Meanwhile, Leann wakes up in a body and life much like the soap opera stars she loves. More than a case of trading places, I'm Not Her explores the question of whether appearances or circumstances make us who we are.
It's a surprising tale about the way the world sees us and the courses we are on.
Some Q & A with Cara:
Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.
Ever since I got my little pink princess diary with the tiny lock and key when I was six, I’ve written. For me, it’s compulsive. It’s how I sort out my life and figure out what I really think. That said, I never considered being a writer. I studied music and business in college. It wasn’t until I decided to stay home full-time with my three young children that I got serious about writing. I sent a piece to my local newspaper about raising kids to be voters and they published it. Then I began writing articles for magazines on parenting and organic living (my passion) and they actually paid me! I’d been writing stories but never had the nerve to show them to anyone, but getting money for my writing gave me courage and set the ball in motion. Now fiction writing is my favorite part of my day.
What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
I foster dogs for a nonprofit rescue that saves dogs from high-kill shelters in the south, bringing them northward to be fostered and adopted. I am committed (possibly addicted) to this work and typically have at least one dog, and many times an entire litter of puppies in my care.
Where do you get your ideas?
I’m a serious people watcher and my ideas come from imagining what it would be like to be the person in the car next to me at the light or in the waiting room at the doctor’s office or passing me on the boardwalk. Sometimes I find ideas in music – country music is littered with stories. I think paying attention is the key. I can’t imagine what writer’s block would be like—my problem is too many ideas.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I pitched I’m Not Her far and wide and no one seemed to ‘get it.’ I rewrote it three times trying to figure out what would set the hook. I workshopped it and everyone loved it. Finally, after nearly three years of trying, I shelved it and turned to other projects and my freelance work. A year later, on a whim, I entered it in a contest. I was a runner-up and won an ipad mini, which was awesome, but then the publisher contacted me directly and asked about the manuscript and my other work, which was even more awesome. I put him in touch with my agent and a month later I had a three book deal. I’ve always been a big believer that when you finally let go of the outcome, good things find you. It was pretty much the same situation when I found my hubby (except there wasn’t a contest!). I stopped looking and he found me.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?
I would have worked harder on my platform and learned more about getting reviews and getting the word out. So much is dependent on the author now. Books don’t just happen. As much as I’d like to live in a world where I could just write and someone else would sell my book, that rarely happens anymore. You have to partner with your publisher. They won’t/can’t do it for you.
What are you working on now?
Since I’m Not Her was published, the second book of my book deal has come out. It’s titled, Girls’ Weekend, and tells the story of three moms who escape for a weekend away and don’t come back. They wrestle with universal mom questions of who we become and what we sacrifice in the name of motherhood. My third book is in the copyediting phase and will release in June 2017. It’s titled, Practicing Normal.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?
When I was a kid, my mom worked tirelessly to help less-privileged people, and as a young adult I worked with Habitat for Humanity and the I Have a Dream Foundation. Those experiences made me question the assumptions we make about people based on their economic situation and their appearance. I’m Not Her grew out of those ideas plus my natural habit of people watching. I began to wonder, what if I was morbidly obese and poor and grew up in a culture of disrespect and never went to college.….who would I be? I simply asked the question and then followed the story where it took me.
Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
I love the scene in the church with the red F#*^-me pumps (can I say that?). I won’t say more. You’ll have to read it.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write honestly because you love to write. Set goals and deadlines for yourself. Write from your heart. Be the writer you are, not the writer you think you should be. Learn everything you can. Focus on your craft and be patient. It will happen in its own time.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
If you love a book, write a review. That’s the best way to support an author (that, and paying full-price for their book!) Oh, and-- adopt a rescue dog. Spay and neuter your pets. And thanks for reading!
Cara Sue Achterberg is a writer and blogger who lives in New Freedom, PA with her family and an embarrassing number of animals. Her first novel, I’m Not Her, was a national bestseller. Her second novel, Girls’ Weekend was published May 2016. Cara’s nonfiction book, Live Intentionally, is a guide to the organic life filled with ideas, recipes, and inspiration for living a more intentional life. Cara is a prolific blogger, occasional cowgirl, and busy mom whose essays and articles have been published in numerous anthologies, magazines, and websites. Links to her blogs, news about upcoming publications, and pictures of her foster dogs can be found at CaraWrites.com.
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