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Homepage? : http://members.aol.com/moresmemo.
Country where you reside? : USA
Personal bio? : I taught grade school for 10 years, then quit to focus on my interest in art and writing. My paintings were shown in various galleries throughout the Northwest, were juried into numerous shows sponsored by the Southern Oregon Society of Artists and the Watercolor Society of Oregon, and won several prestigious awards. For 5 years, I ran an art gallery where I featured paintings by local artists as well as my own watercolors. Concurrently, I wrote fiction novels, one after another, striving to perfect my craft in creating in that area as well. I was one of the founding members of a local writers organization and have spent the last 6 years as the editor of their newsletter. In 1998, my book Allegiance made me a Golden Heart finalist in a contest sponsored by the Romance Writers of America. That same year, I sold my first book.
Do you belong to any writers organizations? : Currently, I belong to my local writers organization, the Rogue Writers Ink, and to the Electronically Published Internet Connection (EPIC).
Where can a reader purchase your work? : From http://www.ebookshoppe.com.
Current and/or planned future projects? : Toying with a suspense thriller plot in an historical setting.
Why do you write historicals? : I grew up reading Zane Grey, James Fennimore Cooper, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Stephen Meader, any author who could make the past come alive for me, to take me away to another time and place where life seemed adventurous and colorful. I still find historicals to be more credible, and thus more engaging, than purely fictitious plots. That is due, mostly, to the careful research into the annals of the past conducted by the authors.
What time period(s) is your primary focus, and why? : I have focused on the early 1800s, before America entered the Mexican War and the Civil War. Emphasis in those times was in exploration and expansion which appeals to my pioneering heart. I love the idea of America bordering on a frontier where no white man has set foot. Who knows what may lie beyond the next river bend or over the next mountain? Adventures await.
What other genre(s) besides historicals do you write? : Romance, western, and contemporary mainstream.
When did you begin writing? And what did you write? : I wrote short stories and one-act plays while in grade school (and rounded up neighbor kids to act in them). In high school, I wrote my first full length historical novel. Between terms at college, I wrote another. These projects were invaluable for improving my skills.
Which authors are/were your inspirations? : I fell in love with Zane Grey in junior high and evolved to Paul Wellman (The Comancheros and The Iron Mistress), but rounded out my experience in other genres with Robert Heinlein, Daphne du Maurier, John Steinbeck, and other writers of the classics. Margaret Mitchell blew me away!
Which authors/books are your current favorites? : My favorite books are always nonfiction histories which provide research potential. My current favorite is The Bloodline of the Holy Grail by Sir Laurence Gardner.
Of all the books youve read, which one do you wish you had written? : Strangely enough, its a YA historical fiction, Savage Sam by Fred Gipson. I read this book aloud to my grade school classes more than once. I never tired of it.
Please give an overview of your research habits. : I generally write a chapter or so, then my driving curiosity about the setting and stage props sends me to the library to bring home stacks of reference books. I write a few more chapters, then have to stop to dig up additional facts to back up the plot line. In writing Allegiance, I toured the Southwest on two occasions, visiting 8 states, stopping at every landmark, museum, and historical attraction on my way. In Santa Fe, I purchased an arm load of history books containing ancient diaries and journals written by people who were there at the time of my story. I interviewed old timers who could remember their grandparents tales of the Old West. I spent hours and days in libraries poring over material they wouldn't let me check out. In fact, some items were stored behind bars under lock and key! They wouldn't even let me take notes with a pen for fear I would mar the pages of their documents. Priceless documents, rich with historical lore that few people are aware of, inspiring me to tell a story with twists and surprises, intrigue and adventure.
Have you ever included in your novels real historical personages? If so, how true do you stay to what has been written about them? Do you ever deviate from known facts? How much do you fictionalize them? : Good question! I included real historical persons in my book Allegiance: Sam Houston, Thomas Hart Benton, Andrew Jackson and Van Buren. If I didnt love research, it would be intimidating. But the exhaustive investigations I did made them seem real to me, and hopefully I was able to portray them to my readers as believable characters. I never deviate from known facts unless there is controversy among historians about the facts. Then I choose to go with those that make the most sense to me in regards to human nature. Their part in my story is fictionalized, but I use as a rule of thumb It Really Could Have Happened. I stay true to what has been written about them by recognized historians, then I expand on that in a logical, rational way. Its amazing how much the small factual details from their lives can add to the color and texture of their character. It keeps them from being faceless generic stereotypes. I dont have to make them up. For example, in real life Sam Houston tended to refer to himself in the third person. He might say, Houstons horse went down on the front line. He also had a bullet imbedded in his shoulder which never completely healed. When a grubby little freight ship transported him to New Orleans with a life-threatening wound from the battlefield in Texas, the weather was very stormy. See what I mean? It seems more interesting to me to stick to the truth. Houston actually visited West Point during exams once, so it seemed believable that he might have met my fictional hero there. The hard part about the research is that I get lost in it and forget for a time that I'm writing a book. I also collect 10 times the amount of facts than Ill ever need.
Please give an overview of your writing process. : With all but my latest book, I started writing and had no outline or ending in mind. I generally gain inspiration from researching history books. A little-known event may trigger ideas that can be incorporated into a riveting story. The unfortunate result of writing without a plan is that the first draft of Allegiance ran 179,000 words! I didn't know when to quit. Before I could sell it, I had to whittle 200 pages out of it. Whew! What a job that was! Never again, I vowed, and plotted my next book from beginning to end before I wrote the first word. That way I was able to keep it a reasonable length. On the other hand, I have 200 pages kicking around that I can put into another book.
On average, how many drafts do you write before your work goes to the publisher? : The second draft contains drastic changes, additions, and deletions. After that, I simply polish what I have about 50 times. I don't know—I lose track. If they would let me, Id go through it again right now. I can always find ways to improve it.
Please give an overview of your typical writing day. : I write in long spurts, preferably early in the morning. I get my best plotting ideas immediately after I wake up, lying in bed, even before Ive had my coffee. If I wait until after lunch to start writing, its harder for me, and I tend to sharpen pencils down to nubs instead.
What gives you the most satisfaction during the writing process? : Reading what I wrote the day before. That sets me up for the next scene, puts me in touch with where I was going when I quit. I also revise a bit as I go to get into the swing of things. The satisfying part comes when I don't have to change much. Wow, did I write that?
What gives you the greatest headache during the writing process? : Writing is a solitary process, and Im happiest when everyone leaves me alone. But i's not healthy to be a recluse, so I force myself out to share my story with a critique group. Its very hard to hold my baby up for criticism. The greatest headache, though, comes from day to day obligations that intrude on my writing time, including the little interruptions or distractions that jerk me back abruptly from 150 years ago. I sit stunned for a moment like a lost and confused time traveler. The connection is lost, and I often have to stop writing for the day.
Whats the biggest problem in your own writing that youve had to overcome? : Meeting market expectations. Every since Freud introduced psychoanalysis in the first third of the century, reviewers, editors, and publishers feel they have to promote books that delve very deeply into the characters psyche. If the reading public resists wading through 400 pages of unrelenting angst and emotional pain, reviewers takes it upon themselves to educate society and influence what publishers provide. This is true of the film industry, too, where movies that make the most money arent necessarily the ones which get Academy Awards. As an author who prefers plot-driven stories, I couldnt overcome that hurdle on my own. Luckily, there are disgruntled e-publishers who are flying against all restrictions and are allowing writers to express themselves as they wish.
Do you achieve your finest/most productive work during the initial draft stage or the reediting/revision process? : The plotting stage before I write a scene is very productive. Brainstorming is my forte. Writing the first draft is exhausting work, but equally productive. Im one of those who enjoys revising, and I can turn a mediocre first draft into something I can be proud of. So, to answer your question, each stage is equally productive in its own way.
Of all the books youve written, which one would you say is your greatest achievement, and why? : Allegiance contains more controversial history than the others, and is almost epic in its scope. Honor Among Thieves, on the other hand, is shamelessly commercial, a fast-paced adventure, full of danger and intrigue, a historical romantic suspense.
Which character youve created gave you the most pleasure, and why? : I love Major Tyler ODonnell (the hero in Allegiance), a West Point graduate who doesnt always see eye to eye with his superiors. He is duty-bound, though, which makes for a dilemma, an inner conflict. I patterned some of his characteristics after my husband, so Tyler will always have a warm place in my heart. I was sad when I finally had to write THE END.
Have any of your characters tried totake over the book by developing a mind of their own? If so, do you let them go where they may, or you rein them in? And how? : Yes, Tyler tried to take over the story line. With his strong moral code, he could never let well enough alone. Hes probably the reason I had to take out 200 pages afterwards.
In your opinion, how healthy is todays market for historical fiction? : Not healthy enough. The Historical Romance genre has passed for historical fiction in the minds of many readers and dominated the market for nearly two decades now. Often, the historical aspects of that genre have been toned down by editors, so the plots could almost take place anywhere. Authors who developed historical depth in their novels have been sent rejection letters more often than not. Many publishers and editors speak for everyone by claiming that readers dont want to read about history. I question that. I expect a resurgence of interest in historicals now that epublishers allow them to reach the market.
Do you see the overall industry changing now that E-Publishing is gaining momentum? And if so, how? : Absolutely! I can almost hear the rumble as the established New York publishing traditions begin to fall by the way side. I predict a whole new set of rules. Soon people wont remember why publishers used to hold back royalty funds from authors, claiming they didnt yet know how many returns there would be. People will ask, Stripped covers? What are those? Print-on-demand coupled with e-publishing will bring prices down to a level where anyone, no matter how poor, can afford books. And those with modems on their computers (about half the population already) will benefit by the price wars brought on by multitudes of epublishers competing for a market edge. Mark my words.
If you could alter one thing about the publishing industry/process in general, what would it be? : The tradition of allowing books to go out of print. But that is a policy that is about to go into oblivion, thank goodness.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? : On a par with the best-selling authors. Seriously, you can find ebooks today that are sandwiched between Clancy and King on online bestseller lists. What that means is that all authors have an equal chance for success in the epublishing world.
How do you stay connected to thereal world with areal life happening around you? : At the risk of sounding certifiable, let me say: I maintain distance from the real world. I try not to heed negative propaganda, or succumb to the lure of a media preoccupied with shocking news. My reality revolves around my immediate family and close circle of friends who understand the necessity of retreating to an inner world of the mind in order to maintain ones ability to create.
What advice would you give to unpublished historical authors? : Dont give up. Your time will come. Enjoy what you create, even if you and your loved ones are the only ones who read what you write. If you feel driven to get published, give the epublishers a chance at your book. Stick with the ones who only ask to license your electronic rights, and nothing more. That way you can market your audio, print, and film rights separately. Dont pay anyone to publish your work. Thats demoralizing.
Miscellaneous comments? :
Trace, its a pleasure corresponding with you. What would your fellow historical writers do without people like you who unselfishly provide avenues for us to expound on our pet theories as well as our books, and provide a public forum like this? I appreciate what you are doing immensely.