Christina Hoag interview with David Alan Binder

Post date: Aug 16, 2016 1:58:13 AM

Christina Hoag interview with David Alan Binder

Short Bio from her website:

Girl on the Brink is Christina Hoag's debut novel, published by Fire and Ice YA, an imprint of Melange Books. Her novel Skin of Tattoos, a literary thriller, is forthcoming from Martin Brown Publishing. Her short fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry have been published in 25 literary journals with two of her short stories published in anthologies.

Born in New Zealand, Christina grew up around the world. When she was six years old, she won a prize for "writing interesting stories" and that's what she's been doing ever since, as a journalist and fiction author.

She worked as a reporter and editor for the Miami Herald and the Associated Press, among other news outlets, and won two writing awards from the New Jersey Press Association. She also worked in Latin America nearly a decade, reporting from 14 countries for major media including Time, Business Week, The Financial Times, the Houston Chronicle, and the New York Times.

A graduate of Boston University, she is a member of International Thriller Writers and a volunteer creative writing mentor to at-risk girls with WriteGirl.


1. Where are you currently living (at least the state or if outside US then Country)?

Los Angeles, CA

2. Where did you get your inspiration for your book “Skin of Tattoos?

Since I’ve been a journalist (a newspaper reporter, which almost sounds quaint these days!), I get a lot of ideas and from events and people I’ve covered. The genesis for “Skin of Tattoos” is from a set of interviews I did for a magazine story in El Salvador on gang members deported from Los Angeles to San Salvador, which most of them really didn’t know because their families had emigrated when they were infants or small children. It was a classic “fish out of water” story. They neither belonged in El Salvador nor in the United States. Their story stayed with me because I have a similar experience. I moved around the world as a child, so I feel I don’t really belong anywhere. The novel grew out of that. It’s really a strange take on the immigrant experience. I hope to finish a sequel next year.

3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

I don’t know if this is the most important, but it’s certainly key: If someone critiques your work, it’s only one person’s opinion. But if two people make the same observation, you need to pay attention to what they’re saying. More often than not, it’s something that needs fixing.

4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?

I sit in this weird way with one leg folded to the side and the other leg crossed over it, angled to the other side so basically my legs are going in opposite directions. It looks odd but I find it very comfortable!

5. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

I prefer to go with a publisher because it’s third-party validation of your work. Somebody has read your books and deemed it worthy of publication. On the other hand, anyone can self-publish anything, which means there’s a lot of subpar stuff out there. However, if I were a big bestselling author, I think self-publishing is a very attractive option. You keep all your profits, all your rights and all your control!

a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?

I have two publishers:

Melange Books in Minnesota

Martin Brown Publishing in Indiana

6. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

I think you have to have both print and eBook. Print is not going away anytime soon; many people still prefer a physical book. I read both. Print on demand really offers an attractive publishing model so only the number of books sold is the number of books printed, so publishers aren’t as likely to lose money.

7. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?

Use rejections as critiques and keep revising and polishing. For my novel “Skin of Tattoos,” I got a couple “great” rejections from top editors at major imprints. Once the sting wore off (it always smarts!), I went back and looked at what they were saying and rewrote. And rewrote. And rewrote.

8. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent?

Any tips for new writers on getting one? Cast a wide net and send out queries, that’s how I did it. Another way is to go to writers’ conferences, which often have pitch sessions. It’s a great way to get in front of an agent and get some direct feedback. Twitter also has these pitch-fests that agents participate in. That might also be a good way to get noticed. It’s a tough, soul-sucking process, no doubt about it.

9. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?

Develop a thick skin. It takes courage to write (or do any creative endeavor) and show your work to the world for judgment. Remember that. If there’s someone in your life who does not support you creatively, get rid of them. Be ruthless! Because you must protect your art. I’ve broken up with boyfriends because they were not supportive or did not understand my writing. If it’s a family member, steer clear as much as possible.

10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

How deeply I get into the worlds I create. Sometimes when I break from writing and I get up from my computer, I literally feel almost stunned to be in my house, like I’ve gone on an exhausting journey and I’ve stumbled home. Writing is a strange, inexplicable process. I’ve had a number of people say to me in awe over the years, “how do you think this stuff up? Where does it come from?” The answer is I just don’t know!

11. How many books have you written?

I’ve completed two novels that weirdly are being published at the same time by the two different publishers – “Skin of Tattoos,” a literary crime novel about LA’s gang world, and “Girl on the Brink” (a YA romantic thriller). I also have two novels that have gone through several drafts already. They’re about 80 percent done. I was hoping to finish them this year, not sure I’m going to make that goal.

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)?

I don’t write myself out every day. I leave something – the very next scene, usually - so when I come back the next day I know what to do. I just pick up and keep going. If you write yourself out, then you end up wasting a lot of time wondering what comes next and trying to get back into the rhythm of the story.

13. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?

Not really. They come to me as I’m writing. Although I do outline, the best way I’ve found to plot is to write.

14. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?

I really try to flesh out my characters, give them motivations, personality complexities that stem from their childhood, their experience. I love psychology and studying human behavior and it’s stood me in good stead when writing character. For example, my protagonist, Mags, in “Skin of Tattoos” is a second child same sex (male), which often generate an intense sibling rivalry, especially as the older child is often overachieving and a goody-two-shoes. Mags deeply resents Frank, his older brother, and that gives rise to a lot of plot points.

15. What are some ways in which you promote your work?

I’m doing blog tours for both books. I’ll see how they turn out! I think, though, the best thing to move sales needle is a good review.

16. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?

I wish I would have believed in myself a lot earlier in life and really stuck to developing my fiction because it takes years to really hone your craft. Early on, I kept giving up every time I got rejected. I had no one to urge me to keep going. You have to reach deep inside you to keep going and push yourself. I wish I had known that.

17. What saying or mantra do you live by?

Believe in yourself and that you have something worthwhile to say. Don’t let anyone steer you from your path. Use adversity to develop strength. And just don’t give up. I guess that’s a few mantras!