Due to a glitch in my blog theme, it turns out I can’t go over a certain word count per post, so I’ve had to post my interview with Barbara Levenson in two parts. Here is Part 2 of Barbara Levenson’s interview (and here is part 1 of the interview).
MB: You had a rich and rewarding career in another field before turning to writing. What words of advice would you have for the aspiring novelist who is currently making a living in another profession?
BL: Most authors have had other professions before turning to writing. It is rare that a person decides he or she is going to support themselves by writing alone. Work in another field enriches an author’s writing. For one thing, it brings an understanding of people in real situations. (I am not sure what profession prepares you to write about vampires or other paranormal subjects. Maybe a strange boss who reminds one of a werewolf?) My advice is to steal as much time as possible to sit down and write. It doesn’t matter whether you write short stories or plays or descriptive paragraphs. The more that you write, the more your writing improves. Secondly, aspiring writers should go to as many conferences and seminars as possible. Interaction with other authors is very helpful. These gatherings offer the opportunity to learn about the industry of publishing. Publishing has its own set of quirks. Preparation for dealing with a whole new profession puts the new writer ahead of the game. Thousands of people are writing books, most of which won’t get published. By studying the industry and learning from other writers, chances are good that you will be published. The best things to keep in mind are that there are no set rules for being a good writer except the rule that says, “You will not get discouraged.”
MB: Could you talk a bit about the events leading up to getting the publishing contract for Fatal February? I was thinking that must be such an exciting moment in an author’s life.
BL: No moment can be more exciting to an author than an actual contract to publish a book. It means that someone out there likes your work enough to gamble on readers liking it too. It validates the hours spent slaving over a hot computer.
I began attending writing classes, seminars and conferences when I began working on my novel. I was fortunate enough to be admitted to the Kenyon College summer wrting institute where I first gained valuable information about the world of publishing. Two years ago, I attended Sleuthfest, the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America’s annual conference. Agents and publishers attend this event and share knowledge regarding how to contact them and others, and how to write a query letter that stands out from the thousands publishers and agents receive.
At the luncheon at Sleuthfest, I was lucky to be seated at the table with the editor and president of Oceanview Publishing. We had a great discussion and they told me when my book was finished to contact them. In early 2008, Fatal February was ready for the push to sell. I had heard horror stories from other authors about the amount of letters necessary before publishing became a reality; one author said it took 250 letters. Undeterred, I started with six letter, one of which was to Oceanview Publishing. Five of the six responded promptly. Four of them asked for a few pages, or a few chapters. Oceanview asked for the full manuscript. A few weeks later I heard from the editor at Oceanview saying she was sold on Fatal February, but had to have others of their readers sign off on it as well.
The next month, February in fact, there was another Sleuthfest. While there, I talked to an agent and shared with him what was happening. He happened to be a lawyer, as well. He gave me excellent advice. “You don’t need an agent. You are a lawyer and have access to other lawyers to look over any contract.” He also confirmed my impression of Oceanview as being an excellent small publishing house. The next month, Oceanview offered me a contract and by April, I was signed up. The first thing I did was to sit down and cry. All the tension was released, but little did I know that there would be brand new tensions.
New authors need to understand that the process of bringing a book to the bookstore is long, arduous and needs preparation. Art work, website design, advanced reader copies, blurbs for the cover , advance reviews, and finally a launch date. It is easier and quicker to have a baby! I must give Oceanview Publishing a big thank you for turning out quality products and for being a guiding hand every step of the way. I never felt alone or without resources to guide me. Also, I will always attend Sleuthfest. It started the process for me.
Fatal February Giveaway
A huge thank you to Barbara for such an insightful interview. This is Barbara’s first stop on her book tour for Fatal February. Check out the link to see other stops on the tour, which includes several guest posts and reviews of the book.
You also have a chance to win a copy of Fatal February. It’s a little bit more complicated than most giveaways, as you need a PIN number. If you’re clicking through to the giveaway link (the form is at the bottom of the page) before noon tomorrow (February 18), use this number: 6126. If you’re a little bit late, don’t despair! You can still enter the giveaway – check out the most current tour stop for a valid PIN.