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

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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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Book Cover Reveal For Historical Fiction Author Renee Rosen’s “WHAT THE LADY WANTS”

rrasn2014There is undeniable joy to having in-real-life friends who are authors. Hugs and wine are just part of it.  I am always so happy to share in my friends’ triumphs (tribulation sharing builds the bond, but it’s not  joyful).Truly, what more could a writer want than to be part of someone else’s story?

That’s why today I’m thrilled to present the cover for my friend, Renee Rosen’s, cover for her next novel, WHAT THE LADY WANTS.

When this photo of us was taken, just a few weeks ago at our favorite meeting place in Chicago, there were still tweaks and decisions to be made, there was still no official date she could share the cover. Now it’s here!

Renee is also the author of DOLLFACE, and you can read the WFW interview here.

But right now, let’s focus on WHAT THE LADY WANTS.

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Author Katherine Scott Crawford Says “Women’s Fiction Is, Simply, Darn Good Fiction”

Dear WFW Friends,

I’ve interviewed quite a few Bell Bridge Books authors and it’s always a treat!

Katherine Scott Crawford’s historical novel, KEOWEE VALLEY, is steeped in Katherine’s personal history. She took a setting, an idea, a notion, a feeling, a passion — mixed it with research — and wrote a novel. What a wonderful reminder that everything around us can be fodder for our stories, if we remember to pay attention (and take notes)!

Please welcome Katherine Scott Crawford to Women’s Fiction Writers.

Amy xo

Author Katherine Scott Crawford Says “Women’s Fiction Is, Simply, Darn Good Fiction”

Amy: Congratulations on the publication of Keowee Valley! Your website says your novel is an historical adventure and romance set in the Revolutionary-era Carolinas and in the Cherokee country. Can you tell us how you got the idea for your story?

Katherine: Thank you, Amy. And thanks so much for having me–I’m delighted to be here!

The idea behind Keowee Valley had been percolating in my mind for years, but it really began when I was a kid. I grew up in the South Carolina Upcountry, and I’m lucky that my parents have a lake house in the South Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains. The lake sits right at the foot of those mountains, in the middle of the countryside, and it’s bordered by national forest. It’s a gorgeous place, my favorite in the world. All throughout my childhood and into my teens (I went to college nearby) we explored the whole area, camping, hiking, river paddling. It was heaven.

In the S.C. Blue Ridge (all all across the Southern Appalachians, really), every mountaintop, creek or river, just about every road—really any pretty spot—has a Cherokee Indian name. So as a kid I became obsessed with Cherokee history. I couldn’t believe that an entire people had lived in this place I loved, and were gone.

Well, there’s this spot near my parents’ lake house. It’s really just a pasture (usually filled with cows), and at the crest of the pasture near the tree line, there’s an old stone chimney. The house must’ve burned down around it years ago. Whenever I’d pass that spot, I couldn’t shake the image of a woman standing there. She had long hair, wore an 18th century dress—and it seemed like she belonged, but didn’t at the same time. I just couldn’t shake that dream woman. I felt like she loved the land as much as I did. I had to write about her.

Amy: Will you tell us about your journey to publication? It can be such a long and winding road for some! Was it like that for you?

Katherine: Absolutely! People have been asking me this a lot lately, and every time I say it I shake my head in wonder: From starting to write the novel until the day my publisher made an offer, the whole thing took about six years. Add another year plus if you consider the time from the day of the offer until it was released! So it was definitely a long and winding road, and there were times when I thought I’d have to scrap the whole thing, that no one would ever read what I’d written. Thank goodness, that didn’t happen.

I went about the publication process in the traditional way: wrote my novel first (took me about two years, total, to research and write it), then queried literary agents. I queried LOTS of agents—around 200—and still have all the rejection letters. But I was lucky: after about three months of querying, I ended up with four offers of representation. I did some research, then went with my gut and chose one.

Because the agent thing happened so fast, I thought, “Man, I’m on a roll! My novel will sell quickly.” Ha. It took my agent three years to find a publisher. He’s a pretty reputable guy, has been in the business a long time, so I trusted his process. We started with the “Big 6” publishers, and actually got pretty far into the process with one of them, but it fell through. I was devastated, of course. All of them seemed confounded by the genre-bending Keowee Valley does: it’s certainly got romantic elements, but it isn’t totally a romance, and it’s a Cherokee-Indian-frontier-story of the Revolution, sometimes literary, sometimes commercial. Several editors said they just didn’t know where Barnes and Noble would put it on the shelves. One even said, “If she writes about the queens of Europe, let us know!”

I suggested to my agent that we seek out smaller publishers, and I knew about the one that would eventually be mine (Bell Bridge Books) because Deborah Smith—the VP—is one of my favorite Southern authors. So my agent submitted, and they bit. And they’ve been wonderful to work with.

Amy: I always assume the writers of historical fiction are plotters — do you fall into that category or do you do any writing by the seat of your pants?

Katherine: How I wish I was a plotter! I am so envious of those writers who can map out a novel and then make it happen. I think it’s a special talent, but it’s one I don’t have. I’m definitely a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of person, in life and in my writing. Usually my stories begin with an image or a scene—something I dream up or just see in my mind, usually when I’m traveling—and then I go from there. My research and the story itself seem to build organically around each other. Though I am a history nut, so I guess I do already have a store of knowledge about certain periods, and that definitely helps.

With Keowee Valley, it all started with that dream woman who eventually became my protagonist, Quinn. I knew I wanted to write about the 18th century in the South Carolina backcountry, because it was a wild and dangerous place, and the Cherokee were at their most powerful. I thought, why not take Quinn from a sheltered life and drop her into all that danger and mystery, and see who she meets?

But I’d still love to be able to plot. It’s something with which I really struggle. But I couldn’t do it in 9th grade English class, and I can’t seem to do it now.

Amy: Are you working on something new? Can you share anything about it?

Katherine: Well, I have big plans for a sequel to Keowee Valley. When I wrote it, I actually dreamed the story in a series of three novels, culminating with the American Revolution. And I still plan to do this. But because there was such a long stretch of time between when I began writing Keowee Valley and when it was actually published—and I thought no one would ever read it—I began work on something new.

It’s another historical novel, set in Charleston, South Carolina, in the year leading up to the Civil War. And it’s based on the descendants of Quinn and Jack, my heroine and hero from Keowee Valley—really, on their great granddaughter. She’s a lot like Quinn: independent, smart, stubborn, adventurous. And she lives in a gilded world she’s always questioned—a world that’s literally about to explode with the opening shots of the Civil War.

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

Katherine: That’s a tough question, because I’ve always found “definitions” in general to be sticky and often limiting. And, like a lot of women writers, I get frustrated by the publishing industry’s definitions of what we write—or can write. But I think, maybe, that women’s fiction is fiction centered on women: on our lives, our wants, our many paths, our dreams. And, since as my husband says, “Women are the center of everything,” those paths inevitably spider out, touching everyone.

I read stories with male protagonists all the time, but no one’s calling them “men’s fiction.” (The history dork in me could hop up on my soapbox right now, get rolling on history and politics and gender roles and all that good stuff. But I won’t do that to your readers!) I will say, though, that I think the times are changing, and readers are changing along with them. And don’t we all want a rousing story, something that transports us, that moves us, that stays with us? With a character at the center of it all who we can love?

One of my husband’s friends, who happens to be a man, told me he’s reading a chapter of Keowee Valley every night in the bathtub. I think this is hilarious and wonderful. So, I guess, to me, women’s fiction is, simply, darn good fiction.

Amy: Can you share with us your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?

Katherine: I know it’s been said a thousand times, but PERSISTANCE. Unwavering persistence toward your goal of writing is imperative. There’s no way it’ll happen otherwise. And maybe persistence partnered with patience (that and humility). It’s okay if it takes you a decade, if you’re sidetracked by work, school, kids, grandkids, illness, change—all the tough and wonderful things that make a great life. Just keep at it. These are the things I continue to tell myself.

Oh, and find yourself a partner-in-crime. Someone—a buddy or a lover—who believes in you and what you’re doing. Who won’t let you back down, no matter what. Those folks are priceless.

Katherine Scott Crawford was born and raised in the blue hills of the South Carolina Upcountry, the history and setting of which inspired Keowee Valley. Winner of a North Carolina Arts Award, she is a former newspaper reporter and outdoor educator, a college English teacher, and an avid hiker. She lives with her family in the mountains of Western North Carolina, where she tries to resist the siren call of her passport as she works on her next novel. Visit her website at www.katherinescottcrawford.com for more information, or to connect with her via Facebook and at her blog, The Writing Scott.

Author Kelly O’Connor McNees Says: Recommit To Your Purpose Every Day, And Write The Book You Want To Read

It’s been just about 18 months since I launched Women’s Fiction Writers, can you believe it?  And in that time I’ve featured debut women’s fiction authors, best-selling women’s fiction authors, some indie women’s fiction authors.  But one of the most special things to me is when the author being featured is an author I’ve admired for a long time.  Another favorite thing is when an author is an IRL (in real life) friend.  Well, Kelly O’Connor McNees is both!  So this is an extra-special day for me (oh, this isn’t about me? oops!).  I connected with Kelly because I read and adored her first book, THE LOST SUMMER OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT. I looked up the author website and sent an email, because that’s what I do, and did, even before I had a publisher or an agent (always appreciated by authors, by the way).  Then last Spring or maybe late Winter, we met in real life, in downtown Chicago, with another author friend, Renee Rosen.  We made that transition from acquaintances to friends.  From online to in real life.  And then Kelly’s second book came out, another historical novel, IN NEED OF A GOOD WIFE, and I knew that it fit neatly under the women’s fiction umbrella we’ve discussed so often here at Women’s Fiction Writers.  It’s a book with a lot of visual history, which to me means it creates pictures in my head that are vibrant, detailed, and real, ones I refer to again and again. And the three main characters are ones I was thrilled to follow on their literal and metaphorical journey to Nebraska where they went to meet their husbands.  I highly recommend both books (that doesn’t surprise you, I’m guessing!)

Please welcome, my friend, Kelly O’Connor McNees, to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

P.S. I’ve shared more photos of Kelly and me at the end of the interview! 

Author Kelly O’Connor McNees Says: Recommit To Your Purpose Every Day, And Write The Book You Want To Read

Amy: Kelly!! Congratulations on the publication of your second historical novel, IN NEED OF A GOOD WIFE! Can you share with us where you got the idea for this novel?

Kelly: I had been thinking for a long time about a story that involved women homesteaders in the years following the Civil War, when the government was offering cheap land to Americans willing to move west and settle it. But I wasn’t exactly sure what shape the story would take until I found Chris Enss’s book Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier, and I knew I wanted to write a novel about women who arranged to marry men they’d never met.

Amy: How was it different publishing your second novel from publishing your first?

Kelly: It’s an awful cliche to say that book publishing is in a “time of transition,” but it is true. My first novel, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, was published in 2010, and I have seen change even since then. The big challenge continues to be how can authors connect with readers who haven’t heard about their books? Of course we have plenty of avenues online–Goodreads, book blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and more–but I think most people still buy the books they hear about from their friends. To me, that means the most important thing a writer must focus on is writing compelling, well-crafted fiction readers will enjoy.

Amy: Aspiring authors, and published authors, can get increasingly discouraged. How do you side step the publishing-me-blues? Or don’t you? Any tips appreciated!

Kelly: I think you have to recommit, every day, to your purpose as a writer. I also think you have to control what you can control, and let the rest go. For me that means keeping my focus on practicing and improving my writing, reading widely, and participating in my literary community. I cannot control how many copies of my books will sell, and whether I will continue to be published. But I can control how hard I work.

Amy: We’ve discussed the definition of women’s fiction here many times – and the broad umbrella the genre provides. There was no doubt that IN NEED OF A GOOD WIFE falls under that umbrella. What is your definition of women’s fiction?

Kelly: I have mixed feelings about this term because to me it means, simply, fiction about women’s lives. But to others in the reading world, it is a disparaging term. I had a man ask me recently whether In Need of a Good Wife was “for guys,” and I had to take a deep breath before responding. The idea that a story that focuses primarily on women will not interest men is alarming to say the least. I and most women I know read about men’s lives all the time. Most lauded fiction is concerned with men’s experiences. Your wife is a woman; your sisters and mother and daughters are women, but women in fiction don’t interest you? I’m sorry, but what a crock of shit.

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

Kelly: Write the book you want to read.

Kelly O’Connor McNees has worked as a teacher and editor and lives with her husband and daughter in Chicago.

You can find out more about Kelly and her books on her website.

The author and her book at The Lake Forest Book Store in Lake Forest, Illinois.

Kelly reading from IN NEED OF A GOOD WIFE. This was before the smoke alarm went off in the store, and in every store on the block.

Me and Kelly after the alarms were turned off. We’re smiling because we’re happy, and because it’s quiet.

On a 100 degree day in Chicago, me, Kelly, and Renee Rosen chill with fish tacos and wine on Michigan Avenue.

Author Erika Robuck’s Journey To Publication Takes Her Back In Time As She Heads For The Future

My path crosses with Erika Robuck’s in so many places that I truly don’t remember where or how we first met! What I do remember very well is how I felt when I read an early copy of Hemingway’s Girl. It’s an incredibly vivid fictional account of a young woman who works for Ernest Heminway in 1935 Key West.  I felt transported to a time and place I’d never been, and I felt like I was looking inside the life of a famous author through the eyes of someone else. While this is not a book about Hemingway, it does circle around him and the character plays a major role, while not being the main attraction. The main attraction is Mariella, the Cuban-American maid.  It’s a book you don’t want to miss. And Erika has three more books on the horizon — there is just no stopping her — and I couldn’t be more pleased for her, or more proud to know her. And lucky me — I will meet Erika next week at a reading near Chicago. So, photos to come! 

Please give Erika Robuck a warm welcome to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Author Erika Robuck’s Journey To Publication Takes Her Back In Time As She Heads For The Future

My love of writing began when I was seven. I composed a terrible play about a king who falsely accused a jester of stealing his crown. It was just one page but very poignant, I thought. Then I moved onto poetry and song writing. After two awful novels—one in middle school and one in high school—college brought a lot of angst-filled short fiction and essays.

About ten years ago when my first son was born, the novel again surfaced, demanding my attention. My son’s naptimes allowed me regular blocks of time to devote to writing, and I completed my first novel about a haunted, Caribbean sugar plantation, called RECEIVE ME FALLING. After several years of revisions and rewrites, I started to query agents. My query letter had almost no relevant biography. I had no publishing experience or web presence of any kind. I received some requests for partial and full reads of the manuscript, but I kept getting rejections that had to do more with me and my lack of platform and experience than the novel itself. I also heard from more than one agent that novels set in two time periods by first time writers were very difficult to sell, but to please consider submitting in the future if I wrote another manuscript.

In the meantime, some friends of mine in book clubs asked to read the book. My husband encouraged me to self-publish. At first I dismissed the suggestion. There was, at the time, a heavy stigma against writers who self-published and I didn’t want to make any mistakes in my writing career. My goal was always to get a traditional publisher. I started to think more seriously about it, however, when I read an article about a woman who self-published with great success, and went on to get a contract with a traditional publisher. My book club friends continued to ask for the book. Finally I decided that I’d self-publish, see how many sales and reviews I could get, and hopefully, find my way to a traditional publisher.

I’m very happy with my decision. RECEIVE ME FALLING sold well and I got many good reviews. I also started blogging, guest blogging, reviewing books, and attending more conferences. I wrote a new novel set entirely in 1935, HEMINGWAY’S GIRL, and worked with both a writing partner and critique group throughout the process. I received a scholarship to the Breakout Novel Intensive based on the first fifty pages of the book, and at the conference, received the feedback of a panel of editors that helped propel my manuscript to a new place.

My beloved book clubs started asking for the new novel, but I felt strongly that a traditional publisher would take it. I decided to try to pitch agents. If the response was strong I’d try the traditional route. If the response was lukewarm I’d consider rewriting it and self-publishing again. With HEMINGWAY’S GIRL, 95% of the agents I queried requested a partial within a week of receiving the letter. 50% of them asked for a full read. One of them asked for an excusive read, which I very politely refused. Ultimately, I chose Kevan Lyon for her quick response time, our rapport on the phone, her vision for the book, her love of historical fiction, and her enthusiasm.

We spent a couple of weeks putting the final polish on the manuscript and then Kevan started querying. I again received a very positive response from the publishers, with many requests for full reads. In the end, we accepted NAL’s offer for a two-book deal, and HEMINGWAY’S GIRL just came out on September 4th, 2012.

There were many times along the journey when I wanted to quit, when my skin wasn’t thick enough, when it felt like I was spending too much time and money on a hobby that was making me frustrated and difficult to be around when it wasn’t going well. The odds often seemed impossible.

The support of my family and friends, tribe building through social media, and plain stubbornness finally helped me reach my goal. I am thankful every day for all of the support of the writers, bloggers, reviewers, book clubs, friends, and family who encouraged me.

And now, in the wise words of one of my Breakout Novel editors, the work begins.

* * *

HEMINGWAY’S GIRL is the story of a young woman in Key West who takes a job as a housekeeper for Ernest Hemingway to support her widowed mother and save for a charter boat business. She finds herself caught between an unexpected flirtation with the writer and a relationship with a WWI vet and boxer working on the overseas highway. Storms brewing in her relationships come to crisis as a hurricane threatens to destroy the Keys and all those she holds dear. From the bars and boxing rings of Key West to the Bahamian island of Bimini, Hemingway’s Girl explores the worth of the individual, the gulf between the classes, and the boundaries of human hunger.

Erika Robuck was born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland. Inspired by the cobblestones, old churches, Georgian homes, and mingling of past and present from the Eastern Shore, to the Annapolis City Dock, to the Baltimore Harbor, her passion for history is constantly nourished. Her first novel, RECEIVE ME FALLING, is a best books awards finalist in historical fiction from USA Book News, and her second novel, HEMINGWAY’S GIRL, was published by NAL/Penguin in September of 2012.

Erika is a contributor to popular fiction blog, Writer Unboxed, has guest blogged on Jane Friedman’s There Are No Rules, and maintains her own blog called Muse. She is a member of the Maryland Writer’s Association, The Hemingway Society, and The Historical Novel Society. She spends her time on the East Coast with her husband and three sons.

http://www.erikarobuck.com