Lee Higbie is a past president of SouthWest Writers and co-founder/author liaison of Scribl, a new e-publishing company. A former computer engineer, he now writes fiction under the pen name BJ Creighton. His standalone novel No Sanctuary was published in 2015. You can find Lee on LinkedIn and at HigbieAuthors.com, the website he shares with his wife Betty.
What is your elevator pitch for No Sanctuary?
Paul Capodicasa, a wealthy benefactor of Rowe Sanctuary, is bludgeoned to death in one of its blinds. Detective Bobbie Lee must solve the murder while avoiding interference from the Mafia and her district attorney uncle. She must also confront the possibility that her son is the murderer.
What inspired you to write the book?
While volunteering at Nebraska’s Rowe Sanctuary, I was inspired by its photo blinds—much smaller than a jail cell. Two people are locked in these blinds from late afternoon until mid-morning the next day. One look and it was obvious the photographers could be at each other’s throats by the time they were let out.
What makes this novel unique in the murder mystery market?
The detective is forced to confront the probability that her son, given up for adoption 22 years earlier, is the perp. Much of the story revolves around rape—the detective’s rape (leading to the son) and the murderer’s rape in jail, both as teenagers.
What challenges did this work pose for you?
Writing from the point of view of a woman. Initially, Bobbie Lee behaved too much like a man. In early drafts, her behavior was not believable.
Why did you decide to use the particular setting you chose?
Rowe Sanctuary chose me, not the other way around.
What is your favorite scene in No Sanctuary?
The scene where Bobbie Lee nearly drowns trying to cross the Platte River.
Why did you decide to use a pen name?
Two reasons, the first is personal that I won’t go into. The other is that my wife Betty helped me with the novel, and I created a pseudonym that is a combination of our names. From a purely marketing perspective, there are advantages to using different names for completely different types of books.
What first inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve been writing for decades and working on fiction for more than ten years. I wrote several science fiction novels, but those were exercises that helped me learn to write fiction.
Who are your favorite authors?
My favorites vary. I’ll go through a period of reading a bunch of novels by one author, but when I start to see the patterns repeating, I often entirely stop reading their work. I have no literary aspirations, only genre fiction.
Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you started your publishing career today?
Let me quote Dorothy Parker: If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with a copy of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now while they’re happy.
Why did you decide to take the indie route to publishing?
Mostly because I am not yet good enough—I haven’t written any bestsellers—to be noticed by the legacy publishing establishment.
What part do beta readers or critique groups play in your writing process?
Critique groups were very important some years ago, but I haven’t found a group since moving to New Mexico. Now I use editors instead.
How do you break through writer’s block?
Butt In Chair, Hands on Keyboard (BICHOK).
If you had an unlimited budget, how would you spend your money for marketing and promotion of your books?
I’d hire someone else to market and promote my books because it’s something I’m not good at it.
What are your strengths as a writer?
My strengths are probably my work ethic, knowledge of grammar, and the ability to synthesize research results.
Tell us about Scribl, the e-publishing company you co-founded.
Scribl.com, formerly Scribliotech, is a new publisher of ebooks and audio/ebooks with a unique linking of audio and ebook formats and unique pricing and royalty structures. Scribl started with patented technology to set prices based on popularity. Many authors juggle the prices of their books to increase readership because they’ve found setting a low price can increase sales long after the price has returned to normal. CrowdPricing does this by adjusting the pricing depending on sales. Scribl allows readers to rate books, but we factor in the price a reader paid because readers may think a novel is great for $0.99, but not for $5.99. In addition, we distribute to hundreds of book sites (including Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo), so listing a book with us gives it the widest possible distribution. Also, because some sites sell below wholesale, our royalties can be higher than some competitors in some situations.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m just finishing two nonfiction books that I plan to publish in 2016. The first is about wine and is celebratory in tone. It has a lot of illustrations in addition to text. The second is about writing. One of the chapters in the book was published in SWW’s The Storyteller’s Anthology. Both of these projects will end up being about half the size of a novel—more like booklets. I plan to start with print-on-demand, probably through IngramSpark, and e-publish through Scribl once we broaden our list to nonfiction titles (in the very near future).
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.