Sunday, June 7, 2009

MY SUCCESS IS ALL HER FAULT

That's me at right with Mrs. Feely and my sister, Marianne. Back then,

teachers came to homes to visit with students and their parents.


If you don’t like my writing, blame Mrs. Feely. It’s her fault for showing me that newspaper.

Mrs. Francis Feely was my second-grade teacher in Frankfort, the small town south of Chicago in which I grew up. She was smart, funny, a million years old (or so it seemed to a seven-year-old in 1963), and taught us the world.

One wintry day, she handed everyone in class a mimeographed sheet of paper. You remember mimeographs, don’t you? Damp, purple, and so smelly with ink you could get a contact high?

Anyway, the mimeo was filled with small stories topped with the names of eighth-graders. Fascinated, I asked Mrs. Feely what this was. She called it a newspaper, and said it told readers the story of the world as it happens. I asked why my friends’ names were on the stories. She said they wrote them, so they got the credit. I said, Can I do that? She said yes, if I learned to read, write and spell correctly. (Teachers!) I knew then and there that’s what I wanted to do the rest of my life—collect those purple bylines.

So I did.

My senior year of high school, the editor of the local weekly called my principal, asked if he knew someone who’d cover sports for thirty dollars a month. The principal recommended me, as I was editor of the school paper. I took it eagerly, figuring that’s all the money I’d ever need. I came to my senses and spent the next twenty-five years in the news business, the most prominent of which was the Chicago Sun-Times, where I became a senior financial news editor and head of the reporters’ union.

But I’d been fascinated with mysteries and thrillers since Frank and Joe Hardy unearthed the Tower Treasure. So at the millennium, I left a perfectly good weekly paycheck and the glamour of a big-city newsroom to write Blown Away, the debut of my serial-killer series. It became a national bestseller and was named Debut Mystery of the Year by Romantic Times, which is now RT Book Reviews. I followed with my current book, Cut to the Bone and, in summer 2010, you’ll see Moving Target on the nation’s bookshelves. They’ve been a blast to write, and more important, gave me the excuse I wanted to travel the country meeting readers, booksellers and authors. Since Blown Away just came out in Chinese, I’m hoping someone will ask me to fly over there and meet all those readers.

I’m a founding member of International Thriller Writers and a director of the International Festival of Thrillers in New York City—aka, ThrillerFest. I belong to Mystery Writers of America and the Society of Midland Authors. I live in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, where my series is set, and where my wife, Jerrle, and I celebrated our 30th anniversary just last week. We decided to try 30 more, see if we get it right.

I’d also love if you’d visit at http://www.shanegericke.com/. I’d buy you coffee while there, but it's digital, and the powdered creamer won’t dissolve. So stop me at a book convention and we’ll grab a drink, catch up with the world.

And toast Mrs. Feely.

2 comments:

Karin said...

I can remember the teachers coming to the house. I can also remember when parents expected their children to behave and to respect their elders. I also remember listening to the squeeking door as we drove home from our grandparents every other Sunday evening. No matter how some things change though, mysteries are always there for us!

Shane Gericke said...

Thanks for writing, Karin. You betcha mysteries are always there for us. I've read them all my life, and that's why I write them--I love the art form. As for teachers visiting, we lived in a very small town in a rural area, where everybody knew everybody. Mrs. Feely was probably friends with many of the parents, anyway ... so it made the visits fun, not just work.