Author Interview: Alec Nevala-Lee, Author of THE ICON THIEF

This is a Q&A with author Alec Nevala-Lee, who is celebrating the release of his thriller, THE ICON THIEF, (Signet, March 2012). In a starred review, Publishers Weekly calls THE ICON THIEF an "cerebral, exciting debut." It's his first book, and I always enjoy spotlight up-and-coming authors on my GLA Blog. Read on to learn more... GIVEAWAY: Alec is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within two weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: BlueZebra won.)
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Below find a Q&A with author Alec Nevala-Lee, who is celebrating the release of his thriller, THE ICON THIEF, (Signet, March 2012). In a starred review, Publishers Weekly calls THE ICON THIEF an "cerebral, exciting debut." It's his first book, and I always enjoy spotlight up-and-coming authors on my GLA Blog. Read on to learn more...

GIVEAWAY: Alec is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within two weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: BlueZebra won.)

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What's the book about?

An ambitious young art analyst, a British investigator, and a Russian thief are caught in a murderous race to solve the mystery behind an enigmatic masterpiece by the artist Marcel Duchamp. It's a conspiracy thriller set in the New York art world.

Where do you write from?

My wife and I just bought our first house in Oak Park, Illinois, and I work mostly at home. However, The Icon Thief was primarily researched and written in New York.

What were you writing (and getting published, if applicable) before breaking out with this book?

I spent several years as an associate at an investment firm in Manhattan before leaving to focus on writing. My first novel was a 225,000-word epic set in India, still unpublished, which I'm hoping to rework one day in a somewhat more manageable form. Before the release of The Icon Thief, I'd also published a fair amount of short fiction, mostly in the magazine Analog Science Fiction and Fact.

What was the time frame for writing this book? 

I'd wanted to write a novel about the New York art world for a long time, and I had done the first round of research several years earlier, while still working at my old job. After I began writing The Icon Thief in earnest, the first draft took about a year to finish, followed by another year of revisions. Halfway through the process, the stock market crashed, forcing me to rethink much of my research on art investing—and ultimately to revise the novel to take place in the summer before the financial crisis.

How did you find your agent?

When I first came to New York, I roomed for a year in Queens with two fellow members of my college literary magazine, one of whom was working with my future agent, David Halpern at the Robbins Office, although I didn't query David until much later. (By then, I had actually spent a year revising my first novel with another agent, but we parted ways without going out to publishers—and rightly so, I might add.)

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What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?

I was interested to discover that much of the editorial process has largely been outsourced to agents, with the publishing houses themselves more concerned with the business of packaging and selling books. In my own case, I spent more than a year revising the novel with my agent, while the subsequent rewrites with my editor—a very smart and capable guy—took only a few weeks.

I was also surprised when my editor asked if I could turn the novel into a series. Originally, I'd conceived The Icon Thief as a self-contained story, but I ended up signing a deal for a sequel as well, and I'm currently writing a third and final installment. In retrospect, I can see that it makes a lot of sense from a publisher's perspective—it allows you to build an audience—and I've been grateful for the chance to spend more time with these characters. But it has definitely taken my work in some unexpected directions.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?

Although my first novel was never published, it taught me a lot of important things: how to outline, how to crank out the necessary number of pages each day, and especially how to cut. As a result, I'd like to think that I've acquired some good habits, and I'm very disciplined when it comes to deadlines and revisions. This came in handy when I ended up with nine months to deliver a sequel to The Icon Thief, which had taken more than two years to write.

On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?

I wouldn't have gone out with a draft of a debut novel that was 225,000 words long. I would have made sure that I saw eye to eye with my first agent before spending a year on rewrites. And I would have started much sooner.

Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing the build a platform and gain readership?

I blog every day at http://www.nevalalee.com. I write mostly about the creative process, with occasional excursions into movies, literature, and pop culture, and I was recently surprised to discover that I've produced well over a book's worth of material over the past year and a half.

Website(s)?

http://www.nevalalee.com
http://twitter.com/nevalalee
http://facebook.com/nevalaleebooks

What’s next?

My second novel, City of Exiles, will be released on December 4. I'm about halfway through the third book, currently titled The Scythian, which I'm scheduled to deliver in six months for publication in 2013.

GIVEAWAY: Alec is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within two weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: BlueZebra won.)

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

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