Sandra Levy Ceren, Author of Imposter for Hire, Talks Writing & Offers #Giveaway Draw

My guest today on the Muriel Reeves Mysteries is Sandra Levy Ceren. A long time clinical psychologist and former New Yorker, Sandra lives on the California coast. She writes fiction and non-fiction and has had numerous short stories published in mystery anthologies. For a complete list visit Sandra’s website HERE

Prescription For Terror, the first in her psychological thriller series introduced spunky psychologist/sleuth Cory Cohen. The second in the series is Stolen Secrets. Imposter for Hire is her latest release, and she’s busy writing book four.  

Anne – Welcome to my little corner of cyberspace, Sandra. It’s great to chat with you again*. Let’s not waste a precious moment of our time together. When did you first realize you were destined to be an author?

Sandra - I first realized I was destined to be a writer during my formative years. Because my family moved every year, I had to adjust to making and losing friends. Fortunately there was always a public library within walking distance from our Brooklyn apartment. Until I made friends in my new neighborhood, I spent most of my free time reading in the library. Books were my friends. My best accomplishments in school were the A’s I received in Composition. Teachers said I had a vivid imagination and made good use of adjectives for a child.

I started writing short stories as a young adult, but never considered them worthy of publication. Nevertheless, as a freshman at Brooklyn College, I planned to major in English Literature. After receiving a poor grade on my first assignment in English Lit, I was devastated. The assignment was on Hamlet. Downhearted, I sat slumped in my next class which was psychology. The perceptive professor asked me to stay after class. He had wondered why I looked so sad. I told him I had planned to major in English, but wouldn’t do so given my poor grade. He asked to read the paper. Upon finishing, he applauded me. “You did a splendid job psychoanalyzing Hamlet. I’d have given you an A+.” I immediately changed my major. Although I love writing, I also love my rewarding career as a psychologist. My profession supports my second career as a published author. I combine them in my psychological mysteries.

Anne – So many authors (myself included) write for years and complete numerous manuscripts before receiving “the call”. Tell us about your journey from wannabe writer to published author.

Sandra - My journey from wannabe writer to published writer was fraught with obstacles, i.e. an abundance of rejections from editors at publishing houses, and an unscrupulous agent who told me she loved my manuscript, but I would have to pay her editor before she would submit my manuscript. Because I was na├»ve and didn’t know this wasn’t a common practice, I hired the editor. The editor held my manuscript for over a year, despite my concerned calls. Finally on a trip to New York, I confronted the editor at her office, demanding her comments or the return of my manuscript. She stated she hadn’t finished it and refused to return it unless I paid her in advance. I did. Sometime later, she sent one sentence. ”Write in the third person.”

I revised the manuscript and submitted it to the agent. Her response was, “I loved it, but mysteries are hard to sell.”

Since my experience, numerous complaints from other writers have led to her dismissal from the Association of Author Representatives.

In 2001, I signed with a small publisher. Upon publication, I had an important book event at a bookstore where several important book reviewers were in attendance.

The owner of the store informed me that the publisher had not sent the requested books. Fortunately, I had a few in my car. The reviewers were very kind and said they’d regard my book as “a collectors item.” I knew then there was trouble. The publisher had vanished. It took a long time to track her down, and some legal help to retrieve my rights. All her authors shared my experience. We mourned in unison. 

In 2007, I found a fine publisher, a very supportive, intelligent man. His specialty is non-fiction books. He published two of my books on premarital counseling, one directed to counselors and the other for couples. He agreed to publish the second and third in the Dr. Cory Cohen mystery series. I’m in the midst of writing my fourth in the series.

Anne - Any words of advice for struggling, unpublished writers?

Sandra - My advice to new writers is to learn the craft and the business. Avoid new publishers who may not be able to come through with promises. Be wary of agents. Consider self publishing. There is less of a stigma than in former years. If you decide to go that route, the best advice I would give is to get a great editor.

Anne - Tell us about your most recent release.

Sandra - My most recent release Imposter For Hire, an international intrigue with psychological twists and turns.

Dr. Cory Cohen teams up again with private investigator Ben Fortuna. This time they’re on a case involving an anorexic young mother and her Iranian husband, a prominent petroleum engineer. His method to reinvigorate abandoned oil wells is sought by a desperate oil company executive willing to do anything, including kidnapping an murder to claim ownership of the method.. Cory and the detective tread a treacherous path strewn with terrorists determined to cause international disasters and a man propelled by greed.

Anne - What one how-to write book is a must on your bookshelf? Why?

Sandra - THE ELEMENTS OF GRAMMAR by Margaret Shertzer is my most trusted and treasured writing companion. Although it is yellowed and frayed, it sits next to my computer. 

Anne - How long does it take you to write a book?

Sandra - Each book I write takes a little less time. My first book took a very long time, well over two years. I was in a writing class and a critique group and found suggestions from my peers and teacher very helpful. I stumbled, fell and started up again. Thus, it was a long process of writing and frequent rewriting. It’s like learning to play a musical instrument. The student gets better with practice. I actually enjoy editing, and find myself reading books and wanting to edit them.

Anne – LOL, Sandra. I do that, too. I never quite understood the comment about writers never being able to read for enjoyment, but it’s a fact. We’re always dissecting, analyzing, and editing other author’s work. It comes with the territory! Describe your home office as appears right now. Is this a good or bad thing?

Sandra - My home office has a large wall unit with shelves of psychology texts, writing resources, novels, anthologies and my body of work. My lap top sits on a shelf of the wall unit. A telephone is within reach on a cabinet next to my fax and printer. A comfortable chair is mandatory.

My desk, often cluttered with personal and professional papers and folders is on my left under a window overlooking a grassy hill with a few trees in front. Sunlight strikes at the window late afternoon. It is usually very quiet and conducive to writing.

Anne – Readers can win a copy of Imposter For Hire by leaving a comment. What question would you like them to answer?

Sandra – When things aren’t going well, what coping mechanisms do you employ?

Anne – A great question, Sandra! Okay, readers. Your turn. Leave a comment, and please include your email addy, to enter Sandra’s giveaway draw. I’ll announce the winner of Imposter For Hire on July 10. Good luck!

To ensure you receive every Muriel Reeves Mysteries blog post, author interview, update, book giveaway and more, why not become a follower? It’s easy, and you’ll have my eternal gratitude. Until next time, happy reading!

*Sandra visited my Anne K. Albert blog in February 2012.

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Carol N Wong said...

What is the most fun part of wrting a book like this? Is it coming up with twists and turns or
having the story race through your mind?


joye said...

Enjoyed reading the comments. I Cope by baking-I am a good cook so that seems to relax me and helps me get my thoughts together

marybelle said...

I cope by taking baby steps to solve whatever has arisen. I deal with things & then move on.


Rick Bylina said...

As the recipient of 527 rejections for my novels, I do a lot of coping. Unfortunately for my waistline, most of it has to do with the obvious--food--especially Extreme Moose Tracks.

But I usually give myself permission to scream, pout, and find new and unique cuss words. Then, ten minutes later, it is time to bottle that energy and work on making the manuscript better.

A writer's work is NEVER done.

Eleanor Sullivan said...

Ice cream! I always vote for ice cream when the going gets tough. I, too, had a troublesome publisher earlier and it's so frustrating. But out of that now. Thanks for sharing.

Eleanor Sullivan
Cover Her Body, A Singular Village Mystery