August 21, 2014

Weston author’s thriller set in familiar territory

This new thriller is set in Fairfield County.

This new thriller is set in Fairfield County.This new thriller is set in Fairfield County.Writers with stories to share are entering a new world in the 21st Century as publishing houses devote more resources to tried and true authors and outlets like e-books and print-on-demand make it possible for new talent to reach readers directly.

M.K. Perkins of Weston had a great story to tell and she had an agent and some good feedback from editors, but her Fairfield County-based thriller was not being picked up. None of the editors was “willing to take a chance on a debut author in today’s market.” So after eight rejections, Ms. Perkins decided to look for a new way to get her book into readers’ hands — and wound up pursuing a multi-faceted campaign.

Deadly Play, “a novel of suspense,” introduces Kate Sachs, a young actress whose circle of friends and family get swept into a dangerous whirlpool of drug deals gone bad when she finds her director beaten nearly to death. The setting is Fairfield County, from the sophisticated environs of a Westport theater to the restaurant-rich streetscape of historic South Norwalk to the leafy reaches of Weston and Easton, with a bit of New York City action as well. An avid reader herself, Ms. Perkins recognizes that a specific setting will appeal to a certain readership, so Fairfield County plays a strong supporting role in the first Kate Sachs book, just as Venice does in Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti mysteries or Vermont does in Archer Mayor’s Joe Gunther procedurals.

A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Michele Perkins was herself once that young actress trying to stand out in a city of eager auditioners. “I was off to the great white way and thought I’d do Shakespeare and Chekhov and ended up as an extra on soap operas and in Woody Allen movies,” she said. Although she came very close to getting a starring role in the musical version Look Homeward Angel, she lost that one to a “star.”  Eventually she decided that a career on stage was not going to be hers, so, she said, “I went back to school and got an MBA at night at NYU, in classes with all these recycled architects and artists.”

That led to a career in finance, but “that creative urge I don’t think ever leaves you,” she said. She eventually started her own consulting company and while doing training in new computer technologies for financial services she used her theater background to make sure that her clients were engaged. “I always approached training as theater. We would script it and we would rehearse it… Everything we did always had a theatrical flair.”

When Ms. Perkins closed down that business in 2004, that creative urge was still burning and she began to turn her attention to the suspense series she wanted to write. As she plotted out Kate’s adventures and researched aspects of the story (“I love the research: it’s a great excuse to avoid the blank page”), she was also considering the state of the publishing industry and how to get her book into print.

The author M.K. Perkins.The author M.K. Perkins.She said that authors are often on their own until they manage to make a name for themselves; the budgets for editing assistance are limited and for marketing are nearly non-existent. However, said Ms. Perkins, “The key to everything is editing.” 

Having found an agent who would send her book to selected editors — they tried eight, one after another — the fledgling author found that even a rejection could provide something valuable. “If that editor gave us some feedback that made some sense, I did a rewrite” and the book became stronger.

Eventually, with her agent’s encouragement, Ms. Perkins considered the self-publishing route and created her own publishing house, Langner Press, LLC. She’d been getting valuable information and advice at Thrillerfest, the International Thriller Writers’ yearly conference, including workshops with veteran authors and speakers like Neil Nyren of G.P. Putnam, who edits authors that include Daniel Silva, one of Ms. Perkins’ favorites.

Now it’s time to get the word out on Kate Sachs, a heroine whose impulse to run toward danger is a constant source of tension in Deadly Play. From a street festival in South Norwalk to Main Street in Westport, to the Easton Cemetery, Kate’s adventures play out in familiar territory, albeit with some special enhancements. The descriptions of Kate’s loft overlooking the water in South Norwalk have caused more than one reader to ask how to find one like it — it is, unfortunately for would-be renters, a product of the author’s imagination. 

Luckily for readers the author’s imagination has also spun a plot that moves along rapidly, with a collection of colorful characters and twists and turns that will appeal to fans of thrillers.

And even as she’s introducing her first book to the world, Ms. Perkins is at work on the second in the Kate Sachs series, because in the new world of publishing, an author needs to keep feeding the fans. She’s developing a fan base on Goodreads.com, a  social website where readers share favorites and recommendations and authors can promote their work and she’s enjoying spreading the word. 

Deadly Play is available at online sites, including Goodreads.com, currently in eBook and print formats and Ms. Perkins hopes to have it in local bookstores in the near future. For more information, visit mkperkins.com.