Michael Hartigan interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Apr 6, 2016 1:09:38 PM
Michael Hartigan interview with David Alan Binder
1. Where are you currently living?
2. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
Writing is the most important thing, but not the only thing. It takes leg-work and effort to get your book out there and read by people.
3. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
I like to jot down notes on sticky pads or even email or text myself lines whenever they pop into my head. It gets very random but it works for me.
4. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
I think there are benefits to both. Self-publishing does give you a chance when the traditional route is hard to come by, but I do think there is still something important about having a publisher behind you that can help supplement your marketing efforts.
a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?
Merrimack Media, Cambridge, MA
5. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I do like the convenience of eBooks but I’m a sucker for having a print book in my hands. When I travel I tend to use eBooks but I want hard copies for my bookshelf. I don’t think one will ever overtake the other.
6. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
Keep trying and be creative. I got published by entering a contest – my book had been sitting in a drawer for almost ten years before I submitted to a contest and it won.
7. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
I am currently seeking a literary agent and I do suggest trying to sign on with one. It can be difficult but I have seen colleagues do great things when they have representation. The connections and assistance with navigating the marketing and publishing world can be invaluable.
8. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
Write as much as possible and read as much as possible. It will help you identify a style that you are most comfortable with. That being said, don’t be afraid to flirt with different genres and styles. I write fiction, travel journalism, children’s picture books and more – and I love all of it and have found varying levels of success with each.
9. What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
I realized just how much of myself and people I know go into the creation of fictional characters. Many people will say write what you know – that’s true, because some of the most interesting characters aren’t conjured up out of thin air. Now, all of my characters are pure fiction, but many are amalgamations of different quirks and personalities of people I know. Combining and tweaking and morphing those characteristics into book characters really helps add a level of creativity and intimacy.
10. How many books have you written?
One published novel, Stone Angels. I have also written three children’s picture books, self-published through blurb.com (mainly written as gifts for family members, but I’m now seeking to bring them to a traditional publisher).
11. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?
Use the things important to you for inspiration. I am a lover of classic literature and Stone Angels takes a lot of inspiration from the classics - James Joyce; lots of Shakespeare, especially MacBeth undertones; and even some Flannery O'Connor. But personally, I was also inspired to finish Stone Angels because of my daughter. I had been writing picture books for her as Christmas gifts for the first two years of her life. When I got the second one in my hands, held the hard copy I had made at a website, it made me want to have that feeling with my novel - to hold a hard copy of something I labored at. So I got down to it and finalized Stone Angels.
12. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
Twists can come with plot but you can also surprise a reader by how they feel when they finish the book – leaving them with one emotion when they expected another. A good book will keep the reader thinking long after they close the back cover. My favorite mechanism for this is to develop strong but flawed characters that embody thematic questions and struggles. I wrote Stone Angels understanding that not everyone would like the main character, Augustine Shaw, by the time they finished the last page. In fact, I meant for that and the book really works better because of it. He lets his guilt consume him and it just leads to further tragedy. On one level, Stone Angels is a redemption story. But the book is meant to make you think about whether or not the main character should go forward with confessing his past sins. There’s a little bit of ambiguity there and I hope readers will close that last page and really think about what went on and if Augustine has made the right decision; or should he ever have felt so guilty in the first place. It all goes back to that universal feeling of guilt and how each one of us deals with it differently. Feeling guilt is inevitable – Augustine embodies that. But the reader connects it to his or her own life and thinks about it long after the book is done: we’re all going to do bad things, and we’re all going to feel bad about them – it’s what we then do with that guilt that matters.
13. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
Stone Angels stands out because it is an intimate story with a unique voice. Stone Angels is a layered story with deep characters that are colorful and fully elaborated upon. When I was awarded the 2015 Outstanding Writer Award, I asked the president of Merrimack Media why they chose Stone Angels as the winner. She said because it was unique, unlike anything they’d ever read before. They couldn’t pin it down or think of another book it compared to – in a good way. I attribute this to the story’s intimacy. The main character, Augustine Shaw, is a young man battling with an extremely guilty conscience. At the time of the book, Augustine is a college senior at Providence College in Rhode Island and you’re immediately tossed right into his head. The reader gets to poke around a little, glimpse behind the walls Augustine erects to hide things from other people, including his friends. You see his thought process as he works through some devastating memories of love, loss and tragedy. The book is character-driven, with emphasis on how relationships intertwine, build up and fall apart. Action drives the plot, with fights and romance, but all the while it feels very personal, very intimate, which I think is a unique take that works well.
14. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
I use several social media pages to help promote Stone Angels, but have also reached out proactively to many media outlets around Massachusetts and Rhode Island. My book and I have been featured in dozens of publications and websites. I also enjoy in-person events, like book signings and readings, because it gives me a chance to talk with readers, so I seek out any opportunities.
15. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
I wish I wrote more. Instead of focusing so much on trying to get this one book published, I do wish I balanced my time better and created more stories – after all, that’s the fun part.
16. What would you like carved onto your tombstone? Or what saying or mantra do you live by?
I love to travel, and I write lots of narrative travel pieces. As such, I’ve always gone by the mantra: “Go wherever it takes, but always come back with a good story.”
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