Monday, April 30, 2012

Interviews With 6 Publishing Experts

Interview With ThrillerFest Director Kimberly Howe

1    1. Kimberley, what is planned for the upcoming ThrillerFest? We have a variety of events under the ThrillerFest umbrella:
CraftFest is one of our most popular events as it offers a rare opportunity to learn the craft of writing from NYT bestselling authors.  Last year, Ken Follett taught a class called How Thrillers Work, and this year we have a stellar line-up of teachers including Lee Child, David Morrell, Catherine Coulter, Steve Berry, Michael Palmer, Gayle Lynds, Lisa Gardner, and many others.

AgentFest offers aspiring authors the opportunity to pitch top agents in a speed-dating format.  Last year, we had over 60 agents at the event, and eight authors signed with their dream agent as a result.  To read more success stories, please visit and click AgentFest and Success!

ThrillerFest kicks off Thursday evening with our Opening Cocktail Party.  Our special guests this year include 2012 ThrillerMaster Jack Higgins, 2011 ThrillerMaster R.L. Stine, Lee Child, Catherine Coulter, John Sandford, Ann Rule, Richard North Patterson, and Karin Slaughter. Along with our spotlight guests, we are also pleased to present former FBI agent and counterterrorism expert David Major who will be sharing his experiences from The White House.  Panels will cover everything from marketing to writing to personal tales from your favorite authors.

2.      How did the event get started originally? A small group of thriller authors started talking about the need for an organization—after all, writers lead solitary lives, and the opportunity for camaraderie was quite appealing.  Bestselling authors Gayle Lynds and David Morrell became the co-founders of the International Thriller Writers, and the rest is history. A year and half later we had our first annual meeting—ThrillerFest. This year will be ThrillerFest VII.

We hold ThrillerFest in NYC every year because this dynamic venue offers added value to our attendees.  Top agents, publishers, editors, and publicists can walk down the street and join us for panels, workshops, and parties. We do everything we can to provide phenomenal programming for everyone who loves a thrill.

3.      As the executive director, what do you do? I work with D.P. Lyle, MD, the VP of National Events and 2012 CraftFest Director, to make sure everything runs smoothly—working with the hotel, organizing the programming, handling the nuts and bolts of the conference.  We’re most proud of the fact that ThrillerFest has an incredibly welcoming atmosphere.  Fans, aspiring writers, bestselling authors, and industry professionals mingle at the panels, cocktail parties, and the banquet.  The conference has often been referred to as a summer camp for writers because of its relaxed, warm ambiance.  Come join us!

4.      Where do you see book publishing heading? The myriad changes in publishing make this an exciting time to be part of the publishing industry.  Authors can decide to go the traditional publishing route or they can self-publish.  POD, eBooks, print books, audio books—the choices are plentiful.  The key shift is the increased pressure for authors to write like Ken Follett and market like Steve Jobs.  Authors can no longer hide away in remote cabins and write.  They need to take an active role in promoting their brand, especially in the social networking sphere.

5.      What are the rewards and challenges of writing in the thriller genre? The thriller genre offers an international toy box of pleasures with the parameters of the genre broadening every day, including everything from international locales, supernatural beings, and bioterrorism.  Thrillers often top the NYT Bestseller list, as they are incredibly popular.  The challenge for authors is to stand out you need to have a fresh voice and a unique idea.  After AgentFest, the agents who heard countless pitches from aspiring authors remarked on how many people had stories about Islamic terrorists.  Yes, this is a hot spot in the news, but to capture the attention of  agents and editors, you must offer something different that makes them sit up and take notice.

6.      Any advice for struggling writers? I would recommend a multi-pronged approach to improve your chances of success.  First, learn the craft by reading how-to-write books and attending writing schools like CraftFest.  Hone your craft so your story will shine through without any distractions.  Second, study the art of storytelling through resources like Joseph Campbell’s studies of the hero’s journey and Michael Hauge’s storytelling advice.   Third, network with other authors and industry professionals to take your writing to the next level.  Connecting with others also offers support as you continue on your journey towards publication.  Most of all, never give up.  Perseverance is the key factor for success.

Interview With Writer David Kowalczyk

1.  What is a former field representative to the US Census Bureau doing with writing books? The proper question would be, what was a writer doing working for the US Census Bureau? The proper answer would be, " it was a job that paid the rent while leaving me with time and energy to write."  It also introduced me to a world without financial limitations, aka the US Government.

4.  Any advice for struggling writers? The best part of writing is reading what I've written.

5.  What was it like serving as the editor of Gentle Strength Quarterly? Gentle Strength Quarterly provided the opportunity to help others grow as writers.  As a result, my own writing took quantum leaps forward.  It was at times hectic and chaotic.  I argued constantly with the publisher. "Nasty" was not the word to describe the process. However, all was forgotten and forgiven once the issue come out from the printer.  A big "shout out" of genuine appreciation goes to the publisher (and art editor), David Obsusin of Tarzana, CA.

1.      What is your latest book about? I do have a new book I’m excited about and hope I will get to speak more on and in greater detail in the upcoming year. The title is “Let’s Go Create Some Memories” and it is written in three parts. Broadly speaking as a book, it first began to etch out its promises to me as something significant in my notebooks, roughly two years ago. In summary, it encompasses one man’s exposing journey to uncover and recognise his own unique talents and truths and to find out who he really is; through a series of unexplained and eerie messages. Exploring compelling encounters and the kinds of truths that enrich and enable us to accept that the lives we are living are heading in the right direction! That we are of course, all part of a much bigger plan (albeit at times moving through adverse and unexpected twists & turns that lie in wait for each of us, but which must not be feared.)

The first part engages starkly with dark and devastating fears, leading my protagonist on to realise that the sun always comes out after the rain! Even when a smile has faded, even if all we have left is but a flicker inside, we must never abandon “hope.” We must grasp it with all our might! It’s the one thing that brings us through to the other side. The second part is steeped in hope! Hopes for today… hopes for tomorrow… hopes for a newer, broader, better sense of our days where brighter memories wait to be made! In a currently depressed climate, the obstacles facing us daily can have such demanding and detrimental effects on any sense of light-wellbeing! Offering us only negative states of mind that are more than likely not working! In a sense, by the third part, we progress from a dangerous ‘bottom of the barrel’ situation, through the necessary changes needed to reach a better place. I write this with a strong sense of the character’s struggles and where a narrated series of memories, insights, extrasensory messages and some profound wisdom serves as a graphic and deeper look at the power of the imagination, to go beyond self-professed boundaries, to where, with a little faith and ‘hope’ we discover the magic within and an ultimate power, liberates us from our fears. Within this change, the ability is found to instil new dreams and an ever more unshaken belief in the wonderful feeling of life! Maybe we can claim we once had in youth, but ended up losing sight of it in time.      

2.       What inspired you to write it? When I write its current, in the sense that my pen just does it. It flows so I never write on any given day with notions of making anything particular or topical happen. I write to better understand myself and because of this, I feel my poetry in particular has seemed to receive favourable comment. Because it’s readily there! It’s written and the people whom I’m extremely thankful for reading it; tend to relate to it much quicker. For me, this is the aspect where I find true enjoyment, it feels pure and I follow it. I think I’m finally learning not force my pen at all, which is pretty much the scenario that turns my writing into stories, articles, poems or musings. I never plot and that’s exactly how my work “let’s go create some memories” came about. I will say that an idea that speedily becomes a bigger one on the page and so forth, in my estimation, is highly advisable to follow all the way through. To run with it and see where it leads. For me, this book became a draft only after I followed it all the way and left three hardback notebooks and a few hard-pressed Bic pens in my wake.

3.       What do you feel your readers want or expect when they read your books? I don’t set out to get them to expect anything, I have tons of materials written because it’s what I do every single day, only sometimes I feel like an article or piece of writing can be something greater and therefore eligible to be read by others, mostly what I have though are personal and private pieces of paper. I hope any of my books that make it will genuinely reflect my honesty within the craft and of course hopefully tell a great tale.

4.       What do you love most about being a published author? I’m not sure I consider it much, or I certainly don’t dwell there in my head. Of course, I was very excited when it first happened and to gain a certain degree of feedback from a diverse mix has been absolutely amazing and encouraging. To know readers have enjoyed or considered on a deep note what I wrote has been really lovely. And that it’s available for more is what it’s all about…. It’s definitely made me less nervous and more ambitious and sure - it’s crossed my mind (once or twice) about the possibilities of one day writing something that makes it all the way to the international best-seller list! And beyond, so I get to receive all the glorious recognition I deserve. J I think regardless, I will always use words to make sense of my life; to me that’s the real passion.

5.       Do you have any advice to a struggling writer? Struggle on my friend, try and find the beautiful enjoyment in the artful flow of writing something, don’t keep returning to any one line, sentence or paragraph, move on with gusto no matter how legendary it feels to have written what you have! And see it through! Then forget about it for quite a while…. You need a different hat on when you edit it! So why not love it while you’re making it!

6.       Where do you see the book publishing industry heading?  I have to admit that I love the feel of a paperback in my hands, I can bend it and flex it and squish it into my pocket if I need to, to sit under a tree and read it, without having to plug it in. Of course, I’ve openly declared somewhere that I feel I belong to a different century! I love and have always loved BOOKS! Okay, now, that’s out of the way, I think it is marvellous that technology has made the leaps and bounds in the publishing world also and that kids can now read ‘Jane Eyre’ on their hand held pods! Hopefully under a tree! I especially love that new authors, who have a vision, don’t have to get hit and be belittled by pedantic grammatical hammers of ‘olde’ – that they too have a voice and better access to it. None of us are perfect, but it is resonant that at one time social class played a huge distinctive factor in which writers were being heard! Maybe it still does - so more power to technology - that those writers who were born as writers may also find their footing and become established. 

Interview With Author Cassia Martins

1.  Cassia, what inspired you to write Born in Rio? Many things. It is a story of a woman who goes back to her homeland after spending most of her life away. In a way my own experiences and living most of my life away from Brazil, the country where I was born, played a big role. I wanted to write a rich story of personal growth, and take readers through this journey, not only through Rita’s discovery of her past, but also through Brazil, its culture, its history and its soul.   Also, I have always wanted to write a book, ever since I can remember, probably since the day I learned how to write. So I decided to give this gift to myself last year and this book was born in Rio, I wrote it in 9 months, just in time for my 30-year-old birthday! 

2.      What is it about? Born in Rio is the story of Rita; a single, driven, 37-year old woman, who had a lucrative career as a banker in Manhattan but no personal relationships - not even with her own mother. Suddenly when faced with unexpected news about her mother, she is thrown off-guard, and is forced to confront the difficult past that closed her off emotionally. You see, Rita had immigrated to the United States with her mom when she was just 10 years old, and she never learned why. Intrigued by the letters she found between her mother and her dear friend Elisabete in Rio, Rita embarks on this journey, not only back to her foreign motherland, but also to an unchartered territory of her life. The events that soon unfold while Rita is in Rio, will change her life forever.  Here is a quick video about Born in Rio:

3.      After growing up in Brazil you were gone for 15 years. What was it like to go back? Very enriching experience. The best part of being back in Brazil, especially after spending half of my life away, was that it gave me infinite amounts of inspiration to write this book. Besides writing a story about a woman’s quest to uncover her roots, I really aimed at capturing the culture and energy of Brazil as the plot unfolds, and using my own experiences to write, while I was in Rio, made the story so much richer, so vivid. In Rio, even the most simple task of grabbing a “suco”, fruit juice, in one of the many freshly squeezed juice stores is an incredibly pleasurable experience! Besides, the nature in Brazil never seizes to dazzle me, people are friendly, and the Rio lifestyle is a very easy going one. I was very happy to be back, although I missed my family in the United States. 

4.      How challenging is it to grow up in one county but to then make another place your home? It’s challenging at first, but one learns to adapt. I think the most challenging part is dealing with the difference in cultures and family dynamics. Although I spent my childhood in Brazil, I became an adult in the U.S. and going back now, I had to adapt to many things. One of the big differences I saw was that overall, life in Rio was much more laid back and relationships with people tend to be prioritized. In the U.S. the lifestyle is more practical and dynamic, there is a greater emphasis on work and the business side of things. For example, whereas in the U.S. the first question people usually ask me when they first meet me is “Where do you work? What did you study?” in Brazil I would often hear “Where is your boyfriend? How come you are not married?”  Brazil has its special charm to me, and the U.S. is the place where I call home. Even though life in Brazil and in the U.S. are different, I love them from the bottom of my heart - they both played a significant role in making me the woman I am today. 

5.      What do you like about the writing process? Everything. I write at night, I work when everybody is sleeping, dreaming. I love how characters sometimes inconspicuously creep up on me, unannounced, silently, in the middle of the night! I like to be pleasantly surprised so I don’t really create an outline for my stories, I just let them flow through me and trust that it will work out. I am, however, very diligent with my work schedule, I make sure to set up milestones and meet deadlines.  
6.      Any advice for struggling writers? Write. Showing up for work is already more than half the battle won. Create a schedule, stick to it, but respect your boundaries. I had a goal of writing 700 words a day. Sometimes I went weeks without writing, but I respected my time, and made up for it later. Also, expect the unexpected, the greatest insights sometimes come unannounced. In my experience, talent and creativity are not just enough in writing, one must also be sensitive, disciplined and persistent to create great works of art. 

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

6.  You also worked as a special education teacher. How did that experience shape you for the book publishing industry? Taught me to reserve judgement of others, and, in the words of Yogi Bhajan, "See God in all, or don't see God at all."

Interview With Author Nancy J. Cohen

1.      What is your latest book about? Shear Murder is the tenth book in my Bad Hair Day mystery series. Marla Shore, my hairstylist sleuth, is a bridesmaid at her friend Jill’s wedding when she discovers the matron of honor—the bride’s sister— dead under the cake table. With her own wedding weeks away, Marla has enough going on in her life. But when Jill pleads for her help in solving the case, Marla can’t refuse. It’s a fast-paced tale with humor, romance, and suspense as Marla races to find the killer before her wedding day arrives.

2.      What inspired you to write it? My fans kept asking when the next Marla Shore mystery would be coming out, but my former publisher had cancelled the series. As the markets changed, I decided to finish this book to give readers the closure they deserved. So I really wrote it as a response to readers and in gratitude for their support. I hope they are pleased with Shear Murder. It was a delight to write, and I had fun bringing back all the secondary characters that we’ve grown to know and love. And now that I have a new publisher, the series can continue.

3.      What do you feel your readers want or expect when they read your books? They always expect a fast-paced read. My sci-fi romances offer adventure, passion, and danger. My mysteries offer suspense, romance, and humor. I like writing in two genres because it keeps me refreshed. Regardless of the genre, my stories provide an HEA (Happy Ever After) ending. I like people to close my book with a smile on their face. There’s plenty of bad news in the world. My stories are meant to entertain and provide hours of escape into an imaginary world.

4.      What do you love most about being a published author? I love feedback from fans. That’s what keeps me going. I save all the mail I get and it inspires me to keep writing. I like exchanging industry news with other writers. But meeting readers who love books is the best.

5.      Do you have any advice to a struggling writer? Follow the 3 P’s: Practice, Professionalism, and Perseverance. Know the marketplace. Join your professional writer’s organizations and attend conferences and workshops. Networking is crucial in this business, and writing is foremost a business these days. It’s not enough to write a good book. You have to be market savvy, establish yourself in the social networks, and meet as many people in the industry as you can.

6.      Where do you see the book publishing industry heading? I wish I had a crystal ball to predict the future of publishing! Obviously, storytelling will always be around, but the means of delivery is evolving. Ebook sales are increasing while print sales are declining. I’m thinking things might stabilize after a while when readers determine which format they prefer. Traditional publishers have to change their method of doing business and provide more marketing support for authors. And I see the self-publishing push maybe falling back as the ebook market gets flooded. Discoverability in the digital world is the main problem when our books are no longer physically present in a bookstore or library. Authors have more choices in how they get their stories to readers, but marketing and promotion are eating up more and more of our time. This may turn off seasoned writers from writing further down the line. Or it could prove an exciting challenge. It’s an interesting time to be in the publishing world, isn’t it?

Nancy J. Cohen is an award-winning author who writes romance and mysteries. Her popular Bad Hair Day series features hairdresser Marla Shore, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun. Several titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list, while Nancy’s imaginative sci-fi romances have garnered rave reviews. Her latest book, and tenth in her mystery series, is Shear Murder from Five Star. Coming next is Warrior Prince, book one in her new paranormal series from The Wild Rose Press. Active in the writing community and a featured speaker at libraries and conferences, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets.

Interview With Editorial Consultant Erin Reel

1.      As a publishing and editorial consultant – a lit coach – how do you work with authors? The very essence of what I do is help writers get their story or concept down on the page and ready to sell. But it’s more than that.

I work with a wide range of aspiring writers, established authors, academics and seasoned professionals. Some want to get into the craft of writing fiction, some need consistent coaching to keep them on track with their creative work, while others need help developing not only their book proposal but their author platform. I also offer services for the writer who has some “quick questions” about publishing, platform, agents, etc.

Depending on the goal of the client, I’ll either offer a thorough read of their work “so far” and deliver an extensive critique with editorial direction or start from scratch with their creative ideas and help them build their book from concept to completion.  Once we have established clear goals and expectations, we schedule several sessions to discuss their progress. I review their work all along the way, so I’m there to course correct when they’ve gotten off track.  

I have a menu of services on my website,, to help writers get a feel for what services I offer and my continued role along the way.

2.      What advice do you have for a struggling writer? I wish it were easy to give one piece of advice that every writer could apply in their writer’s life. While many writers share similar challenges, (rejection, isolation, procrastination, writer’s block, fear) it’s a very personal experience and I try to always keep that in mind when I give advice to struggling writers. I usually ask a lot of questions of the writer before I offer counsel. Frankly, I feel writers struggle in part due to the overwhelming abundance of “advice for writers.”  So my advice is: simplify, clarify and act.

·         Simplify your life and take control over what you’re able
·         Clarify your goals for your writing career but remain flexible
·         Act with intention every day to achieve your goal

Simplifying creates a sturdy foundation from where to begin the work. Clarity offers direction - a path. The “Act” part takes the longest. It can take months or years to achieve a set of goals or one large one. Then once the goal has been achieved, it’s time to begin again on the next project.  

3.      Where do even very good writers get off track? Based on all the critiques of a work of fiction I’ve completed, it’s usually due to lack of thorough character development. But then there are writers who have expertly crafted characters but nowhere to go with them because the plot hasn’t been fully realized on the page.  Those are the major craft issues with my fiction writers.

With my nonfiction writers/experts who typically fall into the prescriptive “how to” nonfiction category, it’s an issue of being clear about where they see their book on the shelf – the market. But this is an easy fix most of the time – it’s an issue of research and ensuring their message is on point, compelling and ahead of the trend.

Then there are real life issues we deal with and most of them boil down to time management, confidence and clarity – all of which we try to address during our sessions. I’ve been working with most of my clients for several months, and some of my novelists for over a year, so I know persistence is not an issue with my writers. Even the writers I’ve serviced with a ‘read and critique’ get back to me every couple of months or so to let me know about their progress and I’m happy to cheer them on.  It’s very rewarding to hear back from them and I genuinely can’t wait to hear when they’ve landed an agent or a publishing deal.

4.      Where do you see the book publishing industry heading? I think we can all pretty much see where it’s heading now – the e-book boon has revolutionized the industry and many feel Amazon has monopolized it. It’s far more than a trend. I hate to offer conjecture on how publishing companies from the small and independent to the Big Six have swiftly or not so swiftly adjusted their business plans without sitting in on several board meetings. But this is clear – we’re still very much in the business of selling stories, concepts and other products related to an author’s intellectual property and that continues to be very exciting.

5.      What path did you take from Iowa State University to where you are now? The day after I graduated college I moved my family (I had two very young boys at the time) to Los Angeles, where I’m from (though I’ve spent half my life in Iowa). I began an internship at a West Los Angeles boutique literary agency, was later hired as a Creative Executive in the literary department of a larger literary management and production company in Hollywood until I eventually left and formed my own literary agency. Several years later, I decided my heart was happiest in the creative editorial process and in educating authors about the business of publishing rather than contract negotiation and dealing with book cover issues. So I made the decision to finally put my agency to bed and become an editor, which is what I always wanted to be. 

Go Cyclones!

6.      You used to own a literary agency. What is the fate of the literary agent these days? Agents are hard-wired to spot quality and trends and react quickly but they also care deeply about this book business, the art, and their clients. Some have changed their business plans right along with, if not before, the publishers have, offering their own e-publishing imprint (which is fine as long as it’s in the best interest of their client and the agent is not receiving anything more than their 15%) or menu of editorial services for a fee (which is totally unethical). The best, most ethical agents who can act quickly will still be in business selling intellectual property and acting in the best interest of their clients and thank goodness for that!

Interview With Author Michael Bernard

3. What do you love most about writing? Relax. Somewhere in a not-so distant galaxy, you already are a Nobel Laureate.  Be patient.  Appreciate the "now" of your life.

2.   You are currently editing and revising 10 full-length manuscripts. Why? There may be more than ten by now.  I am trying to keep my poetry collections to between 90-100 pages, and have noticed that several have grown to way more than that.  For the past four years I have been writing poetry at a feverish pace.  I was told my a palm reader in Arizona about twenty years ago that I would have a crucial turning point in my life at age 57.  I would either die then, or if I were to survive, would probably live to be a hundred.  Once the "deadline" passed (and I did have a stroke during my 57th year) the sense of urgency and "there's no tomorrow!" continued.

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