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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Believing in your Writing: Author Interview with Anne Lovett

What made you decide to write your first novel? Was there any particular author you read that made you think, I could write like that?
I've always wanted to write a novel. In fifth grade, I wrote plays for my Girl Scout troop and scribbled stories on notebook paper. I wrote a humor column for my high school paper. I competed in essay contests and did well. But coming from a small town, I had no idea how to become a novelist.I had no role models, and there weren't any creative writing programs. English classes seemed tedious. 

To make a long story short, I wound up doing something else until my kids were in school and I had learned a little about how the writing world worked. I signed up for evening classes, bought a computer, and never looked back.

How long did it take you to write your first book? Tell me about your writing process.
I never finished my first book. It was part of my learning process. I wrote a second and got a lukewarm response from friends. I put it aside and wrote a third, which turned out to be Rubies from Burma. I felt it was pretty good and others did, too. I began to send it out and it got rejected. I decided I needed some credentials and wrote some short stories, essays, and book reviews, which were published. I rewrote my novel and sent it out again. It got rejected. 

I kept learning how to write and kept revising. I hired an editor to go through the book, took her advice, and still got rejected. I wrote more novels. One of the funny ones came close to being accepted. I went to conferences and joined writer's associations. 

I kept rewriting Rubies until I was sure there was nothing left to be done, because I believed in it. Along the way I was encouraged by my writing friends and by teachers in my classes. I ended up in a critique group with two of my teachers who liked my work. 

How did you decide on working with Words of Passion to publish your two books?
I met Nanette Littlestone when I was a member of Georgia Writers, and knew she did good work. She edits two writers I know. Words of Passion can streamline the whole process of self-publishing, including editing, layout, finding a cover designer, and arranging for printing, as well as e-book conversion. She can also help those who have a story to tell and don't know where to start.

What is the hardest part of writing for you? Starting? Creating a scene? Dialog?

Tension, etc?
As a slightly right-brained person, the hardest part of writing for me is story structure. I like to write by the seat of my pants, but you have to revise a lot that way. Some outlining is necessary so you don't write yourself into corners. I can listen to my characters talk and write dialog all day. You have to remind me to put in some action!

What does your editor remind you to do most often?
She tells me where I need more emotions and thoughts, and occasionally that I need to add a scene. I'm a pretty spare writer--I try not to put in any more words than are necessary. This leads to not telling enough to understand characters' motivations sometimes. That being said, I like to make sure my sentences sound good to the ear, lyrical. If that means going against the Chicago Manual of Style, so be it. She lets me get away with it most of the time.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
Lately, it was the great Kirkus review I had! Before that, the remarks from a judge in the Pacific Northwest Writers Competition, in which Rubies finaled. She (or he) was sure it would be published. I have to mention Rosemary Daniell and her Zona Rosa group. Rosemary teaches you to believe in yourself and your writing.

We have all experienced rejection. How have you learned to write past it?
I've learned to let it roll off my back and not take it personally. Here's one example. An agent showed interest in the book I'm working on now, but she felt it was too long. She offered to take a look at the whole manuscript if I'd cut it down. I did, and it was a huge job. When I queried again with the revised manuscript and a reminder that the agent had asked to see it, a junior agent politely replied that Ms. Agent was too busy. 

In the meantime, a couple of beta readers asked questions that would have been answered by parts I cut. and nobody liked the shortened ending. I decided to restore the whole book, and if I can't interest an agent, I'll publish it myself, in volumes.

What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing? What frustrated you the most?
Surprising and frustrating--the things that supposedly make you "marketable" as an author. When I first began to go to writers' meetings, a Regency romance writer told me, "They won't ever admit this, but to publishers, looks count. That's why I don't give them my picture." A wonderful writer and multi-published, she was overweight and no longer young. I learned that if you're older, the best field is mystery, because Agatha Christie has paved the road. Literary fiction? The younger you start, the better. And get that MFA.

Indie publishing tends to level the playing field--if your book is good, you can be any age or have any education, ethnicity or looks. That being said, it's the day of Facebook. Get the glamour shot, but if that's not your thing, then invent a "persona" for yourself, whether it involves cowboy boots, a cape, a hat, pink hair, or a tartan. Oh, yes, make connections. Connections help you get in the door, but beware of the casting couch.

What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
I was trying to write literary fiction before I knew the first thing about structure. I wish I'd taken that screenwriting class first! You can deviate all you like if you know the bones.

What is some of the best writing advice that you’ve received or could give?
1. Don't let other people discourage you. 

2. Have faith in your talent. 
3. Sometimes life says "no" to writing. Roll with the punches and come back.
Are there any other points about writing that you would like to add?
When you get stuck, read a new writing book. Never stop learning. I've recently discovered Steven Pressfield. 

What is the next book that will be coming out? Can you give me a short
My next book will be my long one. Set in 1920s middle Georgia, it's the story of two young women--one rich, one poor--whose lives collide because of one man's pursuit of wealth and revenge. The girls pursue their own dreams despite the odds stacked against them in a changing society which is trying to keep women "in their place."

That's all for today's interview. If you would like to learn more about Anne's writing and buy her books, here are some links to get you started.

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