Nichole Bernier On Her Ideal Writing Space And On Writing The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D

nichole bernier-4
Name: Nichole Bernier
Author’s Website
Hometown: moved a lot, but lived longest in Westport, CT
Based In: suburban Boston
Education: Colgate University BA English, Columbia University MA journalism
Favorite Read: Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
Briefly: Author of the novel The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. Have written for publications including Psychology Today, ELLE, Men’s Journal, Self, Salon, Boston Magazine. Former features writer, golf and ski editor, and TV
spokesperson for Conde Nast Traveler magazine. Mother of five. Almost always tired.
Pet Peeves: It makes me crazy when drivers don’t take turns at four-way stops. We’re all on this planet together, people.
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…Probably working with orphaned and injured wild animals. I did it as a teen volunteer at a nature center, bottle raising raccoons and squirrels until they were old enough/well enough to be released in a state park. About half survived to make that run from the cage to the woods. In my dreams and nightmares I go right back there, like emotional hard-wiring.
Author Crush: If I listed them all I’d sound promiscuous. But Wallace Stegner is at the top of the list. Ann Patchett, Geraldine Brooks, Julia Glass and Marilynne Robinson are all there, too.
Fiction or General Publishing How-To Book I’d Recommend: I’m joining the chorus of fans here, but Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing are my go-to reads when the writing doesn’t flow. The empathy comes through as strong as the teaching.
Up Next: I’m working on my second novel, about a tour group to the USSR in 1989 that goes terribly wrong. The emotional core of the book is the reason the main character has joined the tour: to find out the truth about a missing child she believes has been brought there.

Is your living room your ideal writing space?

No, not by a longshot. My house is too loud, too populated, too many distractions and obligations. I love the library, and sometimes the coffee shop. The noise there is noise I don’t have an emotional investment in.

What do you most enjoy about writing for readers, who are female in their majority?

I love hearing that the book moved them, made them think, and that it was still under their skin well after finishing it.

The premise of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D has Kate rediscovering her friend Elizabeth who died in a plane crash. Have you ever discovered that someone had snooped into your room and read your personal journal or documents?

Not that I know of. I don’t keep a journal anymore, but when I did, I didn’t really tell anyone, and was pretty discreet about where it was kept.

Have you ever read someone else’s journal or diary?

Interesting; I’ve never been asked that. So: you get a fresh truth. When I Continue reading

Novelist in Progress: Bethany Crandell

Novelist in progress…in which we get to know an author before the release date.

bethany crandellName: Bethany Crandell
Author’s Website, Goodreads Page
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Based In: La Mesa, CA (8 miles east of downtown San Diego)
Favorite Read: Hi, I’m Bethany and I’m a book slut. I typically fall in love with whatever I’m reading at the time and then move on to the next one.
Pet Peeves: Drivers who don’t use their blinkers. The sound of people eating popcorn at the movies. The checker at my grocery store who thinks his cartoon voices are funny.
Fiction-How-To or Publishing Book You’ve Found Most Helpful: Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…hugging myself in a padded cell.
Work in Progress: Stalking Whitney Houston, a contemporary YA about a girl trying to figure out who she is, not who her mother wants her to be. Continue reading

Cassie Dandridge Selleck Offers Tips On Novel Pacing + Her Thoughts On How Writers Can Perfect Their Craft

cassie selleck Name: Cassie Dandridge Selleck
Author’s Website, Author’s Blog
Hometown: Leesburg, Florida
Based In: Mayo, Florida on the Suwannee River
Briefly: Well, I’m 55 years old and I have raised three beautiful daughters to adulthood, all of whom are pursuing their passions in life. I think that is and will always be my greatest accomplishment and the only one worthy of listing.
Education: In progress and halfway there! Starting a program at Goddard College in the Spring for a BFA in Creative Writing. College has long been #1 on my Bucket List. Publishing a book was #2. The irony is that publishing The Pecan Man has facilitated my return to college.
Favorite Read: To Kill a Mockingbird. I know…it’s cliché’ at this point, but this was the book I read over and over throughout my youth and adulthood. My husband and I even drove to Monroeville, Alabama to tour the courthouse museum and, I must confess, to be in the town where Nelle Harper Lee grew up. I’m not a crazy stalker fan, I promise. But it was the coolest trip we ever took.
Pet Peeves: Bigotry in any form, smoking in public places, bullying, and the term “fan”. Everyone is under strict orders to slap me if they ever hear me use that word to describe someone who loves what I write. Of course “fan” is much simpler than “someone who loves what I write”, so we may have to come up with alternatives! We’ll see!
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…Oh, lots of things. A writer is just one of the things I consider myself to be. I am a consummate teacher, mentor, mother, encourager. And I love the theater and dream of writing/directing/producing plays. I’ve worked at so many different careers and dabbled in loads of artistic and creative things. Love photography, painting, scrapbooking, quilting, crafting. Don’t have time for any of it because I still work full-time at my day job, marketing for my brother’s under bridge access equipment company, but I’m moving in the right—or write—direction. OMG, I punned!
Author Crush: Gosh, besides Harper Lee? Billie Letts, Ann B. Ross, Philip Gulley, John Irving, Chris Crutcher and, in honor of my mother, who thinks he is the cat’s meow – Carl Hiaasen.
Fiction or General Publishing How-To Book I’d Recommend: Stephen King, On Writing, Rosemary Daniell: Zona Rosa; Natalie Goldberg: Writing Down the Bones
Up Next: Turning The Pecan Man into a stage play and working on a novel with the working title Beanie Bradsher. The novel is a bit of a romp for me, quirky characters, small town Florida life, along the lines of Jan Karon’s Mitford series or Ann B. Ross’s Miss Julia books.

Growing up, were you totally in love with books?

Absolutely. There were four children in my family – all a year apart – and my mother took us to the public library often. I was the only one who read for pleasure, though, and my nose was almost always stuck in a book.

Where you do feel the most comfortable writing?

In. The. Mountains. Where I long to be and plan on moving as soon as possible.

How did the idea for The Pecan Man originate?

I tell this story often. When we first moved from a very populated county in Central Florida to a small rural town in North Florida, I was averse to “city” traffic of any kind. The nearest Walmart was 35 miles away, on the other side of Live Oak, so I would take a shortcut around the downtown area to get my groceries. I loved the little community I passed through, sparsely populated with older but neatly tended wood frame homes. One day, an old man appeared from a small wooded area, “riding a bicycle as old as he was and every bit as thin and rumpled.” I knew immediately he was a new character for me. Three blocks down, I turned a corner and there was another old man in his front yard, picking up pecans with a wire whisk on the end of a broomstick. I morphed those two men together and, by the time I got home with my groceries forty-five minutes later, I knew this much about the story: Ora Lee Beckworth was an old white woman who sits down on her porch to tell the story of why The Pecan Man died in prison. I had three characters roughed out: Ora Lee, her maid Blanche, and Eldred Mims – The Pecan Man. It was ten years in the making, but I loved every minute of it.

Was The Pecan Man the only title you considered for your book?

The one and only. Ever. And it was always pronounced Pee-can, even though I call them P’cahns myself.

One of the things that readers of the novel pointed out to in their reviews is the fast-pace quality of the novel. How can writers write a novel like that, and offer well fleshed-out characters at the same time?

That’s a loaded question, but a good one! I can’t speak for other writers. I don’t have the credentials or the experience to do that. I personally believe the best way to create a sense of character is through dialogue. When we hear a conversation in a café, we don’t have the benefit of a narrator or backstory and we certainly aren’t privy to anyone’s thoughts. And yet, we can tell a lot about people from simply eavesdro…er…I mean listening to them for awhile. I do not outline and I give very little thought to plot. I put the characters into situations and see what they do. I was committed to the style, POV and voice from the moment I conceived the novel. When Ora Lee Beckworth decides to tell the truth that only she knows about The Pecan Man, she does this in the traditional storytelling fashion – sitting on her front porch. My goal was to narrate as if the reader were simply watching the story unfold before them – almost movie-like. I think the pace of the novel has everything to do with that style choice. When all was said and done, an 83-year-old woman told the story she wanted to tell, and she didn’t waste words doing it.

That being said, I struggled with the story length, and there have been some valid criticisms of the choices I made. This entire thing was a learning experience for me; I have never been a particularly confident writer. In fact, I can remember the very first moment that I believed in the strength of my writing and in my ability to create characters. I wrote The Pecan Man chapter by chapter, almost exclusively with the critique of a writers’ group in Gainesville, Florida. This was a tough group, excellent writers with strict rules about the process: one person speaks at a time and it is never the author. You say what works for you, ask clarifying questions and offer suggestions for improvement. One day a newer member was questioning the motive or action of one of my characters and, for the next five minutes, there was an absolute free-for-all at the table over what my characters would and would not do. I just sat, dumbfounded, while a group of people spoke about my characters as if they were real people. It was amazing. It happened again in a book club meeting I was invited to attend after the book was published, and that feeling was not even remotely diminished. I can only compare it to an out-of-body experience. Surreal and almost disorienting, but joyous.

Do you feel pressure to duplicate the success of The Pecan Man with your next novel?

Not at all! I feel pressure to sit down and write it and I’m doing my best to create time and space for that in my life. But I never had any great plans or goals for what I thought of as “success”. I told a story and it has been received with love and appreciation. What more could a writer want? I feel proud and grateful and probably a little bit surprised at the success of the work and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Any tips to offer to authors who are on the brink of publishing their first book?

Yes, Lord, yes, I have advice for anyone who wants to listen or needs encouragement: Go for it! When you have done the work, told the story, gotten experienced beta readers—not Aunt Jane, received legitimate feedback and done the appropriate editing, put it out there. If traditional publishing is your #1 goal, send it out to agents and publishers and pay attention to their feedback. Enter your first few chapters in contests and see how you do. If you just want to put your work out into the world and see what happens, investigate self-publishing. Do this yourself. Don’t just ask someone else how they did it or expect anyone to do it for you. Do the research, ask the questions, compare self-publishing sites. One of my main reason for self-publishing was simply to get my novel out there for friends and family and see what happened. I rationalized that I could always pull it if it turned out to be a huge embarrassment. But I also wanted to publish with as much legitimacy as possible, so I set my list price at normal retail rates and have never been sorry. Lastly, the debate over traditional versus independent publishing is not going away. You will hear opinions on both sides. Don’t let fear keep you from trying. Writing is an art form, just like painting and sculpting. No one tells a painter that the only way to sell their work is through a gallery in New York. Your job is to know your audience and make your work accessible to them. And what anyone else thinks doesn’t matter.

cassie selleck-book cover

Have you ever experienced revising fatigue?

Personally, no. But I have experienced great fatigue with writers who have revised so many times that their work no longer even makes sense. These are the ones who take every critique to heart and try to please everyone. Remember this: it is possible to workshop a novel into the garbage can. Do the work, but make sure it is your work and not someone else’s.

My problem was not revising fatigue, but revision advice that almost derailed this project altogether. A traditionally published author, whose work I knew and respected, urged me to change the voice and write it in the third person. She was adamant that my choices would simply never work. I abandoned the novel for two years, then summoned the courage to reject the advice and keep going. I stuck to my original plan and the results speak for themselves.

How can a good writer become a better writer?

Read a lot. Pay attention to the stories that you love and analyze what you like about them. Find a good critique group with a mix of new and experienced writers, and a blend of complimentary genres. You get back from a group what you put into it. If you are thoughtful, attentive, encouraging and helpful with the work of others, you will get a great deal out of the process. If not, you will quickly realize how little tolerance people have for writers who are out for themselves alone. Know your strengths, but don’t think you know it all. Be willing to listen, to improve, to change. Tell your story. Have confidence in your ability. Consider the source. Don’t take writing advice from anyone whose work does not resonate with you. Know that a helpful critique is one that encourages your strengths, asks questions that help you write with better clarity, and offers suggestions to improve your work. Beware of the well-intentioned, but totally unhelpful soul who tells you how they would write your story. It isn’t theirs; it’s yours. Write it. Continue reading

Katrina Kittle On Book Clubs + Writing Schedules + What To Do When You Feel Your Book Isn’t Good Enough

katrina kittle Name: Katrina Kittle
Author’s Website
Based In: Dayton, Ohio
Education: BA in English, BS in Education, & minor in Theatre from Ohio University, MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky
Favorite Read: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Author Crush: Barbara Kingsolver
Pet Peeves: When you’re with a friend and they can’t stop looking at their phone, when people post stupid political BS on Facebook without checking the facts, and closed minds.
Fiction How-To-Book You’d Recommend: Stephen King’s On Writing
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…Where do I start? In addition to being a writer I’m an actress, a children’s theatre director, and a creative writing teacher. If I weren’t any of those things, I’d be a veterinarian…or a set dresser…or a special effects makeup artist…or a bazillion other things I’d love to do…(and the beauty of the writing life is that you get to “live” all those jobs by giving them to your characters).
What You Have Lined Up Next: Finishing up years of revision on my second young adult novel, currently called Strange Katy, and plowing through the next adult novel, which is causing me to research ghosts, pandemics, and raising backyard chickens.

Have you ever thought of using the pen name Kit Kat?

Haha! Nope, but many a student and fellow cast member has called me that! Quite frequently I go by Kat, as you do.

You’ve said that you finished Traveling Light by writing for two hours every Saturday for two years. How can other writers come up with a writing schedule that works for them?

I tell people it has to be Continue reading

Catherine McKenzie On Creating Distinct Narrative Voices + What She Wished She Had Known Before Becoming A Published Author

catherine mckenzie-author photoName: Catherine McKenzie
Author’s Website, Twitter
Hometown: Montreal, Canada
Based In: Montreal, Canada
Education: BA in History; Law Degree from McGill University
Favorite Read: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pet Peeves: When you go to a restaurant to eat something you love there and it isn’t on the menu anymore.
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…An Astronaut.
Author Crush: John Greene.
Fiction or General Publishing How-To: Don’t talk about yourself all the time. Get behind other authors and support them.
Book I’d Recommend: The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison—great book!
Up Next: Hidden, releasing in the US April 1, 2014. After that…working o it!

You went to and graduated from law school. Early on…did you have a mental battle of sort between being an attorney and an author?

No, I never thought I’d be able to make a living writing, so I Continue reading

Mel Sherratt On Author Blogging Tours And The Importance of Editing and Copyediting

mel sherrattName: Mel Sherratt
Author’s Website
Hometown: Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
Current Residence: Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
Education: High School and 3 A levels from evening classes.
Briefly: Author of Taunting the Dead – a standalone crime thriller – An Amazon UK Kindle Top 100 Bestseller of 2012The Estate – psychological suspense series: Somewhere to Hide (The Estate series, book 1), Behind a Closed Door (The Estate series, book 2), Fighting for Survival (The Estate series, book 3), Watching over You – out 14 January 2014
Favorite Read: Broken, Daniel Clay
Pet Peeves: people using social media but not being sociable.
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…a florist – I’d need to do something creative.
What You Have Lined Up Next: I’m two-thirds through the first draft of the follow on from Taunting the Dead, plus planning out my next psychological thriller. I hope to publish them both next year.
What was the last book that made an impression on you? Precious Thing – Colette McBeth.

Are there some things you wish you had known before you self-published?

I’m not sure really. Although trying so long for a traditional deal without success made me Continue reading

Theresa Schwegel On Crime Novel Writing

theresa schwegel Name: Theresa Schwegel
Author’s Website, Facebook
Hometown: Algonquin, IL
Based In: Chicago
Education: Bachelors at Loyola University Chicago, Masters at Chapman University in California
Favorite Read: McCarthy’s The Crossing
Pet Peeves: People using smartphones without smarts
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…screwed.
Author Crush: Aleksandar Hemon (Hemingway’s ‘one true sentence’ bit? That’s Hemon’s every sentence)
Fiction or General Publishing How-To Book I’d Recommend: Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees (though I haven’t read the revised edition and publishing has changed quite a bit since 2010)
Up Next: I started a new book about a cop working an elder abuse case, but I’m leaving it alone for a little bit because something’s not quite right. Admittedly, I’m also distracted by The Good Boy release. I hope the story holds up when I return to it because I really like the characters.

Were you really into fantasy when you were little? The Unicorn’s Lost Horn, the title of the book you wrote as a kid makes one think so.

No. Well I was horrified and curious about The Dark Crystal. And I loved the Muppets. And I watched Clash of the Titans at least a hundred times. Okay, so yes.

Growing up in Chicago, did you ever witness any a crime?

Not until Continue reading

Novelist in Progress: Courtney C. Stevens

Future Release: The Fab authors you need to know about now!

courtney stevensName: Courtney C Stevens
Hometown: Bandana, Kentucky
Based In: Nashville, TN
Website, Twitter
Favorite Read: Winger by Andrew Smith; I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
Pet Peeves: Cruelty to people working in the service industry, Room temperature drinks.
Fiction-How-To or Publishing Book You’ve Found Most Helpful: Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…Well, I am a professor, so I would definitely teach. I was also in youth and college ministry for nearly a decade, and that will always appeal to me. In the summers, I could totally work for a mowing/lawn service. But not if I had to also operate a weed eater, I’m too short for that.
Work in Progress: Faking Normal – Releases February 25th, The Blue-Haired Boy – Impulse release March 5th, Untitled Project (working title-The Truth Hurts) – releases Spring 2015
Genre: Contemporary Realistic Young Adult Fiction, 2014
Author Crush: Well, Smith and Zusak for sure, but there are so many people I admire. Here are a few: John Corey Whaley, Veronica Roth, Leigh Bardugo, Shaun Tan, Oliver Jeffers
What I’m Learning About the Craft So Far: The trickiest thing in writing (for me) isn’t writing a scene that works; it’s writing a scene that works with all the other scenes. There are a million ways to get from here to there, and authors have the obligation and responsibility of choosing the most powerful, compelling way to tell the story.
How I Deal With Writer’s Block: If Continue reading

Amy Sue Nathan On Being a Book Blogger Before Becoming An Author + On Whether A Writer’s Writing Space Matters

Name: Amy Sue Nathan
Author’s Website, Blog
Twitter: @AmySueNathan , Facebook
Hometown: Philadelphia
Based In: Chicago
Education: BA Journalism Temple University
Favorite Read: Bird by Bird– Anne Lamott
Briefly: My greatest accomplishment has been raising two kids into awesome college students/adulthood as a single mom. A wonderful bonus has been becoming a published author of The Glass Wives, St. Martin’s Press, 2013.
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…a teacher
Author Crush: Who ever I am with.
Fiction or General Publishing How-To Book I’d Recommend: On Writing by Stephen King
Up Next: My new novel in 2015, currently untitled!

When you were reading books when you were little, did you always make up your mind from the get-go about who was the “bad” girl, and the “good” girl?

Interesting question, but no. I don’t think I did. I get involved in a story, but didn’t analyze what I read until I became an aspiring author in 2007.

What motivated you to start the Women’s Fiction Writers blog?

I wanted to interview authors who wrote stories about strong women—not romance novels, and I wanted to connect with other writers—some of them men—who wrote this kinds of books. I couldn’t find it anywhere, so I created it!

Do you think that the fact that you had considerable experience as a book blogger prior to publishing The Glass Wives gave you a marketing perspective that perhaps some other authors may not have?

I think it gave me insight into what makes a good interview and an interesting blog post! I’d been blogging since 2006, so that wasn’t new to me, although book blogging was new. With a few years of that under my belt I think I was ready to start doing online interviews and guest posts of my own. I knew what worked best on WFW.

You started writing The Glass Wives in 2007. What sort of transformations did the work go through from its initial concept up to publication?

The novel went through about four full revisions before I even signed with my agent. After that, I worked on the novel for another year before it went out on submission and sold!

Do you think that a writer’s writing space matters?

Each writer is different. I can’t write in a coffee shop or library. I need quiet. That can be in my family room on the couch—where I am now, in bed—where I am many mornings—or at one of my desks—where I edit.

In her blurb for the book, your fellow author Lydia Netzer, said something to the effect that your book peels the layers off suburban normal. Do you think that one of the appeal of the book is the fact that readers can look down at the characters, and say, “See, suburban America, you’re no better than us.”

There’s no attempt here to teach a lesson to anyone, merely to “peel back those layers” as Lydia says, so that people can come to their own conclusions. Everyone has their own opinion. People see different things in the same artwork, and infer different meaning from the same words.

Out of all the book events you’ve done to promote The Glass Wives, which one has been the most memorable.

I loved going to Barnes and Noble near where I grew up in Philadelphia. The store was filled with family and friends from my childhood through college. There was a lot of love in that room going in all kinds of directions.

What are some things that you’ve done in regards to this book, whether it relates to the writing, the marketing and publicity, that you swear not to repeat with your next book?

What I won’t repeat is the angst and the worry!

Some people swear there is no such thing as writer’s block, while others say it does indeed exist. What’s your take?

No writer’s block for me. I have writer’s procrastination, writer’s obsession with Facebook and Twitter. I have my ideas, and when I turn off the stimuli, it’s there.

How can one’s writing be improved?

Practice, feedback, practice, feedback, practice. Continue reading

Future Author: AdriAnne Strickland, of the Novel Wordless

In which gives the spotlight to a Future Author or…The fab authors you need to know about now!

adriane strickland
Name: AdriAnne Strickland
Hometown: Elko, Nevada
Based In: Alaska
Author’s Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads Page
Favorite Read: Lately? Probably Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor, because wow.
Pet Peeves: When people don’t eat much of what I cook for them. I want to feed you!
Fiction-How-To or Publishing Book You’ve Found Most Helpful: Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole, because it was so up-to-date and relevant to me right when it came out.
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…an Argentine tango instructor or a chef, because tango and cooking are the only things I like nearly as much as writing… and still not even close to as
Work in Progress. I’m working on my Words Made Flesh series, specifically on edits for the first book, Wordless (out August 2014 from Flux), and on writing the second book, Lifeless (out 2015).
Genre: Sci-fi / Fantasy
Author Crush: Like a million other people, Neil Gaiman. He’s just so loveable, not to mention a master storyteller.
What I’m Learning About the Craft So Far: If I’m not passionately in love with my story or my characters, my readers won’t be, either.
How I Deal With Writer’s Block: Working out or reading a good book in a different genre.
My Plot Philosophy: I used to be a pantser, but now I’m a plotter all the way because plotting equals far less time spent revising.
My Long Term Plan As An Author: It’s pretty simple: to keep writing books and—with any
luck—building readers. Continue reading