Friday, April 13, 2012

Countdown to Malice Domestic 2012--Anne Hillerman

This is another post in the countdown to the 2012 Malice Domestic Conference in Bethesda, MD. from April 27-29. I am featuring the writers who will sit on a panel I'm moderating called "Have Gun Will Travel: Mysteries Set Out West." This panel will take place form 10:40-11:30 a.m. in the Diplomat/Ambassador rooms. If you're attending Malice, join us!

Anne Hillerman will attend Malice this year to accept an award for her father, deceased mystery great, Tony Hillerman, and to join in honoring his contributions to the mystery field. Anne is, however, a writer herself with a number of nonfiction books published and is writing a mystery novel (which I can't wait to read). She'll sit on the panel to discuss a book she and her photographer husband, Don Strel, published about the landscape through which her father's famous characters move, Tony Hillerman's Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn. 

Here's a link to learn more about Anne's books and to order them.

Anne Hillerman Bio

Anne Hillerman is the author of the award-winning Tony Hillerman's Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn and seven other books. Tony Hillerman's Landscape was honored as the best photo book of 2010 by the Mountains and Plains Booksellers. 

Together with husband/photographer Don Strel, she has just finished a project with the University of New Mexico Press---an introduction and new photographs for a re-issue of mystery giant Tony Hillerman's book of non-fiction essays, The Great Taos Bank Robbery. In her introduction, Anne talks about growing up as one of Hillerman's six children. She and Don also collaborated on Gardens of Santa Fe, which was a finalist for the prestigious Eric Hoffer Award, as well as earning a New Mexico Book Award and first place honors from the National Federation of Press Women and New Mexico Press Women. The duo presents on their books frequently. 

 Anne's other books also include: Santa Fe Flavors: Best Restaurants and Recipes (winner of the 2009 New Mexico Book Award), The Insider's Guide to Santa Fe, Children's Guide to Santa Fe, Done in the Sun, and Ride the Wind: USA to Africa

In more than twenty years as a journalist, she worked as editorial page editor for the Albuquerque Journal North and the Santa Fe New Mexican, and as an arts editor for both papers. 

Since 2001, Anne has been the Northern New Mexico food critic for the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico's largest newspaper. She writes about a different restaurant each week; you can catch her reviews each Friday in the "Venue" section. Her job takes her to Four Star food palaces and tasty little dives, up to Espanola and Taos and out Cerrillos and Madrid way. Her reviews have won first place honors from the National Federation of Press Women. Her book Santa Fe Flavors grew from this experience. Anne is often asked to volunteer to judge food-related events including the Girl Scout Cookie Caper, featuring desserts created from Girl Scout cookies. Now that's a sweet job!

In addition to working on a new book, Anne is a director of Wordharvest Writers Workshops and the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference both of which she helped to establish in 2001.The Tony Hillerman Writers Conference is held in November in Santa Fe. Click for more information about the conference and Wordharvest.

Anne, your nonfiction books have been focused on a sense of place and lifestyle (cooking, gardens). Will these concerns be central to your mysteries, as well?

A sense of place, definitely. The first mystery in this news series moves more of the action to Santa Fe, NM, although it also includes the Navajo reservation. As for food and gardening, I love them both so my characters will have to go along with that. By the way, Jim Chee, one of my Dad's famous detectives, is becoming quite the cook.

What's your writing process? What is a typical writing day like for you? Do you keep to a set schedule? What are your writing habits?

For fiction, on good days I spend the morning working on new material and the afternoon for my other business projects. I try to keep a set schedule, have my husband screen calls, etc. I'm a slow writers, easily tempted by the siren call of "more research."
Non-fiction is a different animal. I work on those projects in sections rather than in a linear fashion which keeps the writing, and my interest, fresher and enables me to work longer days.

What projects, literary or otherwise, are occupying you at the moment?

I'm on the fifth revision of my mystery, working title Spider Woman's Daughter.

I'm revising a proposal for a non-fiction book my photographer husband and I want to create together.

I'm leading three tours in 2012 for Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) based on my book "Tony Hillerman's Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn."

I'm organizing book launch events for the re-vised edition of Dad's non-fiction essays, The Great Taos Bank Robbery, for which I did a new intro and my photographer husband Don did the photos.

I write weekly restaurant reviews for the Albuquerque Journal. That's a great gig!

I'm the co-founder of Wordharvest Writers Workshops,, and in that capacity I'm helping coordinate one-day writing workshops this spring and summer and putting together the annual Tony Hillerman Conference. At the conference, we offer two awards in honor of my Dad: The Tony Hillerman Prize for Best First Mystery with St. Martin's Press and the Tony Hillerman Mystery Short Story prize, in collaboration with New Mexico Magazine.

I'm also working with Santa Fe Botanical Gardens to help lasso some business members to support Santa Fe's first-ever botanic garden, now being built.

I also love to walk with my dog, take yoga classes, pull a few weeds in what passes for my garden, experiment in the kitchen, and ski.

Who were your literary influences growing up? Are there any authors (living or dead) that you would name as influences?

Like most writers, I've always loved to read. I inhaled Walter Farley's Black Stallion books which, when I look back on them, combined elements of thriller and mystery in a gentle way. I read the Edith Nesbit series which started with "The Five Children and It," Nancy Drew, of course, although I would have liked more action in those stories. My Dad was a great storyteller and invented bedtimes stories for me and my siblings every night with us as the central characters. My Mother has the most wonderful curious and active mind, and always talked to us about what she was reading. What would life be without these wonderful stories?

What inspired you to write your first book? Had you always wanted to be a writer?

My first book, "Done in the Sun," was a collection of solar energy experiments for K-third graders. I was inspired by the idea that it might make some money to supplement my salary as a reporter, and that it was something new for me to learn. After that, the ideas came from my passions---travel books about Santa Fe, N.M., a place I love--"Santa Fe Flavors," restaurants and recipes I'd encountered in my career as a restaurant reviewer. Etc.

Do you belong to a critique group of other authors. Do you find it helpful? In what ways?

When I'm ready--or stuck---I show my work to my long-standing critique group of two other published writers. They show me no mercy, but in a respectful and funny way. They see problems I didn't even think of. I don't always take their advice, but I always consider it. Sometimes their recommendations help me come up with great new ideas, better than any of us would have developed individually.

What is your advice to aspiring writers? How important is it for a young writer to be a reader? What would you recommend they read?

If you want to write, you have to read. I'd recommend they read anything and everything that interests them, fiction, non-fiction, poetry. I'd also recommend that if a book doesn't engage them by the third chapter or so, move on to something else. If you love something, consider what makes it wonderful and find an idea or two for your own process.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned in your writing career? What has been the hardest part about being a writer?

Because of the Hillerman name, the most surprising thing I've learned is how many lives my Dad touched in so many ways. I'm always honored when people share their stories of him with me, and I hope to hear some new ones at Malice Domestic in May. The hardest thing for me are those days when writing is work instead of pleasure. Sticking with it until it becomes fun again. Also, I enjoy socializing, and writing is a solitary pursuit.

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