Since I was a child, I enjoyed making up stories. I was an avid reader from a young age, and that inspired me to write. I always loved reading and hearing stories and observing people and events. When I met people, I would often think, he or she would make a great character.
In high school, I took the few creative writing classes that were offered. It wasn’t until the nineties, however, that I took a more concerted, serious approach. I enrolled in a couple of non-credit creative writing courses at a local university. From there, I met with a critique group on a regular basis as we each worked on our own novels. Life got in the way, and I stopped actively pursuing writing until 2012 when I began work on a new writing endeavor and decided to plunge into the self-publishing world.
The first novel I completed, at least in draft form, was the book I was working on with my critique group called Lifting the Fog. The novel was about a young woman who learns her ex-husband, whom she never got over, has been arrested for a murder that she is certain he did not commit. So she goes to him to get to the bottom of it.
When I was a teenager, I discovered Carson McCullers. Her short stories and novellas capture the human heart and desires. She gets deep inside the mind, heart and soul of her characters. Other short story authors that I love reading are Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Allen Poe. When taking literature courses, I delved into the Short Story Anthologies that contained stories by numerous authors. I also enjoy Dennis Lehane, Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine, Elizabeth Strout, and Pat Conroy, to name a few. Since becoming an indie author, I’ve also discovered the work of several self-published authors, and I’ve found many hidden gems.
Currently, I am reading three books (more slowly than I would like due to time constraints): The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, Miller’s Island by Leona Bryant, a self-published author, and A Sport and a Pastime: Open Road by James Salter. It’s the first novel I’ve read by Salter. When I read an article on the President’s vacation reading list, this book was on it. I thought it would be a cool thing to be reading one of the same books that the President of the United States is reading.
My thinking process is such that when something or someone moves me or intrigues me, I want to get it down in a story. I love reading as well as writing the short story. It’s a snapshot in time, and I think a lot can be accomplished in a short piece. It gives me the right balance of boundaries and freedom to pursue my stories.
I often get ideas based on real people and events. Other times, I’m exploring human nature and moral dilemmas that leads to a story idea. I like delving into perception vs. reality as I find it a fascinating phenomenon.
Many come from real life. Some are people I know well; others are people I have a casual acquaintance with but something about them impressed me enough, good or bad, to base a character on them. I hope readers find them compelling, and I try to accomplish that by staying true to their character. I don’t want them to do something just for plot convenience. I also like to get inside of their minds and show their internal thoughts and feelings. I find ordinary lives can hold a lot of compelling ideas and drama. So I usually don’t give my characters extraordinary lives. I try to make them real and relatable.
The Beatles sparked Rain Clouds and Waterfalls. Their music has been such a constant in my life, as well as a source of inspiration, that I decided to write this coming of age story and wrap each chapter/story around the theme of particular Beatles or solo Beatles songs. It’s a coming of age story that follows a young girl from the age of eleven, when her brother disappears, to the age of 26. The stories explore family strife, friendships, first loves, domestic abuse, sexual harassment, and finding yourself.
It’s been an exhilarating experience. While I always loved to write, I never really thought I would get published. So putting my work out there gives it more weight and motivates me to keep writing and getting better. It’s been overall a good experience because I’ve gotten positive, meaningful responses from a lot of people whose opinions I respect. It’s also been an arduous experience in trying to get the word out about my book. While it’s time I could spend writing, it’s necessary to put some effort into marketing in order to get reviews and try to generate sales.
My advice to other writers would be to go for it, but make sure their work is well edited. There’s no need to rush anything out; make sure it’s a truly finished product. Also, don’t expect a lot of sales. There are so many books and authors out there that it is hard to get through. Don’t let that discourage you, though. Plug away, engage with other indie authors, find affordable advertising outlets, and keep writing. Don’t lose sight of the reasons you did this in the first place. If and when sales come, that is great and what we in New Orleans would call lagniappe.
I think it’s important to engage with other writers and it’s a community that should help one another, not compete. I joined several Goodreads and Facebook groups when I started. While I don’t participate actively in all of them, I’ve found a few that I feel I can contribute something worthwhile to, and that I can learn a lot from. Sometimes it’s a marketing idea a fellow author will exchange. Other times, it’s writing tips that I needed to hear. What’s helpful is the sense of camaraderie and support.
I like solitude when I’m writing. I can do it any time of day; I can stop what I’m doing and write a little bit and go back to what I was doing. So I don’t have a particular schedule at all that I stick to. I just wish I had more time!
I would encourage him or her and advise them to read, read, read. It can only make them better writers. Also, I would encourage them to observe the world around them. Ideas for characters and stories abound. Don’t put writing aside for long periods of time (like I did); even if it’s just a paragraph or a page, try to write every day.
While I don’t sit down and write as often and as quickly as I would like, I’m always thinking about my characters and stories. For instance, the current novel that I’m working on runs through my head all through the day. I think about the plot and the characters. So the ideas are well formed by the time I actually sit down at the computer to write. The first draft definitely needs reworking, improving and editing, but it’s a pretty complete manuscript.