Interview with Lynne Marino

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Lynne Marino’s second book, The Cha-cha Affair, was released in July. She writes humorous fiction and romantic comedies. I’m endlessly fascinated by how my fellow writers define themselves and their work. Lynne was kind enough to indulge my questions.

What kind of writer are you?

I walk the line between humorous women’s fiction and comedy romance. My characters don’t set out to meet a guy, nor do they necessarily want a man in their life. They have other goals and things going on, and then they run into someone they can’t say no to.

If you’re asking if I’m a pantser or a plotter, I do a little of both. I guess that makes me a hybrid author (joke intended).

Do you insist on daily word counts?

No. I do insist that I spend a good four hours a day writing, and another two learning about marketing. I will often put on a timer for forty-five minutes, take a fifteen minute break, and then start writing again. No cheating is allowed, like when I was a kid and moved the timer up during piano practice. I was the master at shaving a good ten minutes off that timer.

Did you study writing in school?

No, I studied child development and family systems. It comes in handy when you’re writing about internal conflict and the character’s motivations.

Do you edit as you go or force out a whole first draft first?

I write about sixty pages and then do a rough edit and revision. It helps me clarify where the story is going, and if that’s where I wanted it to go.

Do you write in silence or with music?

Silence. It’s golden.

Do you read in the same genre(s) you write in? Are there particular authors who inspire you?

I read a lot of books, mostly women’s fiction, humorous fiction, and comedic romance. I love novels that really walk the line between all three.

Some of my favorite authors are Frederik Backman, Markus Zusak, Jennifer Weiner, Elizabeth Susan Phillips, and Gillian Flynn who does not write comedy or romance. These are a few authors that I would pick up anything they wrote without hesitation.

ccTalk a bit about your books. Who do you write for?

I write books about women in crazy situations who have the temerity to try and figure a way out of them, and who have the audacity to search for a happier life. The women in my novels are older with children, careers, and ex-husbands, or, at the very least, have a few romances under their belts. I write for people who want to laugh about life.

Why do you write?

Good question. Because I can’t not write. My head is constantly thinking up stories.

What can we expect to see from you next?

I’m half-way through another comedy romance, the working title of which is “The Third Time’s The Charm”. It’s about two people who grew up next to each other, who’ve pretty much bombed at life and love, and who end up living back in their parent’s houses. The last thing they need is each other, until they come to realize that the only thing they need is each other.

For more information, check out Lynne Marino’s author site.

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Interview with Margaret Ann Spence

Author photo- Margaret Ann Spence

Lately, I’ve been getting to know some of my fellow members of the Women Fiction Writers’ Association. Margaret Ann Spence is a romance writer who recently published her first novel. She answered my questions about writing, editing and publishing.

Tell me about your recent novel. Who is your audience?
My novel, Lipstick on the Strawberry, was published by The Wild Rose Press in 2017. It is women’s fiction. And, by the way, I love that term. Raised in a family of boys, and with three sons of my own, I just relish being in the company of women, real or fictional. My target audience is women aged 25-60. Particularly women who enjoy the domestic arts. The print and ebook book are available from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and many other book sellers.

Do you have a critique group or support network? Do you let people read early drafts?
I belong to a bi-weekly critique group. We meet in person, over dinner. Two people (usually) email their manuscripts or portions of manuscripts to the other members the week before. We then discuss the submissions at the meeting and at the end, hand our written critiques to the presenters. We have a dozen members, all writing in different genres. Each person gets to present about four times a year. The discussions are always lively. I also belong to the Women Fiction Writers’ Association, an online group, and a couple of other writing groups who meet once a month for discussion of craft, marketing, etc.

Are you a ‘plotter’ or ‘pantser’? Do you outline a story before writing or make it up as you go?
Combo. I start off with an idea, or rather a couple of ideas that will meld into a story. Have a vague idea of a plot and some main characters. Put that on paper. Then start writing. At first it’s like hammering away at the rock face until a shape emerges. Sometimes I have no idea how it will end until I write it. Other times I know the ending and have to shape the story to get to it.

lipCan you describe your path to publication? Did you query agents? How long did it take?
Lipstick on the Strawberry is my first published novel. But it’s the second novel I pitched and sent to agents. In fact, I started writing Lipstick when waiting to hear back from an agent who had requested the full from the first novel. I had a first draft of Lipstick in a few months, then many revisions, and a contract two years after I started writing it. I met Rhonda Penders, CEO of The Wild Rose Press, at an RWA conference and pitched the story to her, resulting in the publication of the book.

What are you working on next?
My next novel is completely different in setting and characters. It has three point of view characters, three generations of women. I’m deep into it at the moment, powering through to the end. Then comes the fun part, reorganizing and rewriting. I love revision.

For more information, check out her blog.

The Creative Cycle: A Primer

The Creative ProcessMy first book, A Year Since the Rain, was released earlier this year—in March. It was a strange time for me. That day in March saw the end of the most intensive and longest creative cycle of my life. It was the most public my writing had ever been. Well, that may not be entirely true. Blogging may be more public by definition, but blogging doesn’t come with the same pressure.

An indie publisher had decided to take a chance on my little book and traditionally publish it. This vote of confidence from the publisher was huge for me. I decided early on that I didn’t want to go the self-publishing route—at least not for my first novel. I won’t rule it out for future endeavors, but for whatever reason (I blame Academia), I wanted some external validation from someone who didn’t know me. And I found that in Snow Leopard Publishing.

But this isn’t about that—not entirely. This is about the creative cycle, which is different, I think, from the creative process. Let me try to explain.

The Creative Process: A Working Definition

When I think about a process, I think about a list of steps or a checklist of items that have to be accomplished in a certain order. The creative process, then, would include the specific steps that an artist must take in order to create. For me, that looks like a coffee (if I’m writing during the day) or whiskey (if I’m writing at night), followed by putting on instrumental rock music (usually Explosions in the Sky), followed by parking my ass in my old and gross green chair that I’ve had since college. These things are important for getting my head right.

Then, the creation part—I’m a “let the story happen to me” kind of writer. At least, I let the story happen for a while. Eventually, I will transition into researching and outlining. To me, the creative process ends when I stop creating—that is, once the story is complete. Certainly I add to the story afterward, or take away from it, but these things happen with a different part of my brain. I think that revision is a step in the creative cycle that exists outside of the creative process—for me. Some writers are revise-while-writing writers. Clearly, one phase of revision is important to their process. The rest happens in the greater cycle, but outside of the process.

The Creative Cycle: A Working Definition

The creative cycle is bigger than the creative process. The cycle changes based on the project, just like the process changes based on the artist. For me, the creative cycle that ended when my book launched in March of 2016 was a cycle that began sometime in 2012 when I first wrote the words that would become the title down on a page in my journal. So, something like four years.

The cycle included trying to write a poem and realizing it was something different. It included all of the things from the process that it took to create the book. The cycle included querying and pitching and being rejected and rejected and rejected. And finally, the cycle included acceptance, signing a contract, rewrites and revisions, promotion, and finally release.

That’s four years of my life spent focusing on one creative pursuit. Of course I was working on other projects, but the novel drew most of my creative energy. And then one day in mid-March of 2016, it was over.

And next time, we will talk about what happens when one of these lengthier cycles ends.

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I’m Shane—one of the newer members of the team here at Today’s Author. I am grateful to Rob and company for allowing me into their space. I look forward to working my way in to this new community and trying my best to contribute something worthwhile.

Until next time—

Writing Shapes the Day

To my shame, I’m not someone who knew they were going to be a writer from the moment they first clutched a pencil and crafted a few words. Writing crept up on me, insidious in the beginning, then swiftly devoured me whole. Writing now dominates every corner of my life, shaping my day. Despite this – I am the willing victim. To think of life now without writing is to ask me if I’d rather not breathe.

The physical process of writing has always been part of my life, I’d just not noticed. With family spread around the country, before the internet and mobile phones, we’d keep in touch with letters. Before the advent of blogging and social networking, sharing news and photos took the form of a monthly newsletter I instigated. In the 5 years I lived in the UK, I diligently sent around 50 letters every fortnight on my adventures on motorcycling, hiking and backpacking around Europe. Many of my audience urged me to put it together in book form, as (in their words) I made the history I experienced come alive with my stories and insights into the places I visited and the enthusiasm I had whilst there. At the time, gathering information and producing a book would have been in the same league as mounting an expedition to the moon. It seems incredible to me as I type this for the site, that the reality of self-publishing and reaching wider audiences is within the reach of most writers now, rather than the elite few, only a few years away from that feedback I’d gained about my travel logs.  How quickly things change.

After thinking about the reasons I write fiction primarily, rather than non-fiction, I’d need to thank my theatre background for my love of living in the skin of another character.  Back in grade school, a sympathetic English teacher encouraged me to audition for the school play. I did and I gained the lead role–and my love of the theatre and acting was born. I maintain my passion for character, the detail and intricacies which set a living person apart from a generalised or stock standard cliche was birthed from my continued studies within the theatre. For me, in writing or in acting, the character carries the action, the lifeblood of any plot. The exploration of a character provides an escape from the grey reality I often find myself in and allows me to research and delve into dark, twisty “what if’s”. Characters allow the writer to question societal norms and test an audience’s reaction.

It’s true that I hear and see my characters as real beings. However, it’s in the same vein that when I sketch or paint I wait for the image to present itself on the page, and all I need to do is trace around it. Unfortunately, as with many other creative artists’ muses, the voices and motivation can’t be controlled or bullied to come out and play. If its not ‘flowing’, there is little I can do to force it to behave.

There have been numerous writers and musicians who claim that they are simply ‘translators who take the notes’.  I swing between believing that and what novelist, E.L. Doctorow was once  reputed to have said:

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”

It is, therefore, my little socially acceptable excuse for being a little quirky.

Writing shapes my day. Every conversation I have or overhear, every news story, photograph or image I take in provides fodder for the next article or story. In honouring my roots, it allows me the escapism to explore lost civilisations, to question humanity and challenge societal ideals.

I know that I am not alone in clutching my scribble books or capturing snippets of conversations on my iphone. There are other writers out there doing the same thing… right?