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.

 

 

Author Priscille Sibley Says To Write Your Heart Out

You won’t be surprised to learn that I met Priscille Sibley on Backspace. You might be surprised to learn I read her novel when it had a different title and before Priscille had her current agent! How exciting it was for me to read it again in its final form.  Another exciting thing is to introduce to you THE PROMISE OF STARDUST, which has a male protagonist (OH NO) but is clearly being marketed as women’s fiction (TRUE)!  It’s was a real treat for me to ask Priscille questions about her novel and her process and to learn new things after knowing this author for so long. Priscille is also one of my Book Pregnant friends!

Please welcome Priscille Sibley to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Author Priscille Sibley Says To Write Your Heart Out

Amy: What is the most important part of THE PROMISE OF STARDUST to you, as its author. Having nothing to do with its plot, what is the book about? Maybe some would refer to that as its theme.

Priscille: Although my story deals heavily with reactions to grief, I believe that ultimately the novel is about hope and resilience. Here is a line from the book: “There is uncertainty in hope, but even with its tenuous nature, it summons our strength and pulls us through fear and grief – and even death.”

Amy: Your novel holds a moral dilemma threaded together, and torn apart, by a love story.  What was your favorite part of the novel to write? And I know that doesn’t mean it was the easiest.

Priscille: The backstory was more fun to write, lighter, essential to leaven the main story. About a quarter of the book’s chapters occur in the past. Elle is alive and healthy in those chapters, and Matt is much happier. After her accident, he is grieving. It was painful to climb into his head some days.

Amy: Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication, and perhaps the most surprising part of that journey?

Priscille: I am an unlikely writer. I didn’t study literature in school. (I have a BSN in nursing.) I was very fortunate that once I did start writing, I quickly discovered a number of online writer communities. I found a nurturing critique group. That said, I made plenty of blunders, too. After a couple of years, I realized my first manuscript contained fatal flaws. I put it away and started fresh with a new idea.  A year or so later I found a literary agent to represent me. Alas, manuscript number two didn’t sell. My first agent and I parted ways, while I was polishing my third manuscript. By the time I was ready to query The Promise of Stardust, I had a much better idea of what I personally needed from a literary agent. Fortunately, I was really blessed when my manuscript resonated with an agent who fit my new description. With her insights, I dug in and made more revisions. When she sent it out to publishers, it luckily found several interested editors and a home at William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Amy: Do you have a favorite character in the book? Or is that like asking you to pick a favorite child?

Priscille: Having spent an entire book inside Matt’s head, he should be the one I favor right? I love him. I admire his devotion to Elle. He is flawed and I don’t think he completely sees himself or the situation clearly, but I like the way he loves her. I also love Linney and Elle. I even liked Adam (hush, don’t tell Matt.)

Amy: Even though your protagonist is Matt, who is clearly not a woman, you’ve mentioned that it’s thought of as women’s fiction.  What is your definition of women’s fiction and how do you feel about your novel being considered part of that genre?

Priscille: Clearly. Matt is a Matthew and not a Matilda. I chose to write the novel from his point of view somewhat reluctantly, but Elle, his wife, has suffered a horrible brain injury. She is in a persistent vegetative state. So to tell their story, I climbed into his head, determined to make him authentically male. By most definitions, women’s fiction is about a woman’s journey. More and more I realized the story was about Matt, even though his focus is very much on her. I think the main reasons people describe TPOS as WF is that Elle is pregnant. Babies are still women’s turf. Moreover, The Promise of Stardust is an emotional story. (I keep hearing reports about tissues, and I’m never quite sure how to respond to that.) Author Keith Cronin, who has been here at Women Fiction Writers, said something women’s fiction being about the emotions conveyed in the story. I truly wish I had the quote because I think he nailed the definition.

Amy: What is your best advice to aspiring authors of women’s fiction?

Priscille: Write your heart out. Really, put your heart in there. Take something that troubles you or resonates and turn it into something someone else can feel.

Amy, thank you so much for having me. I love this blog!

A few people always know what they want to do when they grow up. Priscille Sibley knew early on she would become a nurse. And a poet. Later, her love of words developed into a passion for storytelling.

Born and raised in Maine, Priscille has paddled down a few wild rivers, done a little rock climbing, and jumped out of airplanes. She currently lives in New Jersey where she works as a neonatal intensive care nurse and shares her life with her wonderful husband, three tall teenaged sons, and a mischievous Wheaten terrier.

Please visit Priscille’s website or follow her on Twitter @PriscilleSibley.

Read Big Girls Don’t Cry by Priscille on The Book Pregnant Blog.

Holiday Hoopla! ARCs Of THE GLASS WIVES Have Landed!

The holidays are a crazy time — and a slow time. Around here, it’s perpetual Sunday. Both my kids are home, with no school, no studying.  They’re staying up late and sleeping late.  Meals are wonky. Schedules are non-existent. I’m still getting work done but not as much as I’d planned.  But—as you may have seen on Facebook or Twitter, my Advance Reading Copies of The Glass Wives arrived!

ARCs

This milestone kicked-off a weekend-long celebration that included:

  • Reading random pages
  • Looking for a few favorite scenes to see how they read “for real”
  • Staring at the font on random pages
  • Holding the book in different positions just to see how it looked
  • Leaving the book in different rooms just to see how it looked
  • Sharing the fun news with friends and family IRL and online
  • Mailing a book to my parents, which resulted in marathon reading, even in the park, in the cold

TGW park

And once we’re all settled into 2013, I’ll have an ARC giveaway, so be sure to check back!

This week, I’m over at The Debutante Ball today instead of tomorrow (see what I mean about wonky holiday schedules?), appropriately talking about Endings. Book endings, specifically.  Don’t worry, there are no spoilers, but it might surprise you to learn how the ending for The Glass Wives actually came to be.  You can check it out here.

Another tidbit that might interest you are the acknowledgments that DIDN’T make it into the book.  There is no dedication or acknowledgments pages in the ARC, and I’m glad, because that’s one final surprise for the folks who do read it.  But there are many who couldn’t or wouldn’t make it into the book…and quite a few reasons why.  You can read The Acknowledgments That Won’t Make It Into My Book on Huffington Post Books, by clicking here.

See you one more time before next year!

Amy xo

I’m Thankful For Big Libraries, Small Towns, And A Smidgen Of Chutzpah

Learning to be an author in addition to being a writer is an interesting process. While in the midst of planning publicity, working on a new website, and sharing news both regularly and prudently (I think both are important), I’m very aware that yes, book sales are going to be an important factor if I don’t want to become a one-book wonder. (No intention of that, mind you, and WIP is coming along nicely, if I do say so myself. Which I do. Also have a tickling of a story for book 3!)

And then last week I learned that THE GLASS WIVES will be published in hardcover for the library market. That means that libraries can purchase a copy (or ten, um, book clubs!) of my novel and it will be sturdier and last longer than the trade paperback edition.  Because libraries are book buyers, this is a good thing. Whether we all like it or not, not everyone can afford to buy every book. And some people can’t afford or choose not to buy any books.  And this doesn’t mean they’re not book lovers or voracious readers. It means that I want libraries to have copies of my book so that everyone who wants to read it has the opportunity to do so, no matter where they choose to obtain their [legal, I’m looking at you, book pirating sites] copy.

The point here is to garner the attention of readers any way possible. This is not lost on me.

So, after I was finished with a personal celebration, knowing that my editor and publisher have confidence that libraries will want to stock-up on THE GLASS WIVES, I printed out THE GLASS WIVES page from the St. Martin’s Griffin Spring catalog, the first three pages, and a copy of the cover. And I marched my debut author behind over to the library in my town.

Small town. Big new library.

I introduced myself to the adult services librarian, leading with “I live in Small Town and St. Martin’s Press is publishing my first novel in May.”  Yes, that is a way to get a librarian’s attention. She was lovely, and interested, and her smile stretched across her face. She asked if she could shake my hand (heartily, I might add) to congratulate me.  She asked questions about how long it took me to write it, the agent-process, and she made many correct assumptions about the excitement level in my brain and heart.  The librarian needed to pass along my information (complete with actual telephone number) to the person who purchases fiction for the library because of course she was at lunch when I showed up.

I’m fortunate to live in an educated, education-centric community. I’m in contact with the local book club that started in 1938 and boasts over 100 members. It’s also not lost on me that the fact that THE GLASS WIVES is set in a Chicago suburb and about a divorced mom, and that I LIVE in a Chicago suburb and am a divorced mom, may send 9200 locals scampering for the book in stores, online, in this very library, looking for something or someone familiar, looking for answers and insights to my real life, or—gasp—theirs. They won’t find it, but hey, I’m no dummy.

I just nod and say, “You’ll have to read the book.”

Amy xo

A short synopsis of THE GLASS WIVES has now popped up on Goodreads! You can see that by clicking here—and if you’re so inclined to add it to your “to read” list, I think that gets you on Santa’s good list. I know it gets you on mine. xo

A Book Cover Is Worth A Thousand Words…And A Sneak Peek Inside!

Okay, it’s more like this cover is worth 84,000 words.

My words.

I’m beyond thrilled to officially share the cover for The Glass Wives. Can’t wait to hold this baby in my hands. Okay, yes, I did print a copy and wrap it around another book, you know, just for kicks, but you know what I mean.

Big hugs and thanks to an amazing cover designer and my editor Brenda Copeland, and the team at St. Martin’s, who have always had the perfect vision for The Glass Wives.

And this is proof.

Take a look. Don’t you just want to reach out and sip from one of those cups? What does this cover say to you?

To me it says: OHMYGODI’MGOINGTOBEAPUBLISHEDAUTHOR!

And a special thank you to Randy Susan Meyers, a wonderful author and mentor, for her kind words which my publisher deemed just right for the front cover. It feels like a hug from a friend to see her name there with mine!

I hope you like it as much as I do!

Amy xo

And there’s more!!

Wouldn’t you know it? Just as I was wrapping up my Debutante Ball post for today, I received an email from my editor with sample pages of my book. And she said I could share them here with you! Truly? This is like Christmas! Or it would be if I celebrated Christmas.

If you click below, you can get a sneak peek of the INSIDE of THE GLASS WIVES! I love the fonts, the design. Heck, I love the page numbers. It’s not the final-final-final version, which means if you catch a mistake, it won’t be there in May. It also means you get to read the first three pages!

The Glass Wives-1  <— click here

Can’t wait to hear what you think!

Amy xo

Author Karen Stivali Tells Us Why Women’s Fiction With A Love Story Is Not A Romance Novel

As a rule, I don’t like rules. But, when I read Karen Stivali’s post that explained her perception of the rules of romance novels, and why her books did not fit that mold — I was smitten. I don’t write romance — and I know that. What I wasn’t sure of was what constitutes that line between some women’s fiction and some romance novels.  Let us know what you think in the comments.

And please welcome Karen Stivali to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Author Karen Stivali Tells Us Why Women’s Fiction With A Love Story Is Not A Romance Novel

When my debut full-length novel, Meant To Be, released a few weeks ago I got a lot of questions from curious friends. There’s one conversation that I’ve been having over and over. It goes something like this…

Friend: What kind of book is it?

Me: It’s a love story.

Friend: Oh, it’s a romance novel?

Me: No, it’s women’s fiction with strong romantic elements.

Friend: So, it’s a romance novel.

Me: No, it breaks too many romance rules.

Friend: But you said it’s a love story.

Me: It is. And it’s romantic as hell, but it’s not a romance novel in the traditional sense.

Most readers, and even many writers, are not aware of how strict the rules are where romance novels are concerned. I’ll admit, as a reader and a writer I always thought the rules were a bad thing, but now that I’ve written both romances and women’s fiction I can see why the rules are in place. And why I sometimes break them or cross genres.

Back when I first started writing I remember reading an interview with Nicholas Sparks where he vehemently denied writing romances. That floored me. Has he ever written a story that wasn’t romantic? Not to my knowledge. But technically the vast majority of his books can’t be considered romances. Why not? The most common reason is the lack of a happily ever after ending. He writes love stories. His fiction focuses on love and romance but is classified as either mainstream fiction or, as women make up the vast majority of his readers, women’s fiction.

Romance novels are popular. There’s no denying that.  For decades they’ve had a huge, always-growing audience of devoted readers. Part of the reason for that is those readers want to know what they can expect from the stories. That doesn’t mean they want the same story churned out over and over again, but it does mean they want certain elements to be guaranteed. Romances guarantee the reader that they’ll find a story where the hero and heroine only have eyes for each other and where, no matter what obstacles they face in the course of the book, they’ll wind up with a happily ever after ( or at least happy for now) ending. They’re also guaranteed that the romance will drive the plot. Sure, there may be sub plots or side characters that aren’t romantic, but the focus of the story will be on the path the hero and heroine take to becoming a couple.

Women’s fiction is far harder to define. Some define it simply as books that will appeal to a primarily female audience. Others say it’s fiction written by women, for women, with a female main character (which would mean Nicholas Sparks doesn’t actually write women’s fiction either, as he’s clearly not a woman). Women’s fiction can have a romantic plot, but it certainly doesn’t have to. It can be a story of sisters, of friends, of mothers and children, husbands and wives, careers, losses, achievements, or any combination of those. Sometimes, however, women’s fiction does focus on a man and woman falling in love, or on the trials of male/female relationships. That’s the kind of women’s fiction I write.

Wait, you ask, then why don’t you write romances instead? The answer is sometimes I do. I have published several erotic romances that are all sweet, sexy love stories involving a man and woman falling in love and having great sex as they work toward their happily ever after ending. I just signed a contract with a new publisher on a (non-erotic) contemporary romance that’s a friends-to-lovers/second-chance-with-an-old-crush story in which the heroine has to decide if she can juggle having a career and the man of her dreams. I loved writing those stories. I love those characters. But sometimes the stories I have in mind don’t fit the romance mold. That’s the case with my women’s fiction, like Meant To Be (and its sequel, Holding On).

As a writer I stay very true to my characters and insist on telling their story. I don’t worry about rules or genres while I write, I write the story I have in my head. Period. Meant To Be is a friends to lovers tale with a an unusual twist. My main characters, Daniel and Marienne, are both married to other people when they become neighbors in a small New Jersey town. (Romance rule breaker number one—hero and heroine MUST be single at the beginning of the story.) The two couples become friends, sharing meals at each other’s houses, commuting to work together—normal things neighbors do. (Romance rule breaker number two—story must focus on the romance between the hero and heroine, not on other relationships.) Daniel and Marienne discover they have a lot in common. Similar likes. Similar histories. As their marriages begin to unravel they rely on their friendship.

Although it becomes clear to the reader that they’re beginning to fall for each other, there is never even a hint of cheating. In fact, they both stay loyal to their spouses, trying to make their respective marriages work way past the point where they’re truly viable relationships. Even when they both wind up single and available they struggle with the decision to risk their friendship to see if the romantic feelings are returned.

Since I write books that focus on relationships and since, in my opinion, sex is an important facet of most adult relationships, I write open door sex scenes. Sex is not just a physical act, it’s an emotional one. The interaction between characters during a sexual encounter can be far more telling about the relationship than a conversation or even an argument. For that reason, both main characters are shown having sex with their spouses. It’s very telling about the state of their marriages. It’s also romance rule breaker number three—the hero and heroine cannot be shown having sexual relations with anyone other than the hero/heroine (except in the case of consensual ménages, which I don’t write in any genre).

Romance rules aren’t the only ones I break with this story. By some definitions of women’s fiction I break a major rule of women’s fiction writing. Meant To Be is a story about Daniel and Marienne. As individuals, as friends, as two people falling in love. It’s about the journey they both take. They are each point of view characters and are equally important to the story. Although they both grow, mature and change throughout the course of the book, in many ways this is more Daniel’s story. In other word’s it’s by a woman, for women, but not just about a woman.

I often say this story is one long prelude to a kiss. Readers have told me they waited, breathlessly turning pages, dying to see if Daniel and Marienne would eventually find their way to each other at the end of this story. As I said, it’s a love story. It’s romantic as hell. But it’s not a traditional romance novel. It’s women’s fiction, with strong romantic elements. And a happily ever after ending. An ending that told me I wasn’t done with these characters and their journey yet, which is why there’s a sequel releasing at the end of November.

The sequel, Holding On, explores how even when you marry the person of your dreams, and have everything you ever wanted, relationships still aren’t easy. When you have everything you ever wanted the hard part is holding on. Is it a romantic story? You bet. Is it a romance? Nope. (Romance rule breaker—the hero and heroine cannot already be married to one another as the plot must focus on them falling in love and a married couple is, in theory, already in love.) It’s women’s fiction with strong romantic elements, because I like my women’s fiction with a lot of love and a lot of heat…and a happy ending…but not the traditional romance novel path.

So, it’s your turn to tell me. Do you like your women’s fiction with hearty doses of romance? Do you enjoy having dual point of view from the hero and heroine in your women’s fiction? Or do you prefer if romantic plot lines are left in romance novels and women’s fiction focuses on the woman’s journey?

Karen Stivali is a prolific writer, compulsive baker and chocoholic with a penchant for books, movies and fictional British men. When she’s not writing, she can be found cooking extravagant meals and serving them to family and friends. Prior to deciding to write full time Karen worked as a hand drawn animator, a clinical therapist, and held various food-related jobs ranging from waitress to specialty cake maker. Planning elaborate parties and fundraisers takes up what’s left of her time and sanity.

Karen has always been fascinated by the way people relate to one another so she favors books and movies that feature richly detailed characters and their relationships. In her own writing she likes to explore the dynamics between characters and has a tendency to craft romantic love stories filled with sarcasm and sexy details.

You can find MEANT TO BE on AmazonAllRomanceEbooks,Barnes & Noble,and Turquoise Morning Press.

You can find Karen on her website, on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

In case you’re curious about Meant To Be, here’s the blurb:

Sometimes you’re already committed to the wrong person when fate finally brings you the right one.

When NYU professor Daniel Gardner’s career-obsessed wife convinces him to move to the suburbs, he hopes it’s a first step toward starting the family he longs to have. Instead of domestic bliss he finds his neighbor, Marienne Valeti. She loves her freelance design job, but must contend with a growing sense of isolation created by her husband’s indifference. A penchant for good books, bad movies, and Marienne’s to-die-for brownies sparks a powerful bond between them. Passion simmers, but they resist its lure, surrendering only in the seclusion of their minds. Their friendship helps them weather every hardship, from divorce to widowhood, leaving them both secretly wondering if it can survive a first kiss.

My (No) Cover Story

While THE GLASS WIVES is now listed on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble, it is there without its cover.  It’s a little frustrating, I know. I assume that one day I’ll just pop over there and the cover will be there, the same way I popped over last Monday and the book was listed. Publishing is full of fits and starts, surprises and delays.  But frankly, when the waiting results in something so cool as my book for sale, I’m okay with the waiting. Probably because I’ve seen the cover — or what I hope will be the cover — but the buck doesn’t stop here and I cannot share. Yet. I LOVE the cover and hope you will all love her too. (Yes, the cover is feminine. And since it’s women’s fiction, it totally works for me.)

So here I sit.  I do visit the sites several times an hour per day per week to see what, if anything, has changed.  I count the “likes,” I watch the rank, even though I’m not sure what any of it means or if it really means anything at all.

As I wait for the image to magically appear online — I look at other book covers.  What draws me in? What makes me pass? What colors appeal to me? What images make me cringe? (Sorry, Fabio.)

I’ve notice the trends in a lot of women’s fiction that includes cropped parts of women’s bodies or the backs of heads.  I like those covers. I like NOT seeing faces because I like discovering a character’s face on my own, in my own head.  But the back of a head, or an arm, or dangling legs? Yes, that evokes the right tone for many novels.  I also notice a lot of flowers on book covers for books that are not about flowers.  Flowers are pretty, so that makes sense to me.  I don’t require literal covers for the books I pick up — just something eye-catching. What confuses me sometimes is then a cover does not really convey the tone of the book.  I may pick up a book because I like the cover, read it and love it and realize the cover has nothing to do with the book and is even a little misleading.

I was fortunate to meet my cover designer this summer and that’s the only message I passed along, when asked. I didn’t have a specific image in mind for THE GLASS WIVES, I didn’t have colors I loved, or really anything I hated.  All I wanted was that the cover convey the tone of the book.  For example, whimsical covers are very popular. Cutesy covers are adorable and I always pick them up, but I didn’t think either would fit the novel, and my editor agreed.  And lucky — so did everyone else who has a hand in the cover process like marketing and sales.  Did you know they have a say? Now you do!

While we wait for the cover of THE GLASS WIVES to be officially released – tell me what you like about certain book covers and what you don’t like.  Tell me what you’d never pick up in a gazillion years.  Tell me what you think of this body-part trend and what other trends you’ve noticed in book covers.

Please help me pass the time as I patiently await the next part of this story!