The seeds of the first three novels in the Boston Classics series were stories from my own past working as an actor in Boston in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but this one was different in that I pulled threads from all over the place – my experience as well as others’ and just the well of my imagination. Bella just kind of showed up in WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR as this mysterious character, someone who’d been on a soap but left it and was now auditioning for this little Shakespeare company (based very loosely on a friend’s experience working in daytime TV). Then in FORGET ABOUT ME she played the role of a boy servant onstage (I also played Speed in Two Gents) and Ben’s goofy pal offstage. Her secrets started to build in my mind and as I was writing YOU SPIN ME, her past got clearer to me, and I figured out how she ended up a single mom. I couldn’t wait to write her story, but that of her hero, Henry was a bit more elusive. Thankfully, I’m stubborn and I have good author pals, a great editor, and friends and family in my life who will listen to me yammer on about plot and character things I’m trying to figure out, so this book will finally be in reader’s hands December 1**… I actually just remembered this long, awkward but very useful conversation I had with my eldest daughter and her boyfriend about the various ways Bella and Henry’s “encounter” might’ve happened, and whether or not alcohol should be involved… Anyhoo… back to the cover design. I jumped the gun and spilled in an earlier blog about the visual inspiration for Bella and Henry, and you can see that here. Like Puck in FORGET ABOUT ME, I knew that Bella’s daughter Lilah needed to be on this cover. The question was – what grouping of the three would communicate the layers of conflict between Bella and Henry regarding this little girl? I found a lot of nice photos (some of which you’ll see in promo graphics for the book) but none that showed exactly what I was looking for. I sent them all to Lana, with the input that: The little girl is a magnet that draws them together despite other tensions between them – they put her welfare first. I’m thinking that the couple might be walking away, looking over their shoulders like in the photo of the couple with the picnic basket, but perhaps with a bit more distance between them. We can see them in profile, her expression a little more wary, his can be more joyous. Instead of the basket, . . .
June is Audiobook Month, the time when we celebrate how much we #loveaudiobooks. However, this has been no ordinary June. I’ve been doing as much as I can to listen to black leaders in my current home town, which is particularly in need of a great deal of healing. I do have a book coming out, however. I also have an amazing group of narrator friends who’ve inspired me with their creative endeavors beyond audiobooks. Earlier this spring, when we were unable to gather for our annual audiobook conference, I had the idea to bring this group of super cool women together to talk about what inspires them, what drives them, what they love about telling stories in multiple formats. So we’re doing that. And you’re invited. We’re calling it: STRAIGHT FROM THE AUTHOR’S MOUTH THURSDAY, JUNE 25th at 8PM EST. We’ll just be nine women chatting about books and creativity, but we’d love to answer your questions. (If you want to find out more about how you can connect with any of us and/or buy our books, it’s all on this page.) If you’d like to join us, just fill out this Google Form, then look out for an email from firstname.lastname@example.org with your Zoom invite. The event is free, but if you’re able to make a donation to ProLiteracy, we’d love it. This non-profit makes the work of literacy organizations across the country possible, and has lost out on fundraising opportunities because of cancelled events during the current health crisis, so any amount you can give will help them help others. You can find out more here. Space is limited, so sign up soon!
Author, along with Kurt Vonnegut, of Pity the Reader: On Writing With Style As a writer-in-progress myself, I feel so lucky to have been invited to record this title for Highbridge Audio. The book is filled with thoughtful, generous (and on Vonnegut’s part, often humorously grumpy) advice about writing well, the writer’s life, and really about any creative person’s place in the world. For a taste, just read Suzanne’s answers to my questions about her writing life. KW: What contributes to flow in your work? SM: Keeping in daily contact with whatever I’m working on, by working on it, primarily—and/or by making lists of my intentions or questions, if they are ‘listable,’ by scribbling notes or thoughts, or merely by thinking about it. This abiding with it seems to set my subconscious in motion. The result is that some of my most productive ‘ah-ha’s’ occur in the middle of the night when I awake with a brilliant solution, or just the right phrase or word, or—even in the mundane outreach process, another person I forgot to email or who could make a terrific connection. I’ve long been interested in dreams. I once took a life-changing class in a method to change our dream, and one result was an eye-opening awareness of the subconscious at work. Over years. I’ve learned to trust it and my intuition. So if I am deeply engaged in my work in the daytime, night time often yields the answer. KW: Do you have a mentor? What gift did s/he pass to you that you use regularly? Embed from Getty Images SM: Kurt Vonnegut bestowed many things but the biggest gift he gave me is simply by being a model in terms of his commitment and persistence to writing, fueled by passion to convey serious truths as he saw them. KW: Do you have multiple creative outlets in your life? SM: I think other outlets are very nourishing and teach you a lot about the creative process in general, but also what’s specific to each art. I play the piano, but was taught classically; I took jazz piano lessons from a wonderful teacher over the last two years while writing Pity the Reader, which was joyously freeing. It was a relief from the computer and writing, immediate and playful, and it reinforced my sense of my intuitive creativity. I went through a period of doing watercolors for several years, in my 30’s I took dance classes, I once took an improvisation acting class that was marvelous and fed my teaching and sense of spontaneity in general. Writing is sedentary and all these other creative endeavors are more physical and immediate. I also love to bake, take care . . .
Susan Gloss‘ second novel came out early this year, and I’m happy to report that it was as fun to narrate as her first, Vintage. Both novels are set in her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Publisher Harper Collins calls it “a charming mid-western story of artists, inspiration, and how to reinvent your life with purpose and flair”, and I have to agree. Since this book is largely about the tension between pursuing a career in the arts and the real life demands of creating a family, I’m so happy that Susan agreed to talk about her process and work with me. KW: Do you have practices/rituals/habits that support your creative work? SG: The one thing that is consistent whenever I’m in the drafting phase of a novel is that I have to leave the house to write. I have two little boys, so it’s impossible to get work done at home. Even when they are in school, I get distracted by all of the mundane household tasks that need to get done, like tackling Mount Laundry. I usually write in coffee shops and libraries. KW: How do you fill your well? SG: I crave alone time in which I’m not working. I also love to be outdoors, so my favorite ways to get alone time are taking long bike rides in the summer, and skiing in the winter. I did my first century bike ride (100 miles in one day) late last summer. It was glorious to be able to work my body, fill my soul, and clear my head all at the same time. KW: If you have a day job, do you enjoy using your mind/body in that different way or is it an obligation that weighs on your creative work? SG: I work part-time as an attorney. I definitely see my two jobs—lawyer and novelist—as different sides of the same coin. They compliment each other. Both jobs revolve around research and writing. My day job allows me to exercise the analytical part of my brain, while writing fiction allows me to be creative. KW: Is the space in which you work important to you? SG: Not especially. I can block out external noise pretty easily, even without headphones or anything. Side benefit of being a mom, I guess. KW: Do you have multiple creative outlets in your life? SG: In addition to writing, I also love cooking as a creative outlet. In the summer and fall, I belong to a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm, and we get a box of vegetables every week based on whatever is in season and currently being harvested. Having to figure out what do with, say, an abundance of eggplant and . . .
Today, I’m happy to hear from writer Sharon Sala about her creative process. Sharon has authored 100+ books in multiple genres, winning all kinds of awards, including the RWA’s Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. I’ve just recorded her book, A Field of Poppies and have two copies to give away from Tantor Audio. But first, let’s hear from Sharon about her process and creative life. KW: Do you have any habits that support your creative work? SS: I have a habit of doing the crossword puzzle in my daily paper every morning before I settle down to work. It gets me in a good frame of mind for words in general. KW: You’ve written so many books! How do you fill your well? SS: There are several things I do, each depending on whether my need is emotional or physical. I get massages at least twice a month, sometimes more, because of the stress and strain of spending so many hours at a keyboard. Sitting down to work pain-free is conducive to a productive day. Emotionally, writing IS what fills me…what takes me away from the ills of the world in which we live, and which distracts me from things that are beyond my control. I also do daily affirmations that remind me of what’s most important in life. KW: What contributes to flow in your work? SS: Silence is important to me. And being happy. Being settled emotionally. The biggest distraction for me is having members of my family in some kind of crisis, or illness. When all is not right in my world, it’s hard for me to write. KW: Is the space in which you work important to you? SS: Yes. I like to write with my feet up, so I sit in a recliner with my laptop and work. I also have a PC, but I make sure to keep copies of my WIP on both systems, as well as on a Flash Drive. No lost work for me. Learned that the hard way. KW: Writing is solitary work. How do you counter that? SS: I am, by nature, a quiet person. I like solitude, and I write without music, or television, or any other distractions, because as I am writing, I am also “seeing” the story visually on the screen. I don’t concentrate on the words I’m typing. They just come when I put my fingers on the keys, but in the silence, I see and hear the story as I type. KW: Which is evident in your evocative and emotional writing! “Two families. One secret. Separated by a river and twenty years of lies.” THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. Gloria and Karen . . .
“I think art is going to save us because I think it’s the only thing that can make us check in with how we feel and what we believe. We read histories to find out what happened. We turn to art to discover what it felt like.”
Author Interview and Giveaway Books 1 & 2 of the Just Everyday Heroes, Day Shift series by Erin Nicholas from Tantor Audio ON CREATIVITY with Erin Nicholas A big thank you to Erin for her willingness to kick off my new series on the creative process. As someone who spends a great deal of time living in imaginary worlds (of my own and others’), I’m intensely curious about how creative minds behave, evolve and thrive. For these interviews, the victim, er, subject, had a long list of thirty questions to choose from regarding his or her process. I hope you find the answers as inspiring as I do. Me: What drives you to tell stories? Erin: I’ve been a story teller as long as I can remember. My parents tell stories of me making up elaborate pretend games for my friends and sister and I was writing stories long hand in notebooks from the time I could write. My dad tells about me being on family vacation road trips and missing all of the scenery because my head was bent over a notebook. I can’t imagine not telling stories. It’s a part of who I am and when I feel the most me. Me: What’s the part of your process that you savor? Erin: I love when I find myself thinking about my characters and their story as if they are real and I’m waiting to hear the latest from their love story. Many of my heroines end up feeling like “friends” that I want to call and ask “How’s it going with that guy?” 🙂 That’s when I know I’m on the right track with the story! Me: What’s your favorite way to consume stories? (books – audio or print? podcasts? movies? TV?) Is that different from how you end up consuming most of the time? Erin: All of the above! 🙂 I read a lot and love audiobooks. I’m also a TV and movie junkie. I use podcasts mostly for “real life”… business and news…but I tell people that I love to hear/ read other people’s stories after spending my days telling my own. Me: Do you read books in the genre in which you write? if so, is there a part of your process when you avoid doing so? Erin: I absolutely do! And I never have to avoid it. I’m very good at switching between being a writer and a reader. I read to be entertained and have no trouble not over-thinking or analyzing or editing! 🙂 Me: What’s your earliest or favorite reading memory? Was it someone reading to you or you reading by yourself? Erin: My dad reading to me. Every night we read a chapter . . .