“Wednesday Writer” – David Farland

I’m interviewing David Farland this week as part of a blog tour featuring his new YA fantasy novel, NIGHTINGALE.

First, a bit about the book and its author:

The multi-award winning novel, NIGHTINGALE, by best-selling author, David Farland, is available in hardback, ebook, and now in a special iPad enhanced version. This young-adult fantasy novel has already been turning heads.

Grand Prize Winner of the Hollywood Book Festival, placed first in all genres, all categories. 

Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of the Year!

Finalist in the Global Ebook Awards.

Some people sing at night to drive back the darkness.  Others sing to summon it. . . .

Bron Jones was abandoned at birth. Thrown into foster care, he was rejected by one family after another, until he met Olivia, a gifted and devoted high-school teacher who recognized him for what he really was–what her people call a “nightingale.”

But Bron isn’t ready to learn the truth. There are secrets that have been hidden from mankind for hundreds of thousands of years, secrets that should remain hidden. Some things are too dangerous to know.  Bron’s secret may be the most dangerous of all.

In his remarkable young adult fantasy debut, David Farland shows why critics have called his work “compelling,” “engrossing,” “powerful,” “profound,” and “ultimately life-changing.”

“Superb worldbuilding, strong characters, and Dave’s characteristic excellent prose.” – (Brandon Sanderson, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author)

“A wonderful tale of a young man trying to find his humanity, even though he’s not quite human.  One of Farland’s very best!” – (#1 International Bestseller, Kevin J. Anderson)

The enhanced version creates an amazing reading experience complete with illustrations from several talented artists and a sample of a soundtrack that coincides with the story. Published by East India Press, a publishing company that takes e-books in a whole new direction with enhanced multimedia–soundtracks, movie clips, author interviews and more.

Farland has plans for three more books in the series: Dream Assassin, Draghoul, and Shadow Lord.

Now, let’s get to know the author a little better.

Me:  Do you recall any details about the first story you ever wrote, or at least the earliest one you can remember?

Dave:  Of course. It was called The Island of the Lost Dinosaur. I wrote it when I was five. I even drew a picture of the island and the dinosaur. I think that just about every child will do that. I also think that a disproportionate number of those stories are about lost dinosaurs. In my case, the entire title was inappropriate, since it wasn’t the dinosaur that was lost, but the island. Although, one could maintain that if the island is lost, then the dinosaur is, too. (True.) My mother just couldn’t quite understand my logic on that one.

Here is a picture of the budding author at age five, in his larvael pre-sentient state (Doesn’t that sound just like a science fiction/fantasy writer? :D), shortly before attempting his first story, a literary flop that even a mother couldn’t love.

(See those cheekbones? He hasn’t changed a bit.)

Me:  Where did you grow up and what was it about your childhood that most affected your fiction?

Dave:  I grew up in Oregon, in a little town called Monroe, population about 300 (each sign on different ends of the town had varying numbers). We had a nice river that ran near our home, 32 acres of fields and streams, and if you wanted, you could take off hiking up the creek and not cross a road for days as you traveled into forests of Douglas fir. We had lots of wildlife near our farm–deer, pheasants, ducks, cougars, beaver, and so on.

So I fell in love with nature when I was young. If you read my fiction looking for big, beautiful cities, you won’t find them.

(Okay, does anyone else feel like camping now? I do, and I don’t usually like to camp!)

Me:  Science fiction, as opposed to fantasy, generally requires a rudimentary understanding of the way the universe works, and it certainly requires a visionary kind of mindset. What kind of background, in terms of both education and books read, gave you the wherewithal to attempt science fiction from the outset?

Dave:  As a child, I only read science texts. I ran through all of our local libraries by the time  that I was about twelve. I didn’t read fiction at all, until I was forced to at about the age of thirteen.

As a teen, I wrote my first book–a text on the mustiledae family of mammals (weasels, minks, and so on). I followed it that same year with a book on the history of the development of nuclear weaponry in the United States. I also studied oceanography and forestry. That naturally led to a love for the biological sciences, including medicine, and most of my stories revolve around ideas that deal with biology in one way or another.

The first science fiction novel that I read felt rather like an Aesop’s fable–a little heavy on the moralization. From it, though, I recognized that fiction could have some intellectual value, and I began to read a little of it. I didn’t really learn to love science fiction, though, until I read Dune(Hear, hear!) Between that, Star Wars and a few other choice novels, I began really getting interested in science fiction.

But as I said, when I was young, I loved science. Once, when I was a child of about eight or nine, a neighbor asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I knew that our genome designated what kind of organism we would be, and I knew that I loved paleontology, so I said, “I want to be a paleo . . . genetic . . . engineer!”

(Talk about precocious!)

“Oh,” she said, “those are very big words. And what do those people do?”

“Build dinosaurs,” I told her. “Of course we can’t do it now, but someday we will.” (You see? He had that visionary thing going even then.)

So I went to college initially and majored in premedical microbiology, with an eye toward research in genetic engineering.

But I kept finding that I wanted to write, and paint. I imagined that I would be a doctor who wrote on the side. Then one day I realized that the desire to write was too strong–so I decided to be a writer who doctored on the side.

Me:  Which is harder? Science fiction or fantasy?

Dave:  They’re the same. Let me put it this way: you learn to write best what you love best. If you love both equally, you’ll write both with the same enthusiasm.

Never convince yourself that writing in an unfamiliar genre is easy. A couple of years ago, I thought that I would “dash off” a historical novel in a few weeks. After all, since it was based on historical accounts, it would be easy, right? That book, In the Company of Angels, was the hardest thing I’ve ever written. (And it’s great! You can take my word for it.) I won an award for it (Whitney Award: Best Novel of the Year), and it did well in sales, but it taught me a lesson. Writing anything well is hard work.

Me:  Where did you set the Guinness Record for the world’s largest book signing and for what book? And how surprised were you at the turnout? (If you happen to have a picture from that event, I’d love to post it.)

Dave:  I wrote a comic science fiction novel called A Very Strange Trip back in 1999. It was based on a screenplay by L. Ron Hubbard, and involved a moonshiner from West Virginia who has to carry a time machine across the country. The problem is, every time his truck hits a bump, the machine goes off. On his first stop, he goes back in time and meets up with a beautiful Cherokee squaw, and they keep moving further back with each trip.

Since my grandfather was a moonshiner from West Virginia, and since my grandmother was Cherokee, and since I loved paleontology, I thought it would be a hoot write. (And it sounds like a hoot to read, too.)

In any case, my publisher held a huge party down in Hollywood, with movie stars, a band, and free root beer floats. There are a lot of Scientologists in the area, so I wasn’t at all surprised that we drew a nice crowd. 

I’m thinking that next time, we’ll just use beer in the floats. That will bring in the crowds!

(Dave is the little bald guy in the center, slaving under the hot lights while thousands line up for the book signing on July 3, 1999. Note: His description, not mine. If you click on the picture, you can see a slightly larger version and make out Dave in the middle.)

Me:  Do you have plans to try any more historical fiction like IN THE COMPANY OF ANGELS?

Dave:  I don’t know. I’m fascinated by history, and I think I’d like to write another. I have an ancestor, a German boy of 12 named George Johann Wunderlicht, who was sold into slavery back in the 1700s. I’ve often thought that his family saga was worth a novel. George worked for a ship’s captain, and there is speculation that the captain became a privateer for a while, and then went to Africa to transport slaves. Though, as a Quaker, George was committed to a life of nonviolence, it’s said that he went to battle in the Civil War, even though he was in his 80s, and got shot something like three days after enlistment. So he died to help put an end to slavery. (You’re right. That would make for a fascinating story.)

I’ve often felt that a book about his life would be a great memorial, but there’s so little that I know, it would have to be more fiction than fact. (And, speaking for readers, I think we’d be okay with that.)

Me:  Tell us about your new publishing company and your current novel, NIGHTINGALE.

Dave:  East India Press is a company that I started with Miles Romney, a cousin to Mitt Romney. We hope to publish novels in multiple formats: as hardcovers, audiobooks, e-books, and most importantly as enhanced novels.

So we’ve put out NIGHTINGALE in each of those formats. Back in 1989, I was hired by IBM to work for a think-tank that would develop novels for reading on the computer. We were too far ahead of our time.

But I’ve been thinking about the possibilities for decades, and with NIGHTINGALE, we wanted to make it an experience. With the enhanced novel, we combined graphics, text, animations, and our own soundtrack with a few other features–such as author interviews.

I think that we’re closing in on what I’d like, but it can be so much better. For example, our soundtrack is really great, but it deserves to be heard in high-fidelity, and most people who read it aren’t going to bother putting on headphones when they’re reading from their iPad.

Still, I think that we created a much more immersive experience for the book.

In any case, NIGHTINGALE is a young adult novel about a young man, Bron Jones, who is abandoned at birth. He’s raised in foster care and kicked from home to home because his families find him to be “too strange.” Finally, at the age of sixteen, he meets a teacher who recognizes that he’s not even human. He’s what she calls a “nightingale,” a member of an ancient species that only looks human.

So Bron begins a remarkable journey to discover where he came from, what he is, and who he is.

(Excuse me a moment while I go order something on my iPad.)

The novel has won four awards so far this year, including the Hollywood Book Festival for Best Book of the Year, and the International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of the Year.

(I thought I’d post the cover again in case you’ve forgotten what it looks like.)

Me:  What prompted this particular story? Did this book start with a dream like your first work, On My Way to Paradise, or was it something else?

Dave:  Something else. When I was young, I was well aware that humans and Neanderthals had existed together for hundreds of thousands of years before the Neanderthals became extinct. I used to imagine how cool it would be if we found a tribe of them living in Siberia or the mountains of Tibet.

So that was one idea for a novel. But of course we know now that even a hundred thousand years ago, there were at least four humanoid species living together, and I’ve wondered about some of our lesser-known cousins.

Then there is a strange thing in the New Testament. It tells us that “Wise Men” came to visit Jesus at his birth and that they showered gifts on him. The word used for “wise men” or “wizards” (chakam) probably denoted a caste of court magicians similar to the ones that Moses battled with in Pharaoh’s Court. Most likely, these wise men came searching for the new “King of the Jews” because they were looking for jobs. (Okay, I’ll have to admit I haven’t heard that assumption before. Interesting.)

In any case, one day I got to fantasizing about what they might be. Could it be that they were something more than astrologers and soothsayers? Could they be something outside of humanity, creatures with real super intelligence? And so the ideas for NIGHTINGALE were born.

A couple of years later, I was talking to one of my writing students about how to approach a contemporary fantasy, and realized that I really did want to put this one on the front burner. But I had so many novels to write for the Runelords series, I had to put it on the back. The student–Stephenie Meyer–went on to do well, and I kept thinking, “I really need to get that novel out.” It’s taken a while.

Me:  I have a thing for writer’s spaces or work areas. How would you describe yours and could you provide a picture?

Dave:  My top-secret writing space (Oh, well . . . I guess that means no picture) is an over-stuffed recliner that we keep in a quiet corner of our master bedroom. My advice to writers is: make yourself as comfortable as possible. It makes it easy to write for 14 hours a day if you’re comfortable. So avoid dirty, cramped, uncomfortable, unhealthy, and nasty spaces. Also avoid places with evil vibes, war zones, or places cursed by ancient shamans. (Gotcha! And my office is in my master bedroom, too. Now I just need to talk to my husband about a nice, comfy recliner. :D)

I sometimes go to write in Mexico. I like to greet the dawn on the beach down in Baja, sitting out while the sun rises in shades of pink over the sand. (Hmmm…something else to discuss with my husband.)

Me:  Finally, how on earth do you manage to produce “David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants” every day and STILL have time for your own writing?

Dave:  I did it every day, mostly, for the first couple of years. Now I only write the advice column a couple of times a week. Originally, I thought that the column might run for a year or so, and that I would use the ideas for my book on writing. That hasn’t worked out very well. My book, Storytelling as a Fine Art, could probably be finished in a month if I pulled all of my material together. Right now, I have thousands of pages of Daily Kicks.

But the truth is, I enjoy writing the articles, and every so often I look at my ideas for new articles and realize that there is just more that needs to be said.

Well, as you’ve read here, Dave is a veritable fountain of knowledge and I love that he’s so good about sharing all he knows, whether it’s here on blogs like mine or at writers conferences like the one put on each spring by LDStorymakers, or at his own Writer’s Death Camp (which I am bound and determined to attend next year). If the Death Camp isn’t your style, he offers plenty of other workshops, as well.

Besides buying his latest book, I urge you to check out his website where you, too, can sign up to receive his Daily Kick! 

Originally posted 2012-10-24 06:00:11.

Contest Author Interview – Joyce DiPastena

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

In case you haven’t already guessed from her attire in this photo, Joyce DiPastena is a full-fledged fan of the Middle Ages, where she sets all of her fiction. She started out self-publishing but is now published, like me, through Walnut Springs Press. Her first and second books, LOYALTY’S WEB and ILLUMINATIONS OF THE HEART, were both Whitney Award finalists. And she has a wonderful medieval research blog to which you can subscribe (but more about that later).

Me:  When you were a little girl, which Disney princess was your favorite and why? Or were you already into more realistic historical fiction even back then?

Joyce:  I’d have to say Sleeping Beauty, (Yay! Me too.) but I confess that even as a child, I was drawn to the “medievalesque” aspects of the artwork. :D

(I know. That Disney cartoon, to this day, remains my favorite because of the way it mimics the style of actual stained glass.)

Me:  How old were you when you wrote your first piece of fiction, and do you still have it?

Joyce:  In Junior High School, I wrote what today would be called a fan fiction crossover novel with characters from the original Star Trek TV show and Dark Shadows soap opera. (Okay, Dark Shadows I can kind of see, but who would have ever pegged Joyce for a Trekkie?) No, I no longer have a copy, which the world should be thankful for.

Me:  As I understand it, you were turned on to the Middle Ages in high school when you read “The Conquering Family” by Thomas B. Costain. What about that novel made the Middle Ages come alive for you?

Joyce:  Actually, it was a non-fiction book (Oops. Didn’t dig deep enough. My bad.) about the first three Plantagenet kings of England: Henry II, Richard I, and John. The historian Thomas B. Costain had a definite narrative flair for storytelling, though, and I simply fell headlong into the world that he drew for me. 

(Okay, so it was almost novelesque.)

Me:  When was your first Renaissance Fair (because I’m naturally assuming you frequent them whenever possible) and, when you go, whom do you go as? (I’d LOVE a picture of you in costume.)

Joyce:  Oh, my, now you’re asking me to count backwards! The first Renaissance Festival I attended was the Arizona Renaissance Festival in their very first year. That will be 25 years ago next spring. I’ve attended it at least once a year every year since then. For the first 21 years, I simply went as 20th (and then 21st) Century Joyce, in comfy jeans and a T-shirt. But when I started doing book signings there, I had to buy a costume. So I suppose now I go as Lady Joyce. (LOL!)

(I’m impressed. I know for a fact that these costumes aren’t cheap.)

Me:  Okay, so I understand why you named one of your cats Clio (the Greek muse of history), but Glinka Rimsky-Korsokov? What’s the story there, and which cat is the better muse? (And I have to have a picture of them . . . after all, I’m a cat person, too.)

Joyce:  Yes, I named my cat Clio for the Greek muse of history, but she hasn’t been very cooperative as a muse. (I suppose I should have expected that from a cat.)

(Here’s a picture of Clio):

As for Glinka Rimsky-Korsokov, well, he’s a Maine Coon and when I adopted him as a kitten, he reminded me of one of those furry Russian muffs or a furry Russian hat like you see in the Nutcracker. So I wanted to give him a Russian name. I was listening to a lot of Russian classical music at the time, so first I named him Rimsky-Korsokov, then I switched it to Glinka, which is what I actually call him, but my sister liked Rimsky-Korsokov best, so I kept it for his middle name. I’m afraid these days both of them are too busy sleeping to be very inspiring muses.

(As Glinka Rimsky-Korsokov demonstrates here. He does kind of resemble a muff, doesn’t he?):

Me:  How many books on the Middle Ages do you have? Which is your favorite and which is the most used for research purposes?

Joyce:  Oh, my gosh, I’ll be up all night if I go and count them! Let’s just say I’ve got somewhere over a hundred. I have a book called Life on the English Manor that I used so much for the first two novels I wrote (neither of which is published), that it has literally fallen apart at least three times and may be beyond reassembling this time. (Me: Now you know what you can give Joyce for Christmas!) For my more recent books, I find I lean heavily on three titles for nearly every project: 900 Years of English Costume by Nancy Bradfield; Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks by Constance B. Heiatt and Sharon Butler; and The Castle Explorer’s Guide by Frank Bottomley.

(Hmm . . . I wonder if she’s ever cooked up any of those ancient recipes?)

Me:  Please describe your writing area in the language of a knight . . . let’s call him Sir Percival Scrivener. (And I MUST have a picture of this.)

Joyce:  Verily, kind lady, some workings of the scrivener are best left to the imagination. Suffice it to say that parchments and scrolls doth litter the furniture throughout my dwelling place in such manner that it is, at times, difficult to entertain company who desire to be seated. Forsooth, I count myself fortunate that my illuminator has taken ill and is unable to create a painting of my surroundings for you, lest you think me a slovenly ne’er-do-well.

(Very well, Sir Percival. I think I get the picture.)

Me:  Finally, how would you describe your writing process and what are you currently working on?

Joyce:  Some people would call me a pantser, but I don’t really care for that word, because it implies that I have no idea where I’m going when I start a novel (i.e., writing by the seat of my pants), and that’s not really true. I don’t plot my novels out ahead of time, but I do have certain scenes in mind that I’m aiming for when I start. So I’m always aiming at some target or other, even if I don’t know at the beginning exactly how I’m going to get there.

I guess we’ll have to check out her blog or website to figure out what she’s working on now (though I’m pretty sure she’s about to publish a short medieval Christmas novel entitled A CANDLELIGHT COURTING). Also, I highly recommend her medieval research blog if you’re into the Middle Ages like her.

Originally posted 2012-09-21 06:00:09.

Contest Author Interview – Heather B. Moore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(She still got a head start on me.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Contest Author Interview – Annette Lyon

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

Besides being a terrific editor, Annette Lyon is an award-winning author and grammarian extraordinaire. After winning Utah’s Best of State award for fiction and being a Whitney finalist in 2007 for SPIRES OF STONE, Annette won the Whitney in 2010 for BAND OF SISTERS. Her book, PAIGE, came out recently as the third volume in the Newport Ladies Book Club series.

Me:  I want to know what you wrote on your mother’s typewriter when you were in second grade and if you still have it. Also, was your mother a writer? Is that why she had a typewriter?

Annette:  My first attempts at writing were inspired by Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle, so I typed up things like Mean Marvin the Mouse (second grade) and Raymond’s Runaways (third grade). The latter was about a group of mistreated hamsters trying to escape their horrid owner. Alas, I don’t have either anymore.

Mom has always been an avid scholar of the scriptures, and she used the typewriter to record her studies. (Me: A woman after my own heart!) She had a bookshelf beside the desk, filled with three-ring binders, all with scripture stuff inside. I remember when she upgraded to a fancy typewriter that beeped if you spelled something wrong and even had a mini computer memory so you could type faster than the keys moved. I loved writing a sentence fast then sitting back to watch the keys finish after I did. That was seriously cool.

(I’ll say!)

Me:  In what way is writing therapeutic for you? And in what way is it stressful?

Annette:  Writing has always been a dream and passion of mine, but I didn’t realize how therapeutic it is to me until, during my years with small children at home (and before I got published), I decided I was just too busy to write. I took two months off, and my life pretty much fell apart. Then I took about 20 minutes 2 days in a row to write–less than an episode of “Sesame Street” all together–and the entire cyclone calmed right down. That’s when I realized that I couldn’t wait until my children were grown to write–I had to do it while they were young for their sakes. I’m a more balanced mother and just more me when I’m writing.

The stressful parts come in largely on the business end and in trying to keep it all in balance with family. Among the stresses: rejection (still get those), deadlines (as happy as you are to get a book out, the deadlines can be killer), the constant treadmill of promotion, worry over reviews, and so on. (Me: I hear you there!) My current stress (although it’s a blessing too) is that I do so much freelance editing that I have a hard time finding a chance to work on my own stuff.

A different stress was when I went through two or three years of a personal writer identity crisis, which I never expected to. It was a troubling period–very hard and very dark; I felt I’d lost a part of myself. But I kept trying to walk through it, and eventually, I came out. Or, I think I’m out. (Me: You’re out, Annette! Come on, you won the Whitney! How can you doubt yourself?) The whole writer psyche is a funky thing sometimes.

(True.)

Me:  Tell me about your children. Have you put any of them, or your husband, into your fiction, and, if so, did it bother them?

Annette:  I have four children: a boy followed by three girls. They’re at such fun ages right now–becoming their own people who love to talk and discuss ideas, who have their own dreams and hopes and fears. They’re also starting to understand what Mom does. (NOT just type a lot, but write actual books with stories!) It helps when they have friends who’ve read my books–it’s as if that’s when Mom’s books are suddenly real. (Me: I hear you there!)

I’ve never put any of my children–or my husband–into a book, maybe because my characters usually show up almost fully formed. The one time I attempted to loosely base a character on someone real (not a family member), the character came up with her own identity. She ended up hardly resembling the original model anyway.

Me:  If you had to give up Facebook or Twitter, which would it be and why?

Annette:  I love both, but if I had to give one up, it would be Twitter. Facebook is how I stay connected with a lot of people I care about who aren’t on Twitter and probably never will be. At times, Twitter is more fun–the banter, the hash tags, the news, the industry links–but it’s somewhat more about my professional side. Facebook is where I can see what my nieces and nephews are doing, check in with aunts and uncles, drop notes about things my kids say, and keep in touch with old friends.

Me:  How is the sequel to your award-winning novel, BAND OF SISTERS, coming along? And are you still keeping it in a woman’s point of view or has one of the returning husbands become your main character?

Annette:  The sequel will be on shelves in January. The revisions are done, and I should be getting edits back any day now. It’ll be called BAND OF SISTERS: COMING HOME. I decided to keep the same format I used in the first book, which went between the five different wives’ points of view, because each of them has different challenges to face when the soldiers come home. It worked in the first one, and I hope it works in the sequel!

(I’m sure it will. Loved the first one.)

Me:  Having just released PAIGE in the Newport Ladies Book Club series (with fellow authors Julie Wright, Josi Kilpack, and Heather Moore), what’s next for you in that series?

Annette:  We’re in the process of getting the next set of Newport Ladies books finished up and turned in. These ones will focus on the next four months after the first set ends, and will feature the other four women in the club, who were mostly cameos in the first set: Shannon, Tori, Ruby, and Ilana (which I’m writing). If all goes well, we should see the first one of those come out in the spring.

(Terrific!)

Me:  Tell me what you were like as a teenager at Timpview High, and which teacher there had the most impact on you. (I’d love a picture, but I’ll understand if you refuse.)

(Fortunately, she didn’t . . . Here’s one from her graduation. I’m sure you’ll recognize her in the middle.)

Annette:  The first part of high school, I was really shy and introverted. Then I made some friends who essentially ripped my shell open, something I’m eternally grateful for. I was the straight-laced kid, which means I was probably boring. I never skipped class. I got good grades. The time I stayed out the latest past curfew was with permission, and it was spent watching a video of Hamlet. (SO rebellious!) I was part of the choir, drill team, literary journal staff, Russian club, and honors society. Because even then I was a nerd. (Me: All the best people were.)

I had a fantastic high-school education; several teachers had a profound effect on me. The one who made the biggest impact is easy: Miss Drummond, who I had for English for both my sophomore and senior years. She’s the person who first made grammar and punctuation accessible. She explained it so the rules made sense. She taught me how to write; I had no idea how well she’d prepared me for writing in college until I got there and realized I was way ahead of my peers. On top of all that, she had a great way of looking at literature. The only boring days in her class were when she was forced to have this awful student teacher.

(Doesn’t everyone have an awful student teacher experience?)

Me:  I’ve got to know about your office or writing space. Please describe the best and worst parts about it (and provide a picture). Also, any secret hiding places there for chocolate?

Annette:

Best parts: It’s a devoted spot for my work, and it has a DOOR. Not that either prevents interruption, but it’s a nice thought. I love the built-in shelves my husband made, and the wood floor (okay, fake wood, but it’s so pretty!). I have an extra chair that my kids use all the time. They come in to hang out, talk about their day, or unload whatever is on their minds. No way will I take that chair out.

The worst part is that my office tends to be the kids’ dumping ground. It’s perpetually cluttered with school notes, dishes, homework, toys, bobby pins (can you tell I have teenage girls?), and even clothing they’ve dropped along the way. (Me: Clutter? I don’t see any clutter in this picture. She must have cleaned up.) But I guess that means they’re comfortable there and know they can interrupt Mom whenever they need to. One day, I’ll probably miss their messes.

(Here’s a look at those built-in shelves.)

I used to hide chocolate in the bottom left cupboard of my desk. (Gulp! How weird. I hide mine in the bottom left drawer. Is chocolate a leftist snack?) The kids know me so well that they eventually found it. I still keep treats there sometimes, but I’m under no delusion that it’s hidden. (Alas.) Lately, it’s been healthier snacks.

Me:  Finally, when and why did you help found The Utah Chocolate Show, and where in the world can you get the BEST chocolate, in your opinion?

Annette:  The Utah Chocolate Show was my older sister Mel’s idea. She used to both cater and produce events, but she always enjoyed the production end more than the catering side. Back in 2003 when she was moving up to Utah from Arizona, she pondered what would be the most enjoyable event to produce. By the time she reached Provo, she’d come up with an expo show about all things chocolate. She gathered me and our younger sister, Michelle, around our parents’ kitchen counter and told us the idea. We pulled off the first show the fall of 2004.

(Okay. I’ve finally found a reason to move to Utah.)

At first, my role was supposed to just be the writer–web copy, press releases, and the like. But producing a show of that size was so much bigger than any of us had anticipated–shows are usually created by corporations, not three sisters. Next thing I knew, I was assistant director, working with sales and marketing, making executive decisions, handling contracts, going to a TV station to discuss commercials and air time and so much more. I even did my first TV spots.

After a few years of the show, I was so busy that I knew something in my life had to go. It couldn’t be my family, and it couldn’t be my writing. So I stepped back from the show, and by then others were around to fill in. A year or two later, my sister sold the show to another company, and they promptly dropped the ball. As a result, the show doesn’t exist anymore, which is really sad. (There goes my reason to move to Utah. Oh, well.) It was a fun experience that I learned a ton from.

One fun thing I learned is that Amano is the best chocolate company based in Utah, and one of the few anywhere (the only one west of the Mississippi) that makes chocolate directly from the cacao bean themselves. (Most small companies take chocolate made by another company and use that for their own products.) Amano has won a ton of big-time chocolate awards. Theirs isn’t chocolate you inhale and eat tons of; a savored bite or two is plenty.

But my all-time favorite is Finnish chocolate, specifically the Fazer Blue, which (of course) has a blue wrapper. MMMMmmmmm.

And on that note, I encourage you all to check out Annette’s website and blog, while I go have a bite of . . . what else? . . . CHOCOLATE!

Originally posted 2012-09-14 06:00:31.

Reading, Reading, and More Reading

Present word count of WIP:  54,620

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

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

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

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

Liz and I at the Book Signing

Me with Janette Rallison and Rachelle Christensen

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

Me with David and Rebekah

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

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

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

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

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

and . . .

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

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

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

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

Deseret News Piece on Whitneys

Deseret News has posted a short piece on the need for nominations for next year’s Whitney Awards. Please check it out here, make a comment, and then plug it on FB, Twitter, and your own blog(s). If it gets enough traffic, they’ll consider putting the piece in their print newspaper, which would be seen by so many more readers.

And that’s exactly what is needed–more eyes on the Whitneys. The award program can only be as good as its nominees and finalists and, for that, it needs regular readers who are aware of all the best LDS literature out there. I’m not just talking about stories about LDS life (though that counts). I’m talking about any published novel by an LDS author, whether it was published in the LDS market, the national market, or self-published. The more nominees the Whitneys get, and the more wide-ranging they are from all different parts of the country and even the world (yes, as long as the book was published in English during 2011 and is written by a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–no matter their country of origin–and you thought it was really good, it can be nominated), the better the competition will become and the more deserving the winners will be each year.

Writing as a former finalist (and that novel was self-published), I can’t think of any other program that will help the quality of LDS Fiction to increase faster.

Originally posted 2011-10-17 09:17:07.

What a Trip! What a Conference!

I’m ready for human cloning (on a temporary basis, that is). I think writers need to have clones so that their writer self can remain at the keyboard creating while their marketing and student selves go off to conferences to learn, network, and pitch to agents and editors. (If you’re a writer, I know you agree with this.) The only drawback to the 2011 LDStorymakers Conference was that I couldn’t be in several places at the same time.

But first, the trip. Actually, it wasn’t too bad. Sure, I could have used a clone or two to help me drive for 9.5 hours straight (other than gas, food and potty stops). Still, it was great weather and at the end of the day I got to meet up with three old friends from my junior high days and compare notes over dinner. I hadn’t seen one of them since 10th grade. It was amazing to see how our lives had turned out thus far. Good fodder for a novel…but not right away or they’d get mad.

I roomed with the fabulous Liz Adair and Thursday morning was spent assembling folders and binders for the conference. Then, while everyone spent much of the day in Boot Camp, I got to drive down to Provo and have lunch with my beautiful daughter, Allison. Afterward, we lucked out and got into the Carl Bloch exhibit at BYU’s Museum of Art. He could tell an entire story with one painting or even one etching. I think my favorite altar pieces were those of Christ with the child and Christ at the Pool of Bethesda (particularly since it relates to my newest novel that I’m pitching). I arrived back in SLC that evening in time for a quick dinner and then a fun “Meet and Greet” with fellow Storymakers. The interviews conducted by Tristi Pinkston, Frank Cole, and Terri Ferran had me wiping tears from my eyes because I was laughing so much and I can’t wait to upload them to the new website. (I’ll keep you posted on that.) Stephanie Fowers and her sister were invaluable in taping the interviews. Warning: they’re in high def, so don’t be too judgmental on appearances. After all, some of these interviews were done at 10 pm after a full day of Boot Camp!

Friday and Saturday were a blur. This is when I really could have used a few clones. In between helping Liz with door prize giveaways several times each day and grabbing meals here and there, I attended great presentations by Becca Stumpf (on pitching), Marion Jensen (on Social Media…but I missed the last half because I was scheduled to pitch to Sara Megibow, a terrific agent–I don’t know how she did it, but I wasn’t nervous at all; I felt so at ease talking with her and she expressed interest in Laps), Sara Crowe (on synopsis writing, which turned out to be the pitch portion of your query letter rather than a full synopsis…not what I was expecting but still helpful), Josi Kilpack (on launching your book), Dave Wolverton twice (on habits of successful writers and on using resonance to make your writing sell), Bob Conder (on Screenwriting), and the energetic and funny Sara Megibow (on acquiring a literary agent). I also attended a speculative fiction panel featuring James Dashner, Rob Wells, Dave Wolverton, Julie Wright, and Howard Taylor. You might wonder why since my fiction thus far has been solidly grounded in reality, but about two weeks ago three fascinating ideas for novels hit me–all speculative (one YA semi-historical, and two dystopian). I know. I should have attended Rob’s on Dystopian Fiction, but hey–that would have required clones.

Anyway, the Whitney Awards Gala Dinner was terrific as always and some of my favorite people won, besides. I’d invited my daughter and a guy she’s dating, Bryan Beus, to join me since he’s an illustrator (he did the covers and illustrations for James Dashner’s first two installments in the 13th Reality series) and a soon-to-be-published author. He ended up knowing as many people there as I did!

My last comment on cloning: it might help de-stress your pet cats. Every time I go away for a short trip and then return, Peach and Anastasia have to get re-introduced to me. It’s as if they can’t believe it’s really me walking in the door. Of course, if they were to encounter more than one of me at a time, they’d probably go nuts, so that alternative won’t work…for them, anyway.

If we can’t have cloning at next year’s conference, maybe we can at least have an option to buy DVDs or CDs of the presentations we missed. What do you think?

Originally posted 2011-05-09 12:47:24.

“Wednesday Writer” – Tracy Winegar

As I wrote last week, Tracy Winegar and I share a couple of things in common: we both have sons with an autistic spectrum disorder, and we both wrote novels about it, though she set hers, KEEPING KELLER, in an earlier time period long before doctors really knew what to do about it.

Tracy WinegarME:  What was it like growing up in Indiana, and who were your earliest and/or strongest literary influences? Also, how would you compare the Western and Midwestern mindsets, and where do you come down between the two?

TRACY:  Growing up in Indiana was not a bad way to spend my youth. I had a fairly carefree childhood. I was the third of eight children. My mom was a stay at home mom. She was very fun and had a great sense of humor. My dad provided for our family. I had nothing but sisters until I was about five years old, when my brother was born and then two more sisters before my last sibling, another brother, was born. I grew up in cornfields and with a small town mindset. There were very few LDS people in our area, so I knew from an early age that I was very different, at times excluded because of it. Hard work was important and I began working part time when I was fourteen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Tracy as a teenager)

I spent summer vacations on my grandparents’ farm in Tennessee. When I think of my favorite places, that is one of them. It was quiet, and beautiful, and simple. Very few distractions gave me and my brothers and sisters the opportunity to use our imaginations and spend time in the great outdoors. My grandmother was a great storyteller and we loved to sit with her and hear her stories of when she was growing up and how she met Grandpa and fell in love.

I enjoyed a lot of different activities, but I loved drama and I loved writing. Each year they had a competition called the Young Authors Competition. I entered every year and always placed. (So, the talent showed itself early!) The prize for winning was that you were able to attend a lecture with a real life author. That was when I got to hear some of the great authors of my youth speak, one of which was Judy Blume.

Judy Blume(Judy Blume)

When I was young I loved to read Pippi Longstockings, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Little Women, Calico Captive, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

As I got a little older, one of my biggest influences was a teacher I had my sixth grade year. Mrs. Meier-Fisher. She had us read some really beautiful literature and she gave us some great writing assignments. I was on cloud nine when she read one of my pieces to the class as an example. (I’ll bet!) She had us read some of the great Hoosier writers and I fell in love with Gene Stratton Porter.

Gene Stratton Porter(Indiana poet and novelist Gene Stratton Porter)

One of my Grandma Beaty’s favorite books was her novel, A Girl of the Limberlost, and when I read it I was in love with it too. I also really loved James Whitcomb Riley, another Indiana author who had become a great poet. In seventh grade I read Gone With the Wind and loved it as well. I discovered that anything historical was right up my alley, fiction or non-fiction alike.

James Whitcomb Riley(James Whitcomb Riley)

I am still very much a Midwesterner, although I have lived in Utah for the past twelve years. I like things simple and uncomplicated. I love being home with my family as much as possible, and I miss the green landscape and beautiful stretches of empty land. I would love an acreage, but land here is very expensive and every space is taken up with houses. Gone are the cornfields and soy bean fields that stretched for miles.

ME:  When did you first know you wanted to be a writer, and what brought about that realization?

TRACY:  When I was a kid, I loved paper. Before I could even write I spent a great deal of time “writing” cursive loops, although none of it was actually words. In third grade I wrote a tall tales story for a school wide competition and was hooked when I was one of the winners.

I did a lot of creative writing in high school, but then I got married and had children and didn’t have a lot of time for writing. When I turned thirty, I told my husband that it was a dream of mine to write a novel and so I began and I kept at it and somehow managed to finish the thing. That was my first novel KEEPING KELLER.

Keeping Keller 1

ME:  Why did you move to Utah at 19? And if it involved college, how did your college studies impact the kinds of things you write today?

TRACY:  I moved to Utah because I wanted an adventure. I moved to Utah because I wanted to see what it was like to be surrounded by people who were like me and not be the odd man out for once. (I know exactly what you mean. That’s why I went to Utah after high school in Beirut.) It was fun to be able to go to parties and to have social events where I knew I would be welcome. I enjoyed dating and being independent. I missed my family very much, but also was happy to be experiencing new experiences.

ME:  What type of writer do you aspire to be, and which writers have influenced you the most?

TRACY:  My goal is to try and make people feel something when they read my writing. To invoke a reaction, to get people to relate on some level to the story or the characters would make me a happy character.

I love classic literature and I enjoy historical fiction. It’s hard to say who has influenced me the most, because I have read so many quality books by so many awesome writers. My favorites are the books that leave me feeling haunted… I just can’t forget the characters or the storyline. As I stated before, I love A Girl of the Limberlost, but I also loved Gone With the Wind and A Tale of Two Cities. More recent books that I enjoyed were The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton.

Kate Morton(Australian author Kate Morton)

While many great authors have inspired my work, I also attribute my writing style to the themes I know best. Motherhood, marriage, and my relationships with friends and my family (thanks Mom and Dad) are themes that are always reoccurring in my writing, because that is what I know best.

(And it shows.)

ME:  Strangely enough, I’d forgotten we were both Whitney Finalists in 2008 in the General Fiction category for our first novels, KEEPING KELLER (yours) and THE RECKONING (mine). (That’s why your title sounded so familiar to me.) As an awards program, what do the Whitneys mean to the LDS writing community in general and to you, personally?

Whitney Awards

TRACY:  I think it’s great that there is a forum for LDS writers. I thought it was a wonderful honor and was very excited to be involved when I was a finalist. It is difficult to be seen or stand out in a field where anyone can publish and the market is saturated with books, both good and bad. This gave me the opportunity to be seen, which is any author’s dream.

(Amen!)

ME:  We’ve both written novels based on our personal experiences with an autistic son. Please tell us a bit about KEEPING KELLER and how much of your son comes through in the book. Also, I’d love to hear the story of your son’s diagnosis and your reaction to it (and post a picture of you with him, if possible).

TRACY:  The character in KEEPING KELLER is nothing but my son. Many of the experiences I wrote about in the book were based upon things that had happened to me. It was very personal. I love the story, but do feel it could have been better with more editing. However, that was a very honest look into the life of a mother dealing with autism, as well as the difficulties she would have encountered during that time period (the 1950s).

I had it much easier than Beverly, because I was able to get help and learn how to work with my son. When he was young, our family life was very complicated and difficult. Thankfully he has gotten a little better and a little better, until we are now in our own comfortable normal. He throws us some curve balls every now and again, but I don’t feel as though I might have a nervous breakdown a majority of the time any more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Tracy with her son, Luke)

My son was my second child. I first had a girl who was very smart and very vocal. He began to develop normally until about eighteen months old. We noticed that the few words he had acquired seemed to be lost. He had odd behaviors that we couldn’t quite figure out. A lot of people told me that it was because he was a boy and that boys were very different than girls. I knew instinctively that something was not right. I persisted in trying to get him help until he was diagnosed with Autism when he was two years old. At the time, I was a month away from having my third child, another son.

(I imagine that made you extra nervous.)

One of the reasons we moved back to Utah from Iowa was in order to get my son into the Northern Utah Autism Program. There were many difficult and sad years. It is hard to come to terms with the fact that your child will never be normal. We love him, but Autism is such a devastating thing to live with. We have had many bad experiences, we have been judged and treated badly, but we have also had a lot of compassion and some true friends to come of it.

(That’s a blessing, indeed. It sounds like your son’s on the more severe end of the spectrum. You and your husband must be twice as strong and even more patient.)

Sometimes I see boys his age and think “He would be doing this” or “He could have done that” and I feel sad. But then there are times when I see boys his age and things they are doing and I am very grateful that he is innocent. I will never have a missionary, a football star, see him graduate, or go to college, or get married. But I will always have Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and that will always fill my life with the magic of childhood.

(How true!)

ME:  Your second novel, GOOD GROUND, came out last year. What led you to write this story and what are its main themes?

Good GroundTRACY:  I wrote GOOD GROUND based on my love of my grandparents’ farm. I loved the setting and the time period, which was when my grandparents courted and fell in love. I had a deep commitment to telling the story of a man who was what he was because of his rearing.

I like to think that we have the power and ability to change the destiny of children who seem to have no future. I work with children on a daily basis, mine and many others. I see such great potential, but I also, at times, have seen children whose potential has been robbed of them by the adults in their lives and the examples they have set. There are more than a few that I have daydreamed about rescuing, taking into my home and raising as my own.

I also liked the idea that nothing is coincidence, things happen for a reason. The whole analogy of farming tied in so perfectly with the themes of work, family, and investing in something that will produce results. I think the thing I am most proud of is the change that you see in the characters from the beginning to the end, especially Clairey. Interestingly enough, she is someone that many women have related to, which makes me very happy. I love the fact that the love story is very real, based on mutual respect, an established relationship, hard work, and sacrifice.

(Sounds good. I’m going to have to check it out!)

ME:  Are you an organic type of writer when it comes to the process, or do you prefer outlining, and why or why not?

TRACY:  Very, very organic! I always have an end in mind, but I rarely outline. I am far too unorganized and my life is way too unpredictable for me to keep up with planning it all out. I’m not sure if that is beneficial or harmful. I could probably get a lot more done if I were able to outline, but then too, I am open to different impressions and ideas as they come to me and have the ability to be somewhat creative because of my oddball style.

(Yet one more thing we have in common…)

ME:  When do you do your best writing and what are you working on now?

TRACY:  I am definitely best writing in the evening, but I try and write whenever I have a free moment.

Right now I am trying desperately to finish a trilogy set during the Civil War. I have successfully finished the first two novels and am about 2/3 the way through the last. But the last one is KILLING me! Hopefully I will be able to complete it this summer. (Fingers crossed.)

ME:  Finally, I’m of the belief that a writer’s space is crucial. When you consider the area that you use to write, what five things stand out about it that makes it uniquely yours. (And I must have a picture.)

TRACY:  I wish I could say I have a space of my own. I do not. I write where there is quiet. Sometimes that is my dining room table, sometimes my bedroom, sometimes outside on my porch, or sometimes my lunch break at work.

I dream of an office with large open windows in a restored older home. Someday I may actually have that space. Right now I make do with what is available to me.

(Everyone…order Tracy’s books and spread the word so she can afford her own writing space!)

WritingSpace(Her temporary space at the dining room table)

Tracy has a website and a blog, where you can learn much more about her and her writing (and she’s posted lots of pictures on her blog). Her books are available on Amazon.

I only have two more weeks to go in my Wednesday Writer series because after July 2nd I’m putting it on hiatus in order to complete some exciting projects during the rest of the year. So be sure and check back next week to read my interview with Theresa Sneed, who’s recently released Book 1 of a new YA fantasy series.

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Originally posted 2014-06-11 01:00:59.

Reorientation

More than the Whitneys and a writing conference took me off course over the past two months. But now that all of that is over and family difficulties seem to have eased, I feel ready to plunge back in, renewed and reoriented.

First, some thoughts about the Whitney Awards Gala. I loved it. I was honored to have been a finalist this year in a category that was particularly strong. The presenters did a marvelous job and were often quite creative. Sarah Eden was an inspiration! So, in the end, I didn’t mind eating the traditional “Losers Cheesecake.”

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IMG_1737And here I am with my editor, Linda Prince

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And two from my writer’s group–Liz Adair and Christine Thackeray

The conference was as terrific as ever, but I must admit that I took things easy (after Publication Primer, that is . . . and I had a great group) this year because, given the situation with my daughter, it was hard to keep my focus.

IMG_1732The 3 “L”adies — Liz Adair, Linda Adams, and Laurie Lewis

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Me and the brilliant Michelle Wilson

Still, I came away with some valuable insights from Traci Hunter Abramson on writing a series, Michael Young on recording audio books (yes, I do have plans in that direction), and most of all, our keynote speaker, the NYT bestselling novelist, Anne Perry, put juice back into my writer’s veins. (Liz and I lucked out Friday morning and got to eat breakfast with her.)

Anne Perry

I had begun to despair that my daughter’s difficulties had sapped all my inspiration. But Perry made it very clear that, regardless of genre, theme is all important. If we overlook it and take the easy path, our writing will wilt. I suppose you could say she gave me the courage to pick my brain up again and begin to prod at my view of life for its obvious and not-so-obvious truths. Whether I’m writing for youth or adults, and no matter the genre, the message is key.

The best part of the conference was getting a request for the full manuscript of my middle grade fantasy from Dystel & Goderich Literary Agent Michael Bourret. That gave me the energy to drive on down to Kanab, Utah with fellow “Writeminded” author, Christine Thackeray, and take full advantage of a writing retreat in Liz Adair’s guest bunkhouse for four days and five nights to do a final revision of THE ACADEMY OF THE ANCIENTS: THE HEYMAN LEGACY.

IMG_1740The bunkhouse sleeps 8 — here’s one half

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And there’s shelves and closet space too!

Tip #1: If Liz happens to extend such an invitation to you, do not pass it up! You’ll get clean air, quiet, a beautiful setting, homemade whole wheat blueberry pancakes with sausage or bacon each morning, and an ATV outing or two to work the kinks out. If everything were just right at this moment in our family’s life, I’d move down there in a second.

IMG_1878The ATV I rode up to the top of Antennae Mountain

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Liz pointing to her neighborhood in Kanab

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I’m following Christine into Peekaboo Canyon–Gorgeous!

Tip #2: Liz is putting on the Kanab Writer’s Conference at the end of October (evening of Oct. 25th and all day the 26th), so I’ll be returning to make a couple of presentations. And one of the keynote speakers is Janette Rallison. It only costs $40 (including lunch) for 20 breakout classes in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. (I foresee another great time in the bunkhouse.)

Mark your calendars now and go ahead and register.

In the meantime, I’ve got some writing to get back to. I’m all reoriented and raring to go.

Originally posted 2013-05-20 21:37:41.

A Whitney Finalist Again

When I found out A NIGHT ON MOON HILL was a 2012 Whitney Finalist for General Fiction last week (on Wednesday night, Feb. 6th), I shared it on Facebook but forgot to blog about it here. I even forgot to tweet about it. (Of course, that’s not surprising since Twitter has yet to become second nature to me. That’s one of my goals for the second half of 2013: Conquer Twitter!)

Whitney AwardsAnyway, being a Whitney Finalist means even more this year. LDS authors are not only multiplying, their work is getting better and better. If you want some good reading, check out the list of 2012 Finalists.

In case you’re not familiar with this award, it’s only in its sixth year but it, too, has grown a lot! When it debuted in 2007 as an award for fiction written by LDS authors, it included only  five genre categories: Best Romance/Women’s Fiction, Best Mystery/Suspense, Best Youth Fiction, Best Speculative Fiction, and Best Historical. (Fortunately, the following year, they decided to add Best General Fiction to the mix and allow consideration of self-published novels . . . otherwise, THE RECKONING wouldn’t have had a shot.)

This year, there are eight categories: General, Historical, Romance, Mystery/Suspense, Speculative, YA-Speculative, YA-General, and Middle Grade. All the finalists in the first five Adult categories are eligible for “Best Novel of the Year,” and all the finalists in the other three categories are eligible for “Best Novel in Youth Fiction.” In addition, nine finalists are debut authors and, as such, they are eligible for “Best Novel By New Author.”

I’ve attended every Whitney Gala since 2009 (when they were giving out the 2008 awards and THE RECKONING was a finalist), even though I didn’t have a book in the running. Why? Because it’s inspirational to be in a room with so many great writers.

It’s an honor, again, to be a finalist. I don’t expect to win–the competition is humbling–but I will certainly enjoy the company!

Originally posted 2013-02-12 15:35:25.