Julia McDermott interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Jul 22, 2018 4:35:45 PM
Julia McDermott interview with David Alan Binder
Her Bio from her website: Julia McDermott is the author of domestic psychological suspense novels DADDY’S GIRL and UNDERWATER, a Top 10 Kindle Bestseller. Her debut novel was French travel/young adult romance MAKE THAT DEUX.
In between the publication of her suspense novels, she penned creative nonfiction ALL THE ABOVE: MY SON’S BATTLE WITH BRAIN CANCER, a Top 20 Kindle Bestseller and Finalist for the Georgia Author of the Year Award (GAYA). Her suspense novels were GAYA Nominees, and UNDERWATER was also a Nominee for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award – Best Novel.
Julia is also the author of “Personal Journey” article Fear and Gratitude, published by the Atlanta Journal Constitution in its Sunday edition on July 10, 2016, about her book ALL THE ABOVE, and how her son’s battle with cancer changed her life, and his.
Julia was constantly being drafted to write articles, create newsletters, edit and proof essays, and update websites. Once her kids began to leave the nest, she attended a variety of writing workshops and seminars, joined a writers’ critique group, and launched a career as a multi-genre author.
Julia has appeared as a speaker at several Georgia literary festivals, including the Decatur Book Festival, the Dahlonega Literary Festival, the Milton Literary Festival, and at the Decatur Public Library. In addition to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, she has been featured in Atlanta’s Simply Buckhead Magazine, Northside Woman Magazine, the “Neighbor” Newspapers, the Dunwoody Crier, and in the Carolina Alumni Review magazine.
Julia belongs to the Atlanta Toulouse Sister Cities Committee, Alliance Française, the Atlanta Women’s Chamber of Commerce, mystery writers’ organization Sisters in Crime, Atlanta Pen Women, and the Atlanta Writers Club.
My (her) Links:
1. How do you pronounce your name?
McDermott – emphasis is on the second syllable.
People often ask me, “Is it Julia, or Julie?” It’s Julia (my real name), but most people call me Julie. Though I sign my name Julia, I have no preference.
2. Where are you currently?
I live in a close-in suburb of Atlanta.
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
To be patient, disciplined, and humble (yet self-confident) – and to maintain a thick skin.
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
I revise as I go. I don’t edit, but rewrite as I continue to write more. Then, after my editor sends me her developmental (story-, or overview) edit, I take a few days to absorb it, and then we discuss it via Skype for a few hours before I make revisions – which can take weeks and sometimes months.
5. Tell about your publication journey, and anything that is special or unique about it. Are you self-published, traditionally published, or both?
After many, many months of querying agents for my first novel (a French travel/young adult romance), one that I met at a conference expressed interest in it. She gave me great feedback on how to improve it and told me to contact her when I’d done so. I did, but by then she had quit her job as an agent and had started a company to help authors self-publish.
I didn’t contact her, but found a freelance editor and a cover artist, and learned how to format my book for publication myself as a paperback and e-book. By that time, I had switched genres and had written my second novel, a domestic suspense. Instead of going through the time consuming and arduous process of querying again, I decided to self-publish it as well, this time without taking the time to seek an agent. Meanwhile, I began writing my next book, a true story about my son’s journey with brain cancer.
Six months later, the acquisitions editor at Seattle publisher Thomas & Mercer (the mystery/thriller imprint of Amazon Publishing), approached me out of the blue with a contract. She had discovered my suspense novel, and offered me an advance to acquire it and rerelease it with a new cover and very few story changes.
After reviewing the contract with my lawyer, I signed it without agent representation (probably a mistake, but I had no idea that any would now be interested – see #14 below). That fall, Thomas & Mercer published the novel in paperback, e-book and audio book, and the German translation came out a few months later.
By that time, I had finished my nonfiction book, and I published it independently. A niche book, it quickly became and has remained a strong seller as a self-published book, it was earning double the royalty percentage of a traditionally published book. A year later, the features editor of the Atlanta city newspaper, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, discovered the book and asked me to write an article about it for the Sunday edition.
I did, and shortly afterward, the book won an award, receiving Finalist, Georgia Author of the Year. The AJC published the article I had written, along with photos of me and my son. The publicity the book received fueled sales and led to more appearances for me.
The following year, I finished writing my second suspense novel, not a sequel to the first, but a companion novel, with some shared characters. My editor at Thomas & Mercer had left by now, and the new one I was assigned passed on it. I queried a few agents, but since no one expressed interest, I ultimately decided to self-publish that novel the next spring.
6. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
Be open to any method, ask for help and advice, look for a mentor, and work hard to produce the best writing you can.
7. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers?
Join a writers’ critique group and develop a thick skin. Learn from others. Take feedback seriously but with a grain of salt. And realize that you have a lot to learn – writing is a craft, and you have to put in the time to learn how to do it well.
8. What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
It may not be that surprising, but I’ve learned that the higher your advance, the more marketing your publisher will do for you. On the other hand, authors I know tell me that even if you get a big advance, if you don’t earn it back in sales, your publisher (and your agent) will be much less likely to take a chance on you again. After all, it’s a business.
9. How many books have you written?
3 novels and 1 work of creative nonfiction (memoir).
10. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer?
Read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (it’s a screenplay writing manual, but another version that’s adapted to novels is coming out this fall – I plan to get it and read it). Follow the beats – they work.
11. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
Pay attention to what you dream and come up with in the middle of the night, what your friends suggest (sometimes inadvertently), and what you observe in real life. But don’t make the reader willingly suspend disbelief too far in your twists. They have to be believable.
12. What makes you or any book stand out from the crowd?
I stand out because I’m multi-genre. I’ve also written a short story, to be published in an anthology later this year by Florida publisher Down & Out Books, and I’m working as a ghostwriter on a nonfiction book about a local media personality.
I’m also different because I’ve been open to new experiences that draw attention to me and my books. This spring, I competed in a Celebrity Dance Challenge hosted by a non-profit that raises funds for eating disorders.
And my nonfiction book stands out because it is about a 19-year-old boy (my son) whose courage in fighting cancer was an inspiration to me, to our community, and to countless readers who have been moved by his journey. The book is written from my perspective, and it reads like a medical mystery.
13. What is one unusual way in which you promote your work?
Instead of just relying on social media, email marketing or the publisher’s efforts, I actively market my books locally and in the region where I live. I donate copies to non-profit events and auctions, I ask to appear and speak at festivals and conferences, I seek out book clubs, and I cold call on local businesses to host book signings for me. I don’t just approach bookstores, either. Some of the most successful signings I’ve done have been at antique and specialty stores, beauty salons, and cafes. And I ask local journalists to write about me and my books in newspapers and magazines.
14. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
When Thomas & Mercer approached me with a contract, I would have asked the few writers I knew with agent representation to connect me (immediately) with their agents or agencies. I didn’t realize then that any agent who represented my genre would probably have come running to talk to me, and to represent me (even though my publisher hadn’t offered a huge advance) because I’d already done the agent’s work for them: sold my book to a publisher. I’m not sure I would have gotten a better contract, but I would have had a relationship with an agent – someone interested in working with me to develop my writing – and likely would have had representation for my next novel. When Thomas & Mercer passed on it, agent representation could have been helpful in selling the book to another publisher.
15. What saying or mantra do you live by?
“Never, never, never give up.” and “Courage!”