I’m not sure where the historical/contemporary fiction line is drawn, but if you’re not writing in the here and now, there’s research to do! That sounds daunting to me as well as exciting. Even while writing my new novel, I’m researching the 80s and 90s because that’s when my main character grew up (which was after I’d already grown up!).
In PEGGY SUE GOT PREGNANT, author Deanna Adams merges baby boomers, the 60s and 70s, and rock ‘n roll. Doesn’t that sound fun?
Below, Deanna tells us about her novel and shares that women’s fiction is “showing women facing their problems head on, and finding ways to overcome those problems.”
Please welcome Deanna Adams to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Deanna Adams Weaves Fictional Characters Through The 60s And 70s
Deanna: First of all, thank you for having me, Amy, I’m honored to be a part of my favorite blog!
Although I’ve been a professional writer for more than 20 years, and have had three books published, it wasn’t easy becoming a “trans-genre,” as I now call myself. ;-). I’ve always been a nonfiction writer with dreams of some day writing that novel. That day came when I was watching Forrest Gump, for the third time. I love how the story weaves fictional characters through the events of history. Being a rock ’n’ roll/pop culture writer, I thought, “What if I did something similar with my first novel, using a female protagonist who lives through the events of the ’60s and ’70s?”
Problem was, there aren’t a lot of successful “rock ’n’ roll novels” out there. Did that deter me? Frankly, yes. After all, we want our books to sell well, and I doubted a debut rock novel could compete with today’s top genres, such as YA, historical romance, etc. Although my book does have elements of those genres, beginning with a teenager’s POV, it’s definitely women’s fiction, with a lot of pop culture events tied in. So what to do? I’ve never been an inside-the-box kind of girl, and that’s a problem in today’s niche publishing. Still, I have to write what I’m passionate about. And I love writing the stuff of baby boomers. We lived through an amazing time in history, with so many changes—especially for women. And that’s what I wanted to write about.
Of course, I was right about the genre. I queried probably 50 or more agents, and I received several requests for a partial, or full submission, and ended up with glowing rejections. Most said they loved the writing, the characters, the story . . . but they didn’t think they could sell it to one of the big publishers. So I started checking out smaller publishers, hoping to find someone who didn’t think cross-genre fiction was a deal breaker. In the meantime, I revised the manuscript a couple more times, thanks to suggestions from my cherished writers’ group. Somewhere along the way, I came across Soul Mate Publishing, and read this: “We encourage novels that are original and blur the genre lines.”
Bingo! Right up my alley!
Amy: What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
Deanna: Well, actually, there are two. Writing a book is like a marriage. First, there’s the honeymoon, when everything is new, exciting, and you have great expectations. But then, after awhile, you find yourself in the “trenches.” When you’re burdened with unexpected problems, and you question if this was a good idea, as you try to figure a way through it. If you can get past that, you’re on your way to celebrate an anniversary—or in this case, a published book.
So I love the beginning process, that exciting time when you get the story idea and start writing it, and get surprised by what those characters have in store for you. I love that part of creation, organizing the story, then developing it as the story progresses. But I also love getting to the climax, where the story heats up and events head toward the end. Both stages are thrilling.
Amy: Is there a character in your novel who has most of your affection or got most of your attention? Care to share a few things about this character and why we’ll love him or her as well?
Deanna: Is it crazy to say several? Peggy Sue, of course, is the one I feel most affection for, naturally. She starts off young and naïve, wanting to please everyone, and although there are times she tries to fight for what she wants, she ends up succumbing to what others want. That is, until she finally follows her heart, after events in her life force her to stand up for herself and her child. While I admire her sense of family loyalty, I enjoyed it when she realizes that she must be true to herself first. I like her best friend, Libby, for her feistiness, and strength in the face of adversity. And Angela, her black girlfriend from Detroit, is a wonderful character who allowed me to bring in a little history of those great early Motown years. Then there’s Charlee, Peggy Sue’s rocker daughter, who I’m getting to know more now that I’m writing the book’s sequel. The men are interesting, too, course, but it’s the lives of these women who are at the center of the novel.
Amy: How did you come up with the idea for PEGGY SUE GOT PREGNANT?
Deanna: When I decided that this was going to be a story about a woman living through the baby boomer era—and all that went with that era—I knew I had to come up with a title that would immediately take you back there. I’m a big fan of Buddy Holly, so of course, Peggy Sue came right to mind. And at the time, I’d been reading The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler. The stories of how these young “unwed mothers” were treated in the ’50s and ’60s were both riveting, and horrifying. (Luckily, I never experienced that personally, which is a question readers often ask me.) I felt a strong urge to address and acknowledge that historic time that even today still affects these women who gave up a child, as well as those who were adopted, and their records are sealed. I wanted to remind women how things have changed through the years, thanks in great part to the women’s movement. We’ve come a long way baby, indeed! So I wanted to explore the life of a girl who found herself in that situation, and how she dealt with the consequences that emerged from that. Once that premise was established, the story pretty much wrote itself. Sounds hokey, I know, but it’s true.
Amy: What is your definition of women’s fiction?
Deanna: I believe women’s fiction, as opposed to romance, is about women’s lives: their relationships, with men, as well as other women, and their ultimate goals. It’s showing women at their most vulnerable. It’s showing women facing their problems head on, and finding ways to overcome those problems. These women not only grow, but thrive.
So women’s fiction is using imaginary characters to show how real women can become heroes in their own lives. Readers want to identify with the characters and ride their journey with them, and even if the story doesn’t have the proverbial happy ending, it should leave readers satisfied in knowing that women are survivors, and there is always hope for the future.
Amy: As a women’s fiction author, what’s your best advice for others wanting to publish in this genre?
Deanna: I guess that would be, decide what you want to say to women through your story. There should be a good reason why you want to write the book, and why you’re the only person who can tell that particular story. Sometimes you use your own life experiences to tell an important story. Other times, as in my case, you take your knowledge of a specific era, and interest in a certain subject, and use the art of storytelling to convey your message.
Simply put, follow Peggy Sue’s path and be true to your heart. Write the book that you feel needs to be written.
Deanna R. Adams is a writer, speaker, instructor, award-winning essayist and author of three nonfiction books. Her debut novel, Peggy Sue Got Pregnant: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Love Story, will be released in June 2013. Her first book, Rock ’n’ Roll and the Cleveland Connection (Kent State University Press, 2002), was named a finalist for the Ohioana Award for nonfiction, and the ARSC Award (Association for Recorded Sound Collections) for excellence in research. Other books are Confessions of a Not-So-Good Catholic Girl (Infinity Publishing, 2008) and Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Roots (Arcadia Publishing, 2010). She received an Ohio Excellence in Journalism Award in 2009.
Deanna is also an instructor and event coordinator at Lakeland Community College, and instructor for the Cuyahoga County Libraries Lit program, where she speaks and teaches on a number of writing topics. She is coordinator of the Western Reserve Writers’ Conference and founder of the Women Writers’ Winter Retreat, and Write-on-the-Lake Retreat.