Tag Archives: debut author

The Frustration of Changing Writing Habits

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I’m pretty sure it’s a solid fact of humanity that we’re not very good with change. Sure, there are the exceptions. But from changes at work to changes in our own selves and relationships — especially if we’re not expecting it — change tends to make us all react in bizarre and unhelpful ways.

Writers are particularly finicky. Hell, we can broaden that statement to artists in general. A lot of us have particular elements or situations we need in order to write (like needing silence or white noise or a cup of tea handy or a particular kind of music playing). Changing or not getting a particular element can throw a writer off, terribly.

But what happens when the routine itself… changes? What happens when the tried and true methods no longer work?

I used to be able to write in almost any scenario; music always helped, and I liked to shift positions and sit weirdly all the time. But the only consistent element in my writing routine was that I worked best during late morning and late evening. I could write other times, but it was only when those particular times hit that I really got on a roll.

I’m sure you can guess my next statement.

My writing routine is changing. Heck, it’s changed. In the evenings I’m usually too exhausted to form coherent sentences, and during the late morning I’m at work, so that doesn’t work. But even before I started working full time I was noticing a shift.

I’m not sure how to pinpoint the causes. Working full time is an obvious one for part of this (equaling lack of time and exhaustion), but even going to college full time and working, I made writing happen in the snippets and furious late night sessions.

What is it about now that’s messing up everything?

Maybe this is combined with plain ol’ growing older. I’m almost 26. My brain is officially shedding any functions I don’t use often, my body is setting into a shape with a much lower metabolism, no one is really interested in my hopes and dreams so much as where I’m working and what I’m doing with my life. I have responsibilities. I can’t skip work because I don’t feel well or because I’m feeling particularly inspired by a story. I’m managing to handle my migraines and my health. I’m working on saving enough for my own place.

I’m no longer a driven, mature kid – I’m an adult and the behavior is expected of me.

It’s not exactly the thing the sparks the imagination. Between everything – pressure and responsibilities and mental issues – it’s so very easy to fall into a rut of… nothing. Daily actions repeated for necessity but no desire.

Why is being an adult so busy?

In my last Behind the Scenes in Publishing post, I touched upon how my approach to writing is shifting because of the business side of being an author has been taking up a lot of brain space lately. I think that has a part to play in my whole writing routine being messed up, too.

Struggling or being unable to write seems to be a common complaint among my fellow debute-ers. Between marketing and exposing your heart to the world with a book baby and exciti-waiting for this book thing to happen… can we really be surprised that energy level and creativity might be a little shaky?

The other day I realized I haven’t finish writing for almost three years. Besides the commission from my publisher of writing Pridem (the prequel to my Obsidian Divide series that will now be my debut), which was different because it’s short and I already knew the story. I haven’t finished anything since I signed my publishing contract, in fact, which I talk about more in depth in the above blog post I mentioned.

I’ve written quite a bit, and almost finished a few projects… almost. That scares me. I’d been consistently writing at least one book a year before that. Between focusing on learning all this marketing and working full time and various other stressors (starting with mental health and ending with plain ol’ ridiculous life situations), it feels like my writing escape is starting to become… just another stress.

A stress I highly enjoy, mind you. But the BUSINESS part of being an author has taken over my head, and it’s leaving me terrified I’ll never write a book again because I’ve always written from a place of hidden-in-my-own-world. That doesn’t really exist anymore. Maybe it can be at an idea’s inception. But at some point I have to think about selling the thing so I can keep writing. Writing isn’t just escape and satisfaction when my brain is on fire. Writing is now… creativity making a world people can escape to and maybe learn from that holds a piece of my soul.

Which means, really, that my way of approaching writing has shifted. So maybe it’s no wonder that my routine is up in the air.

I did have a bit of an epiphany the other day. And it’s a silly, simple thing, that we often hear as writing advice but I didn’t really understand until this moment.

I’ve got to figure out how to get back to writing for myself. That’s how I wrote all of my other stories. Maybe some people can, but I can’t seem to write without the passion for it. It just falls flat, boring. It also feels like pulling myself through molasses to get anything on the page.

And yeah, that ‘business’ side of writing is constantly in my head. But, as I read in an article that I now can’t find, that’s what editing is for.

I’ve got to banish thinking about genre and craft and market and character arc and just write. And then when the whole damn messy thing is out on pages, I can turn it into something that I can actually use as Professional Author.

It’s bizarre, this uneasy marriage between creativity and business. I’ve always heard of it but never realized how crippling it can be to learn how to balance it.

Anyway, I’ve somehow wandered off my original subject, writing habits — but the vomit of words above seems to have a lot to do with it. The point is, I’ve somehow got to get back to my well of creativity, and I think fostering new writing habits is key. My old writing habits have to change, for obvious practical adult-life reasons, and because I think it can nurture my creativity.

I guess my point of all of this is, maybe don’t be afraid of writing habits changing. As humans, we’re creatures of adaptation and change, our lives by very definition cannot stay the same. Maybe our writing — the content, the style, and the way we go about it — is meant to change, perhaps with each era of our lives. Be willing to try new ways of doing something.

Now… off to build new habits, inspire creativity, and make something great.

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Published: Behind the Scenes (June 2018)

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Well, it’s been a while since we’ve had an update with this! Partially because hey it turns out debuting brings out a whole plethora of various doubts and weird quirks you didn’t know you had, made especially worse if you already struggle with these things. But also because not a lot has really happened. It is pretty mind-boggling how slow publishing works. But I digress.

If you’re not caught up: I sold my New Adult alternate-history fantasy series late 2016 to Glass House Press. Since then, I’ve been detailing my journey of what goes on behind the scenes for fun, but also in the hopes that someone might gain some benefit from it. My publishing journey will obviously be different than someone else’s, but there might be some inspiration or advice in my tale.

Just in case you need it, here is:

The last time I wrote on this subject, I spoke a bit about marketing in my perspective, and the start of designing Pridem’s cover.

Some updates about that! Pridem’s cover is still in the works. It’s hopefully going to be done in a couple weeks. We hit a few snags with designers, but I’m still very excited about what’s happening. There’s a lot of excited-waiting in publishing, that’s for sure.

Hell, if you’re interested, I’m going to be revealing sneak peaks in my newsletter that you can sign up for here. (You’ll also get snippets from Pridem and other goodies.)

Which leads me into marketing updates! I know, the concept of marketing is super scary. It’s sounds like a really dry, painful thing to do, and it’s not writing.

Honestly, I’m finding a lot of things about marketing is pretty fun (I think I’ve mentioned this before). Because while you’re going to have to put in a lot of work to make yourself successful as an author, I’m pretty against the idea that you have to do things you absolutely hate just because everyone tells you that you need to. In the same vein, it’s easy to get sucked into all of the information you can learn and have.

Maybe that’s me; I tend to get obsessive about something when I know I need it and it’s remotely interesting. And marketing is the kind of thing that never ends, so I’m fast reaching the burn out stage of it instead of just learning and moving on.

It’s causing a weird shift in my writing. Because I’m focusing on the Business side versus the Creativity side of authorship (as I should, but also, maybe a little on the unhealthy side), I think my approach to writing has changed. And it’s kind of uncomfortable.

I’ve heard that this is pretty typical. When you move from Writer to Author status (whatever that really means), you have to think about actually selling the books you write. For me, I wasn’t thinking about an audience or selling books for a looong time. I wrote because my skin itched if I didn’t. I wrote because the pictures in my head were so vivid I had to write it down. I wrote because it was an escape and a comfort. I was also a kid when I started writing, so most of my experience takes place in the fury and passion of teenagehood. Needless to say, this change to the reality of authoring may be particularly harsh.

I think the truth of it is you have to find a balance (my favorite word!) between the business and the creativity. Or maybe a more accurate word is a harmony. Because focusing totally on one or the other isn’t going to help garner success.

Well, I’d been figure out this harmony damn quick, because it seems to be having a very tumultuous effect on the actual writing part of writing. I realized the other day that I haven’t finished writing a book since I signed with Glass House Press. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, because before that I was fast on my way to finishing two books a year. The anticipation and excitement and frustration is immense, and I think I’m letting the stress of being successful overshadow all. Honestly, getting my book out is starting to become a relief simply because all this exciti-waiting is taxing.

Actually, hold up. I have completed a book since then. PRIDEM was completed under the guidance of my editor early last year (duh). That was my shortest novel yet, and it was under deadline, so that was definitely a different kind of getting a book done! I guess more accurately, I haven’t finished writing a novel in over a year.

I don’t think I can blame all my problems on debuting, however. There are a few personal issues that have cropped up over this time period, along with learning how to manage a mental illness and straight up learning how to be a friggin’ adult.

I think I might have had some unreal expectations about what writing would look like once I was an adult. As a homeschooled teenager, I could write as soon as I finished my work. In college, it was busier, but about the same. Now… with all this responsibility and my body saying hello to late 20s and life and adulting, writing time has to be squeezed out between responsibilities and exhaustion.

(Actually… I did delve into our perceptions of what an author’s life looks like in a blog post found here)

I wanted to mention this in my official Behind The Scenes In Publishing series because I think there should be some warning about how long publishing takes, and how much it messes with your head when it comes to creativity. You may not have as much of an issue – god, I hope you don’t! – but I did want to give a heads up.

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Jumping around a bit, I have a piece of advice I want to impart:

When you debut, I HIGHLY recommend that you find a debut-authors-of-your-year group and join. I joined #Authors18 late last year and it’s been a whirlwind partnership of advice, guidance, general support, and commiserating. Debut author groups are all in a similar situation of needing reviews, help, and someone to listen – often, everyone is willing to help you out if you’ll help them out. And it’s a serious boost to know people who are going through the same stresses you are.

Also! In case you haven’t seen from social media or from my newsletter, I got a pretty author logo:

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This is actually a present from my publisher, because GHP is super awesome. But I think it’s pretty dang cool and I’m glad to be using this to tie my writing presence together!

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Final updates:

My editor and I touched upon development edits in the actual content of Pridem. She’s trying to ease me in slowly and develop a good working relationship, so she sent me a taste of the first few pages instead of an overwhelming chunk. I’m already loving her insights and how she’s pointing out things I’ve overlooked, though I’m so hungry to really dive into it! She’s very good about layering in compliments along with suggestions for improvement.

Either which way, I’m so ready to make this book the best it can be. It might be easier to tear this book apart because it was technically written at my editor’s behest and isn’t as close to my heart as the rest of the series, but I’ve also been readying myself for constructive criticism for a long time. I’m itching to do this.

Oh, speaking of the whole series, it has an official name. My editor and I worked out a name for the whole series based off of some particularly crucial world-building events and overall themes, and it is officially: The Obsidian Divide series. I think it’s unique and catchy enough to do the job!

And! My editor and I almost have the back cover copy and tagline done (back cover copy: what’s on the back of the book that makes people want to read it). So I’ll be revealing the official description of Pridem and what to look forward to as soon as I’m able. (I have an unofficial version on my blog’s front page “Home” if you want to check that out.)

That’s probably where I’m going to end things, because this is getting pretty long already. I’m hoping to have cover updates and edit updates here in a month or so, and I’ll detail all those adventures next time!

 

If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all my adventures and get sneak-peaks into my New Adult alternate-history fantasy, sign up here!


Debut Authors of ’18: Rachel Pudelek

Hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

Oh. My. God. have I been waiting excitedly for this book. Now only is it Urban Fantasy (one of my favs) and has an incredible premise, but it’s rooted in fantastic, women-power mythology that gives us all a wonderful twist to old tales. I am so excited to dive in!!!

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GENERAL

– Author Name: Rachel Pudelek

– Book Title: Freyja’s Daughter

– Book Genre:Urban Fantasy

– Release Date: May 22, 2018

– Publisher: City Owl Press

THE BOOK

FREYJA’S DAUGHTER is the first in a feminist fantasy series and introduces Faline Frey, a bounty hunter and member of the Washington huldra coterie, who must unite the succubi, harpies, mermaids, and rusalki to rescue her sister and escape the clutches of the Hunters, the mysterious men who have been controlling the Wild Women for centuries.
Teaser time!

Well behaved women seldom make history, but they still end up as the monsters in folklore.
– Where did you get the idea?

While researching ancient goddess-worshipping cultures I noticed how mythology about goddesses and folkloric females shifted as women became more oppressed due to political and/or religious changes. I wanted to tell a similar story, about folkloric women who used to be wild and free and powerful, who were told lies about their very existence, that their wildness must be contained due to its uncontrollable nature. Until one huldra stumbles upon the truth when her own containment cracks open and her wildness flows freely.
– What’s the story behind the title? (e.g. who came up with it, did your publisher change it, etc.) 

Each book in the Wild Women series is based on a goddess of each Wild Women group. The first book concentrates on the huldra, and their goddess/creatrix is Freyja, so that’s why I call it Freyja’s Daughter. I came up with it and both my agent and my publisher loved the title so it stayed.
– No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

Each of the different Wild Woman types were created by a different goddess who breathed her life and abilities into her highest temple priestesses before her temple fell to patriarchal invaders. This backstory is touched on throughout the book (more will unfold as the series progresses) and is the basis for the Wild Women’s belief systems and moral codes as well as differing values.
– Tell us about your favourite character.

I love the main character Faline, but the funnest character to write was Marie, the succubi leader. She’s morally ambiguous, says what she thinks, and just sees life itself as a play thing. I love that about her.
– If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do? 

I’d pick the brains of the rusalki, ask them about everything spiritual. The rusalki in Freyja’s Daughter are a group of Wild Women whose power has a lot to do with divination. They’re odd (think adult, recluse Luna Lovegood’s from Harry Potter) and speak mostly in riddles, but spending a day learning their secrets sounds like fun to me.
– Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

My characters are based on real folklore, except for the Hunters, I made them up by tying bits and pieces of groups who oppressed others throughout history and mythology. Each group of Wild Women is from legend. Each goddess they worship is from ancient mythology/belief systems. Their personalities, though, I absolutely fabricated.

 

WRITING PROCESS

– How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

It took me about a month or two to draft this book, but it took many more months of editing and revisions as my agent and I passed it back and forth, before it was ready to go on submission.

– What kind of research did you do for this book?

I actually have a list of non-fiction books I read as research for my Wild Women series on my website. I read books, visited museums, listened to podcasts, and watched documentaries on ancient goddess cultures, mythology, and matrilineal and matriarchal cultures.
– What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

After the first pass by my agent I had to totally rewrite the first five or so chapters. My agent is incredibly editorial. But once the book sold to a publishing house, I removed nothing.

– Are you a plotter or a pantser? Both and neither. I write a one-page outline and then pants it from that outline.
– What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

The drafting phase is my favorite.I love getting the chance to create worlds and beings in those worlds, to allow my imagination to unfurl.
– What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

I don’t enjoy the early editing phase, the part when I have to figure out how to fix major plot issues or rearrange difficult scenes.
– Can you share your writing routine? (e.g. How do you carve out your writing time? Where do you normally write?)

I don’t have much of a routine. I do what I call “book work” every week day. I mostly work from my couch, or on particularly distracting days I’ll work in a cubby desk at my local library.

– How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

At this moment I have five full-length unpublished novels and one novella. And three half-finished novels.

– Do you have any writing quirks?

I’m not sure if this is a quirk, but I have a Costco-sized box of caramel-covered apple suckers that I’m only allowed to enjoy while editing. They help alleviate some of the sting.

 

THE WRITER

– How did you get into writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I still have a writing reward from elementary school. 🙂

– What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love wine tasting and hiking and kayaking–just getting out in nature and enjoying its offerings.

– Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

I’ve lived in four states and two countries

– Which book influenced you the most?

This may sound cliche, but the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer was huge for me. I gave up my passtime of reading and writing when I had my kids. The Twilight series sucked me in in such an emotional way, (even the setting of my home state of Washington acted as balm to my homesick heart) that it reignited my creative side and made me want to write again.

WHAT’S NEXT

– What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on Lilith’s Children, the second book in the Wild Women series, and putting the polishing touches on a paranormal YA.
– What’s your favourite writing advice?

Perseverance is key.

TELL US…

– The book you’re currently reading

Right now I’m reading Viking Warrior Rising by Asa Maria Bradley, and loving it.

THE PITCH

Well behaved women seldom make history, but they still end up as the monsters in folklore.

Faline Frey is a bounty-hunter, more comfortable relying on perp files and handcuffs than using her huldra powers to take down a suspect. No sense in catching the unwanted attention of her local Hunter authority, a group of holy soldiers born to police the supernatural and keep Wild Women—huldras, mermaids, succubi, rusalki and harpies—in check.

All that changes the night she heads out for a date, hoping to get lucky. Instead, she gets screwed.

Now her sister is missing, along with Wild Women from all over the country. The Hunters are on her tail and the one person offering to help is her ex-lover, Officer David Garcia, who has just enough ties to the supernatural world to hang her with. To unite her enemies against their common foe, Faline will need to convince the Wild Women to do the one thing she fears most—exhume their power buried deep beneath centuries of oppression. That is, if she can keep them from killing each other.

BUY LINKS

http://smarturl.it/FreyjaAmz

 

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BIO

Rachel Pudelek is a dog-hugger and tree-lover. Growing up with three sisters sparked her passion for both women’s history and women’s advocacy, which led to her career as a birth doula and childbirth educator. These days she channels those passions into writing fiction. When she’s not writing, Rachel enjoys hiking, attempting to grow her own food, or reading.

Rachel lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband, two daughters, two dogs, a cat named Lucifer, and two well-fed guinea pigs. Freyja’s Daughter is her debut novel.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: http://rachelpudelek.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRachelP/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rachelpud
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rachel_pud/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/dog0hugger/freyjas-daughter-by-rachel-pudelek/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17238794.Rachel_Pudelek

 

Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS

Negeen Papehn — FORBIDDEN BY FAITH

Clarissa Goenawan — RAINBIRDS

Cass Morris — FROM UNSEEN FIRE

YZ Chin — THOUGH I GET HOME

Jennifer Haupt — IN THE SHADOW OF 10,000 HILLS

Carolyn M. Walker — IMMORTAL DESCENT

Samantha Heuwagen — DAWN AMONG THE STARS


Debut Authors of ’18 Interviews: Carolyn M. Walker

Hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

I AM SO EXCITED AN URBAN FANTASY (which is probably my most favorite genre ever). I’m a bad, bad reader and author and have not made the time to read this yet (bad, bad Rebekkah), but I am SO excited to partake on the journey Ms. Walker has crafted.

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GENERAL

– Author Name: Carolyn M. Walker

– Book Title: Immortal Descent

– Book Genre: Urban Fantasy

– Release Date: 4/3/18

– Publisher: Clean Reads/Astrea Press

THE BOOK

Immortal Descent is about the mystery of immortality coming to the forefront in the modern world. A young man gets thrown into the underground world surrounding an age-old secret and he discovers he plays an integral part in a dangerous plot that has potentially epic consequences.

Teaser time!

He couldn’t explain it; he couldn’t justify it. All he could think of in that moment was it was all real. What he’d just seen in those memories had been real.

“The woman—what was she?” Ethan asked, still speaking just above a whisper.

“It was a Lorn.”

 

– Where did you get the idea?

The idea originally came from studying world religion. The notion of immortality and how it was portrayed across world cultures was fascinating to me. The more I thought about it, the more I thought “what if” and before I knew it I said, “why don’t I write a novel about it.”
– What’s the story behind the title?

I came up with the title myself. I love to play on words and the title has a dual meaning. Immortal represents immortality of course but descent represents the mysterious lineage of the Lorn creatures in my story, as well as the downward spiral into the unknown—a descent which the main character makes.
– No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

There is an entire backstory to Ethan that plays an important role in the story. It will also come up again in future installments since this book is the first in a series.
– Tell us about your favourite character.

My favorite character is Rue. She is the main female character, opposite Ethan. Her sense of duty, strength, and ethics are deeply rooted qualities that make her memorable.


– If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do? (P.S. Please keep it to PG-13)

I would spend the day with Oryx, one of the oldest Lorns in the book. He is one of the most interesting characters with an interesting past, and the ability to see the future. He is very knowledgeable about the world of Immortal Descent and I know he’d be a most gracious host as is his personality!
– Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

I would say certain elements might have been plucked from a person or two but really just certain attributes from here and there. I didn’t base any character on any one person. The majority of their makeup was from my crazy imagination!

 

WRITING PROCESS

– How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

The mere notion for the story came as a partial short story idea way back in 2002. Shortly after, I shelved the idea for years before picking it back up in 2015. I finished writing it that year, began querying it out in early 2016 and a few months later I landed my publishing contract with Clean Reads.

 

– What kind of research did you do for this book?

I did TONS of research for Immortal Descent. I did a lot of reading of historical books, mythological texts, and scholarly journals. I also had to brush up on international travel because half the book takes place in Western Europe.
– What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

I had a scene that was heavy foreshadowing of the conflict that comes to the forefront in Book 2. I found it to be ill-placed so early on in Book 1, so I omitted it and saved it for the early part of the next installment.
– Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Definitely a plotter.
– What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

My favorite part is the research in the beginning because I love to learn and educate myself on new things. I also enjoy the editing process where I’m polishing it up for the final run. I love seeing the finished product, so I can sit back and just be proud.
– What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

The most challenging part for me is laying the groundwork in writing. There are times when the story comes to me like a flowing faucet and I can’t type fast enough to keep up. Other times (when the faucet seems clogged) it can be frustrating and challenging to keep plodding along.
– Can you share your writing routine? (e.g. How do you carve out your writing time? Where do you normally write?)

Normally I plan ahead in my mind with a goal, such as “I am going to write for two hours today.” Then I devote time to that writing without distractions in my home office. I tend to be a night owl, so a lot of the magic happens at night.
– Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

If it means sitting and staring at a blank screen because I literally have no idea on how to start (or continue), then yes! I combat it by either skipping the troublesome area or throwing myself into research. Research gets me thinking about stuff and before I know it, an idea pops into my head and bam, I’m writing again!
– If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Do NOT doubt yourself! Thinking you cannot do something is as good as not doing it. Oh, and stop editing stuff to death—learn to let go!
– How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Oh boy. I’d say about a couple dozen!
– Do you have any writing quirks?

I talk to myself. I always read blocks of passages out loud before moving on. It helps me understand the writing beyond just what’s on paper.

 

THE WRITER

– Tell us about yourself. (e.g. day job, family, pet, etc)

In addition to being a creative writer, I write professionally as a copywriter. I’m also a mom to a fast-growing teen girl and a loving wife to my hubby of 13 years! We have a long-haired chihuahua named Dixie. 😉
– How did you get into writing?

Writing has been a part of my life since childhood and will be for the rest of my life. I wrote my first short story at 6, won my first state-wide writing award at 12, and published my first short story at 19 in a small literary journal. My mom fostered my love for words with an endless number of books and writing tools at home.
– What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to read (surprise!) but I’m also a serious foodie and I like to recipe scrapbook! Making and cataloguing Halloween treats and holiday sweets are especially fun for me!
– Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

I sure do! I’ve worked many years as a professional copywriter, technical writer, and ad copy writer for several firms, nationwide. I also dabbled in ghostwriting for a brief time.
– Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

I’m 20% fluent in Japanese, ha ha! I took it as my foreign language of choice in college, and I’ve always admired the culture, food, music and fashion, alongside the language. Some day I want to become fully fluent; it’s a work in progress. 😊
– Which book influenced you the most?

Many books have influenced me, but I would say that C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe really got me fascinated with fantasy as a child. To this day, I still adore that story!

 

WHAT’S NEXT

– What are you working on right now?

I am working on a couple of different projects right now. One is a heartfelt romance, another is a young adult thriller, and the third is a sci-fi story. I’ve always wanted to write a really good sci-fi story!
– What’s your favourite writing advice?

Always keep writing. It’s simple but really means the most to me. As a writer, I must keep doing what brings me the greatest joy—write (even if it’s for 10 minutes in a day, never stop).

TELL US…

– The book you’re currently reading

The Condition (book 1) by Alec Birri.

– What is one of your favorite quotes?

Smile. “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” – Dale Carnegie

 

PITCH

Ethan West knows what it means to be different, with a haunted past and a strange sixth sense he sometimes can’t control. When he’s brutally attacked and narrowly saved by a beautiful and mysterious woman, things quickly become strange.

Ethan learns an ancient race of immortal beings known as Lorns exist and he is to be reborn as one. Suddenly thrust into a dark and bizarre world of underground societies, ancient secrets, and an age-old war, Ethan becomes a target to some and a savior to others. With a dark faction after him, Ethan struggles to understand his own purpose and power—an ordeal that tests his loyalties, beliefs, and sanity in ways unimaginable.
– Give one or two of your favourite blurbs.

“Deep in the caves of rural Western Germany, the truth about immortality has remained a secret for centuries, but now that secret is about to break free…”

“Ethan West knows what it means to be different. With a haunted past and a strange sixth sense he sometimes can’t control, Ethan’s in search of a better future. Instead, he’s brutally attacked. Narrowly saved by the beautiful and mysterious Rue, Ethan quickly learns the world is darker and more bizarre than he had ever imagined. And sparing his life comes with a price: being reborn immortal. Now, a dark faction of ancient, cursed immortal beings known as Lorns are after him. And they want his rare, newly awakened soul.”

“Descended from the mythological Nephilim, Lorns are bound by either the divine force of order or the mortal force of chaos. Ethan is a rarity, bound by neither, yet he is ruled by both. Now, wielding an ancient and volatile power, Rue and her Alliance work to keep Ethan from spiraling out of control. At the heart of a terrifying underground war between Lorns, Ethan becomes the target of one side and a savior to the other. Amid everything, Ethan struggles to understand his own purpose and power—an ordeal that tests his loyalties, beliefs, and sanity in ways unimaginable. And the greatest danger is yet to come.”

 

BUY LINKS

AMAZON: https://amzn.to/2jEGjxZ

 

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BIO

Carolyn M. Walker is a California native and lover of all things literary. As an avid reader, she’s always enjoying new and exciting reads. Now as an avid storyteller, it is her mission to bring that same joy to her beloved readers. After earning her Bachelors in English Literature and Psychology, Carolyn went on to pen the draft for her first fiction novel and hasn’t looked back since. Aside from writing, she is also passionate about art, food, travel, history, and music. Carolyn now lives in sunny Florida with her husband and daughter. Carolyn’s debut novel Immortal Descent, comes out in April 2018.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: https://carolynmwalker.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carolynmwalkerwrites
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MissWriteWise
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/misswritewise/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/misswri/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17271041.Carolyn_M_Walker

Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS

Negeen Papehn — FORBIDDEN BY FAITH

 


Authors of ’18 Interviews: Jennifer Haupt

Hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

Here’s another literary fiction for you — and another one I can’t wait to read. This looks heartwrenching and fascinating!

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A Conversation with Jennifer Haupt, Author of In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills

Jennifer Haupt’s moving debut novel, In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills, is a multi-cultural story deftly weaves together the journeys of three women from vastly diverse backgrounds searching for personal peace in post-genocide Rwanda. At the heart of this novel that Bustle.com named as one of 19 debut novels to watch for in 2018 is the search for family, and the discovery of grace when there can be no forgiveness.

 

Q: Why did you go to Rwanda in 2007?

A: The short answer is that I was a reporter exploring the connection between grief and forgiveness. I went there to interview genocide survivors. I also went to interview humanitarian aid workers about why they were drawn to this tiny country still grieving a decade after the 1994 genocide.

I had an handful of assignments for magazines, writing about humanitarian efforts and they all fell through for one reason or another. That’s when I decided to hire a driver and go into the 10,000 hills to visit the small churches and schools with bloodstains on the walls and skulls of anonymous victims stacked on shelves. I wanted to trace the steps of the genocide and talk with the genocide survivors, mostly women, who were guides at these rarely visited memorials.

 

Q: What did you find in Rwanda that was surprising?

A: I didn’t even realize until I was in Rwanda that I needed to address my own grief for my sister who died when I was age two. It was forbidden to speak of Susie in our household; that’s how my parents dealt with their grief and I respect that. In Rwanda, it felt safe to grieve for the first time. My grief was miniscule compared with the genocide survivors. And yet, we shared a powerful mixture of emotions — compassion, sorrow, longing — that crossed the boundaries of race and culture.

What struck me was that many of the aid workers I interviewed were also grieving over the loss of loved ones. They came to Rwanda as a way of reaching out to help others, and also to heal their own souls. Most of the people I spoke with, no matter if they were Rwandan, American, European, were, in some way, grieving. I had always thought the universal commonality that connected all of us was love, but I learned in Rwanda that grief is an equally strong bond. Grief and love form the bridge that connects us all.

 

Q: How did your Jewish background effect you?

A: Fifteen years before I went to Rwanda, I visited the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial site in Germany. The site is an impressive museum with photo exhibits and artifacts. The former prison barracks and crematorium where some of my relatives may have been imprisoned and murdered were now scrubbed clean. I went to Dachau expecting to feel sorrow, maybe anger, but instead I felt a disturbing emptiness. Nothing.

During the two weeks I spent traveling in the ten thousand hills of Rwanda, I couldn’t help but think of my visit to Dachau. Thousands of people visit Dachau each year; we Jew vow to remember the atrocities that happened there. Never again. It struck me that I was nearly always the only visitor at the dozens of tiny bloodstained memorials I visited. There was always a guide, usually a woman, a lone Tutsi survivor whose family members were murdered at the church or school.

I remember at one church, I was met by a woman named Julia, in her mid-forties, around my age at the time. She had survived by laying on the floor among the dead bodies. Now, she gave tours so that no one would forget. I talked with Julia about her family members and friends who had been murdered here. We cried together; my tears were, in part, for my relatives and members of my tribe who had been murdered during the holocaust. I experienced a powerful connection with this stranger who lived halfway around the world from me, in a culture so different than mine, through both love and grief. I wanted to share that experience with others through the characters in my novel.

 

Q: Why did you write this novel, instead of a memoir about your time in Rwanda?

A: Amahoro is a Kinyarwanda greeting that translates literally to peace, but means so much more when exchanged between Hutus and Tutsis since the genocide. It’s a shared desire for grace when there can be no forgiveness. It’s an acknowledgement of shared pain, an apology, a quest for reconciliation. I wanted to be the conduit for telling the stories of amahoro that I had heard in Rwanda, from Tutsis and Hutus. I wanted to explore more deeply the meaning of amahoro, from many different world views. I wanted to excavate my own grief more fully and, perhaps, find my own vision of amahoro. I could only do all of that, I felt, as a novelist.

 

Q: Why did you choose to tell this story through the eyes of three women of different ages and cultural backgrounds?

A: I wanted to offer Westerners a window into a very different world, and to do that I started with an American protagonist leaving everything she knows to try and find amahoro. Rachel Shepherd is searching for her father, Henry, in Rwanda. She is also searching for the piece of her heart that he took when he left her twenty years earlier. The piece that knows how to love: like a child, like a wife, like a mother.

I also wanted to connect the African-American civil rights struggle with the struggle for civil rights of the Tutsis in Rwanda. That’s where Lillian comes from. Once I decided that she and Henry Shepherd had an ill-fated interracial love affair during the late 1960s in Atlanta, their story took on a life of it’s own. Lillian is on equal footing with Rachel as a central character in this novel.

Originally, this was just Rachel and Lillian’s journey: The intertwining stories of two women searching for the man they both love. Two women trying to piece together a family. I didn’t add Nadine’s story until eight years after I started writing this novel. She’s based on a 19-year-old woman I met in Rwanda who had left after the genocide and was returning for the trial of a Hutu man, a former neighbor, who she had seen shoot her mother and sister.

Nadine is a fusion of this woman’s story as well as other stories I heard in Rwanda — and then, of course, my imagination. She’s the lynch-pin that hold together the stories of Lillian, Henry, Rachel, and Rachel’s love interest in Rwanda, an American doctor running from his past who has become like an older brother to Nadine.

 

Q: Is this a political story about the genocide?

A: No, this is a story that is set against the backdrop of pre-genocide, the genocide, and then after the genocide. I conducted a lot of research about Rwandan history but I don’t claim to be an expert on the country’s politics or tumultuous past. I do present some background about the genocide, which is factual, but this is historical fiction. The story is about the experiences of the characters during this time in history.

 

About the Author

Jennifer Haupt has been a journalist for more than 25 years. Her essays and articles have been published in O, The Oprah Magazine, The Rumpus, Psychology Today, Travel & Leisure, The Seattle Times, Spirituality & Health, and many other publications. Her well-read Psychology Today blog, One True Thing, is a collection of essays and interviews with bestselling authors. In the Shadow of Ten Thousand Hills is her first novel. She lives in Seattle with her husband, two sons and Duck Toller.

 

For more information about Jennifer Haupt and In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills please visit www.jenniferhaupt.com.

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Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS

Negeen Papehn — FORBIDDEN BY FAITH


Debut Authors of ’18 Interviews: YZ Chin

Hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

Alright, so reading through the inspiration and motivation behind this book gave me shivers. It looks incredibly poignant and thoughtful, and I’m seriously looking forward to sitting down and reading it.

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GENERAL

– Author Name: YZ Chin

– Book Title: Though I Get Home

– Book Genre: Literary Fiction

– Release Date: April 10, 2018

– Publisher: Feminist Press

THE BOOK

Though I Get Home is a collection of interconnected stories that spiral inward to paint a picture of current-day Malaysia. The book is tied together by Isabella Sin, a young woman thrown in jail without trial for writing “controversial” political poems. Other characters include Isa’s grandfather, an immigrant to Malaya who becomes a butler of sorts under colonial masters.

Share a teaser:

            Hunger pinned her to the bunk. Starvation impaled her through the stomach, keeping her down on the thin mattress, resisting the momentum of her feebly raised head. Her neck strained to bring her vision to the requisite level such that she could observe the movement of sun against her prison walls. The sun was her way of telling time and estimating the next delivery of food.
– Where did you get the idea?

  • My great fear as a writer is self-imposed censorship. When I first started writing fiction seriously, it was pointed out to me that I was really holding back from writing about “taboo” topics like sex. I spent a lot of time exploring the roots of this self-repression, and I realized that I had been conditioned by a lifelong atmosphere of state censorship. That realization formed the seeds for Though I Get Home.

– What’s the story behind the title? 

  • The title is from an Emily Dickinson poem (#199 Franklin; #207 Johnson). The poem is complex and full of turns, succeeding in being both emotionally heightened and ambiguous at the same time – which mirrors how I feel about the idea of “home.”

– No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

  • There is a surprising development in the main character Isa’s story arc (Kirkus called it an “unexpected twist” in a starred review). There are also explorations of Isa’s relationships with her grandfather, her mother, her father and her best friend.

– Tell us about your favourite character.

  • Isabella Sin, the young woman who is thrown in jail without trial for writing “controversial” poems. Her grandfather immigrated to Malaya and served under colonial masters, and her relationship with her parents are strained because of their separation and her preference for dating women. She is dealt a poor hand by fate, but she does her best to add a personal touch to the roles she is given to play.

– Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

  • Government censorship of the arts is a very real threat. In recent years, dancer Bilqis Hijjas was arrested and charged for releasing yellow balloons bearing the words “Free media,” “Democracy,” and “Justice” during an arts festival opening. Cartoonist Zunar has previously been arrested, and is still under travel ban for his political drawings.

 

WRITING PROCESS

– How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

  • The book took about five years and at least four drafts. I worked full-time as a software engineer (partly to maintain legal status to remain in America), so I could write only on the weekends and in the seams of workdays. Drafts took so long to write that by the time I reached the end of the book, I was already a subtly different writer than the one who wrote the beginning of the draft, and I would have to throw out the beginning to start all over.

 

– What kind of research did you do for this book?

  • Two books by unjustly imprisoned men especially informed my work: Universiti Kedua (“The Second University”) by Kassim Ahmad and Sengsara Kem Kamunting: Kisah Hidup dalam Penjara ISA (“The Tortures of Camp Kamunting: Life Behind Bars in the ISA Prison”) by Saari Sungib. And of course, the daily news coming out of not just Malaysia, but also the U.S. and beyond.

– Are you a plotter or a pantser?

  • I sometimes pretend to be a plotter, but the stories and characters inevitably bring me down endless unexpected paths. I follow them willingly.

– What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

  • Oddly enough, my favourite part of writing does not always take place when my fingers are on a keyboard or holding a pen. It can be in the shower, or while I am taking a long walk to clear my head – the magical moments when a beautiful sentence assembles on my tongue, or when an unassailable truth about a character makes itself known in my head, and my heart knows it to be real.

– What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

  • Honestly, the most challenging part is finding enough uninterrupted time to write while working full-time in an office.

– Can you share your writing routine?

  • I write in dribbles before work and on the weekends. If I am feeling particularly inspired, I squeeze in bits of writing time during lunch breaks and after work, even though I am usually drained by then.

– Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

  • Explore another (short) project. Expand a dream into a scene. Flesh out a “what if” idea into a plot or a flash fiction piece. Flip through a notebook I keep of scattered thoughts, half-formed musings, and sentence fragments.

 

THE WRITER

– Tell us about yourself. 

  • I work as a software engineer coding in C, which is a programming language invented in the early seventies. My husband and I have the world’s most beautiful and softest cat named Meursault (after Camus’ The Stranger). I was born and raised in small-town Malaysia, and I left at 19 for an engineering education in the U.S.

– How did you get into writing?

  • I was a fat kid with a skin condition who was bullied at school (and Buddhist camp). For a while I had no friends. Books were my connection to the world. I want to extend that connection. Books also saved my life, and my hope is that someday my words can do the same for another lonely person.

– What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

  • Reading, of course. Exercise-wise I used to do a lot of weightlifting, and then I started doing more rock climbing. But I dislocated my elbow last year when I fell 15 feet during rock climbing, so I suppose I shouldn’t say it’s something I like to do anymore?

– Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

  • I am also a poet. I have two poetry chapbooks published or forthcoming: In Passing (Anomalous Press, 2019) and deter (dancing girl press, 2013). And my very first longform personal essay will be appearing soon in a magazine!

– Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

  • I used to do weightlifting as a form of exercise. I once deadlifted 245 pounds, which was 2.5 times my body weight. Ah, the glory days.

– Which book influenced you the most?

  • Toni Morrison’s Beloved changed what I thought was possible in writing. It is a masterpiece that depicts extreme brutality with intelligence and utmost tenderness.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

– What are you working on right now?

  • I’m working (for some reason) on two very different novels. One is about intimacy and the tough choices so-called “skilled worker” immigrants have to make, especially when facing health issues. The other I’m not quite ready to talk about yet.

TELL US…

– The book you’re currently reading

  • Jeremy Tiang’s State of Emergency. It’s a tightly woven story about the leftist movement in the immediate aftermath of colonialism in Malaysia and Singapore, told from multiple angles.

    PITCH

Though I Get Home is an intimate exploration of what it means to be an individual and a citizen within a state that wishes to control the narrative, which is a description that fits more countries than we would like to admit in today’s world.

FAVORITE BLURBS

“YZ Chin’s tender and furious debut, Though I Get Home, is a long gaze into a black sky; her characters are defiant enough to find light.” —Catherine Lacey, author of The Answers

“Sharp as an old wound that never heals, these linked stories remind us afresh of what it takes to survive in a brutal, racially fraught society.” —Shirley Geok-lin Lim, author of Among the White Moon Faces

BUY LINKS

 

BIO

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YZ Chin’s debut book of fiction Though I Get Home (Feminist Press, 2018) is the premier winner of the Louise Meriwether First Book Prize. She is also the author of poetry chapbooks In Passing (Anomalous Press, 2019) and deter (dancing girl press, 2013).

Born and raised in Taiping, Malaysia, she now lives in New York. She works by day as a software engineer, and writes by night.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: https://www.yzchin.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yzxyz/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/yz_chin
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36393578-though-i-get-home

Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS

Negeen Papehn — FORBIDDEN BY FAITH


Author ’18 Interviews: Clarissa Harwood

Alrighty, hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

Clarissa Harwood’s debut — Impossible Saints — just hit the world on January 2nd. It’s historical fiction, involving all sorts of themes that tickle my interest. You’ll see why below!

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GENERAL

Author Name: Clarissa Harwood

Book Title: Impossible Saints

Book Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Publisher: Pegasus Books

THE BOOK

The setting is 1907 England. Lilia Brooke, an agnostic militant suffragette, believes marriage to a clergyman is a fate worse than death. Paul Harris, a quiet, intellectual Anglican priest, is well aware that falling in love with Lilia is incompatible with his ambition to become the next cathedral dean. Lilia and Paul must decide which compromises they’re willing to make and whether their love is worth fighting for.

 

Book Teaser:

“How well do you know Whitechapel?” she asked.

He hesitated.

“Have you ever been there?”

“No,” he admitted, “but I don’t need to go to Hell to know I don’t want to spend time there.”

She laughed. “That’s a terrible analogy.”

“Don’t you think you could better achieve your ends by adding a little prudence to your fearlessness?”

“You sound like my mother.” She tapped her foot impatiently. “Why is it that men’s courage is called bravery but women’s courage is called recklessness—or, even worse, foolishness? If I were a man, would you urge me to be prudent?”

“I certainly would,” he said firmly. “Not everything is a question of sex.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. Everything is a question of sex, but because you’re a man, you don’t see it.”

 

Where did you get the idea?

The genesis of the novel was a scene that popped into my head about twenty years ago: it was as vivid and detailed as if I were watching a movie. I saw a confrontation in a meadow between a studious boy who didn’t know how to play, and a fiery girl pretending to be Jeanne d’Arc, leading her army of brothers. That scene haunted me for many years before I finally gave in and started writing Paul and Lilia’s story. The scene doesn’t appear in the finished novel, but both Paul and Lilia refer to it and remember it as their first meeting.

What’s the story behind the title? (e.g. who came up with it, did your publisher change it, etc.) 

The original title was Marching as to War, but by the time I signed with my agent I had changed it to A Battle Worth Fighting. I was quite attached to the latter title because it’s a direct quotation from the novel, but my editor rightly pointed out that it sounded more like nonfiction than fiction. The final title, Impossible Saints, was the result of a fun brainstorming session with my editor and my agent. While the others enjoyed my contribution of The Suffragette with a Priest on a Train, it didn’t make the cut!

 

No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket

My protagonists’ choice of heroes says a lot about them. Paul’s hero is the Victorian founder of the Oxford Movement (and ultimately Anglo-Catholicism), John Henry Newman. Lilia’s hero is early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

 

Tell us about your favourite character.

It’s tough to choose a favourite because I love Paul and Lilia equally. I used to tell people that Paul is who I am, and Lilia is who I want to be. This isn’t really true, though, and my husband keeps telling me that I’m Lilia, even though I don’t see her qualities in myself. The novel is told from the points of view of both Lilia and Paul. Because this was the first novel I wrote that includes the point of view of a male character, I was nervous about expressing a man’s attitude and thoughts convincingly, so I deliberately gave Paul my personality (INFJ, for Myers-Briggs fans). Over the course of multiple revisions, he changed and became his own person, but I still identify with many of his strengths and weaknesses. Lilia is much braver and more outspoken than I am. She’s also an extrovert and has much more energy for people than I do. But I admire her and her convictions!

 

If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do? (P.S. Please keep it to PG-13)

I’d be happy to spend a day with either Lilia or Paul, but Paul is harder to get to know and I could see myself becoming frustrated with his reserved nature. The two of us might just sit in opposite corners of a room reading books! It would be more interesting to follow Lilia around, hearing her speeches and watching the effect she has on the people around her: she’s very charismatic and passionate about women’s rights. Maybe she’d let me be her personal assistant!

Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

The only real person who makes an appearance in Impossible Saints is Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), the best-known British militant women’s suffrage organization in the early 20th century. I’ve already mentioned that I based Paul’s personality on my own, and I do rely quite a bit on the Myers-Briggs personality typology when I create characters. If I’m struggling to understand a character’s motivations, I’ll often ask someone with a personality similar to my character’s for help.

WRITING PROCESS

How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

The novel took about twenty years from conception to publication. The first draft took me a little over a year, but I’ve written so many drafts since then that I’ve lost count. I gave up on it several times and wrote other books, but I kept coming back to it. You can read more about the timeline, including signing with my agent and getting the book deal in this blog post.

 

What kind of research did you do for this book?

As a doctoral student and later an English professor, I specialized in nineteenth-century British literature, so the poetry and fiction of that era always sparks my research and leads me to primary sources. An early influence on Paul’s development as an Anglican priest was Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers, with its delightful melodrama surrounding the lives and loves of cathedral clergy. Poets associated with Anglo-Catholicism inspired Paul’s story too, such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and Christina Rossetti. First-person accounts of the suffragettes’ destruction of property, hunger strikes in prison, and the brutal force-feeding they endured, especially Emmeline Pankhurst’s My Own Story and Constance Lytton’s Prison and Prisoners, were especially influential in shaping Lilia’s experiences.

 

What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

Deciding what to include and what to exclude is always difficult, but I’m fortunate to have people with great editorial eyes looking at my work—critique partners, beta readers, my agent, and my editor at Pegasus.  I’ll admit I was dismayed when Laura, my agent, first suggested killing off a fairly major character in Impossible Saints, but Laura has an uncanny ability to detect which elements of a story should be left in and which should be left out, so I knew I could trust her judgment. I was also disappointed when I realized on my own that I had to kill off my only Canadian character and put a New Zealander in his place! It’s obvious to me now that both “murders” improved the novel.

 

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

My natural tendency is to be a plotter, but I’m trying to let my inner pantser come out more often! I never plot a novel in great detail, though. Before I start writing a novel, I usually write a brief synopsis. Writing a synopsis for a finished novel is painful, but writing one early in the process is a helpful exercise to work out what the important turning points and key scenes will be. Of course, the synopsis I write at the beginning bears little relation to the one I write at the end, but that’s as it should be!

What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

I love revisions, whether I’m doing them on my own after having written several drafts, or whether I’m doing them based on my agent’s or editor’s feedback. There is no “terror of the blank page,” so I don’t experience writer’s block when I’m doing revisions. I already know the story and the characters, so I don’t have to create anything from scratch. Instead, I’m adding layers and depth, polishing something that is already a solid story.

 

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

The first draft! How I hate the first draft! I hate not knowing my characters. They aren’t my friends yet, and I miss my old friends from the previous novel. The characters in a first draft are people who’ve dropped out of the sky and are ordering me to tell a story I don’t know.

Can you share your writing routine? (e.g. How do you carve out your writing time? Where do you normally write?)

I’m very fortunate to have flexible hours in my day job (I teach online courses at my local university), so I can work at home most days and organize my time the way I want to. Mornings are my sacred writing time: I try to write for at least an hour or two every morning. But my writing routine is quite different depending on whether I’m writing an early draft or a later one. I give myself a minimum time period when I’m working on a first draft (only ten minutes if I’m really struggling). When I’m working on a later draft or revisions, I give myself a maximum time period: otherwise I miss appointments, meals, and sleep because all I want to do is write!

Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

Yes, usually when I’m working on a first draft or if I’ve been away from the manuscript too long. I’m a recovering perfectionist, so my first step is usually just reminding myself that it’s ok to “write crap.” In fact, this is how I wrote my entire dissertation! When my writer’s block is really severe, I use the ten-minute minimum time period I mentioned before and let myself make point-form notes if I can’t form complete sentences. Another trick I use for severe writer’s block is stolen from the movie The King’s Speech: to work on the king’s stutter, his speech therapist had him shout out swear words to loosen him up. I do this with writing if I’m really stuck: I just write long lists of swear words!

 

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I wrote two novels as a teenager that were awful. I rewrote one of them in my twenties, but it was still pretty awful. I’ll call those my three practice novels. Then I signed with my agent based on a finished novel that didn’t sell, and I recently finished a sort of sequel to Impossible Saints. That’s two finished unpublished novels. I also have two unfinished first drafts of new novels.

Do you have any writing quirks?

Ha! Is there a writer who doesn’t have writing quirks? I look like a maniac when I’m revising a novel because I often talk to myself loudly and gesticulate wildly. Fortunately I’m usually alone at home when I do this, but not always. I also do my best writing when I’m “inside the purr machine,” which is on my sofa with one cat on either side of me and another behind my head.

THE WRITER

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love reading, watching movies, going for long walks, traveling, and making snow women.

 

Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

I’ve done my share of academic writing as an English professor, but these days most of my academic writing is making comments on student papers. My comments are usually pretty dull, but occasionally I feel inspired to write things such as “Your essay is like a garden with some lovely flowers but far too many weeds.”

 

Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

Songs by the 70’s Swedish pop group ABBA are the soundtrack to my life.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

What are you working on right now?

A historical novel about a Victorian woman mountain climber.

 

What’s your favourite writing advice?

Don’t wait for inspiration. Inspiration comes after you start writing, not before. The best writing advice I’ve heard for writer’s block is “butt in chair” and “lower your expectations.”

TELL US…

The book you’re currently reading

I always have several books on the go. This week they are a nonfiction book about scandalous Victorian court cases, Peter Pan because I’m teaching it this week in my Children’s Literature course, and Song of a Captive Bird, a novel about the 1960’s Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad that I’m reviewing for the Historical Novel Society.

THE PITCH

Give us a short pitch of your novel

England, 1907. Lilia Brooke bursts into Paul Harris’s orderly life, shattering his belief that women are gentle creatures who need protection. Lilia wants to change women’s lives by advocating for the vote, free unions, and contraception. Paul, an Anglican priest, has a big ambition of his own: to become the youngest dean of St. John’s Cathedral. Lilia doesn’t believe in God, but she’s attracted to Paul’s intellect, ethics, and dazzling smile.

As Lilia finds her calling in the militant Women’s Social and Political Union, Paul is increasingly driven to rise in the church. They can’t deny their attraction, but they know they don’t belong in each other’s worlds. Paul and Lilia must reach their breaking points before they can decide whether their love is worth fighting for.

Give one or two of your favourite blurbs.

“The perspective is refreshing in that the church is not the villain, nor are all the suffragettes cardboard cutouts. One interesting aspect is the novel’s exploration of the contrast in ideologies between the more conservative, peaceful suffrage groups and the militant, property-destroying Women’s Social and Political Union. This parallels the spectrum in today’s protest-heavy atmosphere, lending the novel contemporary social relevance in addition to its romantic plotline.” – Booklist

“Harwood brings us vividly and convincingly into the past, as we see the whirlwind of social changes in early twentieth century England through the lives of two passionate and authentic characters.” – Jessica Brockmole, internationally bestselling author of ‘Letters from Skye’

BUY LINKS

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Impossible-Saints-Novel-Clarissa-Harwood/dp/1681776243

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/impossible-saints-clarissa-harwood/1126706953

Chapters Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-CA/home/search/?keywords=impossible%20saints%20harwood

 

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Photo credit: Anita Watkins Photography

BIO

Clarissa Harwood holds a PhD in English Literature with a specialization in Nineteenth-Century British Literature. In addition to being a proud member of the Historical Novel Society, Clarissa is a part-time university instructor and full-time grammar nerd who loves to explain the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. She lives in London, Ontario.

Social media:

Website: www.clarissaharwood.com
Facebook: @ClarissaHarwoodAuthor
Twitter: @clarissaharwood
Goodreads: Clarissa Harwood

 

Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD