Archive for the ‘reading’ Category
This week we hear from author Marilee Brothers about her latest novel, Baby Gone Bye. Enjoy an excerpt of the first chapter of this intriguing story of a teen father.
Picture this: a house full of males suddenly “gifted” with a tiny baby girl. Those of you raising sons will probably shudder at the notion of an eighteen-year-old boy who must now be both mother and father to an infant. Former bad boy, Gabe Delgado, lives with his father Ernesto (Papi) and his brothers Simon and Henry. Gabe is now on the straight and narrow path, having received corrective action from his father. He’s looking forward to his senior year in high school and hoping to earn a basketball scholarship. His life changes forever when the baby appears on his front porch with an enigmatic note attached to her onsie.
The child is undeniably his. She has birthmark shaped like a blue rose on her right buttock, as do all the Delgados. Papi insists it the sign of Spanish royalty. Having no clue to her real name, the baby is dubbed Birdie for the chirping sounds she makes.
Giving her up is not an option. Papi says, “Gabriel, she is a Delgado. She belongs to us.” Consequently, Gabe is immersed in 24-hour baby care, sleep-deprived and hauling Birdie to the school nursery while trying to keep up with a heavy class load. His social life is non-existent. He quickly discovers his former friends have little interest in his new life. To further complicate matters, the baby has some special qualities—magical qualities—that make her highly desirable to shadowy organization dabbling in biogenetics. Birdie is in danger.
The following excerpt is from Chapter One when the Delgado family is under the impression the baby is a boy.
The hall clocked bonged seven times. Startled, Gabe leaped from the couch and placed the kid in his car seat. “Man, is it seven already? I’ve got a date. Can we put this on hold until tomorrow?”
Without waiting for an answer, Gabe headed for the stairs.
“Gabriel.” The steel in Papi’s voice stopped Gabe in his tracks. “Look at me.”
Slowly, Gabe turned to face his father. He heard Simon whisper, “Dumb shit.” Henry giggled nervously.
“Gabriel,” Papi repeated. “Do you remember when Rosie was a puppy?”
Gabe shifted his weight from one foot to the other, wondering if he was about to step into something stinky. “Yeah,” he said carefully.
Papi’s dark eyes snapped with intensity. “And how did you take care of her?”
Gabe rolled his eyes heavenward, trying to remember Papi’s three cardinal rules for puppy care. “After she eats, put her outside to poop. Play with her. Put her back in her crate.”
Papi clapped. “Excellent!”
Gabe grinned. This was going well. He’d soon be on his way.
“Now, Gabriel, tell me this: How do you take care of a baby?”
Uh oh. Gabe felt beads of perspiration pop out on his forehead. “Well, um, I guess you’re saying it’s the same concept. Right?”
Papi strolled up nice and close and gave Gabe his shark’s grin. “So, after you feed him, you will take him outside to poop, play with him and then put him back in his car seat?”
Right then, Gabe knew he was screwed. He glanced at his brothers. No help there. He’d already stepped in it. Might as well go all the way. He looked his father square in the eyes. “Naturally, I won’t take him outside to poop, but I’ll feed him and play with him.”
“And, you will start this…when?”
“First thing tomorrow morning.”
Papi said, “And tonight?”
Gabe squirmed. “Remember what you said earlier? We’re Delgados. We stick together when there’s a problem.”
“Ah, now I understand.” Papi stroked his chin. “You assumed one of your brothers or your father would take care of your child while you went on a date. Is correct?”
Gabe flushed. “I would appreciate it.”
“Gabriel,” Papi said again. He pointed at the baby. “That is not a puppy. It is a tiny human being who needs round the clock care. Care that will be given to him by you, his father. Do you understand?”
Before Gabe could formulate an answer, he heard the amazingly loud rumble of baby flatulence. All eyes turned to the child, whose face was bright red as he clenched his fists and strained.
Simon snickered. “Looks like you forgot to take him outside to poop.”
Papi handed Gabe a container of baby wipes and a diaper. “Better get used to it. He’ll be doing that a lot.”
That’s when the Delgado family found out he was a she.
A former teacher, coach and school counselor, Marilee lives in Washington State and writes full time. Her books include Castle Ladyslipper, a medieval romance, The Rock and Roll Queen of Bedlam, winner of the 2010 Booksellers Best award for romantic suspense, along with the Unbidden Magic series, Moonstone, Moon Rise, Moon Spun, Shadow Moon, Midnight Moon. Her latest book is Baby Gone Bye. Marilee is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Pacific Northwest Writers Association and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Visit her website, her blog, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Tell me about yourself.
I’m a Midwesterner who hasn’t lived there since high school. I’ve had lots of different jobs, following my husband around the country, at first with the military, then with corporate moves. While still in Moline IL, I was a waitress and short order cook, baker for a nursing home, nurses’ aide, janitor in a tractor factory, and babysitter. After I was married, some of my jobs were secretary (once for mental health center), bookkeeper, and computer programmer. Always, though, a writer.
You have several novels out that have very different subjects. Is that hard to do?
It’s not hard to keep them separate in my mind. I think that’s because they ARE so different. I seem to be writing a tons of books all at once, but actually the products of my last twelve years of writing are just all being published at once.
My Cressa Carraway Musical Mystery series was the first one I thought had a chance and I worked very hard for years to get an agent with it and the sequel. That was the result of following instructions to write what I know, since I’m a musician and I like to compose, as does Cressa. The first book also takes place where I grew up.
After I failed to get anywhere with Cressa, I turned to another love of mine, prehistory and Neanderthals. I worked VERY hard on this book (I have an idea for 2 more, but they’re not written), reading textbooks, making up a language–and world building. When that one gained the admiration and praise of agents (more than one said I had outdone Jean Auel), it broke my heart when they added, “But I don’t know how to sell it.”
The Imogene Duckworthy books came spinning out of the dust of the high Texas plains, where we lived for a brief three years. I went at this project hell bent for entertaining myself, if nothing else. I wrote everything as over-the-top as I could. Lo and behold, it got published and even was nominated for an Agatha award.
The Fat Cat series is a work for hire, which means I’m taking the germ of an idea from the publisher and writing a story from it. Berkley wants it set in Minneapolis, which is good, because I’ve lived there and love the area. I worried about liking the project enough, but I’ve fallen in love with my characters.
How much research do you do for your books? I can’t imagine how hard it was to research information for “Death in the Time of Ice.”
That was the hardest to research. It did take a lot of reading and self-education, but I’ve always been interested in prehistory, so it wasn’t a hardship. The other three are set in places I know. The research for those has involved emailing people who are there sometimes, to get more detailed knowledge.
The research that helps all my books was my course at the Austin Citizen’s Police Academy, plus a few forensics and writing courses I’ve taken over the years.
Tell me about the awards your books have received.
Your timing is excellent! EINE KLEIN MURDER was just chosen as a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award at Killer Nashville in August. CHOKE, the first Imogene Duckworthy mystery was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2011. Two years earlier, a short story “Handbaskets, Drawers, and a Killer Cold” was nominated for an Agatha for Best Short Story of 2009. So, I’m at the bridesmaid stage–nominated, but no wins –yet.
How long have you been writing?
All my life. As a young child, before I could read and write, I told stories. But I’ve been writing full-time for about 12 years, since I retired as a programmer.
You write novels and short stories. Which do you prefer? What did you start writing first?
It’s much easier for me to write a short story, but after having finished a few, novels are getting easier. I wrote short stories for many, many years before I attempted a novel. I wrote something that I called a novel when I was in 5th grade, but it was about 20 pages handwritten, so it was too short to even be a novella. It seemed like a novel to me at the time.
Can you share your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I guess I’m both. I just spin out the short stories. I won’t say they aren’t pre-plotted, but they’re plotted only in my head. Sometimes they take form as I write, but often the idea comes to me all at once.
For novels, I like to put down my main plot points (I like to have 8-12) and write from one to the next. I know, before I start, what the main events will be and about where I want them to fall along the story arc. I don’t always stick with the original plan, but I can’t start writing a whole novel without setting down a plan.
How do you edit your first draft?
After the first draft, there’s usually plenty to do, so I print it out and read through, marking it up along the way. Later revisions are for layering in what I think needs to be there: hooks, obstacles for each scene, making sure the 5 sense are used when possible, grounding the beginnings of new scenes, backloading scene endings, etc. My last pass is reading aloud.
Do you belong to a critique group? Or a general writing group?
I don’t belong to one anymore for novels. I send my short stories through two online groups, one with the Guppies and another one with several rather hard-boiled writers, all guys.
I’ve put my earlier novels through Guppy crit groups with good results. I also used my face to face group in Austin for several years. I still use some of my early crit partners for readers. I’m writing too fast now (because I have to) for a chapter by chapter critique, but I feel much more comfortable if several people have read my novels before I turn them in.
How do you find the time to write?
It’s my fulltime job now. When I couldn’t find another contract programming job, I declared myself retired and started calling myself a writer.
How did you find your agent? Was it a grueling process or super easy?
I tried for many, many years to get one. I had actually given up and had gone to small presses. My first one didn’t work out, but the other two are super. I’ve had a ball self-publishing, too.
When I was trying to get a contract for a cozy, I hooked myself up with some cozy writers. One of them told me Berkley was looking for a Texan to write a series. I had written numerous proposals, trying to get my foot into that agency’s door, and I told my friend I just didn’t want to write another proposal. They take about a month and consist of three chapters and a complete synopsis. I also invested myself, emotionally, in each proposal I wrote. When they would get turned down, I felt like my characters had all died a premature death–I would mourn them. So, no, I couldn’t do that again.
The friend suggested I send them CHOKE, which had been published and had gotten the nomination at that time. I did, and the agent, Kim Lionetti at BookEnds, liked my voice and offered me a contract. She’s the one who got me the Fat Cat three-book contract, not long after I signed with her. She’s super!
So, no, not super easy. More like grueling.
What are your best writing tips?
Don’t give up. If you can just keep going, good things will happen eventually.
Do you find the internet to be a help or a hindrance?
Both! It probably take 1/100th of the time to research little things that it would take without it. On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore the distraction of all the chatter and activity going on without me when I’m working hard and ignoring it.
Do you have a writing mentor?
No, just writers I look up to. The many Guppies I’ve gotten to know who have persisted and gotten publishing contracts are inspirations to me.
Who are your favorite authors?
O. Henry and Mark Twain have taught me tons about writing short stories. Mystery novels? I have shelves full of favorite authors. I don’t think I could select just a few. My guilty pleasure is true crime, though, and Ann Rule is my favorite there.
Are your characters based on real people? Or do they all live in your imagination only?
I suppose they are, since the only people I’ve ever known have all been real people. I don’t think any character is based on any one person, though. I think people I’ve known, read about, seen on TV, or heard of, all get mashed together in my brain and emerge as characters.
What’s your go-to writing food? [I find myself craving peanut butter and andes mints—not together, of course]
Chocolate and, oddly enough, candy orange slices. And Scotch.
How do you celebrate the end of a book?
Chocolate and Scotch. And a bit of time off, but not much. I have deadlines!
What’s on deck? What new books do we have to look forward to?
I’m turning in my first FAT CAT manuscript September 15th, then taking a day or two off, I think. Then I’ll probably start on the second book, since it needs to be done 9 months after that. I have a bare bones beginning for that one at the moment.
I’m working on some short stories, too. I like to take Saturday off and do short stories on Saturdays. I’m working on several anthology stories. They don’t have tight deadlines, but they do have deadlines.
My first FAT CAT book will be published in 2014, with the 2nd and 3rd following 9 months apart.
In the Imogene series, I have ideas for STROKE, the 4th in that series, in a folder and in my head. The sequel to EINE KLEINE MURDER is nearly done. The second Neanderthal book is still mostly in my head, but I have a good arc for it, I think. I have no idea when I’ll work on those, or when they’ll come out, but some day!
Detective Archie Sheridan is thoroughly flawed. Female serial killer Gretchen Lowell does her job horrifically well. Heartsick weaves together the tales of a current police investigation and the torture of Sheridan at the hands of Lowell two years earlier.
Detective Archie Sheridan is two years into medical leave after Gretchen Lowell, the female serial killer he was pursuing, kidnapped, tortured, nearly killed him, and, inexplicably, turned herself in to save his life. He is called back to the job when another serial killer surfaces; this time one hunting young high school girls. Sheridan is addicted to pain pills, addicted to his weekly visits to Lowell at a nearby prison, and doing his best to keep the body count from rising. In order to appease the city and the press, this time around he agrees to have a local reporter, pink-haired Susan Ward, profile him and the work on the case. What he learns is that the present is always linked to the past and some people are so good at manipulation you don’t know until it’s to late.
Caine weaves the present-day investigation with flashbacks of the torture of Sheridan at the hands of Lowell. There is nothing more chilling in anything I’ve read than Lowell’s description of how she killed a victim. I’m not sure I can crochet ever again…
This novel is equal parts horror and hope. While Archie’s visits to Lowell are to learn about more of her victims, there is also a link between the two that gave me the creeps. But he has an ex-wife and children who could give him the light necessary to excise the dark that Lowell imposes on his world. If only he will let them. Susan Ward is a delightfully flawed journalist with her own links to Lowell.
Number one in a series…you know I’m one happy reader!
I checked this out from the Roselle Public Library.
Yesterday was the first part of this interview with author Sarah J. Bradley. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, I hope you’ll hop over here. If you are all caught up, here’s part 2!
Poorly. I’m terrible at editing, and I have no patience. Which is why I actually pay someone to do final edits for me. I’ve tried to edit. It’s like I forget how to read English. I always have an eye out for content, not for spelling or punctuation or any of that. If Spell Check doesn’t catch it, I don’t either
Do you belong to a critique group? Or a general writing group?
I used to belong to a general writing group. That’s so vital if you’re just starting out, because you need honest feedback, and you’re not going to get it from your best friend or your family members. I learned so much about what I do both in that group and in classes I took through the local technical college. Taking classes on writing is not a must, but it doesn’t hurt. It really gives you a solid focus, even for just the length of the class, and focus is probably the hardest thing for any author to have.
Now I have two wonderful critique partners, Linda Schmalz and Author Kelly Moran (another genius author) who are honest and very helpful. Linda has been a friend for many years, but I’ve never physically met Kelly. We’ve been friends on line for a while and recently decided to be critique partners. Finding a good critique partner or partners is vital no matter where you are in your writing career.
I am a member of Mad City Writers, Wisconsin Romance Writers of America (WisRWA) and Romance Writers of America (RWA), but those are more business support groups. For day to day writing, I lean on my Face Book friends who are also authors.
How do you find the time to write?
I don’t sleep much, my family doesn’t see me all that much on weekends, and when I’m in the home stretch with a book, I’ve been known to call in sick to work. (I probably shouldn’t have said that!) I write on my lunch hours, (thank goodness for WiFi at the bagel shop!) and I write at work when I can sneak story ideas onto paper.
Can you share your experiences with self-publishing? The process, the marketing, etc.
Oh boy, that’s a huge question! I remember when electronic readers first came out, how long ago, and Stephen King released a novella just for e-readers and a lot of writers said, “Well, that’s fine, but no one is going to sell anything unless they’re Stephen King.”
Flash-forward and now self publishing is fast becoming the norm for new authors. I was blessed to hear author J.A. Konrath speak a few years ago and it changed my life. He explained how e-publishing worked for him and how it was the wave of the future. Call me a disciple. Granted, I haven’t quite hit his sales levels yet, but hey, it’s all about getting the story out there. His mantra is “KEEP WRITING!” And he’s right. I’ve sold more books in the last six months than I did in the two years prior because the more you have your name out there, the more people are going to buy. Which is why I’m working so hard to get the whole Elsie series out before the end of the year.
Self publishing is a lot of work. A LOT OF WORK. And it can be a bit expensive if you don’t teach yourself a few things along the way, but nothing like it was back in the day when “vanity presses” were the only option for the unpublished. Amazon and Smashwords provide tremendous, low cost or free tools for publishing. I’ve recently started doing my own cover art. Sure, I pay to have editing done, but I don’t pay for cover art anymore (except for nominal image fees) so my costs are very low. My book sales are at a point where they cover expenses, so that’s a great step to hit. Next up, making an actual profit!
Marketing on the internet is wide, mostly free, and sometimes overwhelming. Since I do all my own marketing, I am constantly talking up books. I haven’t even scratched the surface, though, of the marketing some of my fellow self pubbed authors do. I just don’t have the time…yet. But there are a million opportunities for marketing online.
I like self publishing. I pitched to agents and editors over the years, and I actually sold “Dream in Color” to Wild Rose Press. But that process is very nerve wracking and can takes months, even years to get picked up. I think the over all publishing market has changed. Basically, if you’re not a celebrity with a tell all book, or an author that’s written ten million books, you don’t have much of a shot. Unless Oprah likes you. Agents and editors just flat out aren’t going take a risk on an unknown. And yet, I know people who have gotten big book contracts after they e-published because an agent “found” them on Amazon. So I guess right now e-publishing is like waiting tables in Hollywood. You just know someone is going to see your book and pick it up. Meanwhile, you get the story into the hands of the readers. That’s the goal, right?
What are your best writing tips?
Okay, that and drink wine while you’re writing a love scene. It tends to make you more relaxed about breaking down a steamy scene to actual words.
Don’t fear words. My mother tells me all the time that the swearing in my books isn’t necessary. Okay, well, Jesse Alexander is a rock star. I doubt he’s going to say something like “Oh fluffy bunnies…that didn’t quite go my way, did it?” Be truthful with your words and your characters and your writing will work. I’m not a person who swears a lot, but I have characters who do. If you are writing fiction, you don’t have to impose your morals and personality on your characters. You have to let them be who they are. In “Fresh Ice,” Serena, my villain, had a fairly surprising back story that made me almost feel sorry for her. Not a great thing when you are writing a villain you want everyone to hate. But I made it work. Almost on her own, Serena got over her pathetic self and grew into the bad, bad, bad girl I wanted her to be. I just had to be honest about who she was.
Do you have a writing mentor?
Not really. I mean, my critique partners do the best they can with me (it’s sometimes a thankless, hopeless job!) When I think of mentors I think more of a teacher sort of person who stood by me and guided me through. I haven’t really had that. My creative writing teachers in school (and I know a lot of people are going to think the same way here) sort of patted me on the head and told me to edit my final copy better.
There were three people in my life who took me seriously and did wonderful things to boost my career. Two of them have passed now, but I feel I have to mention them. One is Bill Lietz, a man who was married to my mom’s cousin when I was a kid. The original plan for “Lies in Chance” was that Bryan and Drew were going to be paramedics. (That would be the influence the TV show “Emergency!” had on me.) When I was thirteen, I met Bill on a family vacation. He was a paramedic in Phoenix. A couple years later, out of the blue, he called me, long distance (that was expensive at the time) and we talked for almost two hours. He gave me so much material on paramedics. Bryan and Drew wound up being teachers (mostly because while the paramedic business has changed drastically over the years, I grew up with teachers and was a teacher and I knew I could write teachers.) but I never forgot the kindness and support Bill gave me in that one phone call. He passed earlier this year from cancer.
The second person who supported me in a very special way was Victoria Mooney. Vicki’s friend, Wendy heard me during a radio interview when “Dream in Color” came out and Vicki immediately contacted me and told me she knew Rick Springfield, that we were both going to be at once of his concerts, and that she could get a copy of my book to him and arrange a meeting between us. I was skeptical, but it turned out she DID know him and I got the very best 30 seconds of my life thanks to that lovely lady. I also have Rick’s autograph on a copy of “Dream” and I keep that on my desk as a daily reminder that dreams come true with the help of complete strangers sometimes. Vicki, Wendy, and I kept in touch over the years, so I was stunned very recently to get a text from Wendy saying Vicki had passed away.
The third person was my mom’s cousin, Jill Frick (formerly married to Bill Lietz). After reading “Dream in Color,” Jill dared me to write a hockey romance. She said, “You love hockey so much, you could write it.” I wasn’t so sure. Then Jill gave me a phone number. Turns out, she is best friends with former NHL star Jeremy Roenick’s wife. (Jeremy Roenick, one of my all time favorite hockey players.) She was working for Jeremy at the time, and insisted I give him a call. BEST PHONE CALL I EVER MADE! He was a darling guy to talk to, and he gave me a ton of material that helped me shape Quinn Murray for “Fresh Ice.”
These three people gave me huge boosts of confidence and validation in a way that no teacher or family member ever did. I can never ever repay them, but I hope that someday I can pay it forward with some young writer or something.
Who are your favorite authors?
Oh the list is long and well known: I love anything Bronte or Poe, and Margaret Mitchell is a goddess. More recently I will read anything Phillipa Gregory, Billie Letts, or Adriani Trigiani put out. When I want something fun I’ll read J.A. Konrath’s latest, even though he told me once his writing was too scary for me. LOL! And of course, I’m blessed to get a front row seat to the as yet unpublished works of Linda Schmalz and Kelly Moran. Those ladies have amazing voices and are very talented.
Are you as funny in real life as you are at writing Elsie W. stories?
Since my Elsie W. stories are (unfortunately) my real life, I guess I have to say yes. I do enjoy making people laugh, and I really do seem to have a ton of material when it comes to ridiculous things that happen around me on a daily basis. Maybe that’s why I write so much fiction…I need to escape my life! I like to believe that we have a choice in life, we can take everything seriously or we can laugh at it all. I choose to laugh.
Seriously, is Elsie a real person?
I have four saved messages on my phone to prove not only is she real, but the book doesn’t even scratch the surface of how exhausting she is. While I loathe my job, having Elsie…and late Noelle C…at my side has been very entertaining. I mean really, what warped mind could possibly come up with a person who brings a container of fruit flies from home to the office?
The trick with writing about anything in real life is you have to have the right frame of mind. In fiction, you can sort of power through chapters even if you’re in a foul mood. Worst thing that happens is maybe you kill a character or something. But when you’re writing funny, you better feel like laughing. Working with Elsie made me furious for a long time, so it’s taken a few months to get my temper right with the work. What cracks me up is that on my blog http://itcanonlyhappentosarah.blogspot.com I shared some of these stories in a fit of rage and people thought they were hilarious. That’s when I knew I had a book. I just had to tone down the angry a little. If you have ever worked with a someone like Elsie, you know.
What’s your go-to writing food? [I find myself craving peanut butter and Andes mints—not together, of course]
Oddly enough, I don’t eat when I’m writing. It’s the perfect diet plan, and clearly I’m not doing enough of it. I don’t like food around me…it gets in the way of the 99 candles I light when I’m writing. I also don’t like typing with goo on my hands, and most of the foods I eat on a daily basis tend to be gooey. Just look at me. Fluff and goo…you are what you eat!
However, I do drink copious amounts of coffee (before five) and wine (any time thereafter) while I’m writing. I find Pinot Noir to be a nice wine to drink in quantity without heartburn or hangover later. All the great American authors had some form of addiction…why mess with a formula that works, right? Right?
How do you celebrate the end of a book?
By releasing it before it’s been properly edited and then cursing myself while I fix everything. My first print copies of the Elsie W. book had no less than 3 different author names on them. Two on the cover, one inside. Three names. Yep, that’s how I then get to market the “limited edition” copies. But that just proves I’m not creative enough to make up Elsie. I can’t even get my author name on the book right!
I also give myself permission to take a week off of writing, blogging, reading, editing, critiquing or anything literary. I basically go to work, come home, eat cheese doodles, and watch terrible TV. I get in touch with my inner couch potato for one week. Then I get back at it.
What’s on deck? What new books do we have to look forward to?
Elsie’s second book, “It’s Elsie’s World, We’re Just Here to Clean It.” will be coming out September-ish, with the final book in that series, “Elsie W.: Unsafe at Any Speed.” coming out toward the end of the year. After that, I have the Noelle C. book to write, I have that Collier book to write, and I have that missing children series to get on. Basically, what I need to do is win the lottery so I can quit my day job and just sit down and quiet the voices in my head by writing.
I’ve been a fan of writer Sarah Bradley for awhile. I recently read her hilarious saga of the co-worker from hell, Not While I’m Chewing, and decided we need to know more about her! I interviewed her via email. I also asked for proof that Elsie exists…read Not While I’m Chewing to see why I might doubt her existence!
Wow, where do I start? It was a dark and stormy night….oh wait, that might be too far back. Okay, I live in Wisconsin. I’m married to my college sweetheart, I have two teens who ignore me most of the time, especially when auto correct makes my texts virtually unreadable. I have four rescue cats that only acknowledge me when I’m sitting down at the computer to get some writing done. I’m a gigantic Rick Springfield fan. My days are pretty much filled with my job as an office drone, but I dream of the day I can write full time. (All writers dream of the day they can write full time. That’s also the day we never have to put on pants without zippers and we can wear all of our snarky T-shirts that talk about the wonderful life of writing.) My favorite foods are coffee, wine, and soup. Not always in that order. Usually wine comes first.
I “met” you because we’re Rick Springfield fans, and your novel “Dream In Color” has a very Rick-like love interest. Any chance you’ll be writing more of those stories?
Quite possibly, although probably not in the real near future. While all of my heroes are based in some way on a male celebrity I love, I haven’t been quite as true to life as I was with “Dream.” (It’s actually scary, if you read Rick’s autobiography, “Late, Late At Night,” just how true to life Jesse Alexander wound up being. But hey, my book came out first! LOL!)
I truly fell in love with the character Jesse Alexander. (Yes, I’m in love with Rick Springfield in real life and I just know I JUST KNOW he knows how devoted I am and will one day reward me by maybe moving in next door to me so I can borrow a cup of sugar from him now and then, you know, as an excuse to talk to him. Except that would be funny, because I don’t cook or bake that much, so my kitchen would just be filled with random cups of sugar. Is that creepy? That’s probably creepy.) I love the idea of writing another rock and roll romance because I am so in love with the idea of rock stars, especially older, more experienced rock stars. I love stories that involve people who have been through the bumps of real life, so it’s really unlikely I’ll ever come out with a Young Adult romance. There’s something very real about a romance between two people who have seen it all before. It’s real ,but it’s also magical. So more than likely I’ll come up with another tour bus romance down the road.
Do you consider Dream In Color to be fan fiction? [I'm obsessed with the idea of fan fiction lately!]
I don’t think of it as fan fiction, but hey, if you want to, go ahead! I firmly believe that writing, pretty much like any creative outlet, becomes a different thing to the person reading it. I was at a book signing recently when a women came up and told me how “Dream in Color” gave her the courage to get on stage with Bon Jovi. (I get a lot of feedback from Bon Jovi fans. They are a very vocal bunch who have apparently all read “Dream in Color.”) I think of “Dream” more as a love letter to the rock stars of the past who have come out of retirement to party with the fans. I was just at a Rick concert in the Wisconsin Dells recently and while he put on an awesome show, I really got the feeling we were all partying together and he just happened to be on stage.
The idea for “Dream in Color” popped up after standing in line waiting to meet my other idol, Randy Mantooth. (TV’s “Johnny Gage” from the show “Emergency.”) I stood in line for hours with all kinds of women who talked about their devotion to this TV star from the 70′s. (Randy was the picture of charm and grace.) After the meet and greet, I joined a couple online fan groups and really got a good look at the hard core devoted fan. In fact, the scene in the book where Ramona meets Jesse for the first time actually came from a post one of these women wrote about bumping into Randy Mantooth. I read that post and thought, “What would happen when someone meets their long time idol in a completely unguarded moment? And what’s the other side of that coin, the celebrity’s side?”
I often think of “Dream in Color” (Which is named after a Rick Springfield song, BTW) as more of a fairy tale than fan fiction. I get a lot of feedback from people who have read this and found parts of themselves in Ramona. She’s definitely an Everywoman. Where I get very specific about Jesse’s physical features, I’m rather vague about Ramona’s, and I think that works because every woman who reads this story can truly find themselves in the fairy tale.
You have several novels out that have very different subjects. Is that hard to do? [Feel free to elaborate on each novel!]
When I first set out to write a novel I was thirteen. I figured I had this one story in me and once it was written I’d be the next Margaret Mitchell and this novel would be my “Gone with the Wind.” (How naive I was back then LOL!) Well, thirty years after I started that novel I finished it, and it wound up being my second novel, “Lies in Chance.” The thing about “Lies,” which is a complete departure from “Dream in Color” is that it is the place I go to when I’m stuck on any other writing project. I kept those characters with me through my entire life, they know me and I know them better than any one else. So for a long time, when I tried to write a different story, I kept coming back to the rural Northern Wisconsin world of Shara and Bryan and all that small town intrigue. A couple years ago my husband said, “Would you just finish the thing and move on?”
So I did. I’m so proud of “Lies in Chance” because it’s probably the best reflection of what I love to do as a writer and what I love as a reader. It’s multi-layered, with tons of characters, lots of action, a couple horses, and yes, just enough romance to make you swoon. “Lies” was the first thing I self published because the agents and editors I pitched it to just couldn’t get past the fact that it’s a fairly complex story, they didn’t see a market for it. I wrote it more as an episodic night time soap opera (Think “Dallas”) than anything else because that’s the kind of stories I love.
“Lies in Chance” has not yet found its audience, but those who have read it have told me it’s one of their favorite books. I know it’s one of mine, and not just because I spent a lifetime growing up with those characters. For me, “Lies in Chance” is just one of those stories that has something for everyone which is what makes it work. I get the best feedback from male readers on this one.
After finishing “Lies” and after I sold “Dream in Color” to the Wild Rose Press (I have since completed my contract with them and I have rereleased “Dream” this past spring and a self published book.) I thought I was done. I mean, what other stories did I have to tell? And then…well then another idea for another story came around. I found myself really wanting to sit down and write a complete boy meets girl romance, and I had two really great characters in mind. Well, I had two really great names in mind. When I sent the first few chapters of the new book to my critique partner (Author Linda Schmalz, who is brilliant in her own way.) she hated it all. I said, “What can I keep?” She said, “The names of the two main characters.”
And that’s how “Fresh Ice” was born and reborn. I knew exactly what I wanted for my hero. The TV show “JAG” had just gone off the air and I wanted a David James Elliott character to star in my book. He would be over the top handsome, athletic, and very, very damaged. That’s how former hockey bad boy Quinn Murray was born.
My heroine was a bit more tricky because I was DETERMINED to not have my heroine be ME in this book. She was going to be someone much different from me. I had a great name, Isabella, ‘Izzy’ Marks. And I’d just been to a Rick Springfield concert in Nashville, so I KNEW she was going to be from Nashville because I’d fallen in love with that town and I was going to write something about NASHVILLE, DARN IT ALL!
So there I was, I had a setting, I had a hero, and I had a name for a heroine. But my heroine bored me to tears. Thank goodness for the Winter Olympics and Linda Schmalz’s dog Tally. Linda and I were walking Tally one night and I said, “I can’t make Izzy interesting so I don’t want to write her. Now if she’d be something cool like a figure skater or something…”
Linda said, “So make her a figure skater.”
Which is how “Fresh Ice” became the story of a former hockey player and a former figure skater both with dark, shocking pasts, who find each other in Nashville. Since its release this past December, “Fresh Ice” has found a good readership, I’m happy to say. It’s the story that’s least like me in real life, but it was really fun to spread my wings and take all the time I’ve spent watching hockey and watching figure skating, and put it to use. (Finally! I reason to watch figure skating!)
So now I laugh at the girl who thought she had one story in her. Stories are everywhere. I can’t stop book ideas from popping into my head. And many ideas are very, very different from what I’ve already written.
Have you considered writing a series? Why or why not?
The first one you’re acquainted with, is the Elsie W. books. I just released the first one, “Not While I’m Chewing” a few weeks back and the second one is slated for a September-ish release. (Ah, the life of a self published author…deadlines-smeadlines.) There will be a total of three Elsie books and probably one Noelle C. (Elsie’s replacement) book down the line. That will open things up to a complete humor series for me, all under my pseudonym Sarah Jayne Brewster. (Ironically, the stuff with the swearing and the drinking and the sex, that’s all published under my real name. But the funny stories about the woman I work with…that’s under a fake name.) I’ve always loved telling funny stories about myself (because it’s all about me) so putting these stories into book form just seems right.
Then, down the road a bit, I have an idea for a sort of lost children series. I have a heroine in mind, someone sort of edgy and out there who spends her time searching for diners with good soup and coffee and finding children who are lost. I haven’t decided yet if this is going to take an Inspirational turn, it could easily, but I’ve got ideas for at least three, maybe four books in that series.
Finally, and this is what I’m super jazzed about, I’m working on a novel that actually ties “Lies in Chance” with “Fresh Ice.” I’m calling the three books my “wicked women” series because the villains in all three are women. The finally book, which does NOT have a title, is going to use Collier James, a side character from “Fresh Ice” as the hero. I’m sending him to Rock Harbor, Wisconsin (A fictional town I used as a setting for “Lies in Chance”) and he’s going to get into all sorts of messes and romance there. That’s in the works and I’m hoping to have it out sometime early 2014. Can you say “BOX SET?” (OK, that might be a bit pretentious!)
How long have you been writing?
Since I was very young, but I really got going when I was thirteen. My parents moved me between my freshman and sophomore years in high school, and being a transfer student is not easy. I created the characters for “Lies in Chance” to be my friends. Since then I wrote on and off through college, marriage, having babies, raising babies, and I got super serious in 2000 when I got the idea for “Dream in Color.” Since then it’s been my pastime and my passion to write every spare minute I have.
Can you share your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I am the worst kind of pantser, and my critique partners will say the same. My writing process with novels involves a lot of writing and tearing down. I’m one of those people who has to get to know her characters first. I have an image in my head of my characters, but it isn’t until I’ve been writing them for a while that they develop their own personality and voice. It’s true when writers tell you they hear voices. It’s our characters yelling at us for putting them in situations they don’t want to be in. The clearest example of that was Ramona in “Dream in Color.” I had a very definite plan for that woman, but she would not stop yelling in my brain until I gave her when she wanted. Boy, am I glad I did! “Dream” would have been a very different book otherwise!
I’m inspired by music. I tend to build a soundtrack for my projects before I write a word. That is so very true for this new novel I’m working on. I heard a song by James Durbin (American Idol alum) called “Everything Burns.” I had no intention of getting a story idea that morning, but I heard that song once and Collier’s story was born. Now I troll iTunes for songs involving the word “fire” because FIRE is going to be a very big plot point in this new book. “Lies in Chance” since it took me so long to finish the darn thing, has a soundtrack that’s about fifty songs long and the songs span time from the early 80′s to now. I can’t, however, listen to the Kansas tune “Hold On” without thinking about Shara and Bryan. That’s the core song. For “Dream in Color” it was all about the Rick Springfield album “Karma.” The sound of his voice on that album inspired Jesse Alexander, sort of a world weary older rocker. “Fresh Ice,” well, one of my very favorite bands right now is “New Minstrel Revue.” They are a band that tours at Renaissance Faires primarily, but they have a song on one of their albums called “Thank you For Asking.” That song gave me not only my hero, Quinn, but my secondary character Collier as well. It’s a powerful, sad, beautiful song. And for reasons I haven’t figured out yet, I listened to a TON of Toto while writing “Fresh Ice.” I just never know what’s going to hit me, so I keep my ears open all the time.
The process beyond that is just sit down and do it. There are days I just don’t want to write. But most days it’s like breathing for me. I have to do it. I have to put words on screen. I’m happiest when I’m writing scenes, even if those scenes never ever see the light of day. A bad day of writing is still better than the best day at my day job!
Come back tomorrow for the rest of the interview with Sarah J. Bradley!
I’m sad to see Google Reader leave–which it is on July 1st. So many of you follow Motherhoot on it. Do you have a different option for subscribing?
You could subscribe directly by email. There’s a sign-up over there to the right. Enter your email address, confirm your email, and you’re done. When I post something, it comes to your email.
But if you’re not excited about getting a million emails every day from blogs you follow–which could happen, I follow tons myself!–you could try Bloglovin’. There’s a link for following over there on the right–above the links to my Social Media Club Houses.
I like Bloglovin’ because it gives me a daily email with new posts from blogs I follow. I love it. It’s one email…snippets of posts…and I can read it at my leisure. I love having the day’s blogs come to me. Lots of times I don’t have time to get to a reader, so this is a nice reminder.
Whatever method you choose, thanks for following Motherhoot! You’re the best!
About the Author:
A veteran of the performing arts and worldwide missions, Tessa Stockton also contributed as a writer/editor for ministry publications, ghostwriter for political content, and headed a column on the topic of forgiveness. Today she writes novels in a variety of genres, often laced with romance and intrigue. In addition to her Christian suspense/thriller, THE UNSPEAKABLE, she’s the author of the political intrigue/romance, THE UNFORGIVABLE, a fable, LOVE AND LULL, and the upcoming inspirational fantasy romance, WIND’S ARIA, with more in the works.
Visit the Author:
About the Book:
When a furtive conflict is pitted between violent leftist guerrillas and a rightwing paramilitary group in Colombia, a North American woman mistakenly gets caught in the middle.
“I spent four months, one week and two days in a clandestine prison referred to as The Water Cave. Every day I stared hell in the face, and each day I wanted to die. I don’t want to share too much too quickly. To understand fully, you must join hands with me, fasten your heart to mine, and course through my book. Stumble over the incomprehensible human rights journey with me. I’ve pondered it to the brink of questionable sanity, and it is the only way. It’s the only way to explain. I suppose I should consider myself lucky I survived at all—for many did not—yet, perplexingly so, that’s not the premise of this narrative.
He altered my life, marked me forever.
But it’s not how you might imagine.
This is a story involving Horacio Botello, my torturer known as Puma.”
Purchase your copy:
Tessa will be giving away a $25 Amazon GC, one autographed copy of her book, The Unspeakable, and one autographed copy of her other book, The Unforgivable!
This book was a recommendation, but I can’t remember from whom! I waited for a long time to get it from the library e-book borrowing program, so I started it completely blind. I had no idea what it was supposed to be about by the time I got it.
While getting my hair done, the woman in the next chair heard me saying I had just started it, and offered this, “I’ve never read a book with such pathological characters before.” She encouraged me to continue reading, but wouldn’t tell me the ending!
Gone Girl is the tale of Amy and Nick Dunne. On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears. Nick receives a call at work from a neighbor telling him the front door of his house is wide open. When he goes to investigate, there appears to have been a struggle of some sort. And Amy is gone.
The case gets a lot of attention because Amy is the human equivalent of a beloved children’s book character, Amazing Amy. Her parents arrive in town to support Nick. But Nick’s support from everyone wanes as his involvement in Amy’s disappearance becomes murkier and murkier: no alibi, an affair, poor finances…
The chapters of the book alternate between Nick and Amy’s story-telling. The woman’s description of “pathological” is spot on. But at least one of the characters has some redeeming qualities.
Once I got into this book, I couldn’t read it fast enough. If I could have, I would have stayed up all night to finish it. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book that moved me like this one did. It made me think how appearances matter, sometimes more than the actual truth. It also reminded me how manipulative and pathological normal-appearing people can be.
I grew up reading long series of books. Did I say reading? Make that devouring. Third grade was spent in Narnia, fourth in Mallory Towers. All of the Oz books – including the ones by Ruth Plumly Thompson – tottered in a stack by my bed. I copied the maps of Moomin Valley. I knew Middle Earth as well as, and perhaps better than, my own town.
So it was very natural to me to write a series. I loved the characters and friendships that were created in books like The Valley and The Mountain of Adventure, and I wanted to have the same sort of thing in mine–a group of kids who would have perilous adventures and yet remain kids throughout. They would perform acts of derring-do, yet at the same time they would squabble and perhaps even develop romantic feelings for each other.
When I read books in a great series, it was like putting on a comfy robe or huddling under a warm blanket. I knew the people in the books and I had a fair idea of what the writer had in store for them.
Characters and adventure, then, drove a series for me. Either there was a group of kids – in the case of the Adventure stories, two boy and two girls – or there was fevered action, as in the Narnia books.
My Crown Phoenix books started around the scene of Miriam, an orphan, reading a book in a large house. She was soon joined by two boys: Simon (with whom Miriam argued mightily) and Neil, Simon’s friend.
Miriam’s governess, Mana, acted as a guide to the three of them. She was dependable and a bit magic at the same time, but her position was hampered by being a woman of color in Edwardian society.
At this point the adventures began to kick in. A pair of thorough villains showed up. I love the dichotomy of beauty and badness, so the woman, Barbara, was breathtakingly lovely and utterly evil at the same time. The three children were separated: Miriam and Simon were kidnapped and put on the train called The Night Watchman Express, headed to a dire end.
Neil took off for the island of Lampala to have his own series of adventures. There he met Riki, a very skinny girl who was immature and what I would call “a pain in the butt.” Eventually, however, they became friends.
As I wrote the books, two things happened at once. The action advanced, but at the same time the characters grew up. Miriam flourished under Mana’s teaching. Simon realized that beauty can be a dangerous thing. Neil found that acting in an irresponsible manner is sometimes the best thing to do. And Riki – well, she will always be Riki. Still, she did learn to be a bit more polite. Neil had a great deal to do with that.
Perhaps it is a bit of an indulgence for an author to write a series. We have the luxury of not having to give all the backstory, since readers (hopefully) will have read them all along the way. At the same time, we do have to provide enough guidelines for those who pick up a book in the middle of the series, as well as enough story in one single book to make it satisfying.
I am close to finishing the final book of the lot, and won’t I be sorry when it’s complete! I’ll have to leave my mythical island, Lampala, as well as all the characters I’ve learned to love. I’ll miss them in the way you would miss a friend who moves away when you are very young – you wish you could see them again, but you know you probably never will.
I found this video in an Upworthy email yesterday. I have found the best videos through them, but this one is the most special of all. It was done by Karen Walrond (aka @Chookooloonks) who wrote the book The Beauty of Different.
Watch it and know that you, my dear, are beautiful in every way!