George A. Bernstein is the retired President of a Chicago appliance manufacturing company, now living in south Florida. Able to retire early and looking for something to do besides play golf, he leaned on a life-time flair for storytelling and turned to writing novels. He spent years attending writing seminars and conferences, learning to polish his work and developing a strong “voice.” Bernstein is acclaimed by his peers as a superb wordsmith.
His first novel, Trapped, was a winner in a small Indie publisher’s “Next Great American Novel” contest, and received high praise, gaining many mostly 5-star reviews at Amazon (reaching their “Top 100”) and Goodreads. His 2nd novel, A 3rd Time to Die (A paranormal Romantic Suspense) has also garnered mostly 5-Star & 4-Star reviews, with one reader likening him to the best, less “spooky” works of Dean Koontz & Stephen King.
The Prom Dress Killer is the third of his Detective Al Warner Suspense series, with the first, Death’s Angel, and the second, Born to Die, already garnering rave reviews. Bernstein has the next Warner novel already in the works, to be published in 2017. Readers have likened Bernstein’s Detective Al Warner to Patterson’s Alex Cross.
Bernstein works with professional editors to ensure his novels meets his own rigorous standards, and all of his books are currently published by small indie press, GnD Publishing LLC, in which he has an interest. Bernstein is also a “World-class” fly-fisherman, setting a baker’s dozen IGFA World Records, mostly on fly-rods, and has published Toothy Critters Love Flies, the complete book on fly-fishing for pike & musky.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book The Prom Dress Killer. When did you start writing and what got you into suspense?
I started my first novel, Trapped, in 1990, when I was able to retire early from my fishing & hunting tour business. My wife, Dolores, said, “What are you going to do with your time? You don’t love golf or cards. Maybe you should use your story-telling and imagination, and write a novel.” She even suggested the subject, based on a neighbor woman who had fallen into a coma after failed cosmetic surgery.
My protagonist, Jackee, becomes trapped in “Locked-in Syndrome, despite me not knowing it was a real condition at the time. It just flowed naturally into becoming a suspense, as Jackee realizes the anesthetic accident was NOT an accident. Then she slowly becomes telepathic and using that power, seeks retribution for those who would kill her. After much rewriting and effort, Trapped won small publisher, TAG Publishers, “Next Great American Novel” contest.
I attended many writers conferences and seminars to learn to be an accomplished author, and continuing in suspense just seemed natural for me and my fertile imagination.
What is your book about?
The Prom Dress Killer begins with a psychotic serial-killer abducting young auburn-haired woman, and eventually killing them, leaving their bodies in peaceful repose, donned in fancy prom dresses.
Miami’s crack homicide detective, Al Warner, is on the case, but has no inkling as to why these girls were taken and then executed? What was their connection besides their red hair, and why the prom dresses?
Warner’s hunt for this clever psycho is stymied by a lack of clues as bodies begin to pile up. As he desperately searches for the latest victim, the murderer finally makes one tiny error, possibly exposing his location.
As Warner and the FBI doggedly zero in on their fleeing prey and his newest captive, the action escalates. Unlikely players are drawn into a tense, deadly game. As the stunning climax plays out, Warner is trapped in a classic Catch-22. In order to snare this lethal psycho, he must make a decision that may haunt him forever.
What was your inspiration for it?
Scheherazade. I know that sounds strange, but I love the stories of A Thousand and One Nights. I thought of writing a current day novel where a desperate woman uses her story-telling ability to delay and entertain a killer until she can be rescued.
What was your publishing process like?
In the beginning, I researched agents, wrote the best query letters I could … and fielded the form letter rejections, one after another. I attended writer’s conferences, pitched editors and agents, several of which some agreed to read Trapped, but still ultimately rejected it. However, I got some good feedback, rewrote the novel, removing a side plot that I loved after both an agent and an editor suggested it … and then fielded more rejections.
Meanwhile, I began my next novel, and then miraculously, after only 20 years, Trapped was selected as “The Next Great American Novel” by TAG Publishers, a small traditional publisher, and went on to become an Amazon Top 100 novel, with loads of 5-Star reviews. Getting traditionally published takes unending preservation and a very thick skin.
Now all my novels, including my Detective Al Warner Series, are published by GnD Publishing LLC, a small indie publisher.
How do you define success?
By reading praise, especially for my voice and my ability to weave a complicated and engaging plot. When readers are eager to read my next novel, I know I’ve done the job right.
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?
My fiction web site is: suspenseguy.com
My no-fiction web site for my book about fly-fishing is: pikeflyguy.com
And all my work can be seen at my Amazon page
What is your advice for aspiring authors?
First, don’t do it, unless you realize you’ll probably never make enough money to justify the effort. Few self-published novels sell even 100 copies in its lifetime.
But, knowing that, if you still want to persist, my first suggestion to every new writer is to find a GOOD writers conference (or 2 or 3), hopefully somewhere near enough to drive to…unless you’ve got cash to burn. Then I recommend you fly to Maui. That’s the Cadillac of conferences.
A well-run conference is usually operated by local writing groups. The Florida Writers Association, for instance, hosts a 3-day event every October, usually in the Orlando area. The Mystery Writers of America hold an excellent conference, The Sleuth Fest, in South Florida, usually in late April.
While these better conferences will almost always have several agents and editors to whom you can pitch your work, the real reason for going is for the classes. You’ll find a plethora of sessions on every phase of writing, publishing, promotion and how to find agents and editors. More classes than you can possibly attend.
Once you start listening to professionals show you what makes great writing, you’ll be stunned at how little you actually knew. There often are critique sessions, too, and you’ll have a chance to network with other aspiring writers, and maybe establish some critique partners. And if you’re lucky, you may connect with an agent or editor who will be willing to read your work. Personal contact can get you past their slush pile, even if they don’t eventually take you on. At least you may get some real feedback, rather than a form-letter rejection.
Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
That I hope they enjoy The Prom Dress Killer, and become Detective Al Warner fans. Hopefully, they’ll want to go back and read Death’s Angel and Born to Die, the first and second Warner novels, to learn how Warner got to this place and time.
Thanks for taking the time for this interview.