Interview with Greg Messel, author of San Francisco Nights

Greg Messel has spent most of his adult life interested in writing, including a career in the newspaper business. He won a Wyoming Press Association Award as a columnist and has contributed articles to various magazines. Greg lives in Edmonds, Washington on Puget Sound with his wife Jean DeFond.

Greg has written ten novels. His latest is "San Francisco Nights" which is the seventh in a series of mysteries set in 1959 San Francisco. "Shadows In The Fog," "Fog City Strangler," "San Francisco Secrets," "Deadly Plunge" are sequels to the first book in the series "Last of the Seals." His other three novels are "Sunbreaks," "Expiation" and "The Illusion of Certainty." For a more detailed summary of Greg's novels go to 

Greg is currently working on his eleventh novel "Dreams That Never Were" which is not part of the mystery series.



What’s inside the mind of a mystery author? 

Always looking for a potential mystery and caper to put your characters through. I’ve come up with some really challenging dilemmas for my protagonists but some times they are too good. You don’t want to write yourself into a corner that you don’t know how to escape. The way you roll out the story takes some finesse because it’s what you don’t know that makes for tension and suspense. You can have a bad guy come up the stairs but it way more interesting to have someone in a dimly lighted room and they suddenly hear footsteps on the creaky stairs. 

What is so great about being an author? 

I love creating a new world for me and my readers to inhabit. I love the writing process and am driven to try to get better and better with each novel. 

When do you hate it? 

Editing is a tough process but very important. I usually write a first draft then start over again going through the story in great detail. Then I do a third round of polishing before I turn it over to an editor. 

By the time my book is published I’ve probably read it and analyzed it ten times or so. You can get kind of sick of your story after a while. 

What is a regular writing day like for you? 

I like to write in the afternoon when I’m home alone especially in the fall and winter in Seattle. On rainy days it’s very conducive to writing in my office alone. I try to write several hours each day when I’m on a roll. I find if I try to write more than that it becomes too forced. I’ve found it best to write for a few hours and then step away and think about it. I can be in the shower and suddenly realize I have a hole in my plot or whatever. After several months of intense writing to produce “San Francisco Nights” I’m taking the rest of the summer off to recharge a bit and read some other people’s books. However, I’m still thinking about the two books I’ve started that I will get back to this fall. 

How do you handle negative reviews? 

I know the standard answer is don’t take them personally but that’s kind of hard to do. There are some negative comments I think about because I feel it’s constructive criticism. So much that you read on the internet is just snarky and mean-spirited. On Amazon you will two reviews side-by-side—one says you are a genius and the other says you are a terrible writer. Neither comment is true. Sometimes you’d like to respond because the criticism is so unfair and invalid but you can’t do that. You can also see the same type of comments about James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, John Grisham, etc. I would love to be a bad writer like them. I hate negative reviews but readers and reviewers have been very nice to me so far. My favorite negative review said they couldn’t finish the book because it was too confusing. Confusing? Then she said all the pages fell out of the book and she could figure out what order they should be in. (Try the page numbers). This reviewer hoped my writing and the glue I use on my books improves in the future. 

How do you handle positive reviews? 

It is very gratifying when people enjoy your books.  It’s fun when someone really gets the story you were trying to tell. You do need to realize that everyone will not love your book for a whole variety of reasons. I’m happy with 3, 4 or 5 star reviews. 

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author? 

Usually they say “You are! What kind of books do you write?” When I say I write mysteries that usually gets a startled response. Most people have never met anyone who writes mysteries. 

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break? 

There’s a fine line between discipline and forcing it. I try to write every weekday but sometimes you are tired, at a crossroads in your plot or for some other reason just not feeling it. I tell people that writing is not like turning on a faucet. You have to get your head in the story. If I take a trip or something that causes me to stop writing for a couple of weeks, I find that I have to go back to the beginning of the book and work my way forward again so I’m immersed in the plot. 

Any writing quirks? 

Quirks? Me? I’m normal. I’m sure I have some. I like to listen to music while I’m writing but mostly I like for it to be quiet. I can’t multi-task when writing. 

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby? 

I have had that comment before and it drives me crazy. I’ve written ten novels—that way past a hobby. 

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate? 

I can. Sometimes when I’m stressed out or have anxiety about writing, I step back and say “I don’t have to do this.” But the truth is that I “do have to do this.” I’m driven and don’t want to step. 

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money? 

Money is nice but not I don’t. There are some absolute poorly written pieces of trash that have made millions. Yeah, I’m looking at you Fifty Shades and the vampires. I would like to make more money from my writing but it’s wonderful when your books are something you can be proud of and bring joy to people’s lives. 

What has writing taught you? 

It helps me to be more self confident and perserve.  I keep writing, keep trying to get better and one day one of my books is going to hit it big. 

Leave us with some words of wisdom. 

 I heard some great advice from a best selling novelist at a writing conference. He said most writers are nice people and wouldn’t think of doing some of the things described in their books. However, you need to let go. He put it this way—pull up a big dump truck full of “poop” (but he didn’t say poop) and dump it on your lead character and let them work their way out of it. Don’t hold back. Let your imagination run wild. 


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