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Five Questions with Elizabeth Heiter

Louise Ahern

Elizabeth Heiter is a familiar face in the CCWA. Not only has she taught workshops at our last two Write on the Red Cedar conferences, she has also given many of our monthly workshops. This month, Elizabeth is talking all about suspense. You're not going to want to miss this one!


1.     What is your favorite part about writing? The most challenging part?

I’ve got several favorite parts: I love it when that first spark of a story appears and I can’t wait to dive in and build it into a novel.  I also love when I’m working on the story and the words are flowing so fast that my fingers can barely keep up on the keyboard.  The most challenging part probably varies by book, but I also think that the challenges of writing and the challenges of being an author are two different things.  When it comes to purely the writing, sometimes it’s the balance in the writing: layering in everything you need for the plot and the character growth and the themes and making sure you’re still able to pull out the strong emotions.  And sometimes, it’s the balance with your life: finding time and energy to write amidst all of the other commitments.  But the joys of writing far outweigh the challenges.

2.     What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever received? How did you overcome it?

Hmmm…maybe it’s because I’ve always regarded writing as something that was special and mine and I guarded it fiercely, I haven’t felt the need to overcome bad advice.  Whenever I get writing advice, I think long and hard about whether it’s the right advice for me.  Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t, but I think one of the most important things about this business is knowing yourself and your goals.  A lot of people have advice, and even when that advice is coming from industry professionals, they’re not you, at this time in your career with your particular goals.  I do think that one of the things I felt pressure about was when I got opportunities that I felt weren’t the right direction for me; they were great opportunities, but they didn’t match my career goals, and I turned them down.  Choosing the opportunities that are best for you – and advocating for yourself – can  be challenging, and I do think that being on the same page with your agent (if you have one) from the start can ensure that you have another advocate who can handle issues that pop up for you.

3.     Looking back, what did you do right that helped you become an author?

I think one of the things I did right was to stay true to myself.  I turned down great opportunities, because they weren’t right for me, but I also worked with editors to transform opportunities into things that would work for me.  As in any business, I think it’s important to find the right mix of being steadfast about the important things and flexible when you can.  I also think that the biggest thing I did right was to believe in myself and to chase after my goal no matter how many times I heard “no.”  Nine years of rejections before selling was disheartening at times, but I found ways to reward myself for forward motion and to find new opportunities and most importantly, to keep writing.  It’s a job, but it’s also a passion, and it’s important never to lose sight of that.

4.     What would you change or do differently when it comes to your writing career?

I think that if I could, I would get to know more people face-to-face from my publishing house right from the beginning.  The same is true of other industry professionals, like reviewers and bloggers.  There’s nothing like personal contact to get you and your books front of mind, and knowing the people who are working on your books makes it easier to chat about things, both when they’re going right and when they’re going wrong.  On that note, I plan to attend Bouchercon this fall and visit the MIRA office in Toronto where my new editor works.

5.     What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m working on promotions for my latest thriller, STALKED, which is already on shelves, and for my upcoming romantic suspense miniseries, BODYGUARD WITH A BADGE, POLICE PROTECTOR and SECRET AGENT SURRENDER, which are coming this summer.  I’m also writing a brand new standalone thriller (and waiting to hear news from acquisitions on that!).  And I'm coordinating with a group of authors on a fun suspense anthology I agreed to be part of; that one is already contracted, but I can’t share details yet – they’ll be coming soon!


Join us this Wednesday, May 3rd, at Schuler Books & Music in Eastwood at 7pm for Elizabeth's workshop!