As an author, it's always a thrill to have your book chosen by a book club. Today, I was to speak to the Goleta Book Club about my novel, A Ghost of a Second Chance. I also had an appointment to tour a private school in Santa Barbara County. (My Canterbury Romance Series revolve around a private school in Santa Barbara, you can read more about this coincidence here.) Sadly--hopefully, not tragically--my tour of the school had to be canceled because they had to be evacuated because of potential mudslides. And given the spotty weather conditions, we decided it would be best if I stayed at home and meet with the Goleta Book Club via Skype.
Which seemed like the perfect solution, until due to difficulties on their end, they were able to see and hear me but not vice-a-versa. So, I talked and they sent me questions via text. This seemed less than optimal until I realized it gave me the unique opportunity to capture our conversation and share it.
So, here are some snippets of my discussion with the Goleta Book Club. Of course, the questions will be different for every author and every book, but this might provide some insight on what to expect if you ever get the lucky opportunity to meet with a book club and discuss your book. (I took out the praise and boiled it down to just the questions.)
Do you have a set writing schedule?
Yes, I try to write/edit/market every day between ten a.m. and four p.m.
How long does it take you to write a book? This one in particular?
I published this book nearly five years ago, so I can't remember, but I do remember that I loved writing this story. It was the first book I wrote knowing I would self-publish it so it was like a free-fall of my imagination. I wasn't thinking of genre or publishing houses or agents. I just wrote the story I wanted to write. At about four hundred pages, it's the longest book I ever wrote. (That's not completely true, my first draft of The Rhyme's Library was more than 105,000 words, but it needed to be pared WAY back.)
I've written a book, start to finish, in less than a month, but in general, it usually takes me about three months to write a book.
How many edits does your book go through? And do they look very different after you're finished?
Typically, each book has about four to five revisions, but the basic plot of the story remains unchanged. I may add scenes to further illustrate a character's motivation or address a plot hole, but in general my stories end up pretty much how I envision them from the beginning.
Why did you decide to make Laine's father kind of creep? She seems so put together and kind--unlike her dad. And she doesn't ever really get mad at him, but just brushes him off.
This wasn't an intentional decision, but I do believe parents are human and they make mistakes. As adults, we make our choices that may or may not reflect our parents' and their values.
Did you intentionally include your own beliefs in the afterlife?
Of course I didn't set out to preach a sermon on the afterlife, but to tell an entertaining story. Still, I'm not sad, unhappy, or apologetic with my choice. I personally believe our deceased ancestors are watching over us. And do I think the world would be a kinder, gentler place if everyone recognized this? Absolutely. But still, I didn't set out to write a story that reflected that belief. Also, I don't consider myself a great scriptorian. Even though I do have a daily habit of studying my scriptures, I do so for purely selfish reasons. I would be horrified if anyone wanted to use my works for spiritual guidance.
I loved when Sid told Laine that had he known he would be reunited with Madeline after this life he would have made better choices. I thought it was a powerful teaching moment. Was that intentional?
No. It's usually during a rewrite when those ah-ha moments occur to me. The first draft is like the basic construction of a house. I'm building walls, installing windows, making sure the plumbing works, but it's in the rewrites where the epiphanies happen. That's where the house becomes a home.
You refer to your characters as if they are soooo real to you. Are they? Do you talk to them and see how they look?
I do love my characters, especially my heroes. The longer I spend with them, the more attached I become. When I had to kill a character in my book Seadrift, I was sent into a black place for about a week and was unable to write. Maybe that's why I stepped away from mysteries (that, and because they take a lot more mental acrobatics.)
Do you ever get writers' block?
When I get writers' block it's usually because my story has somehow gone off the rails. Either my characters are misbehaving or I've written them into an impossible situation. When this happens, I usually work on something else like my blog or another book. If I really need to get my book in motion, sometimes I'll brainstorm with a writer friend.
Do you aspire to have one of your books made into a movie?
I don't really see myself on that path so I don't give it a lot of thought. When I think about others reading and evaluating my books, it usually stymies me. I'm much better off to enjoy the writing process and forget about how the books will be received. If I had to think about the book being turned into a movie, I'd be terrified Hollywood would twist my book into something embarrassing. Mentally, I can't even go there or I'd never write a thing.
Who are some of your favorite authors that have influenced you?
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Emily Dickinson, Charles Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, Wallace Stegner, Anne Tyler, Sarah Addison Allen, Alice Hoffman, Lauren Willig, Mary Stewart, Agatha Christie, Brene Brown, Malcolm Gladwell. I don't pretend to be in their company.
You obviously spend a lot of time writing, do you also spend a lot of time of reading?
I'm not sure if I spend more time reading than writing, but if not, it's probably close.
What book am I reading now?
Currently on my nightstand I have The Husband's Secret by Laine Moriarty, Emma by Alexander Mccall Smith,and The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. Also, by Thursday, I intend to read Newsletter Ninja, by Tammi Labrecque because my writing partner is going to help me revamp my newsletter.
Personally, I think profanity is stupid. Swearing is just a way to emphasize strong emotions, and there are a million ways to do that without being crass or sacrilegious. Also, how sad is that we've taken the sex act and turned it into curse word? But to answer the question, what can we as readers do? Support authors who reflect your values. Leave reviews. Tweet reviews. Writers and publishers will notice.
You said you like self-publishing. What specifically do you like about it? What do you dislike about it?
What I love best about self-publishing is also what I dislike the most. I love the freedom to write what I want when I want. Conversely, I would love to be able to work with a team of editors who could elevate my work. (Not that I don't love my editor--she's wonderful and I consider myself blessed to have her in my camp.)
How do you get into self-publishing?
I have several blog posts on my decision to self-publish. You can read them here: