Tag Archives: women’s fiction

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.

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

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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.