Rachel Herz interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Apr 10, 2016 3:51:58 PM
Rachel Herz interview with David Alan Binder
Her bio from the internet: Rachel Herz, Ph.D is a world leading expert in the psychological science of smell. She has been conducting research on the sense of smell since 1990, has published over 70 original research papers, contributed numerous chapters to college textbooks and academic anthologies, received a variety of awards and grants, and teaches in the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences. Dr. Herz also consults for the world's foremost fragrance and flavor companies, and is frequently called upon as an expert witness in cases involving the sense of smell. She has written two popular science books: The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell which was selected as a finalist for the "2009 AAAS Prize for Excellence in Science Books," and That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion, which has received numerous accolades and analyzes the emotion of disgust from culture to neuroscience. Dr. Herz is currently working on a new book exploring how our senses and psychology govern our experience of eating and passion for food. [She has also been interviewed on NPR.]
1. How do you pronounce your name (only answer if appropriate)?
My last name is pronounced “Hers”, like “his and hers”.
2. Where are you currently living?
Warwick, Rhode Island
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
Write as if you are talking to people you respect, like and want to engage.
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
I don’t think this is particularly original as a writing quirk, but I often get important insights or realize something that I need to correct in the wee hours of the morning, so I keep a pad and pen beside the bed at all times. Another time when I often get good ideas is while walking outdoors by myself or with my dog. The key is being physically active in a relatively serene environment and not socializing with anyone else. So far, unfortunately, I haven’t had any eureka moments in the bath or shower.
5. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
I have never self-published though I know people who have and enjoy it. Personally, I prefer to have a publisher take care of all the book production work and issues. It also helps a lot with initial book release PR. I think that by having an official publisher and editor it encourages me to stick to deadlines and treat writing more like a job than a hobby. I would probably procrastinate more and be less productive if everything were just up to me.
a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?
My publisher for The Scent of Desire was Harper Collins, in New York City. My publisher for That’s Disgusting and my current book FOOD SENSE is WW Norton & Co in New York City.
6. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I think it is important to get one’s book out in e-format. The more formats the better!
7. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
Work very hard. Think Beethoven over Mozart. Though you may experience moments of genius inspiration, mostly you just have to work extremely hard, do tons of research, read stacks of other people’s work, and edit and rewrite and then edit and rewrite some more.
8. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
Research agents who work with authors in your writing genre or writers with your background, such as coming from academia, and ask friends who have an agent for advice. Don’t be afraid to start out with an agent on a trial basis. They will probably be doing the same thing with you. If doesn’t work out try someone else.
9. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
Join a local writer’s group or author organization. Although I didn’t do this, because I didn’t know about it, I am loosely part of one now and I can see how helpful it is for writers getting a start, for learning about self-publishing, and for doing local promotion.
10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
That I’m funnier than I think I am, which makes me very happy.
11. How many books have you written?
I have two published books, The Scent of Desire (2007) about everything you ever wanted to know about your sense of smell, and That’s Disgusting (2012) about the complex and fascinating taste-based emotion of disgust. I have a third book in the pipeline called FOOD SENSE about the sensory and psychological factors that influence our relationship with food and our experiences of eating. It is currently under review with my editor at Norton, and is expected to be published by mid-2017.
12. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?
Print out your manuscript and read it in hardcopy! With my most recent book, FOOD SENSE, I made the mistake of thinking that I had become an expert at reading on-screen and that having re-read and edited the chapters so many times as Word documents that I didn’t need to print them out. Wow was that a blunder! I ended up having extra time to work on my book, so decided that I would print it out and sit down to my desk to read it all, and I was mortified to discover how sloppy my writing was and how many ridiculous typos there were. We become “change blind” when we continuously see what we’ve written on screen. There is also something special about reading real paper that you can touch and editing with a pen in your hand. We can hear the words in our head much better and writing/editing is much more effective than it is seeing and typing text on a screen.
13. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
Since I write popular science or “creative non-fiction” it is hard to come up with plot twists, but I always tell stories about specific people when I am explaining a particular topic to make the science more alive, practical and applicable. In my current book, FOOD SENSE, I also carried the travails of two individuals from the first chapter to the last to give the book more of a narrative arc and as a way to provide examples of how various problems can be ameliorated with techniques based on the topics of each chapter.
14. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
I have a relatively unique combination of expertise and experience. I am sensory scientist specializing in smell, taste and flavor. I am also a cognitive neuroscientist with a research focus on learning, memory and emotion. I work in academia as well as the private sector so I have continuous exposure to scholarly work and students as well as industry interests and activities. I make a point about highlighting these features whenever I am trying to promote myself as a writer. I think everyone can find ways to differentiate themselves and/or their work from others and it is important to underscore those special differences when promoting yourself and your book.
15. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
Doing as many interviews as I can. National Public Radio is an especially good outlet because NPR listeners buy books!
16. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
Fret less. It’s unproductive.
17. What would you like carved onto your tombstone? Or what saying or mantra do you live by?
The mantra I try to live by, though not always successfully, is to: conquer fear, be present in every day in every way, and to live life to acquire as much knowledge and experience as I can.
Another is: Love and dogs