Destroy all known viruses!
http://www.pdq.to/natchez for my
historical romantic fiction, or http://www.angelfire.com/tn/shadylady/ for other fun stuff!
Country where you reside? : Tennessee, USA
Personal bio? : Imagine Hooterville and Green Acres and that will give you a good mental picture of the tiny town in Tennessee where I live! I used to be a junior accountant in my last real job; now I am in partnership with my beloved sister in a flower and gift shop, just a stones throw from my house (or about three blocks, if you need an urban parameter). Oh, yes, Im also a published author, having just published my first historical romantic fiction novel, Natchez.
Do you belong to any writers organizations? : No, just internet communities for writers, and that keeps me informed and up-to-date on markets.
Where can a reader purchase your work? : Available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Domhan Books, or can be purchased through a bookstore with ISBN# 1-58345-008-4 or see my webpage at http://pdq.to/natchez.
Current and/or planned future projects? : Readers who have enjoyed Natchez are hounding me to write the sequel! I confess I hadnt planned a sequel, but theres certainly enough material yet untouched to continue the story with the main characters. Ive also proposed a five-book series to Kensington Ballad, set on a showboat on the Mississippi River, but have not gotten a commitment on that yet. Other books in the works are a contemporary romance that could be considered a loving imitation of Pride And Prejudice. And of course the antebellum South is my first love, and there are still many stories left to be told.
Why do you write historicals? : I write historicals mainly because I adore history, and cannot get enough of the good old days, regardless of whether they actually were good or not. There are elements to human history that are lost to us in our current world, such as family unity, blood ties, conversation, family dinners, morals and values eschewed today, grace, hospitality, and a fierce sense of survival against all odds. Maybe Im alone in this, but I believe that when reading history books seems like reading about foreign, alien peoples, then something is definitely missing from our lives today, and we can find those missing elements, I think, from studying our past.
What time period(s) is your primary focus, and why? : The Antebellum South, mainly because it is such a pleasure to read about a more gracious time period than any before or since in American history (not to mention all I have to do is walk out my back door!). I do love researching the Civil War (or the War of Northern Agression, as it is still sometimes known here in the South), but for my own tastes I prefer the romantic moonlight and magnolias fairy tale that was the Old South. After the war came Reconstruction, and very little else. A whole era and way of life was lost forever. There is not a racist bone in my body, and I dont condone slavery, then or now, but it is as much a part of our history as the American Revolution, and should not be ignored or swept under the carpet. However, it is also not a pretty subject, and I do not explore the ramifications of slavery in my historical romantic fiction. Maybe one day . . .
What other genre(s) besides historicals do you write? : Contemporary Romance
When did you begin writing? And what did you write? : I began to write as soon as I could hold a pencil! I have always been a storyteller, have always created or made up stories in my head, but learning to write gave me a whole new audience and appreciation for writing talent and skill.
Which authors are/were your inspirations? : This is a tough one! As far as history and romance, I guess Jane Austen should top the list. For sheer beauty of written language, Shakespeare deserves a tip of the cap. As a child, Baums Oz books, Carrolls Alice books, Milnes Pooh books, Barries Peter Pan, Whites Once And Future King, and the list goes on. For a long time I thought I wanted to write childrens books, but I discovered romance and grew up!
Which authors/books are your current favorites? : Another tough one! Tough because I personally havent read a book published in the last ten, twenty or so years that has been memorable enough to consider it inspirational or influential. Anya Seton, Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney, and of course the legendary Victoria Holt really started me on my current trend for romance.
Of all the books youve read, which one do you wish you had written? : Without a doubt, Pride And Prejudice—it is perfect, and I tend to borrow Jane Austens characters a lot in my own writing!
Please give an overview of your research habits. : My own historical research habits are probably different from everyone elses . . . I tend to read history books for sheer enjoyment, and in so doing I usually stumble upon some odd bit of information, some tantalizing anecdote, that makes me sit up and take notice, then go off looking for more of the same. I love using historically accurate bits in my writing, but when I say use them, I mean it literally. Im not one of those historical writers who wants to convey to the reader a laundry list of every single bit of research that Ive done; rather, Ill use an interesting bit as an actual plot point or contrivance. Not only does this reinforce that historical bit in a readers mind, but it makes history come alive, if you will, by showing how this trivia, when used in an imaginative way, could result in action, adventure, mystery, etc. Even after I have my manuscript finished and in the process of polishing, Im still constantly reading, constantly researching, constantly looking for that next little bit of info that will bring my story to living breathing life for the reader. You can see its a never-ending process!
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? : This is one area that I, as a writer, prefer not to enter. Its easy enough to include famous people in your writing, to give your work a grounding date, so to speak, but unless that famous person has a profound influence on your main characters or plot, then whats the point? To me, it becomes sheer name-dropping, otherwise.
Please give an overview of your writing process. : I happen to be one of those linear writers—I start at the beginning and go on until I reach the end. When I get an inspiration for a new piece of work, I always see the ending first, I see a dramatic scene taking place between the main characters, I see it as a climax, then I back up and think, Okay, now how did they GET there? Amazing how much easier it is to write when you know where your story is headed! I never outline—unless you count outlining in my head—since Ive already got the ending, and in the discovery process have seen some key scenes to illustrate and keep the plot moving toward the climax. But in general when fingers hit keyboard, I let my characters have their heads—Ill let them explore little side-roads, knowing all the while I can rein them back onto the main highway at any time, if their sojourns into other territory prove fruitless or pointless.
On average, how many drafts do you write before your work goes to the publisher? : One draft usually does it for me, as far as what youd call full draft. Then Ill go back and polish and polish and . . . But rarely do I perform any radical overhauling once Ive gotten the main story on paper. I tend to sweat my words and sentences and paragraphs as I write them. I dont write in a slap-dash I-can-always-polish-and-rewrite-later manner. Generally speaking, the first draft is the final draft.
What gives you the most satisfaction during the writing process? : This may sound terribly narcissistic, but I actually get a real kick out of the creative process when I realize Ive strung words together in such a manner as to be equal to the Great Ones of literature. Its not so much bringing characters to life, as it is the intense pleasure when I read what Ive written, and forget that I wrote it!!
What gives you the greatest headache during the writing process? : Writers block—because it has a life of its own. I find that when I force myself to write (I WILL write today! I WILL write today!) that it comes out forced, and, well, terrible. The muse definitely has to be with me to write well, otherwise Im wasting time. I could be doing dishes or laundry, or more research. Discipline is a four-letter-word in my book.
In your opinion, how healthy is todays market for historical fiction? : I wish I could say it is very healthy, but Im afraid thats not the case. I think that publishers are to blame for this, however—by adhering to the bottom line (e.g., $$) they may be filling their coffers but the product is just plain commercially generic. Now, forgive me for saying this, but I also think that romance, although a thriving publishing industry, is as much to blame—the word romance used to mean something entirely different from what it now means. Think Arthurian Romance. Think epic saga. Romance today is little more than overblown confession magazine stories. I write romance, most assuredly, because I like writing about loving interaction between a hero and heroine, but I like it against a backdrop of the bigger picture, on a more cosmic scale, I guess I should say, than just the cute guy who lives in the upstairs apartment.
Do you see the overall industry changing now that E-Publishing is gaining momentum? And if so, how? : Its going to take a long time before electronic publishing is the preferred choice of most people. Regardless of statistics, there are still millions and millions of readers who do not own a computer or hand-held reading device. Paper is still the king of this arena. Although I can positively see that one day, one day, we all will be using hand-held readers, that day is still far in the future, comparatively speaking of course. Theres been a lot of talk about quality in ebooks, and although Im sure there are some excellent writers who may not be able to find their niche in the printed publishing world, still, what does it take to offer ebooks for sale? Purchase a domain name? A little HTML editing in your spare time? Presto! You can sell ebooks too! The problem is until an electronic publisher has established itself as a trustworthy source of material, its hard to weed through the myriad offerings. And the price? Come on! Dont charge me as much for an ebook as I would have to pay if it was paperback, because given that choice, Ill take paper.
If you could alter one thing about the publishing industry/process in general, what would it be? : Id personally like to see small press publishers getting more recognition and exposure. The big name publishers have no trouble getting their products out to the consumer, mainly because money talks. Small presses cant compete, and thats a shame, because every day wonderful little gems are being overlooked in favor of blockbusters. Theres that bottom line again!
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? : On Oprah? :)
What advice would you give to unpublished historical authors? : HANG IN THERE! You write history because you LOVE history. And youre not alone. There are many more of us out here than youd imagine, all eager to taste your special concoction of our favorite ingredients. The only bit of advice I might offer is to study the market more. If your 1,000 page tome on Elizabethan England is still gathering dust, then see what you can do to make it more marketable, without compromising your vision or writing integrity. No matter how brilliant it may be, its so much wasted paper if no one ever gets to read it.
Miscellaneous comments? :
I fully realize that some of my comments in
this interview will not be received kindly by everyone, and Ill be inundated with hate email! You asked my opinions, and Ive shared them. Please respect that.