Today we conclude our conversation with suspense novelist Wanda Lee Dyson, author of the critically acclaimed "Shefford-Johnson Case Files" novels, Abduction, Obsession and Intimidation. A Christian counselor, author and speaker, Wanda returned to her roots of writing stories after 15 years in marketing and advertising. She is a founding member of Keep Me In Suspense, a group that promotes inspirational mystery and suspense authors.
From Wanda's official bio:
"Like most writers, I have a past filled with diverse experiences that I draw on when writing. I've worked as a waitress, a cook and a dishwasher; as a cashier, a salesclerk, assistant manager and then manager in the retail business; handled marketing and advertising for volunteer fire companies, which led to a career in marketing for the commercial real estate industry, power/energy industry, ministries, and churches; I've done secretarial work for manufacturers, contractors, landscapers, and even a short stint with Disney. I've had dinner with a quarterback for the 49ers, a pro wrestler, a headlining Vegas singer, and the high priest of the satanic church in Washington, DC., to name (or not name) just a few. I've driven forklifts and Bobcats, baled hay, and flown a plane. I've survived hurricanes, tornadoes, three fires, a plane crash (I wasn't the pilot on that one), barely walked away from a head-on car crash, and was abducted at gun point.
"It was this abduction that led me to my current relationship with the Lord. At one crucial point during the abduction, I knew I was going to die and I had a somewhat typical "foxhole" reaction. I prayed. "God, if you're real and you're listening, if you get me out of this alive, I'll do anything you want." He kept his end of the bargain and now I'm keeping mine ... "
See the whole bio here.
Now, without further ado ...
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WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
First—READ. Read it all, read everything you can in the genre you want to write in. I truly believe that you can read books on how to write and still not understand how to write. Read. Pick out the ones you loved best and read them again. And then again. You will absorb the feel, the pace, the structure and it will improve your own writing.
Second—WRITE. It doesn’t matter that it will never see a publisher, just write that novel. Then write another and another. You learn by doing. I read once that writers are the only group of artists arrogant enough to think that the first thing they write is worth money.
WHAT DO YOU WISH NON-WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
That I have no control over the fact that a publisher cancels a series. I get so many letters (and I love you all for it) begging for more about Zoe and JJ, but alas, it is over.
Seriously, I would have to say that I wish they understood that I find mistakes in books, too. Even after multiple editors and readers have gone over a manuscript, chances are, there’s going to be something in there somewhere that someone missed. Once it is in print, there’s really not much any of us can do about it except wince.
WHAT DO YOU WISH OTHER WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
Writing that book is only part of the process. There is so much more to being a writer than writing a great story and getting it contracted for publication. Marketing, promotion, endorsements, research, promotion, interviews, conferences, critique groups, website maintenance, promotion, fan mail, book signings, and did I mention promotion? It will be up to you to decide whether you will be a one book wonder or a career novelist and if you’re going to do this for a living, you have to promote like crazy, getting your name out there, getting your books out there, and establishing yourself in the industry.
FOR THE WRITER WITH A NEW BOOK, WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE BEST THING TO PROMOTE IT?
I don’t think you can pick one as the best and rest on that. You have to do everything–call bookstores in your area and try to get book signings scheduled, give away books to people in position to promote you (librarian, receptionist, church libraries, etc), send out influencer copies, get the word out in writer’s groups, leave bookmarks advertising your book everywhere you go, encourage people to recommend your book to their friends, sell autographed copies on your website. I also had pens made with my “Keep Me In Suspense with Wanda Dyson novels” printed up and I leave them everywhere. Drive-thru at the bank? Leave one in the canister. Grocery store? Leave one on the counter. Doctor’s office? Leave a couple with the receptionist. Out to dinner? Leave one on the table for the waitress. Conferences? I put a box of them out for people to take at their leisure. Get your name out there!
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND JOINING AN AUTHOR GUILD?
Or several of them. Not only because you can learn so much from them, but it also gets your name out there. People see you everywhere, they start getting interested in who you are, they buy your book, they read it, hopefully they love it, and then they’re recommending you to someone else and the cycle goes on.
WHEN CHOOSING FROM ALL THE ORGANIZATIONS AVAILABLE, WHAT TRAITS SHOULD A NOVELIST LOOK FOR?
It depends on what you’re looking to get out of it. I belong to some organizations purely for what I can learn from those in it, and another purely for the exposure, and another simply because it has local authors to hook up and network with for local mass book signings. What does the organization have that will benefit you? And how much? If you’re just starting, I would suggest joining a local group and a national/international group.
When you’re first starting out, you want to absorb everything you can as fast as you can, but once the dust settles you realize what you want is to learn from those that are doing what you want to do. I’m not interested in sitting in a class being taught by someone that has written 2 romance novelettes. I want to sit and learn at the feet of someone that has published several suspense novels and knows what works and what doesn’t. Look for organizations that can provide you with the teaching that improves on what YOU are doing.
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Many thanks to our guest, suspense author Wanda Dyson. Find her online at WandaDyson.com and Keep Me In Suspense. She is also a contributor at the Keep Me In Suspense blog.
Related link: Q&A: WANDA DYSON, PT 1
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Q&A: TASHA ALEXANDER (And Only to Deceive)
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