Mary Sutton (who writes as Liz Milliron) interview with David Alan Binder

posted Sep 2, 2018, 7:40 AM by David Alan Binder

Mary Sutton (who writes as Liz Milliron) interview with David Alan Binder




Liz Milliron has been making up stories, and creating her own endings for other people's stories, for as long as she can remember. She survived growing up through reading, cutting her mystery teeth on Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark and, of course, Nancy Drew. As an adult, she finds escape from the world of software documentation through creating her own fictional murder and mayhem. She lives near Pittsburgh with her husband and two teenage children, and fantasizes about owning a dog - one of these days.


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1.     How do you pronounce your name?
Mill-iron – two words (that’s how Grandma pronounced it, even though lots of people in Pennsylvania want to say it differently).

2.     Where are you currently living?
I live in one of the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA


3.     What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
Writing is editing. The first draft is never as good as you think it is, so celebrate finishing, but be prepared for a lot of work before the book is ready to leave “the nest.”

4.     What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
I can’t outline – at all. I’ve tried. My critique partner, however, says that very first draft is more of a “narrative outline” because it exists just to tell me the story. It often changes quite a bit between “first draft” and “ready for the publisher.” It’s probably not a very efficient way to work, but there it is.

5.     Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
I self-published a series of middle-grade fiction under the name “M.E. Sutton.” It’s possible to make self-publishing work, but it takes a lot of time, talent, and treasure to do it right. For my Laurel Highlands books, I’ve been very fortunate to work with a small press who helps enormously.

a.      Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they located?
Level Best Books, located in Maryland.


6.     Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I’m a fan of whatever format gets people to read. Print book? Awesome. E-book? Great. Audio? Right on. As a friend of mine would say, “You do you.” And I think it’s wonderful that authors have so many publication options these days, not just the traditional “get an agent, get a Big 5 publisher.”

7.     Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
Persistence. If you believe in your book, don’t give up. Level Best was the last publisher I queried. If they had passed, I knew it was time to (at least temporarily) move on to writing a different series.     

8.     How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent?  Any tips for new writers on getting one?
I do not have an agent, but if this is your goal, see my answer to #7. You’ll hear a lot of “no” before you get to “yes,” but if you love your book, keep at it.

9.     Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be so specific that this most likely will not have been seen elsewhere)?
Read a lot, and by “read a lot” I mean A LOT. And everything. Sure, read your genre, because it’s important to know what’s out there, what’s working, and what isn’t. But read outside, too: even things you don’t think you’ll like. All types of fiction and even non-fiction, because histories and biographies tell stories, too. Good writing is good writing and you never know when you’ll find that trick that takes your art to another level.

10.                        What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
How much I benefitted from a good critique group. This is both unsurprising and surprising. I knew I needed to get together with others to provide feedback if I was going to up my game. I was surprised at how “up” the game went after I got in my current group. They are wonderful and I wouldn’t be here without them.

11.                        How many books have you written?
I have two other unpublished works besides Root of All Evil.

12.                        Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be so specific that this most likely will not have been seen elsewhere)?
This isn’t new, but find a trusted person to read and provide feedback on your work. Really trusted. Not your best friend, or your spouse, or your mother. You need someone who will not only tell you what’s NOT working, but what IS working, and help you brainstorm. Also: if a person tells you something is not working they are probably right, but if they give you a specific solution, they are probably wrong. You know your story best, so when it comes to feedback have an open mind, but go with your instincts, too.

13.                        Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
Do the opposite of what your first choice is and see where it takes you. A friend gave me the trick of “The List of 20,” twenty options for a particular situation. The first 10 are probably trite and junk, the next five are possible, but the really good ideas are going to be the last five, when you are plumbing the depths. Just make it consistent with your character!

14.                        What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
Hopefully the setting and the dialog.

15.                        What is one unusual way in which you promote your work?
I’m too new. Right now I’m being very traditional (guest blogs, social media, etc.). but I’m always looking for something new that seems promising.

16.                         What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
I would have started writing seriously a lot earlier in life.

17.                        What saying or mantra do you live by?
I think it’s Nora Roberts: “You can’t edit a blank page.” Applies to more than writing: you can’t grow if you don’t do something.


18.                        Anything else you would like to say?
Just thanks for asking me to participate. As a friend would say, “Write on!”