Today’s the day to buy “Variant” by Rob Wells

Luisa Perkins is running a terrific one-day contest in support of an LDS author who has done wonderful things for the LDS writing community (think the Whitneys). Click here to enter the contest, but even if you decide not to, click there anyway for a fast link to buy the highly acclaimed new YA dystopian novel by Rob Wells. Then think about buying a few more copies as Christmas gifts for your favorite young (or old) readers.

Originally posted 2011-11-10 10:08:10.

Setting the Scene

I’ve begun drafting my Beirut story and it’s certainly pulling up a lot of memories. Here are some visual clues to the neighborhood in Ras, Beirut where I’m setting my novel. (I think I’m going to have to create a link in my menu for Beirut Photos.)

While the family in my story is fictional, the street they live on–Rue Manara–certainly isn’t. Those of you who know French may have deciphered the first word (rue means “street” in French…Lebanon was a French protectorate from 1920 until sometime in the 1950’s). The second word, manara is Arabic for “lighthouse.”

About a hundred years ago, this is what the same area looked like from a different angle (thanks to a website titled Al-Mashriq run by a fellow ACS graduate) You’ll notice the Pink House existed that long ago, as well:

If you go to Beirut today, you won’t find the black and white striped lighthouse in operation any longer. Indeed, it was supposed to be torn down to make room for the city’s reconstruction program, so it may not even be there. It’s sad, really, for the same family had operated that lighthouse since it was first built back in 1850.

As for the pink house, I’ve been trying to pin down its origin. Even while we were living there in an apartment overlooking it, we heard all kinds of rumors (some not so savory) about what went on within its walls. I can’t believe it’s still standing. It certainly needs a paint job. Before the civil war, its walls were a much deeper and freshly painted pink.

This is what it looks like more recently:

Originally posted 2011-06-02 17:32:48.

I Am Alive

I realize the above title would not seem to be true, based on my lack of recent activity here on my website. But I have been really busy focusing on another website–that of LDStorymakers–for which I am now responsible. As the new Communications Director on the board for that group, I’m in charge of our online presence among other things.

No, don’t go there now and check it out because I’ve been doing all of my planning for updating the site offline. You won’t find any changes there yet. But stay tuned…

Originally posted 2010-09-25 14:20:21.

Distractions

I had planned to post about socialoomph today, but I’m having major problems with one of my email accounts that I need to get resolved. Also, I can’t sign into LinkedIn any more. Could the two problems be related? I don’t know yet, but it’s thrown a wrench into my writing plans for today.

That’s why it’s always a good idea to have a backup schedule–activities you can fall back on while you’re waiting for the experts to help you out of your fix.

I think this would be a good time to read. Just take myself away from this computer and open a book.

Oh, wait. All the books I’m scheduled to read are on my computer…or iPhone. At times like these, I’d love to time travel back to the 70’s before all this stuff became such a distraction.

Originally posted 2010-05-19 12:55:11.

“Wednesday Writer” – Karen Hoover

Karen Hoover is a fighter. Life keeps throwing things at her, whether it’s health issues or loss or family issues, and she doesn’t blink.

(Except perhaps when she went in for an emergency appendectomy back in May . . . she woke up three days later to discover the doctors had rearranged her insides to help her beat off cancer yet again. Even that wasn’t a real blink, however, because she was unconscious the whole time.)

Anyway, when a problem arises, she just deals with it, and no matter what, continues to write and create. Let’s find out what gave her that kind of character and determination.

photoME:  I’ll begin with a series of questions. First, what was the first book ever read to you and by whom?

KAREN:  I’m not sure which book came first–“Are You My Mother” by P.D. Eastman or “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss (Yes! Finally I get a Dr. Seuss aficionado.), but they were both a very memorable part of my childhood.

AreYouMyMother1My father read to me every night after work and though he thought Green Eggs and Ham was disgusting, he read it to me anyway. I had no idea how much he disliked the book until I was told as an adult. (Now that’s parental love and sacrifice.)

600full-green-eggs-and-ham-coverME:  Second, what was the first book you remember reading by yourself?

KAREN:  I got two books about the same time and, again, I’m not sure which came first, though I literally read them to pieces. They were Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban (Ah, yes, a classic!) and B-9 The Hungry Metal Eater by Ester Hauser Lawrence. (Intriguing pick.)

bread and jam for francesB-9 the hungry metal eater(A picture of her worn copy)

ME:  And third, what was the latest book you’ve read, so we can get an idea of how your tastes may or may not have changed? :D

KAREN:  Currently, I am reading the serial, The Debt Collector by Susan Kaye Quinn. I’m on episode 6 and loving it. Fascinating premise.

(Hmm . . . B 9, Episode 6 . . . are you catching the common thread here?)

ME:  And what has your progression as a reader taught you about yourself?

KAREN:  I am inquisitive. I love a good mystery that makes my mind work to solve it. I love the twists of the imagination that can take me anywhere, yet keep me grounded with enough truth to make the story believable. I’d rather read than watch TV. I don’t like to be bored and I don’t like boring details. And last of all, everything, whether in life or in books, has to have a point. Also, I don’t believe in absolutes. There is always a choice.

ME:  Most of us learn to read in the laps of our mothers, but in your case, it was your father who encouraged you to read. Tell me about your relationship with him.

Daddy kisses(Karen with her doting father)

KAREN:  My father was 18 years older than my mother, and when they decided to wed he told her, “Sweetheart, between the two of us we have fifty years of bad marriages. We’ve done all the don’ts. Let’s just do all the do’s.” (What a wise man.)

That is the kind of life he lived. He spent every evening reading to me once he came home from work. When my mother told him to rest and put his feet up because he’d been working all day, he told her she’d been working all day too, and when she sat down to rest, so would he. (Wow! A man ahead of his time.)

Between his two marriages, I was the only girl, so I will admit to being a bit spoiled by him. I remember the rumble of his chest as I sat on his lap and leaned against him as he read. His voice resonated through my entire body. It was incredibly soothing.

(This is the real reason I do these kinds of interviews . . . for bits like this. Can’t you just picture it?)

ME:  How do you think the loss of your father from a sudden heart attack when you were only four affected you later as a writer?

KAREN:  It has definitely made me more empathetic and thoughtful as a person, and I think that leaks into my writing. It is easier to put yourself in someone else’s shoes when you’ve had to deal with that kind of continual pain.

No father meant no Daddy/Daughter dates. It meant I had to pick a stand-in father for things like my baptism and confirmation. It has meant learning how to parent with a husband when I never had that example. It has forced me to look outside the box for answers to things, whether it be simplifying a method of moving (a zip line/pulley system for moving from a third floor apartment), or being flexible with raising children when my way is different than my husband’s.

For writing, being able to step into someone else’s shoes has made me a good character writer, because I can empathize and understand my characters as if they were real people.

ME:  I had no idea you spent the rest of your childhood in Kennewick, Washington–a stone’s throw away from where I now live. Tell me what Kennewick, now kind of the retail center of the TriCities, was like back in the 70s.

KAREN:  I loved living in the TriCities!

My grandparents moved there in the 1940s, and my grandfather alternated between farming his 100 acres and working security for Hanford when they were building one of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan. He had no idea what he guarded until after the fact.

350px-Hanford_N_Reactor_adjusted(Hanford Nuclear Site in 1960)

He turned to full time farming after that and raised sheep and alfalfa. There were no fancy sprinklers back then. He had to go out and change pipes twice a day. My brother and I tried to help, but at 4-8 years old, neither of us was really much help.

Kennewick was mostly agricultural, and my family, being poor, would go out and glean the crops after the pickers had been through. We got apples, peaches, asparagus, and more, and it didn’t cost us a thing. It was a blessing at a time when it was much needed–and fun, too. My brother, Sean, and I always managed to find something fun to do when we were supposed to be working. Collecting tadpoles in the canal near the asparagus was always a favorite.

ME:  You say that you and your brother spent hours playing make-believe or “space,” as you called it. Were you influenced by Star Wars back then, and how has that affected your writing now?

KAREN:  We were definitely influenced by Star Wars, as well as Battlestar Galactica, and The Black Hole. We didn’t get to go to the movies often, but when we did we absorbed it. Most of that came once we got to Oklahoma, but it began in those early years in Kennewick.

Sean, Mom, Karen 1983 or 1984(Karen with Sean and her mother in Oklahoma)

ME:  Please share the struggles you had with reading in First Grade and how your mother helped you overcome them.

KAREN:  You would think that after all the hours my daddy spent reading with me I’d have been dying to finish learning and do it myself, but after losing him, I lost all interest in the written word. It hurt too much to read. It reminded me of him, and when you’re so young (4-6), it is hard to understand why it hurts.

When I started first grade I pretty much refused to do anything to further my english education, and so my teacher put me in the lowest reading group, where I stayed for several months. One day, after seeing my report card, my mom sat down with me and talked about reading and how disappointed my father would have been to see that report card. Talk about a knife to the heart! As I cried, she reminded me how much he loved books, and that if I could learn to love books too, it would be a way of remembering and honoring him, and that even though he was gone, through the books he would be with me.

Right then I changed my attitude and spent the weekend working on my reading. I believe that was the weekend she bought Bread and Jam for Frances and B-9 the Hungry Metal Eater. I read and I read and I read. I read out loud. I read to my brother. I read silently when Sean got bored, and within a month I had gone from the lowest reading group to the highest. The teacher had never seen anyone improve so fast.

(And I’ll bet your dad was bursting with pride too.)

CCF01182012_00000(Karen in Second Grade . . . See how happy she was once she started reading again.)

ME:  How did the move to Oklahoma when you were eight impact your preparation to write the kinds of stories you create today?

KAREN:  Moving to Oklahoma was awesome! We spent a year in a trailer while our house was built, but once it was finished, we moved onto another farm. Forty-five acres this time, but my grandparents joined us and built their own home, and both of my older sisters lived on the acreage at one point or another as well. Even one of my older brothers lived with us.

It was heaven for a kid like me. I think that was where my imagination really took off. We lived several miles from any friends so Sean and I had no choice but to play with one another. We built rafts and forts, we learned how to use a jigsaw and made crossbows and swords and shields. Anything to make our imaginary life seem more real. I hated leaving there. To this day, Oklahoma is still the home of my heart.

ME:  Was it a difficult adjustment to then relocate to Utah at age 14?

KAREN:  I thought I would love moving to Utah, but it was a real challenge. I came from the country, carrying an accent and odd words, and nobody understood who I was. Even the kids who belonged to my church mocked me. I remember coming home from school one day in tears and asking my mom, “Why don’t they like me? If we belong to the same church, shouldn’t they accept me here?”

(Exactly. Of course, this kind of thing can happen other places, too. It’s a shame wherever it happens.)

In Oklahoma I had friends from all religions—Catholic, Baptist, Born again, Jehovah’s Witness, and more. None of them cared what church I went to, and it didn’t matter to me either, and yet in Utah, where I was supposed to be accepted, I was scorned. The lesson that taught me was to keep to myself. Put a smile on my face and put on my armor because I wasn’t going to let them beat me down. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I’ve done my best.

ME:  Tell us about the first book you ever wrote, and then please share the details of how you came to create and publish your first book, THE SAPPHIRE FLUTE.

The Sapphire Flute KAREN:  Actually, my first book was THE SAPPHIRE FLUTE! I got the spark of an idea when I was 22 and played with it for almost twelve years before I discovered writing conferences. I rewrote the book from start to finish at least ten times.

One of the conferences I attend regularly, The LDStorymakers Writing Conference, has a first chapter contest. The first year they began the contest I entered THE SAPPHIRE FLUTE and two other stories. THE SAPPHIRE FLUTE took first place in the fantasy category and another of my stories took second.

I continued to place for the next two years—first place in 2008 and grand prize overall in 2009. (Impressive!) During the conference I spoke with a writer who was beginning her own publishing company and she said that if my book wasn’t snagged by someone else, she wanted to publish it. I decided to go with her company and Book 1 of The Wolfchild Saga, THE SAPPHIRE FLUTE, was released to the world in March 2010.

ME:  What else have you written since then, and what are you currently working on?

The Armor of LightKAREN:  I released book 2 of The Wolfchild Saga: The Armor of Light, and the first book in a new series, The Misadventures of a Teenage Wizard: Two Souls are Better Than One, as well as a short book of poems titled And the Mountain Burns.  I am nearly finished with book 3 of The Wolfchild Saga: The Emerald Wolf, with plans to release it in late summer or early fall of 2013.

Two Souls Are Better Than OneAnd the Mountain BurnsKaren book 4 smaller

After that I’ve got three projects in the works: Book 4 of The Wolfchild Saga: The Amethyst Eye, Book 2 of The Misadventures of a Teenage Wizard: Attack of the Zombie Roadkill, and a Serial titled The Garoux and Faye Detective Agency. As to which one will come first, I have no idea. (Sounds like you’re set for a couple of years at least.)

ME:  Finally, what is your writing process like, and please describe your writing space in the voice of your Teenage Wizard, Jeremy James Johansen. (I must have a picture of your office area, too.)

KAREN:  My writing process is sporadic at best. I am trying to become more consistent in writing every day, but most of the time I will go months and months with no writing, then write a whole book in two weeks. I do a lot of pre-writing though, so that might account for it.

I find pictures of all my characters, do character sheets so I know their characteristics and quirks, learn their history, their goals, motivations, and conflicts and more. It’s a rather extensive process, but it makes it so that I can write those books in a very short period of time.

As for JJ describing my office, well, here you go!

*tap, tap, tap* Is this thing on? Whoa! That’s loud! Can we turn it down a bit? Yo, thanks, dude! *clearing throat* I don’t know why my maker wants me to describe her office. I mean, it’s not like she can’t do it herself or anything. Lazy, I guess, but hey, who am I to talk? So, the office. Yeah. She moves around a lot. You’d think she had ADD or something. She just can’t seem to settle. Right now her office is in the basement right at the bottom of the stairs. It’s dark. She hardly ever turns on any lights. My mom says that will totally ruin your eyes, but the woman does it anyway. She’s got a couple of bookcases with shelves falling down, a fridge throwing up hot air to her left, and a fan trying to counteract the heat on the right. It’s kind of messy, though not as bad as my room, and she keeps a couple of rat dogs in the bathroom. I mean, who keeps their dogs in the bathroom? That’s just weird. Her other rooms were more colorful, but this one works better, so I can’t say much. Sure hope she gets to work on my next story soon though. I really want to see what zombie roadkill has to do with a portal to another world. I mean, I’ve got enough trouble, right? Sigh Oh well. I guess that’s it. 

(That was great! Here’s a look at her office.)

2013-07-22 15.52.19For more about Karen, her writing, book trailers, and all her projects, check out her website.

And next week, I’ll be talking with clean romantic suspense author, Cami Checketts.

cami_checketts_photo

Originally posted 2013-07-24 13:28:18.

“Thriller Thursdays” – French Suspense with Anne Trager

I know I took several weeks off of my regular Thursday column, due to the publication of my book, but I’m back now, focusing again on thrillers and suspense. Before I continue with my reviews of popular thrillers (yes, I finished IN COLD BLOOD and THE DA VINCI CODE . . . reviews forthcoming), I want to expand my scope a bit.

Here in the United States, we tend to forget that other countries have their own bodies of literature. In fact, some of the greatest literature in the world has been produced beyond our borders. With that in mind, let me introduce someone who was determined to bring some of France’s current suspense writers to those whose native tongue is English.

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Anne Trager founded Le French Book to bring France’s best crime fiction, thrillers, novels, short stories, and non-fiction to new readers across the English-speaking world. The company’s motto is: “If we love it, we’ll translate it.”

I’ll be interviewing her here today and then, over the next few weeks, featuring some of her French authors as part of my “Wednesday Writer” series. I hope you’re as excited as I am to hear French writers talk about their processes and approach to their art.

ME:  I understand your goal with Le French Book is to bring English-speaking readers French books that they will love in English, but what made you decide to begin with crime fiction? Is that a genre you personally love, and, if so, why?

ANNE:  I love crime fiction, and to be honest, it is just about the only genre I read for my own pleasure. I love the pace, the suspense, when it grabs me by the throat and makes my heart beat faster. Give me a mystery or a thriller and I’m happy, so yes, that is why we decided to begin with crime fiction. Our motto is “If we love it, we’ll translate it.”

But there are other reasons. One is that very little commercial fiction from France is ever translated into English, and that is a shame because there are a lot of really good reads out there I believe readers will enjoy discovering. And finally, our model is to publish e-books first, and well, crime fiction is a very popular e-book model.

ME:  How do you choose your books, and why did you begin with these three–THE PARIS LAWYER, TREACHERY IN BORDEAUX, and THE 7TH WOMAN–in particular?

ANNE:  First of all, we do a lot of reading and take a lot of recommendations from readers we know. I also attend book fairs, meet authors and discuss with agents and French publishers about their current lists. We choose books we think will appeal to an American audience because of their pace and story.

As it turns out, the first books we chose were also very successful in France. My associate, Fabrice Neuman, was the first to point out THE PARIS LAWYER. We both liked the story structure and the writing. The first page just sucks you into both the main character’s past and present.

TheParisLawyer_cover_F-2-225x300

We chose TREACHERY IN BORDEAUX because the whole story and setting revolve around wine (I love wine) and the main character is a food and wine lover in a very French way. It embodies something very culturally specific but also universal that goes well with our brand Le French Book. Also, it is the first in a long series that is a hit on French television, so there will be more books to come.

Treachery-in-Bordeaux_cover_F_1-225x300

And finally, I chose THE 7TH WOMAN because I couldn’t put it down when I started reading it. It gives you a real edge-of-your-seat rush.

images(I’ve bought all three, but I’m reading this one first!)

ME:  You’ve said that your “goal as a translator is to make sure the read in English gives the same shivers of expectation, longing to read more and pangs of emotions.” How long does it normally take you to translate a novel and how often does it require research? Also, do you get a second opinion on whether you’ve succeeded with the translation or not before publishing?

ANNE:  Every novel is different, so it could take a month or two or three or more depending on how easy it is for me to pick up the author’s style and how much research is involved. I like to meet the authors, as well, when that is possible, since the translation is something like getting in their heads and I like to discuss with them if and when we need to make cultural adaptations.

The books usually require research. For TREACHERY IN BORDEAUX, for example, I spent a lot of time reading about winemaking, to get all the vocabulary right, and the city of Bordeaux, for the sense of place, which is one of the novel’s strong points. For THE 7TH WOMAN, I spent time talking with gendarme friends to make sure I understood French police procedure well enough to give an accurate equivalent, and roaming the streets of Paris for atmosphere. And for THE PARIS LAWYER, I talked to lawyers and became rather expert in French legal procedure.

Once completed, all the translations get a second opinion from someone who has read the original in French, and they are all edited by a professional English-language editor to make sure it’s a smooth read. Then they go to beta readers.

(I wouldn’t mind being one of those.)

ME:  When did you first fall in love with France, why, and how long have you been living there now? (Please provide some pictures.)

ANNE:  I first fell in love with France when I was a teenager and was reading Gourmet magazine. To be honest, I was attracted by the good food, which I later found is more than just food, it’s a way of life. I then studied French and went to France as soon as I could. That was in 1985. I never left.

IMG_0858IMG_0901ImageImage 5Image 7

(These pictures bring back memories of my own visit to Paris while on study abroad.)

ME:  Where were you born and raised, and what, if anything, in your childhood or adolescence pointed you toward languages, writing, and publishing?

ANNE:  Both of my parents were linguists (Aha!) and everyone in the family has a thing for language and culture, so learning another language was just natural for me. Then, once I was in France, translation was an obvious step because of my grasp of the language. From there, in order to be a good translator, you need to hone writing skills, and . . . well, that led ultimately to editing a publishing, as well.

ME:  Now I know you plan to publish more than crime fiction. In fact, you are putting out a collection of 52 SERIAL SHORTS. Why don’t you tell us about it?

ANNE:  This is a collection of short stories that don’t quite fit into any one genre. Seven of France’s top writers (the crème de la crème) got together to play a collaborative writing game first developed by the French Surrealists in the 1920s. The idea is that one writer starts a story and then hands it off to the next, who continues it, and so on until all seven writers have contributed to the one story.

The resulting stories are really fun to read, as you follow the authors setting traps for each other and having fun resolving them. They are a real study in creative talent. The stories were published in France in the form of a daily calendar. As we translate the whole collection, Le French Book is giving them away free. Readers can choose to receive a daily installment or a weekly story.

(How fun! I may just have to get together with a group of my writer friends and give this a go.)

ME:  What other genres do you foresee publishing going forward?

ANNE:  We will continue with the crime fiction and we have two spy thrillers in the works right now, along with a health and well-being book.

ME:  How would you compare the role of a translator of fiction with that of an author? Aren’t you, in a sense, also a writer with a writer’s sensibilities?

ANNE:  A translator is a kind of impersonator, who is also a writer with writer’s sensibilities. As anyone who has used an automatic online translation program knows, word for word translations are clunky at best, and well, just plain nonsense a lot of the time. Translating fiction requires understanding the author’s language, intention, plot, story structure, literary techniques, idioms, subtleties, and all the rest, and then writing a linguistic and cultural equivalent for this whole that, as you quote above, recreates for the reader the same or similar emotion and thrill that happens reading the original. You can only do this with a certain ability to write in your mother tongue.

ME:  I would love it if you would describe your own writer’s (or translator’s) space. (And please provide a picture)

ANNE:  My desk sits right smack in the middle of my office. Seven open-backed dark wooden bookshelves going halfway up the wall line the room, the rest of the wall space being reserved to large pictures I never seem to have had time to print and frame. So, when I sit at my desk, beyond my big screen I see that empty wall space in front of me, and to the right is a large picture window that looks out at my own terrace, which becomes my second office in summer.

I see a large evergreen, a walnut tree and a wisteria that is incredibly invasive come the warm weather. Behind me hang drawings done by my daughter, and a large white board I got to help me get organized and that does not actually serve much purpose. The floor space, however, does, and is duly piled up with papers, books, and other miscellanea.

IMG_0369(We didn’t get an interior shot, but she provided this picture of Pibrac, France where she lives . . . this appears to be a church, but if this is her actual home, I’m officially jealous.)

ME:  Finally, what are you currently translating and when can we expect to see it published in English?

ANNE:  I’m finishing up the 52 SERIAL SHORTS. I am also working with our editor on the adaptation of DARING TO DESIRE, which is the health and wellness book I mentioned earlier, and we are proofreading a new thriller translated by another translator, which we will be announcing soon. In addition, I have started translating the sequel to THE 7TH WOMAN. We are looking to bring some of these new books out as early as spring.

(Good! That gives me a few months to get THE 7TH WOMAN read, not to mention the others.)

Again, you can find out a lot more about Le French Book by checking out their website. And next Wednesday, I’ll be interviewing Sylvie Granotier, screenwriter, actor, and author of THE PARIS LAWYER.

SylvieGranotier3-225x300

 

Originally posted 2013-01-17 06:00:00.

“Wednesday Writer” – GG Vandagriff

GG has long fascinated me. First, there are those initials (which, believe it or not, I forgot to ask about). She writes a range of fiction–from romance to historical (and sometimes both)–but she always chooses an interesting, evocative setting. And, more likely than not, it’s a place she’s visited and spent time getting to know well. Let’s get on with the interview, and be sure to read through to the end because GG’s offering to give away one of her books in either Kindle or Nook format to one of those of you who leave a comment! (I’ll let Random.org decide.)

Me:  Tell me about the first story you ever remember writing.

GG:  I was in fourth grade. My story, “The Ballerina Who Couldn’t Dance,” (about a doll) won the elementary school contest. I remember how wondrous the process of writing seemed to me as the story came alive in my mind.

Me:  You say on your website that you were “wired to be a writer.” How so? And why did you ever get mixed up with finance as a career?

GG:  The reason I feel I was “wired” to be a writer is because from a very early age I was seeking and creating alternative realities. I came from a severely dysfunctional family, and this was my escape. Also, writing is in my genes–my great grandfather had his own newspaper and came from a long line of newspaper editors. (Okay, that proves it!) Another factor is my bi-polar disorder which is a very frequent malady among novelists. It causes me to take a more in-depth look at the world and my emotional responses to it. Also, the disorder causes creative tension, which is only resolved by creation itself.

(Ah, so writing heals you in a way.)

As for finance, that was a fluke. I was living in Boston looking for a job after college. I gave my resumé to Harvard and they had me interview for the job of Assistant to the Treasurer! (That must have been some resumé!) I got it. I learned about bonds and investing there. I went on to work at Fidelity Investments, and with that background, after I obtained my master’s degree, I was hired by Continental Bank of Chicago to be the first woman International Banking executive. I put my husband through law school with that job, but hated it intensely! Thereafter, I taught economics in college.

(Liz, if you’re reading this, you might want to consider GG for a future Treasurer on the LDStorymakers board of directors.)

Me:  What kinds of things happened during your childhood and adolescence that influence your writing today?

GG:  One of the really good things that happened was that my father sent me to England all alone when I was 16 to stay with a client’s family. That visit changed my life. I saw the “greater world” for the first time, made friends with people far older than me, developed a passion for history, and realized that real life could be more exciting than reading.

Also, my aunt, who also struggled with bi-polar disorder, had great faith in me and my childish scribblings. She told me I was destined to be an “authoress,” planting that idea in my mind very early. (Good for her!)

The negative influences of my home caused me to seek safety and escape, driving me to incessant reading and all my earliest writing attempts. Reading the “greats” always pays off for a writer.

Me:  In all your travels, which countries have been your most and least favorite and why? (And I’d love a picture or two of you in each, if possible.)

GG:  I love Italy the most, because Florence, the seat of the Renaissance, absolutely sparkles with possibilities. When you see the art of Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Raphael, and all the great artists of the age, it makes you realize that artistic miracles are possible. Something in the air of Florence completed a creative circle inside me. I was able to take my writing to a new level.

A view of the famous Duomo in Florence, Italy. The air does sparkle, doesn’t it?

Living in Austria for six months was a life-changer for me, as well. I was only 20. Learning the history of that nation caused me to concentrate on studying its politics, art, and economics with such dedication, that my studies grew into THE LAST WALTZ, my Whitney Award-winning epic of the First World War and the Interwar Years.

I don’t have any least favorite place. I have found something to love in all the places I’ve visited. (Well said and indicative of a natural traveler.)

Me:  How did you come to live in the Ozarks after graduating from Stanford and working as an International Banker in Los Angeles? And how much of an adjustment was it, if any?

GG:  Because of our concerns that our children would grow up with the same convoluted values as my family, we wanted to move as far away from L.A. as possible. We made the mistake of visiting the Ozarks in the spring. It was simply breathtaking. We longed for the simplicity of life there. But as anyone who reads PIECES OF PARIS will find out, life was far from simple! We were the targets of bigots the entire 16 years we lived there. It was a huge adjustment for me. However, because I had literally NO distractions (there wasn’t even a bookstore), that is where I learned to write after years of studying and practicing the discipline. All my early novels had their beginnings in the Ozarks. It was also absolutely the right place to raise our children. They had an ideal childhood with the gospel as its center and formed strong, non-materialistic values, as we hoped they would.

Me:  Having served a mission in Italy, I get what you say about how Italians seem to be born with a tendency to love unconditionally. How long were you there researching THE ONLY WAY TO PARADISE and how did that characteristic affect your novel?

GG:  I visited Florence on three different occasions while I wrote that book. The first time was for two weeks, the second time for four days, both with my photographer husband. The third time was on my own for almost a month. That last time was when I finally realized that the magic thing about Florence for me was the people. I had many unbelievable experiences during that visit, proving to me the “agape” of the Florentines, and I used all of them in my book. The title of the book implies that the only way to paradise is to learn to love with Christlike love (agape).

Me:  Let’s have a look at your writing space. Please describe it in the voice of Lady Kate from your novel, THE TAMING OF LADY KATE. (I’d also love a picture.)

GG:  This writing space is dreadfully untidy. There are at least six-months-worth of important  papers lying on the floor waiting to be filed! This woman must have a very selective brain to be able to create in the midst of such chaos! Even her files are not in alphabetical order. I do need to take her on as a project, I think. How much more productive she could be under my influence. Over her desk she has an interesting assortment of talismans, including a Grecian rag doll of all things. And she is very behind on framing her covers–she lacks the last four books! But I do like the cranberry colored walls, the leaded glass book cases, and of course the view! From this author’s window it is possible to see a lovely valley, beyond which lies a lake and beyond that a range of mountains. If I just organize it a bit, even I might find this an inspiring place to work. Though, of course, I would never be anything as frivolous as a novelist.

(Very well done. Unfortunately, GG was away from her computer–traveling–when she sent these responses and so she couldn’t send an actual photo, but I think we get the picture!)

Me:  You say that bi-polar disorder is a common ailment among writers. Why do you think this is so?

GG:  It is a documented fact. Psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamieson has written a book called “Touched by Fire,” about it. I think it is so because sufferers with this ailment go to depths and heights of emotional experience that other people do not. This enables us to draw scenes that are “larger than life.” It also carves deep into our souls, creating a void that must be filled by some kind of higher understanding of life. If this void is not filled, then suicide is inevitable. Because I am lucky enough to have the understanding of the Gospel in my life, it is possible to fill that void with the love of God. Two of my favorite novelists are Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. Both of them struggled with this problem, and both arrived at the conclusion that the void could only be filled by living a Christ-centered life.

(Actually, from what I’ve read, Dostoyevsky suffered more from temporal lobe epilepsy–a condition I have–but the two conditions may be related, according to scientists.)

Me:  Tell us how and why you and your husband (Passive Guy) got involved in independent publishing. And why does he use that moniker?

GG:  David uses that moniker for irony. He started his blog and began recording a pastiche of experiences documenting the technological disruption in the publishing industry caused by the e-book and self-publishing. We became convinced that this is the ultimate destiny of the publishing industry, and that we wanted to get in on the action.

I decided to try publishing Regency romances because they sell so well in this format. I have been thrilled at the response. I have been self-published since April of 2012, and during that time my sales have far exceeded my sales as a DB author. However, that is only for e-books, and only for Regencies. My other books are still nowhere near my Regencies in sales. However, they are also doing very well. (I have the rights back to all my DB books except the two most recent.)

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

GG:  I am a pantser (fly by the seat of my pants). I start with character. When I’m really into the head of my characters, they tell the story. However, I am also learning that I must be in the heads of my readers. I need to be smart about what they want to read and what makes a satisfying story for them. I can’t be totally self-indulgent about this process. If I were a famous author, I could write whatever I wanted to write. But while I am still seeking to be more widely read, I need to be conscious during my writing of what readers in today’s world want to read. A lot of my books have too much angst. I think in today’s unsettled world people are looking for happiness. I know that when I am under stress, I read Regencies. The clean ones have strict values, admirable characters, and are driven to the happy ending, which is always marriage. This soothes the soul. And that is why Regencies sell. So now I am writing Regencies.

Specifically, I am 2/3 finished with “Miss Braithwaite’s Secret,” my third Regency, incorporating characters from my first two books. It will be slightly more serious in tone with better developed characters. It will be interesting to see how its sales do in comparison with my lighter fare.

Thanks for the thought-provoking questions!

My pleasure. :D

If you want to know more about GG, check out her website or blog. And if you want to win a free Kindle or Nook copy of THE TAMING OF LADY KATE, THE DUKE’S UNDOING, THE LAST WALTZ, or THE ONLY WAY TO PARADISE (your choice), please leave a comment.

What do you think about the connection between writers and bi-polar or other neurological disorders? Or what do you think about the future of self-publishing?

Next Wednesday, I’m interviewing Gregg Luke, author of medical thrillers.

(If you’re an author and would like to be featured in my “Wednesday Writer” series, just drop me an email at tanyaparkermills(at)mac(dot)com.)

Originally posted 2012-10-03 06:00:13.

Check out the Contest for Josi Kilpack’s Latest Book!

Josi Kilpack’s Tres Leches Cupcakes is being released the first week of September and to kick it all off, she’s announced a contest.

In conjunction with the release of Tres Leches Cupcakes the author, Josi S. Kilpack, and the publisher, Shadow Mountain, are sponsoring a contest for free books. To enter, leave a comment in the comment section of this blog before September 16th, 2012. Winners will be announced and notified September 17th 2012.

For additional ways to enter, go to www.josiskilpack.com, or keep reading below.

Josi’s a terrific writer and if you haven’t yet tasted her culinary mystery series (or Daisy, her contribution to the Newport Ladies Book Club series), you’ve been skipping more than dessert!

Backliner:

For Sadie Hoffmiller, going undercover as an informant for the Bureau of Land Management on an archeological site in Santa Fe, New Mexico, seems like the perfect way to stay safe and busy while a threat against her life remains unresolved. Sadie’s days are spent digging up artifacts in the middle of nowhere while also digging up information on her fellow “dirt geeks.” With the help of her baking prowess—no one can resist those amazing dulce de leche bars—and Pete’s cousin, Caro, who takes to the detective work wholeheartedly, Sadie is finding herself again.

But the bright Southwestern sunshine only serves to illuminate the danger that lurks in the shadows. When recent burials are found on an ancient site, Sadie finds herself in the middle of an unexpected—and unwanted—investigation. The more she digs for the truth, the more secrets she uncovers—secrets that people would kill to keep hidden.

Before Sadie knows it, she’s arrested for starting a bar fight (which was totally not her fault), her new friend is missing, and she’s worn out her welcome in Santa Fe in more ways than one. A trip to the annual hot air balloon fiesta in Albuquerque is supposed to give her a break, but before long, she learns that when you’re dealing with the black market antiquity trade, you’re not really safe anywhere you go.

Contest Details

  • Three books are up for grabs to start the contest.
  • For every 50 entries (not including existing newsletter recipients) another book will be added to the pot.
  • No limit on number of entries.
  • No limit on how many books can be won by any one person.
  • The winner can choose any book in the Sadie Hoffmiller series, including Tres Leches Cupcakes.
  • Winners will be drawn via Random.org on September 17th.
  • Books will be signed and shipped anywhere in the US and Canada.

How to Enter (multiple entries encouraged!)

I’m too far away to attend a live event (unless she happens to come up here…hint, hint), but the rest should be a piece of cake…that is to say…cupcake!

Originally posted 2012-08-17 13:36:38.

An Editor is a Must

Present word count of WIP:  24,186

Seth Godin’s Advice for Authors:

3. Pay for an editor. Not just to fix the typos, but to actually make your ramblings into something that people will choose to read. I found someone I like working with at the EFA. One of the things traditional publishers used to do is provide really insightful, even brilliant editors (people like Fred Hills and Megan Casey), but alas, that doesn’t happen very often. And hiring your own editor means you’ll value the process more.

Hear, hear!!! I am reading a book right now for Whitney judging purposes that has all kinds of typos, head hopping, even whole words left out. I’m not sure if it’s because the author rushed the PDF version in order to qualify it for judging, or what, but you can be sure it won’t make my top five.

Whether you’re self-publishing (and particularly if you’re going that route) or not, you should have extra eyes on your manuscript once you think it’s in its top, finished form. I did that for my first novel (self-published) and it really paid off. Not only did the woman catch all my favorite words and phrases, but she pointed out a weakness or two in the plot or pacing.

I don’t care if you’re working on your first novel or your fifteenth. As you write, you develop what I like to call “writer’s blindness.” You are so used to the story in your head and all you have developed in terms of backstory, as well as all you know that’s coming up, that you forget to read what you’ve written as a critical reader would. I’m not sure it’s even possible for you to do so.

I have a terrific writer’s group, and while I rely on one member for the overall plot picture and pacing, another for the emotion in my scenes, another for the lilt of the language, and the last for the nuts and bolts of grammar and spelling, I still plan on running the finished version by a professional editor. Why? Because, unlike my writer’s group, he/she will read it in a more condensed time frame, not having fallen in love with it gradually as my writer friends may have. He/she will be critical, honest, thorough, and most of all–worth it!

So, plan for an editor.

Originally posted 2012-01-23 16:50:02.