Interview – Erin Al-Mehairi

Interview – Erin Al-Mehairi

You cohost a podcast called The Mando Method. What exactly is The Mando Method?

The Mando Method is a podcast on the conglomerate podcast system called Project Entertainment Network. It’s one of about 25 podcast shows. This one is co-hosted by the head of P.E.N., author Armand Rosamilia and his author friend, Chuck Buda. Armand does writing sprints during his days and since his nickname is Mando, it’s called The Mando Method, as an ode to his writing methods. Their show helps new and veteran writers with everything that goes into the game of writing and publishing. The idea was that Armand brought the years of experience, and Chuck, as a newbie infatuated with Armand, would learn allowing listeners to grow too.

I was asked by Armand to do a marketing segment, which I call #marketingmorsels, in which I spend 20 minutes at the end of their episode giving authors my experienced tips. I haven’t done one though in months. They are free, but it takes time to research and record, and I’ve had some major things going on, so I just haven’t had the time. I’ve done back segments on writing guest articles, blogging, hiring a publicist, Amazon pages, GoodReads, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. It’s fun, I hope to get back to it at some point and/or something like it. Writers should totally tune in to this podcast and all the other great podcasts on the network. I’d like to have my own podcast too.

In December 2017, a few of us who are authors and podcast hosts supplied our favorite story we’ve written for an anthology called, MY FAVORITE STORY. You’ll find our stories along with reasons why they are our favorites. It’s available in Kindle and print both and helps supply money to the costly business of running this network. I have a story in it, ‘Dandelion Yellow,” from my dark fiction collection, BREATHE. BREATHE. but there are also stories from really great authors and hosts like Jonathan Maberry, Christopher Golden, Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, Amber Fallon, and many more.

Find Project Entertainment Network Online for a listing of all the shows and news.

Find all The Mando Method shows online HERE. As an example of one with #marketingmoresels, listen to the last 20 minutes of Episode 7 to hear me talk about the importance of blogging!

What is the hardest part of editing a manuscript?

It depends on the manuscript because each is so different writing level wise. I suppose when you know based on experience that an author really needs to flush something out more, or cut it, or add to characters, or cut characters, etc. and they don’t, then argue back. I usually know these things because I study reviews of all kinds of books, especially those by clients, to where I know what readers are consistently going to say. The hard part is when they balk at me and don’t listen to me, and after the book is published, the things I pointed out are chastised in reviews, but not only that, the reviewers have started to point fingers at editors lately. If the editor is experienced and works hard on the manuscript, the buck stops in the end with the author. They have the final say, especially if self-published, so it needs to lie with them in the reviews too. It’s hard when the author isn’t willing to learn or work WITH an editor as a team.

What is the best part of editing a manuscript?

I’d say overall, it’s working with a person for years and watching them grow and learn from the editing process, both in forming sentences to imagery to adding depth. It feels very successful and makes me happy. I love editing short story collections by an author and finding themes and themes within themes to tie it together. I love when they are either wholly entertaining or compelling and I get to be a small part of bringing it together.

I also like being a curating editor as well, and by that, I mean, being an editor of an anthology where I get to read all this great work, both short fiction and/or poetry, and find the ones that fit together to make an enjoyable piece of art.

With all the editing you’ve done, have you developed any pet-peeves? Mine is the constant misuse of the word Plethora.

I have a plethora of pet peeves. Kidding!! 😉 I don’t like when authors repeat the same words throughout one piece. As a writer, I have similar issues sometimes with repetition in some cases, but I mean, when a word is consistently repeated due to laziness. If I suggest in track changes to find some new words, and it comes back the same, I get even more irritated. I know they just aren’t taking the time. I often find myself suggesting alternative choices for simple descriptive words for them. One of the biggest ones though is the use of too many semi-colons.

You do Public Relations work as well, what does this entail?

I’ve been doing this for over 20 years for all types of things, from small business such as clothing or bed and breakfasts, to a healthcare system for almost a decade, to a hot air balloon festival, to many non-profits. It’s been my main career field after graduating from college. Seven years ago, I was writing, editing, and doing editorial reviews and essays on the side, but decided to branch out quickly into helping authors, especially in horror, once they found out my expertise and reached out to me. Basically, it can mean, and usually does, writing press releases, writing articles, editing articles, and coordinating appearances either in person at bookstores or locations or online on blogs, sites, radio, podcasts, and whatnot. I edit and consult on interview answers and prep. It’s also social buzz and postings, it’s being a cheerleader, it’s being a mediator and a liaison at times for publishers, organizations, or authors. It’s teaching them the art of presenting properly as a business to the world for maximum results. Often, it’s advertising. I do marketing and public relations, so I write ads, create ads, design direct ads and covers, and coordinate placements and watch return results. It’s like getting your package the most beautiful it can be as if you’re going to be unwrapped under the great big tree at Lincoln Center, each and every time. It’s also about getting the word out, repeatedly, about who you are and what you offer.

You released a collection of dark poetry and short stories last year (2017), what can you tell us about it?

Thank you, yes! Breathe. Breathe. was my debut dark poetry and short story collection last year. It was published as a limited-edition hand-made 60-page chapbook by the publisher of Unnerving Magazine during the summer and sold out. In October, it published as an expanded version, with half more content, in print and digital with a beautiful new dandelion cover. There are over thirty poems and five short stories. The cover comes from the fan-favorite story “Dandelion Yellow,” which has garnered a lot praise due to its psychological value. Though some of the poems, and a few of the stories, deal with every day domestic horror and traumas of abuse, rape, assault, illness, and anxiety, many of them are also genre blends into fantasy, sci-fi, historical, crime/thriller, and horror. There are fireflies who save a village from a plague outbreak, writings that dabble in Japanese, Thai, and Egyptian folklore, others that are murder mysteries ala Agatha Christie, some that are a little bit Twilight Zone mixed with X-Files. You can find a portion of all my various interests in this collection.

I am so very proud of it. It was fun to write some of the pieces for entertainment value, and yet, in others, it was finally a way to viscerally expend some of my revenge, hurts, and haunts. Very healing. Since writing it, I’ve never felt better about myself. I really hope that it touches others enough it can either help them too or it can help them to help others.

In December of 2017, the anthology HARDENED HEARTS from Unnerving also published, featuring my short story, “The Heart of the Orchard.” This is a fantastical crime horror story, told in contemporary times with a topping of fairy tale sprinkles (the dark kind). It was described by one reviewer as being “Rumpelstiltskin-like.” My fairy tales don’t end well. As with my other work, it has an element of revenge to it and deals with aftermath of trauma.

Also, in December 2017, Project Entertainment put out the anthology My Favorite Story, as I mentioned above in the first questions, and featured “Dandelion Yellow.”

In February of 2018, I had a poem called “Chained by Love” in the monthly issue of Enchanted Conversation: a fairy tale magazine. I was thrilled it was chosen. It’s about a mermaid from 14th century France and her lover. Things are not always as they seem nor will binding someone ever make them love you more.

This year, I’m co-editor on an anthology project at Unnerving called HAUNTED ARE THESE HOUSES, which is a Gothic-themed collection set to publish in September. We are curating reprints of classic poetry and short fiction pre-1929 and mixing it up with works by new and veteran authors and poets. The submission call just opened on Feb. 28 and will go to April 28, 2018. We are already receiving lots of poetry and short stories and I’m having a blast reading them. I think it’s cool – since Edgar Allan Poe isn’t living, but one of my inspirational idols, it’s the only way I’ll get close to being in a book with him! If anyone has questions, they can feel free to ask me, but I’d say just to keep in mind that it’s a wide theme with Gothic, so bring originality, and the book is not “just” hauntings, as in haunted houses, but rather, you know, we can be haunted by all sorts of things, can’t we? Anything atmospheric, creepy, dilapidated, historical, dark – all that comes to mind.

I hope to be invited to contribute poetry and short stories to more places in the next few years, submit some of my work to targeted places, and work on my novels and short story collections. As well, I’m working on a water-themed dark poetry collection, as water is such a big part of my surreal and often angst-filled dreams and nightmares. I’m in search of a publisher.

On your website you mention a love of Tudor England so I have to ask, York or Lancaster?

Ha! Wow, you really read it all. I have a history degree and am a lover of all things historical. For a while, I had a bit of an obsession with Tudor anything. I love anything medieval as well. I know I should pick one side, most people are good at that, demand it, then they fight it out to the death (even on social media). So please, no one draw their sword, but you know that the Lancaster line and York lines were brought together under the Tudor Rose! I especially love reading and watching about the Tudors, and really anything about Henry VIII’s wives, but especially about his daughter, Elizabeth I. Alchemy and magic wasn’t technically allowed then as part of the Protestant religion, but she did have a certain affinity to it that intrigues me.

How can our readers support your work?

The obvious answer is to purchase copies of my work, either Breathe. Breathe. or the anthologies for which I’m featured, Hardened Hearts and My Favorite Story. Also, leaving reviews even one paragraph or one sentence is so helpful on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and GoodReads. Also, adding the books to their TBR via my page on GoodReads. They can read pages on Kindle Unlimited. But honestly, I’m very happy when readers like my stuff if they let me know how it makes them feel or if they want to discuss topics with me. I am very appreciative even of shares on social media.

They can follow me on my site – Oh, for the Hook of a Book! – and leave comments, or on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. There are accounts for Hook of a Book as well on Twitter and Facebook.

Any advice to budding writers and editors?

With writers, don’t over think it. Just write. Write even badly. Don’t censor or filter yourself. Don’t worry about anything but writing it all down. Then go back and edit your sentence structure, look for repetitive words – then get out your thesaurus. If it’s a longer piece, of if you have time, put is aside for a few weeks, then go back to it. You’ll see it in a whole new light and where everything is you need to fix. Make sure you miss the characters. And finally, look for diversity within your work. Can all sorts of people identify with it in some way, or at least, in some of your pieces? The next step would be to send your work to trusted beta readers in several different areas – a friend or family member is okay, but make sure also to have eyes on it from other writers you hold in high regard or a reviewer or reader you admire or someone with expertise in a topic in your book. After this, look for a great editor with experience not just for self-publishing, but also if you are looking to submit a piece to a publisher. A good polish will better your chances of getting through the selective process.

As for editors, please make sure you don’t just consider yourself good at picking out a few grammar mistakes and decide to call yourself an editor. I am all for people living their dreams, but you’ll do everyone a disservice if you feel your qualified because you catch a few mistakes in a book your reading. That’s proofreading, and possibly your good at it, but to be an editor, it’s going to take work. Not only do you help with grammar and sentence structure, but you help with character development, descriptive and detail elements, themes, and at times, end up seeing valuable things in work that even the author sometimes doesn’t see. This comes, at least for me, from over 20 years of reading and dissecting works, reading through reviews on works that are popular or award-winning or poignant each year as well as combing through classics, looking at the lives of authors and the themes they choose, deciding where their writing style fits, sensing creativity, watching the market, and also, working with similar authors over time, getting to know them deeply. I’m an editor that likes to challenge people to propel their insides outward. My advice can be found in all the above. Work on it as a craft. Just as you must practice to perfect knitting or making three-point shots, you must work on being the best editor you can be as well. Good editors help keep genres afloat and make sure voices are heard clearly.

 

 

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