Dandi Mackall interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Apr 1, 2016 1:03:51 PM
Dandi Mackall interview with David Alan Binder
Dear Writers and Dear Readers, there is a mega-ton to learn from this author. Enjoy!
Some of Dandi Mackall’s successes: Last year she had a funny, romantic novel, MY BOYFRIENDS’ DOGS, become a Hallmark Movie—so fun! And the year before, THE SILENCE OF MURDER, won the Edgar Award for Best YA Mystery. At the same time, MY BIBLE ANIMALS STORYBOOK won the Christian Book Award for 2015, while WINNIE THE HORSE GENTLER (teen series) sales and LITTLE BLESSINGS board books topped a million.
Bio from her website: I have always loved to write. Before I could hold a pen, I think I was imagining stories in my head. I grew up in a small town, Hamilton, Missouri. Every night, my mom read fairy tales to me. Then Dad would come in and make up a bedtime story, inviting my assistance. “Once upon a time, there were four horses on a hill,” he’d begin. “And their colors were….” Then I’d get to chime in: “Um…brown…and brown…and brown and brown.” Fortunately, I got more creative as time went on.
Stories surrounded me. As Mom told about growing up in a family of 13, her “characters” came to life. When Dad shared his war stories, how he met my mom in basic training when WWII broke out, how they married, then spent the war overseas as Army doctor and Army nurse, stationed in different countries, I could picture it all. I came by storytelling honestly, I suppose.
While I was still a student at the University of Missouri, I wrote for fun—Letters to the Editor, then articles for major magazines. Eventually, I wrote my first book, a nonfiction humor and inspirational for grownups. I continued writing for the adult market, book after book, believing this was my career.
Then I had children—and I discovered the world of children’s books. Since then, although I’ve never stopped writing for grown-ups, I’ve made a nice living writing for children. When the kids were little, I wrote board books. As they grew, I grew with them—writing picture books, early readers, chapter books, middle-grade fiction and nonfiction, and young adult novels. But as I moved to a new age group, I kept writing for the other groups too. And now I can honestly say that I write for every age. Lucky me!
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1. How do you pronounce your name (only answer if appropriate)?
MACK-ul, like cackle. I love my husband, but before we got married, I was “Dandi Daley” – such a great writing name, right?
2. Where are you currently living?
In the woods of rural Ohio, where we have to drive 20 minutes if we run out of milk. I love it here, even though I grew up in Missouri and claim to be a Missourian.
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
The joy is in the writing, and it’s such a privilege to be able to write as long as I have (35 years—of course, that means I was only 2 when the first book came out, right?). If I’d never earned a dollar from writing, I would have written anyway.
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
I write for absolutely every age and genre. I know, I know, we’re supposed to focus and “brand” so our readers know and follow what they like to read. I get it. I don’t want to buy the latest book from my favorite mystery writer and discover it’s a romance. But as an author, I have to write the ideas that take hold. Currently, I’m in edits with one publisher on an adult novel set in WWII. At the same time, I have a Rock and Roll picture book coming out, 2 middle-grade novels—one very funny and one should make you cry, a YA mystery, a Christmas picture book, and a board book—oh, and something I’ve wanted to do for a decade—a new line of picture books, Flip Books, all mine, where you get to read two sides of the same story and see that there really is more to each story.
5. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
I’m still writing for traditional publishers. It’s a good fit for me because I’m not sure I’d enjoy all the business and social media part of being my own publisher, hiring an editor, etc. But I certainly know many other authors who have made the switch successfully.
a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?
NYC: Knopf/Random House; Penguin; Dutton; Simon & Schuster; HarperCollins; Skyhorse; Sourcebooks; Bloomsbury
Sleeping Bear Press, Michigan; Tyndale House, Chicago; Thomas Nelson, Nashville; Zondervan, Grand Rapids; Broadman, Nashville; Standard Publishing, Cincinnati; Concordia Publishing House
There have been others who are no more . . .
6. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I admit I love books in any and every form, including audible books. I like that my publishers have to take care of getting my words into all of these forms.
7. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
Write the book that only you could write. Is that too trite? But I mean it. If you’re only writing to make money, you should try an easier job. Yet I believe that God has given each of us uniqueness; nobody has your thoughts (thank goodness) or your experience or your insights or troubles or triumphs. I’ll let this stand as my ethereal advice and offer practical advice below. (So don’t give me a hard time.)
8. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
I got my first agent when I sold my first book and asked her to negotiate it. We were together for 20 years, when she retired (the quitter). I went with Curtis Brown in NYC after talking to other authors about their agents, and that’s where I am now. Tips on getting an agent: 1) Go to writer’s conferences where agents give talks and give manuscript evaluations. 2) Don’t carry that same manuscript around and show it to agent after agent. You can write without an agent. And in many genres, you can still publish without one. I’d still recommend one, since modern contracts can run 20+ pages single-spaced.
9. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
Children’s writers—join Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (scbwi.org). Get in critique groups. Go to conferences. Work on your craft.
Mystery writers—join MWA (Mystery Writers of America) and other great groups of people who write what you write.
And so on . . .
10. How many books have you written?
Well, I’ve published over 450 books, but I’ve probably written twice that many that got rejected. So stick with it. Many of my rejected manuscripts were accepted years later. Trends change, and hopefully, I grew as a writer. (Or maybe those publishers just wised up.)
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)?
Pay attention. It’s the little things you glimpse going through your day that could provide the perfect detail in your novel—an eagle crucified against the sky; the smell of mercurochrome mixed with Ivory soap; the young guy on the bus with grandfather-worthy wrinkles.
Books may feel as if they’re your children, but they’re not. It’s okay for others in a critique session to point out problems. That’s why you go to critique groups. You need others to read your work and give input. Don’t be defensive.
Use strong verbs. Love words and the sound of them. Love similes and metaphors when they work and get you extra mileage out of fewer words.
Inside every fat book there’s a skinny book waiting to come out. Self-edit like crazy!
· Begin each story, maybe each chapter and scene, with this tension: Will he/she or won’t he/she? The question has to be answered at the end, yes or no.
12. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
Isn’t that just the hardest thing? My best twists have come from life—I started with them before I wrote the story. So, back to Pay Attention.
Play the What-If game at different stages of your writing. How could you shake things up?
Make yourself write a scene that’s the exact opposite of what you were expecting to write.
Write a scene where your main character acts totally out of character.
13. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
Aw, are you saying we do stand out from the crowd? Probably the diversity. Last year I had a funny, romantic novel, MY BOYFRIENDS’ DOGS, become a Hallmark Movie—so fun! And the year before, THE SILENCE OF MURDER, won the Edgar Award for Best YA Mystery. At the same time, MY BIBLE ANIMALS STORYBOOK won the Christian Book Award for 2015, while WINNIE THE HORSE GENTLER (teen series) sales and LITTLE BLESSINGS board books topped a million.
14. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
Well, now you’ve nailed me. Blogs and tweets—so very hard! Honestly, I think my best promos are: radio interviews, book fairs (state ones), my newsletter to my best readers, author visits to schools all across the U.S. (you leave hundreds of for-life fans). But I’m going to work on a more interactive website and regularity on social media because I have to.
15. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
I would reclaim 2 (out of over 450) books. The illustrator of one book missed the entire premise of the book, and the publisher didn’t show me illustrations. I cried when the book came out. Fortunately, sales were rotten, so not many saw it. The other book, I’d take to a different publisher (enough said.)
16. What would you like carved onto your tombstone? Or what saying or mantra do you live by?
God has just been so very good to me. I’m planning on writing more in heaven.
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