Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Heather Stimmler-Hall

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! I mentioned today's author a few weeks back, when I first read her book Naughty Paris. Now Heather Stimmler-Hall is here today to give us the skinny on this fascinating "travel" book:

Welcome to Allie's Musings, Heather! Can you tell us a little about your background?

I've been a writer as long as I can remember: plays, poetry, stories...when I was in high school I started taking journalism classes and we produced a weekly newspaper. From this I got an after school job as the Teen Correspondent for the big daily, Phoenix Gazette (absorbed by the Arizona Republic). It seemed like a more practical way to make a living as a writer, so that's the career path I chose. When I came to Paris in college, it seemed like travel writing was an obvious choice, and now I've been writing about France for American magazines and guidebooks since 1999. I also have a blog I write for fun called Secrets of Paris (

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

After years of writing for other publishers, I created my own independent publishing company in Paris, Fleur-de-Lire, and in September I published "Naughty Paris: A Lady's Guide to the Sexy City". It's a guidebook for the "Sex & the City" generation of women, very elegant, with over 200 photos and lots of fun advice and tips on everything from where to find the perfect corset to decoding French pickup lines and how to capture that elusive "femme fatale" allure of Parisian women.

As my regular readers know, I had the pleasure of checking out this book on its release...what an interesting work! So, what advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Travel guide writing is very different from fiction writing. You really, really have to remember your audience, to keep your information informative, essential, and above all, evocative of the place you're writing about. Read a LOT. The biggest mistake all beginners make in all kinds of writing is using clichés and other hackneyed phrases. They really distinguish a professional writer from a hobby writer.

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

I'm not sure that I do! I have two small miniature pinschers, Pedro & Lena, who force me to get away from my desk at least three times a day for walkies and dinner, but it's a constant struggle to remain balanced, especially when you're a freelancer. I tend to have a better grasp of how long any given assignment will take me now, but I still end up procrastinating (I'm a Facebook addict) and then not sleeping for three days when a deadline approaches.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

Some might think that travel writers don't get writer's block, but it happens. It's always hard to think of new and interesting ways to say the same things over and over. Or sometimes I'm just not in the mood to write, especially if life situations get in the way. To break through this, I just write the crappiest first draft I can, on purpose, full of clichés and bad puns. Then I can relax a little since I have something to work with besides a blank screen, and get to editing, rewriting, etc.6. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creatingyour book(s)?Naughty Paris is completely different from the other traditional travel guides I've done. And since I didn't have an editor telling me how to write it, I often agonized over the tone, the angle, the length, what to include or leave out...I must have changed it twenty times in the course of completing the manuscript. But I learned if I went with my gut and with what I knew *I* would be happy with in the end, then it would all come out okay. People can tell when you're writing with conviction from your heart.

Heather, thanks so much for being here today! Readers, you can find out more at

Happy Wednesday!