Radine Trees Nehring is pretty small in stature, but as an artist and an author, she’s LARGE in my estimation! I’ve worked with a lot of authors in the years I’ve been in business, and she’s tremendously inspiring as one who not only has finely tuned her talent as a writer, but she’s equally skilled at balancing all of the peripherals needed to be successful. I suspect we could all learn something from her and enjoy the characters and locales that populate her books.
PJ: Radine, how long have you been writing?
Radine: Well, let’s see . . . I learned to write block letters in the first grade, but I don’t remember writing much in cursive until sixth grade. That year our home room teacher had all students keep a journal and write a bit in it each school day. In addition, she wrote a short, piquant saying or a poem by some noted thinker or author on the blackboard (they were black then) and we copied that into our journals. Sure wish I still had that journal, I’d . . . .
Oh–sorry. You mean writing for publication? Hmm. For money? Well, I wrote my first essay “Where Hummingbirds Matter,” set in the Arkansas Ozarks, in 1985. It sold almost immediately, and was published on the Home Forum page of The Christian Science Monitor in March of 1986. (I got several letters from around the English-speaking world about that essay.) It was soon followed by many, many more Ozarks tales that appeared in The Monitor and several magazines.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Radine: Honestly? After I got a check for that first essay and then saw it in print. Gosh—thousands and thousands of people around the world were reading my words! (The Monitor is an international newspaper.) If “Where Hummingbirds Matter” had turned out to be my only published piece, I’d probably still feel like a real writer, twenty-six years later.
PJ: Is the writing life what I expected?
Radine: Since I hadn’t a clue what direction my thoughts on paper would take me at the beginning, or even ten years later, I really can’t answer that question. At the beginning I knew no other writers that weren’t college professors, “literary,” or poets. I had no idea what the life of a writer was supposed to be like.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
Radine: Again, I had no expectations, so I can’t answer a question phrased like that. Actually, being offered money for my first essay was a surprise, and being offered a sizeable advance for my non-fiction book DEAR EARTH ten years later was a bigger surprise. In today’s marketplace, only a tiny percentage of authors live well off writing income alone. I’m not one of them, and my closest published writer friends report they aren’t either. We consider ourselves lucky to break even after promotion, travel to conventions and other book events; and paying office expenses.
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
Radine: Yes, and I’m very grateful for publisher and reader acceptance.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
Radine: I wrote Hummingbirds, polished it, sent it off, and it sold immediately. But then, I was familiar with the market I sent it to, since my family took The Christian Science Monitor when I was growing up, and I loved the essays and poetry on their Home Forum page–an eclectic mix of literary non-fiction, which ended up being good training for me. My non-fiction book of Ozarks story-essays and my mystery series both took longer. About two years for the mystery series.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
Radine: I did think about this, I really did, but, as I look back, my entire writing life seems a surprising miracle to me, so the only answer can be “No.” I took steps that seemed right as I moved along, and they turned out okay. “It just growed.” (Remember Topsy?)
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
Radine: That’s really tough today, because all writers are expected to do a majority of their own promotion work, or at least hire a publicist like Breakthrough Promotions. Though I have both PJ Nunn at Breakthrough and the promotions department at Oak Tree Press supporting my publicity platform, I still do a majority of promotion myself, especially in my home state and area. Part of the Nehring’s problem is lousy Internet service in the rural area where we live. Our best service is from Verizon MiFi, but we are at the edge of their coverage area, and service comes and goes. I do a LOT of waiting for connection, and have actually begun keeping a novel I am reading for review by my computer so I can make wait time more productive by reading.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
Radine: Was, and still is, selling that first essay. Golly, I’m a real writer.
PJ What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
Radine: Well, I guess the way books are distributed today. Lots of convoluted ideas and restrictions, such as the mind-set that says publishers must accept book returns from distributors and book sellers, no matter what condition books are in or how long the distributor or store has had them. (There ARE restrictions about return dates I believe, but I have known about books being returned as long as nine years after they were “sold.”)
I was in the retail business for many years before we moved to Arkansas, and, if merchandise I stocked didn’t sell, we marked it down. I guess I can sympathize with store owners, but do remember when a bookstore ordered a startling number of cases full of the book I would be signing there one Saturday, simply because they could without any harm. I was aghast when I saw all those books. We probably sold one case that day. The rest were returned.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
Radine: The lovely connection with readers who tell me, write me, or e-mail to say nice things about my novels or DEAR EARTH, and tell me what one or more of my ideas or characters meant to them.
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Radine: Probably the people who live in them, plus the “real place reality.” I use only real locations, described accurately and positively. (Positively because I certainly see them that way and they are, after all attractions for tourists and local people.) Sure, a murder or two may happen there, but it’s obvious the background had nothing to do with that–crimes are committed by a few bad people who are punished in the end. One example of the location attraction: A book reviewer from New York who had reviewed my books positively, wanted to see the locations for herself. She and her husband came to Arkansas and toured all the sites I’d covered.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Radine: 1. Have your work is professionally edited, especially if you’re writing a book. I believe that’s something we absolutely cannot do ourselves. Short pieces, maybe. But in longer work, we get involved in what we think we said, and can easily miss huge boo-boos and confusing writing. Unfortunately, readers don’t suffer boo-boos lightly, and may never give the writer another chance.
2. NEVER GIVE UP. Recently a writer in our critique group sold a book she had been dreaming about and working on for sixteen years. And yes, she did have it professionally edited, even after it had been through our critique group.
PJ: I love your series, as do so many of your fans, and hope it goes on for a long, long time. But might you have plans to write something different along the way?
Radine: No plans for that now. I would miss Carrie, Henry, and their friends too much. In fact, I miss then when I’m in between novels. Y’know, writers live double lives–their real life, and at least one fiction life. I do know the difference, but really enjoy my story world as well as my real life with a husband I love at least as much as Carrie loves Henry!
PJ: That’s understandable. So will there be more locales for Carrie and Henry to explore?
Radine: You betcha! Arkansas has 52 state parks for one thing. Some are ruled out by the Nehrings because they are simply too far away for the deep research I do. (I usually make several trips to a site while I am writing.) In addition to state and national parks, there are tons of exciting festivals and other events, and more . . . and more.
PJ: That sounds very promising! What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Radine: Well, the most fun (and easiest for me) is in person. I love talking with people about writing and my books, about their grandchildren, their pets, pet peeves, or whatever! Secondarily, I enjoy live radio interviews. I have also been on television, and that’s about the same as radio work.
I realize the importance of the Internet, (like now, when I am responding to your questions via e-mail), but I’d rather be sitting with you, chatting. As a dear on-line writing friend put it, “Friends should be able to sit down with each other to eat cake and chat–and if I get frosting on my nose, no one cares.” (Jenny Milchman, the founding mother of “Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.”)
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Radine: Working with the Internet, mostly because of poor reception here, and also the degree of impersonality.
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
Radine: Closest to where I live (maybe 20 miles) is “,” 110 West Walnut in Rogers, AR. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Myra and Pat Moran (Pat is a retired lawyer) are antiquarian book dealers, but, since establishing a bricks and mortar bookstore in Rogers’s historic district, they have been supporting and stocking current books by Arkansas authors. I love going to their store. Always new things to see, and the friendliest people in the world. They act as if they live to support writers. Myra has designed several terrific book events for me. (For example, she took a booth at an area bridal fair so we could display, sell, and sign copies of A WEDDING TO DIE FOR.)
Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
DEAR EARTH: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow. Non-fiction, 1995.
A VALLEY TO DIE FOR, first in the Carrie McCrite and Henry King mystery series. 2002. Set exactly where DEAR EARTH is.
MUSIC TO DIE FOR, set at Ozark Folk Center State Park, Arkansas. (Think Plymouth or Sturbridge Village in the Ozarks.) Out of print except used and e-books.
A TREASURE TO DIE FOR, set in “Sin City,” Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas..
A WEDDING TO DIE FOR, set mainly in the historic 1886 Crescent Hotel, and around the hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a Victorian tourist town. What kind of wedding does a mature bride dare dream about?
A RIVER TO DIE FOR takes place at Buffalo National River. Carrie’s son Rob takes a part in this tale of archeological looting, abduction, and murder.
JOURNEY TO DIE FOR opens on the restored 1920’s passenger excursion train that takes people through the Boston Mountains from Springdale to Van Buren, Arkansas. (Van Buren, on the Arkansas River, was founded as Phillips Landing in 1809 and its historic Main Street has been used in many Western movies.) What fun I had holding a shoot-out in an antique shop full of crystal and china on that Main Street.)
A FAIR TO DIE FOR. Love this story–as well as all the others, of course. The setting is the War Eagle Craft Fair, War Eagle Mill, and nearby Hobbs State Park in Northwest Arkansas. One of my readers’ favorite supporting characters, Shirley Booth, takes a large role, and Carrie ends up in more danger than ever before. Carrie and Henry’s love for each other shines in this novel.
THE WRITER’S JOURNEY JOURNAL published by Wolfmont Press. (Inspiration, information and humor to help you find your way as a writer.) I have used that book as a teaching tool, and have an essay in it, along
with Carolyn Hart, Beth Groundwater, Chris Roerden, Bill Crider, and more.
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:
Carrie McCrite and Henry King follow in the footsteps of senior citizens like Jessica Fletcher, Miss Marple, and Hercule Poirot when they prove smarts and a lively interest in others can trump muscle power and brutality when it comes to mystery-solving in Arkansas’s most intriguing locations.
Where can we buy it?
A FAIR TO DIE FOR and other books can be purchased through your friendly neighborhood bookseller, from online booksellers, and for your Kindle or NOOK.
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
Radine: After this interview, there isn’t a whole lot! Actually, much about me is revealed in DEAR EARTH, and, according to my friends and fellow writers, in my Carrie and Henry novels, as well. No, I’m not Carrie, but, as you could expect, there’s a lot of Radine in all my writing, especially as revealed by my friend, Carrie McCrite. If I’m just a teeny bit as brave and caring as she is, I’m right proud and grateful.
Radine, thank you so much! Let’s all go get some cake! Oh yes, and at least one of Radine’s books!