Heather Ames interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Sep 17, 2016 2:44:18 PM
Heather Ames interview with David Alan Binder
Bio from her website: A confirmed nomad, Heather Ames has lived in five countries and seven states. She graduated from high school in England and worked in London before deciding she would rather be traveling around Europe.
After a year and a half in France, she spent a summer in Florence, Italy, the following summer in Marbella, on Spain’s Costa del Sol, then settled in Madrid, where she met and married a GI stationed at the nearby USAF Base.
The couple spent time in Des Moines, IA and Fayetteville, NC before landing in Texas, where Heather attended Houston Community College. Her two children were in elementary school at the time, so she ended up doing homework for three students every night.
She returned to the historical saga she had started after reading the “Angelique” series by Sergeanne Golon. Her 500-page manuscript (which she eventually dubbed a "turkey" and shelved) led her to take classes in creative writing.
As her writing evolved, she focused on romances and romantic suspense and attended many conferences and workshops to hone her craft. She landed an agent. She was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart Competition in Single Title Release as well as a Semi Finalist in the Short and Long Contemporary Romance categories and her own favorite, Romantic Suspense.
After her marriage ended in Phoenix, Heather moved to Boston and a new challenge: documentaries. She took production classes and ultimately wrote, directed, edited and produced two documentaries, one of which was nominated for an award. “Two Minutes and Eighty-Eight Keys” featured a local piano-moving company, which later went on to star in its own reality show on local TV.
Meanwhile, the winters spent shoveling endless snow finally convinced Heather to join her daughter in a trek to Southern California. Once settled in Orange County, she decided to advance her documentary career by enrolling in TV writing and production courses at a local college.
But her desire to write novels resurfaced when her day job transferred her to the San Fernando Valley, where she joined the Alameda Writers Group. She soon became a board member and then moderator and host to the Fiction Special Interest Group (SIG).
Heather also attended the Novel SIG and completed revisions on a previous Golden Heart semi-finalist manuscript. While she was working on the story that became Indelible, two of her other novels, The Sweetest Song and All That Glitters, were published as ebooks.
Many of the places Heather has visited appear as backdrops for her stories, which encompass mainstream mystery and suspense, romantic suspense and contemporary romance.
In addition to her novels, she has written articles and short stories, shared a blog with a fellow writer, and reviewed for Blogcritics, the online magazine covering the arts, culture and society. Other affiliations have included Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers, Willamette Writers, the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition (EPIC), and Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC).
She is currently at work writing Swift Justice, the sequel to Indelible, from her home in Portland, Oregon where she moderates an online critique group as well as a monthly book club.
Mundania Press http://www.mundania.com/author.php?author=Heather+Ames
Romance at Heart Publications http://rahpubs.com/contemporary.htm
Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Heather-Ames/e/B00ITGYJ86
Goodreads author page https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5367400.Heather_Ames
1. How do you pronounce your name?
My last name is pronounced just like it sounds…Ames…James without the J. For some reason, a lot of people try to make it more difficult, or perhaps exotic, by pronouncing it “Armiss.” I always wonder how you can take something so simple and complicate it.
2. Where are you currently living?
What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
I learned how having an agent isn’t always the best road to take. I was agented twice but never sold until I took matters into my own hands. By then, indy publishers had come onto the scene and were much more receptive to manuscripts that were ‘out of the box.’
3. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
I can combine thriller elements with sensuality and make them work for both men and women.
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?
Romance at Heart took a near-miss from my first agent.
Awe-Struck, which was subsequently bought out by Mundania Press took another formerly-agented near-miss.
Mundania was the second publisher to send me a contract in a matter of weeks for a third formerly-agented near-miss.
These are all independent publishers located in the Midwest.
5. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
Lots. After beating my head against a wall with the traditional NY publishers and submitting several manuscripts through one agent to Romance houses and with my second agent to mainstream hard-back publishers, I took several years off from writing and worked at documentary and TV production (I produced 2 documentaries, one of which was nominated for an award, and really learned a lot about timing, tightening dialogue, interviewing, using backdrops effectively and a whole lot more during that period.) By the time I decided to get back to writing fiction, the eBook publishers had taken a firm hold on the market and I was able to submit to them. I now have 2 published eBooks and the third (the first book in a series) is now also available in print form. Having so many more opportunities these days really opened up my options, since I don’t write specifically for one genre, which makes it harder for agents to represent my books to traditional publishers.
6. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
You really have to believe in yourself and what you’re writing. You’re going to get a lot of opinions and, unless you are extraordinarily gifted and/or very lucky, you’re going to hear “no” a lot before you hear “yes.” However, you also have to do your homework. I wrote, revised, attended workshops, joined and volunteered with writers’ organizations, including being a board member, conference committee member/organizer and moving out of my comfort zone to market myself and my books. I read widely, of course, and at first tried my best to pigeon-hole myself (or maybe shoehorn myself is a more appropriate term) to fit guidelines the traditional publishing houses demanded at the time. It didn’t work.
Many want to find a title for me, and they frequently decide I’m a writer of Romantic Suspense, but none of the publishers agreed with that, because my books are too edgy and as one editor put it “the situations are too frightening for our readers.” I write reality. Being in fear for your life, seeing or finding another human being murdered—these situations aren’t pretty, fun or something for the average person to respond well to, unless that person has prior experience, an extremely strong character and/or some back-up, which is where the story really kicks in and becomes interesting to me. However, that said, I do like snappy dialogue and sarcastic humor, so my books aren’t dark and depressing, although the “Indelible” series can be intense. My Romance novels usually tackle problems that can’t easily be solved.
7. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
So, I had 2 agents who believed in my work and my ability to have a career as a writer. Unfortunately, they both marketed books they loved to traditional publishing houses who didn’t want to step away from their guidelines. I also believe, in the case of my second agent, that marketing a paperback writer to hardback houses wasn’t the best plan. I’ve always seen myself as a writer who would end up with dog-eared paperback copies or eReaders stuffed into purses, attaché cases, airplane pockets, the back seat of a car or covered with sand and suntan lotion at the beach. My books are meant to be enjoyed by everyone who can afford a paperback or a download and wants to lose time with a good story. I found both my agents at Romance Writers of America conferences.
8. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
Never ignore the basics: English Lit and Grammar classes, finding other writers with similar skills and beliefs to hang with and learn with; try critique groups until you find one that challenges but doesn’t demean you and your works-in-progress, even in the early drafts, where you’ll make the most mistakes but can fix plot problems, character issues and everything else you can think of before you commit time and energy to something that may not work in the long run.
Join writers’ organizations, not just to attend meetings and hear speakers but to become one more vital part. You’ll learn more about the publishing community by being on a committee or joining a board than you otherwise could over a number of years. You’ll get your name and face recognition, you’ll get more chances to interact with fellow-writers, including the multi-published, and you’ll learn how to be a knowledgeable member of the writing community.
Act professional even if you don’t feel it inside at the beginning of your writing career. Don’t gush, but do give praise where it’s due—it’s always appreciated whether you’re writing your first book or your 50th. Don’t self-publish anything that hasn’t been professionally edited and critiqued. You’ll regret it. Don’t allow anyone to take advantage of you, however hard you want to get published. You don’t have to try to make yourself into something you’re not these days, and you don’t have to have an agent to sell.
9. What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
How giving indy publishers and their staff are, and how much they care about their writers. My last cover wasn’t coming together as completely as I had hoped. I was worried about being labeled as difficult when I sent off an email that would result in a 3rd tweaking, but the editor-in-chief sent me a response that let me know their goal was for me to be happy with the cover. That 3rd tweak resulted in a cover my readers have been as enthusiastic about as I am.
10. How many books have you written?
Written? Quite a few more than I’ve yet had published. I have what I call my “backlist:” Several manuscripts in the file cabinet which were partials sent to my first agent, the rejected hardback that I’m currently revising and updating, the first books for two more series in various stages of completion, the second book in the “Indelible” series, completed and with a partial under consideration, and the synopsis for the next book in the “Indelible” series, which I’m working on right now along with the hardback to paperback revisions.
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)?
No tricks. Hard work (see #9.) Do your homework. If you don’t enjoy writing, then go find something else you enjoy a lot more. Writing may be a bit difficult some days, but drudgery? That’s called burn-out in other professions. If you take some days off and come back feeling like you’re going to do penance, then the writing life really isn’t for you. Find out where your strengths are and use them to your best advantage. Don’t skate over emotions like you’re skating over a frozen pond. Open yourself up; observe everything and everyone around you. Absorb moments in life like a sponge and dig deep within yourself when you’re writing, so you empathize with and understand your characters.
12. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
Turn conformity on its ear. If you think a character will react one way to a situation, conversation or confrontation, think of at least one other way, and what would result from that resolution. It might just be a better character reveal or set you onto a path you hadn’t considered, but which can be far more interesting and insightful than the one you’d originally planned.
13. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
I can mesh mystery, suspense and a love story very successfully, and leave readers wondering what’s going to happen up to the very last chapter. I can write unconventional romances with equally unconventional heroes and feisty heroines who know who they are and where they’re going. They just haven’t figured out they need to be going there together, regardless of what odds are against them.
14. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
All the usual suspects: website, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon author page, my publishers’ websites. Book signings and author appearances. Attending conferences. Book clubs. Interviews, obviously. Any opportunity I get to tell people I’m an author. I always keep bookmarks, postcards and business cards with me. I have several books in a box in the trunk of my car at all times. I can take checks, cash or credit cards, my books are available on Amazon and the publishers’ websites. I’ve got a link to Amazon on my website. I recently joined the board of the local Portland Sisters in Crime’s Harriett Vane Chapter so I can help promote all our published authors this coming year, including myself, of course.
15. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
‘Now’ there are far more opportunities than ‘then.’ If I had been able to submit to indy publishers back when I first started sending out manuscripts, I probably would have been published a lot faster. I took a hiatus of several years before trying with a lot more success to get published. But during that time I learned a lot working in the realm of TV, too, so I can’t say those years were wasted.
16. What saying or mantra do you live by?
I’m still juggling a demanding day job with writing until the end of this year. I try to make sure I currently spend a part of each week revising that psychological suspense, dabbling with the synopsis for the next book in the “Indelible” series, promotion, ensuring both the local book club and the online critique group I moderate are running smoothly and trying to keep the online sites updated. I guess my current mantra is “I can do this.” Whether I’m successful at everything every single week is another matter, but I also have to recognize even I have limits, so sometimes the saying for the week is “Do the best you can.”
17. Anything else you would like to say?
That old saying about having to sit down on a daily basis and write a certain number of words is a fallacy as far as I’m concerned. Some days, if I have the luxury of time, I can spend hours at my computer. Other days, even some weeks, I’m lucky if I can revise a couple of pages. I have had to reconcile that with the frustration I feel when I can’t get to my writing, and take solace in the fact that in 2017 I will be able to write whenever I want, and for however long I want, at which point my productivity and ability to get more of those manuscripts out of the filing cabinet and onto all those sites that have my books listed will increase a lot faster, too. I love to write and to see how I can get my characters out of the corners I paint them into. I want them to succeed, however difficult I make their paths, and yes, I would like to be recognized when I walk into a room, but even if I’m not, as long as my books keep selling, I’ll be a happy writer.