Guest Blogger Thonie Hevron’s interview reveals her writing successes.
What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience?
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? I used to have to light a specific scented candle but I’ve outgrown that. I had to write to classical music, but I find it distracting now. I won’t drink wine while I am working or anything but water or coffee. Pretty boring, I’d say. Sometimes, those quirks become excuses for not putting my butt in the chair. No quirks, no excuses.
Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
I’ve done both and each has plusses and minuses. Self-publishing has more author control. I recall after my first book, By Force or Fear, came out, a reader said he found very few editorial mistakes. That was one of my goals. Editing is one of the most exacting, tedious jobs in authorship. Then, I got a small press publisher (who eventually published my first book) for my second thriller, Intent to Hold. After Intent was published, a friend called me to tell me he wanted to give the book five stars on Amazon reviews but couldn’t because there were so many editorial mistakes. There was a whole printing of books that had most of the Mexican words underlined (the correct formatting to indicate italics). Yikes! I’d been given the galleys to check but that slipped by both me and the publisher. I had to destroy a whole $hipment.
Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
For alternative versus conventional publishing: it depends on your genre, your book, your audience, and many other things. I write traditional police procedurals/crime thrillers so an alternative publisher probably wouldn’t suit me. But other authors are well served by this medium. Bottom line is, you, as an author, have to educate yourself on the business.
Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
First, there is no secret. Just write and produce a marketable product. Second, get the word out: enter contests, query literary agents and publishers until you find what you need. Thirdly, but not least, market yourself and your work. Public relations is one of the most daunting aspects of today’s publishing world. But if an agent or publisher looks at your work compared to another author and you have a solid, thriving platform, chances are good they’ll look harder at you. After all, they only make money if your books sell. If you’re engaged in selling them, too, and the other author isn’t, you are the better bet.
How would you suggest acquiring an agent?
- Query, query, query.
- Go to writers conferences (volunteering is a great way to get in cheap sometimes); join a writers club (I belong to the Redwood Branch of the California Writers’ Club, an incredibly active club that has helped me learn to set goals, organize, write better, market and so much more).
- Go to club workshops, pitch sessions, and volunteer to help at events or the leadership level.
- I belong to Public Safety Writers Club, Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers. All offer scoops on agents currently looking for new projects.
- Sometimes the agents attend the club conferences looking for new clients.
- Subscribe to blog newsletters like Funds for Writers: mystery writer C. Hope Clark offers a free version with agent info. I check that every week.
- Find a book in your genre that you like, find the author’s agent, research and pitch/query him or her.
- Subscribe to QueryTracker or one of the many online (free!) programs to put you in touch with agents and/or publishers.
- Check out this excellent post to Nancy Cohen’s site for further resources: Getting an Agent
Do you have any suggestions for new writers?
Write: put your butt in the chair and write, even if you toss it tomorrow, there may be something that leads to something else. Write: if it takes a schedule carved in stone, getting up at 5 A.M., or finding a place outside the home. Write!
Develop a thick skin: know that when you ask your mother about your newest work, she is going to tell you it’s a masterpiece. Not so with the rest of the world. I joined my current critique group ten years ago and have learned so much; become a better writer because of their criticisms. I wouldn’t trade any of them.
Speaking of critique groups: Join one! Find a group of people with similar goals (not necessarily similar genres) to cheer you on, to point out better ways to say it, to give you ideas when you’re stuck, challenge you to dig deeper, but one of the most cogent arguments for a critique group: to produce ten pages of work every meeting.
Join a writer’s club: even if you have to do it from a distance (online). Nothing beats glad-handing with other reclusive writers (you want me to meet other people???). These days authors are so much more than writers. They’re speakers, experts, bloggers, marketers, and so on. Like it or not, the Hemingwayian prototype of the writer as a hard-drinking ascetic is history. Today, writers network.
What was the most surprising thing you learned with your creative process with your books?
That I could do it. I never doubted that I had the skill to write, oddly enough. My uncertainties lay in setting and achieving a goal. Typing “The End” on the manuscript. When I finally did, I had to polish it heavily.
I had to learn new skills such as social media, blogging and public speaking (what??? Not me, the girl who couldn’t get up in front of a crowd to be her best friend’s bridesmaid!). Not to mention formatting, even if I’m traditionally published, the editor requires the text to be just so.
How many books have you written?
Do you have any tips to help others become a better writer?
Stay current with what my genre is producing; they evolve daily. See what is being published and what is selling. I look at the monthly reports from International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. They give comprehensive info on what’s out there.
I keep a stock of writing craft books on hand so when I get stuck at a denouement (for instance), I can research Stephen King, David Corbett, Nancy Kress, Jordan Rosenfeld and more.
My quick go-to is my critique group. They challenge me.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
Because my topics are so real, they tend to be dark. But I have the cop-survival mechanism of humor to defuse the tension. I think the blend is unique.
I also love to make the setting a character. Whether it is Sonoma County or Puerto Vallarta, I like to take readers there: how does it feel (humid or damp)? Smell (jungles are full of growing things that give off scents)?
How do you promote your work?
I use social media to get to audiences. I market heavily to cops so I belong to Facebook groups and post my blog links. Readings are huge. Our local bookstore, Copperfield’s and my writers club, Redwood Writers, host many literary events at which I have appeared as an emcee and featured author. I meet customers at local fairs and festivals. I give out freebies like bookmarks with my book info on them.
What is the one thing you would do differently now?
I’d have started sooner. I wrote as a kid but never had any direction. In my fifties that I decided I’d better get to it if I wanted to write a book. Marketing wasn’t on the radar then or I probably would have been scared off! Basically, I would have believed in myself sooner.
What saying or mantra do you live by?
Put your butt in the chair and write. Quitting is the sure road to failure.
About Thonie Hevron:
After accepting a dare, I was hired by San Rafael Police in 1973 as a Parking Enforcement Officer. Now, 35 years later, I look back on a long and varied years in law enforcement. It was a career that fuels BY FORCE OR FEAR and many more. I spent nearly seven years on the street as a Community Service Officer but the bulk of my tenure has been as a dispatcher. During that time I have written several technical manuals. Because of my interest in writing, I have authored law enforcement related newspaper columns for the Inyo Register, Tri-City Times and the North Valley Times. I write like I think: like a cop. After spending so much time in the field, I’ve learned many things. My most useful lesson is that I’ll never know it all. There’s always research to be done, people to talk to, stories to write.