Susan Conant interview with David Alan Binder

Post date: Mar 18, 2017 7:31:50 PM

Susan Conant interview with David Alan Binder

Bio from Wikipedia: Susan Conant is an American mystery writer, best known for her Dog Lover's Mysteries series, featuring magazine writer Holly Winter. Conant graduated from Radcliffe College with a degree in social relations, and a doctorate from Harvard in human development. She is active in Alaskan Malamute Rescue and is a three-time recipient of the Dog Writers Association of America's Maxwell Award for Fiction Writing. She is also the author of the Cat Lover's Mysteries series and co-author with daughter Jessica Conant-Park of the Gourmet Girl Mysteries series. She is also a Writer for Dog’s Life Magazine.


Cozy Reads:

Good Reads:


1. Where are you currently living?

I live just west of Boston, Massachusetts.

2. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

When I began to write fiction, I had the immediate sense that I was finally doing what I was meant to do.

3. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?

Interesting? I'm not sure. But I seem to be compelled to include a dog in anything I write. My intentions may be otherwise, but suddenly woof-woof! There's the dog. And that's fine with me.

4. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

I've had publishers of all kinds and all sizes. I am now sold on self-publishing, in part for a reason that self-published authors seldom mention: no more deadlines. I hate deadlines. Everyone hates deadlines. In liberating myself from traditional publishing, I have rid myself of deadlines. Hurrah! Also, although I love working with a good editor, I have a constitutional hatred of being bossed around, so I like being my own boss.

5. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

Because I love my Kindle, it always surprises me to find that many readers continue to prefer print books, including hardcovers. Print is here to stay.

6. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?

It's no secret that you should write the book you'd like to read. Write the best book you can! I see a great many would-be authors who pay more attention to getting published than they do to writing well. Let's get the sequence straight: Write first. Then worry about publication.

7. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?

Twenty-five years ago, it was essential to have an agent because editors, particularly important editors, wouldn't even look at manuscripts submitted over the transom. Furthermore, because publishing was a New York industry, the saying was that if you didn't have a New York agent, you didn't have an agent. Everything has changed, of course. The writer who wants to take the traditional route of finding a major publisher still needs an agent, preferably a New York agent, not only to sell a book but also to negotiate a contract. Most, but not all, good agents belong to AAR, the Association of Authors' Representatives ( As to agents to be avoided, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America is an excellent resource for writers of fiction and nonfiction in all categories. The Writer Beware website is a must!

8. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?

Far too many new writers assume that it's fine to submit a rough draft or even a somewhat complete draft to an agent or editor. The happy fantasy is, I suppose, that the agent or editor will look through the draft, decide whether it's interesting and publishable, and make suggestions about changes. Hah! Agents and editors are deluged with manuscripts. Submissions should be as polished as possible. A subscription to The Chicago Manual of Style Online ( costs only thirty-five dollars a year. That thirty-five dollars is the best investment an aspiring writer can make. Let me add that I see a great many new writers who attend conferences and take workshops about writing and publishing—instead of writing! Events are fine, but they are no substitute for work.

9. How many books have you written?


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 have quite a few suggestions for anyone who wants to write about dogs. First, if you know nothing about dogs, don't write about them. Write about cats. Birds. Turtles. People. But not dogs. If you are going to write about dogs, get everything right. Look things up. Ask dog people. An excellent resource is the website of the American Kennel Club:

I see ludicrous mistakes all the time. For example, the breed is the Bernese Mountain Dog; there is no such thing as a Burmese Mountain Dog. No, you cannot impulsively take the family pet to a dog show and win Best in Show; the family pet probably won't even be allowed on show grounds. Remember that even in fiction, a dog is a responsibility. All too often, the dog-owning protagonist in a mystery lets the dog out; takes off, leaving the dog loose; and returns many hours or even days later to find that, mirabile dictu, the dog is fine. In reality, the dog might have been hit by a car or killed by a coyote. Fiction should be credible. Finally, I simply hate the hackneyed device of killing off a dog as a way of foreshadowing the murder of a human character. My advice is to let all the dogs live. Let the cats live, too. Unless, of course, you want to kill off your readership, and you don't want that, do you?

11. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?

Wait quietly for the story to tell itself to you. If it doesn't, you weren't born to write. Do something else instead.

12. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?

The avoidance of clichés. No, your sleuth does not become the prime suspect! Nor is your sleuth forced to confront a troubled past. The hackneyed situation I especially hate is the one in which the sleuth inherits or moves into a house only to discover the body of a murder victim in the kitchen, the attic, and cellar, or somewhere else. No, no, no! Bury that tired device and let it rest in peace.

13. What are some ways in which you promote your work?

I don't. I should, of course, but I hate self-promotion.

14. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?

I'd start self-publishing sooner than I did.

15. Anything else you would like to say? David, thank you!