About Sue Hinkin:
Raised in Chicago, Sue Hinkin is a former college administrator, TV news photographer (one of the very first women in this job) and NBC-TV art department staffer. With a B.A. from St. Olaf College, she completed graduate work at the University of Michigan and was a Cinematography Fellow at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles where she lived for many years. She is a puppy foster volunteer—latest failed foster is a white bichon/poodle mix named Harley. She lives in Littleton. Deadly Focus is her debut novel.
What inspires you to write?
I've always been a writer and reader with a sometimes annoyingly vivid imagination. It's in my DNA. Carolyn Keene, author of the Nancy Drew series, was my earliest role model. She has inspired so many women mystery writers. My father was a Presbyterian minister and my mother a teacher and poet–books and words were always valued in my family.
Tell us about your writing process.
I work in the mornings for about four-five hours. In the afternoon I take care of busy work. Then I like to work again at night. On the weekends, I try to write in the mornings, then take the rest of the day off. The story, however is always working in my mind. Sleeping (lack of) can be an issue when the book gets rolling in my head.
In developing my characters and storyline, I watch, listen, and read.
Plot ideas come from everywhere—life experience, media, friends & relations, overheard conversations and sheer imagination. Once you have the essence of a plot that you can initially express in a logline (which will probably change and evolve if it’s any good), and are clear on what’s at stake for the main characters, then the story begins.
I’m not a writer who outlines very much—I’m a “pantser.” I may, however, outline a particular chapter or scene if I need focus. Beyond that, once I have the general plot and characters, I step onto the mystery bus, strap in and take the ride.
Once a plot is in mind, I figure out how the characters would deal with the challenges of the story and grow as people along the way. I don’t have all this information locked up before I begin to write–much of the character’s personality comes out during the process of writing and editing. Each crisis demands a decision by the characters and dealing with the consequences of that decision should make for great tension.
Here are the things I consider when a character is coming to life:
• Appearance & style
• Personality strengths, weaknesses & vulnerabilities
• Family background & overall backstory
• Driving motivation
• Profession & Interests
And more credit where it’s due—without my critique group from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, I would never be a published author. I have learned so much in this irreverent, supportive, smart group where I feel like I can risk anything. What a gift!
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I love spending time with my characters. They are friends I have both known and created and our relationship develops throughout the story. I’ve also lived in most of the locales I write about and enjoy recalling the details that made the places and experiences there rich and unique.
My work is very multi-cultural with diverse characters. In Deadly Focus, Beatrice Middleton is from an African-American family in Savannah, Georgia. Lucy Vega was born and raised in Southern California by a Mexican mother from Guadalajara and a Norwegian father from Oslo. After the family was killed in a car accident, Lucy’s Mexican uncle and his Norwegian housekeeper took over her upbringing. I’ve found many people afraid of writing characters of different races and ethnicities from their own—afraid of a making a mistake that reveals a hidden bias or unrealized prejudice. But that’s our world today—a huge, wonderful melting pot–so I want to embrace it even if I screw up or stumble across my own areas of ignorance and insensitivity. It will be an opportunity to learn.
My women characters are very independent, smart, passionate, a little reckless but very effective at what they do. Lucy and Bea both have great integrity, hearts of gold, and would risk anything for family and friends. Despite differences in age, race, and experience, their values are such that they are true sisters under the skin. I have been blessed with wonderful women friends and colleagues from whom to draw inspiration.
Because of my film/TV background, my scenes are often cinematic and visual.
The books ride the line between mysteries and thrillers.
What advice would you give other writers?
Passion, Practice & Persistence are my mantra.
• A writer should love telling stories, write the stories, and keep writing the stories.
• Find an awesome writers group where you feel support even in the midst of difficult feedback.
• Embrace risk-taking and failure. (rejection by agents does not mean failure)
• Trust the process.
• It’s never too late.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I have seen friends choose all routes and I think traditional publishing with a small press is perfect for me. I don’t want to spend the hours and hours necessary to do-it-all-yourself, although the payoff can be terrific if you hit the right niche market. The Big 5 seem to demand the author pretty much give up all involvement and control of any aspect of the publishing process once the contract is signed. An indie publisher takes on the heavy lifting of editing, production, distribution and marketing, yet seems to welcome the author’s feedback if it’s constructive. No one has more at stake than the writer and an indie publisher can use that energy, particularly for help in marketing. I also like being part of a team which the indies seem to encourage.
Self-Publishing—you’re on your own
Hybrid publishing—you’re on your own with minimal support
Indie Publishing—you’re on the team
Big 5—you’re the machine
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think it's a very exciting time, and very confusing as well. Learn as much as you can–it's a moving target–and be open to a variety of paths to follow. There is no one way to do it anymore!
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?: Mystery, thriller, suspense
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.