Archive for the Category » ‘the Art of Writing’ «

Interview with author, Madeline Hunter (conclusion)

In conclusion….

Madeline with her grand-babies.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

MH. I’m one of those people who started writing as soon as she learned to read. I wanted to make my own stories from a very young age. However, regarding writing seriously, for publication, in fiction—I was inspired by some books I read that I really liked. They recharged my imagination. A story of my own came to me, and I played with it until one day I began to write it down. About a year later I made the commitment to write seriously and to make a career as a writer a goal.

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

MH. It depends. It can go either way. It has also changed over time, much like my writing schedule. Recently I would say that the characters come first, but unless I can attach a problem to them, I won’t have enough story for a novel-length book.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

MH. Yes. It is very nice, too. That is why I said “write one sentence and the rest will follow.” Writers call getting really lost “being in the zone.” That is when the story is really flowing and very compelling and hours fly by. It is a magical place.

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

MH. I am about the begin the last book of The Duke’s Heiress series. This is a trilogy in which a duke dies and, to his large, colorful family’s consternation, leaves a good part of his personal fortune to three women whom no one knows anything about. The first book, Heiress for Hire, is out and the second one, Heiress in Red Silk, will be published on April 28. I am now writing The Heiress Bride. The hero is the new duke, whom readers meet in the earlier books, and the heroine is a rare book dealer.

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

MH. I don’t think so, at least not in MY lifetime, but I’m older than many of you most likely. I think there will always be paper books because it is its own reading experience and some readers prefer it. There are also certain kinds of books that just work better in paper, in my opinion. Serious nonfiction, for example. Illustrated books (which I would love to see have a renaissance.) Reference books. Cookbooks—just to name a few.

Q. What makes a writer great?

MH. A talent with words, obviously. A lack of self-indulgence (lest there be too many words.) Honesty. Courage.

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

MH. I start with the concept in a general way, then do all the brainstorming I described above. Once I have a synopsis I work on the all-important opening. I then plow through the rest. Once it is finished to my liking, it goes to my editor. She will usually have some revisions to suggest. Maybe only a few small ones but maybe some major ones. I fume and curse but I do the revisions (she has rarely been wrong in her suggestions, so even as I stomp around and frown I know it will not be a waste of my time.) Once those are done, the manuscript goes to a copyeditor who does her thing then sends it back to me. After I accept or decline those changes, the book is put into print (digital in reality now, but it is prepped for actual print too.) I then have to check the proofs for errors. While all of this is being done, my publisher is working on the cover, the cover copy, the marketing plan, and all of the things they are responsible for. All of this dovetails to have the book ready for publication day, which I greet with nervous excitement. I then hold my breath for a week until I start getting data on how well it has or hasn’t done. From copyedits on, I am at work on the next book.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

MH. There are very few events in my life that end up in my stories. However, the emotions I experienced during certain events are pretty critical to my stories. I draw on them to give my books heart and soul, and to have my characters come alive in ways that readers respond to.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

MH. Aside from the business of life (cooking, etc)? I read, take long walks, keep in touch with friends and family, and watch too much Netflix.

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

MH. Two others hold some appeal. One is mainstream historical and the other would be mysteries.

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

MH. Quite a few related to writing but I’ll share two. First, this is a job but, second, it is not only about money.

Did you miss part 1 of this fascinating 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 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

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

 

Sacred Oath of Office

I try to keep any political commentary from my blog, as DIFFICULT as that may be at this time. I am bursting!  So instead, I shall keep my commentary to WORDS. WORDS MATTER! 

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

Parents! Teachers! Need to teach their children that the words in the oath MEAN SOMETHING. It is an oath swearing on each person’s honorable pledge.
A man’s (or woman) oath, followed by a handshake with the person/s receiving the oath was a pledge of honor that would be defended by (extreme measures) death of the oath giver if said oath was violated or not kept.  Are parents teaching their children that if they say they will do something (implicit oath) and don’t, there are consequences?  Are civil studies teachers teaching that OATHS mean something quite serious and if broken, there are consequences? 

If it were up to me, each person taking the oath would be asked, “Do you understand your rights and obligations as described  within this oath?”

History:  The Constitution contains an oath of office only for the president. For other officials, including members of Congress, that document specifies only that they “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this constitution.” In 1789, the First Congress reworked this requirement into a simple fourteen-word oath: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.”

For nearly three-quarters of a century, that oath served nicely, although to the modern ear it sounds woefully incomplete. Missing are the soaring references to bearing “true faith and allegiance;” to taking “this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion;” and to “well and faithfully” discharging the duties of the office.

The outbreak of the Civil War quickly transformed the routine act of oath-taking into one of enormous significance. In April of 1861, a time of uncertain and shifting loyalties, President Abraham Lincoln ordered all federal civilian employees within the executive branch to take an expanded oath.

It appears that several congresspersons, senators, and law enforcement people didn’t 1) not understand the WORDS that they were swearing to, or 2) didn’t care, or 3) just heard “Blah, blah, blah” I got the job!”

WORDS MATTER!!  PROMISES MATTER!
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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!

 

Book Review: Someone To Watch over Me by Ace Atkins

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

The good news: Everyone is back!  Hawk, Susan, Henry at the Harbor Health Club, Quirk, Belson, Mattie, the new side kick of Spenser’s and Pearl, the pup. (spoiler alert!)  

The bad news: The ‘ick’ factor is off the charts with  Robert B. Parker’s  new Spenser novel.  Loosely based upon the case against Jeffrey Epstein and his notorious band of child molesters, I felt I needed a shower after each chapter. The book refers to the old, white men who followed Epstein around the globe. Politicians who ‘might be President one day’, senators, and pervert millionaires.  Even though the archival video tracks clearly shows Donald Trump whispering in Epstein’s ear, giggling like some awkward teenage boy, as he purveys a group of young girls dancing at one of Epstein’s parties, the book doesn’t go far enough on this one important point.  

It’s surprising how phrases like:’ human traffiking’, ‘lost and exploited children’, and ‘child abuse’ all sort of whitewash the reality. Atkins’ new Spenser story uses no whitewash and is in the reader’s face about the details of the sickening truth.

I can’t say I liked this book. But I can say, as is true of all Ace Atkins’ writings, it is very well written. I did enjoy having the old gang back around Spenser!

Release Date: January 12, 2021
Did you miss my Interview with Ace Atkins?
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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!

New Fiction for Women: Mini Book Reviews

         I am always on the prowl for new authors (to me) to read, review and interview. If I’m lucky I find them to my taste for my pleasure reading too. An added bonus! These mini-reviews are books I wanted to share with my readers and unsolicited by the authors.

Christmas at the Beach Hotel by Jenny Colgan          reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing 4 out of 5 quills

A wacky little story set in a wacky little village on a remote rock (really) jutting out of the north Atlantic sea. The sentence structure, the run-on sentences and the odd flavor and cadence of the language made this writer/reader wonder if English was the author’s first language.  Rather than distract from the story, it turned out (at least for me) to add charm and credence to the unlikely characters living, willingly, on the harsh and unwelcoming island that is Mure.
It took a couple chapters in to fully believe in said characters and stop wondering why anyone in their right minds would live there. I recommend this book and look forward to the next one I shall be opening soon.
 

Seabreeze Inn by Jan Moran   reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing   
                                                                   4 out of 5 quills

I’ve been reading Jan Moran for awhile now. Very enjoyable contemporary stories set along the coast of southern California.

Seabreeze Inn is a series set in what was an old private home, now, out of necessity, turned into a charming Inn by a reluctant widow. Her husband, recently deceased, had neglected to tell her about his acquisition. She is quite surprised to find herself the sudden owner of an old house, with back taxes past due, broke on top of everything else. Its beautiful location on the beach and steps from the sand inspires her to convert the house into an inn. Throughout the series the old house gives up its secrets and becomes another vibrant character in the story line. 

The characters are well drawn and very plausible. The reader will be  happy to know that there are more challenges, conflict, surprises and love interests in the following books. 

    reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing        5 out of 5 quills 
                                    Married To The Rogue  by Mary Lancaster

This Regency romance is a perfect mix of good writing.  A fun, interesting story, several love stories woven in, and a hint of sex. Written in the style of Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer and Mary Balogh, the raciest romance scenes go no further than the kissing of fingers, the inside of a lady’s wrist, one or two passionate kisses….and the rest is left to the imagination of the reader.  This is my favorite approach to sex scenes in this genre. When an author is blatant, for no apparent reason, I find it is frequently to compensate for weak writing. A Literary Commentary

Married To The Rogue is strongly written. Deborah is a self assured young debutante who finds herself painted into a corner of scandal where there appears to be no escape.  Christopher is a young peer who has political ideas far ahead of his time and has an urgent need for a wife. 
Having just discovered Mary Lancaster, I look forward to reading more of her books. (Hurry up, Amazon!) 
I highly recommend this book to my readers.
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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 Lauren Willig, author of Band of Sisters (conclusion)

Excerpt from my upcoming review of Band of Sisters: “This is an exceptional, sweeping saga about a group of women, all alumni of Smith College, who volunteered to go to Europe to assist the ravaged French villagers during World War I.  What is extraordinary is if an event happened in this book, it happened in real life….” 

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

LW. My first serious stab at publication was in third grade, with a mystery novel called “The Night the Clock Struck Death”, featuring twin girl detectives (because if one girl detective was good, two had to be even better, right?). That manuscript came back to me with a rejection slip, as did the one after that (a Victoria Holt knock-off called “The Chateau Secret”, written in sixth grade), but religiously read my Writer’s Digest magazines, attended writer summer camp at UVA as a high schooler, and kept on at it. I signed my first publishing contract in 2003— seventeen years after that first rejection letter.

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

LW. No. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking, but there’s power in an actual object, in the feel of the paper in your hands. Children learn to read on paper books. It’s still the default mode—even if I do spend most of my time reading on Kindle these days as I sit in the dark next to my small children’s beds, waiting for them to fall asleep.

Q. What makes a writer great?

LW. Every reader will have a different answer to that. For me, it’s something to do with voice and characterization, with that magical mix of word craft and an intuitive understanding of human nature, which makes the words themselves fall away as the real, living, breathing, believable people appear before you, telling you their stories, sweeping you into their lives.

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

LW. It involves a great deal of coffee. A very great deal of coffee.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

LW. I spent most of my childhood living in other centuries. I went jaunting off on the crusades with Eleanor of Aquitaine as a Lower Schooler through E.L. Konigsburg’s A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, and took off through late Victorian London every Sunday night with Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes on Mystery. I looked for Robin Hood and his Merry Men around every tree in Central Park and spent a great deal of time as a Victorian governess in gothic mansions via the oeuvre of Victoria Holt. So my real life, my life as a child in Manhattan—and an adult in Manhattan!—with some digressions to institutions of learning in between has very little to do with my writing. Although I did mine my experiences as a grad student in London for the Pink Carnation books and as a junior associate at a New York law firm for my first stand alone novel, The Ashford Affair.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

LW. With an early rising preschooler, a night owl first grader, two books due this year, and a pandemic, down time feels like a quaint and charming concept I may once have read about in a book. When I can, I try to grab a few minutes with a jigsaw puzzle (I find jigsaw puzzles terribly soothing); I do a great deal of baking with the preschooler (which may explain why most of my baked goods come out shaped like dinosaurs); and I relish my reading-in-the-dark time as I sit by the first grader’s bedside, waiting and waiting for her to fall asleep.

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

LW. All the time! I’ve always been a cross-genre reader—no one could figure out what genre the first Pink Carnation book was meant to be when it came out back in 2005!—and I love writing as broadly as I read. I’ve had a half-finished contemporary rom com sitting on my computer for years, waiting for the time to finish it, and I’ve always wanted to write a mystery or mystery series, either historical or contemporary. Maybe one of these days….

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

LW. I haven’t regretted any of the books I’ve written, only the books I haven’t written. So when it comes to the question, should I write it? The answer is always: write it!

Thanks so much for having me here, Trisha! To learn more about me or any of my books, just pop over to my website, www.laurenwillig.com, or to my Facebook author page, https://www.facebook.com/LaurenWillig/. Or you can find me on Instagram (@laurenwillig) and see all those dino shaped cakes my preschooler makes me bake!

Did you miss the beginning 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 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

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

Book Review ~~ The Daydream Cabin

4  out  of  5 quills                             Book  Reviewreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

Light, funny with a twisty, ‘feel good’ ending. Piney Wood Academy sounds like a well-heeled, private school for boys or girls whose parents can afford it. Wrong. It is a well-heeled, private boot camp for juvenile delinquents whose parents can afford it. And it’s a last stop  before serving serious time in ‘juvie’. The girls who are sent there are incorrigible and are not going to go quietly. 

The Daydream Cabin teaches the readers what boot camp is really like. This reviewer enjoyed learning something new. The writing is good, as we have come to expect from author, Carolyn Brown. The characters are well drawn and empathetic. I recommend this book to my readers. 

Did you miss my Interview with Carolyn Brown?

 

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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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Nostalgia 101 ~ Little Women

family, sisters, writing, blogs, women,                    Were you there when the movie “Little Women” came out? Not the new (1994) version…the old version (1949, it’s available by streaming)  with June Allyson who played Jo,  Peter Lawford as Laurie, Margaret O’Brien as Beth, Elizabeth Taylor as  Amy, and Janet Leigh (yes! from Psycho fame)  as Meg.   Do you go all nostalgic when you think about those simpler times with  Jo, Beth, Amy, and Meg?  I do.  Have you read the book by Louisa May Alcott?  She was writing about her family.

Part of me wishes I had a bunch of sisters, (be careful what you wish for, right?) part of me wishes that I had lived in a simpler time. I am a part of a family like the Marches.  My mother had  five sisters and six brothers.  I grew up with twelve aunties and uncles.  And so many cousins I still don’t know the number.

So I write about them. A mother who owned her own business (1920’s) in San Francisco, working all day, clubbing and dancing all night. She was what was known as a flapper. (Wild Violets)  An auntie who ran away from home, at seventeen, and worked her way to Alaska where she homesteaded and wrote her music. (Song of the Yukon) A grandmother who raised 13 children while her husband worked in the forests of Washington state. (The Guyer Girls). 

I am much like Jo; writer, tomboy (in my younger days) outspoken and trying to be the very best at what I do…….writing. Alaska, sisters, adventurers, gold rush, 

My suggestion to other writers is to write about your grandmother, great-aunt, second cousin, twice removed.  Write about what you know. Write about the past.  I am so very lucky to have the ‘Guyer girls’ to draw from …..I couldn’t make up the stories that they have given me from their real lives.  
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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!