Guest Post: Author Greer Macallister Ponders The Mystery Of Historical Fiction

TML coverToday, author Greer Macallister tackles the age-old question of genre! Historical fiction, women’s fiction, romance. Does it matter? How do we fit? What does it mean? I’m not sure there are any definite answers, but Greer has it right. It’s the reader who matters, and our job is to deliver a good story. THAT’S what’s most important, no matter when, where, or how, your story exists.

Please welcome Greer Macallister to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

The Mystery of History

by Greer Macallister

TML coverMuch like “women’s fiction”, “historical fiction” is a term people can fight about all day long and then some. What does it mean? Who does it serve? What’s the point?

That’s the case with all genres, on some level. Recently, I saw a roundup of reviews in one of the major industry publications, and was astounded to see “Amish fiction” as its own category. Doesn’t that seem a little… specialized?

But then I thought about the readers.

If there are readers who are burning for Amish fiction, who want to read nothing but Amish fiction, who want to jam-pack their e-readers or their shelves or what-have-you with Amish fiction, then guess what? Genre has done its job.

It’s hard, still, for me to agree to “historical fiction” as a meaningful category. My book, The Magician’s Lie, is historical fiction about a female illusionist under suspicion for her husband’s murder. It’s set in 1905. It has less in common with The Other Boleyn Girl (“historical fiction”) than it does with Gone Girl (“contemporary” or “thriller” or “crime”, among other things, depending on who you ask.)

History is… well, history’s big. It covers the waterfront. Soldiers and outlanders, queens and architects, pilots and criminals. What could all these stories have in common? Just that they took place in the past? Just that they’re centered on some time which is not The Now? It seems a slender thread on which to hang anything at all.

And yet. It always comes back to that same question. With “Amish fiction”, with “historical fiction”, with “women’s fiction”: what about the reader?

Are there readers who want their fiction historical? I’m sure there are. There are likely more who want to drill down further, who prefer their historical fiction Gilded Age or WWII or alt-Victorian. For those readers, the “historical fiction” category is at least a starting point. Perhaps it’s like “romance” – you know what you’re going to get, on some level, but there is a great deal of excitement and variation and charm in the particular way that a particular author in a particular book leads you from The Beginning to The End.

If nothing else, genre can open up our eyes to the pleasant futility of expectations. No matter what someone tells you about a book – the genre, or how much they loved it, or that it was a bestseller – there is no substitute for experience. What matters about a book, when you sit down to read it, is whether you want to find out what’s on the next page.

In that way, you always make your own history.

Greer square profileRaised in the Midwest, Greer Macallister is a poet, short story writer, playwright, and novelist whose work has appeared in publications such as The North American Review, The Missouri Review, and The Messenger. Her plays have been performed at American University, where she earned her MFA in creative writing. She lives with her family in Brooklyn.

Read more about The Magician’s Lie here.

Greer’s website is here.

Giveaway & Guest Post: Author Tina Ann Forkner

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I don’t do many giveaways on Women’s Fiction Writers so you know this is a big deal! Today author Tina Ann Forkner is giving away two of her three novels, WAKING UP JOY (published in October by Tule Publishing) and ROSE HOUSE, published in 2009. And just for kicks — I’m giving away a copy of THE GLASS WIVES to the winner as well. You’ve read all these books, you say? Well someone told me that some gift giving holidays are right around the corner! 

I loved all Tina’s books but I have a special place in my heart for WAKING UP JOY, and today you’ll find out why. I also have a special place in my heart for Tina. We met when I was an anonymous mommy blogger in 2006 and have truly come a long way. All the way to meeting in person for the first time earlier this year!

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Today you’ll read about Tina’s publishing journey, and you’ll likely be inspired for your own. Just leave a comment about your publishing journey—or about anything else reading, writing, book, or cute kitten related (I just love those cute kitty videos!)—and one lucky reader will win all three books! The winner will be chosen on Friday! US addresses only. 

Amy xo

From La Rosaleda to Spavinaw Junction

by Tina Ann Forkner

Sometimes it takes a big shake-up to force change in a person. The same might be said of writers and their writing, at least this is what happened to me when I lost my editor during publisher lay-offs and my first literary agency closed its doors. None of these surprise events were personal, but they felt like it every time I sat down to write a new story. My confidence plummeted and since there was no guarantee of a third book, it didn’t seem to matter what I wrote anymore. My first two novels, Rose House and Ruby Among Us, were published by one of the big publishers, so I should have felt confident when I sat down to write, but those characters in the little Sonoma Valley town of La Rosaleda seemed content to rest where they were. In fact, the only time I felt happy as a writer was when I worked on this crazy story that nobody had ever seen. It wasn’t like those earlier novels, but it wasn’t unfamiliar to me. In this story, everything about the tiny little town of Spavinaw Junction felt vibrant and alive. The quirky characters weren’t content to stay hidden away in my secret file and they pulled me in. Writing about them felt like I was going back home, and in a way, I was.

This new story set in the South, as opposed to California, was about a small-town woman who loves sweet tea and cake. I knew her type, so I began to let the life I had led growing up in a small Northeastern Oklahoma town influence my story. Without a contract deadline looming over my head, I felt no pressure, so as the story evolved I somehow created a novel that was more my voice than ever. But would readers even be able to relate to a story that was so different than what I’d written before? My new characters had a Southern feel, and in the literary world Southern is a good thing, but there was something else about them that drew me into the story — something quirky in their superstitious personalities that I didn’t know if anyone would appreciate. It wasn’t magical-realism exactly, but the book contained a touch of the supernatural and a darker mystery swirling in the creeks around Spavinaw Junction, and all of it tempered by my character Joy’s brand of humor and romantic excursions. When I showed the novel to my author friend, Amy Sue Nathan, and she asked me how I came up with the things in the novel, I didn’t really have an interesting answer. I just knew about them. This more than anything was proof that I was writing what I was meant to write.

Everything about my novel, from the plot to the characters, is fictional, but it all came from the flavor of the region that I absorbed over the years. As in the novel, eventually titled Waking Up Joy, I grew up in an area situated in the corners of Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, just at the foot of the Ozarks. The South has a much bigger influence on that part of Oklahoma than the western part, so perhaps you could call it South by Midwest, but whatever it is, there’s definitely a Southern feel. And yes, the women love sweet tea and cake. People back home still bake, go to tiny country churches, and gossip about and love each other simultaneously. Not all people have a ton of money where I come from, but they have a wealth of generosity and love for family and community. People there live simple lives, but in some ways they are wiser than your most cultured city dweller. And once you learn the gossip and stories that weave throughout a small town, you often learn there are dark secrets, hard journeys, miracles, and joyous lives being lived, just like in Waking Up Joy. This was the stuff Spavinaw Junction, the little town in Waking Up Joy, was made out of before it became a town of its own, filled with fiction. I kept asking myself, “Why haven’t I written about this place before? It’s so me.”

In short, I think that by “going home” and being myself in my writing, I’ve come closer to finding my true voice. It also took my friend and card-carrying (I assume she has a Chicago driver’s license), cultured city dweller, Amy Sue Nathan, to convince me that I needed to not give up on this story. There were times that I emailed her and was so down I felt like the biggest failed author in history, and she assured me that this story was not bad and she liked the new direction I was going in. And as sweet as she is, she’s not the kind of person to lie in order to make me feel good about my story. To make a long story short, Amy eventually introduced me to my new publisher, Tule Publishing Group, who accepted my manuscript and promptly hired Amy as the book’s editor.

I feel so grateful now that Waking Up Joy has released. Being able to communicate this quirky Southern story about a simple small-town woman with a big ole heart to such a discerning reader as Amy gives me hope that maybe this story might continue to find a spot on other readers’ shelves. Because the truth is, no matter where we are from or what our backgrounds are, I think we all want the same thing that my main character Joy Talley wants—to have a joyful life.

dsc_0528-4Tina Ann Forkner is a Women’s Fiction writer and the author of three novels including Rose House and Ruby Among Us. Her latest novel Waking Up Joy released in October 2014. Tina was raised in rural Oklahoma, but makes her home in Cheyenne, Wyoming with her husband, three teenagers, and two spoiled dogs. Learn more about her: www.tinaannforkner.com

Want to read more about my friendship with Tina? Check out When A Nice Jewish Author Reads A Christian Novel on Huffington Post!

Now leave a comment and win some books!!! 

 

Interview: Author Leslie Lehr Says Keep A Movie In Mind When Writing Your Novel To Keep Your Story Moving

WAMKcoverFinalI’m so excited that Leslie Lehr is here with us today at Women’s Fiction Writers! Not only is Leslie sharing how she approached adapting her latest novel into a screenplay (as if that’s not enough), but she gives practical advice on how to keep our stories moving along to make them page turners!

Please welcome Leslie Lehr to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

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Guest Post: The Solitude Of Writing by Bestselling Author Alyson Richman

TheGardenOfLetters_cover5_revise2Those of us who write know it can be a solitary endeavor. I have friends who write in mini vans, at hockey rinks, on the beach. I can’t even sit in my own backyard and write. Ooh, look! A bunny! 

For me, it’s as much about the process as the inspiration. I need quiet to have thoughts filter in and through me to the page, but I also need privacy to 1) read aloud, 2) act out what I’m writing (watch out, as I will swat you if you happen to be nearby), and 3) alleviate the lure of distractions. 

Today, I hope you’ll take time away from your writing to read Alyson’s Richman’s thoughts on solitude and writing. With five historical novels to her name, Alyson knows what works for her. So, tell us. What works for you?

And please welcome Alyson Richman to Women’s Fiction Writers.

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Naming Your Fictional Characters by Lynn Kanter

HOV Cover - SmallLast week we pondered picturing our characters, and today we’re noodling about naming with author Lynn Kanter. How do you name your characters? Mine tend to arrive with name tags, meaning, I don’t get a choice. It was like that for Noah, Izzy Lane’s five-year-old son in The Good Neighbor. It was that way for Izzy’s eighty-five-year-old next-door-neighbor, Mrs. Feldman.  But Izzy’s name was chosen by me. Sort of. The Good Neighbor is very loosely inspired by Christmas In Connecticut, a 1945 movie whose main character is Elizabeth Lane. That’s my main character’s name: Elizabeth Lane. Izzy is her nickname. To choose that nickname I Googled—you guessed it—nicknames for Elizabeth (there are so many). I also use the Social Security site for naming characters in line with the time and place a character was born. But more likely than not, they just tap me on the shoulder (or push me down) and tell me what their names are. I have more stories about the characters’ names in The Good Neighbor, but I’ll save those for another time! 

How do you name your characters?

Please welcome Lynn to Women’s Fiction Writers, learn about her naming journey with her current novel, and add your stories to the comments!

Amy xo

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Sweet Inspiration: How Food Network Helped Jumpstart My Writing Career

Can you believe it? It’s me, writing a post on my own blog.  Going to try to do it more often from here out. I’ll write about my new book, The Good Neighbor, about writing, about life. They all intersect on most days, so why not? 

Grab a cuppa and tell me about your first or most unusual inspiration in the comments!

Amy xo

Sweet Inspiration: How Food Network Helped Jumpstart My Writing Career

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I’ve read the Sunday paper on and off my whole adult life. Lucky for me, in September of 2006 my reading stint was “on.” I stood at my dining room table, sorting through sections for what I wanted to carry to the sofa. Full disclosure—I hate the feel of newsprint—so the fewer pages to turn once sitting down, the better. Then, while still standing, a column caught my eye. I don’t remember the title, or the byline, but I do remember it was about kids’ soccer games and soccer snacks.

Something bold crossed my mind. “I could do that.”

Naiveté can be a beautiful thing.

Through some research I discovered the author of that piece was the editor of the Perspective section of my Sunday Chicago Tribune. By that time I’d had a popular “slice of life” or “mommy blog” for six or seven months. I had a background in journalism. I had moxie.

I also had nothing to lose.

The worst that would happen was that I’d get no reply.

I emailed the editor and introduced myself. I asked if they ever used freelance writers for Perspectives. I explained why I could write columns that would meet their needs and I attached links to my most popular blog posts.

And she wrote back the next day. She told me that there would be a new editor for Perspectives and that he’d be in touch. He was. Then for two months we talked and brainstormed. He wanted my first piece to really hit the mark. I emailed ideas for columns very similar to things I’d blogged about—life as a Jewish single mom in the suburbs. None of my ideas bowled him over. I remember him saying we’d find the right idea at some point, and that I should think about writing something about the holidays. It was November. I wracked my brain. I made lists. None of them were any good.

Then one night while walking through the family room en route to somewhere else, I passed the TV, which was on. This is normal at my house. Also normal at my house is Food Network. So, the TV was tuned to Food Network and there was a commercial for a show about baking cookies. I stopped in front of the screen.

Everybody loves cookies. I said it out loud. Then I said it again. EVERYBODY LOVES COOKIES!

I ran right to the dining room table where I kept my laptop, next to all the homework papers, backpacks, and folders. I wrote my column about holiday cookies in record time. Then I rewrote it. Then again. I researched some holiday cookie names. Then, after my kids went to bed, I pounded another column about the differences in speech from Philadelphia (where I was born and grew up) to Chicago (where I was raising my own kids), and I focused that piece on some of the words associated with Hanukkah. I was up until midnight, which is not my m.o. If you know me well, you know I’m in bed by ten.

The next morning I emailed both columns to my editor.

On December 6th, 2006 All-Purpose Treat Brightens Every Holiday Tradition was published in the Sunday Perspective Section of The Chicago Tribune.

On December 17th, 2006, At Hanukkah, How You Pronounce Latke Makes A World Of Difference was published.

After that I wrote about ten columns for Perspective over the next 2-3 years, until the Trib stopped publishing that section.

I believe that first column set in motion everything that has happened since.

That experience took me back to my journalism roots, somewhat, as this was part of the newspaper, with headlines (not titles) determined by space, not by cleverness. Although these were more essay than article, I worked with a seasoned newspaper reporter who was the interim editor. He showed extreme confidence in me. He explained every edit, talked through every change. He pushed me farther in my writing than I’d been pushed in fifteen years. He even encouraged me to link my blog to my columns. In retrospect, I should have. But at the time my blog was anonymous, just like the blog in The Good Neighbor, penned by Izzy Lane. The difference is that I wanted to be anonymous so that I could tell the truth. The truth about my meeting my ex’s girlfriend for the first time, the truth about the guy who met me for lunch wearing a wrinkled trench coat and didn’t even buy me a Diet Coke, the truth about life in the suburbs. In The Good Neighbor, Izzy is anonymous because she’s lying.

But just like Izzy, I realized there was only one way to go and that was forward, onward, upward. Life was no longer about being a blogger — this was about being a published freelance writer. Those Chicago Tribune columns were often picked up by other Tribune newspapers around the country. I pitched other publications and was published in them. And the very next year, I decided to try writing fiction. And we all know how that turned out. ;-)

It’s true I took action that day in September when I read the column about soccer snacks. I could have just thought “I could do that” and not emailed the editor. But I did. (I could have said I wanted to write a novel, too. And not done it.)

But—walking through the family room and being hit with the inspiration for the story about cookies from a TV commercial? That was good timing. That was being open. That was realizing if I didn’t try, I’d never know.

That was sweet.

Guest Post: How Do You Picture Your Fictional Characters? by Alana Cash

mirror-clipart-Picture-143-271x300How much do you know about the characters in your writing? Do you know what they look like? I don’t. That’s right! I know everything about their lives and psyches and personalties and quirks, but not always the way they look. I don’t use doppelgängers. I know a few key things that help me write. For instance, in my upcoming novel, The Good Neighbor, Izzy Lane has short, layered hair that used to be long. She’s tall. Her eighty-five-year-old next-door-neighbor and confidante, Mrs. Feldman? I know she’s a vibrant octogenarian, but that’s it. Izzy’s best friend Jade is tall, and has long straightened hair, and Izzy’s cousin Rachel is short, and has short curly hair. WOW. I know hair, don’t I?

But I think I’m in the minority. I think most people really know what their characters look like. And that’s what’s so great about our guest post today. Here, Alana Cash gives examples and tools for really picturing your characters. Is that something you’d give a try?

I’m going to. I’m 75 pages into one WIP and two pages into another. Maybe this new method will spur my imagination in new and unusual ways. 

And that’s always a good thing!

Please welcome Alana Cash to WFW. And share in the comments how you picture your characters!

Amy xo

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