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Why You Need to be Publishing Audiobooks SPF 137 Tina Dietz
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You’re a writer; so what’s your story, or what inspired you?
Becoming a writer was a natural progression of my professional life. I have a liberal arts degree majoring in English and Psychology before training as a high school English and Guidance teacher. After that I moved into Adult Education in which I hold a Master’s Degree.
I worked at the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa) teaching academic writing before embarking on a project in the arena of HIV and AIDS, a devastating pandemic affecting many people in Southern Africa.
After a three year period of travelling the country, the UICEF and Department of Social Development initiative ran its course and I was at a crossroads. I was processing experiences of working in semi-rural environments with people who had very different social practices and cultures. I decided these, with a bit of flair and a stretch of the imagination, would make good stories.
I really appreciate your kindness in helping others. Education at necessary at every stage in life. Very unique.
What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
I began to write to make sense of aspects of life that affected or concerned me. I had been a social activist and was worried about many issues such as the instability of southern Africa and how this feeds into the exploitation of women and children (sex trafficking). I had witnessed the downward spiral that accompanies drug addiction, and I wanted to write novels that exposed the harsh realities of life to sensitise people towards these conditions and to increase tolerance and understanding. Wrapping them in the guise of fiction in a gripping psychological thriller was one way I thought would make them more palatable.
Writing, for me, is therapeutic and is a way I can release my creativity. It is something my soul demands I do. It gives me tremendous pleasure and, at times, a fair bit of pain too!
Wow. That’s a great way to release your creativity, Sarah. These are harsh realities the world has to deal with, but ‘m glad your muse has found an outlet to tackle them! I have tons of books to read but I’d like to make room for yours as well.
What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
I have completed all of my projects so far. My debut novel, Tangled Weeds is a stand-alone book and currently I have almost finished The Starlight Tide, the final book in my Sisters of Light trilogy, This follows The Dandelion Clock and The Butterfly Wind.
I have been writing since 2011 and, although I could have written faster, I have not put myself under creative pressure. Life gets in the way of art at times and I have been involved in raising our two daughters and have family responsibilities. At stages I have had a mini crisis of faith but I am doggedly determined and once a book is begun am driven to complete it.
Life does certainly get in the way at times. Much too often in my opinion, but I admire your determination! Once we start something it must be finished. That’s the way it ought to be.
What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
Writing is my life’s purpose at the moment and that passion goes a long way to keeping me motivated. There is nothing better than seeing your book published with your name on the cover.
I have a highly active imagination and a plethora of ideas. Once a setting and a cast of characters invade my mind I am under siege! My characters develop through my stories; they evolve or devolve as the case may be. The moral dilemmas they face are of particular interest to me. I believe that good must triumph over evil and there is always a chance of redemption. I think that this message of hope must be offered to readers in these challenging times.
YES, I love it! Purpose and passion are two big motivators for anyone. I love the imagination of authors! It keeps me turning the pages coming back for more. Can’t wait to read your books.
What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
One can always find excuses that delay or sabotage dreams.
This game can be overwhelming and doubt destructive. I am fortunate that I have a husband who supports me and my work, which is a huge factor. I have also learnt that it is more important to live modestly and do what makes you truly happy.
Your statements rings so true. Excuses, doubt, and lack of support all are formidable opponents.
Why do writers give up, quit or never complete their projects?
There are so many answers to that question. Writers often feel lonely and have no support. They cannot pay the rent by writing. Insecurity about the quality of their work shuts down their imagination and they run out of ideas and cannot finish their stories. They read other people’s books and feel inferior and are rejected too many times by publishers and/or their confidence is eroded by unfavourable reviews. They are overwhelmed by the fact that writing is the easy part of the job and the rest is too great a mountain to even attempt to summit.
This is a great list. An accurate one too! This is one of my favorite responses to this question.
What would you say to a struggling writer who’s given up?
Write for yourself. Write for personal satisfaction and mental gymnastics for your brain. Appreciate that writing is not easy. Some days you strike the keyboard with smug satisfaction and other days you sit tormented and tearful. Try to get into a routine of writing every day – even if it’s just for twenty minutes, The more you practice the better you’ll get.
Like everything in life, you have to deeply desire the final product and realise that it takes a lot of effort, sweat and tears. Finish what you start. It gives you a great sense of accomplishment. Writing teaches you discipline and courage and these attributes will stand you in great stead throughout your life.
Find a writing group or a mentor. Use social media to link to like-minded readers and writers – there are a gazillion out there. Writers are kind; they form communities and nurture and support each other.
Excellent! Medicine for the weary!
What else do you have coming down the pike?
Once I have completed my trilogy, I plan to write a novel highlighting the plight of rural girls in South Africa.
From the coastal city of Durban, to rural hills outside Ixopo, to smoky Alexandra Township and the posh suburbs of Johannesburg, Veils of Smoke will follow Nonhlanhla Biyela on a dangerous undertaking to try to locate her missing cousin, Sinazo.
Wonderful. Keep us posted on the third installment and the next novel. Would love to see how it pans out.
*Who influenced your reading habits the most as a child?
Oh, so many people. Probably the earliest was my grandmother, but once I started school I was fortunate to have wonderful teachers. And once I discovered the public library and that librarians LOVED to help kids find new books about things they liked, I couldn’t be stopped.
Thank the Lord for grandmothers! That’s wonderful you had so many helpful people early in life. I remember two particular teachers in elementary that encouraged me a lot. We never forget the ones who truly cared for us.
*Which were the first mysteries that drew you into the genre?
The first mystery I ever read was in third grade, and it was The Brownie Scout Mystery by Dorothy Sterling. I checked it out of my elementary school library and honestly only chose it because I was a Brownie at the time, so felt that connection. Then, for Christmas, my aunt (the daughter of the grandmother I mentioned in the earlier question) gave me my first Trixie Belden book. It was the fourth book in the series, and I was thrilled to realize there were so many more Trixie Belden books for me to read, since I think they were all written before I was born. That led on to Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, and I read a few Robin Kane mysteries that my cousin had, but none of them compared to Trixie and Honey’s mysteries and adventures. Later, I moved on to Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie.
I love hearing about the mysteries that shaped a writer early in life.
*Name your top 5 favorite books and what affect they had on you.
1) The Odessa File by Frederick Forsythe – I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it, but I still have that amazed feeling whenever I think about the answer the bad guy received when he asked why the main character continued trying so hard to pursue him. I’d read the whole book up until then wondering why, myself, and the answer surprised me so much—especially when I realized the clue had been there all along, but I’d missed it.
2) Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams – I purchased the hardcover edition of this book in 1987 because I was already an Adams fan due to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. So, I knew this wasn’t going to be your standard mystery. The absolute creative genius behind this book makes it not only my all-time favorite by this author (though the addition of Thor in the sequel The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul makes that novel come a close second), but I’ve read and reread this book (and too short series) several times. I haven’t yet seen the BBC program featuring the novel, but it’s on my to-watch list when I get time for some British binging.
3) Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy – This isn’t a mystery, but there were so many absolutely beautiful passages to fall into as I read the book. The first time I read it I probably took three times longer than usual to do so because I kept going back and rereading whole paragraphs and pages.
4) Every Single Novel by Elizabeth Peters – Actually, I like a lot of her Barbara Michaels books, too, and I own several of her nonfiction books written under her real name of Barbara Mertz. But truly, I love everything penned as Elizabeth Peters and own every title she wrote under that name. Rather than list a novel, I’d have to say her Amelia Peabody Mystery Series would be my favorite because of the way she wove fascinating real facts within her historical mysteries, and had such standout characters throughout the titles. For almost the same reasons, I’d have to list the Vicky Bliss Mystery Series as a close second—with less books in the series it doesn’t have quite the depth of Peabody, but it does a great job of blending fact and mystery plot and characters. And, of course, there are the Jacqueline Kirby books, and the many wonderful standalones Peters wrote before all her series took off.
5) The Harry Potter Series – I think every book in that series was wonderful, but together, seeing the complete series arc by the end, and all the pieces Rowling wove within the individual novels requires this whole series to be listed as one piece in my top five. But I’ve always been a series reader—as implied by my inclusion of all-things-Peters in the previous question—so this probably isn’t surprising.
I like these! Of course, I only recognize one of them, but I love to get book recommendations. There’s too many good writers around to count.
*Name your favorite classic sleuths and how are they different from one another?
I love Miss Marple and Columbo for the same reasons: they pay attention to so much more than just the visible clues and they want to solve the crime to truly give the victim justice—not for accolades or to improve their own position.
I also love to read Martha Grimes’s Inspector Richard Jury series, but primarily the ones where Melrose Plant is involved in the case with him—because I love Melrose. He’s kind of a contemporary Lord Peter Wimsey and I look forward to his arrival in the books each time and the way he impacts the case.
Equally, I especially enjoy unconventional sleuths. I often stay up late on weekends to watch the old Avengers shows with Diana Riggs as Mrs. Peel, to see what kind of off-beat crime she and Steed will solve—usually eminently quirky. And finally, I adore the new BBC Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman because they so perfectly play off one another and show not only Sherlock’s brilliance, but how his almost sociopathic tendency to not consider others is offset by Watson’s tempering humanity—which all comes together to better solve the case and understand the outcome.
I’ve yet to see the Sherlock Holmes series with Cumberbatch, although it’s cued and ready to go.
*How has reading affected your style of writing?
I think my writing has more often affected my reading style than the reverse. I’ve always been a voracious reader and read across all genres and literary and nonfiction standards. But while I used to be able to read through things that weren’t…shall we say…written as well as they could be, now that isn’t the case. I simply cannot read something filled with bad editing or—especially—are written with unbelievable plots, or if characters begin changing to suit a plot need rather than acting the way they always have. I just stop reading and move on to something else.
I find this very fascinating for some reason. The dynamic relationship between reading and writing is wonderful. I would say a voracious reader would develop a keen eye for the matters you mentioned above. Then developing the writing craft would only serve to sharpen those skills to a whole new level.
*If you could hire any fictional sleuth to solve a major crime who would it be? Who would be the sidekick?
I would love to see Columbo and Adrian Monk solve a crime together. I know that sounds mean because Columbo just standing next to Monk would probably give the OCD detective a mental breakdown, but to me it would be kind of an American Sherlock/Watson combo. I imagine Columbo would be the humanizing end of the team and Monk would be…well, Monk. But the crime solving could be the absolutely fastest on record with those two brilliant minds working on it at the same time.
That sounds like a great combination!
AT THE SCENE OF THE CRIME
*Name 3-5 of your pet peeves as a reader
1) Love triangles. Hate them. Just pick a guy or girl already and move on to the real story. Don’t let the “which guy will she choose” go on from book to book to book.
2) Authors who don’t think readers are smart enough to figure things out and try to fill in every single dot or write mostly dialogue and skimp on narrative because it’s easier.
3) Characters who change from the way they’ve been throughout the story to fit plot problems a writer stumbled into and couldn’t figure how else to get out of.
4) Unnecessary sex, violence or language as a quick and cheap way to try to heighten the tension.
I always find this one interesting. Writers can learn so much by hearing these.
*How have mysteries changed over the years?
It feels like they’ve become more real to life through the years, but that may just be that I’ve gotten older and read things more contemporary to my life. I still love the old standbys like Christie and Dick Francis and Forsythe, but there are so many new authors like Michael Connelly and Lee Child who write fabulous, exciting mysteries that truly are 21stcentury. I think more than anything, we’re getting more blending of genres, so while we can find straight mysteries still, we also have great combinations we likely wouldn’t have had decades ago. The aforementioned Dirk Gently series, for example, or the fabulous Spellman Files series by Lisa Lutz, both of which use humor and contemporary insight as much as they do elements of mystery. Another offbeat cross-genre example is the Bryant and May series by Christopher Fowler, or anything by Jasper Fforde.
Wow, great examples here. I’m very interested in this topic for some reason. So intriguing!
*What makes a great mystery?
It must give me something to figure out, and provide good characters I want to spend time with. I’ve read so many mysteries that I’m seldom halfway through a book before I’ve figured out whodunit, and that’s okay, as long as there are still surprises for me to discover as the character(s) still look for clues. I don’t want to know everything about everyone from the beginning, I want that to unfold just like the mystery, so if I solve the mystery halfway along, there’s still something to keep me reading.
That’s wonderful. There’s something so cerebral about solving a good puzzle, especially a ‘whodunit’. When you weave in great characters, the book is well worth the read.
She’s works in marketing and data analysis within the book industry, an avid blogger and author of a new psychological thriller, When We Go Missing. Kristen is also participating in the inaugural launch of Mystery Thriller Week.
According to Goodreads
Once, Alex Gardinier was a successful physical therapist and a happy wife. Now she is trapped in a crumbling hospital room. Seven years ago Alex’s ex-husband, Nathan, was convicted of murdering five girls, and he has been rotting in prison ever since. Except the doctors say that Nathan isn’t in prison. In fact, they don’t believe that he is a criminal at all. According to them, Nathan is a devoted husband who visits her every week. But Alex can’t recall ever seeing him at the hospital, and the last time they met he was holding her hostage on a boat.
Maybe the doctors are right – maybe these memories of his crimes are her own personal delusions – but if they are wrong, then Nathan somehow escaped from prison. If they are wrong, he has trapped Alex in a psychiatric ward.
If they are wrong, he is hunting her sister
Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from a cornfield in Illinois but have lived in several different places across the Midwest. I’ll always have an attraction to the flatlands because of it.
Yay! The Midwest is awesome. Plenty of cornfields here!
What did you study in college?
As an undergraduate, I studied history and art history. When I finished my graduate degree, I studied gender and the history of Imperial Germany.
Wow. This is rather impressive. I took an art history course once and it was pretty difficult.
Did you used to be a librarian?
Though I worked at several libraries, I never held the position of librarian. Most institutions want to hire people who hold library degrees for those roles. Instead, I held customer facing positions in an undergraduate and business library. There, I did things like organize events for speakers and authors, help manage the acquisition of journals and magazines, and do reference work, which involved helping people find the reading materials that suited their research needs.
That sounds very intriguing and not to mention good work experience.
What do you do exactly in publishing?
Currently I am a sales and marketing research coordinator for a small press. This means I perform several different functions that have to do with data and book promotion. In terms of data, I do analyses to see where we have opportunities to expand our books and journals programs and make suggestions about how to package our products. This also means that I pay a lot of attention to how money flows through the press. Though I don’t directly do design work, I help to write marketing copy for items and give input on promotional materials like posters, emails, and information on our website. Prior to my current position, I briefly worked in the acquisitions department of a different publisher. While there, I helped edit manuscripts, assess submissions, and write rejection letters.
This is amazing. You have an amazing, well rounded skill set!
What do you love most about fantasy?
Fantasy is my great passion. It’s the genre that I was raised on and the one that I always return to. Because they tell stories that are a step away from the real world, fantasy novels often get to the heart of what it means to be human. They delve into our strengths and weakness, our hopes and fears, and they let us dream. What if the world was different? What would we do then?
Some authors that represent the best of fantasy are Diana Wynne Jones, Melanie Rawn, Peter S. Beagle, Jan Siegel, and a dozen others. Oddly, my first novel, “When We Go Missing”, doesn’t deal with fantasy at all – it is a psychological thriller – but the feel of fantasy, the arc of its stories, the texture of its language, bleeds into my writing.
Nice. I still think it’s impressive that you can write a psychological thriller even though it isn’t your passion. I believe it’ll make you a better writer in the end.
How has reading affected your writing?
I just finished some research on how reading affects writing. It turns out that reading materials alter the syntax and writing level that people use. For example, people who spend their time reading a lot of Buzzfeed articles write much simpler sentences than people who read pulp fiction, and people who read pulp fiction write less complex sentences than folks who read more literary books.
Of course complexity isn’t always best. I’ve had to undo some bad writing habits because I have spent a lot of time reading scholarly theorists and academic texts. Fiction requires a very different style. And no one wants to read a sentence that is the length of an entire paragraph.
That’s so interesting. You’re blog posts tend to be more on the scholarly side. I admire your style.
Why did you write a psychological thriller for your first book?
I ended up writing When We Go Missing through sheer luck. I am a fantasy author at heart, but When We Go Missing was a story I felt like I had to tell. Over the past several years, I have become more and more aware of the ways that people, especially women, really do go missing in America and the way that society deals with those disappearances. It was fascinating and horrifying realm to discover, and I wanted to explore the whys behind it a bit more. The story turned into a psychological thriller because that was the best way to tell the story without completely breaking my heart about the subject.
The premise for your books is mesmerizing. The theme behind it is also powerful.
Tell us how you developed this idea into a novel.
When We Go Missing was a writing experiment for me. I had different ideas about how I wanted to talk about women who vanish and decided that I needed to bite the bullet and write the book.
In July of 2016, I gave myself the goal of publishing this manuscript – I didn’t even really know what the plot was back then – in December of 2016. This meant I had to buckle down and prioritize my writing. I ended up finishing the rough draft in September and spent October and November revising it. I do not encourage anyone to follow my schedule. It meant working a lot of high density hours on a single project, and I always suggest that people give themselves more time to reflect during the editing process. Having said all of that, the contracted schedule was a great decision for me because in my heart of hearts, all I want to do is continually edit my books. Historically that prevented me from publishing any of them. I had to push myself to get over my perfectionist tendencies, and I am excited to share my final result.
Nice. Perfectionism can be a problem for sure. But I’m glad you pushed through it! Impressive.
What do you love most about reading books?
I love that books allow me to step outside of myself. Through novels, I can experience the world from a different perspective. I’ve learned a lot about myself and about others that way.
Very true. It’s an amazing experience isn’t it? We get tour another world, life, viewpoint, struggles and victories of another.
Name 3-5 top pet peeves as a reader.
Most of my bookish pet peeves relate to characters, how they act, what they say. I can’t stand:
Basically I need characters to feel real. They should have their own motivations, weaknesses, and logic. I need to be able to convince myself that they could exist outside of the pages of the book, and if the author can’t portray that well, I struggle to stick with a novel.
This is great info here. I love seeing what different authors say about this subject. I see authors fantasies as well, or an idealized trait that’s totally cliche.
Does When We Go Missing employ any themes?
When We Go Missing deals with several major themes. These include trauma, love, family, resilience, and, most importantly, what we do to survive. There is no single way that people react when terrible things happen to them or their loved ones, and in the book, I really wanted to explore the range of those reactions.
Sounds like a great thriller to me! A really deep one at that.
Is this a standalone or will you write more psychological thrillers?
Though When We Go Missing will likely not become a book in a series, I do have several other ideas for thrillers that are floating around in my head. My next project is a contemporary fantasy book, but I imagine that I will return to the realm of thrillers sooner or later. It provides a fantastic sandbox for authors to play in after all, and I don’t think I’ll be able to resist it.
Good. Don’t resist it! I can’t wait to see what you come up with.
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Reviewing young adult, new adult, and romance since 2013.
Author of the psychological thriller series, Incalculable
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New York Times-bestselling author