Friday, August 11, 2017

Shifting Genre

Author Deborah Heal, former high school teacher, has had a successful career as an author with two popular series, five books in the Rewinding Time and History trilogy (book 1, Time and Again, is .99 on Amazon Kindle), Christian time travel. The series are interconnected and garnered hundreds of reviews. Now Heal is trying her hand at retelling biblical stories in contemporary times. The stories will be part of another series, Love Blooms at Bethel, and take place in America's Heartland. The first book is based on the Old Testament book of Ruth. Ruth followed her mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Bethlehem after their husbands died. In this modern-day trope, Heal recreates the beautiful story of redemption from the perspective of the lonely widow who didn't realize what she was missing until she helped her mother-in-law reclaim her life. We also experience the other side, Boaz, in the contemporary version aka Neil (read the book to learn his middle name) who really does know what he's missing after a bad experience.

How do Heal's fans like this change?

Within the first month of publication, her Amazon ratings remain high, in the top couple hundred, fluctuating for genre, and one point I saw in the 2K for sales. Out of 10 million, that's pretty good! But the reviews from paid customers says it best. More than one mention sticking with Heal after reading the time travel stories, even though romance wasn't something they'd normally pick up. One reviewer expressed some disappointment...but you know, if a reader wants to admit they don't read the cover or look at it, there's really not much an author can do.

Heal interacts with her fan base, and has a good system of pre-promotion, Her author blog is not overbearing and contains fun facts that go along with her stories. I hope she continues with the Bethel books. I have farming in my family history, but livestock and grains, not fruit farming, so I enjoyed learning something...even in a romance.


A modern retelling of the Old Testament story of Ruth—a sweet romance about courage, loyalty, and second chances.

When Julia passes through the small town of Coldwater, driving her screeching pickup with her mother-in-law and everything she owns in the RV they’re towing, all she wants is to get Helen settled on what’s left of the family farm and hurry back to civilization.

Julia’s still mourning her husband, and so romance is the last thing on her mind. But whenever Neil Ashe shows up, the attraction between them flares—even though his divorce has left him leery of city women. Neil, a distantly-related farmer, thinks it’s his job to make all their problems go away. Will Julia stubbornly go it alone, holding on to both her pride and the memory of her husband, or will she ask Neil 
to come to the rescue—and into her heart?

My review:

I was a Deborah Heal fan before I learned she was working on a series of Biblical fiction set in contemporary times. This story of Ruth and Naomi is a beautiful and timeless story perfectly fit for today. I learned a lot about the setting and fully enjoyed the characters as they played out the loyalty, despair and love that go along with making a forever commitment. I adore too-good-to-be-true heroes, even though they make me sigh into tomorrow and realize they're not perfect. That only makes them sweeter. We don't get to know Boaz's inner angst in the Bible, but the author of Holding On made an excellent and determined effort to show it.

No, it's not the time traveling adventure of her earlier series, but shows Heal's versatility, and you know...in a way, we do time travel here in this story that parallels the biblical romance of Ruth and Boaz. Recommended for teens and up. Told from multiple viewpoints.

3.99 eBook
11.99 Print

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Copy Edits---the Ignored Necessity

A friend is doing a massive favor for me and the other authors of a collection we've already released. She's doing the copy edit we should've done to begin with.

Even though I had already edited the bulk of the stories included in the collection, our friend is finding a gazillion mistakes. She says she hates going in and editing after someone else has edited because she's afraid she'll offend the other editor.

Far from the truth. Actually, it shores up my contention that manuscripts need at least two edits prior to release.

I'm primarily a content editor. My friend is a copy editor. The things that I pay most attention to pertain to the craft of writing; the things she pays most attention to pertain to the mechanics of writing. The mistakes she's finding in our novellas pertain to the mechanics---things I tend to overlook as the first-round editor.

When it comes to sentence construction and punctuation, I tend to be more intuitive. I punctuate as I want the sentence read, because after all, that's basically the function of punctuation. Periods draw the reader to a full stop; commas provide a pause; semicolons offer a pause between two complete sentences---but are unnecessary, in my opinion, if the sentences are short; and dashes insert parentheticals much more casually than parentheses for the purpose of fiction. My sentence structure tends to be written as I hear it in my head, regardless of whether it follows the rules.

Does this mean the rules are not important? Nope. Whenever my friend corrects my work, I realize that, for the most part, she's right.

Although I'm not the "comma momma" that she is, I do know there are rules to punctuation, and I know how to find them. She's just better with them than I am. Considerably better, which is why she's the newest addition to my team. She catches me when I've hyphenated words that are supposed to be either two separate words or are actually one word (I'm learning to look up things more often now). She also catches sentence construction that is off and needs to be rearranged. She is exceptional at what she does.

Still, after she has edited one of my pieces, I go through and determine the revisions based on a simple concept: Does her correction coincide with the way I want my sentence to be read? The majority of the time, the answer is yes. On the rare occasions the answer is no, I have to decide whether her way reads better and/or provides more clarity. Sometimes I rewrite the sentence; sometimes I overrule her. I'm the author. I have that right. Sentence construction is part of what illustrates my voice.

I have certain peculiarities in my writing, techniques I use periodically to indicate how I want something to be read, that she's forever marking and I'm forever ignoring. It has more to do with the pace and rhythm of the work or the character's illustrated personality than it does with the correctness of the sentence construction.

But that doesn't give me carte blanche to ignore my editor. For one thing, my techniques are not to be used frequently throughout a piece or they'd lose their effectiveness and become a distraction. The second point is this: We are to write to our smartest reader, and that reader would not appreciate a piece in which the mechanics of writing are constantly ignored as if the novel were written by a first-grader.

The American population has slipped considerably from the use of proper grammar. If you don't believe me, just ask whomever is closest to you to determine the usage differences of "who" and "whom." But though we're more casual, we still have rules of writing. As is true with everything we write, we authors are blind to our own mistakes---including those a copy editor could catch. Even if we know the rules, we sometimes don't see when we've missed them.

Editing is the most expensive part of indie publishing, but it's vital. If you're a serious writer, you already know this. You plan ahead and save for it, or you suck it up and pay the bill outright. You can also make payment arrangements with your editor.

Or you can do as I did and network with professionals you can exchange favors with or at least earn discounts from. Best place to do that is in professional writers organizations. Each genre has its own group. Seek it out and spend the time and money necessary to join and participate. Gain friends and team members. It'll save tons in the long run, not to mention all the other benefits inherent in belonging to a professional organization.

Free advice: However you arrange to pay for it, don't limit yourself to one edit.
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Monday, August 7, 2017

12 Points to Consider Before Becoming a Writer

At some point in our lives, or maybe at several points, we're faced with deciding what direction we want to take with our profession or if we're ready to take on a second livelihood. We might be tied into a particular job for multiple reasons--great pay, pension, healthcare--and those are all legitimate reasons to stay. And if that job takes twenty hours of your day, each and every day of the week, perhaps you shouldn't be thinking about moving into another career, or side job, or hobby.

But if it doesn't or if you're considering a change in career, and if you feel the tug to be a writer, now or sometime in the future when the kids are grown, you're retired, or you just feel you have the time, then think about some of the following points to see if you're suited for the writer's life.

1.     If you think nothing of carrying on a conversation with the people in your head, you might be a writer. If you find yourself eavesdropping on those same people in your head, even if you're not conversing with them, you certainly could be a writer. While it might sound silly, it's a common practice for writers to rehearse scenes in our heads as we test dialogue, see how characters interact with one another, or just plot out a certain part of the book. It's as natural to us as practicing the piano is to a pianist. I imagine they sometimes rehearse in their heads; we're no different.

2.     If watching people around you, checking out their mannerisms, how they stand, sit, walk, converse with others, how they discipline their children or talk to their spouse or friends, is comfortable and natural for you, you could be a writer.

Smooth sailing toward my goal of successful author! Wait...
that's not me. That's a kite. An otter kite. And it's heading
straight for that tree branch on the right. Such an easy mistake
to make: author-otter. Yep. 
3.     If you see someone and think to yourself, "What a great so-and-so (name of character in your manuscript/short story/head) she would be!" then you could be a writer. Ditto if you run home and write down his/her description for future reference.

4.     If everyday events trigger ideas for a story, then you might consider becoming a writer. If you can't get through a day without coming up with story ideas, you could very well become a writer.

6.     If you find yourself taking notes (physically or mentally) while reading a book, you might have the stuff to be a writer. And if you find yourself correcting someone's grammar, punctuation, or other aspects of a book, you should think about being a writer (or even an editor).

7.     If you don't mind working by yourself for sizable chunks of time, you could be a writer. Yes, writing is a far less solitary endeavor than it was even twenty years ago, but for the most part the actual writing--sitting down at the computer and pounding out words--should be done while you're alone or with very quiet people... except for #8, that is.

8.    On the other hand, if you can concentrate well with chaos all around you--kids, pets, spouse, television, maybe the neighbor's kids--you could also be a writer. It depends on how much noise and distraction you can filter out while thinking clearly and actually writing something worthwhile. I spent many an evening writing my first manuscript with the ruckus of three teenagers all around me. In fact, for a while there it was difficult for me to write when it was quiet. I needed the background noise.

9.     If you don't mind starting at the bottom of the heap and working your way upward, paying your dues, working hard and taking direction, accepting constructive criticism (mean-spirited criticism should never be accepted), constantly straining forward to learn more, write more, accept rejection (because it will come), read, read, and read some more, and write every chance you have to get better and better at your craft, you might just have what it takes to be a writer.

10.     If you have a natural talent for writing, you should definitely consider becoming a writer. If you don't seem to have an innate ability, try taking some college courses to see if it can be drawn out of you or if you even enjoy it. A lot of writing, at least in my experience, seems to be intuitive. If you feel you have the ability to honestly view your writing as either good and in need of more work (and all writers, successful or not, have to keep learning and striving to become better), or hopeless and no amount of work will change that fact, it will take you a long way to making the final decision. A lot of what makes a good writer can be learned. Some of it cannot.

11.     If you can live with the fact that you probably won't be the next J.K. Rowling or John Grisham, you could be a writer. If you're bound and determined to hit the bestseller lists first time out you're either deluded, optimistic, incredibly driven, or ... right. You just might be right! Just because most of us won't reach the pinnacle of the bestseller lists on a regular basis doesn't mean you won't. Perhaps you'll be that one in a million. If you can accept those odds, go for it! (And that's not to denigrate those who won't reach the top of the heap. There's only so much room up there or else we'd all be there and there'd be nobody below us to keep those mid-lists warm.)

12.     If you think writing a book will make you rich and that's the reason you're doing it, you're fooling yourself and should probably drop the idea of being a writer. If, on the other hand, you want to write whether you make a dime or not, if you can't help yourself from writing, then you have what it takes to be a writer. A few of us get rich. Many of us write and eventually get published. Some of us, rich or not, make a mark on our fellow human beings. Frankly, as much as I'd enjoy making more money writing books than I do, I'd opt for influencing fellow human beings in a positive way any day of the week. If you can live with the idea that you might not make enough money in a year to pay for your internet access, but you have readers who love your work and tell you what a difference you've made in their lives, well, you're definitely writer material.

No two ways about it.


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Friday, August 4, 2017

August 2017 Christian Releases

August 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Action/Adventure:




Imperfect Lies by Elizabeth Noyes -- When another woman emerges from the past to claim Mallory Cameron's happily ever after, she cuts her losses and sets out to find a headline-worthy story to launch her journalism career. She embarks on a whirlwind journey that takes her across the United States, to the blue-green waters of the Caribbean, on to sunny Mexico, and deep into the dangerous parts of Africa where terror reigns. James Evers turned his back on a life of power and privilege to carve a place in the world for himself. Now that he's finally discovered his niche as a small-town sheriff and found the woman he wants in his future, a past indiscretion struts in on high heels and sends his newfound love fleeing headlong into peril. His mission: neutralize old enemies, defuse new threats, resolve past mistakes, settle family disputes, and—most importantly—find and rescue his woman from terrorists before the unthinkable happens. (Action/Adventure from Write Integrity Press)



Contemporary Romance:




The Bachelor’s Unexpected Family by Lisa Carter -- Young widow Kristina Montgomery moves to Kiptohanock, Virginia, hoping it will give her and her teenage son, Gray, a fresh start. She longs for the peace and quiet only a small town can provide. But her plans are thwarted by her new neighbor, Canyon Collier, a former Coast Guard pilot and a crop duster. Gray is instantly drawn to the pilot and his teenage niece, Jade—and Kristina's not far behind. She and Canyon are soon bonding over parenting their charges and their spark becomes undeniable. Could it be that the spirited pilot is just what Kristina needs to teach her heart to soar again? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])




Gift of the Magpie by Zoe M. McCarthy -- Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia, has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, Amanda’s heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high-school Valentine’s Day date. Camden may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)




A Mother for Leah by Rachel L. Miller --It’s been ten years since Leah Fisher’s mother died in a buggy accident. But when Leah’s father shows interest in Naomi Yoder, Leah isn’t ready for a new mother. Will Leah be able to let go of her own ideas and realize that God truly does know best for her or will she allow love to slip through her fingers, destroying Samuel Fisher and Naomi Yoder's happiness at the same time? (Contemporary from S & G Publishing)



General Contemporary:





Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli -- An antique ring reunites a Boston Marathon bombing survivor with the man who saved her. Together they unearth the two-hundred-year- old history of a woman who suffered tremendous loss in the Boston Massacre, a woman torn between the love of two men – one a patriot, one a Redcoat. (General Contemporary from Tyndale House)



Fresh Faith by Elise Phillips -- Joy Abbott had been trying to start her life over for years -- and failing. Then a letter summoned her to Texas and everything changed. (General Contemporary from Desert Breeze Publishing)

Historical:





Enchanted Isle by Melanie Dobson -- In the spring of 1958, Jenny Winter embarks on a two-month adventure to a quaint village in England’s magical Lake District. With a new camera and an eye for capturing the beauty others miss, she can’t wait to explore the heathery fells and mystical waters. Adrian Kemp, a handsome and enigmatic local, makes the sightseeing even more beguiling. When Adrian shows Jenny his late father’s abandoned dream, a deserted island amusement park, she glimpses a kindred spirit in this reckless, haunted young man. Yet as she opens her heart to Adrian, the two stumble into a mystery leading back a generation to an unforgettable romance and an unsolved murder. As long-held secrets come to light, it’s left to Jenny and Adrian to put the past to rest and restore a lost dream. (Historical from Waterfall Press)



Titus: The Aristocrat by Katheryn Maddox Haddad -- Titus intends to become a famous lawyer in the Roman Empire. Instead, he is sent by Paul to arbitrate between arch enemies in wild Corinth, wilder Crete, and wildest Dalmatia. In each place he suffers. But, long before that, he suffers from guilt over the death of his mother when he was eleven years old. How does Titus survive it all? (Historical from Northern Lights Publishing House)



Historical Romance:





To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander -- With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society's expectations must work together to achieve their dreams - provided the truth doesn't tear them apart first. (Historical Romance from Zondervan)



The Second Chance Brides Collection by Lauralee Bliss, Angela Breidenbach, Ramona K. Cecil, Pamela Griffin, Grace Hitchcock, Pam Hillman, Laura V. Hilton, Tiffany Amber Stockton, and Liz Tolsma -- Meet nine women who each believe their chance for lifelong love has passed them by. From the girls who lost their beaus to war, to the wallflowers overshadowed by others, and the widows deeply hurt by their loss, the desire to love and be loved spans American history from 1777 to 1944. Experience the sweet pull of romance on each life and the blossom of faith that leads them to brighter futures. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)




The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman -- Anxious for his brothers to join him on the rugged frontier along the Mississippi River, Connor O’Shea has no choice but to indenture himself as a carpenter in exchange for their passage from Ireland. But when he’s sold to Isabella Bartholomew of Breeze Hill Plantation, Connor fears he’ll repeat past mistakes and vows not to be tempted by the lovely lady. The responsibilities of running Breeze Hill have fallen on Isabella’s shoulders after her brother was found dead in the swamps along the Natchez Trace and a suspicious fire devastated their crops, almost destroyed their home, and left her father seriously injured. Even with Connor’s help, Isabella fears she’ll lose her family’s plantation. Despite her growing feelings for the handsome Irish carpenter, she seriously considers accepting her wealthy and influential neighbor’s proposal of marriage. Soon, though, Connor realizes someone is out to eliminate the Bartholomew family. Can he set aside his own feelings to keep Isabella safe? (Historical Romance from Tyndale House)



Romantic Suspense:





Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason -- When a photo leads investigators in West Ireland to open a twenty-five-year-old cold case, Elite Guardians bodyguard Haley Callaghan's life is suddenly in danger. Haley knows how to take care of herself; after all, she's made a career out of taking care of others. But after she has an uncomfortably close call, Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to stay with her--and the young client she has taken under her wing. A protector at heart, he's not about to let Haley fight this battle alone. In a sweeping plot that takes them into long-buried memories--and the depths of the heart--Haley and Steven will have to solve the mystery of Haley's past while dodging bullets, bombs, and bad guys who just won't quit. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [Baker])



Plain Retribution by Dana R. Lynn -- Ten years ago while on rumspringa, Rebecca Miller and her friends were kidnapped and held captive…and now, living in the English world, she's nearly abducted again. One by one her friends who once helped send their abductor to jail are targeted, and she is next…unless police officer Miles Olsen can stop a killer. Deaf since birth, the only person on the force that Rebecca can communicate with is Miles, and he needs this case to redeem himself of past mistakes. When the relentless killer tracks them deep into the heart of Amish country, protecting Rebecca must be Miles's sole focus. Because a mistake this time will cost something worth more to him than his job—the woman he's falling for. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])



Cold Blooded by Anne Patrick -- Detective Gwen Jamison has the highest closure rate in her division, but a string of armed robberies is about to take over her life. Not only will her job be on the line, but the troubling case also wreaks havoc on her personal life. Lieutenant Ian McKean knew he would have his hands full when he took over leadership of the detectives unit. He wasn't prepared for the headstrong Detective Jamison, though, who quickly becomes a thorn in his side. If they can stop butting heads long enough they might realize they are more alike than either imagined. (Romantic Suspense from Anne Patrick)



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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

To Laugh or Not to Laugh: That Is the Question

I used to read humor every chance I got--Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry, in particular. I loved the belly laughs, the ways they expressed themselves, and the unforeseen twists in the stories they told.

Then I stopped. Not because I didn't still love humor, but because I started to write it. Maybe that's a mistake. I guess time will tell. I realized after I started to write that while I'd been learning from the masters all the while I read them (and I'll always be grateful for what they taught me), I didn't want to emulate them. I wanted my humor to be strictly my own and not something I borrowed from someone else. That might be misconception on my part. Maybe we can't "copy" humor; maybe funny is funny, and there's no way we can help ourselves from duplicating humor. After all, it's been said that, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV) (That comes from a darned reliable reference book too!)

Here's a little known aquatic creature known around these parts as the "Loch Ness Monster 2.0. The Alaska Version." People have been sighting this aberration for ... well, at least one day, I guess. Not really. That's a couple of swans in varying stages of head dunking. See what I mean? I could so easily have plagiarized that famous Scottish monster by simply adding 2.0 and taking all the credit myself. Shame on me, and shame on that ridiculous pair of swans. They don't look Scottish at all.
So why do I think it's okay for mystery writers to read mysteries, romance writers to read romance, etc., yet I hesitate to read humor? After all, while I consider my work to be humorous/inspirational, my books often contain a mystery. Am I not fearful of copying some other author's mystery? Nope. For one thing, I'd have to be pretty doggoned dense to copy a mystery and not realize it. There are so many facets of a mystery that to copy it would be plagiarism, not emulation. There are so many different things to consider in a mystery--the protagonist, antagonist, setting, circumstances, body count, etc.--that coming up with something different isn't difficult. That's not to say that someone hasn't taken an existing mystery, switched up a couple of things, and called it their own. I don't agree with that, but I suppose it's been done.

But copying someone else's humor is akin to stealing their mannerisms, speech patterns, thought processes. I don't mean it's more grievous to steal humor than it is to steal other types of writing, but it's a noticeable theft. A humorist (or any other kind of author) can write in a similar manner as another and might even be compared to one, but I think humor is as unique to a writer as his fingerprints. I want to convey humor through the lens of Deborah Dee Harper, and hope like crazy it approaches one-tenth of the laughing power of Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry.

So is it wrong for a writer to read in his or her genre? In my opinion, no. That's how we learn. We pick up, consciously or subconsciously, what works and what doesn't. We get a feel for the proper way to pace a story, how to flesh out our characters, and the art of dialogue. It's all an important part of our training, and although our learning never stops, that initial education is paramount to our success. It's just a personal choice of mine not to read humor, as much as I would love to, because I don't want my subconscious to pick up on something and lo and behold, have it appear in my next book.

How about you? Do you read in your genre? Why or why not?
   

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Monday, July 31, 2017

PERSISTENCE with guest Lisa Hainline

THIS LITTLE PIGGY FINALLY GOT TO MARKET


By Lisa Hainline

It was 18 years ago and struggling to homeschool a child who was in and out of the ER, doctor’s offices, with one more disease being “tagged” to her almost each time we went, and a husband who was checking out of life, that drove me to my knees.

This precious girl, trying to be brave at every turn, was like a runaway freight train with her ideas and ambition. At six I found her outside the house (and too close to the road for my comfort) in the front yard with a table and sign she had made to sell her rocks that she had painted herself. With new boundaries in place, she eventually made $300 and bought herself a dog! This venture opened the door towards four adventures more into entrepreneurship, each with its own incredible story, using her gifts and talents, and with NO prompting from me.

Sammey Char was my inspiration. One day during our reading time, the idea of Polly came to be, and the poetic prose just flowed out. I am not a writer and certainly not a poet (struggling see the beauty if I cannot understand it most of the time), so this was quite a surprise. Next came the thumbnails for the story and characters that also seemed just to flow out.

                                

As an artist and designer, I illustrated two of the spreads and sent a dummy of the book to 53 publishers. Three publishers loved it, writing that they had already “fulfilled their juvenile fiction quota for the year, but please send us your next work.” Life was hectic at the time and homeschooling a sick child was all I could do, so the Lord said to me, “You will revisit this, it’s okay,” and I let it go.

Present time circumstances had found me in an uncompromising position of having to move in with her and her husband, as my present husband also “checked out of life” and abandoned me. My freelance business almost came to a stop, allowing for the move north to San Jose, CA, and I spent eight months looking for work in my field to no avail. The Lord said to me “if I had wanted you to work, I would have given you a job months ago” and then reminded me of this book. “REALLY, LORD? I can’t relax! I have to hustle!” I responded.

That night, I went downstairs, and the kids knew I was stressed and said; “STOP STRIVING! Pretend you’re retired and just ‘be,’ relax.” And then Sam said “Remember that children’s book you did years ago? DO THAT!” Confirmed, I jumped into learning how to illustrate digitally versus using paper and paint, as I had no space to set up a drawing board, and I revisited my “old friend.”

Once I started illustrating again, it set a whole new creative “fire” in me. I took my sketch pad into the bathroom with me because as I showered, I would see images in the marble tiling, animals and characters and I found the need to record them.  I posted my progress on Facebook and people would encourage me on. Some would see the stuffed animals I was incorporating into my story (because I loved Polly’s stuffed pig that she drags everywhere) and they would ask me to add THEIR pet, so there is a hedgehog on one of the pages and a friend’s new terrier puppy on another.  

Adding a coloring book to the campaign was a natural as I had many people who loved the original black and white dummy 18 years ago and worked very hard at NOT coloring it in. The line work just seemed to beg for a black and white version, so I illustrated the book in line and added in some simpler illustrations for younger grades along with blank pages that included “idea starters” to get imaginations flowing.

My greatest encourager (and harshest CRITIC) through this process was my daughter still. She is responsible for many things in the book including the book’s front cover when I wanted to use it as the title page (the original design I wanted to use was then incorporated into the cover for the coloring book). It was she who chastised me for putting alligator shoes on a moose; “MOM, that’s like an animal wearing FUR! You can’t kill off your friends!” So we put ruby red slippers on her instead, thinking it still is funny to those who know “the rest of the story.”

Polly’s Pink Piggy Parlor had blessed me in much more ways throughout this process, like when I had confusion on how to do the strokes digitally so that it would look like watercolor versus acrylic paint, and the Lord Himself would speak to me upon awakening with technique, and I had never tried.  My imagination was always on so in trying to sleep, visions of some of the characters hairstyles or such would come to me, and just knowing that His hand guided me every step of the way was a huge blessing, no matter if it sells any books or not.
 
I recently heard from a young mother whose 12-year-old autistic son laughs openly at the book and requests it to be read to him the following day, both of which he’s never done before. We’ve developed a friendship and he’s made huge strides in clarity, sleeping, peace and not rages, and responding to Love as I encouraged her to pray over him, take communion and authority over his body through Christ Jesus and the power of His love. If that’s all this was about…I can receive that.

As we are made in the image of the creator, I rest in the surety that the more we pursue Him, the more ideas He gives us and creates THROUGH us. I have started other storylines and characters and again, am content whether they make it to press or not. He is the master creator, master designer, master illustrator, and master marketer.

In His grace,

Lisa Hainline

Author, Illustrator & Graphic Designer


Read Lisa Lickel's reviews here and here.
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Friday, July 28, 2017

Interview with Lisa Wingate - Part 2 - Writing Tips


 Today is Part 2 of Lisa Wingate's interview regarding her new book, Before We Were Yours. This part is all about writing!

9.   Who gave you your first big break as a writer, and how long did it take you to “get discovered?”

I was fairly fortunate in getting started, although mine is not one of those magical Cinderella stories. I spent about a year writing Tending Roses, my first mainstream novel, mostly while my little ones were napping or playing. When it was finished, I edited it repeatedly and then sought agents for it. I did that in the typical way — researched, used Writer’s Market, and sent queries to the agents.

While I was trying to sell, I wrote a second novel called Texas Cooking. Lisa Hagan of Paraview Literary Agency called me out of the blue one day, having read the partial of Tending Roses. She said she was crying and couldn’t wait to read the rest. I sent it. A couple weeks later, her rejection came via email. I was crushed. Weeks after that, she called and told me she couldn’t stop thinking about the book and, if I wasn’t mad at her, she felt she was meant to agent it. I wasn’t and she did. She sold both books to Penguin Putnam six or eight months later. I completely forgave her for having rejected me in the first place.

1    10.    How has publishing changed since you started?

I predate the days of electronic submissions, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and writer’s “platforms.” When I started, success was all about the in-store placement of physical books. I still remember my first editor telling me, “Oh, Lisa, don’t bother looking at your Amazon rating. That’s such a small percentage of the market. It means nothing.”

My, how times have changed! Now entire careers are built on e-books and Amazon. Many authors have chosen to publish their own works. Life is faster. Authors are hit with more marketing demands, in terms of online platforms and so forth. People are busier and more fractured.
The upside of this change is that there’s more opportunity for new authors to step into the business and it’s easier for authors to maintain relationships with readers. I’m not sure that I prefer one age of publishing over the other; they’re just different. There’s good and bad in everything.


11.   What advice would you give aspiring authors?

            First, remember that everyone starts out as a yet-to-be-published author. I know it sounds elementary, but don’t attempt to set out into the publishing world until you’re fully ready. In other words, begin by finishing a novel. It’s almost impossible to sell a partial manuscript or idea if you’re unpublished. Polish it and send it out, because as much as we’d like them to, editors won’t come looking in your desk drawer.
            Yes, showing your work to the world involves some risk.

            If there is a particular area of your writing that seems to be holding you back (action scenes, dialog, description, characterization, etc.) devote extensive study to this area. Seek out conference sessions and online workshops devoted to the topic. Study other authors’ techniques in this area. Don’t just read and admire—dissect, break down, take notes.

            Lastly, never marry yourself to one project. Keep creating new material—that’s where the joy is, and if you keep the joy in this business, you keep the magic of it.

           
12.   I loved reading that your first novel, Tending Roses, was inspired by your grandmother, “who was a survivor, a woman ahead of her time, and a wonderful storyteller.” Tell us more about this inspiring woman.

            I never really understood my grandmother until my first child was born. Grandma came to stay with us for a visit when the baby was still tiny.  Together, Grandma and I planted the flowerbeds around the sterile starter house my husband and I had just purchased.  As we worked, Grandma talked about simple things, like how to wind the roots around an iris bulb, or how to prune the roses.  

            When the baby grew fussy, we had to quit working and go into the house.  I was frustrated because we couldn’t finish the flowerbeds and things weren't happening on my timetable.  Grandma took the baby and settled into my rocking chair and told me to hush. When my grandmother told you to hush, believe me, you did.  Bundling my tiny son on her shoulder, she used the "grandma magic" and soon the colicky baby I could never quiet was calmly drifting off to sleep.  Closing her eyes, she rocked slowly back and forth and began telling me about her life.  She spoke of the rose garden she had planted as a new bride, and how it withered and grew wild when she became a young mother, her time occupied with caring for a family. As she finished the story, she looked at me through tears and said, “I can tend the roses from dawn until dusk now, but the best times of my life, the times that passed by me the most quickly, were the times when the roses grew wild.” 

            Something profound happened to me when my grandmother told me that story.  I had a sense of life not being just a trip from here to there, but a journey with lots of good stuff, maybe the best stuff, in the middle.  I realized I was so focused on goals down the road that I was missing the value of where I was right then, as a young mother with a beautiful new baby.  

            I also understood, for the first time, the power of an ordinary life story to change the trajectory of another person. My grandmother's story changed me. It altered my thinking. It shifted my focus. That story eventually became the basis for my first mainstream novel, Tending Roses, in which a grandmother has a profound effect on the life of her granddaughter, a young mother, through life lessons written in her handmade journal.   


13.  Writing isn’t only an art, it’s a business. How to you balance both the art and the business of writing?

            I think, in order to develop and maintain a writing career, you have to be constantly reaching — reaching for new ideas, new thoughts, new inspirations, new stories. Writing is a business of invention and reinvention, and not only on the practical side of things. The book market is constantly changing, yes, but writing itself is about inventing new worlds, new characters, and new lives. Some ideas will work out better than others and while it's hard to give up on an idea when it's not working (or when it's not selling), sometimes that's exactly what's necessary. Sometimes old ideas have to be released or left to simmer to make room for new ideas. In my own writing career, I'm always seeking a balance of what's working in the market and what speaks to me as a writer.




14.  Tell us about some of your favorite authors and how have they influenced         you?

In terms of classics, I have so many. I love the rhythm of the prose and the wisdom of Eudora Welty and Zora Neal Hurston. I love the sense of place and the intermingling of both the humorous and the profound that is so present in Mark Twain's works. What I have learned, sitting at the knee of these and other timeless writers, is exactly this — the stories that drive deepest into us are those that tell us things we already knew, that crystallize truths we’ve felt but not yet framed into words in our own minds. When a story pulls something from within the reader, it is a kidnapping, in a way. A piece of personal truth is forever tied to that story.

I think that's what we all want as writers. It’s what we seek to create on the deepest levels beyond just entertainment.  The best stories both draw on life experience and expand it to deliver meaning.


15.  Have you had help along the way in your writing career?  Who were your  mentors?

A special first grade teacher, Mrs. Krackhardt, put the idea if being a real writer into my head.  She found me writing a story one day at indoor recess, and she took the time to stop and read it.  When she was finished, she tapped the pages on the desk to straighten them, looked at me over the top and said, “You are a wonderful writer!”  From that moment, in my mind, I was a writer. When your first grade teacher tells you that you can do something, you believe it.

I was only in her class for a few months before we moved again, but during that time, she left an indelible mark on my life.  It’s funny how we have defining moments in our lives, and that time in Mrs. Krackhardt’s class was one of mine.  For years, I couldn’t have told you what she looked like, or whether she was a young teacher or an old teacher, but I could have told you that she said I was a wonderful writer.  When I left her class, she wrote on my report card, “Keep that pencil working with that wonderful imagination, Lisa!” and  “I expect to open a magazine and see her name listed among the contributors.”  I still have that report card, and I never forgot those words, or the way her confidence in me gave me confidence.  Publishing is a difficult business, but I always believed I could do it, because my first grade teacher told me so.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family of great storytellers. I classify them among my writing mentors, as well. Nights gathered around the outdoor fire pit on my grandparents’ farm were a lesson in weaving together stories in a way that could hold an audience breathless until the final line. Some of those stories were funny, and some were sentimental, but the older folks in our family could hold an audience hostage with a tale about going to the grocery store, or getting a haircut. Even from a very young age, I remember being, not only enamored with their stories, but fascinated by their skill. Reality and fiction were seamlessly intertwined to create a weave that was flawless.


16.  What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?


Probably the most beneficial thing I ever learn about the craft of writing came completely by accident. I stumbled into the wrong room at a conference ten years ago or so, and ended up in a class on Three Act Story Structure, as it applies to screenwriting. I had already wandered my way through the writing of my first few novels by then, one of which got that editorial letter – the you never want to get. The book ended up being a total rewrite.

When I attended that first course on Three Act Structure, and then began to study various outlines, it helped to gel so many things that I knew from reading, hearing, and watching stories all my life, even those oral stories and jokes told among family members at the old farm.  Almost every successful story follows Three Act, which was first identified by Aristotle.  I'm still a very organic type of writer, but understanding the outline of story structure gives me just enough bones to hang the flesh of the story on. 

Since then, I’ve taught the course many times, and it's always amazing to watch that light turn on for other people the way it did for me. There are various forms of the Three Act Structure outline. I think people often make it more complicated than it needs to be, in terms of novel writing. The simple version I use is on my website under the writers tips for anyone who is curious. Using the outline and analyzing some movies is a great way to begin to understand the arrangement of the story bones.


17.  What’s the worst writing advice you have ever been given?

This might seem to contradict my “best advice” answer, but probably the worst advice I’ve received was advice that trended more toward analytical and prescriptive. Do A, B, C, and D, and you’ll create a best seller. While there are certainly technical things to be learned, I don't think there is any certain way to put a novel together or to assure bestseller status. So many factors, including some amount of luck and timing determine the eventual sales of a book.
 
Aside from that, every writer’s process is different. There is no wrong way to go about building a novel.  What’s right is what works for you, and every writer’s process is different. I think you can get so caught up in following every new method out there that you can lose the magic of your own innate style. Ultimately, great writing is about living your story as you write, finding your own voice, and letting it seep into your story.  It's hard to do that if you have too much mental algebra going on in your head.


18.  Please explain The Sisterhood of the Traveling Books!

 In the last months leading up to the June release of Before We Were Yours, we decided to resurrect The Sisterhood of the Traveling Books, which we had done for previous books. We sent out 21 early copies to the Big Sister in each sisterhood of 4 members. The books traveled from sister to sister, on journeys all over the country.  The participants read, they jotted their thoughts right in the pages when they found passages that struck a chord or triggered a memory, they snapped a photo or two, and then they send the book on to the next sister. Many posted photos and comments on their special Facebook page, but no spoilers, of course.

The results were amazing, inspiring, and from an author’s point of view, truly heartwarming. The Sisters enjoyed the book in a whole new way because they were reading it together, forming connections, sharing memories, building friendships, linking in their own life experiences by leaving comments in the book. It’s proof of what we all know intuitively. Even those experiences we only live in the pages of a book actually mean more when we share them. The project took on a life of its own in ways we never anticipated, and it has been, without a doubt, the most fun and rewarding thing we’ve ever done in advance of a book.

Again, the experience was both fun and heartwarming. Books form such amazing connections between us.  Others who’d like to get a sense of the journey can find out more on The Sisterhood of the Traveling Books Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/SisterhoodOfTheTravelingBooks/ or Pinterest board http://www.pinterest.com/lisawingatebook/the-sisterhood-of-the-traveling-book/
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Monday, July 24, 2017

Interview with Lisa Wingate



 I am thrilled to be able to present this interview with Lisa Wingate regarding her new book, Before We Were Yours. I've loved Lisa's books, but when I read the blurb about this one I couldn't buy it fast enough. I have a very personal connection to this story.


For readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale—an engrossing new novel, inspired by a true story, about two families, generations apart, that are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize that the truth is much darker. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together—in a world of danger and uncertainty.

My own mother grew up under the iron hand of Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children's Home Society. It wasn't something Mother liked to talk about, but what she did tell us is completely consistent with this story, based on truth, that Lisa Wingate has portrayed with meticulous research and heart-wrenching story-telling.

Lisa, welcome. I can't tell you now much this book has meant to me:



1.  What was the inspiration for this story?  

For me, every piece of fiction begins with a spark. From there, the story travels on the winds of research and imagination. Before We Were Yours had the most unexpected kind of beginning.

I was up late one night working on materials for a different story and had the TV playing in the background for company. A rerun of the Investigation Discovery: Dangerous Women cycled through at about two in the morning. I looked up and saw images of an old mansion. The front room was filled with bassinettes and babies. There were crying babies, laughing babies, babies who were red-cheeked and sweaty-faced and sickly looking. I tuned in and immediately became fascinated by the bizarre, tragic, and startling history of Georgia Tann and her Memphis branch of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. One of the most shocking things about the story was how recent it was. Georgia Tann and her childrens’ home operated from the 1920s through 1950. After watching the segment, I literally could not clear the images from my mind. I couldn't stop wondering about the thousands of children who had been victimized by Georgia’s system, who had been brokered in adoptions for profit. What became of them? Where were they now?

I couldn’t help but dig into the story. I was shocked by the scope of Georgia’s network, the fact that she affected so many children, and the tragic consequences of her cruelty and greed. An estimated five thousand babies and children passed through her hands. While in the care of her system of orphanages and boarding homes, many were neglected, abused, denied schooling, medical care, and food. They were separated from their siblings with no preparation or explanation. They were, quite simply, offered as products. Prospective parents could choose hair color, eye color, age, gender, religious background, and genetic predisposition for talents such as art and music. As long as prospects had the ability to pay, they could circumvent many of the normal barriers to adoption. There were rumors of family members procuring babies and children as gifts for couples who might have lost a child, or couldn’t conceive.

What, I wondered, could motivate someone like Georgia Tann? How could so many others – law enforcement officials, welfare workers, court workers, caretakers – be coerced into taking part, or at least turning a blind eye to the kidnapping and abuse of so many children? How could as many as five-hundred children have simply vanished from the care of Georgia’s Tennessee Children’s Home Society with no investigation of their whereabouts and probable deaths? How could ordinary people have failed question Georgia’s frequent newspaper ads, offering children as “Christmas presents” and “Yours for the asking?”

38235660_129312120394

            (Image courtesy of Preservation and Special Collections Department,
University Libraries, University of Memphis)

Writing Before We Were Yours was a means of answering those questions in a very personal way.

2.  Tell us about the book’s cover and what makes it unique.

The cover actually went through many iterations before we landed on a combination that seemed just perfect for the story. I have to say, of all of my book covers on over thirty novels now, this one is my favorite. There’s just something about the posture of these two little girls that speaks to me. They represent twelve-year-old Rill, a little girl growing up on her parents’ Mississippi river shantyboat and her young sister, Fern. When they and their five siblings are taken from their parents one stormy night and placed in one of Georgia Tann’s orphan houses, Rill struggles not only to protect herself, but to keep her siblings together. That battle, to me is what this picture represents—the uncertainty of their situation, the strength of their sibling bond, and Rill’s determination to return to her free floating life on the river.

3.  Tell us about the inspiration behind your characters. Where does it come from?

After researching the Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal, my first question was, Whose story is this, really? Is it a story of parents––both biological and adoptive? Of greed, falsified records, and political corruption? Of one woman’s cruel and unconscionable actions?

In the end, though, the voices that whispered through my mind where the voices of the children. What was it like, I wondered, to be taken from everything you knew, with no explanation or understanding of what was happening, and placed in the care of someone like Georgia Tann?

That question gave life to twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her five young siblings, Camellia, Lark, Fern, and Gabion. Growing up on their family’s tiny Mississippi River shantyboat, the Foss children live an almost magical life, until, as was so often the case in reality, a random twist of fate causes their path to intersect with Georgia Tann’s. Rill’s story is like the stories of so many children who fought not only to survive and adapt, but to reclaim their lives, their family bonds, and their stolen identities. What I admired and treasured most about Rill in the end was her grit, her enduring love for her siblings, and her ability, against all odds, to cling to her sense of who she is.


4.     Where do the truth and fiction in Before We Were Yours meet?

In the case of something like Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, it’s challenging and in some ways, haunting.

Rill and her siblings in the novel and their shantyboat life on the Mississippi river began taking shape as I combed through accounts of birth parents who’d searched for their stolen children for decades and adoptees who’d searched for their birth families. Survivors of TCHS care, desperately seeking their true identities, were confronted with systematic legislative roadblocks, altered paperwork, and closely held secrets. Because powerful families and Hollywood celebrities were involved in TCHS adoptions, and because many people felt that the children should be left where they were, there was pressure to legalize even the most irregular of Tann’s adoptions and seal the records, which was exactly what happened. For years, adoptees and birth families fought for the right to see their records, but they were not successful in having the records opened until 1996. For many birth parents and family members, who’d grieved their lost little ones for a lifetime, that was simply too late.

For others, the attainment of their records was only the beginning of a long, frustrating, and sometimes fruitless journey. Georgia Tann routinely altered names, ages, and family histories to prevent birth parents from finding their children. With the stroke of a pen, she also altered genetic backgrounds to satisfy the preferences of her clients. The children she brokered were often represented as products of accident pregnancies among “gifted college students” or “talented young ladies of good breeding” who could not, of course, keep them. Children were represented to Jewish adoptive parents as being of Jewish descent, when in reality, they were not. Children were represented as having genetic predisposition toward high intellect or skills in music and art. These kinds of nefarious practices often resulted in adoptions that went poorly when the children couldn’t meet the expectations of their new parents.

As with most stories that are true or partially true, the dividing line between good and evil is murky in the case of Georgia Tann and her Memphis Tennessee Children’s Home Society. The journey of the Foss children in the novel reflects this. Certainly, TCHS removed some children from unfit birth families and facilitated adoptions into safe, loving homes that provided great opportunity. Sadly, thousands of others were left with lasting damage and questions that would never be answered.

I hope Before We Were Yours, in some way, tells their stories. Yes, it’s fiction. Rill and her four siblings, growing up on their family’s shantyboat in the Mississippi River were figments of my imagination. But in a way, they existed. In a way, they are any one and every one of these children, taken from their families, torn from their lives with no explanation or understanding of what was happening, and deposited into an unregulated, unfit, and politically corrupt system that operated not based on child welfare, but on profit. Those were the stories I wanted to tell – the stories told in the smallest voices or never told at all.

As a mother of two boys (now grown), I experienced the writing of Before We Were Yours through a parent’s heart. I deeply felt the strength of the family bond and Rill’s desperate struggle to protect her siblings and reunite with her parents. I also deeply felt the children’s vulnerability as they search for safe haven among their new caretakers and have difficulty trusting new people in their lives. Who wouldn’t? As a parent, I couldn’t help seeing my own children in Rill’s position, imagining them in her situation. How would they survive? Would they manage to remain together? Would they, as so many TCHS victims did, fight to regain their identities later in life?


5.   How much research did you have to do for this book?

            The book was research-intensive. I took in nearly everything I could find about the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis and Georgia Tann. In large part, I found bits of the story here and bits there. The Discovery Channel’s Deadly Women feature and a 60 Minutes segment provided helpful information and visuals. Several books, including, Babies For Sale by Linda Austin and The Baby Thief by Barbara Raymond were particularly helpful in researching the adoption scandal. Harlan Hubbard’s Shantyboat Journal was a beautiful account of shantyboat life on the river. I also spent time in Memphis, researching locations, combing through the river museum, visiting the library and the university’s photo archives, and talking to people who remembered the scandal.


6.   The original manuscript of Before We Were Yours generated worldwide   interest. Tell us about that.

            After the long months of reading, researching, imagining and writing Before We Were Yours, the sale of the novel took place in a wild rush. The novel went out to several publishers on a Thursday. By Friday, we’d received the first preemptive offer. On Monday and Tuesday, I talked with editors from eight or nine publishing houses, all of whom were incredible, talented people who had edited books I’d read and loved. The auction took place the following week on Wednesday. It was a whirlwind day. The bidding was brisk and the book finally sold to Susanna Porter (editor of Loving Frank and The Paris Wife) at Ballantine, a subsidiary of Penguin Random House. At the same time, preemptive bids were coming in from foreign countries. Translation rights have sold in fourteen countries so far, including fourteen countries, including France, Spain, Israel, Germany, Holland, Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Italy, Bulgaria, Norway, and Portugal. 

7.   What are some of the most interesting things you found about this subject that you weren’t able to use in the story?

Because Before We Were Yours is fiction, I was able to thread in what I felt were the most interesting pieces of the true-life history of Georgia Tann and her Memphis branch of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. One interesting aspect of the true story that isn’t in the novel is the special investigation that was conducted as Georgia Tann’s operation was finally shut down in 1950. The original Report to Governor Browning was filled with information about Tann’s nefarious methods, the deaths of children in her system of unregulated boarding homes, and the sheer panic of adoptive families who were terrified that the children they’d raised for years would be taken away. There were also some wonderful newspaper stories written years later, telling the reunion stories of birth families finally reunited.


8.  What do you hope the reader takes away from the story?

I hope readers take away the message that we need not be defined by our pasts. I hope Rill’s experience resonates with readers who have in some way surrendered to the wounds of painful past experiences. Rill faces that battle as she matures. As an old woman, she advises thirty-year-old Avery, “A woman’s past need not predict her future. She can dance to new music if she chooses. Her own music. To hear it, she must only stop talking. To herself, I mean. We’re always trying to persuade ourselves of things.” Living in a defensive posture is another form of allowing other people to dictate who we are and what we believe about ourselves. Letting go, dancing to our own music is a risk, but on the other side of that process lays light, freedom and fulfillment. That’s what I hope  people take away from Before We Were Yours. Our lives have purpose, but to fulfill that purpose we must first claim ourselves.
I also hope that, in a broader sense, the story of Rill and the Foss children serves to document the lives of all the children who disappeared into Georgia Tann’s unregulated system. Only by remembering history are we reminded not to let it repeat itself. It’s important that we, ordinary people busy with the rush of every day life, remember that children are vulnerable, that on any given day, thousands of children live the uncertainty of Rill’s journey. We have to be aware. We must be kind neighbors, determined protectors, willing encouragers, wise teachers, and strong advocates, not just for the children who are ours by birth, but for all children.

Lisa, thanks so much for sharing this with us. My mom passed away in February. I'm not sure she ever shed the "defensive posture," but she did try to "dance to her own music." Before We Were Yours has helped me understand her a little better. 

Part 2 of this interview, chock full of tips for writers will post on Friday, July 28. 



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