June 26, 2012

Made It Moment: Alan Orloff

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:53 pm

Deadly Campaign

An unsolicited, unasked-for, unpaid testimonial. This may not be the kind of testimonial the Wizard knew the Scarecrow needed, but for sure it’s one that every writer dreams of. Alan Orloff got his, and it keeps him going during some of those rough writer times. What about you? If you’re a writer, do you remember when a reader first reached out to you as one of Alan’s did? If you’re a reader, do you write to authors you admire? Please share Alan’s Moment…and then perhaps one of your own.

Alan Orloff

When I was a kid, I never wanted to write. In high school, I despised English class and absolutely hated writing essays and reports—I was always the guy who increased the margins and “accidentally” threw in two spaces between words in order to achieve the minimum page requirements with the minimum effort (I would have increased the font size, too, but this was before the wondrous age of personal computers).

In college, I majored in mechanical engineering, just to avoid the whole “writing papers” chore.

All of this “writing avoidance” must have irked my father, who at one point in his life was an English teacher.

That’s why I don’t think I’ve had a “made it” moment. Because writing a book had never been a long-term goal of mine.

Of course, once I began writing, getting published became my goal. And I’ve been fortunate to experience some pretty cool milestones (getting “the call” from an agent, getting my first contract, receiving an Agatha nomination, speaking at the Library of Congress, having my old high school calculus teacher show up at one of my events).

But I think one of the neatest things was getting my first fan email from someone, a complete stranger, who said how much she liked my first book. I’d gotten reviews, of course, but reviewing books was a person’s job. This unsolicited review from a reader was different. She went out of her way to write me a complimentary note.

And it meant the world to me. In fact, when I get bogged down writing a first draft, when I’m fretting over that “muddle in the middle,” thinking I’ll never make sense of my mess, those little notes help keep me going.

Maybe one day, something will happen and I’ll think to myself that I’ve “made it.” Then I can hang up my writing shoes and sail around the world.

But I doubt it. After all, it’s the journey that counts (corny, but true), and I hope I never get so complacent that I stop striving for my next goal.

Besides, I don’t sail.

Alan Orloff’s
debut mystery, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, was a Best First Novel Agatha Award finalist. He writes the Last Laff mystery series for Midnight Ink: DEADLY CAMPAIGN and KILLER ROUTINE. Writing as Zak Allen, he’s published two ebook originals, THE TASTE (horror/thriller) and FIRST TIME KILLER (thriller).


  1. It must have made writing somewhat easier in some ways, and more difficult in others, to have managed to avoid the technical aspects of writing in school. I think of writing as a journey too – and I’m glad to see you are enjoying it!

    Comment by Connie J Jasperson — June 26, 2012 @ 11:39 pm

  2. Alan,

    Whether you’ve been writing a short time or a long time doesn’t matter. What matters is what you’ve written and whether you’ve reached others. Getting that note from a fan, that’s your Made it Moment. You touched that person and that is an accomplishment.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Kellie — June 26, 2012 @ 11:40 pm

  3. Any artist can have a “made it” moment, but the problem is that it’s temporal. It’s always the next story and how we execute it. I hope that with time and increasing skill the process gets easier. But I don’t think it does. Every book is a challenge.

    I’ve enjoyed your series Alan, and I’m looking forward to your next book or your next short. Have a great summer.

    Comment by E. B. Davis — June 27, 2012 @ 4:27 am

  4. Usually you see interviews where the author says they always wanted to write, or have written since they were old enough to hold a crayon. I wonder how many others are like you, Alan, and hated writing in school? My son was like that, and now we can’t stop him!

    I love the ‘muddle in the middle’ line – so true. Best of luck!

    Thanks Jenny, for another great ‘Moment’.

    Comment by mountainmama — June 27, 2012 @ 5:52 am

  5. Alan, some day you can get onboard a sailboat, learn how to rig those sails and blow across the water, and write about it every day! Good luck and thanks for sharing.

    Thanks Jenny!

    Comment by "Doctor Barbara" - Barbara Ebel — June 27, 2012 @ 8:34 am

  6. When I was a little girl, I wrote a fan letter to Thornton Burgess and was absolutely amazed that he wrote back to me! It never occurred to me that the reader/writer connection was as magical for authors as well as readers until I received my first fan letter. For me, hearing from readers is truly the best part about publishing a novel.

    Comment by Sara — June 27, 2012 @ 9:15 am

  7. What’s missing, what’s so intriguing about this post, is why you started writing fiction. All we know is that you wanted to get published which is not the most compelling of goals for a reader. If you get the chance, would you solve this mystery for us and give us a hint as to what possessed you? Hopefully there was some irrepressible trigger, some storyline you just had to explore. Or some novel or two, or some writer who truly inspired you.

    Comment by shelly frome — June 27, 2012 @ 9:43 am

  8. Connie – Thanks! Well, I certainly don’t have to worry about obeying certain rules of writing, because I never learned them! Although I do sometimes wish I’d have read some of the “classics.” There’s a definite gap in my knowledge!

    Kellie – Thanks! It is still somewhat mind-boggling to think that the books I write are being read by thousands of people. And some even like them!

    E.B. – Thanks! You are so right — every book is a challenge. Some things get easier; some things get harder. You still have to pound out 80K words, though! And they have to be in the right order!

    Doctor Barbara – Thanks! I don’t know about sailing (I’ll let you in on a secret – I can’t swim!).

    Mountainmama – Thanks! I’m stuck right now in the muddle in the middle. I guess I just have to believe I’ll find my way out of it (or fix it in the next draft!).

    Sara – It truly is special hearing from someone who has read your work. Sometimes I tell people I’m John Grisham, just to hear more of their compliments.

    Shelly – That’s The Question I always get at my book talks. Why did I decide, all of a sudden, to start writing fiction. I usually just give them a dumb stare, because I honestly don’t know. I’ve always been a big reader, so maybe I thought I should give writing a try? Or maybe it was the lure of some quick, easy cash? (hahahaahahahahahahahah!)

    Comment by Alan Orloff — June 27, 2012 @ 10:01 am

  9. I’m with you, Alan! When readers tell me how much they’ve enjoyed one of my novels, I’m thrilled. But I always wanted to be a writer. Congrats on your novel!

    Comment by Jacqueline Seewald — June 27, 2012 @ 3:20 pm

  10. Alan,
    What a compelling post. The only thing I don’t get is how you manage to keep from shouting to the sky, “I’m a success!” Your background and writing achievements are most impressive. Congratulations. Still, those fan letters feel pretty darned good when they roll in. I received one out of the blue last week when I was seriously questioning the halting progress of my own writing journey. It’s posted prominently above my computer.

    Thanks, Jenny, for another wonderful outing.


    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — June 27, 2012 @ 3:23 pm

  11. Jacqueline – Thanks! It doesn’t take much to make us writers happy, does it? A few kind words about our work and we’ve got a smile on our faces for days!

    Liz – Thanks! Maybe I should start posting my nice letters and take down all those rejections I wallpapered my office with. Keep on writing!

    Comment by Alan Orloff — June 27, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

  12. Alan, what a great post! Usually we writers are talking about how we started writing in utero.

    I do know what you mean about the fan letters or emails out of the blue from strangers who’ve read and loved the books. I doubt the fan can know how much they mean to us. When someone does that or mentions on a blog or Facebook post how much they loved my book, I just want to hug them. I suggest you take down the rejections and paste up the fan mail. ;-)

    Comment by Linda Rodriguez — June 27, 2012 @ 9:47 pm

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