Q & A With Author
Do you have a writing schedule?
I try to write six hours a day, but it doesn’t always turn out that way. As a part-time teacher, I devote much time and energy to working with students, which I enjoy and appreciate. But realistically, it takes away time I would like to be writing and reading books. I’m an early riser (5:00 a.m.) and start my day with black coffee, a journal, and my favorite pen. I pray to God, set my intention for the day, and write my thoughts in the journal—my gratitudes, my hopes, my dreams, my fears, and my fantasies. Morning is my most productive time for working on a manuscript (days I’m not at school). I write for two hours at a time, taking a half-hour break between each block. There are always cats to tend to, rooms to vacuum, and errands to run. At the end of a writing day, I assess what I’ve done and set goals for my next writing session.
Where do you like to write?
It all depends on what stage of the writing I’m in. Generally, if I’m writing new material, I use my office. I sit at an old wooden typewriter table, painted black—one with wheels on it and an open shelf underneath where I can rest my feet. My laptop sits on top of the table, which is situated by a window that I love looking out. From three stories up, I watch the birds chase one another around the branches of tall trees in my backyard. I study the color of the sky and cloud formations. A church steeple pokes through the horizon. I hear the haunting sounds of my Made in Maine windbells hanging from an old metal flag holder attached to my roof. I do my best thinking in my office, where ideas grow into stories.
When I’m in revision or edit mode, I might go to Starbucks or to my local library. I treat myself to occasional writing retreats—where a writer can get away and fully immerse herself in her writing and her new surroundings. It’s good to change up one’s writing space.
Does anyone read your material when you are in the process of writing?
Yes. As much as writing is a solitary endeavor, it also has a social component. It’s important to get honest feedback, hopefully given in a supportive way by people you trust to tell you what is working and what isn’t, and why. The discussion often takes you in a new direction. I’m fortunate to be part of a writing group that four of us started over ten years ago when we met at a writing course. I love the opportunity for reflection and questioning and taking this creative journey together.For THE FISH DRESS, I relied on my sisters to for feedback throughout the writing of the book. They are voracious readers, one a fan of British mysteries, and the other a reader of historical and contemporary fiction.
After I finished writing and editing my book, I asked four friends to be beta readers—“test” readers who give feedback from the viewpoint of typical readers of fiction. I needed to get their opinions on things like setting, character, plot, pacing, dialogue, and more. I needed to know the confusing parts and the parts that didn’t hold together, and where they lost interest. I wanted to know how The Fish Dress impacted them emotionally, and whether the book conveyed my overall intended message. The feedback I received was invaluable, and when the beta readers and I talked, it felt like the story came alive.
The final step was finding the appropriate professional editor (She was amazing!) to give my manuscript a full edit, which includes both a developmental and line edit. Then on to the publisher…a lot of work but well worth i
Where do your ideas come from?
Many of my ideas start from personal experience and then, with help from my imagination, expand into stories. For instance, the idea for The Fish Dress came to me when I lived in Maine. My sister and I often visited thrift shops in search of eclectic items. At one shop, I spotted the fish dress, black and white with fish bones and strange symbols, and had to buy it.
I noticed that when I wore it, acquaintances and strangers seemed mesmerized by the dress and heavily complimented me. At some point, I asked myself, “What if….?” and before I knew it, I had a story idea of a magical dress that empowers its wearer to overcome obstacles and discover her true self.
Do you always know the end ahead of time?
No, but I might think I do. When all is said and done, my characters reveal what they want to have happen. When I wrote the first draft of The Fish Dress, I gave it a rather sad ending, but the main characters balked so I made it more satisfying for them. You create your characters, and in the end, they have the final say. Otherwise your story falls flat.
What are some of your writing challenges?
One of my greatest challenges is overcoming my tendency toward perfectionism. Too often I find myself caught up in the “perfect” word, phrase, or sentence, when I know I should just let my mind and writing flow. There’s a time and a place for attention to detail but it’s not at the beginning of the creative writing process.
What are some tips for someone who wants to be a writer?
Schedule your writing time into your daily/weekly planner. Attend conferences and writing events. Join or start a writers’ group. Take a writing class. Read a lot –equal reading, equal writing. Follow social media for book marketing trends. Most important: NEVER GIVE UP!