My chat with author, Sarah Morgan (conclusion)

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

SM. It’s hard work, and I think it’s important to emphasize that because so often writing is seen as the ‘dream job’ and while in many ways it is (providing you love writing!) it’s also tough and requires bucket loads of resilience and determination. I write two books a year, summer and winter, which gives me little flexibility with deadlines. I start with an outline which I send to my publisher – not detailed, but a summary of the book showing the characters and the main emotional turning points. Then I start writing. And like all jobs there are good days and bad days, and of course in the middle of that life happens and you have days where you can’t

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write, but I set myself a shorter deadline than my official deadline to give myself time for things to slip a little. Some writers produce a rough draft without once looking back, and then go back and edit in detail.

I prefer to edit lightly as I go along, although I’m careful not to spend too long ‘fiddling’ as an excuse to not push ahead! Once I have a full draft I read it on my ereader, because it gives me a more authentic reader experience and for some reason I spot things reading that way that I might not spot on my laptop. Then I send it to my editor. There will probably be a couple of rounds of edits, and then we’re done!

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

SM. None of my characters are ever based on me, but writers are great observers and I look around and see what people are dealing with and often those issues will find themselves in a book. It fascinates me that two people will deal with the same issue differently and that’s why every book is different, no matter how many you write. Because the characters are different. And writing is all about emotions and feelings of course, and all of us have experienced those emotions at one time or another. You might never have met a dragon face to face, but you know what it’s like to experience awe and fear. Those emotions are universal.

Q. What’s your downtime look like?

SM. I spend a lot of time indoors writing, so when I’m not writing I try and spend as much time as possible outdoors being active. I love hiking, and also riding my mountain bike. Writing is mostly solitary (and I’m an extrovert, which brings its challenges!) so I often meet up with friends and family.

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

SM. I certainly wouldn’t rule it out, although right now I’m happy writing women’s fiction and romance and I don’t feel as if I’ve finished in that space.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

SM. Reflect before you respond. I’m impulsive and tend to jump in with an instinctive response to a situation and later I’ll sometimes wish I’d handled it differently. I’ve learned to pause!
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What Do You Do When Your Story Plot Takes a Hard Turn?

GO WITH IT!!

I write this post at the risk of my readers rubbing their temples and saying to themselves, ‘Trish has completely gone off the rails. Now she’s got voices talking to her, reaching out their hands and leading her down another story pathway? Has she gone completely nuts?’

I’m not a very organized writer…well, that is to say, I just let ‘er rip! I’m what’s known as a ‘pantser‘. A writer who dives into their work without a detailed plan or outline is often called a “pantser”. Yes, you read that right—it’s not a typo! The term ‘pantser’ comes from the phrase “flying by the seat of your pants.” These writers rely on their intuition and creativity to guide them as they write, allowing the story to unfold naturally without the constraints of pre-planning. Famous authors who embrace this approach include Margaret Atwood, George R.R. Martin, and Stephen King. So I’m in good company.

So here how it works:

I have an idea of a story plot but only in my head. When my brain is so full of the new story I must empty it out, I sit at my keyboard and began typing.  It’s going very well, the words are flowing and the story is going in the direction I had loosely planned.

Then one night, (120 pages in) about 3am (my best thinking time) I thought to myself, ‘this isn’t about Hannah Mae at all. It’s about her brother, Jerry and his music.’ I lay there and started dictating into my phone the salient points I wanted to tell. How young Jerry is a prodigy. He can play a song after he hears it just once. He can write the music down on paper. He composes effortlessly.
It was like Jerry reached out his hand and led me to his story path. And now with a bit of editing I am exploring his story and the musicians and mentors he meets as a young musician. It has been fascinating, for me, to research and learn about the ‘bluesmen’ of the 1950’s. 

I mentioned it’s happened before:  I had occasion to visit a state prison for men and as I sat waiting with the other visitors (mostly other women) their energy reached out to me and whispered, “you must write about us. The women who wait, the women who hold the family together until the day our man is released.’ 
I began writing their stories the next day.

Half way through writing this warm and fuzzy tale, I was interrupted when one of my characters took a hostage, at knife point, in the visiting room. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I remember yelling at the computer screen, “NO!!”   I considered ignoring what the character,  Charlie, had done. Back space the words, delete them, forget it had happened. But I couldn’t. It was already there on the screen and besides…it was a good twist and made perfect sense within the plot. It was meant to be.

I knew nothing about hostage negotiating. It was a delay of about two months while I researched and wove a new negotiator  into my story, how the other visitors relate to her (yes, she’s a female negotiator .) and remembering that the entire visitors’ area has been taken hostage too. 

Learn how to do the rest: story plot, character development, structure, arc, themes, rising action, inciting incident/s, and setting. 
But, TRUST YOUR GUT!  Your creativity, intuition, and (if you’re very lucky) your story characters should lead you through the story that must be told!
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Interview with author, Sarah Morgan (part 2)

Q. What first inspired you to write?

SM. I always loved writing, even when I was a child. Then by chance I read a medical romance when I was working as a nurse and I was sure I could write one! I did, and I had a great deal of fun doing it. My whole career started from there.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

SM. Sometimes I do, depending on where I am in the book. But I’m careful not to romanticize writing. There are days when the words flow easily and those days are to be treasured of course, but there are also days where I’m examining each sentence and editing closely, making sure that everything I write is as good as it can be and that is important too. Writing is wonderful, but also hard work and I think it’s important to acknowledge that. If it feels hard it’s not because you’re not doing it right!

Q. What compelled you to choose and settle on the genre you now write in?

SM. I mostly write women’s fiction now, but there is almost always some romance in my books (and I wrote romance for years before I moved on to broader stories). I’m interested in relationships, and that includes family and friends as well as romantic relationships. I’m interested in what happens when friendships are challenged, when family relationships are in conflict and when romance isn’t straightforward. I enjoy exploring many of the issues that affect women today, but most of all I love to entertain and romance and women’s fiction are both entertaining genres.

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

SM. I’ve just finished a book that will be out in time for the festive season. It’s called The Holiday Cottage (in the UK the title is The Christmas Cottage) and it explores themes of loneliness, friendship and family. It was so much fun to write and I hope it will make readers laugh aloud (although they may well shed a tear too!).

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

SM. I’ve scribbled stories and experimented for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t finish a book until I was at home with young children. After that there was no stopping me.

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

SM. No I don’t. I think readers are individuals and we all seek different ways to read. I know people who walk for miles listening to an audiobook, who use an ebook to soften the boredom of a long commute, but will still lounge in a bubble bath with a paperback at the end of the day. And let’s not underestimate the appeal of a beautiful hardcover book with sprayed edges!

Q. What makes a writer great?

SM. As a reader I want to be immersed in the story and engaged with the characters. I want to be transported from my world to the world the writer has created, and I want to care enough about what happens in the book to want to read the book in one sitting. A great writer will make me feel everything the characters are feeling.

Did you miss Part 1 of this wonderful Interview?

The conclusion upcoming next week!

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Interview with Sarah Morgan, Author

Sarah Morgan always knew she wanted to be a writer but took a slight detour along the way to train as a nurse, an experience that has found its way into many of her books. A lover of the outdoors, many of her story ideas come while hiking in wild places and she is also a keen photographer. She has been a published author for more than twenty years and lives near London, England where the rain frequently keeps her trapped in her office.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, or special space for your writing? (please provide a photo of you at work in your shed, room, closet, barn, or houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ workspace.

SM. At the beginning of my career I worked

anywhere and everywhere. I had young children so I made sure I was flexible – I’d keep notebooks with me and scribble a few lines at every opportunity and I often worked in the evenings when they were in bed. Now I’m lucky enough to have an office at the bottom of my garden, so in the summer I work with the doors and windows open, surrounded by birdsong and the buzz of bees. It’s very relaxing and great for focus.

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

SM. I almost always have a cup of tea or coffee, but that’s as far as it goes! I have resisted the temptation to create rituals because I want to be able to write anywhere, at any time, regardless of the conditions. I used to write to music, but now I find I need silence although I often use music for inspiration to get me in the right ‘mood’ for the story.

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

SM. I worked behind a bar one summer and it was the most perfect job for observing human behaviour. Also great for learning to mix a drink!

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

SM. All I need is something to write on. Preferably my laptop, but if a pen and paper is all that is available I’ll use that. I find sticky notes useful because you can scribble down a line of dialogue or a plot point and put it on the wall. It’s easy to move notes around and a great way to visualize your story.

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

SM. I think it’s all about developing positive habits. Presumably you want to write, or you wouldn’t be doing it, so sometimes it helps to remind yourself why you’re doing it. Identify your temptations so that you can plan to avoid them. For example if your weakness is getting distracted by the internet then switch it off until you’ve finished your word count for the day. If you’re finding it hard to concentrate then set yourself small acheiveable goals, either in time (work for thirty minutes without distraction), or word count (write 1000 words before stopping). Having a schedule and sticking to it is often helpful.

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

SM. The characters and their situation/problem usually appear to me at the same time. Like most writers I ask myself the ‘what if’ question. No two individuals will respond to a challenge in the same way, and that’s why every story is fresh and new even when you might be exploring well trodden themes.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Join us for part 2  Click here!

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Coming Soon!
A new novel by Trisha Sugarek:   Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Separate  Us

Book Review ~~ Thirty Days in Paris by Veronica Henry

5 out of 5 stars     Book Review

Good writers have the most wonderful ideas for a book. Great writers have the persistence, courage, knowledge, and passion to get the story written down,  weaving those ideas into the very fabric of existence. 

Veronica Henry is a great writer of contemporary stories with wonderful empathic, interesting characters.  And Thirty Days in Paris is no exception.

Juliet has just suffered from empty nest syndrome big time, and her husband is in some mid-life crisis that she can’t understand. They finally agree that they have grown apart and their marriage has reached its ‘sell by’ date. 

Juliet happens upon an advert:  “ TO LET. Charming ‘chambre de bonne’ in the 2eme. Situated a stone’s throw from the glamorous Rue Saint-Honore with its chic boutiques….” 
Paris, the city of love, has always lingered in Juliet’s heart. Now, fueled by whimsy and courage, she answers the ad. The tiny apartment becomes her cocoon, her canvas for reinvention.

The plot is delicious! Juliet’s courage to move from a suburban-Mom’s life to a soon-to-be single middle aged woman on her own is tantilizing. The writing flows like wine. The surprises? Oh, they sizzle like crepes in a skillet—each flip revealing a layer of vulnerability, resilience, and newfound purpose. Veronica Henry’s prose dances, and we, the readers, waltz along.

I highly recommend this book to my readers. 
Did you miss my interview with Veronica Henry? 
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Interview with Tracy Sumner (part 2)

Q. Do you enjoy writing in other forms (playwriting, poetry, short stories, etc.)?  If yes, tell us about it.

TS. I enjoy writing shorter romance (novellas) a lot! I think I’m pretty good at capturing a full story in shorter form.

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

TS. The only time I’ve had any success in this business was when I just pushed aside everything else and WROTE. Write, keep writing, network with other writers or at least, subscribe to their newsletter and see what they’re doing. Reach out to readers. Be accessible. Enjoy the process! And don’t try to do someone’s else process – yours is great!

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

TS. I have the hero in mind, always, before I start. But characters surprise you on the page. I truly find them while writing.

Tudor Dress up

Q. What first inspired you to write?

TS. Reading “The Outsiders” was a big inspiration for me. Stephen King for sure, although I don’t write in that genre. Then, I stumbled upon Vows, by LyVyrle Spencer, and I was done!

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

TS. CHARACTERS!

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

TS. Yes, I think I do, if things are really rolling. But some days, it’s hard. Generally, writing is hard work. I love my pages, I hate my pages. LOL

Q. What compelled you to choose and settle on the genre you now write in?

TS. That first romance I read in college, that was it for me. I ended up reading about 1,000 romances, then figured, I can write one of these. I was a journalism major, and I started writing in high school, so…

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

TS. I have a new release coming in May, THREE SINS AND A SCOUNDREL. It’s the final (#6 full length book) in the Duchess Society series. It’s been a really great series for me and readers seem to love the heroes!

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

TS. I was first published in 2002 with Kensington Publishing. But I also had a career in marketing, so I dallied. Then, in 2017 following a breast cancer diagnosis, I figured I should start writing in earnest. And here we are!

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

TS. No, I really don’t. I still love reading print. However, one great thing about Kindle is the backlighting. When your vision gets wonky after 40, backlighting is awesome! But I still love holding a book in my hand #1 above everything. And I still sell print copies – of course, nothing compared to ebooks.

Q. What makes a writer great?

TS. Be courageous enough to be themselves – which allows their voice to shine.

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

TS. The daily grind. Butt to chair. It’s not sexy and it’s not easy. As I said before, some days I hate the pages. Then the next day, they seem not so bad. Day after day, then somewhere along the way, we have a book!

Q. What’s your downtime look like?

TS. I like to read (of course!) and I love yoga. My son is 16, so my days are filled with mom things, too. I walk a lot in the city, too. I love museums and movies, although since Covid, I haven’t been to the theatre as much.

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

TS. I have written a contemporary series and someday soon may publish those. I’m really all about the characters, not the time period. (I think.)

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

TS. I asked Nora Roberts this once at a conference and she said: PATIENCE. I didn’t get what she meant then, but I do now. Take your time, exhale, breath in love, breath out love. And write. Or read! I think reading is the best, actually.

Did you miss Part 1?
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Interview with Author, Tracy Sumner

USA Today Bestselling author Tracy Sumner’s storytelling career began when she picked up a historical romance on a college beach trip, and she fondly blames LaVyrle Spencer for her obsession with the genre. When she’s not writing sizzling love stories about feisty heroines and their temperamental-but-entirely-lovable heroes, Tracy enjoys reading, snowboarding, college football (Go Tigers!), yoga, and travel.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, or special space for your writing? (please provide a photo of you at work in your shed, room, closet, barn, or houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ workspace.

TS. I write wherever I can. In Stephen King’s book On Writing, he has thoughts about not setting yourself into a habit where you can only write in one, perfect place. Or when you feel like the muse is sitting on your shoulder. 🙂 That said, I have a writing area in my bedroom. LOL, I live in NYC and we don’t have extra space to give for offices typically. It’s cute, though, and has my writing awards and personal thing, books and swag! My dream would, of course, be to have a room that looked like a Regency library! With shelves and shelves of books!

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

TS. I like to write with gentle music on, no lyrics. I can’t have television or anything distracting on. I usually read the first two pages (or so) of the previous day’s work to get into the rhythm. I also edit these pages at this time, so in the end, working this way, my manuscripts are fairly clean.

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

TS. I’ve lived in Europe and Asia – and my son is adopted from Vietnam! I live in NYC, but I’m a native South Carolinian and still have a place in Beaufort, SC, too that I’ll retire to.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

TS. I’m a right to keyboard writer! 😉

Q. Do you have pets? Tell us about them and their names. 

TS. Before Covid, I fostered kittens a lot (harder to do in NYC due to space limitations) and I adopted one of my fosters, Banksy. He’s about 8 now and is a love bug! You’ll see he has one eye. He was spray-painted as a kitten by a homeless man and rescued by the police. It damaged his eye, which was removed, and I named him Banksy, after the graffiti artist!

Q. Do you enjoy writing in other forms (playwriting, poetry, short stories, etc.)?
If yes, tell us about it.

Join us next Friday for part 2 of this Interview
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A New 10-Minute Play

                                              Eyes on the Road, Girlie is my latest offering.  Just written a few days ago and now, of course, in rewrites. 

Truth is funnier (and stranger) than fiction. 

My housekeeper relayed this story in passing the other day.  Her client is a 90-year-old woman who no longer drives but still loves her outings.  So she has hired a caregiver, not to help with her meds, clean her house, help her shower, or fix her meals.  No. She has hired Diana to drive her around three days a week.  Sometimes they are random drives, sometimes to the nearby ocean beach, or a historic site, or to beautiful downtown Savannah with all of her charming squares.  Her choices are never premeditated; always picked spontaneously on the morning of the outing.  But!  two things are absolute:  Breakfast biscuits at McDonald’s and luncheon at Chik-Fil-A.  

When I heard this story told in real time, my imagination sprung to life: this would make a charming, perhaps funny, (I never know when my writing will turn up funny) short play.  And so, as often is the case, dialogue began running in my head until I was forced to write it down.  

Fellow writers: Life and the people around you will supply you with all you need if you but look and listen. 
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From ‘no book’ to ‘finished book’? What does it look like?

Recently a fellow writer and friend asked me this question:  “What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like?  I asked other authors to answer that question in my monthly author interviews.  Having also completed 16 novels  I’d like to add my two cents:

I sometimes used my play script (by the same name) as my book outline/treatment.  As the scenario was so current (because it was a play), I found that flashbacks were a great way to flesh out each woman’s story and it served me well. It took me a year and four months to write and edit it. That equals 72,000 words.

I did not have a deadline and it probably would have really helped. I was my own deadline setter and that didn’t work out so well. On the other hand, I think having a publisher breathing down my neck would have stifled my creative flow.  When life got in the way I wouldn’t work on it for weeks but then I would get inspired and work on it for days, weeks, non-stop, sometimes 10-14 hours a day. So I guess it all evened out.  Whatever you do,authors, writers, publishers, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write for a few days… although I preach that you should write something every day.  But if you hit a dry spell, you’ll make up for it with better, more relaxed creative writing.

Because I inherently ‘rush’, I found that I had to watch-dog myself and be careful not to leave out important roads of the story. I was in early proofing of the final product of my novel and realized (in a countless re-read) that I had never described my female negotiator’s physical appearance. (Yikes!).  Again, (if the writer tends to rush) go back and re-read your work to see where you need to flesh out a chapter or a character.

I am not structured at all. I write a new project in my head for days, weeks and then when my brain is about to burst I begin putting it down on paper (computer). I also write out of sequence and I think that’s okay. My novel’s last chapter was completed months before the middle was written.

Some writers have actually written whole books while blogging; they found it less daunting by writing in segments. At the end they had a book and then they published.  If you need a deadline the days that you commit to writing a blog would serve.  For me this wouldn’t work;  I would feel too exposed having my rough draft out there for the world to see as I am a writer who slams it down the first time around and then edit, edit, delete, edit.  Did I mention that the lettering is worn off my ‘delete’ key?

Frequently I will begin a story that has inspired me, not knowing much about the subject. It has sometimes stopped me dead in my tracks while I researched (example: hostage negotiations or building a cabin in the 1920’s).   I had 8 pages of a new play about Winston Churchill written and  had to stop to do research. I find that it can be done while I am writing and that is what I prefer. It’s more fun and keeps me interested. I don’t think I would do well having my research all done before I put my story down. I find that the research itself inspires my story line.

And then there is that unseen, unheard phenomenon where, with any luck, the characters take over and you become the typist.  .  This has happened to me time and again, and while I resisted at first (being a control-freak) I now embrace and welcome it.  In Women Outside the Walls my character Alma, at sixteen, is abandoned by her promiscuous mother.  Alma is befriended by the ex-girl friend of the man Alma had a teen crush on.  They end up being room mates.  I could never have dreamed that one up;  but my characters got together and decided that this was what they would to do.

Book 1 in series

I don’t think that there is a right or wrong way to go through the process. Each writer should be unique in how they work. Instead of thinking of it as a project/deadline ‘thing’; think of it as a work of art, created just for you and by you. Where possible, let the characters lead you. They will never steer you wrong!

well, there you have it…the process such as it is for me and how it works.

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Do You Doubt Yourself…your writing?

  famous authors, writers,    I ran across a description of one of my enemies….DOUBT!  And it got me to thinking. Author, Jacqueline Winspear wrote: “Doubt. Was it an emotion? A sense? Or was it just a short stubby word to describe a response that could diminish a person in a finger snap?”

I wrote earlier about my being in good company.  Regardless if we writers are obscure or famous, we all doubt ourselves and our work.  What if Henry Charles Bukowski, or Ernest Hemingway, or John Steinbeck had let DOUBT win?  Put away their pen, dumped their scribbles into a shoe box and made a trip to the attic, got a day job and never wrote another word?   It doesn’t bear thinking about.

famous authors, writers, famous quotesJ. Michael Straczynski:  “When in ‘doubt’, blow something up.”

 

 

F.Scott Fitzgerald:   “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.”

Image result for f. scott fitzgerald

 

 

 

famous authors, famous quotesE.M. Forster:  “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”

 

 

Tapani Bagge:  “Everything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  auithors, famous quotes, writersAnd later on you can use it in some story.”

 

 
Maya Angelou:  “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

authors, famous quotes, writersElinor Lipman:  “Critics have been described as people who go into the street after battle and shoot the wounded.”

 

writers, authors, famous quotes

 

Leo Rosten:  “The only reason for being a professional writer is that  you just can’t help it.”

 

Let’s see …..when were my worst moments?  DOUBT clawing at me, whispering in my ear, crawling up my spine.  Telling me that I’ll never make it, I’ll never finish a whole novel, that I don’t know the first thing about writing poetry.  Writing play scripts was relatively easy for me. After all I had been in theatre reading scripts for over thirty years.  And the stories simply fell out of the sky and into my brain when writing a script.

But other genre? 

When I could no longer resist the urgency of writing about the women who wait outside prison walls, I researched the length of the average novel; number of pages and words.  Yikes!  Over 300 pages and 70,000 words.  DOUBT was screaming in my ear: ‘you’ll never be able to write that many pages.’  ‘you’re a playwright; not a novelist’, ‘who do you think you’re kidding?’  But I had a true story (several of them, in fact) and all I needed to do was flesh those stories out.  Write one page at a time…or even one word.
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