Archive for the Category » How To Write Fiction «

When will My Stories be Discovered??

TS. I wrote this post back in 2012….seven years ago. But most of it still holds true today.

Okay, so now you have a publisher…your books will fly off the shelves or through cyberspace, right?  Au contra, it’s still going to take some time. Or at least, that’s certainly been my experience….

Samuel French (biggest publisher for stage plays)  picked me up in 2004 and has since published four of my stage plays.  I am so grateful to be in the same publishing house as  Louisa May Alcott, David Mamet, Anton Chekhov, and Tennessee Williams. And the staff is so nurturing to their authors.  But, here’s the reality: No sales the first year, a few the second year, more the third year and so on…….but, sadly, no BIG immediate discovery of this playwright!  Not like in the movies!!

So I kept writing and editing and submitting……and writing more!

I am happy to share with my readers the news that I received a nice fat check from French with reports that reflected my biggest sales period EVER, the first quarter, this year (2012)!  Over the last six months they have sold seventy scripts of mine.  Most orders were in multiple quantities which means a theatre company was buying enough books for cast and crew.  And that means that somewhere, out in the world, theatre companies are producing my work!  You might be saying to yourself, ‘that’s not so many’  but think about it.  That’s 11.6 scripts per month. And like I said, most of them were NOT perusal copies (of one) but the number that they would need to produce a show! One production in Bangor, Maine and the other in Phoenix, AZ.

Last year (2018) a play of mine was produced in Iceland and the UK.

My books are finally selling with some welcomed regularity on amazon.com (USA and Europe) and other book outlets. After eight long years!!

So my message to you is: Keep writing, fellow writers.  Keep editing, rewriting. That’s where a really good story/book is born.  When you get rejection after rejection  (as I did) let that be the spur to write more! Use ‘Self publishing’ . ‘Vanity’ books are a thing of the past…or almost.  Most of us, as writers, have something important to say and vanity is far, far away from our thoughts.  With the advent of ‘print on demand’ self publishing is not the huge investment it used to be.  I self publish for less than $100. plus the wholesale cost of the finished book.  Sure your publisher takes a cut…but!  You’re published!!

Writing is a lonely business but keep at it.  I’ll believe in you if you’ll believe in me!
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An Irish Country Family ~~ Book Review

reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing          5 out of 5 quills 

 

Every time I begin the newest (#14) in this series it is like returning home to my village. BallyBucklebo, (the village), is a character unto itself.  This particular story goes back and forth between the current year (1969) in the village and when Barry Laverty is still in residency at a local hospital. (1964-5). So half the book is before Barry ever met the patriarch and senior country physician, Final Flahertie O’Reilly or was offered a position in his practice. 

A rich series that spans decades in the ‘wee village’ of Ballybucklebo, Ulster County, Ireland. Seldom will readers find characters more deeply drawn. Beginning with An Irish Country Doctor (2007), each book follows the characters’ stories.  The author, Patrick Taylor, has an opulent flavor to his writing which is brilliant. The reader can smell the salty brine of the nearby Lough, the whisky and stale smoke in the Mucky Duck (pub). See the golden crust of Kinky’s latest offering for lunch. Feel Barry and Sue’s personal pain. I particularly enjoyed the accurate weaving of medical history throughout the story. 

This writer intertwines his characters’ stories with a precise ebb and flow. Each book makes the reader wish for more.

Did you miss my Interview with Patrick Taylor 
Book Available for Sale ~ November 12th
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Revise, Edit and Re-publish

My first novel was written in 2011. Being known as a playwright, I was urged by friends and fans to expound on the play by the same title. They were left unsatisfied by the play (even though it was a thumbnail of the story and quite successful on the stage.) They wanted more. What happened to the three women in the story? 

Writing a play is child’s play (pun intended) for someone like me. After all I’ve read thousands of play scripts and portrayed hundreds of characters from other plays, not my own.  One hundred pages is a walk in the park. But 300+ pages of a work of fiction. A Novel. I still remember the day I sat at my keyboard and faced the blank page 1. I was scared out of my mind.  Thank the stars I had a story plot and the stage play to refer to. 

Now, eight years later I brought it out and dusted it off. (Remember I’ve written about this before.) The first thing I do is check for my personal idiosyncrasies when writing: those words we all use too much. Mine are ‘just‘ and ‘that‘.  So I checked the first one. 264 ‘Justs‘ and I only needed about 28 of them. So I went through the manuscript and deleted a couple hundred. Ugh. 
Now, let’s see about the second word. ‘That’. 723. Oh dear!

Several years ago I was reading one of my favorite authors (when I’m not writing, I’m reading) and something was irritating me in the back of my consciousness, a little niggle. 

Then I realized the author repeatedly used the word ‘snickered’ or‘ snicker‘ when describing the tone of the dialogue. (Let the dialogue set the tone.) I doubt the author was even aware of it. ‘Snickered’ was exactly the same as my ‘that’. There’s a whole slew of synonyms for ‘snicker’ (she could have mixed it up) Scorned, scoffed, mocked, derided, sneered, snorted, etc. Once I discovered the culprit of my irritation, I couldn’t unsee the word and it spoiled the story for me. I put the book away, unread.

Technical Note: For those of you who don’t know how to find a word used to excess: Use the keys ‘Control F’; a box will open. type in the word that you might have used too much. It will tell you how many times it was used in the ms. And the word will be highlighted in yellow so you can easily edited them. 

So whenever you edit, clean up and revise an older work you will get a better story out it. You will achieve better writing. You may even find a new chapter or two.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’Tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” ― Mark Twain
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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How to Create Tantalizing Book Covers

Intriguing cover. I see a young man and an old lady. Something tells me they are not related. The woman is blind. (see cane) Right away when I saw this cover I knew that they were unlikely friends. BTW, it turns out this is the best book I’ve ever read!

Nine Tips on Creating your Book Cover when self-publishing. There are dozens of platforms to create a book cover. Most publishing platforms have a ‘cover creator’ that you can easily use. This post is not about building a book cover. These tips are about  content. Images and titles that attract your reader. Making them want to pick up your book.  The ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ by example.

  1. A book cover is the very first thing a book buyer is going to be attracted to whether it’s in a book store browsing the shelves or surfing the digital pages on the web. It is the first and most important step in marketing your book. 
  2. Your cover should tantalize, intrigue, and compel the buyer to pick up the book or stop scrolling (on the Internet) and delve into your book.
  3. Your cover image should not be obscure. It should represent what’s inside. But just a tease.
  4. Park your ego at the door. Don’t be artsy, egotistical, or have a “I’m the author” moment when designing your book cover. Step back and try to objectively visualize what a reader might be attracted to. Represent your story with the cover image.
  5. There is a fine line between being clever and being stupid about the design for your book. 
  6. The artwork (find yourself a good graphic designer) should be as good as you can afford. The title should be in the largest font. A tag line is nice on the front cover and absolutely mandatory on the back. The author’s name is the least important.  Yep, that’s what I said. Unless you are Nora Roberts or Stephen King with enormous name-recognition, your name should take up the least amount of space. 
  7. The artwork (images) should tease; suggest what the story line is; make the buyer curious about the story inside.
  8. The image should suggest but not be specific; leave something for the reader’s imagination.
  9. Here are some samples of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ covers in this blogger/reviewer’s opinion: 



    Say Goodbye For Now
    . Looking closely, it appears to be a younger Caucasian boy and an African-American boy. The dog looks like a Shepard/husky mix or a hybrid wolf. The cover is tantalizing; are the boys friends? how does the dog fit in? Who is going to say goodby? I give this a strong  

     

     

    The Orchid Sister. Too artsy and too dark in tone. The font is hard to read. The Cover doesn’t say anything except that there is a sister.  The vibe I get from this cover is it is probably about the occult. Which it was not. Poor decisions all around.
    I give it a                                  

     

    The Oysterville Sewing Circle. This cover is too obscure. It’s a deeply rich story but the cover short-changes it and  implies that it involves a bunch of women in a sewing circle which it is not.
                                                                                             Have to give it a

     

    Dance of Murder. I give my graphic designer (David White) all the credit for this one. So I can use it as an example. Over the years, I have developed such a relationship with him that I can give him a synopsis of the story and what I envision and let him loose. This is what I got.  I’m going to rank it as I had little to do with the creative side of things. This cover tells the buyer/reader that the story is about strippers who are murdered. The neon color of ‘Dance’  emphasizes that the story is around a strip club. The art work teases just enough to intrigue. It gets a

     

    It’s Getting Scot in Here. I’m of the school that you should never show specific faces of the characters on the cover. The reader wants to have their own idea of what the characters look like, especially the heroine and hero. Why a gazebo on the cover? They were in one for a total of 3 seconds in over 300 pages of this book. While I was caught up in this fine story, my imagined lovers looked nothing like the people on the cover.
                                                                                                                                  This is a sample of what not to do:

    My Own True Duchess. This is what you should do. This cover represents exactly what the story is. A period romance. The reader can barely see what the lovers look like and leaves it to the imagination.  I give it a

      

     Blue Hollow Falls. I prefer that authors leave me to imagine what my favorite characters look like. This cover tells me that there is a single woman, probably in conflict. She appears to be discovering this conservatory or greenhouse for the first time. Her dress and the wild flowers tell me the season. I’m curious.  I give this a


    The Colonel and The Bee
    . This cover teeters between being too obscure or being just about perfect. The story is wonderful with fine writing. But the cover doesn’t tantalize like the story deserves so I have to give it a Only until after I read this fantastic story did I understand the cover. That’s a bad thing. I had never heard of the author. Something about the title made me purchase this book. But nothing about the image attracted me.

     

     

    SEE ALSO PROOF. This is one of the worst covers I’ve seen in a while.  The Title makes no sense and doesn’t present even a clue as to the story. I read the book so I can say the 5×7 note card has no relevance. And I dislike a plug for another book on the front.  Too bad because I really like what this author offers. The tag line, while a little long, is acceptable. But a very poor cover over all.                              

     I give it a

     

     

    Women Outside the Walls. Yep, this is mine. But it’s a good example of what you want your cover to achieve.  The three women speak of how different they are in social status and education. There’s rebellion and grief in their expressions. The title makes the reader wonder; are they outside prison walls? Probably. But how did they get there?  Again, the value of a graphic artist.  I give it a

    I want to emphasize how important the cover is. If you can, invest in a good graphic artist. My experience has been to give them some room to create. The front cover should be simple as far as text:  title, author’s name, a tag line. The back cover is where you put the synopsis, some reviews, another tag line (if you want) and a short bio of the author with a small photo. 
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    MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
     
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Interview with Author, Kristina McMorris

TS. Kristina was inspired to write by the newspaper photo shown below. I was inspired by the beautiful cover of Sold on a Monday to buy the book and subsequently interview her. Kristina McMorris is an acclaimed author of two novellas and five historical novels, including Sold on a Monday, which is now celebrating five months on the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers lists. Initially inspired by her grandparents’ WWII courtship letters, her works of fiction have garnered more than twenty national literary awards. Prior to her writing career, she owned a wedding- and event-planning company until she had far surpassed her limit of YMCA- and chicken dances.  She lives in Oregon with her husband and their two sons, ages thirteen and fifteen going on forty.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

KM. Something that’s probably unique about my writing space is that, although it’s always located somewhere in my house, the specific spot changes with every book I write. By the time I spend a year or more working on a manuscript, I’m so tired of sitting in the same place day after day (my rocking chair, office desk, kitchen table, living room couch, etc) that I have to switch it up for the next book. I often joke that after a few more books, we’ll have to move to a new house because I’ll have run out of fresh spots for writing!

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

KM. As a recovering event planner, I still absolutely have to have a clean work space. A large tumbler of decaf tea is a must (admittedly with an embarrassing amount of vanilla creamer) and fuzzy socks are the norm.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

KM. I was fortunate enough to spend an entire college year living in Florence, Italy, an incredible experience that taught me an enormous amount about pasta and wine and, best of all, tiramisu. Ha. Seriously, though, I learned so many important life lessons there, and now even enjoy weaving Italian characters into my stories.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

KM. That’s an easy one to answer: school hours. The clock starts when the kids get on the bus and stops when they come charging back through the door full of stories from their day!

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

KM. Unplug from the Internet. (It’s hard, I know!) Take a walk, think about where the story is going, write the next scene by hand if needed (in other words, change things up), and sit down in the chair and just write.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

KM. A nugget of a premise always comes to me first, then I start to imagine who landed in that situation. I figure out how they got there by backtracking and digging deeper into their lives until I finally understand who the characters are at their core.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

KM. About a dozen years ago, I was creating a homemade cookbook featuring my grandmother’s recipes, meant as a Christmas gift for the grandkids. When I interviewed her for the biographical section, she shared that she and my late grandfather had dated only twice during WWII, fell in love through an ongoing letter exchange, and were married for fifty years until he passed away. Then she said, “Would you like to see the letters?” After spending an afternoon poring over those beautiful wrinkled pages, I envisioned a Cyrano de Bergerac-type story set during WWII, which ultimately became my debut novel, Letters from Home—and the course of my career at that point completely changed.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

Review of Sold on a Monday

Don’t miss Part II of this Interview next week.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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Writing Tips ~~ Write in Present Tense or Past?

write, create, writing, authors, blogThe best writers almost always seem to know, either consciously or intuitively, when to use present tense. Many of us, however, do not. Present tense has become something of a fad, and we often use it even when past tense would serve the story better. Whatever the causes for the prevalence of the present tense in today’s fiction, it is important that we understand its advantages and disadvantages so we can better decide when to employ it.

Present tense restricts our ability to manipulate time. Altering chronological order and varying duration both work against the primary purpose of present tense, which is to create the feeling that something’s happening now.

It is more difficult to create complex characters using present tense. While it is certainly possible to create complex characters in present-tense fiction, it’s more difficult to do so without natural access to the basic techniques that allow us to manipulate order and duration. 

The present tense can diminish suspense. Because present-tense narrators do not know what is going to happen, they are unable to create the kind of suspense that arises from knowledge of upcoming events.

I, as an author, am in the ‘past tense’ camp. I am always put off, and find it very distracting, when a writer chooses to write in present tense. And horrors of horrors, flips back and forth between present and past tense for no apparent reason.  TS

                                                                                                     ~~~~~~~~~~~~

‘Most stories are told using the simple past—was, walked, drank, hoped. Stories using the past tense are written the same way stories have been told for years—once upon a time, sometime before the present time, these marvelous characters existed and lived out a fantastic adventure. They did these things, these events are over, and someone can’t resist telling you all about these happenings and adventures.

When I say most stories, I mean the great majority of stories. Oral stories as well as written fiction are told using the past tense. It’s common to readers, it’s common to writers, and it’s been the prevalent format for storytelling for years and years and years.

It’s so common that readers don’t notice it; they simply jump into the story’s adventure.

The present tense—is, walks, drinks, hopes—on the other hand, is rare. Yes, we all know wonderful stories told using present tense. Yet in comparison to the number of novels that use the simple past, present-tense novels are few in number. Present-tense narration is also much more recent a practice.

From what I can tell from a quick survey of Internet articles, readers notice when stories are told using the present tense. I’m not saying, nor are those readers, that there’s anything wrong with the use of present tense. We are saying that its use is noticeable.

Choose the present tense if you’re trying for a unique feel to your fiction, but know the limitations. Know that readers might not accept your choice. Know that publishers might ask you to change your narrative tense.

Choose past tense when you don’t want to distract the reader, when you want to use the common storytelling method.

Don’t let fear hold you back. Use the narrative tense that works for the story, the genre, and your readers. Know what narrative tense can achieve.

Write strong stories.

Write powerful fiction.

(Thank you, Beth Hill, The Editor’s Blog)

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs and September: Alan Foster (sci-fi)
 
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NEW Journal…How To Write a Play

My newest Journal created for aspiring and established PLAYWRIGHTS has just been published and can be found in your favorite bookstore. 

245+ lined, blank pages for your writing PLUS Sections with instructions on ‘how to‘. 

Section 1……How to Begin… 
Section 2……How to Write a Play… 
Section 3……Creating Rich Characters…
Section 4……Story Telling 
Section 5…… How to Block… 
Section 6…… Snappy Dialogue… 
Section 7…… Set Design… 
Section 8…… Formatting your Play… 
Section 9…… Terminology..

To Purchase 

Other custom journals for your journaling pleasure: 

 

 

 

 

How to Create a Tantalizing Book Cover 

 

What Other Writers are Saying…

TS. I am currently developing a new journal for creative writers who are or want to be writing plays. If my fans and readers are familiar with my journals, it is traditional for me to embed quotes from other writers, authors, actors, directors, etc., into the blank pages of the journal. These are meant to inspire the owner of the journal with their own story writing.

Louis L’Amour

So I am always looking for new quotes as I hand pick every one when considering them for my journals. Here are what other writers have said about the joys (and heartbreak) of being a writer.

 

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Louis L’Amour

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Ernest Hemingway 

Mary Y-Arr

“What would you write if you weren’t afraid?” Mary Y-Arr

 

“The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.” Alan Dean Foster

Alan Dean Foster

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” Jodi Picoult

“The desire to write grows with writing.” Desiderius Erasmus

“I must write it all out at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“As a writer you try to listen to what others aren’t saying…and write about the silence.” N.R. Hart 

MJ Bush

“Step into a scene and let it drip from your fingertips.” MJ Bush 

“We write to taste life twice. In the moment and in retrospect.” Anais Nin

Anais Nin

“I think new writers are too worried that it has all been said before. Sure it has but not by you.” Asha Dornfest 

“An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” Stephen King

Stephen King

“Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little.” Holley Gerth

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August: My interview with Susan Wiggs and in September: Alan Dean Foster (sci-fi)
 
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Inspiration in the Check Out Line…really?

Back in 2015 I wrote this post. It’s been getting some ‘clicks’ lately from visitors so I thought I would reprise it. When something or someone inspires you, grab hold and don’t let go?   

inspiration, writing, story telling, blogging, blogs, short stories,, short plays, life     The other day I was standing in line at the grocery store, minding my own business…preoccupied that I was leaving my dogs in the car too long….when I suddenly became aware of the man in front of me being checked out.  I had picked that line because it appeared that he only had maybe six items, (boxes of something) and I was eager to get checked out.  (the dogs…remember?)

Well, it turned out that in front of the ‘boxes’, and out of my line of sight, were two dozen very tiny cans of dog food.  It seems that you can buy three tablespoons of dog food in individual cans for your darling pet.  Two bags of doggy treats and then we were ready to ring up the boxes.

Those six boxes were actually fifteen (yes I counted every one of them; the dogs in the car, remember) boxes of Healthy Choice ‘nutritious, packaged dinners; microwavable, ready to eat  in just twelve minutes’. Fifteen boxes of over-processed, heavily salted, flavor enhanced, empty food.  The nutritional value in the dog food was probably better. I wanted so badly to take my bag of fresh spinach out of my cart and give it to him with my best wishes. But, wait, he wouldn’t know how to steam the spinach or for how long.

Well!  That made me take a closer look at the customer.  And by the time he paid ($86.13 for the dog food and the TV dinners, OMG!) I had half of a short, one act play written in my head.   

The man in my story is a newly widowed senior who was married for forty years and never cooked a meal in his life. 

He goes home with his sad little boxes of food.  He puts his delicious, processed dinners in the freezer to be enjoyed later in front of his fifty-two inch high definition television.  DogSpeaking baby talk he rips open the doggy treats and gives his overweight  shiatsu a goody.

If this sounds as if I am making fun…..no, no, no…it’s written with love as this is the typical existence of the widowed male.  A snapshot of life that gave me a great little story. And  the lesson to be learned, fellow writers, is to keep your eyes and ears open.  You never know when inspiration will strike!
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde
 
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Interview (part 3) with writer, Anne LeClaire

Anne with friend, Deborah

Q. How long after were you published?

AL. I spent the next three years writing and rewriting and learning how to write a novel, getting to understand the importance of structure, etc. I was very fortunate to work with the brilliant Linda Grey

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

AL. No. When my previous book, The Halo Effect, came out I visited forty-eight book clubs, mostly in person although a few were skyped. Over and over, I heard from readers that they love to hold an actual book. They used eBooks out of convenience but the tactile satisfaction, the holding of it, gave them a pleasure they didn’t get from an eBook. I have both and think there is a place for both, but my first love is paper.

Q. What makes a writer great?

AL. Define great. And to whom? Compilers of 100 greatest lists? Or those who list books that have been timeless in appeal? At what age? Loving a book is so personal.
Another thing I witnessed when visiting book clubs is exactly that. I do know what compels me to recommend a book – to press it into the hands of friends and near strangers, and that is a combination of characters and their stories who haunt me long after I have finished, that make me think and feel and change me in an essential way.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

AL. A roller-coaster.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

AL. Eleven of my books are novels, one is a memoir in which I explore my practice of not speaking two Mondays a month (Listening Below the Noise) and I have written on children’s book. (Kaylee Finds A Friend.)

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

AL. Remember that book, Everything I Need to Know in Life I learned in Kindergarten? Well, many of the things I needed to learn in life, I acquired in writing: What makes people tick? How do we learn to forgive? What is the purpose of grief? How do we grieve? How do we love? If we want to love and be loved, why do we sabotage ourselves? Above all, by sliding into the skins of characters very different from me, I began to develop empathy That’s one of the great things fiction can do for readers and writers.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

Red Sox fan

AL. That depends on the seasons. In the winter, I am a house mouse. I read and rest and go inward. Do yoga. Attend movies or concerts or theatre with friends. The rest of the year, I am more active in my down time. I swim, run, hike, hang out at the beach. I’m always reading regardless of the season. One time inspired by an exercise in The Artist’s Way, I decided to do a one-week reading fast. I lasted three days and those days weren’t pretty. I actually grew short-tempered. Reading is like oxygen to me.

Did you miss the beginning of this interview? Click here
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   April: Poet, Joe Albanese, May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde
 
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