Polly Iyer interview with David Alan Binder
Bio: Polly Iyer graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design; she didn’t need much encouragement to accompany a friend to Italy, where they both expected to spend a year. Polly spent a year and a half. Her friend never came home. It was a formative time. Having never experienced much outside her own area, Rome truly was the City of Lights. And enlightenment. During that time, she worked as a free-lance illustrator for Women’s Wear daily, sketching the designs of Valentino and Emilio Pucci, among others. Upon returning to the States, she continued free-lancing for Fairchild Publications, covering all of New England, in addition to offering copywriting and illustration services to a select group of clients.
1. How do you pronounce your name?
Polly, as in want a cracker—and yes, I’ve heard that often—Eye-Ear.
2. Where are you currently living?
Upstate South Carolina
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
I absolutely, positively cannot outline. I doubt I would ever come up with the secondary characters in my books if I planned the novel in advance.
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
Since I also create all my book covers, many times before I finish writing the book, I get a visual of a character or a setting for the cover and use it. That may be a good thing or a detraction for the reader because some readers want to visualize the story their way. I only put character art on the cover when they are visually perfect in my mind.
5. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
I think all writers who eventually self-publish should try for an agent/publisher first or they will always wonder if they should have given it a shot. I got a drawer full of rejections and finally landed an agent who couldn’t sell my work. Because I wasn’t getting any younger, I decided to self-publish. For me, it was the right decision, even though there are still many drawbacks.
a. What are the drawbacks?
Validation and perception of your talent are two. Some may not consider your work good enough to have captured an agent or a publisher, so they dismiss you. Very few indie writers are considered for the big awards that aren’t awards specifically created for indie writers. Self-published books are rarely reviewed by Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist or Kirkus. Of course there have been exceptions. Indie books are hard to get into brick and mortar bookstores and are even more difficult to get into libraries. Timing and luck has a lot to do with success.
b. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they located?
Parkwood Press in Greenville, SC, is the name a writer friend and I use to publish our work. We aren’t trying to fool anyone that it’s a real publisher since I have it on my website that the press consists of two writers. No query letters or submissions, please.
6. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
There will always be those who like to hold an actual book, smell the paper, and turn the page instead flipping the screen of an e-reader. I switch back and forth. If there’s a book I want to read, and it’s too expensive, I’ll get the book at the library. Writers these days have more choices than ever to get their work in front of the reading public. There are small press distributors who do all the work for you and take a percentage. I did that for a year but didn’t notice more sales across the board so I went back to being exclusive with Amazon. Cover designers and editors are available to make your work the best it can be. In most cases, whichever way a writer chooses, s/he will do most of the promotion.
7. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
Probably the same advice almost everyone you’ve ever interviewed will offer: write the best book you can, do due diligence and pay for what you can’t do well. It will be worth it. Nothing looks more amateurish than a bad cover, poor editing, and wonky formatting. I’m a control freak, so I learned how to do everything except being my own editor. That needs an outside eye. It also helped that I was an art major.
8. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
As I mentioned earlier, getting an agent helps to get your book in front of editors. It depends on how much a writer wants to be traditionally published and how much time s/he wants to spend getting an agent. The quest can eat up valuable time when your book could already be in the marketplace for purchase.
9. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
Learn your craft, join a critique group, listen to what published authors have to say, don’t be thin-skinned when someone offers advice, take what works – discard what doesn’t, enroll in classes, don’t think you know it all – you don’t. READ.
10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
Every time I finish a book, I wonder how I did it, where the ideas came from, how I came up with certain plots. I’ve decided that I have a twisted mind. I didn’t know that.
11. How many books have you written?
Eleven and a bunch partially finished. Seven are indie-published mystery/thriller/suspense, one is a Kindle Scout winner published by Kindle Press, and three are erotic romances published under a pseudonym that were traditionally published that I now own.
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)?
Read your work out loud. If your dialogue doesn’t sound like someone is speaking, it’s not right. I remember an article by an actor who worked with Spencer Tracy. He could never tell when the scene cut because he always sounded natural. That’s the written dialogue should be.
13. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
Think of the most unlikely thing that could happen and make it happen. Just make sure there’s enough believability in its twistedness. (Is that a word?) [spell check says it is, lol]
14. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
Someone wrote in a review that I was a master of original characters. I hope that’s true because I agree with the reviewer. J
15. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
I’m a big Facebook fan. I’ve built relationships there and am careful not to overdo promotion because that can become annoying and turn off potential readers. Remember, writers are readers too. I have both a personal and professional page and use them both, but I don’t inundate my personal page with promos. I hate to tweet because it seems like preaching to the choir, but I do sometimes. I’m part of The Blood Red Pencil blog, a multi-writer/editor blog, but in all honesty, I suck at promotion. Unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil.
16. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
I wish I had started writing earlier in life. I had three careers before writing took over my life.
17. What saying or mantra do you live by?
Oh, I’ve always loved the Nike slogan – Just Do It.
18. What would you like to do in your writing you haven’t done?
I’ve written a screenplay of one of my books, Hooked. I think it would make a terrific, fun movie since it has mystery, suspense, thriller, and romantic elements. It also has humor. I plan to take an online course given by Aaron Sorkin on screenwriting when I finish my work in progress to get it in better shape. I had hoped Brangelina would star, but I’ve given up on that idea. I’d also like to adapt my Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series for a television series. It would star Rooney Mara. Of course, both would be filmed and released by Amazon, but if anyone else is interested, I’m flexible.
Thanks for interviewing me, David. I enjoyed the opportunity to tell you and your readers something about me and my work. Your questions were thought provoking; I hope my answers didn’t disappoint.