Thursday, April 06, 2006


Continuing our conversation with prolific author Vicki Hinze, member of International Thriller Writers.


Are you a full-time novelist?
Yes, I am. Before writing full time, I was a corporate Director of Operations.

How many books did you have to write before you were able to go full-time?
Difficult question because I wrote crossover books coming out of the gate. (Paranormal thrillers, mysteries and suspense novels all with romantic elements before there was an established sub-genre, and books that didn't fit in existing marketing slots.)

I didn't define perimeters in that way. When I understood I was to write purpose-driven books, I took the leap on faith. It worked out.

When did you know you had “made it”?
I'll let you know when I do.

Seriously, I think that's a dangerous thing for a writer to believe. It tends to give you a false sense of security and of who you are, and that makes you less disciplined about what you do, and less determined to do it.

People say that you're only as good as your last book. But that's not true. You're only as good as your next book. What you did yesterday is significant until a commitment is made on your next book. Then, the focus is ahead, not behind you, and so is the need to produce your best work.

I'm a struggler. I might sell a ton of books, but I'll always be a struggler because sales alone aren't enough. Each book must be better, stronger, hold some new insight or something I consider significant enough to warrant the time investment. After all, your time is your life, you know? Who wants to waste that on something that doesn't matter?

Progressing works for me. I'm progressing—and struggling to create better stories and characters and plots, to open more doors in closed minds, to entertain those who most need it and make people think. I'm struggling to write and do more and to work smarter not harder.

That's a wiser mind-set for me. Keeps me from getting mentally lazy. I love the challenge and knowing I can continue to increase my skills but I'll never master the craft. That's an asset. Master it and what's left to do? The challenge becomes drudgery, boring. Writing will never be either for me.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
1. Don't stop reading. You gravitate toward specific books, usually because you like them best. Write that type of book, not the type that has the best odds of selling. That doesn't work because you can't fake passion for what you're writing; it always shows.

2. Never settle for "good enough." If it isn't the best you're capable of doing at this time, then respect yourself and your work and stick with the effort until the work shines. Writing isn't easy. The author striving for excellence only makes it appear easy.

3. Remember that every other opinion is subjective. Write the story that matters to you and then retain faith in it. Welcome opinions, incorporate what works but, in the end, stick with your gut instinct on what best serves your story.

4. If you can quit writing, do it. If you love it, you won't be able to quit, and trying is the fastest way to determine whether or not you're willing to make the sacrifices required by it. Once you know you can't quit, you never again waste energy thinking about it. Regardless of what happens, you press on and write. Because that's what writers do.

You know, I need to stop or this is going to be a book! I've written a couple books for writers. I'd refer writers to them and to the free library on my web site, which has tons of articles on craft, the business and writing life.

What about writing do you wish non-writers understood?
1. Everyone might have a story in them, but not everyone is a storyteller. It is a gift and a skill-based craft.

2. (A little closer to home.) There is no such thing as "just a little interruption." When you're creating and someone interrupts, it might take thirty minutes to get back to where you were in create-mode--or you might never get back there. The perfect phrase or the fleeting idea that would have cemented in your mind is forever lost. And that makes writers cranky. If your writer is in create-mode, leave them alone unless it's a matter of death or dying.

What about writing do you wish other writers understood?
If there is a secret to success it lies within the writer, not outside him/her. Stories based on universal emotion where the writer cuts loose his/her own unique individuality.

Translation: Write like you think. You're totally honest with yourself--most of the time. You don't temper or hold back, as you do when speaking to others. That honesty "speaks" to the reader on many levels. And don't ever let anyone else define success for you. You define it. You know why you write.

For the writer promoting a book, what do you consider the BEST thing he or she could do to promote it?
Word of mouth is the undisputed king on selling books. So get copies of the book out to industry professionals and those who will get excited about it and hand-sell it.

* * *

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of our Q&A. You can find her online at

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More mystery and thriller novelists:
Q&A: TASHA ALEXANDER (And Only to Deceive)
Q&A: LONNIE CRUSE (Murder In Metropolis)

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