Tammy Kaehler interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Apr 20, 2017 11:22:56 PM
Tammy Kaehler interview with David Alan Binder
Bio from her website: When Tammy Kaehler discovered the racing world; she was hooked by the contrast between its top-dollar, high-drama competition, and friendly, family atmosphere. Mystery fans and racing insiders alike have praised her award-winning Kate Reilly Mystery Series (Dead Man's Switch, Braking Points, Avoidable Contact, and Red Flags), and Tammy takes readers back behind the wheel in her fifth entry, Kiss The Bricks. She works as a freelance writer in Southern California, where she lives with her husband and many cars.
1. How do you pronounce your name (only answer if appropriate)?
First name like you’d think. Last name like Taylor, but with a K.
2. Where are you currently living (at least the state or if outside US then Country)?
Long Beach, California
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
I’ve learned that I can and will figure things out. There’s a certain amount of faith required to write a book, at least if you do any amount of “pantsing”—that’s writing by the seat of your pants, meaning you haven’t planned out every last character trait and plot twist. At many points, I get up in the morning in a panic because I don’t know what will happen next, but when I pull myself together and start writing, I figure it out. At least, I always have to date. I have to trust the same will hold true in the future.
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
I write about auto racing, so I do a lot of fun and interesting research—and I’ve been lucky to get some incredible opportunities. Such as going to racing school (with a couple current NASCAR drivers as fellow students). And getting a ride in a car driven by Mario Andretti. And working in the pits for the Indy 500 for the television broadcast team. And becoming friends (even swapping book recommendations) with a female driver who’s raced in the 500 five times (and counting).
On the writing side, I’m a terrible procrastinator about starting a book, and I find a lot of creative ways to avoid putting my butt in a chair to get to writing. So when I get there, I tend to write pretty fast (frantically, to catch up).
5. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
The world has changed since I started looking for a publisher. When I started, I wanted the validation of a traditional publishing house to assure me my work was good and solid and interesting. But I am really happy about all of the opportunities available to writers today to get work published, because I think publishers mostly think inside the box about what they’ll publish. The proliferation of options—including smaller, “niche” presses—means we get a lot more interesting work out there.
a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they located?
Poisoned Pen Press, Scottsdale, Arizona
6. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I read ebooks and print books. I love the feel of a “real” book in my hands, and I’ll never give that up. But given the number of books I read in a month, it’s not a practical, long-term solution for me to own everything I read in a printed copy. That said, I value our libraries and bookstores and try to support them wherever possible!
I’ve never really gotten into audio books, but I think if I had long drives or trouble with my eyesight or a variety of other personal situations, I’d find them valuable. I’m glad they’ve become a standard part of the publishing package these days.
7. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
I have the same advice everyone gives you: write the best book you can. It starts there and that’s 90% of it. Beyond that, if you want to be writing, be persistent, keep trying, keep writing, no matter what. You’ll get there.
Also, be nice and humble. Don’t feel like anyone owes you anything. Be as helpful as you can be to others, and be grateful when you’re helped along the way.
8. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
I got my agent (the fabulous Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency) through a blind query. I was lucky to connect with her very quickly, after very few emailed inquiries, but I also went in prepared. I’d looked up what agents were acquiring and what kinds of work they were looking for, and I wrote a strong query letter. This was all before social media, but were I doing it again today, I’d be sure to follow prospective agents to see what they like and what their personalities are, then I’d tweak my queries appropriately. Just don’t engage them in a stalker-ish way!
9. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
a) Do this because you have to write and/or tell the story. It’s going to be hard—both the writing and the getting published. So only do it because you need to.
b) Keep writing. More writing makes you a better writer and brings you new ideas (there’s that faith thing again).
c) Become part of the community, whether that’s in-person or online. Join local organizations (for mystery writers, that’s national and local chapters of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America), volunteer for library events, get involved in anything to do with reading and writing locally, talk to other writers, connect with writers and readers on Facebook and Twitter. And LISTEN as well as sharing your stories.
10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
That I could do this at all! I have had a long career as a writer of technical and marketing material. But I didn’t think I could write fiction, let alone something book-length.
I’ve also learned that I don’t have a single process. My writing process changes with every book. Sometimes I’m more organized and planned, sometimes I’m more seat-of-the-pants and figuring it out as I go along.
11. How many books have you written?
Five, all in the Kate Reilly Mystery Series.
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 a lot. Think about how plots work, how characters are interesting or not, and how words create impressions.
Also, write a lot. It’ll make you better.
13. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
Try to be unexpected. Think about doing the opposite of what might “normally happen”—like making a woman the bad guy—or giving your characters challenges to overcome that have nothing to do with the plot of your story.
Look for connections between your characters. As an exercise, I sometimes write down main characters’ names in random locations on a blank piece of paper and then close my eyes and draw a spiral on the page. Where the spiral connects names, I create a connection between those characters in my story, just to keep things interesting. Those connections can generate different clues, misdirection, or support where you hadn’t planned for them before.
14. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
To stand out, I think you’ve got to have some different or unusual take on the world. I write a mystery series about a young woman who works hard to succeed in a male-dominated arena. She’s a racecar driver who also stumbles across dead bodies and has to investigate. Obviously, the racing milieu is an atypical setting, but I hope people focus more on the idea of a woman not letting anyone or anything get in the way of her success.
I also set each book in a different location, at a different race and racetrack, which is a little unique. That makes it more challenging and more fun, as I have/get to investigate entirely new cities and neighborhoods (and races) for each book.
I also make the point of making my protagonist NOT win races, which perhaps isn’t what a reader would expect. Off-track, she’s a little bit bumbling sometimes (hey, she’s new to murder investigations!) and she doesn’t always rein in her temper. On-track, she doesn’t win on the page, because that’s racing. You don’t always win! What I do give her in every book is a moment of personal triumph, some instance where she goes faster than everyone else, makes an unthinkable pass of another car, or succeeds in some other way. To me, that’s life: you don’t always win, but if you’re lucky, you can achieve something meaningful; however, you choose to define that.
15. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
I do the standard stuff on a blog and social media. I have book talk/signing events at local (Southern California) bookstores and/or libraries when I have a new book out. I also try to schedule something for a new book release in the area where the book is set—for instance, I’ll be at a library in greater Indianapolis at the end of May, because my new book is set at the Indy 500 motor race.
I also attend the races I’m writing about, at least once before writing the book and once after, to research, connect with people, and promote my books. I’m easy to find wandering the garage area with my “Team Kate” (for Kate Reilly, my protagonist) gear!
16. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
I’m not sure I’d change anything, honestly. I’m not saying I’ve done everything perfectly—far from it! But I feel I’ve done everything I could at any given time, and I’ve learned from all of it—like running myself ragged trying to do every type of promotion for my first two books. That was something I had to go through to learn that I need to do what I like and enjoy doing, and let the rest go.
17. What saying or mantra do you live by?
I have two:
“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
18. Anything else you would like to say?
I come at being an author because of my love of reading. I wrote the kind of books I wanted to read, and I hope others enjoy them, too.
Thanks for interviewing me!