By David Alan Binders
This interview appeared in David Alan Binder’s site David Alan Binder’s site today.
Thonie Hevron interview with David Alan Binder
Bio from her website: In 1973, on a dare, Thonie tested with San Rafael Police Department for Parking Enforcement Officer. Yes, she got the job and became Rita the Meter Maid for three years. Six months after promoting to Dispatch, she married an officer and left police work.
In 1981, she got a job with Petaluma Police as a Community Service Officer and shortly after, divorced. For PPD, she took reports, directed traffic, spoke to groups about Crime Prevention and assorted duties. After seven years, she traded jobs with a dispatcher and went inside. In 1988, she married a Petaluma Fire Captain, Danny Hevron. In 1991, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office recruited her as a Records Supervisor for the Central Information Bureau. With budget cuts looming, she left in 1994.
In 1994, Danny and Thonie re-located to Bishop, California and worked as a dispatcher for the local police department in Inyo County. Then, in 2004, she again, was offered a job she couldn’t refuse–dispatcher for Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety. Danny and Thonie were thrilled to be back in Sonoma County and she finally retired in 2011. She concentrates on fiction writing, but takes a break with fitness workouts, cycling and kayaking with Danny and riding horses.
Thonie’s job history gives her a rich and textured understanding of the complex life of the men and women behind the badge. She looks forward to penning the stories she has lived in law enforcement.
1. How do you pronounce your name?
a. I get that question a lot. It’s pronounced, “Toni.” I was named after my Norwegian grandmother. I’ve heard that Thonie is an old-fashioned name that means a musical note. Pretty ironic, though. I can’t carry a tune in a handbasket.
2. Where are you currently living?
a. I’m in Petaluma, California, a suburb of San Francisco with an agricultural identity all its own. This is Sonoma County, a major force in California wines as well as micro-breweries. The restaurants here are amazing and the setting is dairy pastures and vineyards.
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
a. No question about it: Keep working.
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
a. I used to have to light a specific scented candle but I’ve outgrown that.
b. I used to like to write to classical music or Jim Brickman, but I find it distracting now.
c. I won’t drink wine while I am working or anything but water or coffee.
d. Pretty boring, I’d say. Sometimes, those quirks become excuses for not putting my butt in the chair.
5. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
a. I’ve done both and each has plusses and minuses. Self-publishing has more author control. I recall after my first book, By Force or Fear, came out, a review said that the reader found very few editorial mistakes. That was a major accomplishment! Then, I got a small press publisher (who eventually published my first book) for my second thriller, Intent to Hold. After Intent was published, a friend called me to tell me he wanted to give the book five stars on Amazon reviews but couldn’t because there were so many editorial mistakes. There was a whole printing that had most of the Mexican words underlined (the correct formatting to indicate italics). Yikes! I’d been give the galleys to check but that slipped by both me and the publisher. I had to destroy a whole $hipment.
b. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they located? My former publisher was Billie Johnson of Oak Tree Press (OTP) in Hanford, Ca. She is currently on hiatus, recovering from a stroke. She has offered the rights back to her OTP authors who want them. I chose to take advantage and now have both the above books and the forthcoming, With Malice Aforethought.
6. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
a. My books are available as eBooks although Amazon still has a few print copies left from an OTP run. I’ll put out With Malice Aforethought in eBook first then the print copy. Then I plan on going back to tighten up By Force or Fear. I like to have both the bases covered, print and electronic. I have yet to do audio books but that’s on the (endless) list of things to do.
b. For alternative versus conventional publishing: it depends on your genre, your book, your audience, and many other things. I write traditional police procedurals/crime thrillers so an alternative publisher probably wouldn’t work for me. But other authors could be well served by this medium. Bottom line is you, as an author, have to educate yourself on the business. Literary agents would be helpful here.
7. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
a. First, write and produce a marketable product.
b. Second, get the word out: enter contests, query literary agents and publishers until you find what you need.
c. Thirdly, but not least, market yourself and your work. Public relations is one of the most daunting aspects of today’s publishing world. But if an agent or publisher looks at your work compared to another author and you have a solid, thriving platform, chances are good they’ll look harder at you. After all, they only make money if your books sell. If you’re engaged in selling them, too, and the other author isn’t, you’re the better bet.
8. How did you or would you suggest acquiring an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
a. After my experience with a small press publisher, I am working on it. This is what I do:
b. Query, query, query.
c. Go to writers’ conferences (volunteering is a great way to get in cheap sometimes), join a writer’s club (I belong to California Writers Club/Redwood Writers-an incredibly active club that has helped set goals, organize, write better, learn to market and so much more).
d. Go to club workshops, pitch sessions, and volunteer to help at events or the leadership level.
e. I also joined Public Safety Writers’ Club, Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers. All offer scoops on agents currently looking for new projects.
f. Sometimes the agents attend the club conferences looking for new clients.
g. Subscribe to blog newsletters like Funds for Writers: mystery writer C. Hope Clark offers a free version with agent info. I check that every week.
h. Find a book in your genre that you like, find the author’s agent, research and pitch/query him or her.
i. Subscribe to QueryTracker or one of the many online (free!) programs to put you in touch with agents and/or publishers.
9. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
a. Write: put your butt in the chair and write—even if you toss it tomorrow, there may be something there that gives you an idea for something else. Write. If it takes a schedule carved in stone, getting up at 5 A.M., or finding a place outside the home: write.
b. Develop a thick skin: know that when you ask your mother about your newest work, she’s going to tell you it’s a masterpiece. Not so with the rest of the world. I joined my current critique group ten years ago and have learned so much; become a better writer because of their criticisms. I wouldn’t trade any of them. On the other hand, fifteen years ago, I took pages from a new crime thriller to a group I didn’t know (about 20 people of all genres including poetry). They blasted it; said my character sounded whiney. Turns out they were right but the experience soured me on critique groups for years. Had I toughened up and found another group sooner, I might be farther along on my writer journey.
c. Speaking of critique groups: join one. Find a group of people with similar goals (not necessarily similar genres) to cheer you on, to point out better ways to say it, to give you ideas when you’re stuck, challenge you to dig deeper, but one of the most cogent arguments for a critique group: to produce ten pages of work every meeting.
d. Join a writer’s club, even if you have to do it from a distance (meaning online). Nothing beats glad handing with other reclusive writers (you want me to meet other people???). These days writers who publish are so much more than writers. They’re speakers, experts, bloggers, marketers, and so on. Like it or not, the Hemingwayian prototype of the writer as a hard-drinking, ascetic is history. Nowadays, writers network.
10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
a. That I could do it. I never doubted that I had the skill to write, oddly enough. My reservations lay in setting and achieving a goal. Typing “The End” on the manuscript. When I finally did, I had to polish it—heavily.
b. I had to learn new skills such as social media, blogging and public speaking (what??? Not me, the girl who couldn’t get up in front of a crowd to be her best friend’s bridesmaid!). Not to mention formatting, even if I’m traditionally published, the editor requires the text to be just so.
11. How many books have you written?
a. Four: By Force or Fear, Intent to Hold both on Amazon.
b. With Malice Aforethought to be published sometime later in 2017 and a fourth book, working title: Walls of Jericho. That one is still being polished.
12. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?
a. I try stay current with what my genre is producing.
b. I keep a stock of writing craft books on hand so when I get stuck at a denouement (for instance), I can research Stephen King, David Corbett, Nancy Kress, Jordan Rosenfeld and more.
c. My quick go-to is my critique group. They are awesome with ideas.
13. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
a. I think: what is the opposite of what I think should happen?
b. How could it get worse? Then, I get ideas.
14. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
a. Because my topics are so authentic, they tend to be dark. But I have the cop-survival mechanism of humor to defuse the tension. I think the blend is unique.
b. I also love to make the setting a character. Whether it is Sonoma County or Puerto Vallarta, I like to take readers there: how does it feel (humid or damp)? Smell (jungles are full of growing things that give off scents)?
15. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
a. I like to use social media to get to audiences. I market heavily to cops so belong to Facebook groups and post my blog links.
b. I do readings. Our local bookstore, Copperfields’ has partnered with my writers’ club, Redwood Writers, and host many literary events at which I’ve appeared.
c. I appear at local fairs and festivals where I meet lots of potential customers. I give out freebies like bookmarks with my book info on them.
16. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
a. I would have started sooner. I began writing in the fifth grade but never had any serious direction. It wasn’t until I was in my fifties that I decided I’d better do this if I wanted to write a book. Marketing wasn’t on the radar then or I probably would have been scared off! Basically, I would have believed in myself sooner.
17. What saying or mantra do you live by?
a. Put your butt in the chair and write.
b. Quitting is the sure road to failure.
18. Anything else you would like to say?
a. Nope, I think I’ve covered it all.