Elena Hartwell interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Feb 18, 2017 12:29:55 AM
Elena Hartwell interview with David Alan Binder
Her bio from her website: After twenty years in the theater, Elena Hartwell turned her dramatic skills to fiction. Her first novel, One Dead, Two to Go introduces Eddie Shoes, private eye. [He is] Called “the most fun detective since Richard Castle stumbled into the 12th precinct,” by author Peter Clines, I’D Tale Magazine stated, “this quirky combination of a mother-daughter reunion turned crime-fighting duo will captivate readers.”
In addition to her work as a novelist, Elena teaches playwriting at Bellevue College and tours the country to lead writing workshops.
Elena holds a B.A. from the University of San Diego, a M.Ed. from the University of Washington, Tacoma, and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.
1. How do you pronounce your name (only answer if appropriate)?
a. Eee-lay-nuh – the Hartwell is just like it looks J
2. Where are you currently?
a. I live in North Bend, Washington, which many people would recognize as the location where much of “Twin Peaks” was filmed.
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
a. Writing is the easy part, and the only thing you can control. How people react to your work, awards, accolades, sales, are all things you can only influence in minor ways if at all.
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
a. I usually write the ending first. This isn’t unique to me. I know other writers who work this way, but non-writers are often surprised by this. I don’t outline, I write the first draft organically, but typically I write the beginning, then write the end, then fill in the middle. Once I have a solid first draft, I might create an outline to see what problems there are in the story arc or character development, but not always. I always do multiple rewrites while I’m doing that first draft, rewriting sections over and over again while I fill in the missing pieces, so a “first” draft is usually fairly polished.
5. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
a. I don’t self-publish, so I have no insights there. I can say for myself I wanted a publisher because it meant I worked with multiple editors to create the best work possible. It means my novels can go into libraries and other venues that don’t accept self-published books. My publisher also sends the books out for reviews at places I wouldn’t have access to as a self-published author.
b. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?
i. Coffetown Press is the parent publisher; Camel Press is their Mystery imprint. Seattle, Washington.
6. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
a. People read in a variety of ways. Many people travel with an e-reader but read print at home. Some people love following chapters of books on the Internet, others want to listen to an audio format. Recent stats currently show print book sales are on the rise, which is lovely as I’d hate to see them disappear. As a writer, whatever format people want to read my work in is fine with me.
Regarding alternative vs. conventional publishing, conventional publishing is almost a misnomer anymore. We can talk about “Traditional” publishers, meaning the big houses that vet manuscripts through agents, then go through multiple rewrites with the author and editors, a long pre-publication process, before the book comes out in hardback, but even the “traditional” publishers are changing with the times. Many big houses have e-book only imprints. Some authors’ books are coming out Print On Demand, so there isn’t a warehouse with 100,000 copies of a book out there. Many novels only come out in paperback, no hardcover release. Further, some self-published books are later picked up by a traditional house and rereleased, or a small press book is picked up and rereleased, either of these can be with or without major rewrites. So even the conventional landscape isn’t what it was just a few years ago. I think writers have to think through what works best for them, set their writing goals, and stay as current as they can on the industry to know how they want to develop their career. I think readers only care about a good story, regardless of the publishing process.
7. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
a. The big secret is there is no secret. Getting your work published is a combination of hard work, tough skin, and tenacity.
8. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
a. Do your research. Find agents that represent not just your genre, but also the kind of manuscript you’ve written. If an agent represents mystery, but only cozies for adults, don’t send them a supernatural YA mystery. DON’T submit your work until it’s absolutely the best it can be, which means multiple rewrites and potentially working with a freelance editor or at least a few solid beta readers. Always check each agent’s submission guidelines and follow them to the letter. Conferences are a great way to meet agents looking for new authors. If you do get the chance to meet an agent that way, listen to what they have to say, it’s a learning experience, not just a time to mindlessly pitch your work. A great agent is wonderful, but a bad agent is worse than no agent.
9. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
a. Writing is part art, part craft. Learn your craft. Read everything you can in your genre and everything you can outside your genre. What makes a great book? Don’t copy other writers, but start to pay attention to how great writers structure their stories. Take workshops and read books on writing. It’s fine to break the rules, but it’s foolish to assume just because you can string sentences together you’ve written a solid, polished manuscript. Learn what more experienced writers do that works, then, figure out how to make that your own. Yes, voice is individual and important and specific to each writer, but the structure you hang that voice on has to be strong enough to support it. Don’t rush to self-publish just because you want a book out now. You’re hurting writers everywhere by producing bad, unpolished work and calling yourself an “author” – it turns readers off from reading and that’s not good for anyone. Whether you self-publish or go the traditional route, take the time to get it right.
10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
a. I’m always surprised when someone says “I loved your book” or “I loved your play” (I was a playwright long before I was a novelist). It thrills me every time.
11. How many books have you written?
a. Published? Or unpublished? J The Eddie Shoes Mystery Series has Book one, “One Dead, Two to Go,” out now. Book two: “Two Heads are Deader Than One” comes out April 15, 2017. Book three: “Three Strikes, You’re Dead,” launches April 15, 2018, I’m most of the way through the first solid draft of that one.
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)?
a. In my opinion, rewriting is more important than writing. A first draft, no matter how solid or good it feels, is still just a first draft. Mine that draft for everything you can. Cut, add, move, change, consider that first draft a blueprint for moving forward. It’s not the end, it’s the beginning of the journey with that manuscript.
13. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
a. Figure out where you can throw a new wrench at your characters and aim for their heads.
14. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
a. I think my book stands out because it’s a mother/daughter crime fighting duo, my protagonist is half Jewish/half Latina, and I kill people with a sense of humor. Books in general stand out because the author’s voice tells us a story we may know, but does it in a unique way.
15. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
a. Blogging, website, Facebook, Conferences, book events, twitter, Goodreads, and my personal favorite, I have magnets of my book covers on my car.
16. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
a. Take myself seriously twenty years ago. I have so many stories to tell and only so much time to tell them.
17. What saying or mantra do you live by?
a. Rub some dirt in it and shake it off. (I also go with “Suck it up Buttercup” when I’m talking myself out of a funk)
18. Anything else you would like to say?
a. Writing is a career, not a religion. There are no gods, only people who have worked very hard at what they do. Look up to them, but keep in mind they are just people. There’s no secret handshake, just an ear for dialogue, an interest in the human condition, and an imagination that’s always asking “what if?” Most authors love to talk about writing, find out how they work and see what you can incorporate into your own writing practice. But also keep a balanced life. I spend a lot of time with my horses, I read a ton, I get to the gym about five days a week, I don’t lock myself up for months or believe I need to suffer for my art. If you have to suffer for your art, you don’t have enough imagination. Be kind to your community. Respect others on this journey even if you don’t like their work, they’ve put their time in too. Make your characters complex. The world is being dumbed down enough without cutting our fictional characters out of cardboard. See diversity around you and don’t assume the people who look like you are the good guys or the ones who don’t are out to get you. We’re all motivated by a number of things, all the time. Bad people do good things and good people to bad things. While the true violent sociopaths are out there, it’s sometimes more interesting to watch average people do extraordinary things.