Impellizzeri is a reformed corporate litigator, former start-up
executive, and award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction. Amy’s
novels have won accolades including INDIEFAB
Book of the Year Awards, National Indie Excellence Awards, and she
has made the Finalist list for the STAR Award for Published Women’s
Fiction. Amy’s fourth novel, Why
We Lie, released
March 5, 2019, and has been featured in Publisher’s Weekly and
lauded by early reviewers as “timely” and “thought-provoking.”
She is a past President of the Women’s Fiction Writer’s
Association, a 2018 Writer-In-Residence at Ms.-JD.org, and a
frequently invited speaker at legal conferences and writing workshops
across the country.
me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations,
writing process is, in a word, fluid. I spend as much time thinking
about my current work in progress as I do writing. I try to write
every day and as deadlines approach, I try to write 5,000-7,500 words
per week. But mostly, I try to live with my characters and my scenes
so that the words on the page will be organic and cohesive. At least
that’s the goal!
inspirations come from everywhere. I like to imagine the story behind
every news article I read and person I meet. I am also a big people
watcher! I love to observe interactions around me and imagine what
came before and what comes next.
me through your publishing process from “final” draft to final
product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as
“final” draft is usually the result of several years of drafting,
workshopping, and editing by a developmental editor, a few trusted
beta readers, and agent input.
my publisher reads, we go through a few more rounds of edits,
including copy edits, and then we start submitting for trade reviews
and early blogger / reviewer reads.
head of my publishing house, Nancy Cleary, of Wyatt-MacKenzie, is
extremely hands-on when it comes to early / industry marketing, and
has taught me so much about how to get my books into the hands of
early and enthusiastic readers. The more buzz you can generate as
your pub day approaches, the better!
about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest
cheerleaders and about being a Tall Poppy.
from litigator to novelist, the sisterhood of support I’ve received
from fellow writers has been invaluable. I assure you there were no
Tall Poppy lawyers! Seriously, though, without the Tall Poppy
sisterhood, I’d still be traveling in the dark in this industry. So
much is shrouded in secrecy and is just simply unknown. The
generosity and shared experience among the Tall Poppies is amazing.
does life influence your writing and vice versa?
me, there is tremendous synergy between real life and the stories I
tell. My books usually explore questions I’m grappling with in real
life. The writing helps me answer those questions and usually leads
to many more!
do you love most about your creativity?
like all writers, it’s a multi-layered thing. Not always accessible
and beloved! But I love the writing process, and the creation of a
full story from only an idea still excites me. I’d write even if no
one was reading, but I’m grateful that my stories have found
enthusiastic readers so far!
me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies,
what I do a process makes it sound far more organized than it
actually is. What I really do that creates success for me is a two
step process: I meditate, and I write a small amount every day.
Reality means I’m usually writing a lot most days, but the trick is
I promise myself I can quit any time after the first, say, five
hundred words. I never want to quit after five hundred words.
for environment, I used to be finicky and say it had to be a certain
level of quiet or comfort, or there had to be this and that to write.
Now I write wherever I am, so long as there’s no one talking to me.
I can edit with a room full of children cavorting around me and
begging for bananas on toast, but for the writing itself, I still
need to be left alone.
me through your publishing process, from final draft to final
product, including who does what when and what marketing you do.
don’t have a final draft. I have the best I can do in the time I
have, and that is what goes to the publisher, and that is what they
copyedit and proof and eventually print. But I am still editing in my
mind for all eternity. When I read aloud from my work at events, I
edit it as I go. So readers are hearing the best version of the book
for that day in that moment. I guess I could never be my own audio
for marketing, I try to be very flexible about this. My real job is
writing and that’s how I prioritize, but I am proud of my work and
want to share it. As such, I spend most of my “marketing” time
chatting with excellent and active readers. I try to be open about
my successes and my foibles in the world with anyone who asks, and I
talk about my favorite books in the moment so that the readers who
follow me never run out of good books.
your support system—online and IRL; who are your biggest
cheerleaders—and how did you become a Tall Poppy?
I talk about authorial support (outside my immediate family and dear
friends who support me because they love me, books or no,) I am
talking almost exclusively about the Tall Poppies. This is a
marketing collective in the main, but the side effect is a network of
professional colleagues who believe in the same principles as I do.
Namely, we all believe, with grace and gratitude, that there is room
at the top, and we mean to get everyone there together. We only see
each other in real life once a year, so the rest of the time, we are
connecting virtually, and I think that is probably one of the only
reasons I don’t throw my phone off a cliff.
does your life influence your writing and vice versa?
are inextricable. This is the difference between my job and most
other professions. I cannot leave my writing behind when I “come
home” from work, and I do not pretend that what is happening in my
life doesn’t shape my writing. When I have a problem to work out,
or a question about life, or a hearts desire, I write it into a book.
That said, I don’t write about people I know. Even if I tried, my
characters wouldn’t stand for it. They are utterly themselves.
do you love
most about your creativity?
I’m very very grateful to be able to write books for a living, I do
not quite understand how it came to pass that the creative life won
out over my pragmatism. I did well in my physics and calc classes in
college and probably would have been just as happy in any creative
problem solving profession. The thought of a vested retirement plan
makes my heart sing. Also, I always thought it would be great to be a
here I am writing away, and my favorite thing about it is that even
though I am a comic writer, according to my reviews, I have no
concept of what it is that I write that is so funny. I just write the
most emotionally honest stories I can manage, and then my editors
come back to me with all these LOL comments and I think, oh, ok,
great. In real life this is very weird because when I say something
that comes out funny, I get really excited and say stuff like, “Oh!
funny!” or laugh at my own jokes.
anyone hangs out with me at all is the real comedy.
Tell me about
your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies,
My writing process
has changed over the years. When my kids were younger and I had a
full-time job, writing happened during whatever moments I could give
to it. Now that my kids are fledged, my writing day starts at 7:30,
when I go down to my writing shed, an 8by8 studio we built a few
years back. There’s no internet, no email, no social media. Just
me and the words for 3 solid hours, and often more.
If I get stuck, I’ve
learned not to force the characters just to hit a word count. The
characters just go quiet then and I’m really in trouble. So I go
for a walk, or a swim. I’ll even clean the house. Repetitive
physical exercise tends to shake the ideas lose.
As for inspiration,
it almost always starts with an image, and often of a character in a
situation. For The Scent Keeper it was the image of a young
girl in an isolated cabin. All the walls were lined with drawers, and
inside each drawer was a scent. Who was she? Why was she there? Who
would she be when she grew up? Those questions kept me working on the
novel for 6 years.
Walk me through
your publishing process, from final draft to final product, including
who does what when and what marketing you do.
My agent has an
in-house editor who goes over everything I write, even before it gets
to my publisher—and this is after early readers, my writing group,
and some of my family have all read early drafts, which can number in
the dozens. Once the publisher has the manuscript, it can go through
one to several revisions, depending on the input of the editor. After
content editing comes copyediting, then lay-out and cover design
(it’s part of my contract that I get consult, if not veto power).
Then sales and marketing take over and get the book into the sales
channel and start the drumbeat of reviews and early giveaways to get
the word out.
About 4 months before the book comes out is when I kick in. I don’t
use Twitter, but I’m on Facebook and Instagram. I do my own
giveaways, encourage book clubs (I’ve talked with over 150 of them
by phone or Skype). For The Scent Keeper I’ve even got a
virtual book club (https://www.facebook.com/groups/261527751453539/).
I write essays for on-line and print publications. I send out email
newsletters to everyone on my email lists. I make sure all my
favorite bookstores have an early copy of the book and I set up
bookstore events (if the publicist has not already done this).
Anything I can do to work as a team member and help the process, I
For those who want
more detailed suggestions, I recommend MJ Rose and Randy Sue Meyers’
book What To Do Before Your Book Launch.
support system—online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?
Readers. Book Clubs. It’s the community that makes a book.
How does your
life influence your writing and vice versa?
I never write about
my life specifically, but I often find that in writing I answer
personal questions I didn’t know I had. For example, The Scent
Keeper began as the image of the young girl, and the question of
what it might be like to be raised with smell as your predominant
sense. I explored those things, but in the end, I also explored the
development of a person’s relationship with their parents, and the
growth we need to go through in order to see them as human beings,
separate from us.
What do you love
most about your creativity?
I love the feeling
of sinking into a character. It feels like the best part of being
pregnant, living with this other. nascent being, helping to grow them
into real life.
I love losing track
of the real world and entering into an imaginary one. The islands of
The Scent Keeper and the restaurant of The School of
Essential Ingredients became some of my favorite places to live
in my imagination, and time spent there was always joyous.
I love the way it
keeps me alive to the real world. When I visit a new place, my mind
is always searching for new scenes to describe, but also new insights
into how people interact. When I’m somewhere I already know,
looking at it through a writer’s eyes can make it fresh.
And I’d like to
say to all the aspiring writers that THIS is what makes you a writer.
It’s not whether or not you are published. It’s how you see the
world. You own that, no matter how many books you might have on a
bookstore’s shelves. That’s what’s important.
Tell me about
your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies,
I almost always
write first thing. The to-do list, errands, even gardening, which is
also a passion, waits until I get pages done. I think routine and
persistence are my strategies. Where I write is a gift, a special
place. It’s also my potting shed. I designed it, and my son and a
few others built it using a lot of salvage. It overlooks my garden
and down a kind of meadow. My garden is a big source of inspiration
to me, along with reading.
Walk me through your publishing process, from final draft to final product, including who does what when and what marketing you do.
With Lake Union,
when I finish a draft, I send it to my editor who does a read-through
and then returns it with suggestions. Once I’ve gone through and
made changes, I send it to a developmental editor to whom the book
has been assigned. We go through anywhere from 2-4 rounds of
extensive edits. I think here is where the book is really made, if
that makes sense. I both love and hate the process, but I’m always
pretty thrilled with the result. Next the draft goes to the copy
editors, possibly as many as three different ones, for final
polishing. After all their changes are incorporated into the
manuscript, the book goes into production.
As for marketing, I
have a street team of early reviewers who are kind enough to read and
review advance copies of my books. I also have a website and a
Facebook author page where I try and post news regularly. I run
regular Amazon and Goodreads giveaways of my books and publish a
quarterly newsletter too. Marketing doesn’t come easy for me, so
compared to other authors, what I do is pretty minimal!
support system—online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?
I have a few author
friends with whom I chat back and forth, and then there are my street
team members, some of whom have been readers of my books since I self
published my first one back in 2011. Along with my two sons, who are
terrific supporters, these are the folks who keep me going!
In your bio on
your website, you share how your background laid the foundation for
your writing career. I’m interested in how your life and work
I still draw on my experience of life past and present, and on the
experiences of others as well, even total strangers. I’ll find
myself listening (sometimes it’s hard not to!), standing in the
grocery line or sitting in a restaurant, to others telling stories,
talking to each other or to their children. Snippets of conversation
can set my imagination off. I’m a total ID TV addict, so crime and
how it affects families remains an interest … one I’ve had since
I lived on prison grounds. Story is just a huge part of my life …
how I work things out or work things through, you know? Writing
stories is contemplative and thoughtful for me, which is kind of how
my life is, so it’s all sort of this one fluid thing, like a long
rippling wave with a little foam at the curl.
What do you love
most about your creativity?
Oh, what a wonderful
question. That I have it? Is that an answer? It’s what pops into my
mind. That it’s a gift I’ve been given, one that’s different
every day. One that keeps on surprising me and that leads me to
places I’ve never been, or would think to go if it weren’t for
that spark of interest, of desire. It’s just a source of
fascination to me and a delight.
At her local drugstore, Amy Byler runs into her husband, who went on
a business trip to Hong Kong and stayed for three years. He’s
returned to make things right and be the father his children deserve.
School Librarian Amy signs up to present her reading program at a
conference in NYC, where she plans to reconnect with her college
roommate, during the kids’ week with their father. She meets a hot
librarian, makes a new friend, and starts a movement. Harms cleverly
uses the modern-day epistolary of email and texting in this humorous
exploration of a single mom becoming her own woman. Fans of Ann
Garvin, Katherine Center, and Kerry Anne King will appreciate Harms’
voice. I received a digital copy of this wonderful story from Lake
Union through NetGalley.
What happens when an overworked, underappreciated single mother of two
gets an opportunity to spend a week away from reality in NYC? What
happens when that week turns into an entire summer? And, what happens
when this rare gift of personal freedom, self-reflection, and fun comes
to an end?
These are the questions at the heart of former editor and literary agent
Kelly Harms’ delightful and empowering new novel, THE OVERDUE LIFE OF AMY BYLER
(Lake Union Publishing; May 1, 2019; hardcover), about a middle-aged
woman’s much-needed Momspringa.* Full of wit, heart, bookish-references,
and romance, THE OVERDUE LIFE OF AMY BYLER is next year’s feel-good read!
*Momspringa (n.): A period of time when moms are given time away from
the demands of daily life, including their children, so they can
recharge and reconnect with themselves as human women. Inspired by the
Amish term Rumspringa.
tragic twist of fate destroyed Braden Healey’s hands, his musical
career, and his family. Now, unable to play, adrift in an alcoholic
daze, and with only fragmented memories of his past, all Braden wants
is to escape the darkness of the last eleven years.
When his ex-wife and son are killed in car accident, Braden
returns home hoping to forge a relationship with his troubled
seventeen-year-old daughter, Allie. But how can he hope to rescue her
from the curse that seems to be shadowing his family?
Ophelia “Phee” MacPhee, granddaughter of the eccentric old man
who sold Braden his cello, believes the curse is real. She swore an
oath to her dying grandfather that she would ensure that Braden plays
the cello as long as he lives. But he can’t play, and as the
shadows deepen and Phee finds herself falling for Braden, she’ll do
anything to save him. It will take a miracle of forgiveness and love
to bring all three of them back to the healing power of music.
Kerry Anne King lives with her Viking in a little house surrounded by
trees, the perfect place for writing books and daylight dreaming.
She spends her days working as an RN in a clinic, spinning her
tales early in the morning and in the evenings after work. She
believes passionately in the idea of the “whole self” and
is ever in pursuit of balancing mind, body, and spirit. She also
writes fantasy and mystery novels as Kerry
Schafer and provides coaching
services to creatives who are experiencing procrastination,
overwhelm, and other blocks that get in the way of their important
bestselling and award-winning authors bring to life a breathtaking
epic novel illuminating the hopes, desires, and destinies of
princesses and peasants, harlots and wives, fanatics and
philosophers—six unforgettable women whose paths cross during one
of the most tumultuous and transformative events in history: the
OF SCARLET: A Novel of the French Revolution, releases October 1st,
2019! Check out the amazing cover below and pre-order your copy
RIBBONS OF SCARLET: A Novel of the French Revolution (Coming
October 1, 2019)
of Scarlet is a timely story of the power of women to start a
revolution—and change the world.
late eighteenth-century France, women do not have a place in
politics. But as the tide of revolution rises, women from gilded
salons to the streets of Paris decide otherwise—upending a world
order that has long oppressed them.
Sophie de Grouchy believes in democracy, education, and equal rights
for women, and marries the only man in Paris who agrees. Emboldened
to fight the injustices of King Louis XVI, Sophie aims to prove that
an educated populace can govern itself–but one of her students,
fruit-seller Louise Audu, is hungrier for bread and vengeance than
learning. When the Bastille falls and Louise leads a women’s march
to Versailles, the monarchy is forced to bend, but not without a
fight. The king’s pious sister Princess Elisabeth takes a stand to
defend her brother, spirit her family to safety, and restore the old
order, even at the risk of her head.
when fanatics use the newspapers to twist the revolution’s ideals
into a new tyranny, even the women who toppled the monarchy are
threatened by the guillotine. Putting her faith in the pen, brilliant
political wife Manon Roland tries to write a way out of France’s
blood-soaked Reign of Terror while pike-bearing Pauline Leon and
steely Charlotte Corday embrace violence as the only way to save the
nation. With justice corrupted by revenge, all the women must make
impossible choices to survive–unless unlikely heroine and
courtesan’s daughter Emilie de Sainte-Amaranthe can sway the man
who controls France’s fate: the fearsome Robespierre.
bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern
California, she attended Boston University where she earned a
Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written
four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian
Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice
Network” and “The Huntress.” All have been translated
into multiple languages. Kate and her husband now live in San Diego
with two rescue dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests
include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.
bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning
work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the
most anticipated reads of the year. She lives near the nation’s
capital with her husband, cats, and history books.
bestselling author of historical fiction, Laura
always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence
of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and
archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in
early American history from The College of William and Mary,
published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently
held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval
Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre
fiction. She is the author of AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER and MY DEAR
HAMILTON, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowing her the exciting
opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for
storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis,
Maryland with her husband and two daughters. www.LauraKamoie.com
an award-winning, multi-published author of female-centered
historical fiction, who holds both a Bachelors in History and a law
degree. With two previous books set in France—during the 13th and
16th centuries—Sophie has a passion for French history that began
more than thirty years ago when she first explored the storied
châteaux of the Loire Valley. She lives in the Washington DC
metropolitan area with her husband, children and a small menagerie of
the award-winning and international bestselling author of six
historical novels set in France, including the upcoming Meet
Me in Monaco, set
to the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s wedding releasing in summer 2019,
a novel of the French Revolution’s women in Oct 2019. In
selected as a Goodreads Top Pick, and in 2017, Last
Christmas in Paris became
& Mail bestseller
and also won the 2018 Women’s Fiction Writers Association STAR
Award. Her works have received national starred reviews, and have
been sold in over a dozen countries worldwide. When not writing, you
may find Heather collecting cookbooks or looking for excuses to
travel. She lives in New England with her family and one feisty
bestselling author of rip-your-heart-out historical women’s fiction
that crosses the landscapes of Europe. Her love of history began as a
young girl when she traipsed the halls of Versailles and ran through
the fields in Southern France. She can still remember standing before
the great golden palace, and imagining what life must have been like.
She is the owner of the acclaimed blog History Undressed. Eliza lives
in Maryland atop a small mountain with a knight, three princesses and
two very naughty newfies. Visit Eliza at www.eknightauthor.com/,
or her historical blog, History Undressed, www..
You can follow her on Twitter: @EKHistoricalFic,
me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies /
techniques, and inspirations material and abstract.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
are your biggest cheerleaders online and IRL, and how did you get
into the Tall Poppies (beyond being an excellent storyteller)?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
do you love most about your creativity?
dreaming up a story from pure imagination, somehow, I end up feeling
more like me.
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.
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.
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.