Penny Goetjen interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Jun 14, 2017 11:19:06 PM
Penny Goetjen is the author of murder mysteries where the milieu play as prominent a role as the engaging characters. Her love of travel inspires her writing as evidenced by her current titles. Although Connecticut has been her home longer than anywhere else, she also has a deep-rooted fondness for the Caribbean; Charleston, South Carolina; and the tumultuous coast of Maine (especially in the warmer months). A self-proclaimed eccentric, she loves writing by candlelight, particularly on dark, gray days or in the late hours of the night. Fascinated with the paranormal, she often weaves a subtle, unexpected twist into her stories. When her husband is asked how he feels about his wife writing murder mysteries, he answers with a wink, “I sleep with one eye open.”
1. How do you pronounce your name?
2. Where are you currently living?
My husband and I split our time between Connecticut and South Carolina. Not being a fan of New England winters, I embrace the heat of summer and warm destinations. (Notice the setting of my latest novel, THE EMPTY CHAIR ~ Murder in the Caribbean, is the tropical island of St. Thomas and MURDER ON THE PRECIPICE takes place on the rocky coast of Maine in late summer.)
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
It’s okay to be a panster. (Fiction writers are either planners or pansters—they write by the seat of their pants—and I’m the latter. I let the story steer and I go along for the ride.) Before I’d heard the term, I wondered if I was approaching my writing correctly. But, as it turns out, many other successful authors are pansters as well. So I figured I was in good company.
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
I love to write by candlelight. It all started one dreary afternoon inundated by gray clouds and a bit of mist thrown in for good measure. I was seated at our delightfully-long wooden dining table, not feeling much inspiration, and my eyes came to rest on an assortment of candlesticks arranged in the center. I decided to light them and the flickering candles transformed the room along with my mood. It was exactly what I needed so I dove in and have been writing by candlelight ever since. Try it! It adds drama to a room even in the daytime.
5. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they located?
Secret Harbor Press (Charleston, SC) for THE EMPTY CHAIR ~ Murder in the Caribbean
Ithaca Press (Ithaca, NY) for THE PRECIPICE
This title will be re-published Fall 2017 with Secret Harbor Press and will be re-named MURDER ON THE PRECIPICE
6. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
It’s not much of a secret, more of a given, but too many writers skip this step: Make the manuscript the best it can be before submitting it. Invest in a talented editor and listen to him/her. Yes, this step will take time and money but it’s critical. NO ONE can edit their own work.
7. Do you have any suggestions or help for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
Read Stephen King’s ON WRITING. Its part memoir/part how-to and a great read but also an indispensable primer on the craft of writing.
8. What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
There are times when I get blindsided by the twists. I see the story as a movie in my head and I write what I’m watching, allowing myself to be pulled along like an inner tube on a lazy river. What’s around the next bend often surprises even me!
9. How many books have you written?
Two and I’m working on my third:
My most recent, THE EMPTY CHAIR ~ Murder in the Caribbean
My first, THE PRECIPICE which will be re-published Fall 2017 as MURDER ON THE PRECIPICE
10. 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’m going to refer back to my answer for #7. ON WRITING applies to new writers as well as those who are more seasoned. As the master says, be willing to work to get better at your craft. That could mean getting into a writer’s group, taking a writing class, or having beta readers critique your work. But listen to the feedback. It’s also helpful to read your work aloud. It sounds very different than what you hear in your head.
11. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
I make it a habit to look for twists in everyday life…so when I’m writing, they happen quite naturally. For example, out for dinner in the evening, I might develop a back-story in my head for the waitress and suddenly she’s not who she seems. On vacation, if someone points out a boat tied up offshore that looks like it’s been abandoned, in my mind’s eye I’ve stowed a dead body below deck. An ordinary area rug that’s been rolled up and discarded on the side of the road also gets me thinking of the possibilities for its use.
12. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
As trite as it may sound, first off it’s the cover. An eye-catching professionally rendered cover is critical. Once inside, it’s an unexpected detail or situation. One reviewer of THE EMPTY CHAIR stated, “The twist of not really knowing if Olivia’s mother was alive or not made this story a bit different from other mystery novels I’ve read.”
13. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
All the obvious social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Goodreads, my website www.PennyGoetjen.com) but I’m also always on the lookout for speaking opportunities to put myself out there in the public eye. It’s important, particularly for fiction writers, to have a talk about something other than your book. It shouldn’t always be a sales pitch.
14. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
I don’t think I would do anything differently. Every step, every misstep was part of the learning process. It might not have been very efficient, but it’s taught me patience and instilled a belief in my ability as a writer.
15. What saying or mantra do you live by?
Better to ask for forgiveness than permission. (Keep moving toward your goal(s) until you go up against a serious obstacle that you cannot penetrate—even then, there’s probably a way around.)
16. Anything else you would like to say?
Be supportive of other authors. We’re not in competition with one another. We’re all together in this crazy business of being writers. Sincere positive actions on others’ behalves will come back to you in time. Be patient.
A Final Thought:
Writing is incredibly powerful, unlike any other form of art that takes the observer on a journey—an experience. It goes beyond a single canvas or photograph. I feel humbled to be able to take readers where they may never have been before. One of my greatest joys is when readers tell me how much they’ve enjoyed one of my books—whether it’s the storyline with its twists and turns, a picturesque setting, or the engaging characters that have entertained them—I’m grateful to be their tour guide.