Alyssa Maxwell interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Jul 25, 2018 10:40:07 PM
Alyssa Maxwell interview with David Alan Binder
Bio from her website: Alyssa Maxwell is the author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries. She is a member of the Mystery Writers of American-Florida Chapter and the Florida Romance Writers.
Alyssa is available for speaking engagements in the South Florida area, and occasionally elsewhere as well. She'd be delighted to address book clubs and take part in writers seminars and library events, etc.
1. Where are you currently?
--My husband and I live in South Florida, and have for the past thirty-odd years. That makes us Floridians, in our book. We love it here, heat and all. And I’m part of a strong writing community, which I wouldn’t trade for anything.
2. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
--That it takes work – a lot of work. Most days it feels like any other job, and often you’d almost rather do laundry than sit down and focus on writing. Creativity is only half the battle, and maybe the hardest battle, but viewing the work with an objective eye is equally important. So is the ability to cut passages that don’t work, and rewrite others that aren’t as strong as they should be. Like I said, work.
3. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
–I’m not sure if this is a quirk, but I don’t write rough drafts—or even drafts, really. I’m constantly editing as I go, and I end up with something that’s pretty much complete. I do go over it more than once to look for things like unresolved threads, breaks in story logic, and typos and wordiness, of course, but that first draft is pretty much the finished product.
4. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
–I’ve never self-published, so I can’t speak about that. I enjoy having a publisher. Yes, you give up a certain amount of control over the production process, but at the same time, you’ve got experienced professionals doing the editing, cover art, marketing plans, etc. Having a publisher also ensures a wider distribution and venues that aren’t typically available to self-published authors, such as libraries and independent bookstores.
a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they located? –I’m published by Kensington, in New York City
5. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
–Personally, I read both eBooks and print books and enjoy both equally well. I’m hearing that the explosion of eBooks has pretty much leveled off, and print books are certainly still around. There’s something to be said about having one’s favorite books on one’s bookshelves, especially if they’re signed by the authors. And the book store experience of browsing hasn’t been replicated online in the same way. There’s an ambience about hanging out at a book store, and I don’t think that will ever completely go away. However, eBooks are convenient and often a lot less expensive. I’m all for options, and for people reading in whatever way makes them most comfortable. It’s all good.
6. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
–My secret is persistence. I kept on writing, and at the same time attending workshops and learning. One piece of advice I heard early on was to decide what kind of career I wanted and set my sights on it. I did that. I wanted to be a New York published author. Each time I sent out a completed manuscript, I immediately moved on and started writing the next story. I didn’t allow myself to stall out or obsess indefinitely over any one manuscript.
7. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
–It’s often said that getting an agent is harder than getting a publisher. I made my first sale through a writing contest where the judging editor asked to see more of the manuscript, and ultimately bought it and two more. It wasn’t until after that that I met my agent. I’d say networking and attending conferences where there are agents present is a good way to bypass the slush piles and establish if an agent is someone you’ll click with. They usually take appointments at conferences, which gives you some private time to discuss your work and ask questions.
8. What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
–To trust in the magic. That’s right, magic. Here’s part of my process: I’ll start a new manuscript with lots of enthusiasm and momentum, but a few chapters in, I’ll suddenly think, “This is awful! What am I doing?” At that point, I have to remember that this always happens, and I have to trust in the magic that the book will turn out as I envisioned it; it will be a good book, and it will be something I’ll love and be proud of. But that initial stumbling block can be a real challenge to my confidence.
9. How many books have you written?
–I’ve got nine mysteries out, plus one more in production, and I’m finishing up yet another as we speak. So that’s eleven, plus nine historical romances I wrote previously, some years ago.
10. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be so specific that this most likely will not have been seen elsewhere)?
–There are no tricks that I know of, and no shortcuts. Someone might be born with a certain amount of talent, but without taking the time to learn the craft, that talent won’t go far. I’m talking about understanding conflict, character arcs, story structure, tension, pacing, etc. These are things that can be learned and improved upon—through writing and writing, and through reading. A writer must read, and in a variety of genres and styles. I also like to say it takes a village to write a book. I recommend joining a writers’ organization, a critique group, and taking advantage of any opportunity to network with and learn from other writers.
11. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
–That can be tricky, and often my plot twists surprise even me. That happens when I’ve got one plan in my synopsis, but suddenly one or more characters will have other (better) ideas, and the story takes an unexpected turn. What that really means, though, is that action is born out of character, just as in real life different individuals will make different choices in similar situations. Sometimes, the best thing a writer can do is listen to the characters. You’ve created them as faceted individuals and allowed them to evolve. Trust them.
12. What is one unusual way in which you promote your work?
–It’s not necessarily unusual, but for my Gilded Newport Mysteries, my husband and I visit Newport yearly, where in addition to doing research and visiting family, we take tons of pictures of me at my various settings that I can post on social media. It’s a way of bringing the settings and stories to life. And I always do a book signing at The Breakers (I’ve also done one at Marble House and have signed stock at a couple of the other mansions), and that’s a complete thrill for me, to sign the books in the houses where they take place.
13. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
–I would get started earlier than I did. I’ve always written, even as a young child, so you could say I’ve always been a writer. I knew I wanted to be an author by high school, but I hadn’t yet figured out what kind of writing or how to get started. I wish I’d focused on fiction sooner and honed those skills say, in my twenties, rather than waiting.
14. What saying or mantra do you live by?
—Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. Life is full of torpedoes, but you’ve got to either find ways of avoiding them, which often means not taking chances or risks, or just plow through them. Sure, you’ll get singed, but you’ll heal.
15. Anything else you would like to say?
–The best thing about being an author, for me, has been the people I’ve met. Fellow authors, readers, industry professionals. I’ve forged bonds with people who are now like second family to me, and I’ve had some extremely meaningful experiences that never would have happened otherwise. And because of my writing, my husband and I have become closer to his Newport roots. He grew up there, but in some ways, he knew very little about Newport history, and his own family’s history there, which goes back generations. So this has been a fascinating journey so far, and I look forward to seeing where it takes me in the future.