Tag Archives: women’s fiction

Jessica Strawser—Writer, Editor, and Speaker

Photo by Corrie Shaffeld

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies / techniques, and inspirations material and abstract.

I’m an organic writer—I think a lot ahead of time about the characters and what my story’s central questions will be, but don’t outline in detail or swear by any particular tools or strategies, beyond reading voraciously, as much as I’m able. I’m very disciplined, with daily and weekly goals, and believe firmly in the power of forward momentum once I get going on a manuscript.

I wrote my first two novels by night, as my babies/toddlers slept, while working a demanding day job as editorial director for Writer’s Digest magazine. Not long after signing the contract for Forget You Know Me, I scaled back my role at the magazine and shifted to writing by day as my primary focus. A writing career involves a fair amount of evenings and weekends for things like book clubs, conferences and festivals, so this is a much more workable focus for my family, which always comes first.

Describe your publishing process, from final draft to final product, including publishing team and timeline. How did your work in the industry prepare you for the writing world as an author?

It’s been a little different for every book, particularly as staffing changes at my publisher have led to a few editorial team transitions, but I’m working at the pace of about a book a year. I refine a draft until I think (hope) it’s close to working as what I envisioned for the story, then get feedback from a few trusted readers and revise yet again before turning it over to my editor. Then comes another round to incorporate the excellent suggestions from her professional eye.

My work in the industry taught me what a team effort publishing is; I have enormous respect for my editors, having been one, and deep gratitude for the efforts of the hardworking support teams—marketing, publicity, design and beyond.

Who are your biggest cheerleaders online and IRL, and how did you get into the Tall Poppies (beyond being an excellent storyteller)?

My family and friends—who’ve seen firsthand my dedication to this craft since long before I ever got published—are my biggest cheerleaders, and their warm support means the world to me.

Also, at the start, were my colleagues at Writer’s Digest—we were all writers with a genuine love for the work we were doing there, and it was humbling to have them so enthusiastically in my corner—as well as a debut author group called 17 Scribes—it was invaluable to be tapped into a network of other authors publishing their first novels in 2017, and many of us remain connected today.

I’d met some of the Tall Poppy Writers through conferences, WD, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and online, and had admired their collaborative spirit and talented body of work for years; I was elated when they invited me to join.

How does your life influence your writing and vice versa? Please share fun details about being the 2019 Writer-in-Residence for Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

While I don’t write directly from life experiences, of course we all are heavily influenced by the phases of life in which we find ourselves and the beautiful (and not so beautiful) aspects of human nature that turn our heads. I’d find it impossible to separate the two!

It’s a wonderful honor to be serving as the newly minted Writer-in-Residence for the Cincinnati library system this year; it encompasses more than 40 branches, and I’ll doing community engagement with local readers (visiting library branch book clubs and hosting a podcast) as well as aspiring writers (teaching free workshops and holding office hours, for instance).

What do you love most about your creativity?

Through dreaming up a story from pure imagination, somehow, I end up feeling more like me.

Connect with Jessica:

Jessica Strawser

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Amazon

Sandi Ward—women’s fiction author who writes humanity-embracing stories from the unique perspective of cats

 

I met Sandi on Twitter. She is super friendly and supportive of other writers. If you’re a fan of Hallmark, love heartwarming stories, and appreciate learning about other humans through reading, her novels are for you. Oh, you must also love cats! Here’s my review on her second novel Something Worth Saving.

 

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies, and inspirations tangible and abstract—what’s in your office?

Because I work full-time (I’m a medical copywriter at an ad agency), I write my fiction sporadically, whenever I can grab a few minutes here and there. My MacBook Air is always with me, and it essentially is my office-to-go! I’ll write in the early morning, on my lunch hour, late at night, or whenever else I can grab a few minutes.

I prefer to write with a hot cup of coffee nearby. My primary requirement is quiet. I can’t write with music or other background noise going on.

I don’t outline my story arc on a line chart, or put plot points on post-it notes, or anything like that. I’m completely what some people call a “pantser,” making it up as I go along (flying by the seat of my pants). I re-read written chapters and then add a new one, going back constantly to edit in new ideas. My goal is to write stories that are unexpected, and not formulaic. I let the characters surprise me, in the hopes that they will also surprise the reader.

Walk me through your publishing process from final draft to final product: publishing team, timeline, and expectations of you as the author, especially toward marketing and publicity.

Kensington gives me a year to write a novel, during which time their art department starts to design a cover and their marketing team writes potential cover copy (once I can supply a synopsis). Once the draft is done, it goes to my agent and editor, and we do a round of changes before moving on to copy editing, and finally page proofs. This stage also takes about a year, from final first draft to published book.

On the one hand, this process is slow. By the time of book launch, it has been over a year since I wrote the story. But I’m happy to be writing general fiction, where I get the time I need to devote to writing a first draft. Other writers, in genres like romance and mystery, are sometimes under pressure to write much faster, and that would be tough for me. I’m always promoting books at the same time I’m writing new stories, so I’ve got plenty to keep me busy. Right now I’m finishing up the first draft of my third novel, What Holds Us Together.

My publicists and the social media team at Kensington decide where and how to promote the book, for example via print or online advertising, but I also do as much as I can! I maintain my website and social media accounts, and reach out to other authors, readers and book bloggers who might be able to share news and reviews of the book.

Winnie, the cat

Describe your support system online and IRL—who are your biggest cheerleaders?

My literary agent, Stacy Testa at Writers House, is my #1 go-to person for all of the questions I have about writing and promotion. She’s amazing and I’m very lucky to be working with her!

Other authors have also been incredibly supportive. The online writing and reading community is great about sharing information and helpful tips. I belong to a number of writing-based Facebook groups where I learn new things every day, and try to share some of my own knowledge.

At home, it helps that my husband and teens are all writers. My husband is also in advertising, my son is a journalism major in college, and my daughter is a student filmmaker. They can relate when I need to disappear into my laptop for a while.

Your unusual protagonists are cats; I suspect you’re a huge animal lover, and I’m curious how you determined to write cat main characters. How does your life influence your writing and vice versa?

I do love animals! I have both a cat and a dog.

When people ask me what inspired me to write from a cat’s point of view, the truth is, I don’t remember exactly how I got started with it. Essentially, I wanted to experiment and try writing from the viewpoint of an unconventional narrator. I love books like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which are written from unexpected points of view, where the reader realizes that more is going on than the narrator fully understands.

A main theme that runs throughout all of my books is how hard it is to be a parent—especially of teenagers. Real life absolutely influences my characters and stories. I don’t usually talk about my personal life too much, but if you read my books, you’ll quickly figure out where I stand on many issues.

When I wrote Something Worth Saving, I was feeling pessimistic about how divisive society has become. I don’t have all the answers. I think it’s okay to disagree with others, but it’s also important to be respectful and not make anyone feel unsafe. My character Charlie (my narrator Lily’s favorite human) should not have to feel threatened when he wants to express himself—not at school, not at home, not anywhere. For me, writing a novel is a better way to try and convince someone to take another look at an issue, rather than shouting on Twitter about it.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I enjoy getting really enthusiastic about ideas, words and images. This is true at my job at the ad agency as well as when I’m writing fiction. Great ideas should get the creator fired up, and want to share those thoughts with the world. I believe you have to write for yourself first, and then you can try to get everyone else on board.

Connect with Sandi:

website

Goodreads

Facebook

Twitter

Amazon

Pinterest

Instagram

Francesca Hornak—British Author and Journalist

I won Seven Days of Us through Goodreads and devoured it, a story full of complicated family dynamics imploding from mandatory quarantine due to a daughter’s work in treating an epidemic—my review here. Francesca is not the first novelist I’ve interviewed who is also a journalist, which I expect imbues their fiction with nuanced description from honed observation skills, and a broad sense of the real world. I’m honored to share another talented journalistic novelist with my readers. If you haven’t yet read Seven Days of Us, I recommend it highly. Enjoy learning about Francesca’s process and creativity. Links to connect with Francesca and purchase Seven Days of Us are at the end of the interview.

Describe your writing process—schedule, environment(s), strategies / techniques, and inspirations big and small, tangible and abstract: writers, quotes, objects, places, ideas, etc.

I try to write every weekday morning between 9:15 and 12:15, which is the window when both my children are in nursery. I’m actually glad it’s so regimented, as it enforces a kind of ‘exam conditions’ pressure, which I find easier than if I had all day at my disposal. I could write at home, but I generally go to a café or library, as I like to work surrounded by strangers, and I always get more done in a place where I’m not connected to the Wi-Fi. I usually begin by having a really elaborate breakfast over my laptop, which I definitely wouldn’t recommend as a writing strategy, but I’ve now come to believe that I physically can’t write without a particular kind of coffee/juice/toast/peanut butter etc. Other than that I’m not too particular; I just always avert my eyes from the Wi-Fi password and usually wear earplugs—unless I’m eavesdropping on an especially interesting conversation. Inspiration is a mix of internal and external. It might be something I’ve experienced, that I want to relive through a character., or it might be a news story, or a chance conversation, that sparks an idea.

Walk me through your publishing process from final draft to final product—who does what, your input, and marketing done by you as the author, and talk to me about pre-empted TV rights for Seven Days of Us.

The final product wasn’t hugely different to the final draft, and luckily my editors (I edited UK and US editions simultaneously) agreed on everything. There were two scenes in my draft that we all felt were implausible or melodramatic, so I cut one and changed the other. Jesse’s character (the illegitimate son who gatecrashes his birth father’s quarantine) was also given a little more backstory and depth. The rest of the editing was mostly me finessing the wording. I’d rushed submitting to publishers, as my agent and I were both pregnant and wanted to get the manuscript out before we gave birth. So I wanted to perfect nearly everything—towards the end my US editor did suggest I ‘cease and desist’….

The marketing and publicity I’ve done has mostly been writing pieces for magazines, radio interviews, the odd talk, and Q&As like these. It’s all fun to do, and working in journalism means the press side isn’t new to me—I’m just on the other side to before. The TV rights were bought by a company called Little Island before the book was published, after my agent sent the manuscript out to a few scouts, and now Entertainment One is on board too which is great.

Tell me about your support system online and IRL—who are your biggest cheerleaders, and what keeps you going?

My biggest real life cheerleaders are my husband, mother, agent and editor—although I mostly really enjoy writing fiction, so I don’t really feel in need of a support system (it’s less stressful than working at a magazine!). I’m not part of any online writing community, but I have a few friends who happen to be writers who I sometimes run plot dilemmas by via email. What keeps me going is the fact that I always need that next chunk of advance money! And I don’t like to miss deadlines.

How has your journalist background prepared you for writing novels—how does your life influence your art and vice versa?

I think the obvious thing is that it helps you to see writing as a job, which is useful for actually finishing a draft. But I hope it also makes me more rigorous about what I’m offering a reader. As a commissioning editor and features writer, I spent ten years thinking ‘Would anyone want to read this story?’ or ‘Has this been done before?’ or ‘Is this the most entertaining way I can convey this information?’ and I’m glad I had that training. I don’t think my fiction writing especially influences my life, except that half of my brain is always thinking about what I could be writing. But that was the same when I was a journalist.

What do you love most about your creativity?

The escapism of diving into my own fictional world every day, I think. It’s like having a telescope onto a parallel universe. I also really enjoy wearing athleisure for work.

Connect with Francesca:

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon

Rufi Thorpe—Author, Essayist, and Teacher

Rufi Thorpe received her MFA from the University of Virginia in 2009. Her first novel, The Girls from Corona del Mar, was long listed for the 2014 International Dylan Thomas Prize and for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize. Her second novel, Dear Fang, With Love, was published by Knopf in May 2016. Her third novel, The Knockout Queen, is forthcoming in 2020, also from Knopf. She lives in California with her husband and two sons.

She was also my teacher for a Catapult class (which I highly recommend—Catapult in general and any class of hers specifically) and my Twitter friend, which delights me. At the end of the interview are links to connect with Rufi online, and you too will be delighted. Then read her books!

Describe your writing process: schedule, mechanics, environment(s), nuances, and inspirations tangible and abstract. What’s in your head? What’s in your office? What keeps you going?

Because I have two small children, much of my writing for the past six years has been stolen during naptimes. My first son would only sleep if I was beside him, and so I got used to writing in bed right next to him as he napped, semi-recumbent, my laptop on my thighs. With the second one, he just didn’t fucking nap, and so I hired my husband’s cousin to come nanny for us, and she would take him for three or four hours in the morning, and I would sneak away to try desperately to assemble some sense of self, usually in my mother’s apartment, which was adjacent. For some reason, I hardly ever turned on the lights and it was dim in there, and my boobs were full of milk, and I would pull on my own hair and stare at the screen and think: who am I?

Now my children are older and I have many more hours while they are at school, but those hours still feel somewhat stolen, and that lends the act of writing some urgency. I have never, for instance, had to worry that I would fritter away my few hours with social media. I am also, for better or worse, one of those writers who enjoys the act of writing itself. I enter a kind of narcotic stupor, and I can write twenty pages and then kind of “wake up” and have to figure out if anything interesting happened in them or not. I have to throw away a lot, but it also means I think I torture myself less than is common. Both because my time almost always feel stolen, and because I actually enjoy writing more than any other activity I do, my writing time has almost no ritual element. I don’t have to get in the mood, or become inspired. All that is required is a computer. I suppose the only truly odd thing is that I prefer to be entirely alone and dislike it even if someone is in the next room.

Walk me through your publishing process from final draft to final product, including who does what, how much input you’re allowed throughout, and marketing expected of you.

Oh, interesting! No one has really asked me that before! So, when I finish a first draft, my first move is to show it to a few close friends, also writers, who give me feedback. Then I usually put it away for a while, like aging beef! Then I revise, put it away, revise, put it away. When I’m not sure how else I could possibly improve it, I send it to my agent. That whole process, the beef aging, can be about half a year. Then my agent has LOTS of ideas about how I could improve it. My agent is an incredible editor. I’ve learned more from her than I did from my MFA. So then I rewrite it again. Sometimes she has massive problems with something, sometimes very minimal tinkering. This part takes anywhere from one month to three.

Then we show it to my editor, and (hopefully) she buys it. Once the offer has been made and accepted, then my editor and I usually have a big phone call talking about edits and marketing ideas and how our children are. She just bought my third book, and she’s bought all my books, so we’ve known each other for… six years now? I love her very dearly. Usually her editorial suggestions take anywhere from one month to four months to implement, and then I submit the final manuscript! But it is also, of course, not done yet. Final manuscript is a misnomer. There are still months and months of copyediting to go through.

The book undergoes four rounds of copyedits, which involves changes made by the copyeditor, which I then review, everything from spelling or grammar errors, typos, to “would a football game be on at this time of the day on west coast time?” Copyeditors are amazing people. At around this time, you start to see cover mock-ups. While I don’t think I have full cover control, i.e. the ability to legally veto a given cover, my publisher very much wants me to be happy, and if I have a big problem with something they will try to accommodate me. But I’ve been very happy with all the covers they have shown me, so we have never had to really duke it out.

In general, from accepted manuscript to the hardcover publication date is about a year. It’s an incredibly long pipeline.

In terms of marketing, there are parts I am central to, like writing letters to booksellers to be included with ARCs, or going to marketing lunches with booksellers, or doing events once the book is out, and there are other parts, like seeking review coverage, that I don’t have any knowledge of. I do try to write some personal essays to come out the weeks before and after the pub date, just to try to get my name out there, to get passed around on social media. I have no idea if these essays actually sell copies, but I have very much enjoyed learning more about how to write an essay, and they have caused me to read far more essays by other writers than I might have otherwise, so I am quite grateful for that process.

Tell me about your support system—who are your cheerleaders?

My mother and my best friend, both of whom are also writers. They read my drafts, they nurse my insecurities, they agonize with me through every part of the process, from wading out into the primordial soup of a book I am just figuring out to weighing in on the narrator options for the audio book. They are the two smartest women I know, and I would be lost without them.

How does life influence your art; does your work influence your life?

I am not an autobiographical writer, and I don’t ever write characters who are “me” or even who share a lot of biographical detail with me. But certainly life influences art. Your life is your reality, and your art is a depiction of your reality, your convictions: justice is possible or not possible, love is real or illusory, man is moral and celestial, or man is base and animal.

As far as my work influencing my life, I suspect it does in so far as I prefer imaginary people to real ones, and I have been indulged in that to an extent that now I am shit at small talk, and I just get really weird and awkward really fast. It doesn’t happen so much when I’m teaching, but put me at a PTA meeting and I’m sure to tell a woman her earrings look piratical “in a good way” or something.

What do you love most about your creativity? Teaching others?

Well, teaching I love because it is so straightforward. The task is pretty much: “help these people learn to do this thing.” It’s much easier then other tasks, like, “Get these people to win this war,” or “work hard at very boring spreadsheets whilst simultaneously performing complex social hierarchy maneuvers.” I would be bad at both of those! Helping people to learn something is actually very straightforward. You simply tell them everything you know about a given subject and then try to earnestly answer their questions. And of course, every time you teach something you come to understand it in a new way, and the questions you are asked are usually very surprising and interesting and make you think in new ways, so the end result is that you end up learning a lot from your students in the process of trying to teach them something, which makes it extremely rewarding. I mean, I think it is very rare in life that just being earnest and open is all you need for success, but teaching is like that.

Writing is a whole other thing. On the one hand, writing can be very lonely, because no one can really tell you how to do it, and you spend many hours alone, just striving, and you can never really feel satisfied with what you have done. The moment of connection with the reader happens away from you, you don’t get to see it. Sometimes they send you letters and that feels good. It is almost overwhelming to think you have had that kind of effect, and you can’t help but feel very grateful that they have taken the time to write you, but there is another way in which it feels like it has nothing to do with you, like they are simply reporting that they ran into your doppelganger somewhere else where you have never been. And they are like, “Your doppelganger! She was amazing!” And you’re like, “Wow, I’m so glad! I’ve never met her, I hope she is nice.”

But writing is also the place where I am my truest, most essential self. My most real connections to this world have taken place in books, and I am intimately connected and indebted to many novelists I have never met. It is a strange, anonymous intimacy. And if I were to write to them and tell them about it, it would be as useless to them as if I told them I had run into their doppelganger at a Macy’s in south Orange County or whatever. “How nice,” they would say. “Thumbs up.” And yet, they have spoken to me about reality more deeply than I am able to communicate with even my husband. What is one to make of such a connection?

But to get back to your question, which is what do I love about it, I think what I love about it is that it is the place where you get to earnestly try to figure out what the fuck is going on. Why do people hurt each other? What does love look like? Does doing bad things make you bad, or do you have to be bad to do bad things? How well do people know each other?

The writing always asks you: What do you know is true so deeply that you didn’t know you knew it?

And you have to try to answer.

Connect with Rufi:

website

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon author page

brilliant essays in McSweeney’s

Fromage a Trois by Victoria Brownlee—pub date October 9

After eight years in a monogamous relationship, Ella expected a proposal at their favorite restaurant. That’s not what she got. So she runs away to Paris to rediscover herself as the adventurer she was before the relationship. Yearning for the most Parisian experience, she falls into a bet to taste all 365 varietals of French cheese, becoming an Instagram sensation. However, she still chooses glamour over substance in men; though the romance is inevitable, it’s still fun to watch Ella grow and evolve. Brownlee creates a character as enchanting and quirky as Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic Becky. But she goes beyond Ella’s endearing personality to educate readers on French cheeses, with delectable descriptions and fascinating anecdotes and history, even referencing Napoleon. Fans of Kinsella, foodies, Francophiles, and romantics will appreciate this lovely story that I was fortunate to receive from Amberjack Publishing through NetGalley.

Diane Chamberlain—New York Times, USA Today, and Sunday Times Bestselling Author

I met Diane in person at a book signing in Topsail Beach at Quarter Moon Books. In my overzealous fangirling, I crashed a book club photo and had to be gently shooed away. I’ve been her most awkward fan since, and she’s been the most gracious literary star. I show up for each new book’s signing / reading like a middle-aged stalker who looks so innocent (muahaha), and Diane keeps smiling and signing my new books. If only she could write super fast; I know I will love each new story. I was fortunate to receive an early copy of The Dream Daughtermy review—coming out October 2.

Tell me about your writing process—any tricks / nuances to keep you on track, inspirations material or abstract, where you write (Topsail!) and when.

I usually write either in my Raleigh area sunroom or at my condo on Topsail Island. I generally have a year to write a book. The first few months, I think about my idea and start doing research, often visiting the area where the story takes place. I begin picturing scenes and putting them on post it notes that I move around on a big presentation board until I like the arc of the story, thus creating an outline. At the same time, I think about my characters, specifically what type of person will have the hardest time dealing with whatever dilemma I’ve come up with for the story. If there is no personal struggle, there is no story. I think about which characters will have a point of view in the story and will they have a first person or third person point of view and will I write the story in present or past tense. I sometimes look on the internet for pictures of people who make me think of my characters. I find this a huge help in creating characters who feel very real to me and hopefully to my readers. These are all decisions I make before I start writing.

Finally, I start writing about 6 months before my deadline. I usually listen to movie soundtracks as I write because I like the emotional ups and downs of the music. I’m always doing research as I write. Also, I listen to my characters because they frequently go astray from my outline and I’ve learned to pay attention to them. I write three to five drafts. Finally, often a bit late, I turn in the book. That’s where my dynamite editor comes in. She reads the book, looking at the big picture. What works and what doesn’t? She makes many suggestions, sometimes requiring a big change in the book. I’ve learned to listen to her, and I rewrite. And perhaps rewrite yet again.

Lead me through your publishing process, as in who does what when, and your marketing responsibilities (book tours! What else?).

Here’s how it works. First I write a book. Then I have an agent who is responsible for finding the publisher she thinks will do the best job with that book. She is also responsible for negotiating the contract with that publisher. You can see in my answer above some of the work the editor does with regard to my book. The publisher then, of course, publishes the book. If the publisher feels strongly that they can make the book a bestseller, they will give it a lot of advertising and other support before and during publication. My publisher for the last six books, St. Martins Press, does a great deal of promotion for me. I try to hold up my end by keeping up with social media (which I enjoy), giving interviews, touring to speak to groups and do book signings, where I get to meet my readers, the best part of the process!

Before the Storm series

Describe your support system: groups online and IRL (MKA, another favorite author of mine)—your biggest cheerleaders…

My biggest supporter is my significant other, John. He’s a photographer and understands the creative process and doesn’t complain that once a year, as deadline nears, I disappear from real life into my imagination, 24/7. Aside from him, I have many local writer friends who I get together with often. And then I have my “official group.” We call ourselves The Weymouth Seven because we originally met up at the Weymouth mansion in Southern Pines, NC, where authors are invited to work for up to two weeks each year. Now we usually meet up on Topsail Island. You’re right that Mary Kay Andrews is a big part of our group. She’s our ringleader, the one who keeps us on track during the week that we meet. Other members are mystery writer Margaret Maron, historical mystery writer, Sarah Shaber, horror and thriller writer Alexandra Sokoloff, and mystery writers, Brenda Witchger and Katy Munger. We have fun but we work hard at the same time.

Keeper of the Light series

You’ve always had touches of history in your novels. Recently, you’ve opened up to historical fiction, and now sci-fi / fantasy with your latest book about time travel. How did this come about; in what ways do your life and work influence each other, and how did your previous profession prepare you for fiction writing? Also talk about secrets, their importance to you and your work, and what kind of secrets you like best to weave into your stories.

When I heard about the eugenics (forced sterilization) program in North Carolina, I knew I had to write about it. That meant setting the story during the years of the program, so I selected 1960 and thus wrote my first novel (Necessary Lies) with a totally historical setting and I found I really enjoyed it. Two books later, I decided I wanted to write about the 1944 polio outbreak in Hickory, NC during which the town built a functioning polio hospital in 54 hours (The Stolen Marriage). So I would say, if the idea that comes to me is historical, I will happily write it, but I am still perfectly happy writing contemporary books as well.

When it comes to The Dream Daughter, that is a whole different subject! For years, I had the idea that’s central in The Dream Daughter: a woman is told that her unborn baby will die, but she learns that if she’s willing to take a huge risk and travel to the future, her baby could very well live. I put this idea off for years because it is so unlike my other books, but finally, I talked to my editor and she gave me the go-ahead. The book was tremendous fun to write and the early reviews have been amazing. I’m grateful to readers who dislike time travel for giving this book a try because it’s still “vintage Diane Chamberlain” and people seem to be loving it.

I think your question about my previous profession (clinical social work) and secrets actually go together. I worked in hospitals and then in a private psychotherapy practice with adolescents and their families, and one thing I learned is how destructive secrets can be in a family. I was fascinated by that topic, so it often appears in my stories.

 

 

What do you love most about your creativity?

I’m very grateful for my imagination. It got me into tons of trouble as a kid, but now pays off. I might be stopped at a traffic light and see a woman pushing a baby carriage across the street and within 30 seconds, I imagine a car hitting them, and the police discover it was on purpose and there was a connection between the woman and the driver, or maybe even between the baby and the driver . . . it’s exhausting having a brain like this, but it often pays off in the end if it means I can entertain my readers.

 

 

Connect with Diane:

Website

Amazon

Goodreads

Twitter

Facebook

Book series in order of publication

Wikipedia

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.