Diane Fanning interview with David Alan Binder

posted Dec 13, 2016, 5:34 AM by David Alan Binder

Diane Fanning interview with David Alan Binder

Bio from her website:  The path my life has followed is a bit convoluted but I am pleased with the current result. I was born in Baltimore, Maryland. My maiden name is Butcher. Honest! I was born as Diane Lynn Butcher. Many in my Dad’s family think that I should have written under my original name when I started authoring true crime books. They thought it would be rather appropriate. They did have a point, but I thought if I did a lot a people would think that I made the name up. A book about murder by Diane Butcher?

When I was 6 years old, we moved into a home my father built in Baltimore County. It was while I lived here that one of the most pivotal events in my life occurred. I was 9 years old when a man, asking for directions, stopped his car on a hill in an empty stretch of road. He opened his car door and asked me to look at his map. I approached and he grabbed my upper arm and tried to pull me into his car. At that moment, another vehicle came up over the hill and the driver laid on the horn. The man let go of my arm and drove off with his car door open. As a big fan of Dragnet on television, I knew to memorize his license plate number. I told it to my mother who passed it along to the police. He was picked up and convicted for the sexual assault and murder of an 8-year-old girl the month before. That incident created in me a lifelong interest in the psychology of the criminal mind. When I heard about Krystal Surles, the 10-year-old who exhibited incredible courage, fortitude and determination to bring an end to the two-decade killing spree of Tommy Lynn Sells, her experience resonated with me. She had done so much more–endured so much more–than I. I simply had to write her story. The result of that was my first true crime book, THROUGH THE WINDOW.

After graduating from Perry Hall High School, I went to Lynchburg College in Virginia and majored in Chemistry. I stayed in that area of Virginia for quite a few years writing for radio and television stations and an advertising agency. While doing that, I earned more than 70 Addy Awards for my work including one for Best in Show. At the same time, I free-lanced magazine articles and personal essays on the side.

I didn’t write a book until I moved to Texas—I just couldn’t focus on a major project like that while I had three kids in the house. I know some women can—God bless them—but I just couldn’t. When my little one went off to Texas A&M, I got busy and have been writing books ever since.

For a while, I kept a day job. When I moved to Texas, I started working in non-profit. In my third position in that field, I was the Executive Director of Another Way Texas Shares (now Community Shares of Texas) for ten years before resigning and writing full time.

In the course of that work, the governor of Texas appointed me for three terms on the State Advisory Committee for the State Employee Charitable Campaign. I also served on the executive committee for the Board of Directors of the National Association for Choice in Giving (NACG) and on the Board for Community Shares-USA. NACG awarded their Freedom Fighter Award to me and Earth Share of Texas executive director Max Woodfin in 2001.

As a writer, I have served on the executive committees of the Writers’ League of Texas and the Heart of Texas chapter of Sisters in Crime. I am also a member of Mystery Writers of America.

My book, WRITTEN IN BLOOD, was nominated for the Edgar Allen Poe award. But the most fulfilling thing for me as a true crime writer was the role I played in finding justice for wrongfully convicted Julie Rea Harper. The story was featured on 20/20. I’ve also been very gratified with the email I’ve received from staff at Domestic Violence Shelters around the country who’ve called GONE FOREVER, an important book for women.

I love to read and always have a book or two in progress.

 

1.     Where are you living currently?

Bedford, Virginia, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains

 

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

A good agent who is willing to provide advocacy, guidance and career management advice is worth far more than the 15% you pay.  My agent, Jane Dystel with Dystel, Goderich and Bourret Literary Management is superb.

 

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

My first draft is done on a legal pad with a pencil.

 

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

 

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

Mostly I use a publisher.  I have had three: St. Martins, New York; Berkley Books, New York, and Severn House, London.  Even with publishers, most of the promotional effort is something you must do.  Support from publishers is minimal.  The biggest benefit is their ability to get books on book shelves in retail outlet.  Some publishers do this far better than others.

b.     I have self-published the digital version of four books already published in book form by Severn House and one with St. Martins.  By choice, I have self-published two short books: Black Widow about Betty Neumar and her five dead husbands; and Holy Homicide about three murders linked to the church.  I have also self-published, as an eBook, the Lucinda Pierce Boxed Set that contains the first three novels in the Lt. Lucinda Pierce series.

 

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

After an initial rush to buy eBooks, print books have reasserted themselves.  The biggest problem with the eBook market is the glut that makes it difficult for you to be seen by the public.  The reputation of the digital market has gone down because of the lack of quality control.  There are still many first-rate self-published digital books but the presence of sloppily-edited and poorly-written books has tarnished some of its sparkle.  Although profits are higher with each sale of an eBook, there still does not seem to be a better way to make sales than with a national publisher who can distribute those books.

 

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

Follow your passion.  Don’t write a book because that type or theme or subject matter seems hot right now.  Write about what matters to you, stories that resonate with you.  Writing the next Harry Potter when a thousand others are doing the same thing is not a recipe for success.         

 

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

Persistence is the key.  It took me two years of collecting rejection notices before I finally got an agent.  Just keep trying.  Keep writing.  Keep reading. 

 

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

The best tool for finding the best agent for you are Jeff Hermann’s guides.  (https://www.amazon.com/Hermans-Publishers-Editors-Literary-Agents-ebook/dp/B01LA268C0/ref=sr_1_1?s=digitaltext&ie=UTF8&qid=1481387120&sr=1-1&keywords=jeff+herman%27s+guide+to+book+publishers+2017)  They contain more personal information about the agents based on questionnaires they submit.  Using that information, make a list of ten or fifteen that seem to have a personal interest in some aspect of book. 

Also, make sure you precisely follow the directions for submissions on the agent’s website.  When they are overloaded, it is easy for them to reject authors simply because they did not follow directions.

Another killer is an attitude of braggadocio.  Even if you are certain that you have written the great American novel, don’t say that you are guaranteed New York Times bestseller status out of the gate or that James Patterson will swoon when he reads your book.  The power of an understatement will work far better for you.

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

It’s easier to get in the flow—to lose yourself in the story you are weaving—when there isn’t a machine between you and your writing.  That is why my first draft is in pencil on a legal pad.  That medium takes away the fear of making a mistake and sets you free from your inhibitions.

10.                        How many books have you written?

Twenty-seven.

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)?

Read.  Every day.  Every genre.  Don’t fall into the I-don’t-have-time trap.  You must make time.  You can learn from good writers.  You can learn from bad writers.  And if you want to perfect your craft, you need to learn continuously.  If you borrow a method from a different genre and incorporate it into your own, you’ve created something fresh and different.  Explore the world of writing to embrace your craft.

 

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

Once you know where your story will end, look for other possibilities for endings.  Then write as if you were headed for an alternative conclusion. 

When you finish, go back and make sure that you left crumbs of fore-shadowing so that the real ending is credible for the reader.

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

Social media, of course.  Interviews on broadcast and internet radio are a big help.  Obtaining those are easier for non-fiction but if you can find a real life-hook in your fiction, use that to market yourself as an interview subject.  Libraries are a great place to do a reading or a talk.  They generate a lot of word of mouth.  If you are early in your writing career, oftentimes it will work better if you join forces with other writers and offer a panel or group discussion for library patrons.

 

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

I would have taken my dream to be a writer more seriously at an earlier age.  I would have stop listening to nay-sayers in the non-writer world and listened more to inspiration and critique from other writers.

 

15.                        What saying or mantra do you live by?

I have two:

“If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”  Joseph Campbell

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

 

16.                        Anything else you would like to say?

Rejection is part of the process.  It is difficult to use it to build your determination to master your craft but that is what you need to do.  Never, never, never give up. 

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