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What Does It Look Like?…..From ‘no book’ to ‘finished book’?

write, create, writing, authors, blogRecently a fellow writer and friend asked me this question:  “What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like?”  

My first novel, Women Outside the Walls began as a full length play.  I used my play script 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 it, format it 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, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write for a few days….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. 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.  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 ‘D’ 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).   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.

WRITE WITHOUT FEAR
EDIT WITHOUT MERCY

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.

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 and how it works for me.   

(Originally published January, 2013.)

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan
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Book Review~~Picnic in Someday Valley

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

Author, Jodi Thomas, never lets her readers down. This sequel to the Honey Creek series is a satisfying read, re-visiting Someday Valley and the strong characters that Jodi Thomas has drawn. Pecos and Brand being my favorites in this new one.  

The readers get to return to Honey Creek and Someday Valley, two small towns in Texas. While set in current times, there’s still a flavor of the old west and small town closeness and politics that you cannot escape from to this day.  The story is rich in twists and turns with vibrant, quirky characters.

I highly recommend it to my readers. 

Did you miss the wonderful interview we did with this author? 

Coming Soon! (Oct. 2021, Book 3 Honey Creek series)

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

Interview with Lee Matthew Goldberg, author (part 2)

Yankee Stadium with friends….the good old days…packed seats

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

LMG. When I went for my MFA at the New School. It was the first time I really starting thinking of it as a career. I had written a few books before that still needed a lot of work, and even sent one out to a few agents, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. My MFA program really helped shape me as a writer, and then afterwards when I got an agent, he was a great mentor in honing my craft. About a dozen years later, he’s still my agent.

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

LMG. Nope, never. People will always want physical copies, but there will definitely be less. Personally, I’ll read on Kindle but I prefer a book a lot more. I can read e-books on like a plane, that’s about it. Physical books have a smell to them, you carry them with you, you make notes in the margins. I know you can do that with e-books but it’s not the same. I still have my high school copy of The Great Gatsby with all my notes from when I was teenager. It’s a treasure. That wouldn’t be possible with an e-book.

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

LMG.  Depends. Sometimes the character comes first, sometimes the idea. Sometimes I’ll hear a song and that inspires the book like with my last novel The Ancestor. I heard a song called “The Ancestor,” and the first line was “Go on bury me.” It was wintertime and I just pictured a man buried in ice who wakes up from it after a hundred years. The rest of the book began to unravel from that image.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

LMG. I’ve always been a writer since I was a little kid. I used to make up stories about my dog getting into crazy situations, so this was always the career I was meant to have. I think that there are people who are just born writers. When I’m not working on a project, I get a little depressed, so I have to write. It’s a part of me. And it’s always been liked that.

Two Lees at book signing with Charlaine Harris

Lee and……Lee

TS: What are the chances that two gentlemen are named Lee Goldberg, both authors, and I interviewed the first one six years ago. And they, one from L.A. and one from NYC met and became acquainted at a couple of book signings? Too weird and wonderful.

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

LMG. Depends. Usually they start to emerge in tandem.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

LMG. That’s when I know I’m really writing something great. I’ll leave my body for a few hours and forget what I’ve written. Then I’ll spiral back down. I’ve heard Stephen King describe a similar thing. I don’t know where I go, but I go somewhere. It’s the same when I’m reading a book I’m really into, I’ll lose time in the best way.

Q.  Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

LMG. I’m always working on something. I have a YA series coming out, so I’m working on the idea for the third book. The first two have been written. And I have a screenplay project as well based off of my books that I’m working on with a production company. I’m very excited about that, since it’s been about three years in the making. I also have a few ideas for books I want to write. One takes place in the 1950s and would be a Jewish Mad Men. The perspective of a Jewish man breaking into the ad world then and the different kinds of anti-Semitism he faced. I was inspired after watching the HBO show The Plot Against America.

Q. I understand that you are about to release ORANGE CITY, an exciting sci-fi novel. Tell us about it.

LMG. Imagine a secret, hidden City that gives a second chance at life for those selected to come: felons, deformed outcasts, those on the fringe of the Outside World. Everyone gets a job, a place to live; but you are bound to the City forever. You can never leave. Its citizens are ruled by a monstrous figure called the “Man” who resembles a giant demented spider from the lifelike robotic limbs attached to his body. Everyone follows the Man blindly, working hard to make their Promised Land stronger, too scared to defy him and be discarded to the Empty Zones.

Did you miss Part 1 of our interview?

Don’t Miss Part 3 of this Interview ~~ June 19th
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

“I just always wanted to tell my stories.” Author, sports writer, Mike Lupica Interviews with this Blogger

TS. Mike Lupica is one of the most prominent sports writers in America. His longevity at the top of his field is based on his experience and insider’s knowledge, coupled with a provocative presentation that takes an uncompromising look at the tumultuous world of professional sports. Today he is a syndicated columnist for the New York Daily News; at the same time a prolific author under his own name and writing for Robert B. Parker and James Patterson. 

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

ML. Just start writing. I do it all the time. Just get into it, even if the first few pages might not ever get into your book.

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

ML.  In my imagination? Where else? I get them together and get them talking, and then all of a sudden one of them will say something I didn’t know they were going to say, or do something I had no idea they would do. In moments like that, I feel as if I have the best job in the world.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

ML. I always just wanted to tell my stories. When I was ten, I was writing mystery and adventure stories – longhand of course – with myself as a main character. Old-fashioned, Catholic School blue essay books. It’s all I ever wanted to do. Tell my stories. When I was traveling extensively to talk to kids in schools for my Middle Grade books, I’d always tell them that they had to buy my books, because I had no other skills.

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

ML. Characters. Always.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

ML. All the time. At the home we once had in Connecticut, my wife Taylor transformed a shed about fifty yards from our back door into an amazing writing cottage. The first time I walked down the hill, my son Alex turned to his mother and said, “He may never come back.”

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

ML. Well into this September’s Jesse, called Stone’s Throw. And back with Mr. Patterson for a new one. Working with him has been one of the great experiences of my career. Like getting a master class in getting the reader to keep turning pages.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

ML. College. Three school papers. Working nights at the Boston Globe. Writing for the Globe and the old Boston Phoenix. Chasing my dreams as hard as I could. Now here I am, getting to write about characters that Robert B. created. Honor of a writing lifetime.

Q. How long after that were you published?

ML. I was in my early 30s when “Reggie” put me on the Times list for the first time. My first mystery, Dead Air, followed shortly thereafter.

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

ML. Never.

Q. What makes a writer great?

ML. It’s like asking what makes oceans deep. It’s a wonderful mix of talent, imagination, work ethic, and writing stories that make you, the person writing them, keep going to find out what’s going to happen next. And never getting up from the desk until you’ve done your best work that day.

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

ML. There is nothing more exciting than Chapter One for me. Nothing. It’s the beginning of the adventure. And for me, there is no end to the adventure, even with The End. Because my head goes right into the next one.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

ML. I have been blessed. My parents, in their 90s now, still living in their own home, have been a constant blessing. I’ve never met a smarter or better or kinder person than my wife. And we have these four amazing children. They make me smarter every day, by always reminding me that they think the good old days are now.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

ML. Down time? What’s that?

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

ML. I am thrilled to be back in the world of writing mysteries. I feel as if I’ve left my mark writing novels set in the world of sports for young readers. And I am so proud of the work Mr. Patterson and I did on “The Horsewoman,” a great big novel set in show jumping (spoiler alert: My daughter is a champion rider.) I never think genre. Just good stories.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)
It’s what I’ve constantly told my younger readers: Once a good idea gets inside your head, it’s impossible to get it out.
And the only thing more powerful than a good idea is a random act of kindness.

Did you miss part 1 of this wonderful Interview?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

Interview with Author, Sports Columnist, Mike Lupica

TS. Mike Lupica is one of the most prominent sports writers in America. (http://www.mlb.com) Besides being an author, in his own right, he is the voice of Robert B. Parker in the Jesse Stone series. I am thrilled that Mike has given us his time and insight to his writing processes.

Mike Lupica: I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing, apart from books, for a long time. I started writing a column for the New York Daily News when I was 23. I made a couple of other stops along the way, and currently also write a couple of baseball columns every week for mlb.com But I am still in the Daily News. I have written more than 40 novels, including autobiographies for Reggie Jackson and Bill Parcells. Two of my novels for young readers, Travel Team and Heat, debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list for children’s chapter books. Now I am honored to be writing books about Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall, created by my friend, and one of my writing heroes, Robert B. Parker. I also have my first book with James Patterson, “The Horsewoman,” coming out in December of 2021.

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.

ML. All I need for my dream work space is unlined yellow tablets – my pal Elmore Leonard told me to get rid of yellow legal pads so I could stop worrying about staying between the lines – and rollerball pens and my MacBook. We go back and forth between eastern Long Island and Florida now. My wife, Taylor, has given me wonderful rooms in which to work in both of them. On Long Island, I have the same writing table I’ve had since the 1980s. It’s still got good words left in it.

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.)

ML. Again: The ritual is sitting down to write. That’s the whole ballgame. The great Joe Ide, who writes the IQ books, once told me that writer’s block just means you got up from the desk.

Q. How do you ‘get inside’ Robert B. Parker’s head and write for him?

ML. Bob Parker, as I knew him, has been inside MY head since I bought “The Godwulf Manuscript” at a (now gone) Brentano’s on Boylston Street when I was at Boston College. I have read and re-read him ever since. Anybody who has read my newspaper columns knows that my voice has always echoed his. So did my early mysteries about a New York City investigative TV journalist named Peter Finley, who later ended up in a CBS Sunday Night movie I was lucky enough to write. When I sat down to write a sample chapter for Sunny Randall, about ten pages that got me into Robert B. Parker’s wonderful world, I just felt as if I were exactly where I was supposed to be. Sunny tells Spike that the UPS kid “m’am”-ed her. Spike asks if she shot him. And I was off.

Q. Do you find your ‘voice’ creeping in when writing for another author?

ML. Again, the voice to which you refer has been inside my head for such a long, wonderful time. It was across the table from me at dinners we had, it was on the bottom floor of his great home in Cambridge when I did a television piece about him one time. And in radio interviews where we sat next to each other. In my mind, I’m just continuing that conversation with Sunny and Jesse.

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

ML. My friends know this. My family knows this. I have four children. I would give a bazillion dollars to get to go back and coach just one of them, one more time, in baseball or basketball or soccer.

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

ML. Plain yellow pads that I buy from my friend Ann Nealon at PDQ, forty at a time. Old-fashioned Cross rollerball pens. I write longhand for 30 or 40 pages, then type. When I do, it’s like an instant second draft. But I still think best with a pen in my hand.

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

ML. I do my best writing in the morning. Then revisit my morning pages in the late afternoon. When Elmore Leonard was alive, I’d call HIM in the late afternoon, even into his 80s, and always begin this way, “Are you writing or thinking about women?” He’d giggle and say, “What, you can’t do both?” But I knew he was at his desk. And would usually go back to mine.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

 

Join us for Part II of our Interview with Mike Lupica ~~ February 19th

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

Interview with author, Madeline Hunter

Madeline Hunter is a bestselling author of more than thirty historical romances. She is a two-time RITA winner. Her books have been on the NY Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller list.  Over six million of her books are in print, and have been translated into fourteen languages. A Ph.D. in Art History, she was, for many years, a professor at an eastern university. She lives in western Pennsylvania, near her two sons.

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.

MH. About ten years ago some renovations in my home allowed me to create an office just for my writing. It is right off the family room and has a lot of light. My desk is a long, deep ledge along one wall. I am a stacker, so that desk is usually a total mess. I know where everything is, though! And when I organize, I lose stuff so I don’t do that too often (this is my excuse and I’m sticking to it!)
I suppose if I had a dream work space, it would be a small separate building, or perhaps an elegant office that resembles an English country library from the 19th century, full of books and wood and a desk that isn’t so big that it gets covered in my stacks. Can I have regular office staff to keep it all looking gorgeous too?

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.)

MH. Coffee, then more coffee. Silence. Preferably no one else in the house and certainly not moving around and DEFINITELY not popping in to chat.

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

MH. I am a traveler. I have been to five continents, and more cities than I can count. Travel really invigorates me and fills the well that I draw on for my writing.

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

Available April 27th

MH. I start with either legal pad/pen or computer. In either case, I am just throwing down ideas to flesh out the germ of a notion I have for a book. It is very messy and barely understandable to anyone else except me. I keep doing this, honing the story idea, making sure the characters work for me, and ensuring there is enough story to carry a novel. Eventually I start writing a synopsis and try to synthesize all of that into the actual plot story line. The synopsis goes through more drafts until it is in final form. The synopsis is not an outline. It is the who, what, why of the book, but not necessarily the how.

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

MH. Yes, but it has shifted around. I started out a night writer, then became a morning writer, and am currently an early afternoon writer. I have no idea why the times have changed. Ideally I’d be a morning writer because when it gets pushed off, it may not happen at all.

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

MH. Sit in the chair and just start with one sentence. The rest will follow. Now, that sounds so sensible, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it is the actual sitting and doing it that is the problem. If you have a publisher and write to contract, that contract really helps because no work, no pay. However, if you are not beholden to anyone but yourself, problems can develop. I think every writer who starts a project should create deadlines and commit to them. Make them realistic, but non-negotiable once they are set. When I was starting, before I was published, I forced myself to finish a book every eight months. I had a goal and found the time to get it done. It is harder to procrastinate when you see your goal slipping away.

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

MH. Wow, this is a big subject. I have had characters come to me in many ways. I have had them walk into other books and start being so dynamic and interesting that I knew I had to do a book just for them. I have had visions of characters and ended up figuring out a story so I could learn more about them. And I learn about them as I write them. I am a big believer that character development is just that—they develop as the story unfolds. The reader learns about them pretty much the same way I did. It is important to me that my characters be distinctive. I don’t want all of my heroes to be cut of the same cloth, for example. It is tempting, when you have a really cool character, to use clones of him again and again. Eventually the readers recognize that is happening, however.

Join us for the conclusion to this Interview ~ January 23rd
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

Interview with Author, Lauren Willig (part 2)

Future writer

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

LW. There’s something to be said for the famous Nora Roberts dictum: “butt in chair”. But I do believe there’s something to be said for productive procrastination. Are you procrastinating because you just don’t wanna? (Trust me, there are days when all of just don’t wanna.) Or are you procrastinating because there’s something wrong with the story and your subconscious mind needs some time to worry away at it? What I usually do is try to power through (aka butt in chair, coffee in hand), but if powering through doesn’t get me anywhere, then it probably means that there’s something fundamentally off and the best possible thing I can do is go browse through the clearance racks at T.J. Maxx, call my college roommate, or buy pumpkin themed goodies at Trader Joe’s. Giving yourself license to not think about the book and do something else entirely can give you the room to make sense of what’s not working. I’ll be on the Trader Joe’s checkout line or a in a dressing room and have that “aha!” moment when I’ll realize that the reason I’ve been stuck for a week is because I have the scene in the wrong viewpoint, or the scene doesn’t need to exist, or I’m trying to shoehorn my characters into doing something that works for the plot but isn’t true to their character. So… procrastination ain’t all bad. Just watch out for the just don’t wannas.

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

LW. Baroness Orczy, the writer of The Scarlet Pimpernel, said that Sir Percy Blakeney walked up to her one day at a London Tube stop. I’ve never had a character accost me on the subway, but they do tend to pop up in all sorts of strange places. Generally, mine jump out at me from whatever historical source I’m reading. For example, my upcoming book, Band of Sisters, came about because I was researching Christmas customs in Picardy during World War I (for a different book) and stumbled on a memoir by a Smith alum, talking about throwing Christmas parties for French villagers in the Somme in 1917. I thought “what on earth is a group of Smithies doing on the front lines in World War I?” And that was that.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

LW. I was six years old. As I saw it at the time, my choices were ballerina, princess, or novelist, but since I can’t dance to save my life and no-one was considerate enough to offer me a hereditary principality, I was really left with no other option but to focus on fiction. So I told my first grade classmates I was going to write books. And I did. I was rather disappointed when my first novel was rejected by Simon and Schuster when I was nine, but I stuck the manuscript in a drawer and kept on at it.

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

LW. A little from Column A… a little from Column B…. It’s the old chicken and egg question. For me, the two tend to be bound up together. The characters are shaped by the situation and the situation is formed by the characters. I write historical fiction, so there’s the added layer of characters being shaped by their times.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

LW. I read recently about a state called “flow”, where there is nothing but you and the task. And that pretty much sums it up. On a good day, the world around me falls away and there’s nothing but me and the characters. I come to at some point to realize that hours have passed and my coffee’s all gone. Those are the best sort of writing days (aside from the whole disappearing coffee bit).

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

A. Right now I’m working on a prequel to my upcoming book, BAND OF SISTERS. (Release date in March; don’t miss my review of this fine book.) BAND OF SISTERS is about the Smith College Relief Unit, a group of Smith College alumnae who charged off to France at the height of World War I to bring humanitarian aid to French villagers on the front lines. While I was writing it, I became fascinated by the charismatic and eccentric founder of the Unit, a ground breaking archeologist who periodically dropped everything—her career, her children—to bring aid in war zones. The real life founder of the Smith Unit had gotten herself tangled, right out of Smith, in both the Greco-Turkish War and the Spanish American War and wound up being decorated by Queen Olga of Greece for her contributions war nursing. I wanted to know what she’d seen in Greece that made her plunge into the Spanish American War with the Red Cross—and what it was that turned her into a lifelong pacifist and humanitarian. I decided to go back and write her story, as a young woman just out of Smith, fighting to be allowed to excavate as an archaeologist with the boys and finding herself on the front lines of a war. That book doesn’t have a title yet (other than my working title, Smith II: The ReSmithening) but it’s slated to appear on shelves in spring of 2022, a year after BAND OF SISTERS.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

Next week will feature the conclusion to this wonderful interview. Don’t Miss It!
Did you miss Part I?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

Interview with award winning Author, Lauren Willig

TS.  Lauren Willig is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty works of historical fiction, including Band of Sisters, The Summer Country, The English Wife.  An alumna of Yale University, she has a graduate degree in history from Harvard and a JD from Harvard Law School. She lives in New York City with her husband, two young children, and vast quantities of coffee.

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

LW. I’m a lifelong New Yorker, so the idea of having a special space to write in is like science fiction to me—something fantastical one reads about in books.
For the duration with the pandemic this is the very messy desk I work at now that I’m at home —it’s an ancient roll top I’ve had since grad school and will probably collapse on me once of these days. Or I’ll collapse on it. You never know. Before quarantine, I was that person in Starbucks glaring fiercely at anyone else trying to lay claim to my favorite table and tip-tapping away as a nurse one caramel macchiato for three hours straight. I love working at Starbucks. Not only do they provide you with caffeine, but Starbucks baristas are the nicest people on earth. I am so grateful to my local crew for always asking about the book and never laughing when I manage to coat myself in coffee because I’m thinking of something else and don’t realize the cup is turned the wrong way. It was an utter wrench when the pandemic shut down New York in mid-March and I had to retreat to my own desk and a hastily purchased Nespresso machine. But I’ll be back, Starbucks! I swear!

This is me and my favorite pink topsiders and my favorite table in my favorite Starbucks. ——>

 

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.)

LW. After I turn widdershins four times around the table, reciting ancient runes and performing Ye Olde Dance of the Chykkene…. No, not really. There must be caffeine, but that’s about it. Did I mention the caffeine?

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

LW. People always seem fascinated by the fact that I don’t know how to drive. I’ve been the proud possessor of multiple expired learners’ permits over the years, but I never actually seem to get past the paper test to the bit where you sit behind a wheel and actually, you know, make the car go. Which, since I have no sense of direction and tend to be easily distracted, may actually be better for everyone.

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

LW. Every book starts with the research immersion phase, where I read, read, and read some more. No note-taking, just reading and absorbing. After a few months of immersing myself in the historical background, I get out the loose leaf paper and my ancient Scottish National Portrait Gallery clipboard and scrawl notes to myself: character notes, rough stabs at outlining the first few chapters, scraps of dialogue. And then I pack up my trusty little laptop, haul myself off to Starbucks, swig my caramel macchiato, and totally ignore everything I wrote on those pieces of paper as the characters take over.

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

LW. My most productive writing hours have always been between roughly ten and three. For the past few years, my writing time has been largely bounded by my first my daughter’s and now my son’s preschool schedules. The preschool is a three hour a day program, so I drop off the child in question, sprint the five blocks to the nearest Starbucks, park myself at the first available table, and write like crazy before realizing it’s five minutes to pick-up, packing up, and sprinting off to be the last mom on the pick-up line. Again.

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

Join us for Part 2 of this funny and insightful interview. 

Coming soon: My review of Band of Sisters, a far reaching saga of a band of Smith College women who volunteer behind ‘the front lines’ during WWI. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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How to Write A Stage Play: Exercise

In this exercise, featured in my Journal, “How To Write a Play’, I have started a play for you to continue writing. It can be a 10
minute play, a full one act play, or a full length play. I have left the story plot ‘threads’ dangling in order for you to choose where the plot goes.
Tip: If you choose to write a longer play you might want to consider writing something in front of these few lines to get more ‘back story’.
Remember the best plays begin, early on, with some tension. 

 

                                                                    Scene 1  ©

At Rise: A hallway in a high school.

              (JASON and ROBIN stand next to some lockers away from the flow of students
              hurrying to their classes.)

                                                                    ROBIN (Hissing.)

You better not hurt my friend.

                                                                     JASON

What are you talking about?

                                                                ROBIN

I know your rep….luv ‘em and leave ‘em.

                                                                JASON

Naw. Not me.

                                                                ROBIN

Yes, you. Just be careful.  Do not start dating Sara, coming on strong like she’s the only girl in the world. Then dumping her.

                                                                JASON

I wouldn’t.

                                                                ROBIN

You would. I’m just sayin’, if you plan on doing something like that, you’ll have to go through me to get to Sara.  

                                                                JASON  (Smirked.)

What if I’m planning on going through Sara to get to you?

                                                                ROBIN

What? You’re crazy.

                                                                JASON

That doesn’t answer my question.

                                                                ROBIN

You don’t even like me. 

(Now try continue writing this play. Make your own choices about where it goes and who does what.)
Want to read more about Playwriting?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

Interview with author, Ella Quinn (part 2)

TS.  Expat and author now living in Germany, Ella Quinn is one of my favorite authors. Good solid stories, with plenty of story plot twists, and wonderful protagonists.  I love escaping with a Quinn historic (Regency) romance. After reading (in our interview) she cruised the Caribbean and North America, she then completed a transatlantic crossing from St. Martin to Southern Europe (Lagos, Portugal) aboard her beloved, Silver Penny (Yikes!)..well…my admiration knows no bounds. I’m an old ex-sailor and the thought of crossing the Atlantic in a sailboat terrifies the hair right off my head!  Taking a knockdown, while under spinnaker was enough terror to last me forever.

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

The cockpit of Ella’s catamaran, the Silver Penny (where she writes)

EQ. My characters discover me! It started with my first book. I’ve followed my characters ever since. They literally come up and introduce themselves to me.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

EQ. I should say that I never in my life expected to write fiction. But I was 58, tired of practicing law, and looking for something else to do. Suddenly, I had a video playing in my head about an angry Regency lady, and I had to write it down. One month later I had a finished book, The Seduction of Lady Phoebe, and had to figure out what to do with it.

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

EQ. Definitely the characters.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

Ella with her hound, Lillibet

EQ. I do. There are times that I can write for hours and never get up.

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

EQ. I’m starting a new Trevor novella for a multi-author box-set that will release next summer. My Trevor series is about a horrible old duke who wants to control the lives of his children. This mainly consists of arranging matches that are good for the dukedom, but not for them. So, all the books are about his kids finding their love and their own spouses with help from friends and other family members.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

EQ.  When I first started to write. I’m very goal oriented. When I finished my first book, I knew I wanted to be traditionally published. I was very fortunate. Eight months after I started writing I had an excellent agent, and eight months after that I got my first contract. A friend who had been in publishing for years told me it would take 5 years to get published. I decided I didn’t have that amount of time. Fortunately, the month before my 60th birthday my first book released.

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

EQ. I don’t think so. Young people like paper books. If nothing else does, that will save the industry. On the other hand, most of my readers read in paper. It sometimes depends on the genre.

Q. What makes a writer great?

EQ. The ability to tell a compelling story that readers love.

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

Ella and hubby at TransAtlantic Yachting awards

EQ. It depends on the book. I’ve had books that I can write straight through from beginning to end, and books that I’ve skipped around writing scenes. For me it depends on how cooperative my characters are being. Twice I’ve had books where I’ve had to write the end before my heroine would tell me her story. She had to know she’d get a happy ending.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

EQ. I’ve done a lot of things in my life. Most of which dealt with people. Men read my books because they say I nail male POV (point of view). That’s probably because I was the first woman assigned to an Army Special Forces battalion, and I’ve been around Alpha males all my adult life. My husband is retired SF. I practiced family law for 20 years. That gave me a lot of insight into the problems people have. I’m a mom. I don’t think anything more needs to be said about that. I’ve traveled most of my life so I easily understand different cultures, which is what the Regency is. And I’m a researcher.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

EQ. I read a lot, but I’m not a restful person. I bike and walk. I like to travel and see new things or visit places I love. During the winter I spend about 4 weeks skiing. In summer I’m on the boat when I can be. I also paddleboard.

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

Winnie, helping with the writing

EQ. No. I’m happy writing Regencies. Although, at some point, I’ll have to write early Victorian.

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

EQ. Don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s important to be able to take risks. 

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!