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Andrea Hurst and Associates - Authornomics Blog
by:  Andrea Hurst, Andrea Hurst and Associates; Andrea Hurst Literary Management
e-mail:  info@andreahurst.com
web:  http://www.andreahurst.com
twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/andreahurst_
Interviews with those in-the-know about what an author needs to know.
April 16, 2014

AUTHORNOMICS Interview with voice talent J. Christopher Dunn

J. Christopher (Chris) Dunn is a voice actor living and working on Whidbey Island, WA who enjoys early morning walks, trying new and interesting foods, and photographing the natural beauty around the Salish Sea. He's an audiobook narrator and producer with titles available on Audible.com and also spends time in his studio recording voiceovers for commercials, web videos, podcasts, product demonstrations, on-hold messaging and documentaries. When not in the studio, he creates character voices for radio dramas and can occasionally be spotted in stage performances.

His voice is described as friendly, warm and trustworthy - the guy next door or the voice of high-profile corporate presentations. He delivers voiceovers that sound authentic, confident and experienced. Chris excels at understanding client needs and welcomes direction. Comfortable creating voiceovers for a wide variety of audiences, he is capable of quickly evaluating scripts and creating a voiceover that gives life to any project. Follow him on Twitter @JCDunnVOX and visit him at JChristopherDunn.com or TheNarrator.biz.

Can you give us an overview of the ever-expanding voiceover field?

Voiceover is anything that deals with spoken word audio. Commercials, web videos, product demonstrations, corporate presentations, documentaries, trailers, and audiobooks are a few of the genres where spoken word audio is used.

We are surrounded by voiceover work. Besides the obvious movies, radio and TV, every telephone voice tree, every prerecorded announcement at airports, and even SIRI on Apple mobile devices…they are all produced by voiceover talent.

How did you first get into voice work?

I started out working in a number of radio stations in Washington and Montana, first as a Production Assistant then an on-air personality and Production Director. The job included producing hundreds of commercials and radio promotions. Part of the production process was reading scripts, either written by a salesperson or me.

What’s one thing people incorrectly assume about your line of work?

So many things come to mind. The biggie is that there are buckets of easy money to be made. The work is not easy! There’s more to it than connecting a microphone to a computer and reading. I’m not only the voiceover talent; I’m also the audio engineer, contract negotiator, marketer, and my own business partner. I find my own work and make sure I’m paid.

There are many spinning plates. It’s hard to make a living when just starting out. The first year or two I didn’t break even. The constant rejection can be a huge downer and drag on the creative process: and not at all fun to deal with. That alone, is difficult for many people entering into voiceovers. There is money to be made. Easy money? Nope. Clearly not

In the voiceover business, how important is having a regional accent? The ability to do accents?

Many of my clients are not on the West Coast or even-Midwest. Most are on the East Coast or in other countries. My accent is neutral, although I’ve been accused of sounding “too American”.

Most often, I’m hired for the lack of accent as it has a wide audience appeal. If a client is looking for a regional accent, they’ll hire somebody from that region.

Audiobooks are different. A narrator can be the voice of several different characters, all with a different ‘sound’. It takes practice to be able to switch convincingly between them. Toss in an accent, and the challenge increases. Some talents are very good at accents. They can adjust their read and delivery to the tastes of the copywriter. Accents don’t have to be spot on; they do have to be convincing, though.

What are some characteristics of your speaking voice that make clients choose you for their projects?

The tonal qualities of my voice match well to long form narration, such as corporate presentations, documentaries, e-learning and audiobooks. It sounds confident, smooth and warm. The registry of my voice is baritone and is flexible enough to handle projects that target a variety of demographics.

Are there particular things clients look for in a voiceover professional?

Clients like talents who listen and ask questions and are willing to bring words to life. Clients rely on voiceover talent to take the script and interpret it in a believable, listenable way. Being able to take direction well is also important.

Sometimes a client doesn’t know what they are looking for and finding a talent that can provide options will improve the chances of the client finally hearing their ‘right’ voice. This also increases the chances of the talent landing the next gig.

What is the most challenging part of being a voice talent? What’s the most rewarding?

The challenge is to bring the listener into the theater of their mind. Voiceover is acting without being physical so a voice talent needs to find ways to emote with their voice instead of relying on body movement or facial expression to portray what’s being said. Apart from an occasional sound effect, there are no props. A voice talent needs to set the stage, act appropriately (or inappropriately!), and engage the listener into believing what’s being said.

For me, the most rewarding part is working with interesting clients and fulfilling their voiceover needs. A close second is having my client return with more projects. It’s a good indicator that I’ve done what they were looking for or gone beyond their expectations. I like happy clients.

Is there a recommended training that a person should go through in order to become a successful voice talent?

Success could depend on a number of elements in voiceover. What makes one successful may not make another as successful. What is success, really? The meaning can be quite different from one talent to the next. Is success measured by income? Does an amazing client list make a talent successful? It’s hard enough breaking into the business that even a talent’s first client could be the definition of success.

Now, with the philosophical part out of the way, before training come the basics. Reading is the primary function of a voice talent. Add to that, the skill of acting. One of the most beneficial things a voice talent can do is continue to learn. Working with a voiceover coach, taking workshops and participating in theater are helpful in developing as a voiceover talent. It might even make success more tangible.

For more of this interview and others, please visit our blog at http://www.andreahurst.com/category/blog/

April 2, 2014

AUTHORNOMICS Interview with author Marcia Wells

A New Hampshire native, Marcia received her master’s degree in Spanish literature from Middlebury College. After living in Spain and Colorado, she returned to New England with her husband and two children. She first became interested in writing books for kids while teaching math and Spanish at a middle school. "Mystery on Museum Mile" is the first in her Eddie Red Undercover series. Find Marcia on Facebook, Twitter-@WellsMarcia, or on her website www.marciawellsauthor.com.

With a Master’s degree in Spanish literature, how do you feel your educational background influences your writing?

My degree taught me how to analyze plot, voice, themes, etc, and I try to use that critical eye when it comes to my own work. Literature from the Spanish-speaking world has been a key component in writing Eddie’s detective stories. The idea of Eddie came to me while teaching a high school AP Spanish literature class. We were studying the crime stories of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, one in particular involving geometric patterns on a map. Very inspirational! And in Eddie’s next adventure, he travels to the Mayan Riviera in Mexico.

As a teacher, how do you encourage your students to be better readers and writers? What can parents do to foster a love of reading in their own children?

At home I read to my children, and they read to me. The key is having fun with it and not making it a chore. Discovering the joy of reading- whether it’s a Garfield comic strip, a joke on the back of a cereal box, or an inspiring book such as “Wonder”- is what’s most important. In the classroom, I like talking to kids about books that matter to THEM. I love reading MG and YA books, and always ask for recommendations from the students. Kids feed off enthusiasm, and love an adult who listens and respects their opinions. The best is whole-classroom book debates, things like arguing about which fantasy series is better, Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings.

What inspires you to write middle grade books? What are some of your techniques for relating to younger readers?

My seventh and eighth grade students have been the biggest inspiration! When I left teaching a couple of years ago to become a full-time writer, I worried that my muses might dry up. But now my son is 10, and I’m right back in the tween-zone. It’s a fun and complicated age, one that lends fabulous stories and characters. My techniques for relating to readers are the same as my teaching: have fun learning, be silly, and explore with an insatiable quest for knowledge. I read a ton of books for kids to see what’s out there, and examine what other authors are doing to connect with younger readers.

Eddie Red Undercover was released quite recently. Can you tell us a little bit about the process you went through to get it published? How do you feel about the finished product?

I worked on it for three years before signing with my ninja agent Kristin Nelson. Those three years were filled with writing classes, kid lit conferences, contests, critiques from agents and editors, and revisions, revisions, revisions…I never gave up. After I worked on revisions with my agent, we sent it to ten major publishers. Houghton Mifflin said yes- a miracle! The final product is amazing! It’s a far better book than I could ever have created on my own. The art, the graphics and design…not to mention all I learned from my editor about pacing and cleaner, tighter writing. It has truly been a team effort and I’ve learned so much.

How did working with a professional editor help you shape the book and get it published?

My editor Ann Rider is amazing. Not only does she know exactly how to smooth my words and cut unnecessary stuff, but she makes suggestions to flow and pace that add such a richness of detail without bogging the plot down. She is a true artist who gives me a ton of freedom, always telling me to “trust your instincts” and “let Eddie take you where he wants to go.” I’m so lucky to work with her!

What is it about Edmund Xavier Lonnrot, aka “Eddie Red”, that makes him such a compelling protagonist for readers?

I think Eddie is very likeable; he’s a boy that kids can relate to, a boy they might know in their own class. He’s smart and funny without being arrogant. He’s human- he makes mistakes, even with his so-called “perfect” photographic memory. He’s eager to solve the case, and is well-intentioned even when making poor choices like snooping through a detective’s desk or pulling out a Taser to ward off whatever evil lurks in a dark alley.

You’re already working on the next Eddie Red book. Are you hoping to focus your writing energy on this series solely, or also branch out into other books?

Eddie two is almost done, and I’m brainstorming ideas for Eddie three. I love writing his adventures but I have too many stories in my head to just focus on him. For the past two years, I’ve been working on an MG/YA fantasy that my publisher is currently considering (fingers crossed!). And I’m starting another MG fantasy this coming month, a story idea that’s been with me for a while. Both fantasy stories star girl protagonists.

Have you ever considered writing novels for adults as well? Why or why not?

I’ve considered it but never had much luck with it. I’m more drawn to YA and MG in general. Even when I try to write a YA story, the feedback is always the same: “You have an MG voice. Make this an MG story.” So I’m going with it!

For more of this interview and others, please visit our blog at http://www.andreahurst.com/category/blog/

March 17, 2014

AUTHORNOMICS Interview with author Bharti Kirchner

Bharti Kirchner is a multi-genre author of nine books—five critically acclaimed novels (including a mystery), four cookbooks, and hundreds of short pieces for magazines and newspapers. Her essays have appeared in ten anthologies. Her short story has recently been included in a “Best of Noir” anthology titled USA NOIR: The Best of Akashic Noir. She has won numerous awards for her writing, including a Fellowship from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and has been honored as a Living Pioneer Asian American Author. She teaches at writer’s conferences nationwide and as a guest lecturer for creative writing programs. To learn more, visit her website at www.bhartikirchner.com.

You’ve written hundreds of short pieces for magazines and newspapers. How is your writing process for a short story different from writing a novel?

The processes are entirely different, whether they’re short fiction or magazine pieces (which I do more often, but will not bring up here for lack of space). First, consider the usual length of a novel, 350 or so pages and contrast that with 20 or so pages for a short story. Because of its size, every word in a short story has to count, whereas in a novel, you can develop the situations a bit more leisurely. Also, I make sure my novel stands on a bigger idea, has a more complex plot, and that there is far more at stake. In a short story, in general, I deal with fewer events taking place over a brief period of time, usually in the context of a single setting.

What would you suggest a writer who is interested in writing short stories concentrate on to get their work published?

Write the story, have it read by your critique group, rewrite and revise as many times as necessary. Don’t be in too much of a hurry. To get published in one of the more prestigious outlets, you have to have that extra spark in your work, which will emerge when you fully grasp the meaning of the story and are able to express it.

Your latest book, Tulip Season, is your first mystery novel. What were some of your techniques for writing a mystery? Do you find it more challenging than other genres? Do you plan on writing more Mitra Basu mysteries?

It’s not easy to switch from one fiction genre to another. Each has its requirements and one must study extensively and understand the conventions before proceeding, which is what I did.

With Tulip Season, as is the case with my other novels, I didn’t outline or consciously follow certain techniques, I began with a single sentence and kept writing until I reached The End. However, certain questions were always in the back of my mind: Have I created the right atmosphere? Introduced the villain early enough? Do I have red herrings? Did I play fair? And so on.

I also tried to humanize the villains, whenever I could do so. “A weed is nothing but a flower in disguise,” so said the protagonist of Tulip Season in a gardening context. It can also apply to a villain.

Mystery fans are voracious readers and they’ve read just about everything. You must, therefore, constantly come up with fresh new twists to keep them glued to the page. This is one reason why writing a mystery can be challenging. Also, in a mystery novel, certain elements such as action, pacing, and character motivations are more crucial than, say, in a literary novel. You can’t, for example, have your protagonist lounge at the dressing table for an hour and ponder which color of lipstick to choose, as you could in literary fiction. Unless, of course, she’s contemplating murder and the lipstick is a murder weapon!

Readers have given an enthusiastic reception to Tulip Season. They frequently ask me about the sequel, and I am now busily working on it.

As an author of cookbooks and various articles on the topic, why do you think food is such a compelling and marketable subject? Does your background in food spill over into your novels?

Food is our common language, so to speak. You can hook the reader in simply by describing the color, smell, and texture of food: a plate of ravioli, a piece of almond cake, a glass of watermelon smoothie. In today’s globalized world, we can savor dishes from other cultures on a regular basis. Eating out has become a ritual for many. At the same time, people are more aware of what real food is and what the benefits are of home cooking. All of this can help make your manuscript more compelling. In fiction, food is a symbol of caring, of deepening relationships, desire, warmth, and appreciation. You can also make the setting of your fiction seem more realistic by mentioning dishes that are famous in that area.

Although I no longer write cookbooks, I am still a foodie. When I start a novel, instead of doing a character chart, I sometimes do a food chart. What does the protagonist have for breakfast? For dinner? What childhood dish is she nostalgic about? Her eating habits can provide valuable clues to her character.

I don’t, however, like to overdo food references. I only sprinkle names of dishes here and there on the pages, unless of course the novel is food-themed, as was the case with Pastries.

For more of this interview and others, please visit our blog at http://www.andreahurst.com/category/blog/

February 23, 2014

AUTHORNOMICS Interview with Melissa Foster

AUTHORNOMICS Interview with author and writing/book marketing expert, Melissa Foster

One of your best-known skills as a writer is your ability to create characters readers can truly connect with. Can you tell us a little about your process for developing such characters? What are some tips you have for authors hoping to achieve the same level of character creation?

I don’t really have a “process” for creating characters, but a few things that I do remain consistent from one to the next. With romance, I like to have visuals so I can get a feel for the character and how they hold their body, facial expressions, etc. I accomplish this by first coming up with my thoughts on the character (name, job, family, hopes, dreams) then I scout for images for covers. I know I have the right cover when I connect with the couple and then the rest of who those people/characters are, and I develop their backstories from there. The most important aspects (for me) have to do with the way my characters deal with emotions. I spend a lot of time developing if the characters are open or closed emotionally, what caused them to be the way they are, and what it will take them to reach a point of balance. All of that is done in my head (taking notes on sticky pads, usually). I walk around the house talking aloud about them, fleshing them out with friends and family.

Tips for authors? I have a few:

Gather inspiration from life. People watch everywhere you go. Watch mannerisms, facial expressions, gaits, etc.
Be willing to change your thoughts on who your characters are. I find that my characters are rarely who I set out for them to be, and being flexible in my descriptions can also mean going back and changing an entire manuscript based upon what I find out about my characters late in the story. I think it’s important to allow for those changes.
Remember that emotions are real—dig deep to bring them off the page so your readers laugh, cry, and feel for your characters.

You’ve recently released three different romance series. What does it take to write a series and keep a reader’s interest all the way through? I suspect it’s more than just compelling characters…

For me it takes my caring and believing enough in the characters to want to tell their stories. I don’t follow formulaic rules, and I won’t write a story just to fill a slot in the series. I’d rather set the story aside and work on a different one than produce a poorly written or poorly structured story. My stories have meaning and the families I write about have to be believable and more than that, they have to fit together as a whole.

Most writers struggle with writer’s block at one time or another. You have an amazing ability to write as much as 10,000 words a day. How do you do that kind of heavy lifting?

I’m obsessive about my characters. When I’m feeling them, I refuse to walk away from them. But I have my moments where they evade me, and when they do I tend to call friends to talk the issues through, or I walk away from the story and work on surrounding storylines. But when I’m in the groove, it flows and it’s painful to turn off. When I stop hearing my characters talk to me, I’ll stop writing. Maybe. Or I’ll hunt them down and beat them into submission. lol

Your website looks great! And, it gives you not one, but many platforms to interact with readers and share information to help aspiring authors. Clearly, you are leading the way on branding, social media, and web marketing. What has been the most helpful part of that process for you? What are the essential pieces for a new author to begin with?

Thank you. I think every author needs a “face” or a “brand” and a central place for readers to find them and learn about their work and who they are as a person. That’s what a website does for an author. I also think authors should use social media to meet readers and build relationships. For me, connecting with readers and aspiring authors is fun and exciting. It’s inspiring in many ways, and I like to include my readers’ ideas in my stories.

How have you found book trailers to be an effective marketing tool for your novels? Should every author consider making a book trailer or two?

Unfortunately, I’ve been remiss in creating trailers for my romance series (too busy writing). I think they are a very helpful and creative way to gain exposure for your books. They can be exploited on YouTube and various websites that feature trailers and videos, even gaming sites. Our society spends an incredible amount of time online, and having your books and or trailers, on as many online venues as possible is a great way to gain exposure to different types of readers.

What about audiobooks? Are they becoming more important? Any tips on how to remarket an author’s works as audiobooks? Who do you contract with? How do you pick voice talent? What makes an audio book work?

I don’t personally listen to audiobooks but I’ve been asked to put my Love in Bloom series on audio by many readers, so I do believe they are popular. My agent sold my backlist audio rights, but many authors use ACX and interview various voice specialists. The process is not a difficult one, it is simply very time consuming. What makes an audiobook work, I believe, begins with the story itself, and if the story is strong, then the right voice can bring it to life.

What motivates you to share so much of yourself? Can you tell us a little bit about your annual Aspiring Authors contest for children? What made you decide to pursue such an endeavor?

When I was first starting out as a write I couldn’t find help from anyone. It was 2009 and self-publishing was frowned upon. I had to learn the ropes by trial and error and blaze my own path. It was a rough road. There is so much bad information out there, and so many people willing to take my money without giving anything in return, that I made a lot of mistakes. I’m a marketer by nature, and a social, caring person, but the lines in the sand were so deep between traditionally published authors and the indie world, that there was no safe way to cross them. Authors didn’t want to share information. I don’t know if it was out of competition, fear, or why that was, but I knew it was a silly approach to anything, much less authoring. I didn’t understand the need for creating boundaries between traditionally published authors and indie authors, and I still don’t. WE ARE ALL WRITERS. We should work together, share information, and help each other succeed. Readers are voracious; why not help them meet new authors?

I made a pact with myself in 2009 that no matter who successful I did or did not become, I would help aspiring authors, and experienced authors, in any way I could. I enjoy helping, and I realize I am not an expert. I make mistakes and I admit them and learn from them. I gather data from authors and track promotions, then share that information to keep authors up to date on marketing trends and such. My courses at Fostering Success provide authors with ways to gain exposure and learn about book marketing. I help writers across the board and I don’t care how they are published.

The Aspiring Authors contests idea was born from the idea of helping children learn to love reading and writing. I engage kids with things they believe to be true: Writing can be boring. Reading can be boring. Then I work with them to figure out how to change that—and then I give them a challenge to write a short story. It’s fun and every child who completes the project receives a certificate.

For more of this interview and others, please visit our blog at http://www.andreahurst.com/blog/authornomics-interview-with-melissa-foster-2/

A R C H I V E / H I G H L I G H T S

AUTHORNOMICS Interview with author/writing mentor K.M. Weiland
originally posted: February 10, 2014

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

As an author of historical and speculative fiction, can you tell us a little about your research process for writing? How much of your novels are based on historical detail, how much on fiction? What helps you best to zero in on an interesting topic before you begin to work your fiction magic?

My research methods are usually similar for both historical and speculative stories. I start out with a historical setting in mind, gather as many books as I can find on the subject, and start reading. Most of the time, I’ll dedicate about three months to research, before beginning the first draft.

I don’t so much choose topics as I am chosen by them. Most of my ideas start out with an image in my mind—I see a character and I see a setting, and I try to figure out where they’re at. Sometimes I may decide the story requires me to take too much liberty with actual events, and so I’ll start working on alternative fantasy worlds. With other ideas, I find I need the grounded feel of realism found in real-life historical settings.

What inspires you most about the historical fiction genre? How is writing in this arena more difficult than in another?

I love history. I love the foreignness and the familiarity of different times and places, so debuting as a historical novelist was a natural first step. There’s an epicness about history, which is ironic, since, at the time, it was just day-to-day life, same as ours. But the weight of hindsight lends a sense of destiny to most historical events. Plus, the clothes! I love historical clothing, furniture, vehicles, you name it. It’s always a delight to explore lifestyles that differ from my own.

But those same details are also what makes historical fiction challenging. It can be difficult to dig up all the little facts needed to create a sense of verisimilitude about this foreign time and place—and if you get one wrong, you can bet some intelligent reader out there is going to call you on it.

Can you tell us more what speculative fiction is and why you chose to write it?

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term for science fiction and fantasy—basically any type of story that includes supernatural or hypothetical elements. As much as I love historical fiction, I also love the flexibility that speculative fiction offers. Fantasy lets me start with a historical setting and then bend the rules. It frees me from the sometimes stifling and stressful constraints of getting all those details exactly right.

You have done a lot of fun giveaways on your website, from free downloads of your books to a Kindle Fire. How have giveaways impacted your followers? What’s your strategy in doing these kinds of contests?

I love giveaways! And I think I can safely say so do my followers. Most of my big giveaways are done as promos for book launches, and they’ve proven successful in drawing attention to the books and boosting their sales, particularly on Amazon. There’s also always a spike in blog traffic and followers and social media interaction.

It’s important to know what you’re trying to achieve in any giveaway. Site traffic? Book sales? More followers? Ideally, you can accomplish a little of everything. But I always design contests to funnel participation toward my primary goal. I often use a “point” system, in which participants can earn more entries by doing various things, including posting about the contest on Facebook and Twitter.

For more of this interview and others, please visit our blog at http://www.andreahurst.com/category/blog/


AUTHORNOMICS Interview with Michael Neff
originally posted: January 26, 2014

As the creator as well as the director of both the Algonkian Writer Conference and the New York Pitch Conference, how have you seen these conferences evolve since their inception? How are these conferences different from others offered around the country?

Thanks for this interview and the opportunity to be part of Authornomics. Algonkian evolved from small workshops on the Potomac thirteen years ago to a multi-event environment on both coasts, as well as a growing online presence at Author Salon.Com’s novel writing program. The New York Pitch Conference is our flagship. The events differ, for the most part, from other writer conferences and workshops in significant ways. We make certain that writers at our events receive critical advice on their story and prose narrative from professionals only, i.e., literary agents, acquisition editors, and published authors. We therefore differ from the MFA approach and other workshops in this regard. “Advice” from beginners and nonprofessionals, however well intentioned, can frequently be counterproductive, and we cannot condone such an environment. I recall several writer workshops at other conferences, as well as private workshops, and I cringe looking back on all the bad advice and ignorant observations about market, craft and plot that were knocked around.

Our events are significantly smaller sized than the average writer conferences. Why? Because our methods of teaching and interaction with professionals don’t work in a big conference setting. Even at the New York Pitch Conference we create a relaxed and personal environment. No bells or buzzers or pressure or “speed dating.” That works for big conferences because you have a big load of people to move in and out on a tight schedule. That doesn’t work for Algonkian.

We also provide an important number of primer assignments and readings that our writers must complete before coming to a workshop or conference. We want to impart as much knowledge as practical beforehand so that the writers hit the deck running when they arrive. Among other things, we provide plot, premise, title, pitch and hook line models, as well as a great article on comparables. Writers are able to approach these elements and consider them prior to arrival, thus enabling them to utilize the workshops more effectively, and also communicate to professionals more effectively.

And one last thing. We protect our writers and do not force them to interact with snarky or hostile professionals, and we all know there are a few out there. All of our faculty are knowledgeable and generous with their time. We wouldn’t have it any other way. What value to a learning or pitching circumstance if someone is making people leave the room in tears?

Can you tell us a little about the “Algonkian method”? How did you come up with the name and concept?

Generally, the Algonkian method involves the aforementioned elements that make for a different kind of writer event. Also, we believe in a syllabus, pragmatic instructional materials, essay and novel readings, building creds via short fiction, and creating publication plans, insofar as possible, for each writer.

“Algonkian” itself derives from a place called Algonkian Park, on the Potomac River near Washington, D.C. We started our first workshops there, and the name stuck.

What do you usually look for in a pitch? What’s one of the biggest turn-offs for you in a pitch?

A pitch that is imprecise, muddled, or way too long, or some combo thereof, creates a condition of frustration for all concerned—unless and until a way can be found to correct it. For many, this actually involves a rewrite of the novel. The pitch is simply a method of artfully communicating what your novel or nonfiction is about. If you can’t communicate a project that will sell, it usually means you have not written a project that will sell. At this juncture, we use the pitch as a means of driving further into the story. The intent is to discover what is working, what is not, and what, if anything, is missing. Plot, premise, characters, theme, everything is out on the table. Many of our writers have completely rewritten their novels as a result of the pitch process, and several have been published because of it. A good example is Kim Boykin, the author of The Wisdom of Hair.

What does your position as an associate for AEI Film Productions involve? How did you first get into this area?

I moonlight as an agent and developmental editor for AEI and StoryMerchant. I’m now the AEI Associate for the SF Bay Area. The owner, Ken Atchity, became acquainted with Algonkian and attended some of our events. Recently I have helped develop, edited and agented, or co-agented, two important books: Rise of the American Corporate Security State—Six Reasons to Be Afraid, a nonfiction by Beatrice Edwards (Berett-Koehler), and Killer on the Wall, a “social media cozy” by Wendy Eckell (Thomas Dunne). Several more novels are on the way, including another high-concept cozy mystery and an adult fantasy novel with series potential. Also, several Algonkian books have been ushered into contracts with AEI/SM, most recently The Last Scribe by Rachel Walsh, currently in development.

On the film side, we are working to produce Firehouse Shih-tzu, a comic film about a hero “firehouse dog” out to stop a dangerous arsonist in Brooklyn. I co-wrote the script. The sequel, Up Shih-tzu Creek Without a Poodle, is being written. It’s amazing what inventiveness can erupt from three bottles of Napa Cabernet. Additionally, we are also working to produce Message to Shigatse, a controversial humanist film from NextPix productions about the Chinese kidnapping of the Panchen Lama. The hunt for a lead actress is underway. We have feelers out to Kate Winslett’s camp at the moment. Fingers X’d!

What are some of the biggest challenges you find in transforming books into films? Can a film ever be as good as a book?

High-concept genre books are generally easy to convert to the three-act film structure. They hit the same plot points and notes. But we all know that the film medium is limited to what it can display or provoke. Novels are not. The great novel will always outweigh the film because it can contain so much more, go more places, reveal more things. That’s not to say a good movie can’t be better than the novel upon which it was based. There are always exceptions. I’ve heard competing opinions re SIDEWAYS, for example.

What's your take on audiobooks? What are the things for an author to know in expanding into this area of publishing?

Audiobooks are wonderful because they allow us access to books in venues where other modes of connecting to Story are unavailable to us--for example, when you're driving a car you can't watch your Netflix movie, but you can listen to Jim Dale read unabridged Harry Potter. Many voracious readers who used to read several books a week in their spare time now spend their downtime on the Internet but listen to audiobooks when they're driving or exercising or whatever. Audiobooks allow authors another way to get their stories out, which is great news for all of us. And I think their appeal is only going to continue to grow. I strongly encourage authors to explore audio as well as print and eBook.

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