Thursday, July 30, 2009


First a few facts. For a long time I was called a broadcasting professional. That meant I worked in television and radio. I also did an executive stint at a public access cable organization. I have a certain level of experience and expertise.

I also listen. In the past several months I have been listening to radio interviews with mystery authors. The exposure leads me to share some of my observations regarding the ability of mystery authors to do well on the radio.

First and last: Be Professional.

Remember that you are a guest on the station’s air. You’d like to be asked back when the next book comes out. Right?

More and more radio stations use the telephone to do long-distance interviews. They can reach out and touch someone anywhere in the world. Whether you are setting up your own interviews or you’ve engaged the services of a publicist, most of what follows will be relevant.

You have a date and time and calling instructions, usually several days in advance. It will be a telephone interview and because you know how to reach out and listen, since the radio station has an internet site you ought to do that. It’s part of your preparation. As a wise author, you want some sense of the on-air talent you’ll be talking to so you spend a little time listening. The best thing will be an opportunity to hear an interview with another author.

Chances are this will be a live interview, but it’s possible the station will record the interview to use at a different time. Always assume there will be no editing! Know with whom you are talking. Write down the host’s name (phonetically if it’s difficult to pronounce). An occasional mention of the host’s name is useful. I like to have the publicity picture of the host from the station website on my computer screen during the interview. It’s not animated, but it helps me connect with the voice of my interviewer.

You must remember to turn down the audio so the sound from the computer feed doesn’t come through the telephone.

Know the location of the station. It’s embarrassing to hear an author keep referring to the lovely weather in downtown Winona, Wisconsin, when everybody listening knows Winona is in Iowa. (No it isn’t! Winona is in southern Minnesota.) It never hurts to mention in a complimentary way, other authors who may be local to the radio station and its listeners.

From the moment you pick up the telephone and connect to the station, until you hang up after the interview, assume a recorder at the station is recording everything you say, snort or snuffle.

Lock the kids, the dog and the cats two rooms away from the telephone. Don’t answer the door if somebody knocks. Disable call waiting. Radio people don’t like dead air. Try to have someone around who can control unexpected distractions, like the cat suddenly grabbing the parakeet. Don’t make the call while riding in the car or driving somewhere. Campaigning politicians do this sometimes out of necessity. Bad idea.

I recently asked several radio people for their number one irritants. Two answers arose. First was talking on a cheap crappy cell phone. Your grandmother may put up with it, radio listeners don’t have to. Some radio stations insist that telephone interviews be conducted via landline to avoid noise static and other assorted audio ills.

The other popular irritant to the host is a string of short one or two-word answers from the guest. You mustn’t make long speeches, but remember that the host probably has not read your book. Try to keep the flow going and let the host interrupt. At the same time, there are some subjects that are mostly taboo. Politics, government and religion. Unless of course, your mystery is rooted one of those topics. Arguing with the one who has the off switch is never a good idea.

Sit at a table or uncluttered desk and give yourself adequate room. Have previously prepared notes at hand. Have a glass of water available to stave off an attack of dry mouth. Don’t suck your teeth or rattle your loose denture. Humming between questions is distracting. Remember always that bad on-air-etiquette won’t get you edited; it’ll just get you canceled. If you are doing a live segment, insulting the host will get you terminated immediately. Worse, the producer won’t return your phone calls the next time you want to get on their show. Have a short marked passage to read if asked.

Did something amusing happen during the writing of the novel? Mention it. Talk intimately, visualize the audience of one, sitting across a small table from you. I use the host’s picture.

Have the name, the location and the dates of each bookstore appearance close at hand so you can work them into the conversation accurately and possibly more than once. Pitching your upcoming appearance with the wrong name of the bookstore or the wrong address will not help your promotion. This is especially important if the radio interview is in anticipation of your tour appearance.

I recently heard a tape of a fifteen-minute radio interview set up for a visiting author by a bookstore owner. It was a good interview, lively, interesting, but never once did either the radio host or the author mention that he was in town for a signing at the store which arranged the interview.

Make a short list of the points you want to get across. Never stretch the truth or guess about the town you are electronically visiting. Someone will know the truth and call or email you or worse, complain to the radio station. Referring off-hand to local community problems is fraught with danger for the visiting author.

I believe proper dress is important to good interview! You can do a telephone interview on the radio clad in your raggedy old robe, in the nude, or in your floppy pink bunny slippers, if that’s your thing. I strongly suggest neat and casual. Appropriate dress seems to impart a sharper edge to the interviewee’s attention and the listener gets more cogent answers and a more interesting conversation. And always remember that in a five-minute interview, if you and/or the interviewer haven’t mentioned the name of your book and where it’s available at least once, you haven’t done your job.

If you’re doing the interview to promote your appearance at a local store, don’t only extol the easy virtue of ordering your book on-line at Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or Books-A-Million. Even if you are doing a telephone interview from somewhere else on the planet, often the case, if there is a local bookstore you can mention, do it. Never mind the bookstore doesn’t carry your book. If enough people call, they’ll order copies.

A brief word about cross-promotion. You have this radio interview and I hope you aren’t keeping it a secret. With Twitter, Facebook, various newsgroups, you should be promoting your interview, particularly, if it’s a long one with call-in possibilities.

Do radio interviews sell books? I have no positive proof, but I wouldn’t bet against it! Radio has been around a long time and sold billions and billions of products. Why wouldn’t it sell your novel?
In sum, prepare for a phone-in or live radio interview just as you would for a job interview or a meeting with the publisher of your latest mystery. Be professional, smile, and good things will happen.

See you on the radio.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Author C. Hyytinen does my Q & A

I recently asked Echelon Press author Cyn Hyytinen for the answers to some questions about her writing career and she agreed to give me some answers. Here they are.

When someone asks you what kind of book do you write? What’s your answer?

(The famous elevator speech)
I usually say trashy crime thrillers which gets a smile, but I know that pisses off my publisher. When I say "trashy" I'm referring to bad language, lots of sex, and nasty immoral behavior. Being my stories are heavily involved with the Mafia and their wicked ways, that is a "given," right? My main character is a top-notch homicide detective with the Minneapolis Police Department. She approaches life in a pragmatic, no nonsense fashion as she deals with criminal minds and the undesirables. She gets the job done despite her own personal struggles: single mom, male-dominated workforce...

When did you know you were going to be a mystery writer?

I consider myself more of a thriller writer...edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff. Yes, there is mystery intertwined, but my novels certainly aren't who-done-its. I knew as soon as I began the writing process and was halfway through a romance manuscript which I discarded to start Pattern of Violence.

Tell us a little bit about your family background.

I am the youngest of 3 and have one older brother and one sister. I come from your typical hard-working middle-class family and was born and raised in La Crosse, Wisconsin. A Cheese-head.

What is your educational background?

I have a degree in computer science. Go figure...

Talk a bit about your present family situation.

I've been married 30 years to the same man (that in itself is a mystery). Just kidding. He is great and comes with me to all my events. He doubles as my body-guard and book carrier as well as chauffeur, best buddy and of course the best husband in the entire world. I have two wonderful sons, Nick who is 23 years old and Troy who is 17 years old. Oops, almost forgot to add, a Rat Terrier (Lucy) and three cats. We live in rural MN on a small fishing lake.

What did you read as a child?

I started out with Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon because that is what my older sister read. I was reading by the age of four. Once I entered elementary school, I came across a book in the library about witches in Salem, Massachusetts. Reading about the Salem witch trials was fascinating and crazy. They believed anyone with red hair was a witch and would throw them into the nearest lake or river to see if they'd float. It was kind of a lose-lose situation because if they sank they were not a witch (whew...), however, they drowned (major bummer). And if they floated, they were indeed a witch, fished out of the pond and burned at the stake. Yikes! That had me hooked. From then on, I went for the thriller-type books.
What’s your daily routine when you aren’t touring? Unfortunately, I have to go to work every day with a 1-hr commute each way. I work in a high-stress environment as an Enterprise Technical Consultant in the Command Center of a major insurance company. Weekends are spent writing whenever possible when I'm not busy doing family things and/or book gigs.

How much touring do you do?

Not enough, due to the day job and other time constraints. But I try to at least do 1 to 2 events/signings on a monthly basis.

What surprised you most about the writing community once you became a part of it?

How nice everyone was. I was pleasantly surprised that even the big names did not have big egos and were more than willing to discuss their craft with those of us who are struggling to make a name for ourselves--the great unknowns...

Whats the hardest thing about being an author?

Finding the time to write and promote and network all while working full-time and being a wife and mother.

Lets talk about promotion and marketing.

Do you blog? How frequently? Is your blog a group or single effort?

Rarely, I have a MySpace blog, but find it easier to post bulletins instead of blogging. There again is the time constraint. I'm gone 10 hrs a day, five days a week. If/when that ever changes, I will blog blog blog.

How frequently do you participate in book tours?

As often as possible, although not as much as I'd like.

Do you belong to an authors co-op for touring and promotion purposes?

Yes, our group, Booked 4 Murder (myself, Michael Allan Mallory, Marilyn Victor, Lois Greiman) does scheduled appearances at various venues.

How is that working out?

Great! We're all diligently working on getting more gigs. Plus I love our little group and would want to hang out with them anyway.

What kinds of events or signings do you do?

Libraries, bookstores, mystery clubs. Anyone who will have us.

In a typical year, how many events do you do?

We try for one per month minimally. The more, the better.

How many fan conferences such as Bouchercon will you typically attend in a year?
One or two due to expenses.

Any cons or workshops you recommend?

I recently attended Mayhem in the Midlands in Omaha, Nebraska. It was small, but informative and so much fun. The mystery dinner was a riot and I definitely plan on attending again next year.

Do you have a web site and/or other Internet places you routinely participate in, such as Good Books or Face Book or Twitter? List them.
My website is and then there are the usual suspects--Myspace, Facebook, Linked-In, Authors Den, ITW....

Do you like to travel?

Yes, I love to travel and wish I was independently wealthey so I could quit my day job and tour all over the country promoting and selling my wares.

What surprised you the most when you became a published author?

How everyone thinks you've "made it" and are automatically rich and famous just because you're published. not true.

Do you think you'll change direction in your writing? Produce a different kind of crime novel? If so, what might that be?

Definitely. My writing has changed and matured with each manuscript I write. When I finish what I'm currently working on I do have some new ideas to try on.

Especially since 9/11, how do you respond to the accusation that you are trying to make money on a phenomenon in society we call murder? Or heinous crime?

I shrug it off. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I write for entertainment--for my readers, as well as myself. Period.

If you could be anything else in the world, have any other career, what would it be?

A rock star.

What career would you least like to do, if writing stories was to become impossible?

Construction worker. I feel for those guys in the 90 degree heat on top of a roof laying shingles, plus I have an issue with high places.

Have you ever collaborated on a novel? Would you consider it?

Yes. I’m in an anthology - Heat of the Moment.

Who are the authors who you feel have had the most influence on your writing career.

Dean Koontz, Stephen King

Tell us one or two authors or books you absolutely universally recommend.

Dean Koontz, Alex Kava, Tami Hoag

Who is your favorite mystery author?

Dean Koontz.

Where do you want your career to go?

Up up and away.

To what organizations related to your writing career do you belong?

ITW, Authors Guild, SinC, Authors Den

Who is your publisher? What’s your current book?

Echelon Press. Pattern of Vengeance

Are you agented?


What’s your take on the rise of electronic publishing?

I think it's great. I know it's very controversial right now, but I think it is definitely the wave the future and we should all get onboard before we miss the train.

What’s your favorite word?

Cataclysmic (but it changes daily)

What’s your least favorite word?


If you could change one thing about the world what would that be?

More empathy for others.

Do you have any pithy (or other) words of advice for aspiring authors?

Never give up. If you love to write, keep writing. Good things come to those who persevere.

Tell us about your next or upcoming book or other project.

I am working on a novel which takes place in International Falls, MN/Voyageurs National Park. Mystery/suspense.