Debbie Mack interview with David Alan Binder

posted Jun 21, 2018, 3:29 PM by David Alan Binder

Debbie Mack interview with David Alan Binder


Bio from her website:  Debbi Mack’s first novel, Identity Crisis, hit the New York Times ebook bestseller list in 2011 and is the first in the Sam McRae Mystery series. Her second novel, Least Wanted, became a Kindle bestseller during the summer of 2011 in the U.S. and the U.K. The third and fourth novels in the series are Riptide and Deep Six. The main character is a Maryland lawyer-sleuth named Stephanie Ann “Sam” McRae. You can read more about the series on the pages where her series books are featured.

Debbi has also written a young adult novel called Invisible Me, in which Portia Maddox, an outcast 13-year-old albino girl, tries to gain acceptance from her school’s most popular girl, while balancing the needs of another friend. Debbi has also written and published several short stories, including one nominated for a Derringer Award. She’s compiled her short stories into an anthology called Five Uneasy Pieces.

Debbi has a podcast called The Crime Cafe, where she interviews crime fiction, true crime, suspense, and thriller authors. Those podcasts are available in video and audio format on this website, and can be downloaded for free here, or from iTunes, Google Play or SoundCloud.

Debbi is a stroke survivor, who suffers a rare movement disorder called dystonia. In 2009, she organized a fundraiser for a dystonia organization, inspired to do so in great part by a movie called Ikiru.

Debbi has previously reviewed books for Mystery Scene Magazine.

Debbi has adapted her first novel into a screenplay, at the request of Maryland film producer, Lisa Tuvalo, who’s optioned the book. She’s also written a feature film screenplay called The Enemy Within, which made the finals in the Creative World Awards and New York Screenplay Contests in 2015, as well as the Second Round in the 2014 Austin Film Festival screenplay contest. The Enemy Within was chosen to be in the spotlight at ScriptDC 2015.


Here’s the link to the Crime Cafe on my website:

And the Patreon page, which I’m still updating. Feel free to include it:

I am also a die-hard film lover. I blog about movies here on I Found it at the Movies:


1.     Where are you currently living?

Columbia, Maryland.


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

The importance of time management. Plus the benefits of reading other books with a critical eye for what works and what doesn’t.

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

Not sure, I have one. I like writing in the afternoon, for some reason.

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

There can be benefits to being either. However, being an indie author gives you the most control over your content. So, unless someone is willing to offer me a big advance on my print rights, I remain firmly in the self-publishing camp.

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


For what it’s worth, I publish my work under my own imprint, Renegade Press, which is located in Savage, Maryland.


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

For a long time, I made a decent living off of eBook sales. However, the market has become increasingly competitive. As a reader, I prefer print books to eBooks, but I read both. I think authors should make their books available in as many formats as possible, including audio and even graphic versions, if they can find a good illustrator/artist to work with. If they can adapt their work for the screen or fiction podcast format, all the better.

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

I have no secret formula or tips on how to find an agent or publisher. Wish I did, but I’ve struck out enough times to know that not being able to find either shouldn’t stop you.

Learn how to self-publish, then do it. And be aware that you can delegate the work you don’t like to others. You don’t have to do everything yourself.

I’ve found it helpful to connect with freelancers in my area. Getting to know them personally has been a wonderful benefit. However, you can get referrals from trusted sources or use or Upwork to find others who can handle things like cover art, formatting, and editing.

7.     How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent?  Any tips for new writers on getting one?

I don’t have an agent, but one way to find one is to attend various writers’ conferences. There are also groups you can join like (depending on genre) Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and so on. Now and then, one of those groups will include information about finding agents in their newsletters. The magazine Writer’s Digest may also still be a good source, although I no longer read it, because there’s only so much information about this topic I can absorb.

8.     Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be so specific that this most likely will not have been seen elsewhere)?

a. Don’t compare your success to others. Do the best writing you can and find the readership that responds to it.

b. Join a writers’ group and be open to suggested changes from group members.

c. Remember that everyone starts with nothing. If you write the best book you can and find a readership, you’re doing your job.

d. When you start marketing, develop a mailing list. I think a mailing list of readers is your most important marketing asset.

e. Don’t try to do every social media all at once. Sit down and think about where you’ll probably best connect with readers. Then, develop a strategy for using social media.

f. For my money, I think blogging consistently (at least once a week) and providing entertaining, informative, and/or helpful content is more important than any social medium.

g. Think of ways to build your platform that aren’t the usual thing. Go where others haven’t, even if you aren’t ready for it. I started a podcast called the Crime Cafe where I interview crime, suspense, and thriller authors. Did I know everything about podcasting before I started? Heck, no. But I’m heading into my fourth season and have launched a Patreon campaign to defray the costs.

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

The most surprising thing to me was that I learned I could write a young adult story. That was something I hadn’t planned at all.

10.                        How many books have you written?

Kind of depends on what you count as a book. I’ve written six novels (with a novella in the works), one short story collection, and two film review compilations. I’ve also compiled and edited one boxed set and one short story anthology containing works written by guests of the Crime Cafe podcast.

11.                        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)?

a. Make a regular habit of writing. Seriously, set aside specific times during the week when you just write.

b. Take a writing course or read a book about how to structure stories. Once you’ve learned good story structure, you’re way ahead of the game in terms of actually writing something.

c. Read the kinds of books you’d like to write.

d. Keep a journal. It’s great practice for learning how to use words to express your inner thoughts.

e. Remember: you’re allowed to write shitty first drafts. I think Ernest Hemingway may have said that the first draft of anything is always s***. Or maybe it was someone else. Whoever said it, it’s true. So, don’t sweat it. Just get it down on paper. Clean it up later.

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

Think about what the characters want and need then do something that either creates an obstacle or defies their expectations. It could be that another character has misled them, either deliberately or because they’re mistaken. Or it could be that your main character has assumed something that isn’t true. Or your protagonist could be what’s known as an unreliable narrator, i.e., they’ve misled the reader in some way. The twist, in that case, would be when the reader discovers the person who’s been telling the story has misled them.

One of the best ways to think about plot twists comes down to making a big change that’s unexpected. Raymond Chandler said it best: “When in doubt have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.”

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

I’d love to say that it’s the expression of your unique voice as a writer. But that’s only part of it. You also need a great cover that will catch the reader’s eye. An engaging blurb (short description of the story) is also necessary to really stand out.

Unfortunately, to stand out online, it helps to understand things like SEO (search engine optimization) and the effective use of keywords in association with your book. For instance, when I publish my mysteries, I tend to use descriptive keywords and phrases that readers searching for the book would use to find it. Words like “murder mystery” or “female protagonist” work for me. But also words that are even more specific can help you reach the readers you really want.

This is going to sound counter-intuitive, but I think it’s important to “aim small”. In other words, aim for a particular niche readership that you’re fairly certain will like the book. All you need to do is really connect with that group of readers and you’ll have die-hard fans who’ll spread good word of mouth for you. And word of mouth will help your book stand out better than any paid ad or promotion.

14.                        What is one unusual way in which you promote your work?

I’ve been hosting a podcast called the Crime Cafe since 2014, where I interview other crime, suspense, and thriller authors. My hope is that by creating a podcast, I’m making the guests and myself more visible.

I’ve started a Patreon campaign, which I hope will bring fans of these genres together as a community to support the podcast. There is so much information on the Internet about different books, it’s hard to know which ones to read. I hope my podcast helps make my guests’ books more visible, and lets people that I also write in these genres.

I also have a YouTube channel, where I do book reviews and give advice to writers. I’m not actively promoting my work there, but I’d like to think that sharing my thoughts with others on books in and out of the genre will help would-be readers get to know my voice. It’s more of a branding thing, I suppose. I’m not sure if it’s unusual these days, but it’s unusual for me to do things like this.

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

I’d get started sooner. That’s about it. Because the sooner you start, the sooner you accomplish your goals.

16.                        What saying or mantra do you live by?

“Life is either daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller


17.                        Anything else you would like to say?

Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed here. If you’d like to check out my books or the Crime Cafe podcast, just go to my website: