Dawn Hosmer: Queen of the Psychological Thriller
Dawn Hosmer weaves gut-wrenching stories from real-life inspirations and the constant authorial question: what if? Indeed, she is well-known in some quarters as the Queen of the Psychological Thriller. Meet the Ohio author, wife, mother and grandmother as she shares her story and publishing journey.
Please tell us a bit about your writing career. I believe you started with Bits & Pieces, a psychological thriller.
The first novel I wrote was actually The End of Echoes in 2008. I was inspired by a real-life event that shook me to my core. Writing it was cathartic for me and part of my healing process. I initially wrote it in third person past tense. After reading it through during re-writes, I knew it needed to change so I re-wrote the ENTIRE thing in first person present tense from five main characters’ points of view. It was so much work but exactly what the book needed.
After finishing the re-writes, I queried The End of Echoes, with the desire to be traditionally published. I queried solidly for two years and received over one hundred rejections. As hard as it was for me to accept that the book of my heart may not be the one to get me noticed, I wrote Bits & Pieces, thinking it may have more commercial appeal. I wrote it so quickly, which was refreshing. I then began querying both books.
Again, I received rejection after rejection after rejection. All of those rejections broke me. I know we’re supposed to say they don’t matter, and that each no is one step closer to a yes. But, in total transparency, they shattered my self-confidence. I was so broken that I could no longer write. But I kept querying, almost out of spite to see what would happen (or because I’m a masochist). Of course, I kept receiving more rejections.
In early 2018, a dear friend of mine convinced me to join Twitter because of the amazing writing community. I resisted because I really did not want another social media account to keep up with. Eventually, over the course of a dinner, she broke me down – thank you, Rachel Hopmoen – and I promised to join. As with most things, once I commit to something, I go all in. I decided to participate fully on Twitter and see what happened.
Within a few months of joining, there were several pitch contests. I decided to participate in both with Bits & Pieces. I got more agent and publisher interest in those two pitch contests than I had received in the previous ten years. I sent off my pages and synopsis to around twenty different agents and publishers. During #adpit, I had two publishing companies interested in my manuscript. One was a major publishing company in Canada. The other was a small, new independent publisher. Since my dream was to be traditionally published, I really wanted to go with the larger publishing house. However, the person who read my manuscript told me they’d love to work with me IF I removed the major plot twist in the book (if you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about). The smaller publishing company was willing to take my manuscript as is.
I toiled and fretted over this decision for a week. I knew in my heart that the major twist in Bits & Pieces needed to remain. I was unwilling to make the changes to the book to be able to pursue a working relationship with the larger publisher. I decided to sign with the independent publisher. I know that this was the right decision for me because once I signed, I was finally (after several long years) able to write again.
Unfortunately, after about a year, there were some staffing changes that led me to ask for the rights back to Bits & Pieces which is now published by Gestalt Media.
Joining Twitter was one of the best decisions I’ve made regarding my writing. Not only did it help me find both of my publishers, it helped me find a community of amazing authors I now consider to be friends.
And now you have published four books. Are they all standalones?
My original intention was to only write standalone novels as this is what I prefer reading. However, readers really wanted more of Tessa’s story, so I’m now working on a sequel to Bits & Pieces. Writing a sequel is a real struggle for me and I really hope never to do it again.
Where do your inspirations and plots come from? And what are you writing now?
All of my books start with a question – What If? What if my child were abducted and murdered? (The starting point for The End of Echoes.) What if I had the special ability to pick up pieces of others through touch and happened to encounter the wrong person? (One of the starting points for Bits & Pieces.) What if I could witness my own funeral and had no idea how I died? (One of the starting points for Somewhere In Between.)
In addition, my books are always inspired by real-life events. I mentioned this earlier with The End of Echoes. Bits & Pieces combined my What If question with the tragedy of a young woman who went missing from my son’s college campus when he was a freshman. She was later found murdered and her killer was responsible for the rape and murder of several other women. Somewhere In Between also has some real-life events that served as inspiration. Mosaic is a collection of very short stories (or micro-fiction) which I pulled from some of the pieces I’ve written on Twitter in the daily hashtag prompt events.
I also spent my career in social work which has given me a treasure trove of inspiration. I’m inspired by many people I’ve met along the way who have found the strength and resilience to overcome the most seemingly insurmountable challenges. I quit working about four years ago because of my health. I was diagnosed in 2004 with Crohn’s disease and it has had such profound impacts on my life as most auto-immune diseases do. I hated to leave the work force as I’m passionate about helping others but my body demanded it. It’s been a blessing in disguise as I can now focus my time on writing as well as being a wife, mom, and now a grandma.
As mentioned previously, I’m currently writing the sequel to Bits & Pieces which should be released later this year.
Tell us a bit about your process. Do you write daily? Do you plot your books by chapter before starting to write, or just have a rough outline?
I’ve never been a daily writer and probably never will be, despite the promises I make to myself. The plus side to not writing daily is I rarely get hit by writer’s block as I write when my muse won’t stop shouting in my head which makes the words flow more easily.
All the craziness of 2020 really took its toll on me creatively and I couldn’t write more than a few thousand words once a month or so. I’ve recently started writing again, and it feels amazing. My muse is still playing hide and seek with me so what’s working for me to get the words down is this – I set the timer for twenty minutes, two times each day. I commit to putting words down on the page for that amount of time only. Using this method, I’ve managed to write 1,500 to 3,000 words per writing session for the past several weeks. I think it relieves the pressure enough to let the words flow without over-thinking everything (as I love to do).
I am a pantser through and through. As I mentioned earlier, I start with a question and sometimes an idea of who the main character is. I then sit down and write. I always keep a notebook nearby to write down main events, details about characters, questions that need answering, and sometimes plot points that need to be covered. Usually, the characters take over and tell me their stories as I write. I write the story in order, rather than jumping around and putting it all together at the end.
I’ve tried plotting ahead of time, but it kills my creativity and renders me unable to write at all. So, I’ve accepted my process as a pantser and honor it.
What do you like to read? Do you have a favourite author?
My reading is all over the place genre-wise, however my favorite genres are psychological thrillers, suspense, and mystery. My daughter and I recently started a mother/daughter book club podcast, Unravel The Binding, where we read and discuss books in depth with our listeners. We are focusing on psychological thrillers, suspense, crime, and mystery for now.
I have so many favorite authors. A few of them are Ruth Ware, Jodi Picoult, Liane Moriarty, Wally Lamb, Heather Gudenkauf, Mary Kubica, and Celeste Ng. (I seriously could write a whole page of my favorites)
Were or are you inspired by other authors?
I don’t know that I’m inspired by other authors per se. Rather, good story-telling motivates and inspires me, be it in book, movie, or TV show form.
Could you share some thoughts about publishing/writing in today's environment?
I think I held onto the idea for far too long that the only valid way to be published was traditionally. This may have been the case in 2008 when I started my writing journey, but it is no longer true. There are so many avenues to getting published now that weren’t available then. And all of them are valid with none being better than the other. In the future, I’d love to be a hybrid author – some books with an independent publisher, some self-published, and some with a traditional publisher. I find that the hardest thing about being with a smaller publisher or self-published is finding and connecting with readers. Marketing is an ever-changing beast. I recently joined TikTok to try to find new readers and engage with the writing community there. I think the key to successful marketing is being willing to try new things, even when they’re out of my comfort zone. I’ve often said that I don’t want my comfort zones to become my prison – I’m doing my best not to let that happen. Also, I’ve committed myself to saying yes to any writing-related endeavor that comes my way, regardless of how I feel about it. I’ve seen on my own journey that those things that present the greatest risk usually bring the greatest reward.
Thank you so much, Dawn.
Find Dawn Hosmer’s works on Amazon at this url:
And at Gestalt Media:
And visit her website at: