It’s a Mystery
Author Stephanie Hoover has always had a fascination with “all things blood and gore.” And although she said it might have something to do with her being born on Halloween, she also explained that really “there’s no empirical evidence to support that!”
Hoover has been writing nearly all her life, and fortunately, she discovered her talent for writing early on.
“I had a few teachers, from elementary school on up, who recognized it, nurtured it, and encouraged it,” she said.
Having enjoyed the satisfaction of having a poem published when she was just in grade school, Hoover recalls that her first “real” writing job came when she worked as a stringer for a weekly newspaper.
“From there, I worked as a professional writer most of my life—often in addition to other jobs.”
Primarily focusing on true-crime stories and the paranormal, Hoover has had three of her true-crime books published by History Press. She also boasts her own website, Hauntingly Pennsylvania, and in October of 2014, she launched a national magazine for fans of mystery, crime, and suspense called Prose ’n Cons Mystery Magazine.
“I feel like my whole life has led up to this and I am finally at home,” she said. “I get to write about murder and mayhem for a living now—and meet some of the bestselling authors in the world in the process.”
As a writer of primarily non-fiction works, research is a huge part of her work.
“For me, there is no writing without research,” Hoover said. “Accuracy is key if you’re presenting something to an audience you’re billing as ‘true crime’ or ‘based on true facts.’”
She is careful to use very reliable resources and is happiest when perusing microfilm rolls of historical newspapers, finding “absolutely marvelous, amazing information.”
Although she refers to herself as a healthy skeptic when it comes to all things supernatural, Hoover admits that she “loves the paranormal, at least the potential of it.”
So has she ever had a personal experience with the unexplainable?
“I’ve had a few incidents that seem to defy logical explanation,” she said. “But I don’t share them outside of my own family because, quite honestly, I think folks might think I’m a little bonkers.”
And although she has never used those personal experiences in her writing, she said that they’ve given her a greater respect for other people who are willing to share their experiences.
“But I’m really a true-crime writer, so I’m always looking for facts to back up the claims,” she said.
With a mind that “collects data like a clothes dryer collects lint,” Hoover said that nearly everything she hears or sees is trapped somewhere in her brain, and so “in that sense, nearly everyone I meet turns up, in one way or another, in my writing.”
Publishing a quarterly, nationally distributed mystery magazine is, in her words, “tremendously challenging, but it’s also a wonderful source of homegrown marketing.” She has a platform available to her where she can expose her readers and fans of mysteries and crime to great books, TV shows, movies, and other forms of entertainment, either hers or someone else’s.
Social media is also a useful tool in getting the word out.
“We share a post about a new story on Hauntingly Pennsylvania or that we’ve scored a huge ‘get’ in Prose ’n Cons—and our supporters and followers often carry the ball for us,” boasted Hoover.
But she also points out that these ways of sharing information are not complete replacements for traditional advertising, attending conferences, and developing one-on-one relationships with her readers—all of which she does as well.
Hoover really enjoys those one-on-one encounters with her readers.
“It’s amazing how complete strangers can become a mirror,” she said. “By that I mean someone will talk to me about something I’ve written and interpret it in a way I never even thought of. And that gives me a whole new perception of my own work. I’m seeing what I’ve written, but in a whole new light.”
Being a contributing member of her community is important to Hoover, and although there are several causes that she’s very passionate about, not surprisingly, she is most supportive of libraries.
“I grew up with a working, single mom, way out in the country with very little to do to keep me out of trouble,” she said. “My saving grace, especially during the lonely summers, was a program the library operated, offering books by mail.”
As a young girl, she would order five or six books every week, read them, and return them for more the following week—books covering every subject from photography, to the Loch Ness Monster, to classic whodunits.
“It was all free—even the postage. Without those books to help constructively develop my creative young mind, I could have turned out to be a very different human being.”
These days, she offers any library in the country the opportunity to receive a subscription of Prose ’n Cons for as long as they want to receive it.
“Hopefully, one or two will end up in the hands of a young mystery, crime, or suspense writer, and they’ll realize that if I can do it, so can they.”
One of the greatest lessons Hoover has learned over her many years as a successful writer is that if we want something, it may be a matter of simply asking for it.
“I think too often we go through life working our tails off, doing all the right things—but we never get that ‘break’ we most dearly want. Why? Because we don’t ask anyone to give it to us,” she said. “I never published a magazine before, but I knew I loved mysteries and true crime. So I told my husband, ‘Hey, I’m starting a magazine called Prose ’n Cons.’
“A lot of what I’ve accomplished is due to the simple fact that I said to some very successful people, ‘I know you don’t know me, and you’ve never heard of my magazine, but I need you to be part of it.’ More often than not, they said yes. It made all the difference in the world.”BW