Cheers and Beers and Plans for the New Year!

I’m not one of those authors who Tweets, Facebooks, or Instagrams every.single.review of my books. I see those social media outstretched hands from others and rarely click. I know authors with tens of thousands of social media followers and that doesn’t equate to book sales. I’d rather be my own charming self online, share news of the book, the occasional brag, book photos, maybe an industry review if I get one.

But to close out 2015, the year Women’s Fiction Writers was named one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers, I thought I would share a review that made me smile because the reviewer is a reader and a writer therefore I got her review the way I don’t always get others. She mentions voice, something a writer understands, unlike the review I read today that had one word: Meh. I was amused, frankly, because there is obviously a reason some of us are writers and some of us are NOT WRITERS. But go ahead, use your cultivated vocabulary as you see fit. (Please note, I rarely read reviews on sites like Amazon or Goodreads because, well, you just shouldn’t.)

So here’s a link to a review that not only encourages you to read The Good Neighbor, but encourages you to drink beer while you do so — and for all the right reasons!

BOOKS AND BREWS by Mary Chris Escobar

As we head into 2016 I’m busy with freelance manuscript editing (yes, even today) and revising my third novel (yes, even tomorrow). I’ve also dipped back into essay writing, which I love, but don’t usually have time for. This piece, about finding a card from my ex after he died, was published on Your Tango in mid-December (the words are mine, the thighs in the photo, sadly, are not).

In the coming year, the blog will be home to more posts about writing, about the intricacies of women’s fiction, the politics of publishing. Want to contribute to the conversation with a guest post? Let me know and maybe it can work out! I’ll also conduct more author interviews with women’s fiction authors who are established, new, and new-to-you!

Keep reading and keep writing — and see you next year (why does that never get old?)!

Amy xo

 

 

 

What In The World Is Women’s Fiction?

globe-clipart-globe_clipart77Round and round and round we go! Where we stop, nobody knows!

Yes, I’m rolling my eyes. Not because there’s a question (or a zillion) again as to what constitutes women’s fiction but because the term bothers some writers. Truly? Paris, San Bernadino, Syria, Trump—and THIS is what is getting under people’s skin?

Let’s get this straight. The term Women’s Fiction does not bother readers. Keep that in mind if you’re lamenting that your book falls somewhere under the WF umbrella. Readers don’t care what you call your book, just that they can find it. In a book store (if you remember those), it will likely be filed under — wait — hold onto to hats — FICTION. It will likely be filed ALPHABETICALLY. Online it may pop up under a myriad of bizarre topics including a few that make sense to you.

Authors, agents, and publishers use labels so that they can compare books to one another for the purpose of selling, marketing, advertising, promoting.

To me, women’s fiction is a book that focuses on a woman’s emotional journey. Now, you might say that romance does that. Noperoo. A romance novel’s central quest is the Happily Ever After. That’s the point of the story. It may include a strong thread or six of emotional journeys, but the purpose is the romance.

What’s the purpose of your main character? To find love — or to find a way to allow herself to have love? To meet a great guy — or to be okay enough with herself to meet a great guy?

I don’t mean these things are exclusive of one another, but if your POINT is to have your main character meet a love interest and that’s WHY she needs to fix her life, then I’m thinking it’s romance. If your POINT is that as a byproduct of her goal of fixing her life she just so happens to meet someone, but her goal is to be okay with or without someone — then to me, that would be women’s fiction.

There are also novels that focus on solving mysteries, running from bad guys, saving the world, etc. These might very well have elements found in WF. Genres overlap, friends. Lines blur.

Take note — women’s fiction also centers on friendships, family relationships, and sometimes doesn’t have a romantic interest at all, or it’s way on the back burner. And that is OKAY (usually, for some people/agents/editors and not for others).

I  understand why the term “women’s fiction” bothers people. Because if a man writes a story about a family it’s a family drama. If a woman writes it’s women’s fiction or chick lit. But that doesn’t change the fact that my stories appeal to women and that I embrace the WF label because I just do. You do not have to.

Yeah, I know. There’s no “men’s fiction.” I don’t care. This is what I write, and I write knowing and loving that my stories appeal to women. I read widely — but this is what I write. Sometimes I’m made to feel as if I should feel badly about it. Like unless I pen a literary tome that it’s not enough. And it is.

Enough that is.

I do realize that “the others” (meaning non-writers) have no idea what women’s fiction means, nor should they. So if asked what I write I sometimes say family drama with humor, or book club type books, or stories about women and children. No reader wants you to say what you’d say at a pitch meeting.

Really, readers only care what the story’s about, not what you call it. That doesn’t make them run out to the bookstore, big box store, or tap their app to buy the ebook.

Stop worrying so much about what it’s called and just write a really good book. Find a kickass agent who sells to a great publisher. Or do it all yourself. Whatever floats your writer boat is what you should do and it should all lead to YOU writing a really good book.

Believe me, once you do, you’ll have plenty of other things to worry about.

Amy xo

PS THE GOOD NEIGHBOR makes a great holiday gift for your favorite neighbor! Fewer calories than that tin of cookies! Just sayin’…

 

Author Interview: NY Times Bestselling Kristina McMorris Crosses Continents and Decades In Her Latest Novel

the edge of lost_finalWait ’til you hear about Kristina McMorris’s new book! I was so excited to interview Kristina because my questions about her book, her process, and what she thinks about writing and publishing were flowing! I had trouble keeping it to just a few. I always ask questions I want to know the answers to, figuring you might want to know too! Today, Kristina and I chat about hives, prison, and running out of ideas for books. I promise, you’ll love it! 

Please welcome Kristina to WFW—and don’t forget to watch the trailer (amazing) and consider adding THE EDGE OF LOST to your Christmas or Hanukkah—oh heck—just add it to your reading list!

Amy xo

Author Kristina McMorris Talks About THE EDGE OF LOST

the edge of lost_finalAmy: The Edge of Lost is a complex novel covering decades, going forward and then back in time. As someone who is a linear thinker and writer, I’m curious how planned and processed the timeline for this novel? How did you know which part of the story went where (how’s that for good English)? I’m using flashbacks for the first time in the novel I’m writing now, and I sort of break out in hives. Does this come naturally to you? (Not the hives.)

Kristina: For anyone who survives this crazy business, hive outbreaks are entirely justified! Thankfully, on this occasion, the timeline issue didn’t release an onslaught of anxiety for me, as was the case with my last novel. In The Pieces We Keep, I was constantly juggling a dual timeline with mystery threads that gradually wove together, making me feel like I was writing two books at once. Add in a pressing deadline, and it was enough to drive a writer to loads of wine, or chocolate. Or both.

When it came to writing The Edge of Lost, I knew from the start what the first chapter would entail. Like a movie playing in my mind, I saw a search taking place on a foggy night on Alcatraz Island, not for a prisoner on the run, but for the young missing daughter of a guard, whose whereabouts were known only by an inmate. Then the questions began: what events led to this scene? Who was the girl? How was the prisoner involved? With these thoughts swirling in my head, I pondered their backstories, and what came to me was the unexpected visual of an Irish immigrant ship headed for Ellis Island.

In short, what landed on the page is largely a reflection of how the story actually developed for me—beginning with a major turning point, then backing up to what led there, and continuing beyond that moment. As a movie buff, I personally love films structured this way (think Swordfish or Goodfellas) because they pull me in from the start and make it almost impossible to walk away.

Amy: I love that the spark for this novel came from a documentary. Did you jump on the idea right away or was it something you allowed to simmer for a while before you started writing?

Kristina: I wrote the opening scene soon after watching the documentary, “Children of Alcatraz.” But then I jumped into research for several months (interrupted by major house renovations that all began with a simple, “Let’s replace the countertops…”) before I actually sat down to write the dreaded synopsis. But all along, the story and characters had been evolving in my mind. So even though I finally wrote a long, detailed summary—my editor’s personal preference—I never looked at it again. In no small part, I admit, because I’m always certain it will read like a poorly translated foreign soap opera!

Amy: You’re the author of four novels and have contributed to two anthologies. Are you ever afraid you’re going to run out of ideas—or repeat something from another book—something as simple as a character name or something as complex as a plot line? I ask because there are things we are consistently fascinated with so therefore those drive our imagination.

Kristina: Well, I wasn’t afraid of it until NOW… thanks for that, Amy! Ha. (Oops, Kristina! I must stop thinking “out loud” when I type!!) You definitely bring up a great point. For character names, I’ve learned to keep a spreadsheet to avoid just that kind of problem. Each of my novels usually consists of about seventy characters—including bit parts and people merely mentioned by name—plus I often feature surprise cameos of a few characters from one novel in another book that shares the same time period and setting. (I cite these among the many reasons my brain is deteriorating at a rapid pace. In addition to my kids. I blame them too.)

As for plot lines in fiction, when it comes down to it, I think most are driven by a limited number of basic elements, such as love, guilt, survival, or estrangement. Not to mention secrets of a dark, hidden past. It’s the details and surrounding circumstances, along with fresh twists and an author’s unique voice, that make one story different from the last. Or at least I like to think so…

Amy: What was the most difficult or troubling thing you learned while writing The Edge of Lost? What was the most surprising or pleasing thing you learned?

Alcatraz - escapee cellKristina: My research for this novel covered more topics than my usual WWII stories, including immigrant life in Brooklyn, mobsters during Prohibition, vaudeville and burlesque circuits, and of course the notorious prison years on “The Rock.” Therefore, I was surprised on a daily basis by various true accounts.

The ones I found most troubling would have to be the horrific conditions of the underground solitary confinement cells at Alcatraz, aptly dubbed the “dungeons,” as well as the “Rule of Silence,” which limited inmates to speak during very specified times—and even then in near whispers.

In contrast, the most amusing tidbits I gathered involved creative ways performers in American burlesque would evade stripping laws. For example, on many occasions the girls would briefly step behind the curtain every time they removed an article of clothing, so that technically they never stripped while on stage.

Amy: What’s your take on a happily ever after? Yes, no, maybe so?

Kristina: I would have to say that my favorite endings are “satisfying conclusions.”

Given the typical settings of my books, the characters who survive until the final page have experienced quite a bit of tragedy, so finding hope at the end is even more important than a happily ever after—especially since Ilike to think their imaginary lives would continue past the last page.

Amy: What’s your best advice, right now, in this publishing climate, for aspiring authors of women’s fiction or historical fiction?

Kristina: Remember that there’s no finish line in this business, so don’t lose sight of the joy found in simply writing a story you’re passionate about, regardless of trends or reviews or advice from others. When I first wrote my debut novel, inspired by my grandparents’ courtship letters, I was told repeatedly that WWII would never sell. Needless to say, I’m glad I didn’t listen. 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/KristinaMcMorrisAuthor

Twitter: www.twitter.com/KrisMcmorris

GoodReads: www.goodreads.com/KristinaMcMorris

McMorris-headshotKristina McMorris is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and the recipient of more than twenty national literary awards, as well as a nomination for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, RWA’s RITA® Award, and a Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction. Inspired by true personal and historical accounts, her works of fiction have been published by Kensington Books, Penguin Random House, and HarperCollins.

The Edge of Lost is her fourth novel, following the widely praised Letters from Home, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, and The Pieces We Keep, as well as the anthologies A Winter Wonderland and Grand Central. Prior to her writing career, Kristina hosted weekly TV shows since age nine, including an Emmy®Award-winning program, and has been named one of Portland’s “40 Under 40” by The Business Journal. For more, visit: www.KristinaMcMorris.com

Writing Is An Uphill Battle (Thank Goodness)

Originally posted on Writers In The Storm

I blame it on a lunch date. Or maybe I should say I owe it to a lunch date. Yes, my entire writing career is predicated on the fact that I met someone for lunch whom I’d never met before. I don’t remember his name, or what he looked like. I never saw him again.

Good thing you don’t pay royalties on inspiration.

During our pleasant midday conversation in an Irish pub, the first conversation since exchanging a few emails, my lunch companion mentioned that my email voice was “very well-suited to blogging.”

I thanked him.

Then, I went home and Yahoo-searched “blogging.” This was 2005, after all, and I unceremoniously entered the blogosphere.

After a few months of fervent blog reading and following and commenting, I started my own blog in early 2006. It had a polka-dot background and nary a reader. In my first-ever blog post I thanked Lunch Date Guy for setting me on a journey whose destination was unknown, and noted how that didn’t matter. What mattered was that I’d begun. I couldn’t have imagined where it would lead. Had someone told me, they’d have gotten a head slap.

I am big believer in momentum, that going downhill means you’re picking up speed and getting stronger, readying you for the climb.

My early blog where I wrote anonymously about being a single mom, dating, and life (like the main character in THE GOOD NEIGHBOR–coincidence?), led me to writing essays for photocopied ezines, and then for newspapers and online publications. My essays led me to attempt a memoir (because whose life isn’t worthy of 300 pages?), which led me to try fiction, which led to a book deal. Which led me to start a new blog about the kind of fiction I loved and was writing.

My full circle has a point. It doesn’t matter where or how you start. It doesn’t even matter WHERE you go. It just matters THAT you go, that you keep moving, that the momentum in your writing life mimic the momentum you admire or strive for.

Even as a brand new blogger in 2006, I always wrote, rewrote, and edited my blog posts. They became writing exercises, stretching muscles I’d not used in years. I read many blogs daily in those days before quick life updates on Facebook and Twitter, and dreamed about having comments on my posts. And I got them eventually, and a solid following of bloggers and blog-readers. Some of whom now read my novels.

I learned from my lunch date that we don’t find our inspiration, we choose it.

We choose to look up blogging and take a chance on something new. We choose to use our observations about the blue sky to write an essay or a poem. We choose to tell a story that makes us laugh because we want others to laugh. We choose to spend a year, or two, or six, writing a book.  Maybe writers are compelled to write, but we choose to do it. How many people have you met who say they want to write a book? My answer is always the same. “You should.” And I mean it. If you want to write a book, you should write it. Without a degree, without classes, without feedback. You have to start going if you want to go somewhere, anywhere. (I’m not suggesting that this is a good idea forever, that craft isn’t important, that knowledge isn’t king (or queen)).

I don’t mean you can always decide what you want to write about but you can choose to embrace the inspiration that is presented to you, to cultivate the ideas that rattle around in your head, to embrace curiosity without hesitation, and to move forward despite uncertainty and fear.

And if you get lunch out of it, all the better.

Amy xo

The Difference Between Literary, Upmarket, & Commercial Fiction (an infographic not made by me)

I have no infographic skills, but Carly Watters does. Writers ask me all the time to explain genre differences, and I do. Carly does it better. 

You’re welcome. (Now you can go thank Carly by clicking here.)

So tell me — is this what you thought? And if you’re being honest, where does your book fit (not where do you want it to fit — although maybe that’s a fair question as well, because then, go write it that way.)

Amy xo

Guest Post: Author Bette Lee Crosby Says “Write Where You Are.”

WHR - Ebook SmallWe’ve all heard it before. Write what you know. I’m not sure that always means what we think (a post for another day) but today, USA Today bestselling author Bette Lee Crosby puts her own spin on things with Write Where You Are. She was unintentionally inspired to write her new book, What the Heart Remembers, Book Three in the Memory House Series during a trip to Paris. 

How do you take advantage of where you are? And when was the last time you were unintentionally inspired?

Please welcome Bette Lee Crosby to WFW!

Amy xo 

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