Interview with Author Edie Claire

Edie Claire for RWF post 4Author Edie Claire

In April of 2017, Avery Cove wrote a blog post on writing romantic women’s fiction.

She needed to know if there was a difference between writing women’s fiction and writing romantic women’s fiction.

One of the references she sited was http://www.edieclaire.com/rwf. Edie Claire had not only a definition but also a video clip.  

Today RWF is excited to present an exclusive interview with Edie.  

RWF: How long have you been writing? What genre(s) do you write?

EC: I sold my first mystery novel to Penguin-Putnam’s Signet imprint in 1998. I published five mysteries with Signet, then sold two contemporary romances to Warner Books’ Forever imprint and two plays to Samuel French. I republished all the novels independently beginning in 2010, and now there are twenty-four – including mysteries, romance, women’s fiction, and humor. (You could say I get bored easily!)

RWF: Why did you decide that what you wanted to write was Romantic Women’s Fiction?

EC: I was frustrated by the expectation that anything called a “romance” should meet certain criteria and fall into a particular subgenre bucket. I wanted to write about people falling in love, but didn’t want my plots to be constrained or the scope of the book to be limited to those two people.  Women’s fiction appeals because it explores family and friend relationships and the plot can go anywhere… but as a reader of that genre I found myself frequently depressed by heavy subject matter and emotionally unsatisfying endings. I knew what I wanted to write – a book that includes a romance, but also has a bigger story involving multiple characters… and a happy ending. Hello, Romantic Women’s Fiction!

RWF: You are self-published and traditionally published. Is self-publishing really profitable vs the money you’d receive from a publishing house? How do you feel about the markets today?

EC: Personally, I have had significantly better success self-publishing than I ever did traditionally publishing. I was very fortunate in timing, in that I was able to make a name for myself in traditional publishing first. That helped me get a leg-up in the self-publishing world just as the e-book boom was beginning. Today it is much, much harder to get established, no matter which way you start out. But the advantage of this market is that it puts readers, not employees of publishing houses, in the judge’s seat. We can make our product available to the audience for which we’ve written (no matter how small a niche!) without having to pass through the filter of corporate approval. That allows the work to succeed – or not – based on its own merits.

RWF: Would you say your inspiration comes from a setting or characters talking in your head? What I mean is what comes to mind, first—character(s) or a place?

EC: I’m most often inspired with an idea for a book by being someplace new. That’s why I love to travel. Every new place I experience makes me ponder fictional events that could happen there. I envision the characters who could bring the place to life, and slowly they begin to flesh out as real people. THEN they start talking in my head!

(Edie – Mountain birding at Haleakala Volcano in Maui)

Edie Claire Mountain Birding 3 for RWF post

RWF: What do you find as the most difficult part of creating a novel?

EC: The earliest stages of writing, when the characters are not quite fully formed. When the book is finished and I go back to edit, I always have to redo much of the dialogue in the opening chapters. “Oh, please,” I’ll think to myself. “Mei Lin would never say THAT!”

RWF: Do your books have a reoccurring theme?

EC: The series do, yes. The mysteries have been running since 1999, when a single Leigh turned thirty, and now she’s in her late forties and is married with two teenage kids. During that time, every extended family member has followed an arc of growth and change. That’s tremendously fun to write. So are my Pacific Horizons books, where a variety of characters find inspiration in the beauty of the natural world.

RWF: Do you save bits of your story that you’ve cut from your book or just delete them?

EC: With every book, I have a separate file called “cut outs,” because I figure I might use that particular section later, and I hate thinking that I’ve wasted my time writing it. But in reality, almost everything that gets cut eventually gets scrapped.

RWF: What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

EC: Emotionally separating failures on the business end from reader appreciation of my writing. Sometimes they are related – most of the time they’re not. That’s why hearing from readers is so important to me. If I’m down because I was rejected for an ad or because sales on a particular site have tanked for no apparent reason, having someone in Arizona or Australia tell me how much they loved Alaskan Dawn will turn my mood around in a heartbeat!

RWF: Do you read the genres that you write?

EC: I used to. But nothing kills enjoyment of a novel more than realizing you are subconsciously trying to analyze it!  Luckily for me, the one genre I never write is historical, and I love them dearly, so that’s where I indulge myself. My favorite books for leisure reading are family sagas that stretch across multiple generations and continents… the longer, the better!

RWF: Would you mind sharing some of your writing process?

EC: I change my process with every book. Seriously. I’ve written by starting out with a chapter and having no idea where I was going, and I have come up with a fully-formed book idea that was totally outlined in my head and only needed to be written down. I have used no notes, and I have filled notebooks with chicken scratches. Most books fall somewhere in between. The one thing I’ve never been able to do is decide how to write a book and then actually do it that way!

RWF: What are you currently working on?

EC: Glacier Blooming, the fourth book in the Pacific Horizons series. It’s been going very slowly, I’m afraid, due to worsening of my migraines, but I hope to release it by the fall of 2018. It takes place around Glacier Bay in Southeast Alaska, one of the most beautiful places on earth – and home to one of the rarest mammals, the “blue” Glacier Bear. It’s an unusual romance (aren’t all romantic women’s fiction novels?) wrapped up in the discovery of a decades-old family secret that leaves our protagonist with an impossible choice… to be continued!

~ Wow! Edie’s Polynesian Room desk ~

Edie Claire PolynesianRoomDesk for RWF post

RWF: What is the best way to reach you and learn more about your books?

EC: My website! www.edieclaire.com

Edie, thanks so much for spending time with our group and sharing some aspects of your writing life. 

Novelist and playwright Edie Claire is a former veterinarian and childbirth educator whose three children have recently flown the nest, further indulging her compulsion to write cozy mysteries, humor, and romantic and women’s fiction. Pick up an Edie Claire work and you can be assured of intrigue, humor, a touch of romance (or a hefty dose of it, depending on the book!) and an ending that will leave you with a smile. 

RWF: Where can we find your books?

EC: Currently Alaskan Dawn and Never Buried are free on Kindle.

Edie Claire bk 1 for RWF blog  Alaskan Dawn, first in Pacific Horizons series. Link to video trailer – first version was featured on USAT blog.

Edie Claire bk 2 for RWF post Never Buried, is the first in the Leigh Koslow Mystery series.

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A Perspective on Writing Romantic Women’s Fiction

RWF is pleased to have one of our own as our guest blogger. Violet Howe, author of Tales Behind the Veils series and the Cedar Creek Series, shares some of her thoughts on writing. 

Violet Howe picture for blog  

Sometimes I envy authors of paranormal romance or historical romance. When they’re asked what they write, they can answer and expect a nod of recognition in return. When I respond that I write Romantic Women’s Fiction, I usually get a puzzled look instead.

For me, it’s simple to understand but harder to explain.

I usually give a loose definition that it’s the story of a woman’s journey with love along the way. If they want more, I explain that it’s a tale of her personal growth as she encounters external and internal obstacles and seeks to triumph over them. Somewhere between beginning and end, she finds love, and because it is a romance novel, somehow they end up with a happily ever after.

But a key difference in romantic women’s fiction and a traditional romance is that the happily ever after between the hero and heroine is not the answer to all her problems. It’s not the pinnacle of her growth. Whatever happens in her love life is just a part of her story and her evolution, not the only catalyst or primary end goal.

Another difference is the romance is not the only relationship of importance in the plot. Her interaction with friends, family, and/or co-workers plays a large and sometimes more important role in shaping who she is from start to finish.Violet Howe owner. Depositphotos_31800765_l-2015 For VH's RWF blog

To me, romantic women’s fiction seems more representative of real life than its more sugar-coated counterpart.

Relationships do not exist in a vacuum with just the hero and heroine and their love for each other. We are influenced by those around us, and the issues we face in the workplace, in our families, or among our closest friends affect how we deal with life and love.

Romantic love is not the only love we need, and it’s not the only love that can cause us great joy and crippling pain. Those other relationships must be factored in to create a well-rounded story of personal growth.

Reality casts a woman in many roles. Daughter, Friend, Sister, Cousin, Mother, Lover, Wife. To be true to my main character and her story, I can’t focus on one role and ignore the others. I have to flesh out the many facets of her life and explore who she is and how she got there, then invite my readers along for the ride as she discovers where’s she’s going and who she will be at the end.

I believe this ultimately helps us relate to each other. After all, womanhood is in many ways a sisterhood. Even when our circumstances are vastly different, we can find common ground in our relationship experiences. Through shared stories, we can commiserate. We can understand each other. We can support each other.

Violet Howe owner Depositphotos_31707891_l-2015

Experiencing life through another woman’s eyes may even help us process our own failures, shortcomings, and victories.

Maybe the simplest definition of romantic women’s fiction is stories of women living their lives. And that’s what I write.


Interested in Violet’s newest book, Building Fences? We’ve got the cover and the blurb!Violet Howe's book 0218_BuildingFences_JF_Ebook

Caroline Miller has often fantasized about finding the mother who’d given her up for adoption. When an unexpected phone call gives her the opportunity to meet her birth mother face-to-face, she jumps at the chance.

But as the weekend turns into a series of mishaps and disappointments, Caroline wonders if she’ll ever be able to find peace with her beginnings.

Could a case of mistaken identity lead her to find the life she’s dreamed of and the family—and love—she thought she could never have?

This MeetCute novel by Violet Howe is the first volume in the Cedar Creek Family Collection.


Thank you, Violet, for giving us a glimpse of your view on writing romantic women’s fiction.

Violet Howe enjoys writing romantic women’s fiction and romantic mystery/suspense. She lives in Florida with her knight in tarnished armor and their two handsome sons. They share their home with three adorable but spoiled dogs. When she’s not writing, Violet is usually watching movies, reading, or planning her next travel adventure. You can follow Violet’s ramblings on her blog, The Goddess Howe. 

Author Website:  www.violethowe.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/VioletHoweAuthor

Facebook Reader Group: Ultra Violets https://www.facebook.com/groups/VioletsUltra/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/violethowe

Twitter: www.twitter.com/Violet_Howe

Violet’s Latest Release:
https://www.books2read.com/b/BuildingFences

 

Interview with Anne Parent

AnneParent

For our interview today, we welcome Anne Parent.

Good morning, Anne.

RWF: Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

AP: Women’s fiction with romantic elements and contemporary romantic fiction.

RWF: Do you write in other genres?

AP: Not currently, but I hope to write an early 20th century historical. In addition, I have an idea for a late 19th century romance.

RWF: Want to tell us what you’re working on?

AP: I’m working on the story of a divorced professional woman who is willing to do anything to have a child of her own, including making a deal with a man for his sperm. She has to face the complications of her first pregnancy, which ended in miscarriage and guilt. This leads her to break the agreement with the man who provided the sperm, creating chaos in both of their lives.

RWF: What are your favorite books to read?

AP: I read a wide variety of books: women’s fiction, contemporary romance, craft books, mysteries, and classics.

RWF: When writing do you read in genre your writing in or something else?

AP: I prefer to read in other genres while I’m plotting, but I read in my genre once I’m well into the book to see how other authors have dealt with specific situations. I read craft books for inspiration and to learn new techniques all through my writing process.

RWF: Do you have a running theme for your books?

AP: I always include a social issue to add depth to my books.

RWF: Do you read non-fiction? What kinds?

AP: I read a wide variety of craft books, as well as books on subjects that interest me: gardening, knitting, travel, and photography. I was an essayist prior to writing fiction, so I enjoy reading well-written essays.

RWF: Which do you feel you learn more from – an online class, local workshop, or writer’s craft book?

AP: This actually depends on what I’m looking for. When I first began this journey, I took online classes for everything. Now, I limit my online classes. I’m willing to pay more for a class that pushes me, such as Mary Buckham’s power plotting webinar. I love conferences, but this year I’m devoting my time to finishing this book. I’m a sucker for craft books. I have a library to rival the bookstores. They are my go to inspiration, as well as problem solving resource. I have bookmarks (my book darts) and notes throughout many of them. People have asked if I’d read all of the books in my library. My answer: bits and pieces of all of them, and cover to cover for quite a few of them.

RWF: Where do you find inspiration?

AP: For my current book, the inspiration came from my daughter, who discovered a health condition which caused her miscarriage. Thanks to insightful doctors, she now has two beautiful children. My book is my way of giving back. Other inspiration comes from things I read which interest me, as well as daily living. I had a college professor who told me inspiration is all around us and writers are observers of life. This was the best writing advice I ever received.

RWF: Do you have a job outside your writing?

AP: I am fortunate to be able to give my time to my writing. I had to retire early due to an illness, which was actually a gift to my muse.

RWF: How do you fit writing into your life?

AP: For the past two years, I let my writing become secondary to building a house and moving in. Prior to that I was actively involved in my local RWA chapter, which allowed me to use it as an excuse not to write. However, I now have a commitment to my writing I’ve never had before. I use a Franklin planner and record my writing time, as well as distraction time. When I see my writing time is slipping, I set it as my priority. This is helping me stay on track.

RWF: How do you fit editing into your writing life and the one you actually live in?

AP: Ah, editing! I love making my writing stronger, but I have to have complete silence with no distractions when I edit. When my office door is closed, my husband knows not to enter unless it’s an emergency. I can write with distractions around me because I’m putting the story together, but editing requires my full attention.

RWF: Are you a plotter, pantser, or combination of both?

AP: I’m both plotter and panster; however, on the continuum between the two, I definitely lean in the direction of plotter. I like to know the key points I’m writing toward. I’m willing to let my characters lead me in some instances, but it usually ends up down a path with a dead end. Thus, the struggle with my current WIP. I let the panster take over and I’m now re-writing the last third of this book.

RWF: Do you plan your writing time? Or do you go with the flow of family to-do’s and work out your writing in between?

AP: I tried going with the flow when I lived in Wisconsin because I helped my daughter a lot. Since my husband’s retirement to Tennessee, I’ve found I’m much more productive planning my time. Distractions still arise, but I can limit them more here. I have trouble saying no to family. Although I try to keep my mornings free Monday through Friday, things still creep into my time if I’m not diligent.

RWF: Are the stories you write based more on the woman’s journey or more on the romance?

AP: I like to have a strong romantic element, but I focus my writing on the woman’s journey.

RWF: Do you prefer to write at home or go somewhere to write?

AP: I prefer to sit at my desk and write; however, if I’m stuck I may go to a park or coffee house to clear my head. Sometimes it helps, but not always. I’m fortunate to live on six wooded acres which allow me to find various spots to set my muse free, so I take my laptop and walk until I find a place of inspiration.

RWF: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo?

AP: I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo in the past, but I’m a slow and deliberate writer. I find it pushes me to put words, not clarity on the page. It has been counterproductive to me and my writing style.

RWF: Do you first come up with a setting or character for your story idea?

AP: This is a difficult question for me. Setting plays an important role in my writing and becomes a character to some degree. I usually start with a question and let the setting and character lead me to see if there is substance to it.

Thank you, Anne, for sharing a little bit of your writing world with us.

Anne Parent  married her soul mate and they raised three glorious children. She now has six phenomenal grandchildren. She comes from a background of vital women, including a beloved grandmother, the last of the true Southern ladies. She has always stayed in touch with her Southern roots through her best friend Wanda, who happens to be the daughter of her mother’s best friend and the sister of her brother’s best friend.

She began her journey into higher education at the age of 18 at the University of South Carolina (nursing, math, and journalism) before finally deciding she needed life lessons in order to decide on a career. She pursued engineering at Greenville Technical College, before figuring out this wasn’t the direction either, and studied at Butler University (couldn’t decide between English and journalism). She took some time to build more life lessons in raising children before deciding on her final path, a degree in English from Indiana University – Indianapolis with a minor in American Studies, at the age of 45. A true late bloomer!

Anne now lives in Tennessee where she writes romantic women’s fiction set in Southern towns, both imaginary and real. She adds a contemporary social issue to her books as part of the woman’s journey. Her hope is that her characters will take her readers away from reality and they will come away feeling ready to tackle whatever they find holding them back in their own lives.

You can find Anne atwww.anneparent.com; FB : Anne Parent and Anne Parent Author; Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnneWParent

 

 

 

2017 AGM with Jodi Thomas “World Building and Walking the Land”

On Wednesday, July 26th, we held our annual general meeting with guest speaker, New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author, Jodi Thomas. She has also won five RITA’s, is in the Romance Writers Hall of Fame, won the National Reader’s Choice Award and written over forty novels and numerous short story collections.

How privileged we were to have her!

All who came to hear her discuss world building listened with intent. I wanted to be able to hold onto her words, hoping later to recall every bit of the information she’d shared.

2017 AGM Jodi Thomas2c

As a writer, she is passionate about others learning the craft. In her unique style, she explained her process of discovering and creating her story.

Since her goal is to sell, she begins with marketing. She said we needed to know our goal, in other words, our purpose in writing the story and the amount of time we intended to invest in the project.

2017 AGM Jodi Thomas4

Jodi writes five days a week, approximately three hours a day.

For those of us who have trouble staying on track, she said to find a writing buddy that would keep us accountable in reaching our goal.

She suggested we study five books in the genre we plan to write. Use them to discover how much dialogue, points of view, etc. that these publish authors have written in their story. Simply put, use the novels like study guides.

After some brief conversation, she paired us off into threes where we created, using her technique, a workable story.

2017 AGM Jodi Thomas

Once she begins her project, she takes her idea and then builds her world (setting), and then “walks the land” (learns about the area and the people to get an understanding of the characters she plans to write.) “You need to know how the people in that locale do things, say things.” Ms. Thomas stated.

She explained how to take a location, narrow it down to a specific place. And she instructed us to take time to learn how the community does things.

For example: Who ran the town, in other words, who was “royalty?” Who was in charge of the specific place you chose—was it the patriarch of the family? The matriarch? What were the laws of the community? Their customs? Who were the givers and the takers in the town?

How did they use or tell time? Example: In New York, people might determine how far it is to a place by how long it takes to get to that location, whereas, in Texas it would be determined by how many miles they had to go.

“You need to understand your characters. Each one is like a coin—it has a good and bad   side, so to speak.” Put another way, for every good trait there is a bad one.

2017 AGM Jodi Thomas3.jpg

 

 

 

 

2017 AGM Jodi Thomas7a

2017 AGM Jodi Thomas6a

2017 AGM Jodi Thomas5

Before closing, Jodi took time to talk with us about making our group better—more useful for all of our members.

Some great ideas were generated and hopefully, we’ll be able to adopt them into our online group.

Stay tuned to hear more.

sheila RWA Florida 2017a

Avery Cove is currently VP of Communications for RWF. Also, she’s held the position of Secretary. She was a 2017 finalist in the Historical category for WisRWA Fab 5 contest. She writes both historical and contemporary romantic women’s fiction. She has a degree in Creative Writing and has been PRO for several years. Before she goes to her day job, she wakes up each morning to walk her very spoiled dog as the sun rises. She is working on book one of her contemporary series, loosely based on a town in the Ozark mountains.

Avery is a member of RWA and many online chapters. She can be found at her Facebook page and Twitter. Her website is www.averycove.com and she writes at http://averycove.blogspot.com/  and Sheila’s blog.

Interview with Betty Bolté

Betty Bolte interview pic

Today we have author, Betty Bolté, sharing some of her thoughts.

RWF: Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

BB: I’m writing a series of historical fiction about famous American women that have romantic elements since each of the ladies was married, which I think should qualify as romantic women’s fiction.

RWF: Do you write in other genres?

BB: I also write American historical romance and paranormal romance (think witches and ghosts…). I’ve also written and published in nonfiction books and in magazine/newspaper articles.

RWF: What is your last published title?

BB: In May, I released The Touchstone of Raven Hollow (Secrets of Roseville Book 3), a paranormal romance set in the forests of southcentral Tennessee. You can read an excerpt of it and my other books on my website at www.bettybolte.com.

RWF: What do you think helped you get from unpublished to published?

BB: Hard work, persistence, and a bit of luck. I determined in the 90s that I wanted to be an editor of a children’s magazine, but I needed a degree to be considered. So I went to Indiana University and got a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Then decided I wanted to write, not edit a magazine! I worked at freelancing articles for magazines, newspapers, and did tech editing from home. All the while, I wrote my stories and worked on improving the craft of writing fiction, which is a very different animal from writing nonfiction! I joined RWA and went to chapter meetings to learn about the industry and craft. Bought craft books, attended conferences and workshops, etc. In 2006, I decided I wanted a master of arts in English with a concentration in literature to further study and analyze story, which I received in 2008. Slowly but surely over the course of 20 years, I learned how to write fiction that others want to read. In fact, my first romance to be bought by a small press was the result of a tweet pitch I did in January 2014. As of 2017, I’ve published 9 romance novels and will release my 10th, a novella, in Dec 2017.

RWF: What would be your number one tip you’d give to someone who’d just finished their first manuscript?

BB: Congratulations! Don’t be in a rush to publish. Take the time to make sure the story is really ready by having beta readers provide feedback. If you’re going the indie route be sure to hire a professional fiction editor to assess and help you refine the story. Your reputation as an author is determined by your storytelling and writing skills. Be sure to put your best foot forward!

RWF: What advice would you give an author who has just published her first book?

BB: Don’t panic. Take one day at a time, one task at a time. Then get busy writing the next book to the best of your ability.

RWF: What are your favorite books to read?

BB: I enjoy women’s fiction, historical romances, light paranormal romance, some contemporary romance, historical fiction, mysteries, and some of the classics.

RWF: When writing do you read in the genre your writing in or something else?

BB: I’m an eclectic reader so am reading a variety all the time. I tend to read more nonfiction when I’m writing my historicals for research into the time and place of the story.

RWF: What type of non-fiction?

BB: I read a lot of historical biographies, analysis of conflicts or lifestyles during the conflict, and documents about people and places related to my historical fiction. I find books in historical site gift shops, in the library, and online, sometimes dating back to the 1700s. I’ve also found it fascinating to read about medicine and cooking in the 18th century. I’m in the process of adapting some 18th-century recipes to modern cooking techniques and tastes and sharing the results on my blog at www.bettybolte.net. It’s been quite a challenge but fascinating, and gives me fresh insight into how cooks managed to put together a meal with limited resources.

RWF: Do you have a job outside your writing?

BB: I’m fortunate to be able to write full-time now. I used to run a freelance writing/editing business, and previous to that a word processing business, from home during the 1990s through about 2002. From 2004-2012, though, I worked full-time as a tech writer/editor for a major corporation and wrote on the weekends as I had time around my family obligations. I’m not mentally functional before 6 am nor after 10 pm, so I don’t have the option of writing before or after work like some authors I know. Thankfully, now my time is my own.

RWF: Do you plan your writing time? Or do you go with the flow of family to-do’s and work out your writing in between?

BB: I write Monday through Friday, 8 am to noon, unless there’s a very good reason for me having to be elsewhere or handle some other task. Like this past spring when my hubby and I moved from our farm in Tennessee to a house in Alabama. Writing didn’t happen for almost a solid month while we dealt with packing, movers, shedding clutter, and unpacking, and a myriad of tasks and issues in between. Now I have an office again for the first time in 20 years where I have an actual desk to work at. Talk about being in heaven!

RWF: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo?

BB: I have never had an interest in pressuring myself into writing a book. For one thing, since I write mainly historicals, I want to have the time to understand my characters and their world. The interaction between who they are and the limitations on them from their environment and societal expectations as well as the facts of day-to-day life play a major part in determining the action and setting of the story. For example, questions need to be answered before I can write a scene about how my character traveled from point A to point B – on foot, horseback, carriage, boat? The kinds of situations each mode of transportation would present varies drastically. Rushing through a draft would mean upping the likelihood of major revisions later, so I’d rather not go down that path.

RWF: Do you first come up with a setting or character for your story idea?

BB: It depends on the story. For my A More Perfect Union historical romance series I defined the first three women first – Emily, Amy, and Samantha, and then added Evelyn and Elizabeth’s stories later. Their situation and viewpoint was a direct result of reading an essay written in the 1780s about how women should not have the same education as men or they’d become masculinized or perhaps even injure their brains! I wanted to bring to life their reality during the American Revolution and how the women of that time actually sowed the seeds of the women’s rights movement in America. For the historical women’s fiction, the ladies actual history dictates the story details. My paranormals in my Secrets of Roseville series tend to blend both the characters and the setting as the basis for the entire story, so I can’t really divide them. They work together to guide the story, in other words. Each story presents its own challenges and appropriate approaches. I just have to be willing to be flexible. Most of my stories are written in third person, but the ladies’ stories are all in first person, which is a new adventure for me!

Thank you, Betty, for sharing a little bit about yourself and your writing world.

 

Betty Bolté writes both historical and contemporary stories featuring strong, loving women and brave, compassionate men. No matter whether the stories are set in the past or the present, she loves to include a touch of the paranormal. In addition to her romantic fiction, she’s the author of several nonfiction books and earned a Master of Arts in English in 2008. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and the Authors Guild. Get to know her at www.bettybolte.com.

 

Interview with Virginia McCullough

Virginia McCullough pic interview

Today we have with us author, Virginia McCullough.

RWF: Would you say you write women’s fiction or romantic women’s fiction?

VM: Originally, I called my work family drama/love stories, and then as the term women’s fiction became the term of art, I realized that my books fit the current definition of romantic women’s fiction.

RWF: Do you write in other genres?

VM: I also write romance, and just had a Harlequin Heartwarming release, GIRL IN THE SPOTLIGHT, book 1 of my Two Moon Bay series. I plan to submit another proposal for a second series. I’d like to try my hand at historical novels as well—we’ll see.

RWF: Are you traditionally published, self-published, or both?

VM: My fiction career is now hybrid, like my nonfiction career has been for many years. I like the idea of publishing both traditionally and independently.  I think indie publishing is a great development for writers because it removes the power of the “gatekeepers.” Like everything else, publishing has changed enormously since I first started writing. Although indie pubbing has its problems, the technology of publishing has been a great equalizer.

RWF: What do you think helped you get from unpublished to published?

VM: Having an agent helped me. I know that’s not always true for series romance, but that’s how it worked out for me. With my indie novels it was a case of “if not now, when?” I’m not getting any younger! Looking at the question in a broader way, I’d say love of the writing process itself is critical to establishing a long writing career.

RWF: Do you read non-fiction? What kinds?

VM: Since my career has been fueled by writing nonfiction (mostly as a ghostwriter and coauthor), I’m drawn to nonfiction…history, current issues, memoir, biography.

RWF: What are your favorite books to read?

VM: I read a lot of women’s fiction, and I find myself drawn to novels with multiple women characters who are sisters or friends—those beach reads we all seem to like. I also like the WWI and WWII eras and other 20th century period fiction. And family sagas.

RWF: When you write, do you read in the same genre you’re writing in or something different?

VM: I pretty much read the same types of books all the time. Whatever strikes my fancy at the moment.

RWF: Do you first come up with a setting or character for your story idea?

VM: It’s happened both ways for me. I like water settings—islands, waterfronts on lakes, rivers, oceans, so all the ideas that come to me seem to fit into one of those lovely environments.

RWF: Do you have a running theme?

VM: Well, my brand is hope, healing, and second chances. That covers a lot of ground. The books always involve a family, sometimes friends, and some of the time what I call the “special child,” meaning the child whose birth changes everything forever—of course, that’s universal, but I like to explore it. In a few of my books, the child drives the story, whether a primary character or not. In AMBER LIGHT, for example, a pregnancy results from date rape and the narrator’s life is profoundly changed. What does she do and how does she manage? In GIRL IN THE SPOTLIGHT, the child relinquished for adoption ends up driving the story many years later. In ISLAND HEALING, a 13-year-old ends up being the catalyst for healing on many levels in two families. In all the books, the characters have a wound to heal and in the process they gain their second chance, not just for a romantic relationship, but for happiness in life.

RWF: Where do you find inspiration?

VM: From all of you! And from every person who ventures into the creative life. Other people’s writing-life stories inspire me to keep trying to get better.

RWF: Which do you feel you learn more from – an online class, local workshop, or writer’s craft book?

VM: I’ve learned so much from all three methods I can’t say one is better than the other. I think one of the great pleasures of RWA National is choosing the workshops! And I sign up for online classes, too, but many decades ago, I started my writing career based on what I learned from craft books and writers magazines.

RWF: Do you prefer to write at home or go somewhere to write?

VM: I work at home most of the time, but I sometimes hide out at the library or a café for a change of pace, and often to jumpstart a project by jotting notes and just free-form writing about the situation or setting. I believe a change of scene can work wonders for the creative brain—it can wake it up.

RWF: How do you fit writing into your life?

VM: It’s always a balancing act, writing and editing my work versus and editing and coaching for clients. It’s really about scheduling. But my kids are grown, so my time is my own. I know this isn’t a popular position among romance and RWF authors, but I really like living alone. I enjoy—even crave—solitude. But I’m not isolated. I love my close circle of friends—many of whom are my colleagues in the Wisconsin chapter of RWA. Other friends are located across the country in the various places I’ve lived. I love to travel, and I’ve always been active in various social issues and causes, too, so I have to protect writing time.

RWF: Do you have a job outside your writing?

VM: I’ve had my nonfiction ghosting/editing business virtually all of my adult life. Coaching came more recently. I had to make it a priority to carve out time to learn how to write fiction. It never would have happened otherwise and it took a fairly long time to learn basic craft. Today, I do less ghostwriting, and more ghost-editing and coaching. So, like all small business owners, which is what writers really are, I’ve always worked on a schedule. I like to work days—I’m not sharp at night.

RWF: Are you a plotter, panster, or combination of both?

VM: A combination, I think. I like to know where I’m going in a general way, and I often make a lot of notes about characters and conflicts, but I’m not good at detailed outlining. I like surprising developments.

RWF: Are the stories you write based more on the woman’s journey or more on the romance?

VM: I tend to think of the woman’s journey and the romance is a part of that. (I may enjoy living alone, but I like some romance, too.) Even with traditional romance, I think about it as a journey of two characters.

RWF: What would be your number one tip you’d give to someone who’d just finished their first manuscript?

VM: When you think a manuscript is finally done, read it aloud and you’ll catch all kinds of small things, especially repetition and awkward phrasing and dropped words. I also believe in entering contests to get feedback and to get work in front of agent/editor judges.

RWF: What advice would you give an author who has just published her first book?

VM:  I still need so much advice I’m not sure I’m qualified to give it out. But I know I can’t do everything myself—VAs and Author Assistants are one of the new cottage industries for writers—along with formatters, cover designers, and so forth.

RWF ~ Thank you Virginia for sharing some of your thoughts on writing.

Virginia McCullough considers herself incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to write the stories of her heart, including GIRL IN THE SPOTLIGHT, the first book in her Two Moon Bay series for Harlequin Heartwarming. (Book 2, SOMETHING TO TREASURE, is scheduled for release in January 2018). A three-time Golden Heart finalist, her award-winning romance and women’s fiction titles include THE JACKS OF HER HEART, AMBER LIGHT, GRETA’S GRACE, THE CHAPELS ON THE HILL, and ISLAND HEALING.

Born and raised in Chicago, Virginia has lived in six states and U.S.V.I, and currently calls Green Bay, Wisconsin home. She started writing nonfiction, first articles and then books as a ghostwriter and coauthor. She’s written well over 100 books for physicians, lawyers, business owners, professional speakers, and others who have information to share or a story to tell. Her coauthored healthcare books include THE OXYGEN REVOLUTION, written with Paul Harch, MD, a pioneer in hyperbaric medicine.

Virginia’s books feature characters who could be your neighbors and friends. They come in all ages and struggle with everyday life issues. The mother of two grown children, you’ll find Virginia with her nose a book, walking on local trails or her neighborhood streets, or she may be packing her bag to take off for her next adventure. And she’s always working on another story about hope, healing, and second chances.

 

Advice on Attending RWA Nationals with Heather Burch

Hello ladies!

I’m looking forward to meeting some of you at the conference in Orlando in July! I made a quick note of a few things that might help you along your way. These are things I’ve learned over the years. I attended my first RWA national conference in the early nineties. Now, I haven’t been every year, but I’ve got at least ten RWA national conferences under my belt.

Here are my helpful hints…

Luggage Hacks

Before I leave for conference and even before I pack my suitcase, I try on each outfit. Then, I take a snapshot on my phone. Now, the arduous job of packing has just been made simple! I even get an idea of which outfit I’ll wear each day. At conference, all I have to do is refer to my photos and BAM! There’s my clothes, shoes, and accessories all in one place.

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Pace Yourself

There’s so much to see and so much to do. But it will be around for the entire conference. You don’t have to get everything in on the first day.

Make a Plan

Whether you are a paper copy note maker or a tech savvy schedule maker, you need a plan before you go. Yes, it will change. But it’s worth the time and effort to have something to glance at. RWA provides a lovely schedule when you arrive, but let me tell you, it can be overwhelming. Go to the website and check out the list of workshops far in advance. If a few of them really speak to you, make a note so that when you get the copy of all the events, you’re not overwhelmed. In past years, I believe RWA even sent the schedule ahead of the conference. Still, I try to familiarize myself by spending some time on the RWA website.

Make Time for Friends

Every year, I look forward to just sitting and catching up with my writing peeps. Whether you drink or not, the hotel bars (especially lobby bars) are a great place to connect. Whenever I have downtime, I just make a loop through the bars and sure enough! I run into friends.

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Attend the Parties. Go to the book signings.

One of the things I love most is the signings that feature specific publishers. An entire row of authors will be there signing complimentary copies of their newest releases. It’s a book lovers’ heaven! I will be signing on THURSDAY morning at 8:30-9:30 at the Montlake and Lake Union signing. If you make it to that one, I’ll sign a copy of my book for you! Plus, I’ll give you a hug just for reading this article.

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Wear Comfortable Shoes

You will walk and walk and walk. Make sure your feet aren’t screaming by noon. Do your footsies a favor and wear shoes that are already broken in and comfy on your feet.

Don’t Forget to Join the Conversation!

Are you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram? Use the #RWA2017 hashtag on all your upcoming conference related tweets. And while you’re there, find me and let’s start a conversation.

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A little bit about me…I write for Lake Union Publishing (Amazon’s women’s fiction) currently. I’ve also written for Montlake (Amazon’s romance publisher) and I’ve done four books for Harper Collins. In 2014 my novel One Lavender Ribbon was named one of the year’s most quoted books by Kindle readers. My Montlake and Lake Union books are translated around the world. All in all, it’s been an incredible adventure and at the very heart of it is community. I couldn’t do what I do without the amazing writer friends I’ve made. I owe so much to RWA and my fellow authors! I’m a member of Tampa Area Romance Authors, my local chapter of RWA. I hope you’ll find me on social media so we can get connected and start visiting about the conference!

https://m.facebook.com/heatherburchbooks

https://mobile.twitter.com/heatherburch

https://www.instagram.com/heathereburch/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4983102.Heather_Burch

You can see all of my books on my website

https://www.heatherburchbooks.com/