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Interview: Andrew Gulli, Editor of No Rest for the Dead

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No Rest for the Dead is an interesting idea with lots of potential.

The book has 25 contributors: Jeff Abbott, Lori Armstrong, Sandra Brown, Thomas Cook, Jeffery Deaver, Diana Gabaldon, Tess Gerritsen, Andrew F. Gulli, Peter James, J.A. Jance, Faye Kellerman, Raymond Khoury, John Lescroart, Jeff Lindsay, Gayle Lynds, Philip Margolin, Alexander McCall Smith, Michael Palmer, T. Jefferson Parker, Matthew Pearl, Kathy Reichs, Marcus Sakey, Jonathan Santlofer, Lisa Scottoline, R.L. Stine, Marcia Talley.

As David Baldacci, a great thriller writer in his own right, says in the introduction,“The lineup of writers who have contributed to this mystery is akin to the Murderers’ Row of the 1927 New York Yankees. There is not a weak spot in the bunch.”

There’s a book signing scheduled for tonight (July 8) in New York City. Details on that event as well as about the project itself are here

I thought this book would be similar to the recent collaboration by Lisa Lutz and her ex-boyfriend – I interviewed them here – where they would take turns writing, and it would be clear by their different styles who was writing what. Also, they dispatch with each other’s favorite characters although that was more due to just them fighting, and I did not expect to see that happening here.

With this book it does indeed alternate authors, but it was hard to tell a lot of difference from one author to another. But that may not be a big deal to some readers.

Or you can take the alternate view as one reader did at the Amazon page for the book: “Since some of my favorite authors (Faye Kellerman, Sandra Brown, Tess Gerritsen, to name a few) took part in this fantastic endeavor, I thought I would be able to differentiate their writing, their voice, from the authors that I don’t know as well. That just wasn’t the case. All of these authors worked so well together that the chapters blended into one another beautifully. I’d love to know how it was done. Did one author write an outline the others worked off of? Did one author write a chapter and then pass if off to the next in line?” As for those questions, read on….

Overall, its a decent thriller/mystery with lots of surprises, and I have to admit I did not see the ending coming, so if you like surprises I think you will enjoy this. Plus, as we discuss in the interview, the book’s proceeds go to a good cause: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

I was offered an interview with Andrew Gulli, editor-in-chief of The Strand Magazine, to talk about how this book came together and that follows.

How did this all come together? What was the impetus? What was the purpose?

In 2007, I had decided to bring a bunch of my writers friends together for a writing project that would aid in the fight against cancer. It had been ten years since my mom had passed away, so I wanted to start something that would strive to make sure that my families’ experiences could have a benefit in the fight against this disease.

What is the goal of this project?

Initially all the writers thought this would be a short story anthology, but then I spoke to one of my friends in the publishing industry, and he pointed out that anthologies had a poor track record when it came to sales, that if I wanted to raise a lot of money I should edit a novel in chapters.

How was it decided which authors would be involved and who would do what part? Was that your job to do that coordinating?

It was definitely not easy to coordinate a project of this magnitude. I’ve been publishing a mystery magazine for the past ten years, so several of the contributors are good friends of mine. The hard part was making sure that I could catch the 25 writers in between books, vacations, and book tours. That was a tough challenge, but several of the writers were wonderful to work with, and because of my personal relationship with them and because of the charitable nature of the book they jumped through hoops to make sure everything worked out in the end.

I was very lucky in that my sister is a very talented editor and made sure that everything made sense; the passages that did not fit with the book were tweaked so that they did and her skill was a huge reason why each writer’s unique style is transparent yet at the same time the book is still fast paced and consistent.

How was it decided which charity would benefit?

In 1997, my mom had passed away from lymphoma after a brave nine year struggle with the disease, in 2007 on the tenth anniversary of her death, I decided to use my resources within the mystery writing community to bring a group of writers together for a project which would raise money for cancer research. After speaking to several charities, I found the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society were great partners and had a proven track record.

With so many new books out this summer what would you say to convince a reader to try this one?

Well, there are 25 bestselling established writers who have contributed to this book, if you were to buy a book by each of these writers to sample their writing style you’d pay almost $400; with this thriller you can enjoy and sample the style of all of these writers ranging from writers as far apart as Alexander McCall Smith and Jeffery Deaver, and in addition to that it’s a damned good read — you’re guaranteed to be surprised at the end.

Were there rules for each author, i.e. a minimum and maximum word count? They were allowed to read the prior entries but not the ones that were written after them?

The book was written in essence inside out in that, book two and three were written first then we decided that we needed some background into the characters, so we included a book one. We tried to keep everything relaxed, though we asked the writers not to mess with other writers by giving the impossible situations to sort out when it was their turn to write the next chapter.

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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.