Author Interview: Three Questions For Author Lorrie Thomson Who Explores Writing & Inspiration For Her Third Novel

A Measure of Happiness_TPI’m such a rebel. Not really. But today I am sharing something a little different with you, my WFW friends. In celebration of the release of Lorrie Thomson’s third novel, A Measure of Happiness, I’ve asked her THREE things I was very curious about. When I interview any author I ask questions I really want the answers to, figuring if it’s interesting to me, it might be interesting to all of you too.

Since I’ve read all Lorrie’s books and have interviewed her before, I wanted to dig deeper — a theme of writing women’s fiction, right? So today Lorrie shares with us real insights into how and why she wrote this story, which takes a character from her second novel, What’s Left Behind, and makes her the focus. 

Please welcome Lorrie back to WFW and enjoy everything she shares with us today!

Amy xo

Three Questions For Author Lorrie Thomson Who Explores Writing & Inspiration For Her Third Novel 

A Measure of Happiness_TPAmy: I’d love to know more about plucking a character from one novel and placing her into the spotlight in another, without the book being a prequel or sequel.

Lorrie: Thanks so much, Amy, for asking me back to Women’s Fiction Writers to discuss A Measure of Happiness!

In A Measure of Happiness, small-town baker Katherine Lamontagne has spent the last twenty-four years giving out cakes and comfort to the citizens of Hidden Harbor, Maine, and keeping the secret of the son she gave away to herself. Until that son comes looking for her, making her reconsider her life and the meaning of family.

This is the first time I’ve returned to a story location and written a novel that contains characters from a previous work. But, even though A Measure of Happiness takes place fifteen years before What’s Left Behind, it’s not considered a prequel. The books are stand-alone novels. And although you’ll likely remember Abby Stone’s best friend, Celeste Barnes, from What’s Left Behind, this is the first time you’re privy to her point of view.

I adore A Measure of Happiness, and I’m so excited to share it with you. But if it weren’t for my agent and editor, I might never have imagined this story. You see, when I passed in the partial manuscript for What’s Left Behind, my agent, Jessica, suggested I come up with an additional story idea. Could I perhaps feature one of the characters from What’s Left Behind? Was there someone from that story I wanted to get to know better?

Celeste, with her fierce loyalty to Abby and her snarky mouth, was the first person who came to mind. In fact, I enjoyed Celeste so much that originally in A Measure of Happiness, hers was the first voice you heard. That’s where my editor came in. While Celeste is a fascinating character with personality to spare, secrets, and lessons to learn, she’s only twenty-two years old. For that reason, during a phone conversation with my editor, Peter, to discuss opening scenes, Peter shared his concern that A Measure of Happiness might be considered NA, New Adult. “Okay,” I said, “I’ll start over.” To that Peter replied, “Don’t start over. Just flip the scenes so that Katherine’s point of view comes first.”

I flipped the scenes.

I’m really glad that I took Peter’s advice. Because even though I’d spent a lot of time thinking about Celeste, her issues, and her back story, I hadn’t yet fully considered Katherine. Luckily, when I asked Katherine nicely, she was more than willing to share her secrets with me, too. She told me about the son she gave away for adoption, and the way that one event had shaped her life. She told me the real reasons she’d divorced Barry, a man she so obviously still loved. And she told me about the ghost from her past, the legacy of shame from a childhood that haunted her.

In A Measure of Happiness, Katherine isn’t the only character with secrets and shame. We all walk around with voices in our heads. Sadly, those voices often tend toward the negative, and Celeste’s inner monologue is no exception. For Celeste these voices, also known as the not-so-nice lies we tell ourselves, lead her to seek relief that’s neither healthy nor uplifting. Yet through it all, she keeps her signature snark and sense of humor.

In addition to Katherine and Celeste, you’ll get to know Zach Fitzgerald, a newcomer to Hidden Harbor, Maine. Just weeks after Zach’s mother kicks him out of the house—she has her reasons—Zach eats his way through two dozen Casco Bay bakeries, wanders into Lamontagne’s, and changes the course of both women’s lives. But make no mistake, in the end, each character finds his or her own way of making peace with the past.

Amy: So did your thoughts change about the town and characters as you wrote this new novel and ostensibly learned the backstory? 

Lorrie: I had great fun going back to Hidden Harbor, Maine, and the events and relationships alluded to in What’s Left Behind. In What’s Left Behind, Celeste is married with two children, and the hardworking owner of a bakery called Sugarcoated. In A Measure of Happiness, she’s young, single, and a long-time employee of Lamontagne’s. Yet same as in What’s Left Behind, one of the most important relationships in her life is with her best friend, Abby Stone. Their conflict comes from Abby’s on-gain, off-again romance with boyfriend Charlie Connors and Celeste’s instinct to protect Abby. In A Measure of Happiness, Celeste is also protective towards Abby’s three-year-old son, Luke. Yes, I had the bittersweet responsibility of bringing Abby and Charlie’s son back to life: the teenager who dies before the opening pages in What’s Left Behind. It should come as no surprise that in A Measure of Happiness, little Luke is quite a flirt.

Amy: Next, I asked Lorrie to share places that inspired A Measure of Happiness and she answered with both words and pictures!

1. Popham Beach in Phippsburg, Maine, where a pivotal scene takes place.

2. View from Fox Island to the Atlantic Ocean. During low tide at Popham Beach, the seas part and you can walk out to Fox Island. But don’t linger too long!

2. View from Fox Island to the Atlantic Ocean. During low tide at Popham Beach, the seas part and you can walk out to Fox Island. But don’t linger too long!

3. View of the Morse Tidal River in Phippsburg, Maine, from the real-life 1877 House. The house and its view inspired the home in Hidden Harbor where Katherine and her ex-husband, Barry, once lived—and where Barry now lives alone.

3. View of the Morse Tidal River in Phippsburg, Maine, from the real-life 1877 House. The house and its view inspired the home in Hidden Harbor where Katherine and her ex-husband, Barry, once lived—and where Barry now lives alone.

4.      Barry’s back porch. Strange, but it wasn’t until I read through proofs that I realized I’d even included the 1877 House’s green metal chairs.

4.      Barry’s back porch. Strange, but it wasn’t until I read through proofs that I realized I’d even included the 1877 House’s green metal chairs.

Lorrie Thomson (1)Lorrie Thomson lives in New Hampshire with her husband and their 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.

Author Interview: Debut Author Kristy Woodson Harvey’s Fourth Manuscript Is The One That Sold First!

9780425279984_large_Dear_CarolinaToday is launch day for Kristy Woodson Harvey’s debut novel, DEAR CAROLINA. Below, you’ll learn how Kristy mined her own life as a new mom to write this book that explores the bonds of motherhood in its many forms. 

I met Kristy through Tall Poppy Writers, a cooperative of women authors and am thrilled to help her celebrate her debut. Plus, she told me her mom’s book club read THE GLASS WIVES, and loved it (unsolicited, I swear!). 

Please help Kristy Woodson Harvey kick off her career as an author and welcome her to WFW!

Amy xo

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Author Interview: Author Holly Robinson Talks About Emotion, Mystery, and Names—Oh My!

Haven Lake_FCSometimes you just click with someone, and that’s how it was for me and my friend, author Holly Robinson. I’m not sure even how or when we first connected, likely due to her first novel with NAL, The Wishing Hill, which was published around the same time as The Glass Wives. TODAY, Holly is launching her third novel with NAL, HAVEN LAKE (and has another coming out in the Fall, OMG). The best part of interviewing an author-friend is learning new things about her, her writing, her stories. They’re not usually the kinds of things that come up in casual phone conversations, but they’re the things I want to know and the kinds of interviews I want to share here.

Actually, that’s the best part of interviewing anyone—quenching my own curiosity by getting the answers to MY questions and knowing what, how, and why those answers would be of interest to others. (Hello, Journalism Degree!!)

Holly’s novels are family dramas strewn with emotion and mystery. Family secrets are woven through each one, as well as vivid settings, and character voices that ring clear and true. You’ll see what I mean when you read the interview! 

Amy and Holly and lots of plates on a wall—September 2014

Amy and Holly and lots of plates on a wall—September 2014

Please welcome Holly Robinson back to WFW!

Amy xo

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Author Linda Pennell Writes History Fiction, Embraces Social Media, And Laughs At Those Who Belittle Women’s Fiction

Confederado-Soulmate 105_105x158As an author of contemporary fiction, I always jump at the chance to ask questions of historical fiction authors. To me, the research process seems laborious and daunting—but to them, it drives the story and fuels their creativity. Today, author Linda Pennell shares with us a little of her inspiration, method, and how she combines her love of the past with the social media frenzy of today. I also love her attitude toward the scuttlebutt surrounding the women’s fiction label. 

Please welcome Linda Pennell to Women’s Fiction Writers.

Amy xo

 

Author Linda Pennell Writes History Fiction, Embraces Social Media, And Laughs At Those Who Belittle Women’s Fiction

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WFW Interview: Karoline Barrett, author of THE ART OF BEING REBEKKAH

RebekkahCoverGood morning, WFW! It’s pouring here today, with thunder and lightening that sounds more like the implosion of buildings across the street than heavenly bowling. The only good thing about it? IT’S NOT SNOW! 

It’s all perspective.

And that’s what we have here today, author Karoline Barrett offering her perspective on being a debut author with a new kind of publisher. Some are calling them hybrid publishers, I think Karoline is just calling hers fabulous! (Like with anything in publishing, please do your due diligence before signing with anyone or any company.)

Now, please welcome Karoline Barrett to WFW!

Amy xo

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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.

Seré Prince Halverson Talks About Book Clubs, Book Covers, And Books That Make Her Feel Less Alone

I met Seré Prince Halverson almost a year ago because we are both members of the debut authors group, Book Pregnant.  Right away Seré captured my attention with her kindness and charm, and that was even before I knew much about her book, THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY.  

Today marks the paperback launch of “Joy.”  Same book, new cover, and hopefully many new, enthusiastic readers.  

When you’re finished reading the interview and getting to know Seré, treat yourself to excerpt of THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY (published by Dutton) by clicking here

But first, welcome Seré to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Seré Prince Halverson Talks About Book Clubs, Book Covers, And Books That Make Her Feel Less Alone

Amy: Seré, congratulations! Today is the paperback release of THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY!  What’s it like to be re-introducing your book to new readers?

Seré: Thank you, Amy! It feels different than when the hardcover came out because it’s not quite such a huge unknown. I’m excited, but I’m happy to say that I’m also sleeping at night, which was something I could not say when the hardcover came out. I had serious Debut Author Insomnia.

I’ve discovered that I really enjoy talking to book clubs and have been blown away by their insightful discussions. A lot of those I’ve visited have had a picnic theme to tie in with the Life’s a Picnic store in the book. So, to celebrate the paperback release, I’m having a Win a Picnic Basket for your Book Club drawing. I thought it would be fun to deliver Sonoma County goodies and wine right to their doorstep! And planning a picnic is much more pleasant than Debut Author Insomnia. Details are here.

Amy: Without giving anything away, can you tell us a little bit about the story and how you came up with the idea?

Seré: A woman walks into a market…That woman was me. I walked out with a bag of groceries, and a vision of an Italian American family. That vision collided with some other visions I’d been having of a young woman, curled up in bed in despair. She had once everything she ever wanted and now had lost it all. But I didn’t know her story yet. And those visions collided with my fear of sleeper waves, my love for Sonoma County, my contemplations of mother/stepmother relationships and how harshly society judges mothers who leave their children, without knowing the circumstances behind that decision. (Yes, it was a rather big collision of visions.)

Amy: Oftentimes paperback editions have a brand new book cover — and that’s the case for TUOJ.  How was the process of having a new “look” for your book?

Seré: First, let me say that I was very attached to the first cover. I loved the beautiful simplicity of it. My paperback publisher, Plume, always creates a new cover, but I was a bit skeptical. Until I laid eyes on it. Very different from the first, but I fell in love all over again, this time with the vertical treatment of the horizontal photograph, the water reflection, the little girl—together, they capture important elements of the story.

Amy: Do you have something you’d like readers to take away from your book? 

Seré: My favorite books pull me in and make me feel like I’ve walked in someone else’s shoes, whether they’re Birkenstocks or Manolo Blahniks or old holey Keds with a flappy right sole. The best books also make me feel less alone–even if the characters’ lives are completely different from mine. And I love books that challenge and move me. Those are the kinds of things I hope readers feel when they read The Underside of Joy.

Amy: What is your definition of women’s fiction?

Seré: Such a hot topic these days. Definitions are sometimes necessary, especially for marketing, but they’re also limiting. I like to think the definitions are evolving. The Underside of Joy is a story about motherhood but also about family, war, food, love, death, grief, joy, resilience—lots of things that involve women and men. The book had a pink flower on the cover and now the paperback has a little girl on the beach—clearly marketed as women’s fiction, right? Right. And yet, I’ve received such thoughtful e-mails from a number of male readers, ranging in ages from 25 to 89.

So I’m going to say I see women’s fiction as an extremely broad category of fiction, which is marketed toward women but can usually be read and enjoyed by both women and men. (Men who aren’t scared off by feminine-looking covers, that is.)

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

Seré: My advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction is the same as my advice for aspiring authors of any fiction, in fact it’s the same for aspiring anyones—anyone who is working at something they’re passionate about. Writers love this one because we need it in the face of all that rejection: It’s the Winston Churchill quote—a favorite of my dear friend and writing sister, Elle Newmark: “Never, never, never, never give up.” Just don’t. Keep going. That doesn’t mean you can’t break away for periods of time if you need to, but keep rolling your work-in-progress around in your head, and always come back to it.

It took me hundreds of rejections and three completed novels before The Underside of Joy was published. Even if it hadn’t been published, I wouldn’t regret the years I’ve spent writing and learning my craft. Passion is a good thing. Elle also said, “Passion is our consolation for mortality.” She died last year, after a life of writing and living passionately—a life very well-lived. I learned a lot from her and am learning from her still.

Thanks so much for these great questions, Amy! I’m looking so forward to reading The Glass Wives!

Oh, thank you, Seré, all of that means so much to me!

Seré Prince Halverson worked as a freelance copywriter and creative director for twenty years while she wrote fiction. She and her husband live in Northern California and have four (almost) grown children. The Underside of Joy is her debut novel. Published by Dutton in January 2012, it will be translated into 18 languages.

You can find Seré on her website, blog, and on Facebook.

Don’t forget to read the excerpt of THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY by clicking here