In their attempts to have a child, a husband and wife must contend with personal desires, crossed boundaries, and broken trust as they reimagine what it truly means to be a family.
Monday, November 6, 2023
Thursday, November 2, 2023
Author interview with Amy ~
Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.
Like so many authors, I have loved writing for as long as I can remember. It has always been the way I made sense of my world and my feelings and place in it, and I have journals going back to 2nd grade. I graduated college with a creative writing degree but went into journalism and then travel writing for over a decade. Fiction always called to me, however, and I always dabbled in it during the busy years of raising my kids and traveling for work.
Do you have a particular writing routine?
I work full-time remotely as well, so I tend to divide my day into two parts: the morning is for my 'day job' and afternoons are for writing fiction. I tend to block out a couple hours a day when I am drafting, but once I'm in revision or editing mode, I find it most productive to immerse myself more completely until the task is done. When I go into 'editing mode', I can put in 12-hour writing days. It's probably not healthy, but it works for me.
What is something about you that would surprise people?
Sometimes it surprises people to know I currently live full-time in a little town called Ajijic in Jalisco, Mexico. My wife and I both work remotely, and I have a background in travel writing and have always wanted to live abroad. This part of Mexico is a good fit because it is close to a major airport and easy to get back into the States to see grown kids, and parents, and take care of work obligations. Mexican culture is warm, friendly, welcoming, and beautifully paced, and we feel right at home here.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (or this book?)
So. Many. Challenges! I began the first draft of THE WILD BETWEEN US in 2008. 2008! It was certainly not ready to query at that time, so I workshopped it, and rewrote it several more times before querying it without luck. I put it in the proverbial drawer and went on to write two more novels. One of these felt ready to query, so I dove back into the trenches. I queried almost 100 agents before gaining representation. Then my agent and I went on submission with this and one other novel for two years without luck. I dusted off WILD and gave it another round of edits, and got my first contract three years after getting my agent and 12 years after penning the first draft.
Where do you get your ideas, or what inspired this book plot?
Every manuscript I write starts with a sense of place. Before I meet my characters, before I even sketch out a rudimentary plot, I somehow know where I need to be, drawn to a map dot with what feels like magnetic pull. Once I know the ‘where’, the what, who, when, and why tend to trail reliably after. For THE WILD BETWEEN US in particular, I knew I wanted to pay homage to the place I grew up, the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California. This place is in my bones, and when I began drafting this novel, I was missing it terribly. It was cathartic to write about these mountains at that time. The plot was inspired by an experience I had as a teenager, when a friend decided to play an ill-advised prank of another friend in the woods. Everything ended up just fine, but later I wondered: what if it hadn't?
Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?
Yes, quite a bit of it, in fact. In addition to being intimately familiar with the setting of the book, I was also very familiar with Search and Rescue operations. I went back to school for my EMT license when my children were very small, and worked for my county's Search and Rescue organization afterward. I didn't know at the time that my experiences there would inform my writing, but I tapped back into that time as I began to draft my debut. I think the process of learning all the protocols of SAR and being a 'ground pounder' during those years when I had small children at home impacted me greatly. I participated in searches for kids during that time, and I volunteered as a speaker in elementary schools, teaching kids what to do if they got lost in the wilderness.
Finish this sentence: “If I could write about anything, it would be…?”
As a part of the LGBTQ writing community, I feel strongly about writing queer characters and centering them in my books. I have written two novels with gay protagonists, one of which landed me my agent, but as to date, we have not been able to sell these novels. It is definitely my dream to do so.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I mean, we've all heard this before, but stick with it. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take, and all that. Persistence is sometimes the only thing in a writer's favor! I must have heard 'it's just not right for our list at this time' more times than I can count, on three different novels! There are so many factors out of the writer's control, and while you are waiting to find that agent or land that deal, just keep writing.
What are you working on now?
I am excited to say that I have signed the contract for my second novel, currently titled SMOKE SEASON. Set during wildfire season in rural Oregon about two women dealing with secrets riskier than the currently raging fire, SMOKE SEASON is close to my heart as a 20-year resident of Southern Oregon. It is scheduled to publish in late 2024.
To connect with Amy ~
Tuesday, October 24, 2023
Friday, October 6, 2023
Sometimes, uprooting the thorn-filled past is the only way we bloom.
Author interview with Rachel ~
Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.
The Blue Iris was born from a personal crisis. A rare benign orbital tumour, successfully removed years ago, resurfaced out of the blue (at less than one percent odds). Suddenly my writing dream felt very now-or-never.
I put my corporate career on hold and enrolled in creative writing classes, thinking if nothing else it would distract from the “what ifs.” I planned to work on a collection of essays, maybe some poetry—a novel was nowhere on the horizon! But writing fiction was magic. It was like hypnosis. I kept at it every day and night; I never wanted to work on anything else.
Months later, I learned the tumour had stabilized--in fact, it appeared to be shrinking. The Blue Iris stopped feeling like a decision; no matter how many rewrites, revisions or queries it took, I was never turning my back on the thing that had given me so much.
Is there anything major that changed in this novel from when you first plotted it out?
Oh, just, you know, minor things like . . . an entire main arc and the climax scene!
My developmental editor flagged that neither were working at all. I remember feeling completely defeated; deep down, I knew she was right, but tackling it seemed impossible.
Someone told me not to attempt any changes right away, but to give it a few days--ideally a week. That advice was GOLD. Sure enough, the longer I sat with it, the more time I spent walking outside, the clearer the path through the changes became.
What was the original title of this book?
The Blue Iris had THREE titles before this one! Originally, it was called All Ways Will, because the book revolved mainly around Tessa and Will’s arc. As rewrites progressed, the secondary characters grew more central, so it no longer fit.
Then it was Deeply Rooted Lies, because everyone is carrying their own stubborn secrets, then Deeply Rooted Goodbyes, because the characters learn to let go of their past traumas. I liked both, but they didn’t match the book’s tone (which is much more uplifting than either suggests).
When I stood back, I realized that as the drafts had evolved, the flower market became the piece tying everything together. It was the heartbeat of the whole thing. Aha moment! The Blue Iris was the obvious choice, and it’s the sort of title that takes on new layers as the story progresses, too, which I always enjoy as a reader.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting this book published?
That road was so bumpy, I’m not sure those bruises will ever heal!
It was a six-year process from start to finish. I queried it over 150 times (an estimate, because I’d stopped counting after 100), pausing in between to rework and reassess.
The pitch and opening chapter were the biggest problems, I knew that. But I’d revised both to death, and for the life of me, couldn’t figure out how to fix them. I just kept making them worse! I reached a point where I felt good about the rest, but of course, it didn’t matter; if those first pages aren’t on point, you’ve lost your chance. Nobody is reading past them.
At the urging of my writer friends, I ended up workshopping both the pitch and the opening chapter through the WFWA, which allowed me to test out different versions with a broad set of fresh eyes. Finally, I was able to break out of the revision rut! Next time out with the submission package, I had much more traction.
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 wouldn’t start each editing pass at the beginning--you lose more and more objectivity each time!
I wouldn’t spend so much time on line edits and polishing (for me, the most fun part) until I was sure the bones were solid--a ton of well-polished scenes ended up being slashed and cut!
Above all, I’d put myself out there earlier with fellow writers. I’m very shy at first, and I had this idea that writing should be a solitary venture, anyway. Just me and the page. But that got really lonely after awhile, and I was second-guessing myself in circles. Finding my tribe of writers changed everything–I learned from them, listened to their stories and discovered that everything I’d been experiencing was a normal part of the journey, and that was immensely encouraging.
Starting out, I didn’t know just how much I didn’t yet know; I’d have saved years of time and energy had I made those connections sooner. The people of the WFWA were so willing to share their insights and lessons learned, and so encouraging at every step. It brings me great satisfaction now when I can do the same. I always tell writers, find your people! No, seriously, do it now! Yes, writing is a solo activity, and putting yourself out there when you’re new at it is SO scary. But we’ve all been there, and it’s infinitely easier (and a lot more fun) when we’re all in it together.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Be obsessed with your characters and ruthless about doing them justice. Obsessed and ruthless carry this negative connotation, but in this context they shouldn’t. The road to publication is so arduous, the revisions and rejections so exhaustive, that I really do believe some degree of both are necessary to keep at it.
Be in love with your book, because you’re going to spend WAY more time inside of it than you can possibly imagine. Write the story that keeps you up at night and kicks you out of bed in the morning. The one you cannot get out of your head no matter how hard you try.
Then, keep doing whatever it takes–whether that’s restructuring the whole thing, or rewriting an arc or a character (or five!). Life will tell you there are more worthy priorities. The world will tell you to move on, and try something else. But when you’re in love with your book and obsessed with its characters, you’ll find that ruthlessness you need to see it through. And once you’re in that headspace, there’s just no way you won’t get there eventually.
To connect with Rachel ~
Facebook: Rachel Stone