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Writing for DOLLARS! Interview with author Marion Moore Hill
by Peggy Fielding

Author of BOOKMARKED FOR MURDER, Marion Moore Hill, also has a story in the anthology, ALMOST MURDER...WITH PETS. Born in Haskell, Oklahoma she now lives in Durant, Oklahoma. Slim, conservatively dressed and coiffed, wearing glasses, Hill looks greatly like the librarian she presents as a heroine in her novel. She isn't a librarian although she has taught English and Journalism in college. She looks to be calmness itself but she admits she has murder in her heart.

We talked at the Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. (OWFI) conference in Oklahoma City in early May just before all the tornadoes hit.

WFD: Ms. Hill, what set you onto writing murder mysteries?

HILL: I think reading my first Nancy Drew at school made me want to be a writer and over the years I wrote some but I let life get in the way. Starting in 1987, my husband and I operated a small grocery store, where we specialized in Vietnamese foods.

WFD: Vietnamese Foods? In Durant, Oklahoma?

HILL: Vietnamese students from the college there in Durant became our faithful customers. We formed special friendships with several of those men and women.

WFD: Don't you have a Vietnamese family in BOOKMARKED FOR MURDER?

HILL: Yes, some of our customers were transformed into characters in the book. The Vietnamese family living next door became very important to the story.

WFD: You've done really well with BOOKMARKED, which is your first novel. To what do you attribute your success?

HILL: "Networking" is a term we often hear. Much of what distinguishes a successful writer from the wannabe, comes down to writing and networking. Writers help each other, thank goodness. We also have to do SSP.


HILL: Shameless Self-Promotion. Our friends help us and we help our friends but we have to help ourselves as well.

WFD: Writing is mostly solitary. How do you go about getting together with other writers?

HILL: You don't even have to leave home to correspond online. I also tour and promote my books with a group of other writers. ALMOST MURDER...WITH PETS was a collaborative anthology. There are all kinds of tried and true ways of promoting yourself and your work but there are a few newer approaches as well.

WFD: Tell us something about the newer approaches.

HILL: I belong to Mystery Writers of America. Recently they've started a new service; a database of libraries around the country that are interested in having authors come to speak. MWA also allows members to list themselves in a Speakers Database, so anyone looking for mystery writers to do a workshop or speech, can contact the listed writer directly. My $80.00 a year fee to MWA has been an excellent investment.

WFD: Do you belong to other helpful organizations?

HILL: I'm a member of Sisters In Crime, which has a booth at the big American Library Association meeting each year. Thanks to that membership I've been able to send bookmarks advertising my novel to be handed out at the S in C booth at ALA.

WFD: What other self-promotion do you try for?

HILL: It's good to get yourself invited onto conference programs, if possible. Sometimes that's by invitation but many times you have to push yourself forward and ask...ask early, because programs are planned months in advance. Asking is how I got slots on the program at Clue Fest last summer, at Bouchercon World Mystery Convention last fall, to OWFI, to Mayhem in the Midlands this month and to Red Dirt Book Festival in Shawnee this coming Fall.

WFD: Any other suggestions for selling your books?

HILL: Yes. I call it Authors Assisting Authors. You form groups to do book tours, promoting each other's individual books. Three or four persons seems the right number of writers for these groups. Maybe they 'll want to give themselves a catchy name, like The Deadly Divas, The Femmes Fatales, The Minnesota Crime Wave, etc. Booking the group for workshops, panel appearances, and book signings is really better than trying to go it alone. They can dress in costume and really put on a show if they wish. The Deadly Divas, for instance, show up in tiaras and feather boas and they raffle off a Deadly Diva tee shirt each place they go.

WFD: Oh, yes. Not only can you have fun that way, you can split expenses.

HILL: Right. Another way authors work together now is the collaborative anthology. It seems something of a trend for writers to put together and publish collections of similarly themed stories. It's one way writers can break into print initially these days, and it can give already published authors another book to promote and sell. More books, of course, mean more money and more exposure for you as a writer. I did ALMOST MURDER...WITH PETS with eight other Oklahoma authors. We call ourselves, "The Cozy Crime Writers." Our book is listed with amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com

WFD: Any other suggestions?

HILL: Because of the lack of promotional help from publishers and the difficulty of making much money from book sales through bookstores we began organizing signing-selling events ourselves, so we could sell books directly to the public.

WFD: To cut out the booksellers?

HILL: Oh, no. Bookstores and authors will always need each other. This is just another selling approach. Perhaps our book would sell well at a dog or cat show or at a local fair or festival. Anyone interested in our group or its events should get in touch with Lydona Atchley. She's an agent who represents a number of Oklahoma authors. Her email address is lydaonaatchley@aol.com

The most successful author event I've attended was the Texas Writers Roundup in Wimberly, Texas. The year I went it attracted 80 authors and booksellers and sold $5,000 worth of books.

WFD: Any other helpful thing you'd like to tell us?

HILL: I think most writers write because we like the process of writing and because we enjoy the lifestyle that comes with it... being part of a world centered around books, bookstores, libraries, readers and other writers. Sure there are frustrations at times, but I see great examples of sharing, helping and enjoying together even though we are working to promote and sell our own books. I'm glad I'm a writer.

© Copyright 2003, Peggy Fielding

Peggy Fielding has published jillions of confession stories. She frequently lectures on writing confession stories. Visit Peggy’s website at: PeggyFielding.com

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