Tracee de Hahn interview with David Alan Binder

Post date: Nov 2, 2017 10:49:47 PM

Tracee de Hahn interview with David Alan Binder

Bio from her website:

Tracee de Hahn writes the Agnes Lüthi mystery series set in Switzerland.

Prior to writing fiction she began her career in the practice of architecture, using the need to see great buildings as an excuse to travel. After several years in Switzerland, and receiving an advanced degree in European history, she turned her hand to the non-profit world, eventually running alumni relations for a west coast university.

Having left the ‘real’ world to purse a writing career, she now lives with her husband and Jack Russell Terriers and Flemish Giant rabbit in southwest Virginia in a Victorian house with the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in the far distance. There they have a marvelous deep porch where limitless cups of Lady Grey tea can be enjoyed while the next book is plotted. She loves reading and travel and cooking and is an occasional amateur painter.

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1. How do you pronounce your name?

de Hahn: de is pronounced “duh” and Hahn is like “Han” Solo

2. Where are you currently living?

For the last few years my husband and I have lived in southwest Virginia. We moved here from the coast of California and, while we loved it there, I am happy to be back where there are four seasons.

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

Writing a book is solitary, but publishing is a group effort. I’ve had the great good fortune to meet many interesting and supportive people as part of the publishing experience. That’s partly due to my agent, Paula Munier, who made a point of introducing me to other authors and who showed me the value of going to conferences. After that long answer, the short answer is community is important. Your writing critique group, the support group in the larger world, and the writing heroes you learn from.

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

a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they located?

I am published by the Minotaur imprint of St. Martin’s Press in New York City. Since my background is in architecture I have to mention that they are located in the flatiron building in Manhattan (the triangle shaped building that looks like an old-fashioned iron!). Built in 1902 it is a landmark building…. a real icon and such fun to visit.

I’ve had a great experience with Minotaur. The team there is supportive and extremely professional and I’ve learned a great deal from them. My second book, A Well-Timed Murder, is coming out this February so I’ve been through the entire publishing process once. I trust their judgement and experience about covers and titles and marketing. Another advantage is that they have access to a sales force and to both large and small or independent bookstores. My first book, Swiss Vendetta, book came out in hardcover, e-book, large print and audio, all handled by the publisher. Soon it will be out in paperback. The miracle of managing these formats is left up to the Minotaur team. That said, I put time into marketing, soial media and publicity, which I think is universal among authors today.

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

My book is available in both electronic and print editions for which I am grateful since I think that readers today hope for both. I know that while I love the feel of a book, I also love my Kindle, particularly for travel If I was self-publishing I might consider only doing an e-book until I had an established audience. Placing print books in stores and managing the marketing (plus the cost of print inventory) might be too daunting, and ultimately might not be a good business plan.

I know that my friends who have chosen to self-publish completely direct all parts of the process from title, cover, advertising, placement, etc. They have to learn the business and develop a comprehensive plan. Every path has stories of amazing success, however the plan should be based on norms and hard work and planning and writing the very best book you can. Additionally, I think that a self-published author should budget in the fee for a professional editor – perhaps for content and then final copy. No matter how your work appears in the public realm it has your name on it, and you want it to be the very best possible.

Personally I have enjoyed and benefited from my traditional publisher. In addition to store placement and their help with marketing and publicity they provide a gateway to other opportunities – a pre-vetted status you might say.

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

Be persistent and have a plan. Be prepared to listen to the advice of your Beta readers and, most importantly, listen to feedback from any agents or publishers you interact with. Meet people. Go to conferences and have face-to-face interactions. Like with any business, knowing someone can make a difference. I met my agent at a conference and she was interested in my book premise because her personal connection to the location, which led her to read the manuscript. Plus we had a chance to talk about my book in a casual setting and she had suggestions about a different title and a better pitch! Even if I hadn’t signed with her I would have taken an important step forward to reaching another agent. Listen to the professionals who are representing and publishing books (that bears repeating). They are looking for the next great thing, they aren’t trying to prevent you from being published. Listen to their comments and advice. Maybe the manuscript does need to be shorter or have a better opening. At least listen with an open mind!

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

I met my agent at the Algonkian New York Pitch Conference. I went to learn how to pitch and ended up not having to pitch anymore! I don’t know if my pitch letter would have gotten Paula’s attention if I hadn’t met her in person. Plus I had a chance to meet her and knew that we would have a good working relationship. Besides the one where I met my agent, there are many face-to-face opportunities. Off the top of my head, Pitch Fest at Thriller Fest every July in NYC, Killer Nashville every August to name two. Many conferences offer these formal opportunities. Others are well attended by agents and provide a causal setting to meet and learn the business.

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

Meet other authors. They are in your business and you will learn from those who are further along in the process and also have the collegiality of your debut author group. My experience is in the mystery genre and they are an incredibly supportive and generous group of writers.

Learn your genre. This will make you a better writer and help sell your manuscript. Agents (and publishers) need to know how to shelf (sell) your book. Don’t say: it’s totally unique and unlike anything ever read. That only works AFTER you are famous and have created your own genre. For readers to find you they need to know where to look – are you advertised a romance with a touch of action? Historical thriller? Imagine that you are an agent (or bookstore listening to the presentation of this year’s list of books to select from). Now imagine that you will hear about a new book every one or two minutes. That’s why people say: debut author new and similar to John Grisham with a story set in space. The buyer/listener can automatically latch onto what to expect…. A legal thriller, yet set in space. Hmm maybe this will bring the Sci Fi crowd over?

Be professional. This is a job, not a hobby (even if you have a ‘real/day job’). Meet deadlines, interact with the rest of the publishing community as a professional. Return the support and encouragement other authors offer.

Don’t give up. Whether you are unpublished or published, keep writing. Develop a routine that will sustain you through the years ahead!

9. What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

I don’t know if it qualifies as surprising but I have transitioned from more free form writing to more of a plotter. I think this is the result of trying to streamline the process. I still don’t plot out every detail of the book, knowing that some things will be revealed to me in the writing, however I do have a much more precise view of the story arc.

10. How many books have you written?

Like many (most?) published authors I have several books in the drawer. I have four complete manuscripts that I am proud of – that doesn’t mean I think they are publishable. When I wrote Swiss Vendetta I was at the point in my life where I knew I wanted to be a full time professional author. I also knew that was the book I wanted to try to sell. I think I knew enough to realize that when you publish a book you aren’t merely sending it off and dusting your hands. Publishing a book is a long term commitment and I have enjoyed spending a year talking about Swiss Vendetta even as I focused on writing the next in the series.

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)?

You can’t edit what hasn’t been written. Write and re-write. Have time to set a manuscript aside. Listen to criticism without defensiveness. Perhaps you need to change something, or perhaps you haven’t conveyed your point clearly enough. And continue to read. Read in your genre and outside it. Learn from this reading. I have found that outlining other books helps me understand how plot and story structure and pacing works.

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

My agent, Paula Munier, has written a great book titled Plot Perfect. I love how she talks about the structure of a book and how it needs to pivot to the unexpected. Now that’s not specifically a twist, but it is a structure for turning the story from the straight and expected path. For me, a good twist is one that the reader can look back at and say I should have seen this coming, but I didn’t. You don’t want a twist that is so twisted it doesn’t make sense to a reader. Surprise, yes. Unexpected, yes. Inexplicable, no.

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

I chose to set my series in Switzerland, where my husband grew up and where we lived for some years. One of the things I love about the country is how diverse it is geographically, linguistically and culturally despite its small size. I think that there are unlimited ways to explore the human condition in this situation. Murder mysteries are primarily about the human condition impacted by circumstance and I think the circumstances in Switzerland are interesting.

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

I went on a fourteen city book tour when Swiss Vendetta launched last year. It was an amazing opportunity to meet readers and book sellers. I am active on social media and attend several fan conferences a year, including Bouchercon, ThrillerFest, Killer Nashville, and Malice Domestic. I’m looking forward to the 2018 book tour for A Well-Timed Murder!

15. What saying or mantra do you live by?

No mantra, but I do have a compulsion to tell stories. I’ve not always been a writer in a literal sense but I’ve always wanted to tell stories. Characters and plots are what occupy my mind, sometimes more than real life.

16. Anything else you would like to say?

I hope that readers know how important they are. An author often spends a year or more on a book and knowing that people ‘out there in the world’ are reading it is amazing. Time is one of our most valuable resources, if not the most valuable, and when someone picks up your book they are spending that resource. Because of Amazon and Goodreads and other on line groups readers are more connected than ever before and they have a new power – the review. Authors can’t be slave to reviews, it is not possible or even desirable to please everyone, but the algorithms of Amazon and the like impact how word of our books reaches other readers, thus doubling the impact of committed readers.