Saturday, July 16, 2011

An Interview with Hannah Howell

Author Hannah Howell joins me today to answer some questions that I know you have all been asking. Author of the Historical Highlander series, Hannah has written in other genres throughout her career. So join me and welcome Hannah.

How long have you been writing and how long have you been published? I have been published since 1988, but I started trying to get published 5 years before that. Before that I'd write stories for myself as a teen and then graduated to really, really long letters.

How long did it take to publish your first book, once you started looking for an agent or publisher? I started out with trying contemporaries and had actually reached a stage where I got rejections but with hand written notes asking me to send something else. By then I had put together a historical romance and started trying to sell that. That was slow to take off since it was a medieval romance and I found out later that the publishers weren 't looking for those. I had started a historical romance with a western setting and was also sending that out. Both abruptly sold at the same time to different publishers. I had no agent but got one through a recommendation by a friend.

Do you write one book/story at a time or multiples? I always have some other story to play with while I'm working on the one that is on a deadline. It gives me something to play with when I've hit a block on the deadline story.

What genres do you write? I write historical romances only, mostly set in England and Scotland, but I have done a few with western settings in the past and even one set in Colonial New England.

Are there any genres you'd like to try but haven't? Paranormal romance or futuristic romance with a touch of paranormal. I have stories I'm playing with in both those categories but they're nowhere near ready to try to sell.

Are there any genres you'd never consider writing? I'd say erotica and mysteries. I read them both but couldn't write either. Can't write those raw loves scenes (and so many of them!) and, as for mysteries, the way one has to eke out the clues would make my brain hurt. Then again, I really don't like to say never.

What's your writing process? I'm a pantser with a touch of the puzzler thrown in because I'm apt to bounce around chapters when writing. As I believe most pantsers do, I have a core plot, some scene ideas, and a good grasp on my characters before I even think of starting to write. It's in my head, and I think everyone gets at least that much or there'd be no urge to sit down and write. I write the story out longhand and then type it into the computer editing as i go. The number of passes depends on how much I had to struggle to get the story out. The more the struggle, the more times I might have to go over it to smooth it out. Although, after so many years, I've stopped doing a lot of what beginners do that causes a lot of editing. However, being mildly dyslexic, I have to go over the manuscript several times just to make sure of my spelling and word usage, as well as the order the words are in. Spellchecker doesn't catch everything.

What authors would you like to meet, past or present? What would you ask them? Christopher Marlowe and Shakespeare. I'd ask Christopher to give me the scoop on who really killed him and Shakespeare to tell me where there's proof that he actually wrote those plays and sonnets as I"m tired of the never-dying claim by some that he couldn't have done it. Mostly because he wasn't of the right class as far as I can see.

What's the strangest/worst job you've held? I worked in a meat department at an A&P when I was still in school and often got the job of packing the livers and kidneys. Not surprisingly, I will not eat anything with either of those things in them.

Your favorite vacation spot is? England and Scotland. I'd love to have the time and money to go for a good long time, staying in some nice places, and just wandering around both countries.

Have you ever included someone who irritated you in the book? As what, and what comeuppance did he/she get? Oh, yes. Don't all writers do that? And mine usually meet a brutal death. Writing historicals as I do, I can make it very brutal indeed.

Now that I am done laughing over that last comment, let's move on.

When and where do you do the bulk of your writing? In my office at a big old roll top desk that I got from my father. It's a late 1860s Insurance Company desk with lots of drawers and cubbyholes. My second favorite place is the dining room table.

Where do you get your character names? I have a great book called Names Through the Ages by Teresa Norman that gives you first and last names from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, and the US, plus it does it by time periods. Also, I have the Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names, a book on surnames, and a bunch of Scottish and Celtic names. I will also make a note of a name in the credits of movies and read phonebooks.

Do you have animal companions while you write? How do they help or hinder the process? I have five cats that often feel compelled to sprawl on top of my paper or smack my pen while I'm trying to write.

What advice would you give a new writer? If you have a book you want to write, get started. Just dive in and, as you write, find other writers' groups, for support and information.

Give us your backlist with all publishers. My backlist is long, 40 or more books, so best check it out on my website. At the moment, my only publisher is Kensington/Zebra.

Tell us about releases you expect within the next year. I have only one book and a novella coming out this year. The rest that Kensington is putting out are reissues of my backlist.

Tell us about the awards you have won. I'm a RITA finalist, multi-time Golden Leaf winner, I've gotten several awards from Romantic Times, received the Book Buyers Best Award 2010, the CRW Award of Excellence, and the Goldrick Service Award from the New England Chapter of RWA.

Tell us about you next release. IF HE'S DANGEROUS went on sale June 7th. It's available on Amazon, at bookstores, and on Here is a blurb for you:

When Lorelei Sundun first finds Sir Argus Wherlocke in her garden, she'd never heard of the mysterious Wherlocke clan - or their otherworldly abilities. That changes the moment she watches Argus - the most tantalizing man she's ever seen - disappear before her very eyes. What she's witnessed should be impossible. But so should falling in love with a man she's only just met...

Pursued by madmen intent on harnessing the Wherlocke's talent as weapons, Argus meant to seek help from his family, not to involve a duke's lovely daughter in the struggle. But now, the enchanting Lorelei is his only hope for salvation - and the greatest temptation he's ever faced...

The entire first chapter is up on my website:

I am also on Facebook.

Thanks Hannah for a lively and entertaining conversation. I know everyone wishes you well with your latest book. I know I plan to buy it right away.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An Interview with Coralie Hughes Jensen

Today my guest is Coralie Hughes Jensen. Author of Winter Harvest. Thank you for joining us Coralie. I appreciate spending this time with you and I know readers will as well. So let's get started, shall we?

What genres do you write?

I started by writing suspense. My first two novels were about terrorism on the European continent. Unfortunately, neither was published. My first published novel was mainstream, my second, women's fiction. Both Passup Point and Lety's Gift took place in Newfoundland/Labrador. My third novel L'Oro Verde, under the name L. E. Chamberlain, is a mystery set in a Tuscan hill town. My latest Winter Harvest is a historical novel in Massachusetts in 1838. I have three manuscripts yet to find a home: a mystery that takes place in New Zealand, a historical novel in Tudor England, and a suspense set in the Arctic.

Tell us what your favorite leisure activity or vacation spot is.

I like to travel. I travel to find settings for books and also to do research on the book I'm writing.

I traveled to Newfoundland/Labrador for my novels set there. While living in the Netherlands, I went to Italy and came up with the idea for L'Oro Verde.

I don't normally travel first class. My husband and I drive and try to stay with people along the way to see how they live. Stories about mishaps - losing our passports to a traffic cop in the Czech Republic so we couldn't leave the country, having to report to a police station in Germany when we passed a counterfeit DM100 bill at a restaurant, sharing fast food with East Germans in Lubec the week after the border opened - are all fodder for upcoming books.

Have you ever included a real experience of your own in a book? Did anyone who knows you notice?

I use my own experiences or those of my friends all the time. The scenes in Montriano's police station are based on the station and detectives in Germany. Most of my sites are derived from real places I have visited. I give them new names and locations, but most of the churches in my books are based on other churches in similar areas. Sophie's fascinating childhood experiences in Lety's Gift are similar to those of a friend in seminary in Newfoundland.

No one has mentioned they recognized a specific experience, but many have written about my knowledge of certain cultures when I use personal experiences in my stories.

Where do you get your inspirations for a book? How do you get your ideas?

I get my ideas from a variety of sources. Events in the newspaper can give me ideas. When I travel, I am always looking for sites, especially for mysteries where I can develop the character of a detective or find a body or hide a suspect. Places where cultures clash are fascinating - both sides are rational and true to their own beliefs, and getting along means both sides understand each other.

What is the best reader or reviewer comment you've ever received?

Recently I received wonderful comments from a couple of agents who have read my manuscripts, including that my novel is "superbly written" and that my work is very literary.

What does your family think about your writing? How, if they do, do they support you in your writing endeavors?

My husband helps me edit my books. He's a tough editor because he seems to sense when a word or phrase doesn't work. My daughter and son always buy my books as gifts for their friends. My sister in California writes reviews for me and also buys books as gifts.

When and where do you do the bulk of your writing?

I write on the computer in my office, a bedroom on the second floor of my house. I can look out the window beside me and see a dogwood tree now in full bloom.

I also have a TV beside my desk where I can glance over and watch the Red Sox while I'm writing. I have moved a lot because I used to work in high tech and the company would move us. I found that being knowledgeable about sports was a way to break the ice with new neighbors and workmates. In each place I've lived, I have been able to enjoy a championship - a Super Bowl, a World Series, or a European Cup.

What's your favorite part of being a writer?

Sleeping in when I need to. I hated getting up at 5:30 a.m. in order to get ready to face the commute. I don't mind getting up early now because I have an idea about how to fix a problem in my novel. It must be the commute I hate!

What advice would you give a new writer?

Having been a copy editor for a small publisher, it is my opinion that writers should know their craft well enough to make the story clear. Many new writers comment that grammar and punctuation will be cleaned up by the editor. I know very few editors who want to spend their time correcting manuscripts. I once got a manuscript that was so bad it needed to be cleaned up just to know who said what. If editors have trouble reading it, they'll reject it. If grammar isn't the author's forte, the new writer should get help from a friend or family member who is able to fix it first.

What book is your favorite and why?

I like Winter Harvest because the main character is much like me. She watches everyone else and falls into her role by accident. Lucy is not as pretty as Sarah or as evil as Ezekiel. She tries to be good, but finds it difficult.

Give us your backlist...with all publishers...

My books include:

Winter Harvest (2010) published by Five Star Gale/Cengage

L'Oro Verde (under the name of L. E. Chamberlain) (2008) published by Lightening Rider Press

Lety's Gift (2006) published by Lightening Rider Press

Passup Point (2006) published by Lightening Rider Press

Give us your URLS...

Twitter: corkyyhj

Thanks Coralie for a wonderful interview. I wish you the best of luck on your next publication. come back and visit us again!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Road to Publishing

Writing is fun, challenging and at times a real pain in the neck. Am I whining? No! Not at all. Just stating the facts. Here's how it goes (for me anyway)....
An idea niggles until it becomes full-blown (like a cold). It settles in for the long haul, working its way into my consciousness. From there, it becomes a nagging itch that insists it be scratched.

This can take some time, but eventually, the whole thing must be addressed, put into the computer or scribbled in a notebook somewhere, and then allowed to stew until it forms a story line. From there, it takes shape.

During its journey, the novel twists and turns like a snake weaving its way through tall grass. The story, and its characters, may take a few unexpected turns, make some stops, become mired and tangled, but sooner or later, it all works out.

These are the first steps, not the place where I get to write THE END. The story gets worked, reworked, reworked again, and again and....well, you get the idea. Just when you think this masterpiece is ready for debut, you find that the publishers don't want it, or it will be put into a slush pile somewhere, or that you'll be 100 years old before the novel becomes a reality for the public to read.

There are alternatives for those of us who refuse to sit around and wait for the magic wand of the publishing houses to grace us by publishing our story. There's often more money to be made by going to places like Create Space (paper portion of Amazon) or to Amazon's Kindle publishing. I know this is true since I have recently published my novel, Faerie Cake Dead, in Create Space and made sales. The first sales alone made more money than I ever made from the publisher who put the book out in ebook form. That isn't to say the book didn't sell well in ebook form, it's more like the sales were there, but when the money got divided up, what was left was a mere pittance by comparison.

If you're thinking of putting your novel up on Amazon's kindle or into Create Space for the paper book market, my advice is to go for it. You'll make more money, have total control (very important), and be happier with your experience.