Joan Curtis interview with David Alan Binder
Joan’s Bio from her website (shortened): Joan is an award-winning writer who has published 7 books and numerous stories. In her mystery/suspense novel, The Clock Strikes Midnight, we meet Janie Knox, a tormented young woman who escaped her home and family after a jury convicted her stepfather of killing her mother. Her second mystery e-Murderer is the first in a series, starring Jenna Scali, a fairly normal young woman who happens to run into dead bodies. Again, this book captures the imagination of readers with all its twists and turns. The second in the Jenna Scali mystery series, Murder on Moonshine Hill, features Jenna and her friends at a quiet wedding in the mountains of North Carolina. All goes well until everything turns deadly with the discovery of a corpse.
Joan’s books have won awards. The Clock Strikes Midnight won FIRST PLACE in Royal Palm Literary awards for Mainstream/Literary fiction and the Silver Medal in the Global eBooks Awards for 2015. The e-Murderer won FIRST PLACE in the Malice Domestic Grants Competition for new writers and the GOLD for mystery in the Global eBook Awards for 2016.
Twitter page https://twitter.com/JoanCurtis
Facebook Author page https://www.facebook.com/joanccurtisauthor/
1. Where are you currently living (at least the state or if outside US then Country)?
I live in Athens Georgia—A university town.
2. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
There is little that’s predictable. My stories unfold as I write them. The publishing process changes daily. Writers must be flexible and persistent.
3. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
My mind goes faster than my fingers on the keyboard. So, when I re-read what I’ve written, I’ve often left out words or written something that totally doesn’t make sense.
4. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?[Tweet “I appreciate the support of a publisher #authorinterview” David Alan Binder] In my view if you’ve written a book that is worth publishing, you can find a publisher. It’s not easy and the big name publishers are very hard to break into as a new writer, but the small publishers offer a good alternative. I would only suggest self-publishing if the purpose of your book is marketing a business. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they? My fiction publisher is MuseItUp Publishing, Pierrefonds, Que. Canada. My nonfiction publisher is Praeger Press, Santa Barbara, California
5. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
All my fiction books came out first as e-books and were later published in print. My publisher holds the rights to do that. The problem with having just e-books is that they cannot be signed. Often I want to do giveaways of signed copies or book signings. Clearly print books are necessary. The problem with just having a print book and no e-book is the cost. Most people do not want to pay print book prices for an unknown author. Some people only read on print and others only by e-book. It’s best to have both!
6. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
The first bit of advice is something you’ll hear from many writers. [Tweet “Keep sending the book out even in the face of multiple rejections #authorinterview” David Alan Binder] That doesn’t mean writers do not pay attention to rejections and the comments made. Revising all the time is critical. But, we must continue to persevere in the face of rejection.
I also suggest going to the small publishers. Researching them and finding one that fits your genre. Skip going to an agent. Agents are as difficult to snare as the large publishing houses. And, in this day with the internet giving writers access to so much information, agents are becoming less and less important.
7. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
I don’t have an agent, and I really do not see the need for one. My publisher is very generous with her authors. I read the contract myself and understand the terms. Most intelligent writers can do that. If you happen to write a blockbuster, the agents will come looking for you.
8. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
. I give it away on my website for signing up. (http://www.joancurtis.com)
Generally, though, my first suggestion to new fiction writers is to finish the book. There is no use looking for publishers or agents until the book is finished. If you are writing a nonfiction book, you must write a very complete book proposal before you explore publishers or agents. (Agents are really unnecessary for nonfiction writers).
My second suggestion is to spend a lot of time re-writing your book. Put together a group of Beta readers who can give you honest feedback (not your spouse or your kids). You may have to pay some of these readers. It’s worth it. Once you get the feedback, go back and re-write. The manuscript must be polished and honed as best you can get it before you send it out.
My third suggestion is once you get your book published, you must take responsibility for getting the word out. You cannot count on your agent or publisher to do that for you. If you can afford to hire a publicist, great, but most of us cannot. You must build a platform through blogging and tweeting and then tell that platform about your books. I didn’t do that with my first nonfiction book. I expected the publisher to market it for me. I needn’t tell you, it didn’t sell too many copies!
9. What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
For nonfiction, I found the writing less inspiring. I wrote facts and conveyed information almost as if I were teaching a class. There was little opportunity for creativity—nonetheless I did create examples to spice up my books.
I’m what is called a pantser fiction writer. That means, I do not rely heavily on an outline. I learned early on that if I let my mind go, almost in a trance-like state, characters will emerge, take on personalities and sometimes take over the story. This is quite surprising when it happens, but it’s also wonderful. Writers cannot force this and some writers never experience this process. I am fortunate that I experienced it early in my writing.
10. How many books have you written?
I have written and published 4 nonfiction books, all published by Praeger Press out of California. I have also written and published 3 mysteries. I have a new one that will go to the publisher in January 2017. Each of these have been published by MuseItUp Publishing. I spend my time now writing fiction.
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)?
Notice what you like to read and what works for you. The more you read the better writer you’ll become. But beyond this, writers must learn the craft of writing. Learn how to write dialogue. How to create scenes. How to develop a worldview. I have a number of tips and suggestions for writing suspense and mystery on my blog, http://www.joancurtis.com/blog. But, I also suggest that writers find blogs that help them improve their skills. There is much more to writing than simply putting a pen to paper.
12. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
This is a very tough question. All my books have unique twists and turns. My best response to this question is to let your imagination go. Because I don’t write from an outline (in fiction writing), my characters will come up with interesting twists that even I hadn’t thought about. But, I do know that for me, the best thing is to put the book aside and to do something else. For example, with The Clock Strikes Midnight, I had reached a place that felt like a wall. Something had to happen but I didn’t know what. I put the book aside and went for a swim. While swimming, the answer came to me. Many times the answer comes at night while sleeping or on a walk. Getting away from the work is the best way to allow your subconscious to play with ideas and come up with amazing twists.
Let me add one caution. Don’t write twists just to write twists. Your twists must feel natural to the reader. Otherwise the reader feels betrayed. I recently read a book where it became clear to me the author simply wanted to surprise the reader. As a reader, it felt contrived.
13. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
In The Clock Strikes Midnight (a stand alone mystery/suspense), the main characters are two sisters. Their interaction as well as their bond is what make the story different. Furthermore, there is a southern charm to the book that many readers have enjoyed.
The mystery series (e-Murderer and Murder on Moonshine Hill) debut two characters—Jenna, the main amateur sleuth, and her sidekick, Quentin. The two play off each other in a unique and fun way. Readers not only enjoy the suspense and the inherent mystery, but they also enjoy the humor and the realistic portrayal of these characters.
All my books are set in the south with southern speaking characters. This isn’t necessarily unique, but it adds a certain charm to the pages.
14. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
I have promoted my work through the social media in the following ways: 1) Blog tours where reviews and excerpts appear on blogs for a period of time 2) Tweeting daily about my books and about other books of a similar genre 3) Facebook groups and a Facebook author’s page.
I’ve entered contests and gone to conferences to receive rewards for my books. The Clock Strikes Midnight has won three major awards including First place Royal Palm Literary Award and e-Murderer won the GOLD for the global e-book awards.
In more traditional ways, I’ve appeared at book festivals for book signings. The Decatur Book Festival is one of the largest in the country. I appeared there last year. I’ve also appeared in small bookstores for book signings.
15. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
I spent a lot of money on promoting my first fiction release. I regret two things I did: Join NetGalley and hire a publicist. Both of these things cost a lot of money and were not worth the expense. NetGalley produced some reviews, but not enough to justify the cost. The publicist did a lot for my book, but not enough to make up for the cost.
Another place where I spent too much on the first book was the creation of a book trailer. I made the mistake to contract with real actors. The cost was extremely high even though I produced a very professional book trailer. For the second book I created a book trailer more cheaply, using standard images off the Web. Overall, I’m not sure readers look at book trailers, nor if they have any impact on sales. For my third book, I decided not to create a trailer.
Be careful to pick and chose how you spend money on promoting your book. You will have to spend some (blog tours), but I learned that the less spent the better.
16. What saying or mantra do you live by?
If you set your mind to something, give it all you’ve got, concentrate on it and you will succeed!
17. Anything else you would like to say?
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to these questions. I hope my answers help some writers, and I hope some of your readers will join me on my blog and become part of my community.
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