Contest Author Interview – Heather B. Moore

(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see the entry details, as well as the 50+ different prizes, and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you yet another entry!)

Heather B. Moore (aka H.B. Moore, for those of you more acquainted with her historical fiction) is not only a successful, award-winning author, but is the founder and manager of Precision Editing Group. Only this past weekend, she was awarded the Golden Quill Award from the League of Utah Writers for her latest historical novel, DAUGHTERS OF JARED (a copy of which is being offered as a prize in my contest). She also currently serves on the board of directors for LDStorymakers, as chair of the Whitney Awards.

Me:  What are your favorite memories of the Middle East, and what were your most favorite and least favorite smells there? (If you’ve got a picture of yourself as a child in the Middle East, I’d love to post it.)

Heather:  I was seven years old when we first lived in Israel. I remember collecting wildflowers to press into bookmarks and also living on a kibbutz.  

This is in Egypt where I attended 2nd grade at the Cairo American College. I’m on the back row, in the pink sundress:

(Notice how diplomatic she’s being in not mentioning the smells at all? Hmm. Maybe she should think about entering the Foreign Service. Well, since I’m not diplomatic, I can tell you from my own experience that few things smell as bad as water buffalo dung and a camel’s breath . . . but, for mouth-watering cooking smells, nothing beats the aroma of a full Arabic meal! Hummus, tabbouleh, shish taouk . . . okay, I haven’t had lunch and it’s showing.)

Me:  How on earth did you go from fashion merchandising to writing novels? And have you been tempted to write a novel set in the world of fashion, or is fashion no longer an interest?

Heather:  In high school I thought about majoring in English when I got to college. But I failed the essay portion of the AP college exam, so I decided to major in Fashion Merchandising. I worked at a clothing store, and it was something I was interested in—becoming a manager or retail owner.

I haven’t yet been tempted to write about the world of fashion. I used to follow it quite carefully and had done several research papers on different designers. I also ran the BYU Fashion show one year. But once the kids started coming and the money started disappearing, staying fashion-forward became a much lower priority. (Me: No trips to Mood’s, eh?)

Me:  Tell me about the first story you ever wrote. How old were you, what prompted it, and have you kept a copy?

Heather:  I’m sure I wrote stories in elementary school, etc. for assignments, but I wasn’t necessarily writing stories on my own for fun. I was a huge reader and I’d devour multiple books a week during the summer. My first story I wrote independent of any class or assignment was a novel. I was 30. I had been helping my grandmother write her biography and an idea popped into my head—set during my grandmother’s era of WWII—and that’s when I dove in.

(She still got a head start on me.)

Me:  So much of your fiction up to this point has been historical. What percentage of your time is spent researching as opposed to writing, and which process do you find more enjoyable?

Heather:  The writing part is the most enjoyable, but the research makes it a rich and exciting experience. I love to read historical and learn about anything in history, so that’s what I’ve focused on for the most part. Even when I’ve written contemporary, it’s usually been tied to something about history. In my earlier novels, I spent at least half of the time in research. Now, I probably spend about 10-20% of the time researching versus writing. I have a lot of the research books that I need now and the Internet also saves a lot of time.

Me:  Which parent has influenced you most as a writer and how?

Heather:  That’s a tough one. My mom loves to read fiction and that’s what I write for the most part. She’s even dabbled in some fiction writing, and has had a couple of non-fiction pieces published.

 My dad is a noted writer—of non-fiction—and a professor, so he is very involved in academics. (Me: That’s Professor S. Kent Brown . . . I was fortunate enough to hear one of his lectures in college.) He probably had the most influence on me as far as interest in writing and publishing. He’s also a religious scholar, so that has been a big part of my research—email or call my dad! (Me: Lucky!)

Me:  Tell us how you got Precision Editing Group started, and how on earth you manage to keep writing while you run the company.

Heather:  Precision Editing started in response to two things. First, once I was published and met other aspiring writers, they’d ask if I could read their book. If I said yes, I quickly realized it took 3-4 days out of my schedule to edit their book. That was a tough thing to swallow when I was putting aside my own writing to do so. Second, my husband had been laid off, and we’d gone through enough financial ups and downs, that I thought it would be nice if I had something on the side that could soften the blow for those types of situations.

Another motivation was that I knew several great authors who were great editors as well. This gave me the confidence that I could create a business and contract with other editors depending on the genre that was submitted. 

Time wise, I don’t do a lot of edit jobs. Maybe 3-4 a year, and the rest I assign out to my contract editors. (Me: Smart. A delegator.) That way, I do have time to spend on my writing as well as running the company. I probably devote an average of an hour a day to Precision Editing, handling emails, phone calls, billing, promotion, etc. (Me: And I highly recommend them!)

Me:  What were some of your favorite books as a teenager, and how have your reading tastes changed since then (if they have)?

Heather:  I read everything that was scary, from Stephen King to VC Andrews to John Saul to Mary Higgins Clark. I also read whatever was on the basement shelves, such as Tom Clancy or Louis L’Amour. My grandmother got me started on Victoria Holt books and I read quite a few of those.  Ironically, I didn’t read any YA books as a teen, unless it was a Newbury assigned for school.

Now, I read quite a bit of YA comparatively. Otherwise, I read historicals (Eric Larsen), cultural books (Amy Tan), thrillers (Harlan Coben), contemporary (Jodi Picolt, Maeve Binchy), and plenty of LDS books because I know so many authors and I like to support their work.

Me:  Okay, I have to see a picture of your writing space. I’m guessing you’ve got to have some artifacts from the Middle East or Mesoamerica on your desk or shelves to keep you focused on the time period for your historicals. If not, why not?

Heather:  A couple of years ago, I was demoted, (Me: What? How does an award-winning author get demoted?) and had to move my office into my sewing room. So there are no windows and I frequently sit in other places in the house, or sometimes I go to the library. The best part of my office is a massive Book of Mormon timeline that I had mounted and framed. Otherwise, my office is really a place of stacks of books and paper.

(Okay, if I ever have any questions about what happened in the Book of Mormon and when, I’m calling Heather!)

Me:  Finally, please share your writing process and tell us what you’re working on now.

Heather:  This has been a very busy year, writing-wise. I wrote RUBY (Newport Ladies Book Club series) in the winter/spring. Then I worked on a co-authored manuscript with my dad, THE DIVINITY OF WOMEN. In the summer, I wrote a short historical romance novella for the anthology: A Timeless Romance Anthology. In July I found out that a novel I’d turned into my publisher was “not” going to be published, so I was given a September deadline to turn in another historical novel. I wrote QUEEN ESTHER in two months. So now . . . I have two upcoming projects that I’m starting soon, a contemporary romance novella for another anthology, and a historical novel on the history of my 10th great-grandmother, who was accused of witchcraft and hanged in Salem, Massachusetts. (Me: I’m excited to read this one. Heather and I share connections to that piece of history.)

(But Heather, you’re making us all look lazy! All that AND manage the Precision Group? I’m going to suggest you give my presentation on balancing it all at ANWA’s Northwest Writer’s Retreat in November. . . Oh wait, you’re the keynote speaker there and already have several presentations to give. Maybe I should just change my topic.)

Seriously, this is one busy lady, but if you want to know more about her and her writing, check out her website and her blog. And if you need professional editing, take a look at Precision Editing Group.

Remember, there’s only one more week before my contest closes. Leave a comment here for another entry.

 

Originally posted 2012-09-18 14:04:24.

Contest Author Interview – Danyelle Ferguson

(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see the 50 different prizes and entry details and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you yet another entry!)

Not only is Danyelle a talented writer, but she’s a brave organizer. Along with her husband, she founded a non-profit organization (more about that later) and is helping the LDStorymakers group better serve more of its members by taking the lead in instituting a second conference in a week and a half, located in the Midwest in a place called Olathe, Kansas (a place I’ve just finished reading about in one of my thrillers–Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood…as it turns out one of the two real-life killers in the book holed up in Olathe before they committed their crimes). But I’ll give my review of that story in a few weeks once my contest is over. Now, on with my interview!

Me:  Tell us about the first article you had published when you were in 6th grade. Do you still have a copy of it?

Danyelle:  I do have a copy of it! My mom saved it in a manila envelope along with other articles about me from the time I was young until I graduated high school.

I was lucky enough to have an incredible 6th grade teacher–Mrs. Seasholtz–who encouraged my love of reading. One book was about a boy named Charlie, the poor crime-filled neighborhood he grew up in, and his relationship with the city sheriff. Rather than write a book report, my teacher suggested I invite our city sheriff to visit our class. I met with the sheriff, then he came to talk to my class about our city, crime, and how we could help with crime prevention. Afterwards, Mrs. Seasholtz sat me down at her computer and had me write my very first newspaper article. She included a picture of me and the sheriff. It was the neatest thing ever to see my article appear in our city newspaper. It made an even bigger impression on me when lots of people started calling, stopped me at the store or in the school hallways to congratulate me and ask more questions about the book or presentation. It definitely hooked me into not only writing, but being brave enough to share what I wrote with others.

(Now that’s the kind of teacher we all want our kids to have, isn’t it?)

Me:  I see that you’ve written everything from poems to short stories, not to mention your nonfiction. Which form of creative writing do you enjoy the most and why? On the other hand, which is the most challenging?

Danyelle:  Short stories are definitely the most challenging. It’s hard to fit in a beginning, middle, and end, as well as character development, in a small limited amount of words! I admire writers who specialize in short stories.

My poetry is very special to me. I only write poems when I’m dealing with really emotional situations. I started writing them when my mom was first diagnosed with cancer then continued through two more diagnoses. When she passed away just after my high school graduation, I wrote one final poem for her and tucked it into her casket. I’m honestly not the best poet – not even a really good one – but it’s the creative expression that fills my mind when life is swirling around me.

Me:  As my book includes a young boy with Asperger’s syndrome, I’m particularly interested in hearing about your oldest son who is autistic. Could you share briefly the journey you and your husband had in discovering and coming to terms with his autism?

Danyelle:  Oh wow. I don’t know how to briefly describe that. =) Actually, we thought our son just had speech delay. Looking back now, we had a rather typical experience. From birth, our son always tested early in all of his childhood developments. He started walking and talking at seven months old. He laughed, played with our friends’ kids. All the normal things you expect from a baby. Then somewhere between 12-18 months, he gradually stopped talking. We talked to our doctor about it, but he said that just happened sometimes and to wait until he was two years old. We took him back when he turned two – at which time he didn’t speak at all. The doctor said to wait another six months and we said no way. So he referred us to the local early intervention center. The center sent out someone to evaluate our son for speech delay. A few days later, they called to ask if they could come back for another visit with one of their specialists. This time after the observation, the specialist asked us if we had ever heard of autism. Neither my husband nor I knew anything about it. Little did we know that question would lead to a life-changing journey for our whole family. We made an appointment for our son to be evaluated at our local Children’s Hospital. He was diagnosed with PDD-NOS. (Me: That stands for Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified…which really doesn’t tell you much.) All of his results came back in the severe range, except for his motor skills, which were incredibly advanced.

During the first four to six months after our son was diagnosed, I couldn’t handle reading anything about autism. I was so overwhelmed, wondering what kind of future my son would have. Instead, I dived into training sessions with our Early Intervention therapist. I attended a parent/child group therapy class twice a week. The parents in the class were incredible, helped me through those rough beginning months, and are still some of my closest friends today. Meeting families who had older kids with special needs, seeing the progress they made, helped me to have hope for my son, as well. In my opinion, coming to terms with autism–or any other special needs–is a lifelong process. We never know what challenges we will need to face as our kids become older, teens, and eventually adults. It takes patience, a commitment to learning new techniques, a sense of humor, and lots of prayer.

(Amen to all of that!)

Me:  How did that journey help to bring about your recent book, (dis)Abilities and the Gospel, co-written with Lynn Parsons?

Danyelle:  During my son’s preschool years, my husband and I were the head of the school’s parent support group. Families often asked me to help them figure out how to help their child attend church or help their church leaders understand and love their child. As I researched on the Internet, I realized there were very few resources available about disabilities and church. Over the following four years, I spent quite a lot of time working with a variety of individuals, families, specialists, and church leaders to create the resources and information found in (dis)Abilities and the Gospel. Four years is a long time to work on just one project. But my son, my friends’ children, and people I met at conferences were a constant reminder of why the book was needed. It was truly an inspiring project to work on.

Me:  Tell us about the non-profit organization you and your husband founded in relation to autism and how my readers might contribute, if they so choose?

Danyelle:  Our son attended a private autism preschool called GIANT Steps. During our time there, my husband, myself and Karen Fairchild (one of the original founders of the school) created a Friends of GIANT Steps (501c3) to raise funds to supplement the school and its curriculum. We have put on sensory-friendly Christmas concerts, benefit concerts, held auctions, and a variety of other fundraisers. Thus far, we’ve been able to add a Kindermusik program (teacher training, equipment and materials) to help the kids with sensory issues and motor skills, bought playground equipment, sent teachers and paras to specialized trainings, and brought in speakers to help parents learn tips for raising their children and developing strong family relationships. Our goal is for the kids to have the best learning experience available and for families to have the resources they need. You can learn more about FOGS or donate through their website.

Me:  My son has Asperger’s and I know it was difficult, at first, for his older sister to deal with the social ramifications. How have your other children responded to your son’s autism?

Danyelle:  My son is our oldest child. So for a long time, our younger kids didn’t think anything about him being different. Even now, for the most part, they just think of him as Isaac and that’s the way he is. But as they have gotten older (3rd grade and above), they have asked more and more questions. We are very open about Isaac’s abilities and quirks. I’ve talked to the munchkins about how sensory issues or comprehension difficulties can frustrate Isaac and signs to look for so they know when to back off and let him decompress. One thing I want my kids to understand is that it’s okay to sometimes feel embarrassed or frustrated by things their brother says or does. It’s a natural human feeling, but I ask them that when they feel that way to remember he’s their brother and they are his best friends. So it’s okay to need a break, but they should always remember that they love him too.

My oldest daughter is especially empathetic to kids who are different from their peers (no matter if it’s a disability, language difference, etc.). She’s also in our school’s gifted program and pretty analytical–a trait she completely gets from her dad. last year for her big project, she chose to write a book about various disabilities, their causes, and spotlight examples of how people who have those disabilities made an impact on their community (whether through work, service, or challenges they overcame). I was impressed with how she took a personal challenge and turned it into a way to learn, grow, and find positive uplifting outcomes too.

(Sounds like her mother too, right?)

Me:  As I’ve noted before, I’m curious about authors’ writing spaces. How would you describe yours at present as if you were putting it into a novel?

Danyelle:

Danyelle scooted her wooden chair up to her desk, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine streaming through the bay windows. She sighed as she looked over at the pile of dishes that needed to be washed. Should she do them first? She calculated how many plates she needed for dinner that night before finally deciding she could safely ignore the ones in the sink. This was definitely one of the drawbacks of having her writing space in a nook off the kitchen. She quickly stacked her kids’ school papers into a pile and set them off to the side of her desk.

As she waited for the computer to boot up, she looked around at her little office space. She loved the trendy dark green walls with lime and white accents. Her favorite part was the white wall shelves filled with girly stuff – glass purses, Raine designer decorative shoes, and funky picture frames. She pulled out a sticky note and wrote a reminder to re-hang one of the shelves that came loose when the roof was repaired last fall. Maybe she’d actually get it done some time in the next year. She replaced her sticky note and pen back in the sparkly crystal crown that held her business cards, stamps and other office supply odds and ends that only writers loved and obsessed about. A variety of colored paper clips, cute binder clips, and multi-colored pens.

The computer chimed, signaling that it was ready for her to login and begin work. Danyelle nabbed a piece of chocolate out of her clear glass candy dish, popped the delicious treat into her mouth, then got ready to dive back into her current work-in-progress.

(And here’s the picture to show how well she described it!)

Me:  What are you working on at present?

Danyelle:  Right now, I’m working on one of the awesomest projects ever. The very first Storymakers Midwest Writers Conference! It’s Saturday, September 15th and in my backyard (well, almost)–Olathe, KS. Of course, that’s because I’m the one organizing it. We have an incredible line-up of authors coming to present. I’m honored to have Lisa Mangum (Deseret Book Editor & best-selling YA author), as well as Josi Kilpack (award-winning culinary mystery author) as our Keynote Speakers.

Along with the conference, we’re having a huge Authorpalooza. So if you’re in the Kansas City area, please stop by!

Friday, September 14th; 7-9 pm 

Authorpalooza Book Signing (Oak Park Mall Barnes & Noble, 11323 W. 95th Street, Overland Park, KS)

Authors include:  Lisa Mangum, Josi Kilpack, Heather Justesen, Don Carey, Karen Hoover, Traci Hunter Abramson, L.C. Lewis, STeve Westover, Danyelle Ferguson, Lynn Parsons, Tamara Hart Heiner, and more!

Me:  Finally, what are some of your favorite songs to sing while in the kitchen and how do your children react when you start belting them out?

Danyelle:  I have very eclectic musical tastes. I love everything from Natalie Cole to Bon Jovi to Katy Perry, with a healthy mix of my kids’ favorites–Justin Beiber, Hannah Montana, and Taylor Swift. I have a Kitchen Music playlist and sing along with whatever comes on. My favorite moment is when my big band music comes on and my hubby and I teach the kids our favorite swing dancing moves.

What do my kids think? They’re just as nutty as me. They dance around in the nook where my office desk is (also where the music is streaming from) and sing right along with me.

If you want to know more about Danyelle and her writing, take a moment to check out her website or her blog. Right now, she’s donating $5 from every sale of her disabilities book from her website to one of two worthy disability-related causes.

Originally posted 2012-09-05 06:00:35.

Contest Author Interview – Julie Coulter Bellon

(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see the 50 different prizes and entry details and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you yet another entry!)

I came to know Julie while working under her on the board of directors of LDStorymakers. She was chair that first year I was a member of the group and very open and supportive of  my ideas for the new website. Both of us share an expatriate kind of background and appreciation, therefore, for international thrillers. All of her novels are now available as ebooks.

Me:  Let’s see . . . Eight books, eight children. Which was harder? And do you get any rewrites on your parenting?

Julie:  Well, since my children are so unpredictable and my characters generally do what I tell them to, I’d say that raising children is harder. Parenting is so rewarding, though, and I get to laugh a lot, so I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I wish you all could be at our dinner table each night. It’s so fun to have a big family. As for rewrites on my parenting, thankfully my children are pretty forgiving and give me lots of chances when I mess up.

Me:  Personally, I have a thing for the number 9, but why do you prefer 8? Does it have any significance beyond your children and books?

Julie:  Eight has been my lucky number my entire life. Good things always happen to me when I’m having an “8” birthday like 8, 18, 28, etc. I can always count on my lucky number eight.

(Hmmm. As it just so happens, I only prepared eight questions to ask you, so I guess this is your lucky interview!)

Me:  What is the biggest difference between a Canadian and an American? Please tell us about where you grew up and whether you return to Canada often to visit.

Julie:  For me, there’s subtle differences between being Canadian and American. My critique group tells me all the time that my Canadian comes through in my writing because I’m too polite. Canadians are pretty laid-back, but that’s probably because they have the best food in the world to eat. Canadian chocolate and cereal are to die-for. Thankfully my mom sends me care packages in the mail so I don’t have to go too long without them. Our family also gets to have two Thanksgivings because I celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with them in October and we also celebrate American Thanksgiving with my husband and his family. I’d say we’re pretty lucky!

I grew up in Alberta and I don’t get home as often as I’d like. My entire family still lives there and I miss them terribly.

(Now I’ve heard of–and tasted–Swiss chocolate, and I’ve even heard of the wonders of New Zealand chocolate…but Canadian chocolate? Who knew?)

Me:  Are you still practicing the bagpipes and why?

Julie:  Sadly, I haven’t practiced them recently. I only know one song (Amazing Grace) and so I obviously need to expand my repertoire and practice a little more. I plan to start up again as soon as the baby’s a little older and I can explain to him why he needs to wear earplugs. Ha!

Me:  How did you get acquainted with Ms. Shreditor? Please tell my readers what they can do to avail themselves of her services.

Julie:  I have this wonderful feature on my blog called First Page Friday where I have my national editor friends, Ms. Shreditor and Angela Eschler (president of Eschler Editing), critique aspiring authors/published authors’ first pages. Two years ago when I was listening to a panel of agents and editors talk about the fact that if the first page doesn’t grab them, they usually reject it, I thought I would use editing contacts I had to help authors polish those important first pages. It has been such a learning experience both for me and my readers. I’m so grateful for Ms. Shreditor and to Angela who put in so much work to give back to the writing community.

(Here’s an example of what she’s talking about.)

Me:  What exotic locale are you planning on taking your readers to next, and what’s the basic storyline (if you’re that far into it)?

Julie:  Well, I have a book coming out in a few weeks, ALL FALL DOWN, that is set in Connecticut and Afghanistan. It’s about a hostage negotiator, Claire Michaels, who ends up in the middle of an international incident with a Navy SEAL and his brother. I loved writing this story!

(Let’s interrupt the interview for a moment to share the cover of Julie’s new novel, as well as the back cover copy. After all, it comes out at the end of September!)

Ring around the rosy, a pocket full of posies,

ashes, ashes we all fall down . . .

That simple rhyme turns negotiator Claire Michaels’ current hostage situation into an international incident. Claire just wants to help get everyone out safely, but as the crisis escalates she realizes she’s dealing with an al-Qaeda operative who has the means to become another bin Laden–with the potential to attack America. Claire has her own personal reasons for wanting to stop al-Qaeda, but time is slipping away as negotiations break down. Can she overcome her scars of the past in order to get the hostage out alive and possibly stop an assault on U.S. national security?

Navy SEAL Rafe Kelly is on leave to recover from a knee injury he suffered during his tour in Afghanistan and he doesn’t expect to be fighting terrorists on his home turf. But when he is taken hostage and his brother is kidnapped, Rafe teams up with a hostage negotiator in order to stay alive and get his brother back. The terrorist is always one step ahead of them, however, and the situation quickly turns from desperate to deadly. Will Rafe be able to save himself and his country without anyone he loves getting caught in the crossfire?

(Okay, back to the interview)

I’m working on a sequel to my novel, RIBBON OF DARKNESS, and it will be set in Greece. I loved visiting Athens and the island of Crete and I can’t wait to make the setting come alive for my readers. Basically, it’s Kennedy’s story (from RIBBON OF DARKNESS), and she’s still trying to solve her sister’s murder, but as an international journalist, she’s also covering some of the chaos going on in Greece. She gets caught up in a volatile situation with a Greek terrorist group and it will take everything she has to come out of it alive. That one should be released next spring.

Me:  As a former chair of LDStorymakers, can you tell us how that position impacted your writing, if at all?

Julie:  Being the chairman of LDStorymakers gave me the opportunity to work closely with a committee of incredible authors I admire and I loved getting to know them better. I’m glad we have organizations that support writers and help inspire us to become better at out craft. It was a lot of hard work because in addition to my responsibilities to the board, I also had a baby during my tenure, and released a book. But it was an experience that I wouldn’t trade because of the friendships I made.

Me:  Finally, would you please describe your office or workspace in the point of view of a spy who has broken into your home to find an important document.

Julie:  Well, my workspace is in between my family room and kitchen, so if they were looking for a document, they could expect to find it fairly easily (well, they’d have to go through my pile of permission slips, emergency contact forms, and disclosure documents from the schools that I got this week). Since I have so many kids it would probably have a food stain of some sort or be wrinkly from a drink spilled on it, though. (Okay, okay, it’s not all the kids’ fault. I do like to eat at my desk. So, the spy would probably be able to see some clues as to what I ate for lunch.)

Thank you so much for interviewing me. This was one of the most fun interviews I’ve ever done.

Me:  My pleasure. (Blush)

You can find out more about Julie and her books on her blog or her website, and you can follow her on Twitter (@juliebellon). Feel free to “like” her on Facebook, as well.

Originally posted 2012-09-03 02:05:36.

Contest Author Interview – Liz Adair

(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see all the prizes and details and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you another entry!)

Full disclosure: Liz and I have become very good friends since we got together to form a small critique group a couple of years ago, so if I come off as a bit irreverent during this interview, please understand that I can’t help myself. That’s why I’m grateful to have Liz in my life. She is always a lady and sets the example I try to follow. She has led a varied and interesting life, as you will learn below.

Liz has been writing seriously since 1989–mostly mysteries and romantic suspense–but we’re all grateful that she heeded the inner call to pursue a story from her own family history and penned COUNTING THE COST (more about that later). Not only did it win her the 2009 Whitney Award for Romance, but it was a finalist for the Willa Award and Arizona Publisher Association’s Glyph Award! She recently became chair of the board of directors for LDStorymakers. Her latest novel, COLD RIVER, is on our prize list.

Me:  Of all the places you’ve lived–New Mexico, Wyoming, Alaska, Utah, Arizona, Washington, etc.–which do you return to most in your dreams? Or are your dreams in entirely different places? Or do you even remember your dreams?

Liz:  I don’t remember my dreams, much. I dream in narrative, though, and sometimes I’ll wake up after a particularly riveting story and think, “Dang, I’m good.”

Me:  I happen to know you’ve held a variety of jobs throughout your life. Could you give us a quick rundown? And which provided the best fodder for your writing?

Liz:  My first job was in Alaska when I was 14. I worked at the Knik Drive In, Home of the Huskyburger. Later, I did the clerk-typist thing for the Bureau of Reclamation and kept books at an auto parts store during college, and then taught school for several years. I had a small wholesale bakery that the kids and I ran, and I’ve worked in construction management for the last fifteen years. It’s all fodder. I used my teaching experience for COLD RIVER, but my construction experience informed Spider Latham’s character. He was a man who worked with his hands.

Me:  Tell us about your writing process in the voice of either Heck Benham, the handsome cowhand, or Ruth Reynolds, beautiful city girl, in your Whitney Award-winning novel COUNTING THE COST. (I’m just trying to help you along in your current writing…consider this a writing prompt.)

Liz:  Well, my writin’ process is kinda like punchin’ cows. You gotta stick in that saddle, and rope and hog tie those phrases that come trottin’ outa your imagination. It’s long, lonely, dusty work, and sometimes at the end of the day you’ve just got a hole in your jeans where your backside hit the chair to show for your work. But you keep on, ’cause that’s what you do.

(Well done, Heck!)

Me:  Tell us which moniker you prefer privately–Just Liz, Mother Earth, Business Mogul, or Literary Lady–and why. (I’m not making this easy for you, am I? But hey, I left out Storymakers Queen Bee, so you should feel fortunate.)

Liz:  I guess ‘Just Tudy’ would suit me fine. It’s a nickname, the name I grew up with and preferred. (Elizabeth was soooo stuffy.) But in college we had 2 Judys in our apartment, and adding a Tudy made for more confusion. My roommates declared that I MUST become Liz. So I did. I have to admit that once I finally grew up, I kinda liked my given name.

Me:  Of all the characters in your books, which most closely resembles the love of your life, your husband, Derrill? Details please. (You may never want to do an interview with me again. LOL.)

Liz:  Oh, I freely admit that Spider Latham is Derrill. I’ve had men that read the book wonder how I could write so convincingly from the male point of view, and I can’t count the women who have said to me, “I just love Spider latham.” I had one say so just the other night. How are they alike? Hmmm. Derrill is a problem solver. So is Spider. Spider’s a deep thinker–so is Derrill, but both can poke fun at themselves. Growing up in a small town where generations of family have been reared has grounded them both. They know who they are, and it gives them an inner strength.

Me:  I’d ask about your writing space, but that wouldn’t be fair since you’ve only just moved into a new house in Southern Utah. So, instead, please describe your car and how well it might serve (or not) as a temporary office. (Also, please provide a picture, because if you don’t, I’ll post the one of you on the ATV.)

Liz:  My car is hugely impractical, I know. I drive a Mazda Miata and love it. It keeps my life interesting and helps on the budget because my Costco trips are limited to what I can carry home. As far as using it as an office–I do carry my Alphasmart with me in my purse in case I find time to write.

Liz, or “Tudy,” in her bright red Miata

Me:  What are you working on now in terms of your writing (whether in the house, your car, an internet café, or on the ATV)?

Liz:  I’m rewriting COUNTING THE COST. Christine Thackeray worked with me on a screenplay for it and said that it wasn’t really Heck’s story, it was Ruth’s, and it needed to start with Ruth, before she came to New Mexico. So that’s what I’ve been doing lately. I’m also working on a romantic suspense that has illegal aliens, flying cars, dynamite, and a terrific car chase.

(Hmmm. No doubt she’s conducting some actual research on the car chase in her Miata. I wonder how tough the cops are there in Kanab?)

Me:  Finally, as the new chair of LDStorymakers, how would you describe the organization and your vision for its future?

Liz:  I am so excited about LDStorymakers and what is happening there. The organization is peopled with writers dedicated to helping those who have a literary bent learn the craft. I believe that as we help good writers become better, more and more LDS writers will find themselves in the national–and world–market. My vision is that LDS writers will tip the scales towards good in the eternal ‘good vs evil’ scenario.

I tend to agree. If you want to learn more about Liz and her books, please check out her blog. And if you’re down around Kanab, Utah, watch out for a bright red Mazda Miata. ZOOM, ZOOM!

Originally posted 2012-08-27 06:00:29.

Reading, Reading, and More Reading

Present word count of WIP:  54,620

Sorry for slacking off here. I know I missed posting last Friday and this past Monday, but I was in the middle of a terrific writer’s conference (LDS Storymakers)…and then I was still recovering from it.

(A ten-hour drive in one day is not easy, despite M&Ms and other caffeinated products, particularly after you’re coming off of five nights of only 3-5 hours of sleep on average. But an audio book leant to me by my writing/conference buddy, Liz Adair, certainly helped!)

Anyway, it was a great conference. The best thing was that I had another excuse to see my daughter. I won’t have too many more opportunities like that before she leaves on her mission. And she even came to the Whitney Awards Banquet with me (that’s become a custom…I’ll definitely miss her next year).

Liz and I were roommates again and we also kept each other company during the massive book signing (and I got to pick up a lot of tips on how to do a signing by watching our neighbor, Janette Rallison, respond to the lines and lines of fans queued up for her signature or picture).

Liz and I at the Book Signing

Me with Janette Rallison and Rachelle Christensen

I took part in one of the critique sessions held during the Publication Primer the day before the conference and met some terrific writers there, including David King, Rebekah Wells, and Becky Tueller and her sister, Cheryl. Our group was led by Natalie Hickman, almost due to have her baby and just out of the hospital that morning. Talk about dedication to your craft!

Me with David and Rebekah

I pitched my WIP to Holly Root of the Waxman Literary Agency and she wants to see the first three chapters when it’s ready. YAY!!! She also said she’d have no problem taking on a client that wanted to write both Women’s Fiction and Middle Grade…all under my own name. Hmmm. Maybe I won’t need a pen name after all.

Also, I met with my editor, Linda Mullineaux, and they’re now looking at sending my book (which will be called something other than Laps) to press in August! I gave them a new suggestion for the title and I think they may go with it. But I’m not announcing it here until it’s finally approved. Anyway, I’m firmly a part of the Walnut Springs Press family, as shown by this picture of several of their authors taken after the Whitney Awards Banquet.

Walnut Springs Authors (Me, Angie Lofthouse, Liz Adair, Jenni James, Betsy Love, Theresa Sneed, and the injured Tristi Pinkston)

Besides the fact that I desperately need a makeover, I learned lots of great things at the LDS Storymakers Conference, as usual (particularly loved Jennifer Nielsen’s class on Middle Grade Fiction and Jeff Savage’s on Podcasts), though I didn’t get to attend nearly as many workshops or classes. That was because:

1) My body crashed after my Friday afternoon pitch . . . it’s a little too old now for these midnight film premieres (but “The Avengers” was terrific!)

and . . .

2) I volunteered to help do timekeeping for pitch sessions on Saturday morning. I can’t tell you how nice it was to be the one watching the clock rather than the one racing through my pitch over and over in my mind while waiting for the signal to go in and face the agent.

While I didn’t spend much in the bookstore, I came away with two more books to review this month. I was already set to review Jolene Perry’s Night Sky on May 14th (I just finished reading it today and have the review all written), but now I’m due to read Heather Moore’s Daughters of Jared and Tristi Pinkston’s Women of Strength, as well, before the end of the month.

Not to mention all the Whitney Award finalists and winners I’ve got downloaded. As I put in my title, it looks like all I’ll be doing the rest of this month is reading, reading, and more reading!

Originally posted 2012-05-11 13:23:28.

The Artist and Humility

Present word count of WIP:  54,620

Be prepared for the above word count to remain fairly static for the rest of this week. Why? Because I’m en route to a writers conference–the 2012 LDStorymakers Writer’s Conference to be precise–and if there’s one thing that I have difficulty doing while at such a conference, it’s writing.

Oh, I’ll take plenty of notes…and even perhaps work on my pitch, but my WIP? Realistically, probably not (even though I have it with me). You see, it’s such a rare treat for writers to come out of their caves and gather together, that there’s a whole lot of talking about writing and celebrating about writing, but not much writing.

That’s what a retreat is for. (Hint, hint, Liz.)

Anyway, I decided to make it easy on myself this year and split the 10-hour drive down to Utah in half. So, I only had to drive as far as Boise today.

I was prepared for a mostly silent drive because usually NPR devolves into static about an hour outside the Tri-Cities (and I always forget to set the CDs I like to listen to within arms reach). For some reason today, however, I was able to keep listening long past Pendleton.

Long enough to hear a fascinating interview with Wayne Wright. I’d never heard of him before, but he was the artistic genius behind all the puppets, etc. in that 80’s TV show, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (which I’d heard of but never watched). Anyway, someone has made a documentary about him entitled, “Beauty is Embarrassing.”

At the end of the interview, he was asked to explain the idea behind the title. He spoke about how people can be so overcome by beauty, whether in nature (created by God, if you will) or in works created by man, that they are moved to tears and that’s embarrassing. He said it’s humbling or embarrassing to be made to feel that vulnerable. I loved that idea, because it’s so true.

Then another thought occurred to me, as I was reflecting on how this manifested itself in great writing. That’s how I feel, too, when I create something–a phrase, a sentence, or perhaps a paragraph–and someone in my critique group (or, if it occurred in a talk or a poem or a song or book I’ve written, one of my listeners or readers) compliments me about it. I’m embarrassed.

How do you say “Thank you” when you feel like it was a gift from the true Creator?

So, yes, beauty is embarrassing.

Originally posted 2012-05-01 21:01:01.

Responsibility #3: Supporting Writers

Present word count of WIP:  49,832

(Pitiful progress, I know. I’ll try and make up for it while traveling to Utah this weekend.)

In my earlier post about a writer’s responsibilities, I listed #3 as:

We have to support our fellow writers.

What goes around comes around. That’s probably the main reason most of us who struggle to get our writing out there put effort into supporting each other.

The writing community is pretty tightly knit, in and of itself. After all, writers always seem to be on the bottom of the totem pole–whether we’re talking about movies, plays, or books. The biggest Oscars (for Best Picture) or Tonys (Best Play or Musical) go to moneymen–producers–while the creative individual(s) behind the whole story are generally ignored once the picture goes into production. At least, when it comes to awards, the publishing industry has it right. The writers are the ones recognized, not their publishers. However, too many times writers feel like they get little to no respect even in the publishing industry. So, we have to watch out for each other.

That’s why we’ve got groups like PEN American Center, which is only “one of 144 PEN centers in 101 countries that together compose International PEN.” That’s why we’ve got Romance Writers of America and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. That’s why we’ve got a group for nearly every genre, not to mention all the online groups that help us navigate the complicated waters of getting published.

Then there are other, more specialized groups like American Night Writers Association and LDStorymakers, which are specialized to fit the needs of LDS writers and/or authors.

Yes, one of the ways we can help support each other is by joining one or more of these groups and being involved to the extent that we gain writing friends who will, hopefully, support us as we support them. There is always power in numbers.

Dave Wolverton (aka Dave Farland)

But there’s an even stronger impetus, I feel, for supporting other writers. It’s not about getting anything back for yourself. It’s about helping to grow literacy in this world. Talents always come with responsibility. If we have a gift for the written word, it’s incumbent on us to not only share it, but to spread it among others. I remember being so impressed with Dave Wolverton and the way he freely provides so much help to other writers on their way up the ladder. He doesn’t seem to see them as his competition. I think he sees them more as his legacy.

Let’s help each other freely and build a legacy of literacy.

Originally posted 2012-03-30 13:49:59.

Think of your books as souvenirs

Present word count:  25,290 (I know, I know…not enough…I promise much more next time)

Seth Godin’s Advice for Authors:

4. Understand that a non-fiction book is a souvenir, just a vessel for the ideas themselves. You don’t want the ideas to get stuck in the book… you want them to spread. Which means that you shouldn’t hoard the idea! The more you give away, the better you will do.

I think this applies equally well to fiction. We definitely want the characters, issues, and themes in our stories to spread. More than that, we want our fan base to spread out and grow. Godin is all about giving ideas away for free because he knows that, in the end, you reap what you sow.

That’s what I love about author communities like LDStorymakers and ANWA. The more we give to our fellow writers (whether it’s the benefit of our experience, or helpful critiques, or simply our attention), the more we grow and are enriched as writers. I’ve felt badly that I haven’t given more lately in either group, but my time has been crunched by both the Storymaker website and reading for the Whitneys. Still, I know that once my schedule frees up, I can make up for lost time. I don’t know if it’s the fact that 99% of us are still struggling for the audience we want… or the fact that one hit today doesn’t guarantee a lifetime of success, but for some reason, our hearts can’t help but go out to each other. Writers, as a whole, are some of the most unselfish people I know in business.

And our books truly are souvenirs for both us and our readers. They help us remember what our own lives were like as we wrote them. Depending on the content, they can help us remember people, places, or events in our lives. And they speak to our readers in similar ways, though the reading experience is unique for each person who reads our words. They meld their own memories, experiences, and ideas with ours as they read.

Sometimes, book marketing is not about sales so much as spreading your words. Think of your books as souvenirs and give some away.

Originally posted 2012-01-27 13:19:24.

Back in the Saddle

Present Word Count of WIP: 13,901

After two days and more than 3,500 words written, I can officially announce that I’m back to my writing. What a relief! I was beginning to suspect that the holidays had completely upended my routine.

It’s always difficult for me to write when my daughter comes home for a visit because she’s about ready to graduate from college and her visits home come so seldom these days. As much as I see myself as a writer, I’m a wife and mother first, so I’m still having to fight off the guilt for carving out periods of the day to shut myself off from those responsibilities. It’s easier with my son (who’s about to graduate from high school) because he still lives here and, like me, he tends to shut himself into his cave every day, not craving company. But Allison is very social. Obviously, I wasn’t very successful from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

It’s a good thing we have New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, that’s probably the only thing I like about New Year’s Eve as a holiday. This time, I’ve set myself 5 “SMART” goals, 4 of which involve writing. That’s “SMART,” as in Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic/Relevant, and Time-Specific (something I picked up from a recent QueryTracker Newsletter).

I’ll post the writing goals here so that you can all hold me accountable:

1) Write every day for at least two hours.

2) Finish first draft of SOG by February 20, 2012 (so it’s somewhat ready to pitch at the ANWA Conference). Finish final draft by April 30, 2012 (for pitching at the LDStorymakers Conference).

3) Find 20 agents who rep my kind of YA Fantasy and organize them from most to least appealing. Query top 7 by May 15, 2012.

4) Blog twice a week (usually Mondays and Fridays), once on each blog.

So, yes, I decided not to wait until Friday this week because I couldn’t stand seeing my website go unchanged another day. Tomorrow, I’ll probably post on my other blog here. As for the daily writing goal, I’ve completed ten chapters now of my WIP. I’ll try and keep a running count of words written each week here, to keep myself on task.

So, what are your goals for the new year? I have a feeling that, despite the dire predictions of the Mayans, 2012 is going to be a terrific year!

Originally posted 2012-01-05 12:17:17.

My Book a Door Prize

One of my responsibilities at the recent LDStorymakers Writers Conference was to help take pictures of those who won books as door prizes. It was a real pleasure to be on the other side of the camera for this shot with Bethany Kitchen. She won my book, The Reckoning, as a door prize and I enjoyed meeting her and autographing the inside cover page. (I was a rebel by Saturday and refused to wear the colorful green sailor cap. Sorry, Liz.)

But I loved the timely, efficient way Liz coordinated all the door prizes. Let’s hear it for Liz and everyone else in charge of this year’s conference!

Originally posted 2011-05-14 13:03:41.