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 chyytinen.com 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. Wow...so 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?
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.