Lesley A. Diehl interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Jun 13, 2017 12:09:20 AM
Lesley A. Diehl interview with David Alan Binder
Lesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in Upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks, frequents yard sales and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work. She is the author of a number of mystery series and mysteries as well as short stories. The third book in the Eve Appel murders (from Camel Press) A Sporting Murder was awarded a Readers’ Favorite Five Star Award and her short story Gator Aid a Sleuthfest (2009) short story first place. She has fired the alligator that served as her literary muse when she is in Florida and is interviewing applicants for the position.
1. How do you pronounce your name?
2. Where are you currently living?
We spend half the year in Upstate New York, the other six months in rural Florida.
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
The most thrilling experience may be when you hold your first published book in your hand, but that’s only the beginning of your journey as an author. The rest is a roller coaster of ups when you get a good review and downs when your books don’t sell as well as you’d like. Around book five you acknowledge you probably won’t make the best seller list, but you keep churning out those tales because you’re a writer and that’s what writers do, and you love it!
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
I write cozy mysteries, all of them set in the country, all in small towns and all of them dealing with serious issues such as drug addiction, human trafficking, sexual abuse, racism and sexism. Why the serious themes? Because they are part of the lives of people everywhere, not simply those living in cities. Most readers have been touched by them in their lives. But the quirkiest thing about my writing is that I add in a goodly dose of humor. I like to put my characters in odd situations, in dangerous situations and then make the resolution humorous. I was trained as a psychologist so I know people love excitement and intrigue, but I also believe that a good belly laugh is worth all the happy pills you can buy.
5. Tell us your insights on self-publishing or using a publisher.
I do both. I started out with a small publisher, used several other small publishers, and then got the rights back to those early books and self-published them. I remain with one small publisher for short stories and another for the Eve Apple mysteries.
a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they located?
The publisher of my short stories and one stand-alone mystery is Untreed Reads. They are primarily an epublisher. The publisher of the Eve Appel series is Camel Press located in Seattle, WA.
6. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
If you have a good publisher, you are fortunate, and I am. Camel Press is an eager, young enterprise who has on staff some very savvy people and great editors. Camel understands the business and knows how to work publicity, yet keep costs low. Through them the first book in the series (A Secondhand Murder) has been bought by Harlequin Worldwide. Untreed Reads is similar in that they have been publishing eBooks for some time and understand the business.
My experience with other small publishers was not so positive, so I am glad I got my rights back and have self-published those books. I also self-published another series (the Laura Murphy mysteries). I think I was smart to go with a small publisher first so that I could learn about the business and then try my hand at self-publishing.
7. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
Today you can always go with self-publishing, but a writer should realize it takes time and money to do that. I recommend having the work edited, selecting a professional cover designer and putting some money into promotion and publicity. I always do a book blog tour. It is difficult to tell if they result in sales, but they can be set up to generate reviews. I use http://www.escapewithdollycas.com/ If you write cozy mysteries, the book blog tour is free.
8. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
I tried to get an agent when I first decided to publish my work, but I had no success and submitted my manuscript to a publisher that did not require representation. Several years later I contacted a woman who had done some editing for me and sent her a manuscript that later became the first book in the Eve Apple mysteries. I grabbed her early in her work as an agent, so I was lucky. She now represents a large number of authors. She is a real pro, and is proof you don’t need a New York City agent to get published.
9. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
Unless a writer already knows the publishing industry well, I recommend finding a small publisher with a good reputation, one who has been in the publishing business for a number of years, and one not requiring an agent. They are out there. For more information, join Sisters in Crime and their unpublished associate, Guppies. This organization provides information about small publishers.
Once a writer knows more about the ins and outs of the business, he or she may want to go the self-publishing route where none of the income is shared with an agent or a publisher, but where all the costs are the writer’s.
Join a professional writing group such as Sisters In Crime and Mystery Writers of America. If there is a writing group locally, you may want to join or there are groups on line. Go to conferences for writers such as Sleuthfest held in Florida each February. This type of conference provides workshops, speakers, meetings with agents, forensics and other professional information. It’s good to begin to hobnob with other writers and meet authors.
10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
After another career, I retired thinking I might write a book or two. Now it seems there is no end to the ideas that I have for books. I worry I won’t have time to get everything out there before I go to that great keyboard in the sky.
11. How many books have you written?
Eleven books, one novella and a slew of short stories. Five more books are in the hopper.
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)?
I have been fortunate that I have such great editors at Camel Press. I wasn’t an English major, so there are many aspects of grammar and sentence construction I do not know. Being edited at Camel has made me a better writer.
The other source of good writing is the mysteries I read. I recommend that writers read as much as they can both in their genre and outside it.
13. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
Always put your characters in as much jeopardy as you can. How they get out of a tough situation, who they rely to help them and how the situation can be related to other aspects of the story may surprise you and provide a story line not found in the original outline. It’s about taking chances. If writers don’t trust the characters they’ve created or their own ability to work out what happens, their work will suffer by losing excitement and tension.
14. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
A great book cover always helps attract a reader to a book on a shelf. If a potential reader picks it up, the description on the back cover is important. I don’t know how many books I rejected because the description of the story sounded uninteresting.
I like to think my books stand out because of my protagonists who are always in-your-face women, usually approaching middle age or older. The settings are unique, a river valley in Upstate New York or rural Florida, a place “where spurs still jangle in the post office.” These are settings just the other side of the familiar interstate, territory you may find more intriguing than the land of the mouse, Wall Street or bikini babes on a sandy beach. I make certain in my description on the book that I am offering something different: we offer tornados and floods or swamps and alligators. And sassy protagonists who aren’t afraid to chase down a killer in these settings.
15. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
I love to do book blog tours, I write a blog, and I visit blog sites and do interviews on the internet and on radio programs. I also do programs at libraries (my favorite) for interested groups, appear on panels for local arts events, and do presentations and panels at writers’ conferences such as Sleuthfest and Killer Nashville.
16. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
I would start writing earlier in my life. I’m now trying to write three series, and I also have two stand-alone books not yet completed on my computer. If I want some balance in my life I must drag myself away from the computer and do other things I love like hike, cook, read, garden, work-out in the gym, travel, visit with friends.
17. What saying or mantra do you live by?
Write more, read more, laugh more.