Everything you ever wanted to know…

Recently, I was asked to answer a few questions for Carolyn Howard Johnson’s blog. Carolyn is the author of the Frugal Book Promoter. I leaped at the opportunity.
Just in case you don’t see her blog, I’m posting the questions and responses here.

1. What is your genre? Is it fiction or nonfiction? Fiction/murder mysteries
2. What made you want to be a writer? I like to read.
3. Of all the authors out there, who inspired you most? Alexander Dumas and Jane Austen as a teenager; right now Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Each writer teaches me something new about how to tell a story.

4. What is your writing style? Do you outline? Linearly? By scene? Why? I’m a hybrid seat-of-the-pants planner. I begin where the story tells me to, typing as fast as I can to keep up, and when the plot gets complicated, I start making a timeline that spans the entire framework of the novel. The timeline isn’t a cage. The story can escape from it at any time, but it does help me to see where I’m going.

5. Do you write every day? How much? How long? I write every day, including weekends; in the morning for as long as it’s productive, so sometimes for four hours, sometimes longer. I don’t count words or pages.

6. Do you think reading is as important to writing for an author? Why? Reading is critical to good writing. The more you read, the more you discover about your craft. But it’s also simply pleasurable. Books are good brain food.

7. What are some of the things you would like to share with budding authors? Read everything. Write down lines when they come. A good line can zoom by like a ping pong ball in a vacuum. Don’t be in a hurry; writing is a long process and it’s okay if your first draft is a mess. Get in a writers group that meets weekly and let other writers hold you accountable.

8. Do you have any marketing and promotional advice, referrals, tips you would like to share? I’m still praying for a book maven to promote my novel so I can reach that all-critical tipping point!
9. Do you think conferences are beneficial? If so, what have you learned? Which ones do you frequent? Sometimes conferences are beneficial, depending on who is speaking. I recently went to the F. Scott Fitzgerald Writers Conference in October and was inspired by the presenters, two of whom were Pulitzer Prize winners.
10. Where can we find you, your books and when is your next event? My novel, Cromwell’s Folly, is on Amazon, B&N, and wherever books are sold. In my local indie book store, Four Seasons Books in Shepherdstown, it is one of the store’s “best sellers” and shares a shelf with The Martian and All the Light We Cannot See, to my knee-buckling astonishment. My next signing event is on Dec. 12th at the Christmas Market in Charles Town, WV from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

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Talking & Reading at Shepherd’s Scarborough Library

Nov. 12, 7 p.m. Talking and reading at the Scarborough Arts & Lecture Series, Scarborough Library, Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, WV
Everyone is welcome to attend this free event with refreshments afterwards.
Scarborough Lecture

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Doing the Marketing

My agent sends me a sale sheet. Send it out to everyone, she writes. Let’s get some sales going. Of course, I thought I had done that already with the website, Facebook author posts, press releases, readings, book signings, Twitter.

I pause what I’m doing, which is writing the next novel. I read the sales sheet, correct a few typos, grammatical errors, formatting mistakes. I read it over again. This is marketing. It’s the new century. Now, not only do we writers write the books, we get to market them also.

I sigh. I don’t want to do this. I want to brood over whether I have the right conflict, complications, climax and resolution in each segment of my new novel. I want to work out all the kinks in a character. I want to think about the novel after this one.

I’m whining. It’s the 21st century. I remember a speaker complaining at the F. Scott Fitzgerald writers’ conference about how her publisher, the famed Farrar Straus & Giroux, didn’t sufficiently market her three novels. I sat there thinking, if they published me, I’d be happy with that.

But maybe not. Maybe seeing your book on the list, or sitting on the shelf in the bookstore isn’t enough. You want to see it in the hands of people. You want to see people glued to the page, turning the next page as fast as they breathe. I imagine an entire airplane of people simultaneously reading my book. I imagine everyone lounging on the beach reading my book. Now that’s a vision that makes me happy.

The only way to get from point A to point B is (oh crap) to do the marketing. I recall a time when a colleague told me I needed a wife. It was a classically misogynistic thing to say. These days I think I need a housekeeper, a personal assistant, a driver, a cook, a laundress. In fact, the whole staff from Downton Abbey minus the butlers, valets, and footmen, would just about do it. I suppose I could dress myself.

Perhaps marketing falls into the “dress myself” category in these post-modern times when, in addition to being writers, we do all those other tasks for ourselves. Sigh.

Now where am I supposed to send this sheet?

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Black Opal Books Acquires No Good Deed Left Undone

Black Opal Books takes on Ginny Fite’s sequel to Cromwell’s Folly in the Sam Lagarde Mystery Series, No Good Deed Left Undone!

When Grant Wodehouse went to the barn that fine morning, he had no idea what would take place—saddle a couple of horses, a little S&M with his neighbor and a pitchfork through his chest, pinning him to the wall, is what.

Who would not want him dead? Having bedded every female he’d ever laid eyes on, swindled anyone he had ever had business dealings with and ignored and ostracized his children, one person said it was time to meet his maker…but who?

The second in the Sam Lagarde Mystery Series leads us on another blood trail with twists and turns never anticipated.

Ginny Fite is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.

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Reading Cromwell’s Folly at Artober!

I will be reading from my new novel, Cromwell’s Folly, at Artober. Oct. 11, 3 p.m., Happy Retreat, 600 Mordington Lane, Charles Town, WV. Come for the reading, stay to look at the art.

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Reading & Signing Cromwell’s Folly at Four Seasons Books

Cromwell's Folly coverOct. 16, 7 p.m. Four Seasons Books

116 W. German Street, Shepherdstown, WV

Good girls, it is commonly believed, are obsessed with bad boys. Usually, they get burned. Rarely do they get revenge…

 

Ben Cromwell—handsome, sexy and ruthless—keeps a stable of women; picks them up the way someone picks up a ripe peach, consumes it in a few bites, and throws away the pit. This time, he chose the wrong peaches.

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Multi-Author Book Signing!

Come and browse through the books of local West Virginia and Virginia authors on June 20, 1 – 4, Four Seasons Books, 116. W. German St., Shepherdstown, WV. I’ll be there signing What Goes Around and I Should Be Dead by Now . Stop by and ask me questions about the upcoming release of my first novel, the psychological thriller Folly, scheduled for publication by Black Opal Books in late fall.

 

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Killing It

Writing your first novel is like committing your first murder. You’re tentative. You hesitate. Your weak stabs don’t penetrate. You fumble, drop the thought, run away screaming. You peek around the door jamb to see if the body is still there where you left it, not breathing, or worse, moaning, “Come back, come back; finish the job.”

But if you’re really intent on doing this thing, you learn to make the cuts deeper, to twist the rope harder, to hang on longer until it’s done.

When the madness passes, you step back from the body and survey the scene. Did you really do that? Can you clean up that mess? Maybe you should just bury it, you think.

It’s possible that there are millions of first novels buried out there somewhere in writers’ closets, bottom drawers, chests in the attic, moldering away. Sometimes they come back, zombie novels stalking the earth twenty years later, after the writer is dead or famous. They have a whiff of moldering peat moss about them.

I tore apart my first novel, which took ten years to write. A small part of it was saved in a short story, probably the heart of it, the only part that mattered, still beating, waiting for a transplant in every reader who opens herself to it. My second novel, now in its third revision, might survive the knife. My third, FOLLY, is under someone else’s knife, an editor. I’m holding my breath, hoping she won’t kill it.

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Cue the Characters

Each new character who shows up in a story presents herself in a certain way, almost like an actor making her first entrance on the stage. She might sweep her long, blonde hair off her shoulder, or give me a glare, or stand with her hand on her hip waiting for me to say the first word. Or she could flounce into the middle of the page and declare her ownership of the entire story. I always have the feeling she’s been looking for me and is a little impatient with how long it’s taken me to find her.

Our introduction is a kind of dance, perhaps with veils. She makes herself known to me in little gestures. She might lick her lips before she speaks; she might be one of those women who’s always putting her fingers in her mouth, a trait I find a little appalling, particularly if she works in the food industry.

It’s likely that I’ve seen this woman before, or pieces of her. She’s probably been lurking around the edges of my imagination for a while waiting for her cue. It’s sometimes strange to live with so many people in your mind, but you get used to it. After a while, you like it. I’m constantly collecting people’s traits and quirks, the way some people collect shells and rocks. Only I don’t run out of shelf space to store them.

I am currently editing a new Sam Lagarde mystery. Several women characters in the novel seem very familiar and some I’ve never met before. Perhaps each character has its genesis in my own psyche but very soon they are doing and saying things I would never do, off on their own, having a great time creating havoc. They get to do things I would never do. Or would I? Pushed to the very edge of sanity, would I kill to survive? The women characters in my novel discover whether they will or not.

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Back Story

Sometimes, what doesn’t wind up in a story tells you as much about a character as what does. When I was finding Beverly Wilson, murder victim Ben Cromwell’s grandmother, I wrote a longish section that described some of her motivation for moving to Falling Waters, WV. The section didn’t make it into the novel, mostly because it wasn’t necessary. But just to give you a taste of what Beverly is like, and why Detective Sam Lagarde might have fallen in love with her, here’s her back story.

Planting and weeding in the small garden behind her townhouse was the closest thing she could find to being with her husband Tom on their property in Burkitsville. Known only in the wider world because of the Blair Witch movie, Burkitsville’s quaint 18th century obscurity had been their haven for decades. Tom farmed and she was a farmer’s wife. She had loved that life, everything about it. She loved being a wife and friend to a tinkerer, someone who would wake up at 5 a.m. with a solution to a problem in his head, throw on his clothes and head out to his workshop to put pieces of metal or wood or leather together in a way that would make a broken thing work, whether it was a broken tractor motor, a disintegrating lock on the gate, or the furnace pilot light. She loved the freedom of having hundreds of acres of her own land to roam. She loved the freedom her husband gave her to do whatever she wanted inside their house. She gave him similar freedom to do whatever he wanted with crops, livestock, and crazy schemes to teach city people about farming. She loved the cooking and cleaning and gardening. She loved bringing up her children in that home, even though she could see that by the time they were fifteen both her son and daughter were itching to be somewhere else, anywhere else. Her son was off in the wider world now, roaming around Europe, South America, and Asia with a backpack and a sturdy companion Beverly found herself liking more every time she spent time with him. Her son was not going to tie himself to property, at least not now, maybe not ever.

He once said to her, “Mom, you and Dad never had a vacation. You could never leave the farm. Some cow was always in labor or Dad was negotiating for another few hundred acres. Didn’t you feel trapped?”

Answering him, she realized that she had never felt trapped. Being with Tom on the farm was the life she craved. It was everything to her. Her husband’s long, agonizing sickness and death took that life away from her. She could not work the farm alone and she didn’t want to bring in some stranger as a partner. It was best to sell it all and move on. Now she could have all the vacations she wanted, except that she didn’t want to go anywhere. Maybe someday she would. Her son was always bringing her books and pamphlets about the amazing sights in other countries. She could not see herself going alone. To whom would she turn to share her joy in watching the light change in the late afternoons over the Mediterranean Sea, as her son had described to her?

For more Beverly, you’ll have to read the book when it comes out.

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