Kelly Garrett interview with David Alan Binder

Post date: Feb 15, 2017 1:11:05 AM

Kelly Garrett interview with David Alan Binder

Her bio from her website: Her debut novel, The Last To Die, will come out in April, 2017 from Poisoned Pen Press. She is also a member of Not The Usual Suspects, a group Facebook page and blog along with several fellow Portland-area writers.







  1. How do you pronounce your name?

Kel-ee Gar-it

  1. Where are you currently living?

I live in Portland, Oregon. I'm a fairly rare Portlander: I was born in Oregon, and grew up in rural areas of the state. I went to college in the Portland metro region and never left.

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

Be patient. There’s a lot of waiting in publishing. When you’re an aspiring writer, you send in a query and wait for a response. But this is just a prelude of the waiting that comes later.

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

I wouldn't claim it's unique, but I'm a hybrid pantser-plotter. I tend to know where a novel begins and ends when I start writing but don't necessarily know all of the midpoints along the way.

  1. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
    1. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?

My debut novel, The Last To Die, comes out from Scottsdale, Arizona-based Poisoned Pen Press in April 2017.

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

I have friends who have self-published, and they have to manage everything for their book: marketing, publicity, editing, interior design, cover design, etc. In certain ways, they're always hustling. Which is impressive—it’s hard work.

By working with a traditional publisher, I get to focus on writing and let them take care of the business side.

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

It’s not a secret tip but focus on craft, read widely, and keep writing. Know that seemingly “overnight” success can take years of work.

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

Read the Queryshark archives ( and focus on the revisions the letters went through. Some agents and/or literary agencies have blogs talking about the ins-and-outs of publishing. Use these blogs to learn about the industry. Then use QueryTracker ( and Manuscript Wishlist ( to find agents to query.

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

First suggestion: read widely. Keep an eye on the new releases in your genre, but also read books in other areas. Read nonfiction. Read a few craft books and start with your local library’s collection or ask writer friends which books they like.

Second: Develop a community of writer friends, whether in person or online. Going to conferences or events held by local writing groups can be a good way to find your fellow writers, both critique partners and new friends who love the process of writing as much as you do.

Just chose your conferences wisely. There are conferences like the Willamette Writers conference, which has a broad focus and offers a little bit of something for everyone. But there are also conferences with a defined focus, like regional SCBWI conferences for children's literature writers (picture book through young adult), regional conferences by Romance Writers of America, or mystery-writer conferences put on by Sisters In Crime or Mystery Writers of America. Chose what works best for you. Just be sure to look for a writers conference, which will focus on the act of writing, versus a convention, which celebrates books and has more a focus on readers. If possible, sign up for a one-on-one with an agent or editor. Some conferences offer a ten-page critique, which allows you to get feedback on your writing. Note that local conferences might be cheaper than national or large events, especially if you don't need to rent a hotel room.

If you can’t afford a conference—they can get expensive—look for online resources like WriteOnCon ( Or group blogs like the Sub It Club ( by fellow writers. Blogs by literary agents and agencies can also offer excellent business and writing advice.

  1. How many books have you written?

Before selling The Last To Die, I wrote two manuscripts that I’ve since set aside. I have a few more projects in the pipeline but I’m not able to talk about them yet, but I hope to have news in the future!

  1. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?

Learn how to become a good critique partner. Learning to identify trouble spots in other people’s work will help you, in the long run, be able to see issues with your projects.

Also, once you finish a draft, put your project down and work on something else—a short story, a new novel—to allow you to come back to your project with fresh eyes. It's tempting to dive immediately into revisions, but it's important to be able to look at the manuscript objectively. Emotional distance helps.

When you read a book you don’t like, analyze why. Did you not like the voice? The pacing? The main character? Develop your critical fiction reading skills . . . but don’t forget to occasionally turn off that side your brain and read for fun!

While I was at a conference, someone said that "writing is art, but publishing is a business," and that's stayed with me. Always remember that you can have the best manuscript in the world but if the timing isn't right—the subject matter is played out, or a publisher has already acquired something similar—your book runs the risk of being rejected. It's not personal nor a reflection on your art.

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

Play with the readers’ expectations. Subvert the obvious to surprise your audience, while staying authentic to the voice and style of your book. Know your genre well and understand the usual tropes so you can figure out how to twist them.

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

I've done my best to develop a social media presence. I’m on Twitter and Instagram. I have both a Facebook page as a writer but am also part of a joint Facebook page/blog with several other Pacific Northwest-based mystery writers (@notheusualsuspects). I recently moderated a Not The Usual Suspects Panel at the Book Bin in Salem, Oregon and it was fun to get to ask fellow writers questions about how their hobbies and backgrounds led them to write their main characters.

I also have several events lined up in April and May, from talking at Murder By The Book in Houston, Texas, to a launch party in Portland, Oregon.

For the past few years, I've organized a lecture series for writers and illustrators in Portland, and I've also served on the faculty of critique-oriented events. I've been lucky to meet a wide variety of people who love books. While this hasn't been marketing, it has helped me become more comfortable talking to anyone willing to listen to me natter on about books, the craft of writing, and coffee.

  1. What saying or mantra do you live by?

I only worry about what I can control.

I write because I love it. The parts of the writing journey I can control involve my work, like learning craft, so I focus on those elements. I've spent time reading up on the publishing side of the business and have gone to hear agents and speak, so I feel comfortable that I understand the industry's standards. I try not to worry about the business side of the industry until I have to.