“Wednesday Writer” – Tami Franklin

Tami Franklin, better known to her readers as T.M. Franklin, writes stories with a liberal sprinkling of romance, mystery, adventure, and a touch of magic. She hovers between fantasy and contemporary fiction, between full-length novels (even series) and short stories. Let’s see what we can learn about the mysterious T.M., shall we?

T.M.FranklinME:  Please describe your childhood, where you grew up, and your first memorable encounters with fiction. (And I’d love a picture of you as a child, with or without your family.)

TAMI:  I was born in Seattle, WA and grew up in Washington state, with a brief foray into California. I lived with my parents and younger sister, who never ceased to drive me insane. (Isn’t that what families are for? To test our social limits?)

I was always a voracious reader as a child – some particular favorites included What the Witch Left, by Ruth Crewe and Ozma of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, among many others. (Aha! The early fantasy influence) I loved stories with a little bit of mystery to them – a little magic that had you wondering, “What if that happened to me?” I guess that explains why I now write those kinds of stories.

(Exactly!)Image(Tami as a little girl…hasn’t changed much, has she?)

ME:  Who among your family or acquaintances first encouraged you to pursue writing?

TAMI:  Although my family has been quite supportive, it was an online community of writers and readers that first really encouraged my fiction writing. In fact, it was a friend online who initially recommended me to what is now my publisher.

(Now that’s a first among all I’ve interviewed thus far. Others have talked about their writing groups, but Tami found hers online. A writer’s own group of colleagues, online or in person, can really make a difference!)

ME:  What was your first childhood ambition and what led you to broadcast journalism (a major I also pursued in college)?

TAMI:  Well, I wanted to be a princess when I was a little girl, but eventually learned that was probably an impossible goal.

Initially, when I went to college, it was with the intention of studying pre-med. My first college chemistry class cured me of that goal, however. (Not surprised.) I took a journalism class to fulfill a basic requirement and decided that was the road I’d like to take.

ME:  Please summarize your career in television and share how that experience has helped you in your fictional endeavors. (I’d love a picture of you with your Emmy Awards.)

TAMI:  I worked for nine years in TV news, as both a newscast producer and what’s called a “special projects” producer, which means I put together special reports and series for ratings periods and special broadcasts. I had semi-moved into a management position as a senior producer of the morning newscast when I decided to leave the newsroom behind when my son was born.

My Sad Broken Emmys(Her sad broken Emmys…fragile, but still powerful)

I find that the writing style I developed for television – shorter, conversational sentences with minimal filler and no “flowery” language – has definitely impacted my fictional style as well, I tend to write how I speak.

ME:  Tell us a bit about your first “unsuccessful” novel. What led you to write it and how did you come to the realization that it wasn’t good enough?

TAMI:  It’s still on my computer! It was about a TV news producer (go figure) who found out the apparent suicide of a software billionaire wasn’t quite what it seemed. I queried it unsuccessfully to a few agents and it was one of those agents who encouraged me to keep writing and hone my skills.

That novel was set aside and I started something new – and since have written quite a few other stories – and it was only after going back and looking at it that I really understood why it didn’t make the cut. I might go back to it at some point and try to clean it up. It’s just hard to make time for it when I have so many other stories running around in my mind.

MoreME:  Please share the story of how you came to write your first published novel, MORE, and include a bit about the storyline.

TAMI:  I started writing MORE as part of the National Novel Writing Month challenge. For those who aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo – it’s a challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. I decided I wanted to try to write another novel during November of 2011.

(Good for you. I’m such a slow writer that I’ve never had the guts to try NaNoWriMo.)

I knew I wanted to write about something with ties to myths and legends, so I started thinking about what if some of those legendary creatures were real? What if they lived today? If they were around, why wouldn’t we see them? Where would they be and what would they be like? That was the initial inspiration for the First Race in MORE. Then I thought, what if their survival depended on secrecy, and a normal girl found out about them? What if they saw her as a threat?

(As any good journalist knows, all it takes is asking the right questions to get you hooked into a great story.)

From there, I put together a rough outline and started writing MORE on November 1, 2011. I made my 50,000 words during that month and finished up the novel in early 2012.


The GuardiansME:  How does its sequel, THE GUARDIANS, carry the plot forward?

TAMI:  In MORE, Ava Michaels finds out about The Race and begins to see how she fits into this secret world hiding in the shadows of our own world. In THE GUARDIANS, she discovers more about why she was hidden in the human world in the first place. She’s got a lot on her plate – the rebel Rogues are after her, the Race’s Ruling Council still wants her, the cops think she’s a killer, and her boyfriend, Caleb, has disappeared and is accused of betraying the Race. In order to survive and figure all of this out, Ava has to make some rather unlikely alliances.

(Sounds very well plotted and intriguing.)


ME:  You’ve also written and published short stories—Window and A Piece of Cake. The former was an Amazon bestseller and the latter was included in the ROMANTIC INTERLUDES anthology.

Romantic Interludes

Which is harder for you: writing a novel or a short story, and why?

TAMI:  Oh, I would say a novel is definitely more difficult – especially a series like the MORE Trilogy. There is just so much more to keep track of – story arcs that carry on from book to book, as well as subplots that are resolved within a single book, not to mention all of the characters!

With a short story, it’s all so quick. There’s really only time for one main plot, and a handful of characters, so it’s much easier to focus on that. The downside of a short story is making sure the characters are sufficiently fleshed out. You have chapters and chapters to get to know a character in a novel. You really have to make your words count in a short story.


ME:  Please describe your writing process and tell us what you’re working on next.

TAMI:  My writing process has really become pretty organized. I start with a three–page synopsis of the entire book (something that’s required by my publisher when I submit.) From that, I flesh out a chapter-by-chapter outline, then divide the chapters into scenes. I use yWriter5, a free writing software download that allows me to input the chapters and scenes, and then I can move them around, add notes, keep bios on the characters, etc. That’s a huge help for me.

(My author friend, Marsha Ward, first tipped me off to yWriter5. As a Mac user, I’ve moved on to Scrivener, but yWriter5 does work really well.)

Right now, I’m working on TWELVE, the third book in the MORE Trilogy. I just received a release date for that and it will be out October 9, 2014. I’m also working on a YA romance about a quirky boy who sets out – in a rather unique way – to win the heart of the girl of his dreams. It’s called How to Get Ainsley Bishop to Fall in Love with You, and we’re still working on the release date for that one.

ME:  Finally, please describe your office or writing space in the voice of Ava, your protagonist in MORE. (And I must have a picture to see how it matches up.)

TAMI (as Ava):

Tami doesn’t write in an office or at a desk. She has her computer set up on her kitchen island. Why? Well, if you ask, she’d probably say it’s so she can spread out her notes, or so she can have a view of the back yard. The REAL reason, I’m convinced, is that she’s two steps away from the coffee machine. She may not have any writing rituals, but she guzzles coffee like there’s no tomorrow. Around noon, she switches to either water or Diet Coke, so amidst the papers and pens, you’ll often find a cup, glass, and can or two. It’s a little cluttered, but she swears she knows where everything is.

Image 1(Not too messy, I’d say)

By the way, Tami’s MORE was a 2013 Finalist in the Kindle Book Review’s Best Indie Book Awards:

2013 Finalist

And here’s a peek at the book trailer:

If you’d like to learn more about Tami, check out her website, Facebook page, or Twitter page. You can also order any of her books on Amazon. In fact, if you’re interested, she’s offering a giveaway of both MORE and her latest in the series, THE GUARDIANS. The giveaway is good until December 2nd.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Next week I’ll be back to interview best-selling author, Trina Boice, who specializes in nonfiction for LDS readers.

Trina Boice

Originally posted 2013-11-13 06:00:04.

“Wednesday Writer” – Lu Ann Staheli

It’s hard to know where to begin with Lu Ann. She’s written–both fiction and nonfiction, edited, taught young minds how to write, and basically lives in a world of books, now working as a school librarian. But let’s get to know her a little better, shall we?

Lu Ann Staheli author photoME:  Since you’re a native-born Hoosier who has now lived in Utah for a long time, what would you say are the main differences between the typical Indiana Midwest temperament and the Utah mindset? And what does each add to your writing?

LU ANN:  Indiana is known for Hoosier Hospitality, and although I’ve seen plenty of hospitality through my years living in Utah, there’s just something different about it when two native Hoosiers get together. Suddenly they have a common bond, even when they may actually have nothing in common. It’s hard to explain, but my husband—who grew up in Utah—notices it whenever we visit Indiana or I interact with someone from there as well. There is almost a different language between two Hoosiers, and I find that often comes through in my writing—more of a down-home, easy-going communication, filled with colloquialisms and old tales.

When it comes to my writing, I guess I tend to be that kind of a storyteller. With work ethics, Hoosiers have the motto “I’ll get around to it,” while Utahans seem to be more like “I’ll drop everything and get it done this minute.” I get things done, actually to the point of people constantly saying they don’t know how I do all that I do, but I do set my own priorities and try not to be dictated by other people’s emergencies, if you know what I mean.

(What a terrific insight into the two mindsets!)

ME:  I imagine you’ve been writing for a long time. Can you remember your first creative story and share what it was about? (Also, I’d love to post a picture of you as a child.)

LU ANN:  I actually don’t remember much about my early stories, although I do know I spent more of my childhood telling people I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I was an avid reader, reading the most books during the summer reading program two years in a row.

By the time I was in junior high school I had discovered I could write well enough that I could get a good grade on just about anything, so I would tackle school projects with a spark of fictional creativity and ended up with lots of A grades that way. (Smart girl!)

I wrote my entire senior research paper on Macbeth one weekend by reading the play a scene at a time, considering what Zeffirelli had done with his film adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, and adapting his ideas to this other Shakespeare play. (And hints of the future screenwriter, too! Wasn’t the Zeffirelli version fabulous? One of my all-time favorites.)


(I’m ready for my story now.)

ME:  What childhood event had the strongest impact on you in terms of your future as a writer?

LU ANN:  I don’t know that there was any one event. Along the way, I had some teachers who were really good; others who I perceived as maybe not so good. But I also had many teachers who were very supportive of me as a student writer. They understood that it wasn’t all about technical aspects of the first draft and they did all they could to support my interests and creativity when it came to my writing. They allowed me the freedom to explore without docking my grade as a result. (I always say that teachers are underrated and underpaid for the lives they affect.)

Probably the biggest influence, however, was my reading. As I mentioned before, I read A LOT! By the time I was 10, I’d read all the picture and chapter books in the children’s section local library. With the two summers I was involved in the summer reading program, I read over 400 books, finishing off the junior or middle grade library, and Mrs. Songer, the head librarian, gave me permission to start checking out books from the Young Adult collection by the time I was 12, two years earlier than the policy allowed. (Can I say that Librarians are also underrated?)

I read and reread those, finding many favorites—The Girl of the Limberlost, Hunger Valley, and the Cherry Ames series among them. So when I was 14, I moved into the ‘adult’ section, not at all what today’s name tends to imply. Most of the books I discovered there were much tamer than books are today. (I’ll bet!)

ME:  Since you’ve been a teacher for 33 years and a school librarian since, please share the changes you’ve noticed, for better or worse, in the books young people read today as opposed to thirty years ago. And what do those changes reveal about our current educational system?

LU ANN:  The sheer volume of books that are available to kids today is overwhelming, and the method of delivery has obviously changed through the addition of electronics. The general length of books has also increased as readers learned to accept books as large as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as more the expected norm rather than the oddity it was.

When it comes to content, there have always been issue-driven books that may have made parents uncomfortable, if they had read them. But I’m not sure they actually did back then, not the way Middle Grade and Young Adult novels have become popular with adults now. I recently reread The Outsiders and was amazed at the amount of swearing the book uses, yet I’ve never had a parent complain. Likely they read it themselves as a kid and simply don’t remember the words, only the story.  I do find there are many more books I have to warn students in my ultra-conservative community about, but they understand the simple film comparison—“This one is PG-13”—and make their choices on that. I’m happy to see that, for the most part, kids are given the opportunity in school to read books that can speak to them.

Contemporary novels allow teachers to teach reading improvement strategies in a more palpable way than sticking closely with the classics, which are too difficult simply because people no longer act or speak that way. Even the method of storytelling has changed since the time of Alcott, Hawthorne, Austen and the rest, accounting for why kids can’t connect to them. My greatest fear is that the drive to use a Common Core will once again force teachers back into teaching nothing but classics, thereby killing the joy of reading in millions of kids and stunting their growth toward becoming life-long readers and independent learners. (Hear, hear!)

ME:  Changing tacks now, how did you come to be president of the Official Osmond Fan Club, and how has that impacted your writing career? (I must have a picture of you with one or more of the Osmonds.) Also how has it impacted your marriage? (And I’d love a picture of you with your very supportive husband.)

LU ANN:  This is a really long story, a journey that I’m actually writing about in an upcoming book release, Living in an Osmond World, so I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version here.

(Great way to tease us into buying the book when it comes out!)

Over the years I got to know Alan Osmond when I was traveling around the country as a fan to see his family in concert. When I moved to Utah, Alan wanted to know what I was doing here and asked me for my phone number. (I’m imagining a few heart palpitations after that request. :D)

The next thing I know, he starts calling, asking me to come along to see his boys perform here and there, take some photos, that sort of thing. I’d had several years’ experience at writing about the Osmonds through my own fanzine, so when the opportunity came up to start writing for the official fan club newsletter it was an easy segue. The woman who was running the club was looking to leave, Alan knew and trusted me, a mutual friend suggested to him that I should take over the club, and the rest is history.

Lu Ann Alan(Lu Ann and Alan Osmond)

I wrote newsletters for The Osmond Brothers, Marie Ink., and The Osmond Boys, who I nicknamed 2nd G. Then I started writing the scripts for Stadium of Fire, the July 4th extravaganza Alan started at BYU. Through my work with the boys, I did some freelance work for 16, Teen Beat, Dream Guys, and Tiger Beat Magazines about their budding careers. (All you writers out there…this shows that you never know what one writing gig will lead to, so don’t be too picky.)

I still do some occasional writing for them today, press releases, newspaper articles, an occasional blog entry for Nathan and David, and Alan and I are once again discussing a book he wants to write.

My husband and I got married right after my last full time stadium show with Alan, although I did write the script for the next year for former co-worker Marilyn Toone. When Alan moved with his family to Branson, Missouri, continuing the newsletters became impossible for me to do, so my formal involvement as president and editor ended at that time.

We’ve continued to stay close, however, and Alan and I run ideas past each other, Nathan and David know they can always call when they need something, and all of them adore my husband as much as I do. As a matter of fact, my husband and one of our sons worked on Nathan’s Stars & Stripes music video. (You’ll find their names in the credits.)

photo-6(Lu Ann and her adorable husband)

ME:  You’ve written both fiction and nonfiction, and even ghostwritten stories. Which of your works was the most difficult to complete, and which has given you the most satisfaction, and why? (And please provide a cover image.)

LU ANN:  The most difficult was WHEN HEARTS CONJOIN, yet it seems like it was also easy. I had heard about the story of the conjoined Herrin twins when it happened, and when I heard their mother, Erin, pitch her book idea at a conference I thought how much I’d like to write that story for her. But she already had a ghostwriter and I was in graduate school, teaching full time both at a public school and as an instructor for Bookwise, plus my husband and I had just adopted three more sons, bringing our total to five.

I put the idea out of my mind, until publisher and New York Times bestselling author Richard Paul Evans came to me, looking for a new ghostwriter for the Herrin story. I met with Erin, reviewed the online resources, and wrote a sample chapter. She loved it; Rick loved it; and I started to write.

Getting the details and chronology right was difficult, and many times I had to force Erin to dig deep into emotions she had tried to forget, but we needed them to be able to tell the actual story. In the midst of this, I took a terrible fall, breaking the radial head on my left elbow, dislocating my right elbow, and twisting my back and knee, yet I typed on, and nine months from the day the process began, Rick hosted a launch party and the book was born. (Now I understand what you mean about it being the most difficult.)


When it comes to the most satisfaction though, I’d have to say LEONA & ME, HELEN MARIE fits that bill. This is the story of my mother—Helen Marie—and her older sister—Leona—as they grew up in Hancock’s Chapel, Indiana, just after the depression of 1920.

My mother was a writer, although she was never published. She kept journals, wrote poetry for family occasions, and sent letters to family members all over the country, even those she hardly knew. She influenced my life as a writer (How could she not?), but also taught me that I needed to find a career that would someday support me; she didn’t think my desire to be a writer ever would.

In one way she was right; I had only published a few magazine articles and written live event scripts before she passed away in 1995. I realized if I was going to be a novelist, then I’d better stop procrastinating and write an entire novel. I’d recently read Gary Paulsen’s Harris and Me, a middle grade novel that used events from Paulsen’s own childhood to build the story.

I knew the stories of my mother’s childhood were just as compelling as any he told, so I began to write. When I got stuck, I turned to my mom’s journals and felt her spirit there, urging me on. Once the book was complete, I didn’t find a publisher for it and I began to doubt my abilities, but I started writing my next book anyway. As it has turned out, going Indie Press with Leona & Me has been the best and most gratifying thing for me. Those cute little girls on the front? My mother, Helen. is the one on the left (I can see the resemblance) and the other girl is my aunt Nonie.

ME:  Please tell us about your latest novel, JUST LIKE ELIZABETH TAYLOR (which I highly recommend, by the way), and the process you followed to write and publish it. Has your writing process changed any over the years?

LU ANN:  JUST LIKE ELIZABETH TAYLOR, a young adult novel from the Small Town U.S.A. series, is historical fiction with the feel of today. Liz faces challenges too horrific to think about, yet learns much about life, and herself, as she struggles to survive.


This novel started with a kernel of an idea, something I’d heard about on the news and it grew from there, sort of from the inside out, you might say. My husband and I had just adopted our first two sons and had been working within the foster care system for some time. I knew how difficult the lives of some of these children could be, but I also knew that adults suffered as much from situations of stress and abuse. I wanted to show that it is possible to survive, and that even wrong choices can still lead you to the path of safety and security.

I write fairly quickly when I make myself just sit and write on a single project, so, like several of my other books, this one was drafted in only a few months time. It won awards, including the Utah Arts Council Award for Juvenile novel, and editors requested a look at the full manuscript, but nothing happened on the New York scene. When self-publishing became a viable option, I decided to go that route for this book as well.

I guess that’s one way my writing process has changed. I now go into projects with much less stress. If a book doesn’t sell to a traditional publisher, I know I always have the option to self-publish, and that self-publishing no longer has the negative stigma it did when I first started writing.

ME:  Since you’re an editor, do you turn to others to edit your work or do you do it yourself? And how long does it generally take you to produce a novel, taking into account the first draft, the critique group, the revisions, the beta readers, the edit, and the final revision? Also, do you run your first draft by your critique group as you’re writing it, or do you wait until the first draft is complete to begin getting their feedback on chapters? (Sorry for loading about fie questions into one.)

LU ANN:  I always turn to members of my critique group before I ever even submit a book to an agent or editor. It’s amazing the little things you miss when editing your own book, but it’s even more amazing the big things you miss!

Authors are too close to their own writing. They think they have taken the picture in their head and put it onto the paper, but sometimes it doesn’t work out so well in the translation to the reader’s head. It is vital that you have a good critique group, beta readers, and others who will give you honest feedback. (Amen!!!)

I drafted 50,000 words of CARNY during NaNoWriMo (National novel Writing Month held each November) in 2011, which will give you a ballpark on how long it takes me to write. I’m still working on the critique and I haven’t started the revisions, but that’s because I researched, wrote, and revised the novel TEMPORARY BRIDESMAID (55,000 words) and the non-fiction history, MEN OF DESTINY: ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND THE PROPHET JOSEPH SMITH (48,300 words) in 2012.

I start taking pages to critique as soon as I need something to take to critique. Sometimes the book is nearly drafted—such as CARNYother times it’s as I’m in the early stages of progress. I have found if I’m not at least 50 pages in though, it becomes too easy to set an unwritten book aside if I haven’t worked out my own ideas as to where it will finish in the end. (Good point.)

ME:  What are you currently working on and how did you get the idea? Also, in this age of digital books, please make the case for keeping an actual personal library. (I understand you have a huge one, so I must have a picture of you in front of it, if possible.)

LU ANN:  As is typical for me, I have many projects underway. I mentioned CARNY, a middle grade novel which started with the true story of my Grandpa Heffner who ran away from an orphanage when he was 12 and joined up with the circus. LIVING IN AN OSMOND WORLD is an extension of a blog series I was running about my experiences with members of the Osmond family, both as a fan and over the years I worked for Alan Osmond Productions. I’m finalizing a companion guide to BOOKS, BOOKS, AND MORE BOOKS: A PARENT AND TEACHER’S GUIDE TO ADOLESCENT LITERATURE, which was my McAuliffe project previously released in eBook. Just today a traditional publisher requested the chance to look at MEN OF DESTINY (How exciting! Congratulations and good luck!), and I’m planning to do one more revision on TEMPORARY BRIDESMAID and send queries to several national publishers for that.

I do think traditional books are important, but I also love eBooks. My Kindle is bursting with books, as are my iPhone, computer, and the Amazon Cloud. As the school librarian, I have physical books around me every day that I can read and recommend, and the women at the city library all know me by name. I have a spare bedroom in my home that is lined with shelves stacked deep. Unfortunately, in my husband’s opinion, so is the floor and the closet in that room, as well as cases of books to be found in the shed. There are bookshelves in both family rooms and the master bedroom as well, so taking a photo of my ‘library’ would be an impossible dream. The horde is just too great, so hopefully my description here will suffice instead. (I understand.)

One of my big projects this summer has been to read some of this collection to donate to the school library for either prizes or to add to the school collection, and to give other books to my friends and family as gifts for their kids. Since the end of May, I’ve read and donated over 40 books toward that goal. (Terrific! I’m sure your local library loves you!)

ME:  Finally, please describe your writing space as it currently is (no tidying up) and provide a picture. (You see, I want to prove to my husband that I’m not the only writer that abides a bit of clutter.)

LU ANN:  No, you’re not the only one to have a cluttered workspace. This is after I did some cleaning up, prior to receiving your email.


(Click on the picture for a slightly bigger view)

Let me give you a tour of the desk—my laptop, two external hard drives, printer, speakers and Ott-Lite are in the center of the desk. To the left a stack of critique revisions on CARNY and an original screenplay, TERROR IN DEAD HORSE CANYON, both waiting to be entered into the computer files.

Scattered all around are bookmarks, previously published books of mine, research books, and scraps of notes and ideas, as well as a book I’m reviewing for a publisher, and my phone—don’t forget my phone! The Lucy dolls are part of my collection, and the VHS videos got moved here sometime last year and haven’t yet found a different place in the house. I won’t even go into the stuff that is piled on top of the file cabinet. HAHA!

(Thanks for the tour. I’ll have to remember to show this to my husband. :D)

We never even got into her screenwriting, but you can learn more about Lu Ann and all her projects on her website, and you can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

And don’t forget to come back next week when I’ll be talking with clean romance author Rebecca Jamison.

Rebecca pink crop 2

Originally posted 2013-08-14 06:00:57.

“Wednesday Writer” – Margot Hovley

It’s hard to catch up with an author on tour, particularly when her writing isn’t the reason she’s on tour. You see, Margot Hovley is currently accompanying her husband on tour with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. As a result, I’ve got her responses, but there aren’t so many pictures. (And I particularly wanted a picture of her with the pigs! Oh, well.)

Margot HovleyME:  Since I live in Washington State, I wondered exactly where in the rural part of this state you were raised, and how that has affected you? (And I’d love a picture of you as a little girl.)

MARGOT:  My parents were some of the last “homesteaders” in central Washington when I was a baby (outside of George), breaking hundreds of acres for the first time, and then we moved just north of Pasco. (YAY! That’s just across the river from me.)

I love and miss my rural roots. Just like everyone says, there’s no better childhood.

Untitled1(She does look happy, doesn’t she?)

ME:  What’s harder–herding pigs or making produce boxes, and how hard is it to put a pig in a box?

MARGOT:  Pigs are hilarious! Our pigs were lemming-like, so if one escaped the pen, they’d all try to follow, braving the electric fences and squealing like mad. Herding them is exactly as weird as it sounds. Box-making: well, it’s tedious when you have to fold them together for hours, so we’d do anything to make it less boring. That meant holding double-elimination tournaments with all my siblings and cousins who worked on our farm. I was pretty much unstoppable. (Margot, the Unstoppable Pig-herding, Box-making Champion!)

(For a picture, try this link. It’s how I imagine Margot was as a pig-herder.)

ME:  How did you come to be a storyteller, and what was your first story about?

MARGOT:  While working on our farm I told stories to myself to pass the time. Most of the stories were about a little slave girl. Now that makes me giggle. I thought I was working so hard, slaving away. When I had the chance I’d write down and illustrate my stories, and always dreamed of seeing my name on a book cover. It was truly a great moment when I saw that dream come true last October.

(I know the feeling!)

ME:  Tell us about your “firstborn” novel, THE SOWER, what made you write it, and your hopes for getting it published along with its sequel, BLOOD OF KINGS.

MARGOT:  I love a good hero story, and I love classic fantasy, so my first writing project follows that idea. I also wanted to see if I could write a story that was inspiring and spiritual without being preachy or religious. It’s harder than it sounds, I discovered. I am still tweaking that project and hope to sell it to the national market. The sequel is a NANOWRIMO project that was absolutely a blast to write. I learned a lot by drafting quickly. I also learned how to completely annoy my family that month.

(Hmm…is that why your husband whisked you away on tour? To get you away from your family?)

ME:  Your first “published” novel, SUDDEN DARKNESS, came out last year, and as I understand it, you’re now finishing the sequel, GLIMMER OF LIGHT. Can you describe the basic story premise for each?

Sudden DarknessMARGOT:  SUDDEN DARKNESS begins in rural Washington (surprise!) when an EMP (That’s short for electromagnetic pulse, in case you’re not up on Newt Gingrich’s latest warnings) attack occurs, taking out the national electrical grid. The entire LDS stake in the area is counseled to travel to Utah for safety. The story is their journey as two thousand modern folks have to walk 700 miles. (Hmm…I’ve gotten to enjoy the 10-hour drive, but walking? Ouch!)

Have you heard that tradition that we will have to walk back to Missouri some day? Have you ever wondered why we would have to walk when we have cars and so on? Have you thought about how difficult that would be for us, when we are so unused to that sort of thing? Here’s one possible scenario why and what it might be like. The sequel takes the characters from Salt Lake to Missouri in another even longer trek. (Intriguing…but double ouch!)

ME:  Tell us about your identity as The Damsel, please. (And please include an image of your alter ego.)

MARGOT:  That’s the name I use on my self-reliance blog: The Damsel in Dis Dress. There I discuss how to do things the old-fashioned way, with a modern twist. I love old things–antiques, handmade items, and so on, and I feel sad that so many of the skills our grandparents knew are being forgotten. And, as the folks in my book discover, it’s possible we will wish we still had those skills someday. 

(Yet another reason to buy your books…that is, if you go into detail in describing those kinds of skills. At least, I hope there’s at least one character in your book who’s got the know-how.)

Untitled2(And there she is…The Damsel, herself)

ME:  I would think that, given your self-reliance blog, Old School, your YA fiction should veer toward dystopian. Does it and, if not, why not?

MARGOT:  SUDDEN DARKNESS is sort of dystopian, since the characters have to deal with a world where technology doesn’t work anymore, and they have to learn to get along without it when they’ve become completely dependent on it. It’s just the sort of scenario the Old School blog might help prepare people for. (Hint, hint. Check out her blog already!)

ME:  Please describe your writing process and the place you do it best in the voice of The Damsel. (And I must have a photo of your writing space.)

MARGOT:  The Damsel writes her blog posts in 3rd person. She knows it’s kind of ridiculous and causes funny passive-voice problems, but she does it nonetheless. As far as a writing space goes, she longs to write on her hammock in the sunshine. Someone please invent a screen she can see in the sun! This would make her life complete. In the meantime she writes wherever: on her bed propped on her Mt. Everest of down pillows (don’t judge!), hunched over the kitchen counter while stirring the soup, or like right now, a bus while traveling with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. (The Damsel’s husband is a 2nd bass.)

IMAG0416(Her laptop on the bus–a MacBook Air, which she loves! I love mine too. :D)

ME:  Exactly what “techy gadgets” do you fool around with, and have some form of them made their way into any of your fiction?

MARGOT:  I love computers and adore my MacBook Air way more than is appropriate. I can’t go anywhere without my cell, either. New technology fascinates me. I suppose this love has found its way into my fiction in SUDDEN DARKNESS, as I imagine a world where the characters suddenly have to do without those things.

ME:  Finally, when will you know you’ve arrived as a writer?

MARGOT:  I feel like a poser when I call myself a “writer” or an “author,” but I’m working on my attitude. If the criteria is the sheer amount of time spent writing or thinking about writing, then I’m so there.

(I like that criteria; that works for me.)

Once more, if you haven’t yet checked out her self-reliance blog, here’s the link. And you can find out more about Margot and her thoughts about writing at Inklings.

Next week, I’ll be interviewing nationally published author and Edgar Award Finalist Dene Low.


Originally posted 2013-06-19 17:59:14.

“Wednesday Writer” – C. Michelle Jefferies

C Michelle Jefferies author pic2A mother of seven, C. Michelle Jefferies’ first novel, EMERGENCE, about a hitman with a conscience, debuted last year on Halloween. (More about that later.) You’d think she’d take some time off for the holidays, but no, she also had a short story featured in the Christmas anthology, SING WE NOW AT CHRISTMAS, compiled by Michael Young.

Christmas book

And she has a new book coming out in the spring! When does this lady ever rest? Let’s find out what keeps her ticking.

ME:  Okay, first of all, what does the C. stand for and why use it as an initial? Is there another famous author named Michelle Jefferies, or do you aspire to be a General Authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

MICHELLE:  No, definitely not a General Authority. (Laughs) The C stands for Christy; Michelle is my middle name. Not that I don’t like the name, but I have gone by Michelle most of my life. If you google just Michelle Jefferies, there are lots of semi-famous Michelle’s. So, in the interest of making myself a little different and more easily found, I added the C. Definitely not mysterious or secretive.

(Hmmm . . . I found 42 in the U.K. with your name, no one famous or semi-famous. But if you switch the spelling of your last name to Jeffries, we get a lot of professional doctor, scientist types. I still think you’re angling for GA status. We’d better keep an eye on you.)

ME:  Where were you born and raised, and how does it differ from where you live now?

MICHELLE:  I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. I grew up in the Salt Lake Valley and lived there until I went to Utah State University in Logan. It is a complete 180 degree turn from my life now. Salt Lake is a big, bustling city. Places to shop and things to do, being able to go to the thrift stores and grocery shopping within minutes.

Emery County, where I live now, is a tiny little rural village in comparison. There are less than 2,000 people in the city and it is only two miles across at any given point. There are no stoplights in the county and you can smell and hear cows in the evening. You see tractors drive down the road and cowboys in chaps and spurs in the one and only grocery store. It’s quite the difference for me. My kids love it. I’m okay with it.

(Sounds like a perfect place for a GA to be from. Think of all the anecdotes you can share from the podium.)

ME:  On a more serious note, I understand you suffered from severe asthma and allergies when you were young. How did that help or hinder your creative nature? And have you thought about giving any of your protagonists such disabilities? If not, why not? (Also, I’d love a picture of you as a child.)

MICHELLE:  I did. Thanks to modern medicine and strict avoidance of my worst allergies, I am healthier now than when I was young. I still played sports like baseball, but things where I had to run a lot like track and basketball were not for me. I think in a lot of ways it helped my creative side because I would sit on the sidelines of sports I couldn’t participate in and my imagination kicked in and created scenes for me to play in my head.

I don’t think I’d give any of my main characters asthma or allergies. In some ways they’ve made me so miserable or sick I’d hate to see anyone, even someone imaginary, with such a horrible disease. I do give disabilities to some characters. Just not those ones. 

Michelle as young girl(Michelle outside on the grass as a young girl. Is that an inhaler in her hand?)

ME:  How old were you when you wrote your first story, and do you still have it? Also, can you give us the gist of it?

MICHELLE:  The first story I wrote (that I remember in enough detail to tell you about it) was about a young lady who was captured by aliens and rescued by a “super hero type team.” I was twelve or thirteen and it was for a creative writing assignment in middle school. I got an A and the teacher complimented me on my descriptive detail. I think I still have it. I have most of my old high school writing stuff, too. I’d created stories in my head before then but it was one of the first ones I wrote about. I had found a Japanese anime called “Battle of the Planets” and fell in love with the “super team” idea. A lot of my earlier stories were in that style. Still like it, actually.

ME:  Tell us about each and every one of your seven children, particularly “destructo boy”, and have you already used any of their personality traits, or those of your husband, to help flesh out characters in your books? (I must have a picture of the whole family, if that’s all right with you.)

MICHELLE:  Okay, ready for the long list? (Yep. But first, I’ll post the picture of you with six of your kids. Guess who’s missing?)

Michelle and family

I have a 20-year-old son who is married and living in Utah County. He was my rebellious child and couldn’t wait to move away. They are happy and that is what I want for my kids.

My only daughter is almost 19, and is working on turning her mission papers in. (Yay! Good for her!) She is a sophomore at Southern Utah University and is loving college life. She is a lot like me. She loves to write and is an award-winning short story writer, and loves to bake chocolate chip cookies. (Nothing goes better with writing than chocolate . . . except when you’re trying to lose weight, of course, which I am . . . so, please, no more mentions of sweets, okay?) She is studying criminal justice and wants to be a profiler for the FBI.

(I think we can figure out what she’ll end up writing.)

My 15-year-old is a lot like his father. They love to go hunting and fishing and all sorts of outdoors things. He is studying mechanics and machining and wants to be a helicopter pilot. He is taking flying lessons from his father and wants a good summer job so he can get his airplane pilot license. (Take note, readers. Job wanted!)

My 11-year-old is a smart cookie. (No more sweets, please!) He gets all A’s and loves to play the clarinet. He is the true middle kid and likes to tease and incite all sorts of trouble with the older and younger kids.

My 9-year-old is dyslexic and, we think, high functioning autistic, although that one hasn’t been diagnosed. He struggles in school but loves life in spite of his disabilities. He’s just learning how to read with comprehension and decided that he wanted to read Goosebumps. Mom obliged, but doesn’t like the gross covers. (I’m with you there.) He loves to talk and we have to remind him to use his in-the-house voice. (Is that a nice way of saying he can get a little loud at times?)

My 6-year-old is quite the character. He is really smart. He was my earliest reader and never had a speech delay like the other boys did. He is only half-way through first grade and is reading chapter books. (Sounds like my Jason.) He is extremely sensitive, both in emotion and pain reception. He is often the one who is screaming if there’s a tussle or teasing going on. He used to conjugate verbs for fun when he was three. (Wow! I’m impressed.)

Then there’s my 2-year-old, or “destructo boy,” as we call him. He is constantly moving and getting into things unless he’s passed out. He has broken too many things to list, including his arm. He is a daredevil and doesn’t feel cold or heat. He likes the sensation of falling and has no fear. He is fiercely emotional and he loves everyone of his siblings intensely. He cries when the older ones go to school. While we call him destructo boy, he is the glue that holds my family together. Everyone loves him. Everyone seeks him out for hugs and affection. He calms the siblings down with his presence.

Baby(The adorable, ever-moving, yet calming “Destructo Boy”)

I use a lot of events and personality traits from my family in my books. I have millions of things going on in my house every day and I’d be a fool not to use my life as an idea generator. For example, when DB (Note: That’s Destructo Boy, not Deseret Book) broke his arm, I used the scene and experiences for my book, CATALYST. I have also named characters in my stories for every one of my kid’s names. That was a lot of fun to do. It makes my kids feel important, especially when doing things like edits sometimes take a lot of my time.

Because I am writing about an adult character, I use a lot of things that have happened to my husband as scenes in my books. We were at an airport one morning when we were moving my hubby’s plane. A falcon chased a pigeon past our plane and right into the propeller. It decapitated the falcon. (Gross!) Sounded like a gunshot. I watched every horrifying moment of it. It is definitely going to be a scene in some book. There’s a scene in the next book, LATENT, that is step for step an exact replay of an experience my hubby had at work. The funny thing is no one believes me that it was real. It is just too good to be real.

Michelle and husband(Michelle with her aviator husband)

ME:  You’ve said that you don’t interpret emotions or deal with them well. How has that affected your writing?

MICHELLE:  I don’t understand emotions or interpret them well. Sarcasm is lost on me. I don’t get “subtle hints” or some body language. If you do something and I am either still talking or staring at you, chances are I didn’t get it. (You do realize I’m going to test this out if I run into you at this year’s Storymakers Conference, don’t you?) It can make writing a character with emotional responses (which is most characters) really hard. Unless you’re my assassin. I have him pegged with this imaginary box that he stuffs everything in that he doesn’t want to deal with.

I actually do an “emotion” edit round on the whole manuscript when I am polishing it. It is the longest and hardest edit round I do. I have an awesome critique group that understands my issue, and they always comment on the lack of emotion and where it needs to go. (Sounds like Ann in my group. :D) I love them, they help me out a lot.

(Yes, critique groups are the cherry in a writer’s life . . . oops, I broke my own food rule. It must be about time for lunch.)

EmergenceCoverME:  Tell us about your Prophecy Rising series and how the first book, EMERGENCE, fits into it. And what are you working on now?

MICHELLE:  The Prophecy Rising series starts with a man who believes in nothing and no one except himself. He experiences life-changing events and makes a transformation, or my preferred word–metamorphosis–from bad boy to good guy. In the beginning, he has no idea who he is. He was left on the steps of a church as a newborn and has no living family or ideal to follow. The main character, Antony, in EMERGENCE is literally a wandering assassin like the old Ronins of feudal Japan. Trying to find his way.

The next books are of him finding himself and discovering that he has a lot more to himself than what he was as the assassin. He faces trials and many people who threaten his new life and loves, and he has to learn how to mesh the old assassin skills with a compassionate heart to save himself and his family.

EMERGENCE is an “accidental” book in the Prophecy Rising series. I wrote a book and every rejection or critique asked me the same questions. “Why is the main character the way he is?” After a few months of getting this question, I decided to go back in time and write the book that makes him who he is. I went to my plotting partner and we started to work out what I needed in order to write EMERGENCE. I was sick to my stomach for weeks. I didn’t want to give up the old story. I’d worked so hard on it. After weeks of worrying about the change, I accepted it and started to write EMERGENCE. It took me four months to write and another year to revise and edit it.

I just turned in the second book (working title, LATENT) to my publisher. The third book (working title, CATALYST) I wrote for Camp NANO in June. It has sat on the back burner for a few months and is next in line for revisions and editing. The fourth book (working title, PROPHECY RISING) is being plotted out in my head as we speak. It will be the next one written.

I am working on a Christmas short story right now about Antony for this year’s Christmas Advent Anthology by Michael Young. (A second edition, as it were of SING WE NOW OF CHRISTMAS.) I wrote a YA scifi/steampunk manuscript this November for NANO and it is now in the “back burner” position.

(All of this and seven kids, too? I am ashamed.)

ME:  Let’s pretend your main character, the assassin known as Antony, has to sneak into your house to find your office or writing space. Please describe in his voice how he would get in and what he would find. (I’d also really appreciate a picture of the setting.)


Antony could see the blue glow of the computer screen though the window to the left of the front door.  What on Earth was his author doing at three in the morning still awake and how was he going to get into her files if she was? Once he had the computer in hand he was fine, he knew her well enough to know her passwords.

The rest of the house was dark, and the front door locked. He could hear the dog’s low growl in the back yard. There was no way he was going to get into the house in the back.  There was one option, the living room window was open a crack. He worried what her husband would do if he found him in the house.  It didn’t matter much, he HAD to know how the next book ended.

The screen came out easily. He was sure that the kids leaning into the mesh had bent the frame enough that just pulling on the edges released it. He used the shovel he found leaning against the side of the house to leverage the window open, and slipped in. He made his way across the living room, stumbling or tripping a few times on toys on the floor. Trying to be silent, he kept his eyes on the hallway where his author’s husband should be sleeping as he pushed the office door open with his elbow. His mind ever aware of leaving fingerprints.

The room was empty, no Michelle, the computer screen glowing on the small green wood desk right under the window. To the left of the desk the printer sat on a metal cabinet covered in post it notes. A koala bear and kangaroo key chains hung from a metal paper holder. Farther to the left sat a filing cabinet and a book shelf. He could see the book EMERGENCE on the shelf and resisted the urge to pick it up and flip through the pages. He’d lived that story and he wanted to see what laid in store for him now.

To the desk’s right he observed a white cabinet that had a sculpture of him, which was pretty good if he said so, a triangle hat like the old man in Kyoto wore and other Asian objects including a Japanese tea set. Inside the cabinet as he opened the door that squeaked a little was three shelves of teapots cups and saucers.

“Drink a lot of herbal tea or is it just an obsession?” he asked as he made it past her craft table with her sewing machines on the top and supplies underneath and sat at the desk. He typed in her password and clicked on the file labeled LATENT.

(Brava! And here’s the picture):

Michelle's Office(Click for a larger view . . . notice the toys?)

ME:  Finally, I know you practically grew up in a library, thanks to your mom. How is the library in your town and do you think we’ll still have libraries twenty years from now? If so, what will they be like?

MICHELLE:  We’re really lucky and have an amazing library system here in Emery county. I know the librarians really well. They have a great selection of books and lots of events for the kids in the area.

I think there will still be libraries. I think while the electronic book won’t get rid of paper books, it will be dominant in the future. I imagine we’ll be able to go to the library and borrow a book and then, when it is due, it’s erased off your electronic device. I do not see e-devices replacing books for little kids. I’d never let destructo boy have an iPad. He’d kill it in three seconds. Little kids need to manipulate the pages and touch the pictures. I believe it is part of necessary development and a base in learning to love reading.

There’s something about turning pages and holding a book and smelling that new book smell. I just don’t see that being replaced.

(What about you, readers? Where do you see libraries and books in 20 years?)

If you’d like to learn more about Michelle and her writing, be sure and check out her website.

Stay tuned next week for an interview with Craig Everett, author of TOBY GOLD AND THE SECRET FORTUNE.

Craig Everett

Originally posted 2013-01-09 06:00:39.