Meet GMa, she writes by day, meets the school bus three days a week, and enjoys adventures with her grand buddy. Read on and find out more…
According to Wikipedia, ‘a superhero is a type of heroic character possessing extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena, or superhuman powers and is dedicated to a moral goal or protecting the public.’ Sounds like a writer to me!
Join me as another one of these unsung superheroes invites into their personal ‘batcave’.
If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes? What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?
The episode begins with flashes of backstory: a ten-year-old painfully writing out stories for her heroes (what we now call fan fiction), a seventeen-year-old writing pompous poetry, a young mom escaping into a college library to outline medieval historical novels, and a young professional writing tech manuals. The scene cuts to the same woman a few years later surrounded by piles of romance novels at the precise moment in which she thinks, “I can do this.” The camera watches her realization that fiction is actually difficult to write, her struggles to get the story down on paper, her discovery that the characters without back-story are cardboard, the moment she writes “The end,” and the day she plucks up her courage to send it off to the Harlequin Critique Service with a rather fat check. The episode ends with her receiving pages of critique filled with words like “passive voice” and “show don’t tell,” but somehow conveying that there is hope for her.
The backstory work for that first novel spawned the characters in my Dangerous Series. That first novel languished in an obscure corner of my laptop for many years before reemerging as a novella, A Dangerous Nativity, the origin story for the entire series. My chief discovery was that a genuinely nice guy could not sustain the hero role for an entire novel. He does however, fit well in a holiday novella and in secondary roles in all the other books.
All superheroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.
I used to be a mild-mannered library technology professional, who wallowed in telecommunications by day and hid away to write at night. My new identity is known as “GMa.” She writes by day, meets the school bus three days a week, and enjoys adventures with her grand buddy.
Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?
My Beloved abets my work. His primary superpower is conjuring coffee first thing every morning to wake me up, and bringing a glass of wine when the sun dips low. He keeps my secret writing cave warm, well lit, and safe.
My overlapping fairy folk, the Bluestocking Belles and the Central Ohio (and points beyond) Debs, are geniuses of encouragement with astounding powers to energize one another.
Where do you get your superpowers from?
I come from a tribe of storytellers. My parents both told great stories—and usually argued about the details. My brother can tell a great yarn, and I have cousins who do, too, frequently with us all talking at once. I have the family’s compulsion to tell stories, only I write mine down.
Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?
My secret lair was once a stone porch, but has been nicely enclosed. Because of this, it has a sturdy door between it and the rest of the house. With windows on three sides, bookshelves, found objects, a massive globe, binoculars, and a pile of bird guides, it is about perfect.
What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form? How do you insure they are used only for good?
Prayer, meditation, and a lot of long walks. If I need to be energized I call on the fairy folk mentioned above for inspiration.
Granted, you probably don’t get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?
It would include a white silk tunic, a long pink silk scarf with the ends flowing backward, and fuzzy slippers.
What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced in your writing?
Unlike the heroic birds of Chicken Run, I do not plot. When I attempt detailed plot outlines, the characters quit talking to me, and my muse locks herself in the basement. I have to avoid that.
On the other hand, if I run off willy-nilly, come to a fork in the road, go the wrong way, and end up in a blind corner, it can cost me time and pages. While I usually begin with the conclusion and know where the story will end, and I always know at least one of the characters well enough to set out, I don’t know how I’m getting to the end. Occasionally I get lost, or have to back track.
What was the supervillain that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?
The Fear and Doubt brothers work as a team, whispering, “you can’t,” “no one will read it,” “It won’t sell,” or even “no one is reviewing your last one…” in my ear. Between them they sometimes grind my work to a halt. The only cure is to write and keep writing. Even when they beat me down, I open the manuscript once or twice a day and write a few paragraphs. I vanquish them by calling on the fairy folk for encouragement, taking a step back and remembering where the book needs to go, and having long chats with the characters. Conversely, one fan email praising my work will keep me going for weeks. That is magic.
What important lessons have you learned along the way?
I have to write my own stories and trust that each one will find its readers. No book pleases everyone, and I can’t expect mine to. My job is to write the best book I can and make it discoverable. I can’t control what happens after that.
After a few books I realized that what I write are family-centered romances. While I have a weakness for thinking up unusual settings and an abundance of secondary characters, the stories focus on the hero and heroine’s emotional growth. Sensual? Yes, moderately. Blockbuster material? Maybe not.
What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?
I treasure the company of writers, and my profession brought me an abundance of them. The best experiences have been those in which in which we’ve had fun and made friends, whether through interactive fiction-on-the-fly, contests, parties for readers, posing with cover models, or writing the Belle’s lovely blog, The Teatime Tattler dedicated to fictional gossip.
If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change?
I’m still figuring it all out! I would like to believe I would approach it in a more relaxed way, and learn earlier to have fun.
What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.
Many years ago, before that first book, a good friend said, “if you want to be a writer, you have to write.” Don’t talk about it, take classes in it, or plan it. Do it. Staring a blank page and hoping doesn’t count, but conversations in your head do.
Tell us about your new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.
Love empowers people to make courageous choices, face down demons, and even tackle monsters if necessary for the sake of the ones they love. The hero and heroine of The Renegade Wife do all that and more. It tells the story of a woman willing to defy the law and her abusive husband to protect her children, and a recluse, imprisoned by his disappointments, willing to let go of his precious solitude and face his past to save them all. It is the story of healing and a journey home, of choices and the freedom to make them, set in 1832 in Upper Canada and in England.
What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?
The Renegade Wife is the first book in a new series, The Children of Empire. I’m hard at work on the second, The Reluctant Wife, which features a war-weary officer in the East India Company Army who seems to end up in trouble every time he tries to do the honorable thing. He is the brother of the hero of the first one. The third will feature their cousin, a duke trapped in a miserable marriage who takes an assignment to China to escape, only to war threatening people he has come to care for. I have inklings of a young archaeologist along the upper Nile or deeper into Africa and another exploring the Outback.
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