Author Interview: Lorrie Thomson Plays The What-If Game, And Doesn’t Believe In the Sophomore Curse

welcome-back-mat

Happy September! I don’t know if you realized, but we  here at Women’s Fiction Writers (oh, who am I kidding, it’s only me) took the month of August OFF from blogging. I’ve been blogging since 2006—so I thought it was time for a little summer slow-down, at least when it came to the blogosphere.

But…here we go again! And with gusto! I have amazing authors to share with you as we head into the last months of 2014, as well as great tips, and information, and some exciting stories of my own. Keep checking in. You won’t be sorry. 

WHAT'S LEFT BEHINDWe’re kicking off Fall (September = Fall) with Lorrie Thomson and the release of her second novel, WHAT’S LEFT BEHIND. I had the pleasure and honor of reading this book a while back and offering an endorsement (blurb):

“Still reeling from the sudden death of her son, Luke, innkeeper Abby Stone meets Rob, and then Tessa, two people who make Abby examine her life and her future. Abby also grapples with the lure of her first love, Charlie, and the lore surrounding a father she’s never known. WHAT’S LEFT BEHIND is an emotionally satisfying blend of heartache, hope, and happiness.”

Not only does Lorrie write classic women’s fiction, she’s a great supporter of other women’s fiction authors. Lorrie was the first person (and I don’t know if she knows this) to send me a photo of THE GLASS WIVES out in the wild when it was released in May 2013! Can’t ask for more than that!

Below, Lorrie shares with us some insights, her process, and a little about what’s next.

Please welcome Lorrie Thomson back to WFW!

Amy xo

Author Lorrie Thomson Plays The What-If Game, And Doesn’t Believe In the Sophomore Curse

WHAT'S LEFT BEHINDAmy: Welcome back to Women’s Fiction Writers, Lorrie, and congratulations on your second novel, WHAT’S LEFT BEHIND. Before we get into the specifics of your main character, Abby, and the wonderful story you’ve told, can you tell us if “the sophomore curse” was true for you? What was it like writing your second novel as opposed to your first?

Lorrie: Thanks so much for inviting me back! I’m delighted to be here, discussing WHAT’S LEFT BEHIND.

Knock on wood, I don’t believe in “the sophomore curse.” In some ways, writing the second novel was easier. Now, before you race to your fridge for a carton of eggs to lob at your monitor—never a good idea, notice that I said easier, not easy. I wrote and revised my debut off-and-on for about eight years. Each time I added a layer, I had to go back to that story place and reacquaint myself with the characters.

I had a year and a half to write WHAT’S LEFT BEIND, no time to lose sight of the story. And the characters never left my side.

Amy: Now, onto the story. Abby suffers a great loss, the death of her eighteen year old son. How did you decide this was the loss—or the inciting incident—of the story?

Lorrie: When plotting my novels, some things never change.

I played the what-if game, and challenged myself to arrive at one, or more, of my greatest fears. What if a single mom tragically lost her only child? What if, months later, that son’s pregnant girlfriend landed on the mom’s doorstep? What if the grieving mom had to, once-again, face the challenge of raising a child on her own?

Worse, what if she never got the chance?

Amy: On a lighter note, Abby runs a B&B (and it runs her life too). Tell us how you came up with this setting (my WIP is set at an inn, though much different than yours) and if you had to do any “research” to get all the details right. ;-)

Lorrie: Each summer, when my three children were small, my husband and I would bring them to Hermit Island in Phippsburg, Maine for camping adventures. And each year, we’d drive by EdgeWater Farm Bed and Breakfast, a sprawling old New Englander, with extensive perennial gardens.

I set the novel in a Casco Bay, Maine B&B, because I’ve an affinity for old houses and rural seashore settings, and an interest in hospitality. Of equal importance to the story, Abby’s vocation poses a challenge to her healing. How can she properly care for herself, when her job requires that she put her grief aside and care for others?

As soon as I came up with the B&B setting, I had to book a room at the EdgeWater Farm B&B, and I asked innkeeper Carol Emerson whether I could interview her for the inside scoop. Carol ran me through her daily drill and shared the trials and joys of running a bed-and-breakfast. Candid talks, comfortable accommodations, and delicious breakfasts. Research is such hard, and tasty, work!

Amy: I hope you don’t wince when you read this question, but how do you write your novels? Some authors outline, some don’t. Some authors write every day and adhere to a word count. Some don’t. The only thing that is certain, to me, is that this is no one way to write a novel. So, what’s the Lorrie way?

Lorrie: I agree with your assertion that there’s no one way to write novel!

I write anywhere from five to seven days a week, depending where I am in the process. As I near–as in race—toward a deadline, I increase the number of writing days and the word count. At the start of a novel, I might write 1,000 words a day, but by those last chapters, I’m going for a solid 1,750, approximately seven pages.

Each novel I write starts out with a synopsis, a ten-ish page story roadmap. Then the real fun begins. For every scene, I handwrite notes, copy those notes down in a Word doc, so I can actually read them, and let the imagination flow. One of my favorite parts of the writing process is discovering scenes not imagined in the synopsis. Another favorite? Unveiling the characters’ inner workings.

Amy: Can you share with us if you’re working on a new novel or what is next for you? 

Lorrie: Thank you for asking! Yes, I’m currently racing—writing—toward my deadline.

In a MEASURE OF HAPPINESS, small-town bakery owner Katherine Lamontagne has spent twenty-four years dishing out cakes and comfort and keeping the secret of the son she gave away to herself, until her son comes looking for her, making her reconsider her past and challenging the meaning of family.

The story takes place in Hidden Harbor, Maine, the same fictional town where I set WHAT’S LEFT BEHIND. Although not a prequel per se, the story unfolds in 1999, and contains connected characters Abby, Charlie, and Luke. Most prominently, I take you into the heart and mind of Abby’s best friend, Celeste Barnes.

Lorrie ThomsonLorrie Thomson lives in New Hampshire with her husband and the youngest of their three children. When she’s not reading, writing, or hunting for collectibles, her family lets her tag along for camping adventures, daylong paddles, and hikes up 4,000 footers.

Visit Lorrie at her website. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. WHAT’S LEFT BEHIND is available at many brick and mortar stores, and on-line sites, including: BN, IndieBound, and Amazon.

 

How Many Dead Flowers Does It Take To Edit A Novel?

editing office

This is what editing looks like for me. I figure this is a service to aspiring authors and winsome readers who think writing novels is a pretty job. I mean, it started off that way with the crocheted blanket (circa 1992, made by my grandmother for my oldest when he was born), photos of my childhood street (the inspiration for my novel), the vase full of yellow blossoms, ample natural and artificial light, and a dog who lies on the bed and stares at me. The notebook on the floor is so that I remember to see it, which might not have happened if it was on the desk. It was there for days. The cups are coffee-scented reminders of days gone by. I rinse them when I remember, or when they become science experiments. I hate science.

And this, my friends, was two weeks ago.

So I’m sure you’ve surmised from the mess that IZZY is coming along great. The mess may be unbecoming but it’s not daunting to IZZY or me. I’m now fine-tuning IZZY into the character you all deserve to read about, with a story to match her wit, her troubles, and her resolve, and with secrets that will make you wonder what you really know about your own friends and family.

In addition to editing, I’m happy to say that winter has finally ended in Chicagoland. Although I’m definitely indoorsy, I have the potted herbs and hanging baskets to prove I have a bit of a green thumb, at least until it’s more than 100 degrees. Doing something besides editing—like gardening or exercising or driving or showering—always helps me work out a problem or issue with a scene or a sentence or a word choice.

As does snacking.

red fish

Red fish are a perk of the job. This writing gig is 24/7. IZZY and her cohorts are never far from my thoughts. My fingers are never far from a keyboard. Or SkinnyPop.

Editing a novel: it’s consuming, it’s enchanting, it’s hard work—it’s like rearranging your favorite furniture and then finding the room looks only a little different, but infinitely better.

Hope you’re enjoying summer! I’ll back with more IZZY news (like a new title, perhaps) as soon as I can be!

In the meantime, tell me: is someone’s character linked to the truths they tell, or to their lies?

Amy xo 

 

How Editing A Novel Is Like Carrying A Big Purse

Either the answer to my prayers or a full blown nightmare. Not sure which.

Either the answer to my prayers or a full blown nightmare. Not sure which.

JUST A NOTE: THE NEW TITLE FOR “FINDING IZZY LANE” IS “THE GOOD NEIGHBOR.” I HOPE YOU’LL LOOK FOR IT IN 2015!

I found a banana at the bottom of my purse. There was no smell, no recollection of a lost snack. I was just in there, elbow deep, rooting around for a tissue (didn’t have one), or maybe a lip gloss (always have two), and found fruit. I hadn’t even remembered putting it in there. Out it went. Obviously at some point I thought I needed a banana in my purse, likely an effort to stave off plummeting blood sugar on some lone suburban excursion. But when I found the banana I realized I hadn’t needed it when I thought I would — and there was no reason to save it. I had other awesome things in my purse (entire case of pens, mini hairbrush, four eyeglass cleaners, cinnamon Altoids—the best) and that I would never miss the banana.  I also realized that if I wanted a banana, I could always get another one.

At the end of the week I received my edits for FINDING IZZY LANE, my next novel. Getting those pages in the mail in a big envelope with a St. Martin’s Press return address was the same kind of rush I get when I find that brand new perfect purse. Granted, a novel isn’t perfect (ever), but especially not in the revision stages. Yet, there is inherent, undeniable thrill in potential. Like with an empty purse.

When I was writing FINDING IZZY LANE I took a somewhat different approach from when I was writing THE GLASS WIVES. Frankly, that was easy, as my early drafts of THE GLASS WIVES had no real “approach.” This time, I followed advice from my editor (as much as I could). She had told me once that it’s easier to take things out than put things in—so instead of writing sparse, which is my inclination, I tried to fill things out as much as possible, knowing that I could go in later and pull out what I didn’t need or want. Like the banana! When in doubt, I often left things in this version of FINDING IZZY LANE, that I might have left out had I been writing THE GLASS WIVES. And while there are certainly places I need to fill out and bump up in FINDING IZZY LANE, I am comfortable with the decision of what I left in initially. I thought I might need them, so they stayed. Now they’ll go. I believe they also gave my editor, and her assistant (who is awesome), a keen insight into the story and characters, even if some of the passages or scenes will be deleted or changed or moved around.

And that’s also like carrying a big purse, or even a small one (I have many of each). I have to make sure that my phone is easily accessible, and that a few key cosmetics are grabbable. I move things between pockets inside and out, check to make sure the key is where it needs to be. Doesn’t matter if it’s a wristlet or a satchel,  I’m a huge re-arranger.

When I’m writing, I think I know the whole story I’m writing but not necessarily the order in which it should be told. I am a cut-and-paste diva, just like in the olden days of my career in PR, I would literally cut and paste columns of copy to layout newsletters and brochures. I had a keen eye for being able to make everything fit and an uncanny knack for writing headlines that precisely spanned their allotted widths (thank you, Temple University Journalism degree). Nowadays, there’s no printing out and no rubber cement, but I still clip and maneuver sections to fit—but within the context of the story instead of on the page (that comes later, with page proofs).

And if there is something that comes out of FINDING IZZY LANE that needs to go back in, that’s possible too. Unlike old bananas, I save deleted lines and scenes. But like a banana, if I wait just long enough, I might go back and find that they stink.

I’m excited to get started polishing FINDING IZZY LANE. For the next long while it will be like that brand new purse I now carry every day, breaking it in, making it mine, having it feel like an old friend.

Yes, I love me my purses. And after a healthy time away, I’m loving FINDING IZZY LANE. Even if it was the merging of the two ideas that reminded me most people don’t pull a banana out of their purse and think, “OH MY GAWD. THIS IS JUST LIKE EDITING.”

Welcome back to my world, folks. We’re in for a wild ride.

Amy xo 

Want to read a bit about FINDING IZZY LANE? Click here.

Want to see my FINDING IZZY LANE Pinterest board, complete with what I call, Iz-pirational quotes? Click here.

 

 

The 10 Books On My Ideal Bookshelf

It’s almost one year since the launch of THE GLASS WIVES and one question I’ve been asked many times at readings, signings, and events is: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK?

This is a question I not only hesitate to answer, it’s a question I can’t answer. I don’t have a favorite book, yet this answer seems uncomely for an author. So I say: “Whatever I’m reading at the moment.” And that’s true. I only read books I like and I only finish books I really like, the ones where I can crawl inside the pages and make a momentary nest away from everything else.  I knew books that were meaningful to me—but I didn’t have a list of favorites. Nor would my favorites necessarily be ones with scribble-worthy titles and trips to the book store. It was never important to me to have a list of favorite books. Not for myself or anyone else. There were just too many.

Then, for my fiftieth birthday I received a gift that changed that. The gift was that I could choose ten books and have a custom painting made of these books on my ideal bookshelf. Here’s a link to the artist’s website: http://www.idealbookshelf.com/. I had never heard of or seen anything like this before. And amidst a bevy of amazing birthday celebrations and gifts, this one was unique. And it was going to be hard work! I had to choose TEN books.

Perhaps someone else could ramble off ten, but I could not. I wanted these ten books to be meaningful to me in some IT’S-MY-FREAKING-FIFTIETH-BIRTHDAY-AND-PAINTINGS-LAST-FOREVER kind of way. I wanted these books to not impress anyone but me. Books that didn’t inspire anyone but me.

It took me about a month, maybe more, to decide. It was a serious charge, choosing these ten books. Not only did I want to do right by myself, I wanted to do right by the person who gifted this to me. This was not some willy-nilly point and pick. I wanted to have no regrets. Not to ever look at the painting and wish I’d chosen different titles. I made lists. I thought thoughts. (If you know me, neither of these surprise you!)

Now, a few months later, I can you, it was worth the effort, the lists, the pondering, the waiting. The photo doesn’t do it justice (plus it’s sorta sideways and complete with reflections). It’s 8″x10″ and I can see every brush stroke. I look at each book and know why it’s there, for me. The books might not be on anyone else’s ideal book shelf, but that’s what’s awesome. They don’t have to be! They don’t have to make sense to anyone else either, because to me, they make perfect sense!

ideal book shelf

Here are the ten books on my ideal bookshelf:

On Writing by Stephen King: This is the book that showed me my writing isn’t about me, it’s about the story. Huge lesson. Moved my desk into the corner, let the story come find me there. I can still picture the exact moment I realized this.

A Walk On The Beach by Joan Anderson: I mention this book in the back of THE GLASS WIVES. It’s my non-self-help, self-help book. It’s the only book I’ve ever read, cover-to-cover, more than once.

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood: I read this book in the 80s and it reminded me of myself. I never forgot what it felt like to see myself inside a book.

Good In Bed by Jennifer Weiner: Though published to much acclaim in 2001, I didn’t read this until 2007 when I started writing fiction. There is a plot twist mid-book that grabbed me by the throat and spun me around in my writer pants. I hadn’t seen it coming yet everything made perfect sense. That’s what I want to do, I thought. It changed the way I saw fiction. It was my ah-ha moment.

The American Heritage Dictionary 1976: In 1977 as I graduated 7th grade from my elementary school (K-7) I was given the English Award. The principal said something like “There was no doubt among the teachers who should receive this award.” Then they called my name. And I received this dictionary.

The Glass Wives by me: Duh.

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss: I read this book to my brother (6 1/2 years younger than me) and then to my kids. It was the book I used to hook my daughter into being a Seuss-lover like me!

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: I always wanted to be Beth. Yes, Beth. Plus, there is a character named Amy. I have read the whole book once, but portions of this book dozens of times.

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton: Like the Weiner book, Clayton’s book had a direct impact on my fiction writing. I read the Wednesday Sisters when it was published and just wanted to be one of their friends. The characters stayed with me for a long time after each time I read a few chapters, then again when I finished the whole book. I knew that I wanted to try to write a book that evoked exactly that feeling in others. I was not only inspired, but challenged. No book since has had the same level of impact.

Little House In The Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder: What is there not to love about this entrance into the world of the Ingalls family? It was and remains my favorite of all the Little House books. I wasn’t able to pass on my love of Little House to my kids, but I can still see those illustrations in my head.

Which titles would make it onto your ideal book shelf? 

 Amy xo

 

 

 

 

 

Three Turning Points and a Tremendous Book Giveaway

The Three Turning Points

the endTwo weeks ago I turned in my second novel, FINDING IZZY LANE, to my editor at St. Martin’s Press! I’m pleased with the book and eager to hunker down with edits and get this novel out to readers, hopefully Spring 2015. But this is publishing folks, so of course, that could mean winter or summer or fall! I’ll write more about the book as time goes on, but for now, here’s the lowdown on Izzy!

Lies, love, and the internet collide when divorced mom Izzy Lane moonlights as a dating expert for a popular website, even though she hasn’t dated in years. In real life, Izzy has moved back to her childhood home with her five-year-old son, is still hung-up on her unemployed ex-husband, and spends weekends hanging out with an eighty-five-year-old neighbor who harbors secrets of her own. When Izzy discovers some lies can last a lifetime, she must decide if telling the truth to avoid that fate, is worth risking the friendships, love, and job she’s come to count on.

50Today, I turn FIFTY! Yes, that’s 5-0 and I’m fine with it! I bought myself a new pair of earrings and matching necklace from Etsy (I heart Etsy). Last weekend my daughter and my son came home from their respective colleges just to celebrate with me. I’ve had, and am having, celebrations with friends. In early March I’ll celebrate with my immediate family and a few cherished (I won’t say “old”) friends during a weekend away. Now, if random strangers would be kind enough to say I don’t look old enough to have a 22-year-old son graduating from college, that’d be super. I may be fine with fifty, but I’m not above a little flattery.

blogIn March, Women’s Fiction Writers turns THREE! I’d already been blogging for five years, but it took me six months to get up the gumption to start Women’s Fiction Writers in 2011. Then, WFW took on a life of its own. Thanks to all the authors who’ve participated and all the writers and readers who welcome it into their inbox and swing by once or twice a week. In 2013, WFW had over 37,000 views from over 137 countries. That, my friends, is another reason to celebrate. Want to see all the authors who’ve been here (and some to come)? Click here.

The Tremendous Book Giveaway

surpriseIn honor of these three turning points, and because I don’t yet have my new book to give away—as a thank you for hanging out here, and supporting me in all kinds of awesome ways, just leave a comment and 13 of you can each win one of 13 books by 11 amazing authors. You have twenty four hours to enter, and prizes will only be mailed within the United States. Tweet it or FB the link and add another comment for a double or triple entry (but that’s it, tweet it a gazillion time, still only one Twitter entry). You can also *like* my FB page and sign up for my newsletter (but if you’ve already signed up, please don’t sign up again, just tell me you’ve done so) to enter as well. Winners will be chosen and books awarded randomly (unless there’s one you’re dying to have, make a note of it, and if you win, I’ll do my best!). You can only win once. If you can’t be reached via email someone else will be chosen right away. Winners will be announced on the blog and emailed by Friday morning.

It’s easy. Leave a comment, tweet, like, or click to win a book. Good luck!

Amy xo

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Four Authors Walk Into A Bar

Okay, it was a restaurant, but still.

Renee Rosen, Me, Amy Hatvany, Nicole Lynn Baart

Renee Rosen, Me, Amy Hatvany & Nicole Baart

Last weekend I attended the Heartland Fall Forum in Chicago, an annual trade show where Midwestern booksellers get to check out the latest books from big, small, specialty and regional publishers and meet with authors. That also means that authors get to spend time meeting those booksellers and talking about books.  And as you can see, authors also get to hang out with each other.

The lessons I learned at Heartland are lessons for any writer who wants to be out and about talking about his or her book, either now or some day.

Four Lessons I Learned At Heartland (Before I Got To The Bar)

1) Wear comfortable shoes. My shoes were very comfortable when I walked around the house, got in and out of the car and went out for dinner, but hoofing it all over a conference hotel was a different story. I also learned that Band-Aids in hotel gift shops cost about 50 cents a piece. And are worth every penny.

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