closely with the author on editing or redrafting as needed.

With Dubliners 100 we really trusted Thomas Morris’s great idea and gave the contributors a broad brief: write a ‘cover version’ of a story from James Joyce’s Dubliners in its centenary year. People love a great idea, and because we trusted everyone and were kind of hands-off, we ended up with a terrific, award-winning collection of stories about contemporary Ireland.

Editorial is just one part of the process, once that’s in hand, we work really hard to promote our titles. So far we have achieved very wide review coverage for all our titles across newspapers and magazines at home and abroad, in the Irish Times, Sunday Times, the Guardian, the TLS, we’ve got a couple of mentions in the New York Times, and have had lots of radio and a couple of small TV slots – but nothing is guaranteed. We try to make sure that our vision of success for a title matches with the author’s.

  1. What do you usually read?

We both read a lot, of course, and although literary fiction is something we both reach for most often, we also enjoy a ton of other stuff. Sarah is reading Saga, a graphic novel right now and loving it, having just finished Anne Enright’s The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch, while Lisa’s been reading a lot of Neil Gaiman recently to balance out the non-fiction essay collections she read over the holidays. We both love good sci-fi, horror and YA. We initially bonded over our love for Stephen King!

  1. Do you think the publishing industry of Ireland is very different from that of other western European countries?

We’re lucky in Ireland. We’re a small country but everybody here reads, lots of people write, and it’s actually a strong market. There’s a lovely sense of camaraderie amongst small publishers and writers of contemporary literary fiction: it’s a great place to work. There’s a wonderful new movement of small presses achieving big things here and in the UK and France too, so we’re all in it together.

  1. Do you have any plans for the future of Tramp Press?

We do! Historically, being a small publishing company in Ireland has posed certain restrictions on success, both for the press in question and for its authors. Irish writers, generally speaking, get discovered her by small, ballsy publishers like The Lilliput Press (Donal Ryan, Rob Doyle), or the Stinging Fly Press (Kevin Barry, Mary Costello, Colin Barrett). Once their talent has been established and recognized, through sales and literary prizes, larger UK-based publishing companies will acquire rights to these works.

The deals involved will generally require the independent Irish publisher in question to give up rights to publication, in return for a fee to the author. In addition to this, most literary prizes that guarantee success and sales for writers (such as the Man Booker Prize, the Guardian First Book Award, the Baileys Prize, etc.) will only accept submissions from publishers that are established in the UK. Ultimately ambitious Irish writers have no choice but to sign with a UK publishing house.

This system can be bad for Irish writers, Irish publishers and Irish readers.

We want to be the first publisher to really break out of this mould, and have already made inroads to this ambitious task, by setting up UK distribution, sales and PR. In fact, we’re just about to have our first international launch in Waterstones in Piccadilly, of Sara Baume’s exceptional debut novel Spill Simmer Falter Wither. It’s the start of something big! In the meantime, we’ll continue to publish around three books a year, and to ‘rescue’ a neglected novel every year, so we can build a backlist and continue to gain readers’ trust.

A big thanks to Davis-Goff and Coen for their interview!

Keri Heath is a writer and journalist from Austin, Texas. She has written professionally for Austin Fit, Totally Dublin, Austin Woman, and ATX Man magazines. She has also seen her creative work published in NEAT and Straylight magazines, among others. When she isn’t writing, she loves to read, run, and play mandolin. You can view Keri’s work at or by following her @HeathKeri.