Tag Archives: women’s fiction

Heather Burch—Bestselling International Author of Contemporary Fiction and YA

First, let me say thank you for having me, Lael! I love visiting with reader friends and new readers who may not know me yet!

Describe your writing process, including subject, schedule, environment, inspirations, and techniques / strategies.

I have an office in my home that is the backdrop for most of my writing. It’s a large space filled with things I love. But I do change up and write outside sometimes or cart my computer to Starbucks. Change is good. As for my schedule and process, I am an early riser so I do my best work in the mornings before the world is awake. I usually write for a few hours, then take a break. Sometimes I go back to the computer; sometimes I get busy with social networking. When I’m working on a book, I try to stay really close to the project—it’s never far from my thoughts and is always working in the back of my brain. I don’t let it totally dominate, but I do allow that creative magic to flow so that it’s there when I need it!

Walk me through your publishing process, from final draft to finished product; include your publishing team, who does what.

I’m always amazed at how many hands are on any particular project. I send the final draft to my editor (each publishing house has their own way of doing things, but these steps are fairly universal). The editor will read, offer suggestions, give feedback, then it’s back to me to decide which elements help make the book stronger and which may not. Round two, she reads again, then passes the project to another editor who will also read—this time for smaller content issues and continuity. A third editor will read for typos and the like. Each editor may go through a manuscript more than once, and the author will tweak with each editorial pass. (By the end, we’ve read our books 6-8 times.)

In the meantime, a creative team is working on items like cover, back jacket copy, marketing strategies.

The author has their hands in each of these processes—which is fascinating! It’s incredible to see your project come to life with so many talented people doing what they are gifted to do!

Italian
Italian
Italian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did you get your novels in so many different languages? That is awesome! I want to know step-by-step and who does what for that to happen, and how your work sells in other countries.

I started getting contacted by international publishers when my book, One Lavender Ribbon released. It’s a contemporary story, but has a WWII tie-in, in the form of love letters from a soldier. Well, the book released over the 70th anniversary of D Day, and I think the world really came together over the events of WWII.

Turkish

 

The first time I was contacted, I thought it was a joke. But I sent the email on to my agent and she sent it to my US publisher. Next thing I know, I’m signing a foreign contract. I’m now in about 12 languages—which is just surreal. I sell extremely well in Italy and was named one of the top authors in three Italian cities. Crazy! I’d love to go to Italy and do a book tour! I also sell quite well in Turkey. Fun fact: My book titled In the Light of the Garden is titled The Willow Tree in Turkey. What is fun about that fact? My original title was The Weeping Tree, but the publisher felt like it wasn’t the right title.

Spanish
Slovenian
Serbian
Norwegian

 

German

Tell me how your art (writing) and life influence each other; what other talents do you have?

I spend a lot of time “searching” for the perfect story. Everything that comes into my mind is viewed through a writer lens. There are tiny seeds of ideas lurking everywhere! We just have to look around and notice them.

I love to cook, but I wouldn’t call it a talent. My husband and I love to travel. We spend our leisure time dissecting movies and talking about what could have been done differently to strengthen the story. If the story is perfect, we talk about why.

What do you love most about your creativity, and how does it play into teaching the craft of writing?

Freedom! When you’re writing, you’re free. Free to change the world or create a new world. Free to roam through the tunnels of time and land anywhere you choose. Reading is the same way. When you’re reading, you’re free. One of the strongest points I make when teaching about writing is to never ever, ever lose your childlike wonder. View the world through a different lens, then write it so we can all come along on the journey with you.

 

I’d love to stay in touch. Here are the places you can find me.

Website https://www.heatherburchbooks.com/

I hope you’ll add your name to my newsletter list on my website. There are usually at least one of my books on sale for $1.99, and I give the direct links for those in a monthly newsletter. Also, when you sign up, you can request a link to a free book! It’s a story that was written for Princess Cruise Lines.

Other ways to stay in touch…

https://m.facebook.com/heather.burch.50

https://www.facebook.com/heatherburchbooks

https://twitter.com/heatherburch

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/heather-burch

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4983102.Heather_Burch

https://www.instagram.com/heathereburch/

One Lavender Ribbon by Heather Burch

Adrienne leaves an abusive relationship and divorce in Chicago and buys a fixer-upper in Florida, where she starts her new life of independence on the Gulf. A box of eloquently written letters from a WWII soldier in her attic sets Adrienne on a journey to friendship, potential romance, and matchmaking. She exposes decades-old secrets, changing lives and mending relationships while building strong bonds with her new “family.”

Burch’s novel reads like a Lifetime or Hallmark movie, with the romance of a soldier’s yearning juxtaposing the horror of his experience in war. The story veers away from the trope of the emotionally intelligent woman succumbing to the stubborn man, when Adrienne informs the romantic interest that his controlling behavior isn’t acceptable, a feminist move proving she learned from her previous relationship. Adamant in this assessment, she continues to nurture the friendships of (his) family. Read this novel to discover a treasure chest of secrets and to find out if the romantic interest redeems himself. I was fortunate to receive a copy from the author for an honest review.

Before and Again by Barbara Delinsky

Before—she was Mackenzie Cooper, who had a loving husband and a beautiful daughter; After—she is Maggie Reid, a single woman with a secret past who lives with two cats and a dog and sells confidence through makeup artistry at her job in a resort spa. She can only move forward, away from her family, away from her “crime,” away from her former life…until her ex-husband arrives to manage the resort his business group just purchased, HER resort. At the same time, her friend and co-worker learns that her son hacked into his high school, their spa, and a prominent journalist’s computers, and her friend is terrified that her secret past—a powerful and dangerous man—finds her.

The two storylines, Maggie’s ex troubles and the crime of her friend’s son, seem more discrete than parallel, with Maggie spending considerable time repeatedly pushing and pulling the ex before remembering her friend’s distress. This makes scenes stand out every so often, instead of the story flowing. Though the novel reads well, the plan to bring down the influential man in the friend’s life doesn’t come across as quite credible, and it isn’t shown, but referenced after the fact, with the ending chapter summarizing the climax. Despite this, it is a fun read, and a peek into the different ways people process grief and trauma. I was fortunate to receive a copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

Lyla Volpe doesn’t expect her life to change after her crush takes a drunken, semi-naked photo of her at a party, because she doesn’t want to do anything about it. Tom, her working-class, single father, astonished by her complacency, cannot let it go. The boy’s mother, Nina, is sick over the incident and also cannot let it go, though her wealthy husband attempts to cover it up. The story whips back and forth on who exactly the culprit may be, but eventually the truth comes out, and Nina finally releases her insidious secret in order to save herself, her son, and his victim. The ending wrapped up quickly in a summarized chapter, disappointing readers who expected more about how the boy redeemed himself.

This novel demonstrates how well women are indoctrinated to be polite and quiet, even in the face of pernicious behavior of men they trust, how women justify such behavior as not so bad, not something they would call rape, or even harassment, certainly not a sex crime. Wealth is no protection, as the boy’s ex-girlfriend proves with her self-destructive actions. Giffin created credible characters who interacted as expected from the reader’s perspective, privy to information and emotional accouterments before it’s shared with other characters, showing the truth in fiction.

Fans of Liane Moriarty and Kate Moretti and Celeste Ng will appreciate Giffin’s style, ability to present complex relationships, and subject matter. I was fortunate to receive a copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Brandi Reeds—Writer, Philosopher, Collector of Tap Shoes

 

I met Brandi Reeds through the Lake Union Authors Facebook page. She also writes YA under her pen name Sasha Dawn. As you’ll see, she’s truly dedicated to her writing. I’m fortunate that she agreed to allow a peek into her writing life on my little blog. Her adult debut novel “Trespassing” just came out in April.

 

Describe your writing process, including schedule, environment, and inspirations.

SCHEDULE: Writing isn’t my only career. I have another full-time job, two busy teenagers, three dogs, and an incredibly busy husband, so I have to use every second wisely. I write whenever I have a free moment. A typical day:

● I wake up around 2 or 3 a.m., thinking of something that won’t quit. I’ve been an insomniac most of my life.

● Often, my laptop is open and on my lap, and my fingers are tapping keys before I open my eyes.

● I’ll write in bed for a couple of hours, close the laptop, and catch a quick nap before my day begins. My alarm goes off at 6. My goal is to have 1,500 words written before this moment. I usually meet my goal.

● After my girls are at school, I go for a run if my schedule permits, then work begins. I balance my home design and renovation business with writing. Both are on-demand and involve irregular hours. I have a design office in my home, and my laptop is my mobile writing office. Sometimes I write a sentence here, a sentence there; other times, I carve out blocks of time in a slower design day to write.

● Evenings are for family: dinner, walking puppies, jogging (if I missed my earlier run), and time with my girls—helping with homework (though they rarely need it anymore, they still humor me) and getting them to the dance studio or to the theater, or voice lessons, or wherever else they need to be.

● By the time everyone’s evening activities are over, it’s usually about 10 and time for bed.

● I sleep for a few hours, and repeat.

PROCESS: I outline a book on a high-level basis before I begin to write. The outline isn’t carved in stone; I often find that the book shifts a bit in drafting. But this helps to keep me on track. I don’t always write in order. I find that writing what I’m feeling helps keep me productive. There’s no reason to stall simply because I don’t feel like writing a particularly challenging scene. I’ll come back to it when I feel better about it. Some days, I write only dialogue. Others, I write only setting. I can’t afford not to stay on schedule, as I have deadlines looming.

At present, I have 6 weeks to write a Brandi Reeds book, contracted less than a month ago, a Sasha Dawn novel due in early November, and Brandi’s third release due by July of next year…as well as edits due on other works already in progress I revise as I go, and once I finish the book, I revise twice more before sending it to my agent and editor for commentary.

ENVIRONMENT: I prefer to write in places without distraction, but my schedule doesn’t permit me to be too particular. I’ve written in the car while my husband is driving, in parking lots waiting for my girls, in hospital waiting rooms, in cafes, on trains. I will write anywhere, but I’m most productive between the hours of 2 and 5 a.m., when the world is still asleep.

INSPIRATION: Much of my inspiration comes from dreams (I often dream plots), from places I’ve been, struggles I’ve endured, and my wonderful family. I recently returned from Spain, for example, and I’d love to create a story set on the island of Majorca. That said, I’m a firm believer that writers are not born of safe keeping. I’m a survivor of many battles, and I think that helps me when it comes to creating worlds in which my characters live. My mind goes to crazy places due to what I’ve been through.

Tell me about your support system: beta readers, publishing team, and any other cheerleaders.

My daughters and my best friend and her daughters read much of what I write before I send it to my agents and publishers. They’re my system for reality-checks and often tell me when something doesn’t ring true (i.e., a teenager wouldn’t use this word here; or wouldn’t she be thinking about her kid at this moment?). I also have a great friend in writer Patrick W. Picciarelli, retired NYPD, who is often my sounding board when it comes to plotting, criminal activity, and the business end of publishing.

My agent, Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger Agency is incredible. She often offers suggestions and advisement for books before we send them to my editors. I’ve been blessed to work with some incredible editors and publishing teams. I think every editor I’ve ever worked with will tell you that I’m open to criticism. I’ve never been hung up on a book being solely mine; it’s a team effort, and editors offer brilliant advice.

My mother, siblings, aunts, cousins, friends, and grandmother are cheerleaders AFTER they’ve read my books, which is equally as important. My husband, Joshua, does not read. He says that if he wants to know what happens in my books, he’ll just ask me. This doesn’t offend or bother me in any way, as he’s still an integral part of the process. I discuss plots with him, and I often tell him at the end of the day what my characters managed to accomplish. He and my girls are constant supporters and I am endlessly grateful for them.

Take me through your publishing process, from final draft to published product.

After we submit a final draft to my editors, the waiting begins. Some weeks later, I receive an email full of praise for what I’ve accomplished and created…and an attached edit letter detailing everything wrong with what I’ve done. My most intense experience with the edit letter entailed about 14 single-spaced pages. (Me at this point: “Ummm….you said you liked the book, right?”) So, after I cry for a few hours (kidding, I’ve never actually cried), I get back on the horse and revise.

Usually a book will go through 2 or 3 rounds of developmental edits. During this process, I’m filling out forms and giving input on cover design, depending on the publisher. Next, we go through a couple of rounds of copy-edits, and then a final polishing for interior design. Around this time, I receive final cover design and copy. And then suddenly, the book is real, tangible, and exciting. Sometimes, as an additional step, a publisher will ask me to check the ARC for errors.

How does your life influence writing and vice versa?

When I’m writing for the teen audience, I draw on my tumultuous teen years for emotional content. There is a little bit of me in every character I write, but I’ve never told my life story through a character. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and for as long as I’ve been writing, it has kept me sane and balanced. As a teenager, I wrote as a sort of therapy. Other kids my age weren’t going through the things I was experiencing—or maybe they were, but back then, we sure didn’t talk about it—and I felt less alone because my characters went through much of what I did.

Now that I’m older, I like to think my writing reaches audiences who need it…and letters from readers support this thought. It means something to tell unconventional stories, because life is not normal. It means something to write people as they truly are, even if they’re often flawed and unlikeable. While some readers hate this about my work, there are more who write and thank me for telling a story through an authentic narrator. I don’t write fairy tales because life is dark and messy, and no person I’ve ever met is all good or all bad. Flaws are what make us interesting and varied, and so these are the stories I tell.

 

What do you love most about your creativity?

I’ve never considered facets of my creativity as something to love, and even thinking about this question now, I don’t know that I can answer it. Both my careers (writing and designing) require heightened levels of self-awareness, however, and through that awareness, I’m able to dissect struggles, learn from them, and project them onto a bigger canvas. Being a published author certainly puts me in a position to reach others, and I definitely appreciate all that accompanies the connections.

Ergo, due to my creativity, I’m able to extend my reach. For example, last spring, I visited my alma mater (Antioch Community High School in Antioch, Illinois) for writers week. I do this sort of thing whenever I have an opportunity, and I’ve visited high schools all over my home state. I tell my story to captive audiences, who are experiencing the same types of challenges I’d endured as a teen. While I’m sure a few high school students in every crowd are bored with me, or even asleep, the majority walk away from my presentation inspired to overcome whatever it is they’re dealing with. And I LOVE this part of my job.

It’s also pretty fun to name characters after people I know. Emily and Andrea in TRESPASSING are named for my nieces; Samantha in SPLINTER is named for my eldest daughter, and all the male characters in SPLINTER are named after my nephews; the main character in BLINK is named for Joshua, and his sisters are named for my best friend’s daughters, Margaret and Caroline; and my upcoming teen release (currently known as PANIC) stars a spunky introvert named Madelaine, for my youngest daughter. I tell people that if they don’t want to find traces of themselves on the pages of my books, they shouldn’t stop by for a chat. I can’t help it. It’s an occupational hazard. 🙂

Brandi Reeds also has a story on the HOOKED app, entitled OFF LIMITS:

http://www.amazingchatstories.com/se/offlimits-1

Brandi Reeds website (under construction—please be patient)

Sasha Dawn website

Twitter

Facebook

Sasha Dawn Instagram

Brandi Reeds Amazon Author Page

Buy Trespassing at Amazon!

Buy Oblivion at Amazon!

Buy Splinter at Amazon!

Buy Blink at Amazon!

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center—pub date May 15, 2018

Click on picture to order!

This book starts off with a bang, specifically a plane crash. Despite Margaret’s fear of flying, her fiance coerces her into a flight in his Cessna before his certification test. An unexpected storm causes the plane to flip, trapping her inside as it explodes. The story reads like a memoir, such is the detail of her learning process about the extent of her injuries and medical procedures. The shocking revelations don’t end with her body and its new needs, as Margaret / Maggie spends more time with her family than she would have expected, or chosen. She discovers the true nature of her beloveds: suddenly absentee fiancee Chris, estranged sister Kitty, and distant mother—secrets bursting bubbles right and left. Some of those bubbles are burst by her recalcitrant physical therapist, whose already wobbly professionalism crashes at the charm of Maggie. Center brilliantly leads the reader through a labyrinth of complex emotions and clashing dynamics on two continents to a hilarious and painful climactic scene, where Maggie cannot escape a situation more awkward than she could imagine. Then the story goes a bit over the top, ala Harlequin romance style, with the love interest taking a dangerous leap literally, and gushing about his feelings for her as though the rest of the world stopped for this moment. It’s difficult to see what is happening around them as they open up to each other in a completely inappropriate place and time.

That life constantly takes Maggie by surprise is an endearing trait that makes her relateable and encourages readers to cheer her on through her physical and emotional struggles. There was a cringe-worthy scene early on where her professor tells her to “act like a man” for her interview, and she promises to do so. It’s very much her character, though, and Center maintains the integrity of all characters as they face secrets exposed and emotions unleashed. The denouement ends up being summarized, a bit of a disappointment in such a captivating tale, but leaves the reader with a sense of humanity restored as life exceeds Maggie’s expectations. This is a novel that reminds readers fiction often has much truth, in showing unspoken, understandable motives behind seemingly hurtful actions and how communication can resolve even long-held conflicts.

I was fortunate to receive an ARC from St. Martin’s Press of this beautiful story by Katherine Center.

The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews—pub date May 8, 2018

Brooke Trapnell, the runaway bride in Save the Date, continues her story, having moved back to little town, Georgia, with her son, Henry. The resident wealthy socialite philanthropist of nearby Sea Island, Josephine Bettendorf Warrick, contacts Brooke to represent her against the state of Georgia, who wants her land for a state park. The secrets of nonagenarian Josephine slowly seep out as she lays out her plans to atone for her sins and defend her estate by passing it on to descendants of her long ago best friends. Brooke discovers a related family secret she would have never thought to guess.

Andrews’ description of friendships in the 50s deep South feels less like crossing a color line and more like pushing into an invisible, flexible barrier that they can’t quite break through. The re-emergence of The High Tide Club through the descendants of the original members is meant to be poignant, yet it’s hard to imagine the remaining original member at 95 walking naked into the ocean in chilly October. Though Andrews’ writing continues to be fully engaging, this novel seemed to go long, and it felt as though the author decided at one point to simply wrap up all the loose ends, with revelations coming fast and furious after the typical length of a novel, around 300 pages. There’s a contemporary would-be killer paralleling the murder mystery from decades past, and neither seems credible, nor true to character, even given the circumstances. Despite this, it’s an interesting story and worth it for a sandy good beach read.

I was fortunate to receive a pre-release copy from the publisher of one of my favorite authors.

Laura Spinella—award-winning author of women’s fiction and paranormal romance

Laura Spinella gifted me a digital copy of Ghost Gifts and an autographed copy of Foretold in a giveaway, and I loved them! So I wanted to spread the book passion. I’m pretty excited that she agreed to be on my blooming little blog. She’s supportive of other writers, no matter where they are on their journey. Some of her besties are writers.

Laura and Barbara Claypole White

 

Laura works for her web developer, so her website is “very custom!” It’s like an amusement park, with fascinating rides around every corner and tons of visual fun. She’s also on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Instagram.

 

Describe your writing environment and process, including research.

Click on book cover to pre-order Echo Moon!

Most book writing occurs in my sunroom, which is…sunny! The room has a great vibe and it’s really where I do my best work. My desk faces the only wall in the room, so that provides a bit of built-in discipline. But the wall is covered in a collage of old postcards. They’re all of my hometown, Bayport, New York. The postcards provide a lot of inspiration. Interestingly, one card plays a pivotal role in my next book, Echo Moon.

Lots of writers like to work in coffee shops, libraries, or other people-oriented locations. That’s just not my style…or maybe I’m just lazy. I’m most comfortable in my own space, but I can and have worked in some unusual spots. When my middle daughter was a teenager, she was quite ill and spent a lot of time at Children’s Hospital in Boston. (She’s fine now!) I wrote most of my first novel, Beautiful Disaster, in various hospital rooms, sitting on linoleum floors, or in waiting rooms.

As for my research team? Mmm…that’d be the renowned team of Me, Myself & I. Naturally, I reach out to experts when necessary, but I do all the leg work. Last summer, I traveled to NYC to research early 20th century tenement housing, as well as making a trip to Coney Island. A portion of Echo Moon takes place in Luna Park, an incredible amusement arena that was a singular sight back in the day. Getting a place so rich in history right took a lot of research. Luckily, Coney Island’s museum curator couldn’t have been more helpful.

Talk about the publishing process.

My first novel was published in 2011—Beautiful Disaster. The book did well and went on to be a RITA finalist. I always say I wrote the first draft in about six weeks. From there it was about six years to publication. That included the learning curve of writing a novel, to securing a literary agent, to actually selling the book. The book was published on the cusp of e-books, so it was a very different world in terms of publishing.

Click on book cover to order Ghost Gifts!
Click on book cover to order Foretold!

Echo Moon, my latest, is due out May 22nd. It’s the last installment (after Foretold) of the Ghost Gifts Novels. Ghost Gifts was a Kindle First, which is an Amazon program that opens your book up to a huge audience. I really had no intention of writing any more “ghost stories.” Ghost Gifts did very well and Montlake, my publisher, asked me to continue with the main character, Aubrey, Ellis, for two more books. I hadn’t anticipated anything like this.

Contractually, my next book was slated to be a women’s fiction novel, Unstrung. Looking back, I wish we’d put Unstrung on hold; the book kind of got lost in the Ghost Gifts shuffle. But Montlake has a fantastic publishing team in place—I really couldn’t ask for more in terms of a team effort, particularly the editing folks. They are top shelf.

Click on book cover to order Unstrung!

As far as in the moment publishing, we’re just gearing up Echo Moon marketing. I have a brand new street team, accessed via Facebook. I’ve always loved visiting with book clubs, and I thought this would be as close as I could come to creating an environment like that—a place to chat and chill with readers.

Tell me about your support system and reciprocity.

Naturally, readers are everything. You start with two or three readers and hope your writing attracts a larger audience. It’s an ongoing process in an extremely competitive market. I have a small group of published authors who are also close friends. One of them is my critique partner, so we trade a lot of publishing stories and share the stressful moments.

Click on book cover to order Beautiful Disaster!

I had no author support when writing Beautiful Disaster—no real beta readers or other writers to share my work with. In fact, it’s kind of surprising I succeeded on any level! I learned, I think, from reading. I did end up with an extraordinary agent who gives incredible editorial advice. That said, I’m still a fairly private writer. I’ve grown in terms of a public persona, and I really do enjoy that part. But the writer in me is drawn to the solitude of the craft.

Elaborate upon life influencing writing and vice versa.

I’m not sure that my everyday life influences my writing all that much. When I go in that sunroom, it really feels like a whole other world. Writing, on the other hand, largely influences my everyday life. I’m fortunate to have an extremely supportive family. That’s code for they let me do my thing without a lot of fuss. Unless it’s crunch time, probably when I’m three months out from deadline, I try to keep to set writing hours. Those deadline months can get stressful because no matter how much time you have, it never feels like enough.

What pleases you the most about your chosen career?

Ha! Well, this would be easier to answer if I felt like I chose writing. I think writing chose me. It’s a strange life, a writing life. It’s isolating, exhilarating, frustrating, and fits into very few boxes. It can be difficult for other people to relate to, which is frustrating in an entirely different way. But that’s not what you asked, is it? Every time I finish a novel, there’s a brief moment where I sit back, look at the thing, and say, “Geez. How did that get there?” I like that moment a lot.

Laura and Auggie

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