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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
WFD: Ms. Hill, what set you onto writing murder
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
WFD: Any other suggestions for selling your
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
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
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
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 Peggys website at: PeggyFielding.com
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