Sherry Knowlton interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Jun 2, 2017 11:44:00 PM
Sherry Knowlton interview with David Alan Binder
How to get in touch with Sherry Knowlton
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Sherry Knowlton is the author of the successful Alexa Williams series of suspense novels: Dead of Autumn, Dead of Summer and Dead of Spring. When not writing the next Alexa Williams thriller, Knowlton works on her health care consulting business or travels around the world. She and her husband live in the mountains of South Central Pennsylvania.
- How do you pronounce your name?
Knoll (like in a grassy knoll) Ton
- Where are you currently living?
- What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
That every time I think I learn something about the process or the art of writing suspense, I realize that I’ve only scratched the surface and have so much more to learn.
I’ve done a huge amount of writing, mostly journalism and technical writing for state government and corporate purposes. When I sat down to write my first novel, I quickly learned that writing a book required a different style, focus, more brevity, dialog, etc. It is an ongoing challenge as I work on each new novel in my Alexa Williams series.
- What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
I do some of my best work on plotting when I’m driving. Perhaps it comes from many years of thinking about job-related projects on the long commute I had to work each day. But, I always keep a notepad in the car, and even on short trips to yoga or shopping, I jot down ideas about plot points, imagery or even snippets of dialog. (Of course, I wait until I’ve come to a stoplight or park at my destination to write it down!)
The problem with this approach comes when I get ready to write my outline for the book. I have to sort through stacks of scribbled notes and revisit/organize these ideas to incorporate into my first draft. Perhaps not the most efficient process, but it works for me.
- Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher? Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they located?
Sunbury Press, Inc., a small independent press located in Mechanicsburg, PA publishes my books. I’ve been with them since Dead of Autumn, the first book, and Sunbury has given me a lot of support. My editor is wonderful and has really helped me refine each book. The covers are great. And, the high-quality trade paperback and Kindle formats are affordable for readers.
Early on, I considered self-publishing but decided that I needed the guidance and technical support of a publisher. Although I have friends in the writing community who are happily published by some of the huge, New York publishing firms, I continue to believe that Sunbury Press is right for me.
- Any insights eBooks vs. print books?
I believe that both eBooks and print offer advantages and am glad that my books appear in both formats. During the four or so years since I was first published, I’ve seen the balance shift back and forth and back again between the market predominance of the two formats. Early on, everyone in the industry was decrying the end of print books. Then, there was resurgence in print’s popularity. I’ve read articles that e-books were slipping in sales and making a comeback. I believe there’s a cyclical nature to the market.
Also, I think readers develop their own preferences, so it’s important to offer the choice of print or e-book. Personally, I like to hold a print book in my hand when I read. But, when I travel, I always download a trove of books onto my Kindle because it’s so convenient. I’ve talked to others who use a Kindle or I-phone as their primary reading vehicle. They’re more comfortable with technology or ride the subway to work and enjoy the ease of books on their I-phones.
- Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
If I did I could make a fortune in consulting. Seriously, my only advice would be to have your book finished – or very close – before you begin to seek out publishers or agents. I’ve had budding authors seek my advice about publishing and then tell me that they “have an idea for a story” or “have completed the first few chapters.” I don’t think a publisher or agent is going to take you seriously – at least for your first book – unless they can see several good chapters, a synopsis, and know that you have a completed manuscript that’s well beyond first draft stage.
- Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
Go for it. I hope you enjoy writing as much as I do. But, go into it with a willingness to learn. I’ve done a huge amount of professional writing in my job – and before that high school and college journalism. But, writing fiction required me to learn a whole different structure and style. Don’t be afraid to take writing courses or seminars and benefit from expert advice. A writing critique group and beta readers can also be helpful to obtain honest feedback on your work in process. And, above all, don’t become discouraged. Writing requires inspiration, skill, and a huge amount of willpower.
- What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
How absorbing writing can be. When I really get into the groove and the story flows, I can find myself writing until 3:00 in the morning – and I am shocked that so much time has passed.
- How many books have you written?
There are three books in my Alexa Williams suspense series: Dead of Autumn, Dead of Summer and the latest April release Dead of Spring. All are set primarily in south central Pennsylvania and feature a strong female protagonist, lawyer Alexa Williams. She’s more of an accidental heroine who keeps stumbling into dangerous situations. The stories are set in the present-day but each book has a parallel historical plot that intersects with the main story. One of the other key connections between my books is that social and environmental issues that are fundamental to the plots. The latest, Dead of Spring, involves Alexa in the controversial areas of fracking and political corruption. The themes of my earlier novels include reproductive rights for women and religious fundamentalism (Dead of Autumn) and sex trafficking (Dead of Summer). I believe that plots dealing with real-life current topics speak to readers and engage them in the suspense.
- What are some ways in which you promote your work?
I use a number of complementary techniques to market and promote. I don’t believe I do anything that’s unique from other authors. I have a monthly newsletter, a webpage, an infrequent blog, a Facebook author page and a Twitter account. I participate in author events ranging from book signings to speeches to book fairs. I attend conferences both as a participant and a panelist. I do book giveaways from time to time. And, I take advantage of dedicated readers and other authors who do interviews with authors for their blog sites – such as this one. I’ve also done some media relations and paid advertising, especially before and after a book launch.
With Dead of Spring, I was honored to have two environmental organizations partner with me on my book launch. Because of the book’s fracking storyline, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club and FracTracker Alliance co-sponsored my book launch, which raised funds for a Pennsylvania project that analyzes the effects of fracking in the region.
Sorry to say that I’m still searching for that secret clue that will catapult me to a John Grisham or Lee Child-sized audience of readers. Stephen Colbert or Rachel Maddow – if you’re reading this, please call.
- What saying or mantra do you live by?
Step Outside your Comfort Zone. I’ve always pushed myself to try new and different things; to take on new challenges. In my professional career, I always looked for new assignments and particularly loved designing new programs or big expansions.
Travel has always been a way for me to step outside my comfort zone. After college, my husband and I loaded up our hippie van and set out on a four-month trip across the country. We ran out of money in Wyoming and had to stop to work for a while to replenish the coffers. Since then, we’ve traveled all over the world. I love exploring remote and exotic places.
I also like learning new things. In my thirties, I took up sailing. In my fifties, yoga. In my sixties, writing suspense novels.
- Anything else you would like to say?
Thanks, so much, for this interview. I appreciate the chance to discuss my Alexa Williams books with your readers.