Three years ago, Christopher Greyson was working the night shift at Target and had long put dreams of publishing a novel behind. He felt that the publishing world was only open to a select few, but the rise of digital self-publishing made him reconsider. After putting his novel Girl Jacked on Amazon as an experiment, Greyson’s thriller connected with readers and turned him into one of the platform’s biggest successes. To date, he has sold more than 1 million of his Jack Stratton mystery books and recently released the print version of his stand-alone thriller exploring the psychological aftermath of a murder, The Girl Who Lived,in bookstores across the nation.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I wrote my first book in college. I was a dancer and broke four ligaments in my knee, and it ended my career. In recovery, I wrote Pure of Heart, but the publishing world was much different back then, and I shelved my dream. Twenty years later, my wife asked for help getting her book published, but e-books had now transformed the whole process. I didn’t want to experiment with self-publishing on my wife’s book, so I wrote Girl Jacked, and the minute my fingers hit the keyboard, the decision to become a writer was made for me. I need to write.
What were some of your inspirations for Jack Stratton?
Jack is a mix of my grandfather and Steve McQueen, with a dash of Errol Flynn. Even as a child, I was fascinated with my grandfather’s story. He had a brutal childhood and bore deep scars, both physically and psychologically, from the war. None of this was evident to me, yet there was a story there. Jack’s a real blend of different inspirations, but when it comes down to it, Jack’s a wounded white knight in a fallen world.
Why do you think readers have connected so much with this series?
Because it’s about pain and love and overcoming. I didn’t set out to write that. I set out to write a mystery with these two main characters who happen to be very broken. In a way, everyone is broken somehow. A traumatic event, a deep loss, repeated failure—everyone’s story has those elements. When they read about people who maybe have it a little bit worse off than them but rise above, it makes them feel good.
What’s your best tip for those first trying self-publishing?
The No. 1 tip I have for getting started might surprise people—ask a librarian! They love books and will go to any length to help you add to the multitude surrounding them. I talk to librarians all the time now. They can help you with everything, from pointing you to books that will help get you started to helping you understand the genre you’re writing in. If you want to become a writer, get to the library.
How did you get Jack Stratton to stand out among the other mystery and detective series on Amazon?
It’s edgy and clean, which is a rare combination nowadays. There’s nothing explicitly graphic in the books, yet there’s plenty of gunfights, romance, and grit. I think watching a lot of 1940s cinema helped. My readers range from mothers to Marines, grandmothers to grunts. That’s a huge spectrum, but it’s worth it because it gives me a huge reader base.
What do you have coming up next for your readers?
I’m writing a trilogy of action books with a female yakuza assassin named Kiku as the protagonist. She’s appeared in some of the Jack Stratton stories, and she’s one of my favorite characters.
Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator based in Paris.