Sally Goldenbaum interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Feb 11, 2017 5:49:54 PM
Sally Goldenbaum interview with David Alan Binder
Shortened bio from her website: After high school, I moved to St. Louis (college); then Bloomington, IN (graduate school); and several other places along the way to where I am now. Jobs included working in public television (with Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood just down the hall); teaching Latin, creative writing, and philosophy; and very early along that journey, living in St. Louis as a Catholic nun.
The seeds to writing a novel—-or rather 'finishing' a novel—were planted in a sandbox in a park. It was there I met another newcomer, Adrienne Staff, a woman who would become a life-long friend. While our children played together in the sand that day, I learned that not only was Adrienne as hungry for friendship as I was, but both of us loved to read and write and had drawers filled with unfinished novels. In no time at all we decided that perhaps the key to finishing a novel (at least, in our case) was to write a book together. A match made in heaven--a nice Jewish girl from New York and an ex-nun--certainly a pair with diverse experiences to spare! We'd hold one another to the task and we would complete a book and rid ourselves of the awful unfinished novel curse.
And so we did. Soon after finishing our first book, we found our wonderful agent, Andrea Cirillo, and went on to publish a dozen or more novels together.
Years later friendship again played a huge role in my publishing life—this time in the person of Nancy Pickard (The Scent of Rain and Lightning author), who invited me to help her with a mystery she was working on. Nancy turned a blind eye to the fact that I had never written a mystery—and together we sat and drank coffee and talked and wrote and rewrote, examined red herrings and twists and turns, and talked some more. And we finished the mystery.
My first mystery series is The Queen Bees Quilters mysteries.
Three mysteries later, my life took another turn: my first grandchild! And a new mystery series, Author of the Seaside Knitters Society Mystery Series
Murder at Lambswool Farm (#11) now available.
Coming in 2017: Murder Wears Mittens (#12)
1. Where are you currently living?
My primary residence is Prairie Village, KS; our secondary home is a small condo in Gloucester MA on Cape Ann. This is where I my current mystery series is set. Writing just a block from noisy and smelly fishing boats, seagulls filling the sky, ocean liners honking their heart-thumping horns, and miles of shoreline all provide plenty of inspiration.
2. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
I have learned that even when I am sure I have no ounce of creativity left, no new ideas, no ability to continue writing, that the well is dry—somehow the creative juices come back. It’s so important to keep writing, even when you think you have nothing to say.
3. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
Hmm. I’ve lots of quirks, but which are writing quirks? Maybe it’s the long conversations I have with my characters, sometimes out loud, somethings just in my head (I’ve lived with these characters for a dozen years now so we have plenty to say to each other). I do this often when I’m stuck in a story and need to know what they are thinking, where they are headed. So I ask them. And they tell me.
4. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
I have never self-published, but my advice would be to do it right if you’re going to do it. Provide the same services a publisher provides: editing, copy editing, etc. Give your book all the nurturing it needs. You owe that to your readers.
a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?
Penguin/Random House (NAL) and Kensington publishing. Both are in NYC.
5. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I think people have definite preferences about how they like to read a book. I think whatever gets you to read is the route to take.
6. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
Write often! Then wander around a bookstore and library, studying your genre, making note of the publishers. Be sure you do your homework before submitting any manuscript. Make sure it’s what the publisher/agent is requesting and that it’s in the correct form, following their instructions-- and make sure it’s in perfect condition (spelling, grammar, etc.).
Also, there are several contests each year for best first novel, some of which promise a publishing contract to the winner. St. Martins, for example, does this each year through Mystery Writers of America. I just finished helping judge one category for MWA and there were some gems--and in a month or two the author of one of them will have a book contract. Nice! (but be sure you follow the directions and send in a clean manuscript.)
7. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
· Word of mouth--being recommended by another author so he/she can send a heads up to the agent that it’s coming--is maybe the best way. I’ve done this with many author friends.
· Another way is to read the acknowledgements in a book that is similar in topic to your own. Authors almost often thank their agents and it’s a good way to get names.
· Research agents online and in the library to find an agency that represents the kind of book you write. It’s always better to send your query letter to a real person, which you’ll find on the agency’s website. (And new agents may give you more attention so don’t slight them.)
I met my own agent at a writers’ conference--another good way to find an agent. The conference allowed attendees 15 minutes with an agent. That was over two dozen years ago. My agent was then the youngest in her agency; now she’s senior! We liked each other and she liked the book. A nice, comfortable combination.
8. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
In addition to the above, I would simply encourage new writers to write what they love, what makes them excited and passionate. I often hear people say that you should only write for yourself, not for your readers. I think you should write for both. I started out writing the kind of mystery I wanted to write but I was well aware of the market for that kind of books. So be conscious of a potential readership. Once I established a readership, I came to know them, to respect them, and to like them very much. And I now think of them when I’m writing the mystery series--and I respect them in my writing. An example is that my readers would be offended but some vocabulary found in other mysteries, even though I might not be. But because I respect them, I would avoid that dialogue. Now if I write another series, I might start out opening it to a different readership.
I am not sure you need to ‘write what you know.’ It’s exciting to learn things as I write, like how one fishes for lobsters, and the different ways to use poison, and the motivations involved in good people killing another. Perhaps that’s one of the wonderful benefits of writing--looking inward and outward as you examine life, both yours and the characters in your books, and making discoveries all along the way.
9. What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
I think the most amazing thing is the connection I have made with readers. It is truly a gift that humbles me and inspires me.
10. How many books have you written?
I’ve written about 30 plus published novels—16 of those are mysteries and I’m under contract for two more.
11. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?
Write every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes (journal or write about what you are seeing out your window or about a conversation you overheard while waiting for your morning coffee. Anything.) And then read--every chance you get. I always have a couple favorite books on hand while I’m working on a new book. If I get stuck writing, I stop, take a deep breath and read for a bit. And I am almost always inspired to get back to work.
Also, when I was starting out as a writer, I’d find that little molehills would suddenly become mountainous—such as “how do I get a character from his ten- story office to a restaurant across town? Do I detail his steps? Describe his cab drive?” That kind of thing. So I’d pick up a book and see how easily an admired author did transitions. The same with dialogue. And then go back to writing.
And as for dialogue, it’s always helpful to read it out loud. Make sure it’s conversational. Conversations in books are not the same as those in real life, yet you need to make those in your book sound natural and distinctive.
12. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
I always try to end a chapter with a twist, making the reader want to continue to read the next. Sometimes a question will do it. Sometimes a thought that suddenly comes into a character’s head out of nowhere. And sometimes, it’s the sound of police sirens in the middle of a lovely dinner party. I find twists one of the most enjoyable parts of writing mysteries.
13. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
Readers usually comment on the sense of place they get from the seaside mysteries. Because it’s a series, they tend to want to get back to Sea Harbor and the friends they’ve made there over the course of the series. Some readers have gone on a road trip to Cape Ann, visiting the real spots they have found in the books, and imagining where I was inspired for the fictitious ones.
14. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
I depend on help from the publisher--news releases, advanced reader’s copies sent to reviewers, sending books to online blogs that offer free giveaways. I also do the usual things: book signings, newsletters, guest blogs, Goodreads and fb giveaways, website notices, donations to auctions at libraries public television stations. I also attend fan/mystery conferences when possible. For me, this is the hardest part of being an author.
15. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
I taught, did PR work, worked in public TV, edited some journals, even taught Latin. And I wouldn’t change any of them. Life is grist for the writing mill--even the bad decisions! What I SHOULD do more of is marketing. That’s difficult for me.
16. What saying or mantra do you live by?
I keep this on my refrigerator and read it often:
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have
done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities
have crept in; forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely
and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your
18. Anything else you would like to say?
Well…my next book is titled MURDER WEARS MITTENS and will be released August 2017.
And… a huge thank you, David! I always learn from these opportunities, as I ponder the astute questions posed.