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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Guest blog, Bonnie Hearn Hill

Please extend a very warm welcome to my friend and mentor, Bonnie Hearn Hill. Bonnie worked as a newspaper editor for twenty-two years, and has written several thrillers for MIRA, as well as the young adult "Star Crossed" series. Her newest book, GHOST ISLAND, is available now.

SL: You followed six international thrillers by three young adult astrology novels, and now, a paranormal young adult. Why GHOST ISLAND and why now?

BHH: I wanted to write a love story. More than that, I wanted to explore what we’re willing to do and willing to believe for love. Although it is a young adult book, I have heard from many adult readers who say they relate to it. The story question is: Will Livia and Aaron get together, even though she can only see him in her dreams, and even though he may well be a ghost?

SL: The book is set during a storm on Catalina Island, which is kind of spooky anyway. Must have been fun researching.

BHH: I spent time there many years ago, and the moment I sailed into Avalon Harbor, I knew I would write about it one day. Many believe the island is haunted, but I learned that only after I had written the book.

SL: You have been teaching writing since 1990. How many authors have you helped break into print?

BHH: Hundreds, and I’m talking books and articles, not letters to the editor. That means only that I’ve been doing this a long time. In my first eight-week class back in 1990, one of the students sold a magazine article, and I knew that I was meant to teach as well as write. I started with The Tuesdays, most of whom are published now. My private group, the Fridays, include humorous astrology writer Hazel Dixon-Cooper, psychologist Dennis C. Lewis, and Christopher Allan Poe, whose thriller, THE PORTAL, will publish next month. I now lead a small group known as The Mondays, and they/you are a talented bunch.

SL: We are certainly grateful to have you. What attracts you to teaching?

BHH: You, Stacy, and other talented writers such as the ones in your family. They give me hope, and working with them makes me a better writer. Twenty-two years passed between the writing of my first novel and the signing of my two back-to-back, three-book contracts. I had the passion and the dedication, but I lacked a mentor. If I have a strength as a teacher, it’s the ability to see what the writer intends, not what I would do if this were my story.

I don’t leave editorial fingerprints. If a writer is willing, I can show her or him what’s left out. I call it the missing 5 percent, and I don’t mean that literally, only that it’s probably something small. Maybe it’s point-of-view control. Maybe it’s scene structure. Maybe it’s the ability to create honest characters. It may be one thing, but until you know what it is, you will not be able to write believable fiction.

SL: *Blushes* Thank you Bonnie, you are a wonderful editor who has taught me a thing or two. What is the most important thing you can give a writer?

BHH: Time. The ones who are going to do it—and I have to tell you, the percentage is small—will do it anyway. I can help them save the years I wasted.

That leads me to an important question, what’s the biggest mistake writers make?

Dishonesty, at a soul level. If you can’t be honest with you about you, there is no way that you can create honest characters. Plot problems are almost always character problems, and dishonesty is at the root of most of them. I have never met a dishonest person, regardless of how talented, who could write compelling fiction.

SL: What’s the second-biggest mistake?

BHH: They give up too soon. Most of that is ego and a need for instant gratification, and believe me, I understand that. I must have had a hundred rejections before I found my agent. Maybe more. You can’t let rejection stop you. You have to be open to input. You have to believe in yourself. And you have to know that if you are serious about what you are doing, your time will come—and it will be the right time.

Very wise and timely words. What is the state of the industry right now, and how is that affecting writers? Are e-books really the next step?

The Big Machine of mainstream publishing is broken. It has been for some time, but with the success of e-books, it’s clear that the filter is no longer the Big Machine, but the reader. Some successful authors have turned down large advances in order to go with independent publishers. Why should they give up most of their profits because of the publisher’s investment in distribution? E-books are distributed 24-7, at no charge. Be assured that what I just said is not an excuse to cop out and self-publish just because you can’t find a publisher. You still need editors, and if you are lucky, you need an agent who understands the importance of editing and promotion. You’ve been in my home, Stacy, and you know that it is wall-to-wall books. I’m not throwing them out because I own a Kindle. I’m not throwing out the Kindle because I own and love books. Poetry books, art books, photography books, special books. They will always be part of our lives. I have been a published writer since I was 19 years old, and I have never experienced anything as positive and profitable for writers as what I am witnessing right now.

SL: Okay, Bonn, we’re friends. Tell me something that most people don’t know about you. Tell me something I don’t know about you.

BHH: I wear a lot of purple.

SL: Sigh. Try again.

BHH: I was one of the first six readers—and the first woman—on KVPR’s Valley Writers Read first broadcast in the 1980s. I am a community correspondent for KMPH Great Day with Kim and Kopi. I write an occasional short story. And I wear a lot of purple.

SL: You can pull it off. What’s next?

BHH: More books. I’m editing a thriller right now. I’m intrigued about the possibility of another novel about Livia and Aaron.

SL: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. What should I be doing right now to further my own writing career?

BHH: Four things, Stacy, and they can change your writing and your life. 1. Get up an hour early every morning, and give that best part of the day to your work. In other words, write every day, at least six days a week. 2. Read every day, even if for only thirty minutes. 3. Get out of your comfort zone. Do something you wouldn’t usually do, even if it’s driving across town to a different grocery store. 4. Put a sticky note in a visible place in your office. IOADJ. It’s only a day job. Do it, Stacy, and report back to me in a month. Deal?

Deal. Thanks again for chatting with us, you are a fabulous mentor.

Bonnie will be signing copies of GHOST ISLAND this Saturday, October 1, at the Barnes & Noble in Fresno, from 2-4 p.m.

You can check out the trailer for the book here:


  1. Bonnie's website is:

  2. Fantastic article. I love the part about the Big Machine, and especially the sequel to GHOST ISLAND.
    A lot of big name authors don't have time, but you always seem to give. Thank you.

  3. This is fantastic, Bonnie. I can't wait for your book signing on Saturday. Brandi and I will be there.

  4. Great interview! I'm partially through ghost Island and it's so fantastic~

  5. Yeah, I love purple too. Must be a Gemini thing.

  6. After all these years, I still hang on Bonnie's every word. She's helped hundreds more that she could ever count. She's always been there for anyone who dreams of being a writer. I'm one of them, and am grateful beyond words. Love you dear friend.

  7. Hey Bonnie,
    I'm not Gemini (Sag), but I love purple too (it means royalty). This was an informative interview...I love it when friends are able to speak candid. Thank you for more insight
    And I think yo are so right about dishonesty in writing.

  8. Great interview, Bonnie; interesting story question.

    …the ability to see what the writer intends, not what I would do if this were my story… great insight. I discovered that I love editing and helping writers improve their craft too. I am currently helping judge a writing competition for Ghanaian romance writers and it’s really fulfilling.

    I’ll be taking you up on that 4 things challenge. In fact, I’d like to open the challenge to some writer friends of mine, if that’s ok.




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